Random Thoughts – Randocity!

What is Freedom of Speech?

Posted in Uncategorized by commorancy on March 5, 2019

Many folks consider that Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling is a form of “Freedom of Speech”. Let’s understand why it isn’t.

First Amendment

The first amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first word is “Congress”. It’s important. I’ll come back to this shortly. Let’s understand that kneeling doesn’t actually fall under this clause for several reasons. First, it’s an act. Freedom of speech covers speech (verbal or written). Kneeling is not speech in any way. The act may represent or be symbolic of some other context or idea, but without that context, it’s just kneeling. Second, by a single person doing it, it doesn’t fall under peaceable assembly. It takes more than one person for it to be considered an “assembly”. Third, it was performed on private property (in football stadiums). Fourth, it was performed while Colin was “on the clock” (meaning, while he was performing his for-pay job).

Congress Shall Make No Law…

That statement means that no federal or state laws can exist that abridge these fundamental rights of the citizens of the US. However, these rights only extend to (and this is the key point) public lands. Private property is not at all subject to any rights afforded by the constitution. Private land owners are not subject to constitutional interference. If you own land, you can deem any person on that land as trespassing and, subject to that determination, deal with the trespasser as you see fit (call the cops, chase them off, etc) no matter what they are doing. The constitution holds no bearing on private property. If you hop a fence and begin kneeling on private property, a land owner is free to chase you off of that land with a rifle under trespassing laws. It’s their land and you were trespassing.

Private property owners, regardless of whether owned an individual or a corporation, is not subject to First Amendment Rights. However, they are subject to the individual laws of the jurisdiction where that land is.

This is the distinction. The First Amendment, and indeed, the constitution as a whole, only applies to government institutions and when on public property. For example, you can go to the steps of a federal building (on public land) and kneel in front for as long as you wish. As long as it remains a peaceful demonstration and you’re not breaking any other laws, you can remain there. Doing this same act during the National Anthem on private property has no place. It not only disrespects the National Anthem, it disrespects the NFL (his employer), the fans and the U.S. alike. It verges on being unpatriotic… probably not the intended affect.

Regardless of what it IS, what it isn’t is “Freedom of Speech”. Not only is there no speech involved, private property owners don’t have to respect “Freedom of Speech” on their property even if it were speech (which it isn’t). Kneeling is an act. As an act, it might be considered a form of protest.

Protests and the First Amendment

Protesting is, contrary to popular belief, not protected by the First Amendment. What is protected by the First Amendment is “Freedom of Speech”, “Freedom of Assembly”, “Freedom of the Press” and “Freedom to Petition”. None of these include “protesting”. Assembly is as close as it comes. Peaceable Assembly might be considered a form of “protesting” by some, but it isn’t always. Some people tend to conflate protesting with assembly when both mean two different things.

When and Where Can You Assemble?

Let’s also understand that “assembly” is intended to be performed on public lands. You can do it on the public sidewalk. You can do it on any public land you choose. As soon as you step foot on private land, you’re subject to trespassing laws.

When Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the National Anthem, that act didn’t fall under any portion of the First Amendment. He wasn’t assembling on public land. At first, it wasn’t even an assembly. It takes more than one to assemble.

Kneeling is an act and not subject to “Freedom of Speech” and it has nothing to do with “Freedom of the Press” or “Freedom to Petition”. Kaepernick’s act was simply bad judgement exercised at the worst possible time on private land and on his employer’s dime.

You can’t exercise “Freedom of Speech” when you don’t fundamentally understand what “Freedom of Speech” is. Colin’s actions do have a time and place, but not at an NFL game in a packed stadium on private property. That is not the place for that activity.

↩︎

Advertisements

Dark Star

Posted in Uncategorized by commorancy on December 31, 2012

Happy New Year to Randosity Readers

Posted in Uncategorized by commorancy on December 31, 2012

Thanks to everyone for making this blog the success that it is during 2012. Happy New Year everyone. See you in 2013, unless I make another post before then. ;)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2011 in review

Posted in Uncategorized by commorancy on January 1, 2012

Happy New Year Everybody!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Installing Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) in VMWare Player 3

Posted in Apple, Mac OS X, Uncategorized, virtualization by commorancy on January 9, 2011

 

With this article, I’ll start by saying.. please purchase your copy of Mac OS X desktop software from Apple. It’s $29 and you get the original media (which is always good to have on hand).

