Archive for January, 2006

January 30, 2006: 12:59 am: eastmeetswest

In this episode, Roger and Tom discuss a wide range of topics including, the dearth of people with ethics, the reasons Roger quit Gamespot, comcis and baseball card production strategies and the psychology of collectors, electronic book readers and Roger’s bad eyesite. There’s also a brief appearance by Jango the dog.

January 22, 2006: 10:57 pm: eastmeetswest

Here, is the officially beta version of the East Meets West podcast, which features Roger and Tom ranging from the correct spelling of ‘Molly’ through RAID hard drive installation, the difference between NAS and SAN, the value of the Intel McBook, and whether McDonald’s is bad for you.

January 15, 2006: 10:48 pm: eastmeetswest

Here is the latest version of the award-seeking East Meets West podcast starring Roger Chang. Oh I’m in it too.

: 6:08 pm: Standard Five

Standard Five stood on a bridge in the Alpha Centuari transit station waiting for a meeting. He wore an old fashioned suit, setting him apart from the normal jumpsuit of most passengers. Despite his odd apparel, nobody paid him much mind, as if he were some kind of costumed service attendant, hardly worthy of attention.

In the blue light of the bridge, Five looked out at the cold light of the Centauri sun.

Standard Five had been born on Terra. Terrans had a sort of old world charm. They spoke slowly and held an air of antiquity you didn’t find in the majority of humanity that lived on the outer worlds.

Standard Five represented the quintessential Terran, right down to his odd name. His parents had always called him Stan, but took secret enjoyment in his full name being the same as the rule encapsulating scientific principles of solar government.

July and Frederik Five came from a long line of naval scientists. They worked for the atmospheric agency, researching climate. They’d met on the Isle of Man while monitoring ocean currents. Standard Five grew up on ships sailing the ancient seas of Terra.

Up until 3 months ago Standard Five had worked for the British Navy, the glorified regional water police of Terra. The force traced its roots back to the defunct nation of Great Britain but was now just another non-governmental organisation, contracted by the Maritime Supervision Agency to enforce rules and regulations. In addition to Terran waters, the British Navy also held the contract for policing orbital space on Io and mining operations on Mars. Like all NGOs, they insured no one regional agency held all their contracts, thus guaranteeing some measur eof independence.

Five’s experience during a 2-year rotation  on Io had brought him to the attention of a rather secretive agency called Extrasolar Phenomenon-Management. Through a byzantine series of agreements with several regional agencies and high-level corporations, EP-M had responsibility for dealing with anything outside the jurisdiction of the several military agencies. Since nobody could explain what this might be and EP-M itself had fairly strongly binding confidentiality agreements, the agency was shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories.

Shortly before Five’s naval tour on Terra finsihed, and before he could renew his term and receive a new assignment, EP-M contacted him and offered him a job on an exciting project they could tell him little about. Surprising the hell out of his commanding officer, Five took little issue with the lack of information and accepted the job almost immediately.

“You’ll have to ship out to Centauri Station and meet with our agency director there as well as representatives of Synco Security Systems, the military corporation in charge of Centauri security,” was all Bill Richardsen could tell him on the phone.

In part Five had taken the job because of Bill.  They had served on Io together and jointly uncovered and disbanded an ice smuggling ring. Bill alone didn’t cause him to snap up the job so quickly though.

Arba Farjan quietl approached Five on the bridge.

“I would have expected to find you in the lounge Mr. Five.  It is Mr. Five, no?”

Standard Five assured him it was.

“Right this way.  You’ll meet with Gernimo Bing from Synco in my office. We’ll discuss the prelimaries of the matter and then fly out to the site.”

Farjan’s office smelled of herring and silicone. It was the kind of office someone worked in not met in and so was rather uncomfortable. However there was just room enough and chairs enough for all three persons.

January 7, 2006: 8:48 pm: Work

I just got done with a week of covering CES 2006 for I suffered a sore throat, sinus infection, hangover, chills, and swollen small toes. However, I did get to play with the iRobot Scooba, automatic floor cleaner. What kind of fool am I, that that is worth it? I don’t know. I will have to ask my room service waiter, as he is the only one I’ve spoken with in person after 8 O’clock every night, and hence the only opinion I truly trust. And he brings a tasty petite filet.

January 1, 2006: 4:03 pm: Politics

The revelation that the executive branch of the US government has conducted surveillance of its citizens and others without a court order is not being taken seriously enough. This is not a political football. This is not a partisan issue. It is a direct violation of the principles of the United States.

This country was allegedly founded on the principles of freedom. Admittedly, in the beginning, that freedom only extended to white landed males. But that’s the essential lesson of the US. The country has gotten stronger when it has extended freedom not limited it. The US freed its slaves, it granted the vote to those who don’t own land, it granted direct elections of Senators (though it has yet to do so for its President), it enfranchised women, and insured the franchise of minorities. In every case the country got stronger. Men and women, some who don’t own property, and many minorities, fight in the country’s armed services. Every extension of freedoms has benefited the country.

But the action of spying on citizens without the check and balance of even a secret court is a crime. It is a crime whether or not the President of the United States is evil or is the best thing that ever happened to the US. The matter should not be argued on the merits of the President as a whole but on this action particularly. Despite what many Democrats would have you believe, it is quite possible to consider this action of unwarranted surveillance a crime, and still respect and support the President in other matters. It is quite possible in his zeal to protect the country he made a mistake. But whether his impulse was beneficient or not is not at issue. Enlightened despotism was still despotism. A crime committed for good reasons is still a crime.

During the Nixon administration, while fighting the Soviet bloc, the executive branch also went too far. The President tried to defend unwarranted surveillance on the grounds that it was protecting the country. At that time the enemy was real, it was unpredictable and a war was being fought. Same as now. But that didn’t change the fact that the country did not want to give unchecked powers to the executive branch. Subsequently, more stringent laws were passed in order to protect against the abuses of that time.

Now we have a clear breach of those laws. The president admits the orders were given. He claims they were legal. Perhaps a court would find them legal but I and many others find that unlikely. The President defends the actions, saying he was protecting the public. That rationale, whether meant well or not, doesn’t justify breaking laws. That is not the kind of society the United States has desired to create. There are risks to protecting liberty. The government does not have a free hand to do everything it wants. But those risks bring enormous benefits, the benefits of freedom that have made the US a rather good place to live, all things considered. Undermining the checks and balances, and laws, of the US threatens the underlying principles that make the US good.

The United States is far from perfect. But so far it has started well and showed steady improvement over its first two centuries. This is a crossroads. At the US birth, the older governments of the world, scoffed and said the experiemnt in liberty and freedom couldn’t last. They implied the experiment was naive. Those governments eventually fell, or transformed into societies of freedom and liberty. But the American experiment can yet fail. This test won’t be the end of the experiment one way or another, but it will mark a turning in the direction towards freedom, or towards control. Whether or not the executive branch means well, we should not allow them to turn us away from freedom.