 

 

To start, here are the softwares you will need:

Installing Mac OS X on VMWare Player is a pretty simple install, but note that there are some important issues that aren’t yet resolved. I’ll explain the issues, however, after the install steps.

Installation

Inside the Empire EFI 1.3.2 archive, you will see the following files:

You will see that the extracted ‘Snowy_VM’ folder contains several files besides just the EFI media.  Inside the Mac OS X Server*.vmwarevm directory, you’ll see it contains two .vmx templates for VMWare.  Use the .vmx file without the underscore at the beginning.  Note, you’ll need to use this template to get the install going.  It’s far simpler to use their existing template than trying to figure out all the proper VMWare Player settings.  So, use what’s given rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.  If you absolutely feel you want to reinvent, then I’ll leave that for you to determine what’s necessary.

To begin, inside VMWare Player, select File->Open a Virtual Machine.  Find the .vmx file mentioned just above and open it.  Once opened, it will appear as ‘Mac OS X Server 10.6 (experimental)’ in the VMWare Player selection panel.  From here, you will need to modify the settings for the CDROM device under this machine.  Choose the ‘Mac OS X Server 10.6 (experimental)’ imported machine and choose ‘Edit virtual machine settings’ on the bottom right of the window.  Now click the on the CDROM device and under ‘Connection’ change it to ‘Use ISO image’ and browse to and select the darwin_snow.iso image inside the Snowy_VM directory’. Click ‘OK’.

You’re now ready to boot.  So, click ‘Play Virtual Machine’.  Once the machine has started and the system begins searching for a CDROM (read the text on the screen), you will need to change the CDROM to the Mac OS X Snow Leopard media.  I recommend using an ISO media to install. So, I will assume you are using an ISO image here.  At the bottom of the active VM Window, right click the CDROM icon which may now be greyed out (disconnected) and choose ‘Settings’.  Locate the Snow Leopard media on your hard drive and click ‘OK’ to accept it.  Check the box next to ‘Connected’ at the top of the window and click ‘OK’ at the bottom.

The system should recognize the disk change and begin to boot the media in about 10 seconds.  Once the install begins, you are now installing Mac OS X.  Follow the steps to install Mac OS X.  Once Mac OS X is installed, reboot.  Note the hard drive given in this Snowy_VM archive is ‘ready to go’.  So you don’t need to format it.

Booting issues with VMWare Player and Mac OS X

Let’s pause and explain this.  When you reboot the first time, the system may or may not boot up.  There are two behaviors you should watch for.  The first behavior is that you get to the Apple Logo screen with the spinning lines.  If it never progresses beyond this grey screen, then you will need to reboot and try again.

The second behavior is that it may get past the grey screen, but then Finder never appears and you see a forever spinning cursor.  If you see this, you will need to reboot and try again.

These issues are annoying, but that’s why this is ‘experimental’.  So, we live with these issues.

The third issue is that you will need to continually leave the darwin_snow.iso image in the drive all of the time to boot up Mac OS X. Hey, at least it works.  Leaving it in the drive is really not a problem as it boots up so quickly.  Perhaps they can create a standalone booter later, but for now this works.

Note, I recommend setting up a second CDROM drive inside your Mac OS X virtual machine’s settings.  This way, you leave one CDROM always set up with darwin_snow.iso and you use the second one to load/unload other ISO images.  If you like, you can set the second one up to your physical drive also so you can pop real CDs in the drives as you need.  Note that if you change the darwin_snow.iso image to something else, you have to remember to set it back when you’re done.  If you don’t do this, Mac OS X won’t boot.  So, this is why I recommend setting up a second drive for loading ISO images.

Booting up successfully

After getting through any unsuccessful boot attempts (or not), you should get to the registration screen.  After going through all of the registration screens you will be at the standard Finder desktop.  At this point, you might want to change things like Sound and Display. Note that the sound and display drivers are just about as good as what’s in Virtual Box.  In fact, Virtual Box’s resolution setup is a bit more complete than this.  So, don’t expect a whole lot here.

Suffice it to say that you will need to follow editing of the apple.com.Boot.plist file as in the ‘Installing Mac OS X on VirtualBox‘ article on Randosity.  Add in the lines related to the graphics.  Once you have done this, edit the virtual machine in VMWare player and choose the Display setup.   Under ‘Monitors’ change it to ‘Specify Monitor Settings’ and manually change the maximum resolution to ‘1366×768’. When you reboot, Mac OS X should go into this mode.  If it doesn’t work, then you may have to fiddle with the apple.com.Boot.plist file until it works.  Note that the resolutions here are limited, so don’t try to set up some odd resolution as it won’t work.

Note, this is the best resolution I could find.  Note that in the above directory, you’ll see the file ‘EnsoniqAudioPCI.mpkg.tar’.  This is a Mac OS X driver for audio.  I have tried installing this without success.  But, your mileage may go farther.  The trick is in getting this into the Mac.  So, you’ll need to start a browser and download the EFI file again on the Mac.  Then extract it, find this file and install it.

At this point, you should be all set.  You may run into the booting issues from time to time, just reboot until it boots up.  Hopefully this booting issue will be fixed at some point.  Good luck and happy installing.

If you’re looking for something that boots consistently for Mac OS X, has better video mode support and working sound, then I would suggest setting up Mac OS X on VirtualBox. The setup for VirtualBox is a little more complex, but it boots consistently every time, has its own standalone boot loader and offers a few more features.

If you have questions, please leave a comment below.

Cell Phone: Prepaid vs Postpaid

Posted in Uncategorized by commorancy on June 14, 2010

Having used both service types, I have personally settled on using prepaid services for many different reasons. With this article, I’ll delve into the various aspects of both types of plans.

Postpaid Plans

What is it? A post paid plan is a contract plan. With this type of plan, you are required to sign a 1, 2 or more year contract on your phone service on top of the cost of the phone. With a 2 year contract, the carrier will subsidize (or help pay for) the phone you wish to use. Instead of paying the full price for the phone (usually $200-600), the phone might cost $0-150 (depending on the phone).

In exchange for this seemingly less expensive price of the phone, you will incur an early termination fee to exit the contract early. This termination fee is anywhere between $175 to $325 (or more). Note that the early termination fee (ETF), may reduce in amount after the fourth month of service. So, the carrier might reduce the cost of the ETF by $10 per month every month after the fourth month of service.

As a note about your postpaid phone’s cost. Nothing in life is ever free. If there’s anything we need to learn, this is it. So, when a phone says that it is ‘free’ with 2 year activation, that’s where they get you. Having a forced 2 year contract, for example, they will more than make up for that phone’s cost in the 2 years. But, at the same time, you will end up likely spending more than the cost of the phone outright. So, subsidized phones look good until you do the math.

Postpaid Hidden Fees

There are many hidden fees with these plans. Postpaid plans give you a certain number of ‘primetime’ minutes included. These minutes may be used any time of the day up to the amount you contract for. For example, under a $40 per month plan with the iPhone, you might be allotted 450 ‘anytime’ minutes. Let’s calculate that price: 40 dollars / 450 minutes = 8.9 cents per minute. So, that’s basically 9 cents per minute minus taxes, fees and surcharges. You won’t know the taxes, fees and surcharges until you receive your first bill. Likely, the extra fees will raise that 8.9 closer to 10 cents per minute. Note that the 10 cents per minute price point is important in the prepaid part of this article.

Further, once you have used up your 450 minutes, the per minute rate goes up to a whopping 45 cents per minute! Ridiculous! So, be cautious with overage fees on postpaid plans. Unfortunately, postpaid plans and services don’t give easy access to usage information. So, you’re using the service blind. Again, see prepaid services benefits below.

Data Plans

With postpaid plans, you have the option of adding data plans (and with the iPhone, it’s pretty much required if you want to actually use it). With these data plans, the data overage charge depends on the plan you pick. With AT&T doing away with its unlimited data plan, you will need to review their new plans carefully to find out how this could affect you. With other carriers, like T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon, you will need to ask these questions before you sign the contract. Both with your data service and your phone coverage, be sure to check the coverage maps to make sure it covers the places were you want to use the phone.

Signing a contract

Pick the right phone for your needs. Don’t pick a phone simply because it looks cool or is the thing to have. Be sure that this is the phone you want to use for the next 2-3 years. If not, you could be locked into a plan, service and phone without a cheap exit. Even if you do decide to early terminate and pay the fee, you may still not be able to unlock the phone to sell it. So, be careful when dealing with AT&T on this matter. If you let your contract run to conclusion, AT&T will likely be more amenable to unlocking the phone at the end. Note, however, that the Apple iPhone is exempt from unlocking due to contractual obligations between Apple and AT&T. If you want to unlock the iPhone, you will have to do it another way other than by asking AT&T. However, if you plan to travel overseas, you may be able to get the phone unlocked for that reason. You should call AT&T if you plan to travel.

Other hidden issues

When you apply for a postpaid cell phone service plan, this application is the same as filling out a credit card application. The carrier will run a credit check to determine credit worthiness. This credit check is listed on your credit report. So, depending on your credit score, you could be approved or declined for service. That may also be noted on your report. Any time your credit report is pulled to verify your credit worthiness, that’s a possibility for identity theft. The reason is that you don’t know what the carrier staff will do with that report once they are done with it. They could simply throw it in the trash which could end up fully intact in a dumpster by the curb. Anyone dumpster diving could find these credit reports and learn all of your credit card accounts. So, you should always be aware when someone intends to pull a credit report. You should also ask for that original report to be certified mailed back to you so that you can shred it yourself. Once they are done with the report, they have no more need of it.

Billing Issues

With a postpaid plan, the carrier will send you a monthly bill that you must pay to continue service. If you fail to pay your monthly invoice, they can cut your service off and sock you for the early termination fee. They may also charge you a disconnect fee, a reconnect fee or both. Not paying your bill can give AT&T cause to write negative information into your credit report. So, it is up to you to ensure your payments are always received timely. Fighting with AT&T over postal issues or late payments is likely to fall on deaf ears. They’re a big company and really care very little for each individual. So, disputing your bill or not paying it can have serious consequences on you, but is really nothing to AT&T. They just want their money. If you don’t think you can commit to a monthly $40 (or higher) payment on an on going basis, then you should consider prepaid service instead.

Prepaid Plans

What is it? A prepaid plan is a plan where you pay for your minutes and data as you use it. Prepaid plans now offer monthly service plans much like the postpaid plans, but do not require contracts or commitments.

Unlike postpaid plans, prepaid plans require no contracts, no commitments and no credit checks. This means you can start and stop service at any time without any penalties. Let me say that again, you can terminate service at any time without any penalties. Note, however, you may lose any remaining minutes left on your account unless you use them by their expiration date. So, if you want to terminate your service, finish all your minutes and stop paying for anything more. It’s that simple.

No contracts

Because you sign no contract, you are not committed to continue service with any carrier under prepaid terms. However, because you are not committing to a locked-in length of service, that doesn’t come without other issues. For example, without a contract, carriers will not subsidize the phones. So, you will pay usually between $50 and $300 (or more) for your phone. For example, the retail price of an iPhone is $600. Most HTC Android phones cost about $400-500. So, this is what you will pay to buy the phone. Note that this is what you also pay on the postpaid plan, but the cost is hidden in the monthly fees. Most prepaid services do offer entry level phones. However, most of these entry phones usually lack things like an internet browser, GPS, bluetooth, maps and large touch displays. These entry level phones are just the basics. Enough to dial and talk, buy ringtones, limited browsing and limited data… and probably no apps.

If you want to use an iPhone, an EVO or any other data heavy smartphone, prepaid service may not offer the plans and features to fully support these devices. That doesn’t mean you can’t use smartphones on prepaid service, it just means you are limited in the types of smartphones that you can use. In other words, if you want an iPhone, you will have to buy into the postpaid plan as they are not yet supported on prepaid plan carriers. That may change eventually, but for now that’s how it is.

Prepaid plan costs

There are two basic types of plans: 1) Unlimited and 2) Pay-as-you-go. The unlimited plan is much like its postpaid counterpart. You pay a fixed amount of money per month, starting at $40, and you get unlimited text and minutes. These plans are great if you talk and text a lot. By ‘a lot’ I mean, enough texting and talking to make the per minute costs go down below 5 cents per minute or message. Once you have used this amount of service per month, then the plan begins paying for itself. This may require heavy usage to get to that point, however. Average or light usage might not be enough to justify that $40 per month fee.

For those who can’t justify an unlimited cost plan, there’s the pay-as-you-go plan. These plans charge you for only the minutes you use. These plans usually offer per minute rates at 10 cents per minute all the time. As I said above, I am circling back to discuss the per minute postpaid pricing in comparison with prepaid pricing. Note that the postpaid plan is 9 cents per minute for 450 minutes. After that, it’s 45 cents per minute. With prepaid plans, the cost is ALWAYS your per minute rate (usually 10 cents per minute). Never higher, rarely lower, it’s always the same month after month (unless the carrier specifically raises the rates and you can drop your service at any time without penalty). Also, your minutes will remain at the rate that you purchased them. So, even if they do raise the rates, your current remaining balance will be used at your purchased rate.

Rollover Minutes

Prepaid plans offer the concept of rollover minutes. On the unlimited plan, this isn’t necessary. In prepaid plans, as long as you put more minutes onto your phone before the minutes expire, those minutes are extended to the next expiration date. So, you never lose any remaining minutes as long as you add more money to your account before those minutes expire. This same concept applies to postpaid plans if you don’t use all of the 450 minutes.

Keeping Track

With a prepaid plan, it’s very easy to keep track of how many minutes you have left. Most carriers offer a phone number that will message the phone with how many minutes are remaining and when they expire. With postpaid plans, there is no tracking usage. In fact, they don’t want you to keep track. They want you to use that 45 cents per minute overage cost so they rake in more money.

Service Savings with Prepaid

Even though you are required to pay full price for the handset, it doesn’t have to be an expensive phone (unless you want it to be). However, this is the only major expense to prepaid service. So, once you have a phone, you can easily save money by using a prepaid account wisely.

Because there are no contracts, no commitments and no penalties, you immediately avoid all of those costly issues up front. In addition, the minutes you buy already include taxes, fees and surcharges. That means, you never receive a bill and never pay those ‘extra’ fees mandated by postpaid plans. Again, this saves you money. When you buy a top-up card or via credit card on the phone, you only pay the cost for the minutes. For example, T-Mobile charges $100 for 1000 minutes. That’s 10 cents per minute. These minutes expire in 365 days (one year). That means, you can spend $100 and never have to spend any more money for an entire year if you never use up those 1000 minutes. Also, T-Mobile’s minutes are used like credits. So, this money can pay for added features like data plans and extra services right from that minute pool.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Prepaid over Postpaid

Benefits

  • Easily track your usage and expenses
  • Never overage charges
  • Per minute charges are always the same
  • Pay for exactly what you use
  • No contracts
  • No added fees, taxes, surcharges
  • Never worry about a late bill (or bills at all)
  • Minutes rollover as long as you top up before expiration (although, postpaid offers rollover too)
  • Standard phone features (voicemail, three-way calling, caller ID, call waiting, etc)
  • Minute cards can go on sale lowering per minute rates to 8 cents or less per minute.

Drawbacks

  • Limited data plans
  • Full priced handsets (no subsidies)

Benefits and Drawbacks of Postpaid plans

Benefits

  • Better data plans and, sometimes, coverage
  • Better choice of phones (usually)
  • Handset cost is subsidized (cheaper up front)
  • Can offer cost savings IF you use up your plan each month but do not go over (see drawbacks)

Drawbacks

  • Costly per minute rate overage fees (both minutes and data)
  • Requires credit check
  • Requires credit approval
  • Requires contract
  • Mandates early termination fee
  • Adds surcharges, fees and taxes (more than prepaid)
  • No ways to easily monitor usage
  • Not designed for cost conscious consumers

Scam-ish?

Postpaid plans are designed for people with disposable income. These plans are designed for people who don’t watch their bills closely and who don’t mind the added charges when they run over. As such, postpaid plans do not offer mechanisms to control costs and random expenses. So, doing the wrong thing on the phone could add an accidental high cost charge to your bill (i.e., roaming into an out-of-zone area and using the data plan at per megabyte rates or running out of minutes). Because there are no tools to monitor usage, postpaid plans are not designed for the cost conscious consumer. If you want to keep a handle on your wireless service costs, then you should opt for a prepaid plan.

With prepaid service, the carriers all give methods to watch your minute usage, give alerts on how many minutes were used after a call completes and ways of determining current minutes left and when they expire. All of these tracking features let you determine when you need to pay more money to add minutes. On postpaid plans, the carriers decide when you pay and how much you pay.

With a postpaid plan, it’s very easy to go over your allotted minutes because you have no way to know that you just used up the last of your 450 plan minutes and it’s just the 15th of the month. That either means you need to be a zealot and check your minute usage often (you have to call customer service to get this information), or you need an app to track this data on your phone. If you happen to buy a phone that supports apps, you might be able to do this. Otherwise, you’re out of luck and will have to do it manually. You may be able to call customer service and get this information, but they only support limited phone hours and may not be able to give you this data in real-time.

If you’re a budget conscious consumer, a prepaid plan lets you track your usage exactly. You also only pay for exactly what you use. With postpaid plans, if you don’t use yours service for 30 days, you still pay the $40 (or whatever the plan costs). If you are using prepaid and don’t use the phone for 30 days, you pay nothing (unless you are on a unlimited prepaid plan). The single thing you must be aware is the expiration date. So long as you buy more minutes before the minute expire date, your old minutes remain and become part of your new minutes. The downside of prepaid is the lack of a solid data package to run phones such as the EVO, iPhone and Droid.

Carriers

Finally, this last section is about the carriers themselves. The carriers that support prepaid services include TracFone, Net10, Virgin Mobile, Simple Mobile, MetroPCS, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and AT&T. Some of these carriers only offer unlimited prepaid plans, others offer both unlimited and pay-as-you-go. Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T all offer both plans. Note that AT&T has introduced a new spin on the pay-as-you-go plan.

Ways to take your money

Not all prepaid services are equal. So, you will need to read the fine print for each of the plans. For example, some of the plans, like AT&T’s plan, take a $1 access fee on the days you use for phone. So, in addition to the 10 cents a minute, you also lose $1 on every day you use the phone. If you use the phone each day, that means $30 a month. So, you need to take this into account if you decide to use AT&T. The upside to this $1 access fee is that AT&T offers free mobile-to-mobile minutes. That means you can talk to anyone else on AT&T with no per minute charges. So, the $1 a day fee is all-you-can-talk mobile to mobile. That’s a great deal if you’re only calling AT&T phones. Talking for longer than 10 minutes with mobile-to-mobile equates to less than 10 cents per minute. The longer you talk with mobile-to-mobile, the cheaper it becomes during that day. You will also incur that $1 a day fee if you call a landline or someone who has a Verizon phone.

T-Mobile requires no access fee on pay-as-you-go, but they require $1 on Sidekick and possibly other plans. So, pay-as-you-go cost is always 10 cents a minute. However, T-Mobile doesn’t have any mobile-to-mobile minutes. T-Mobile also offers 365 day expiration period on 1000 minute packages (the best deal).

Virgin mobile offers 1000 minutes for $50. That’s half price from T-Mobile. The trouble is, the minutes expire in 1 month. So, you’ll end up spending $50 a month for those 1000 minutes. If you’re going to do that, you might as well go for an unlimited plan.

In other words, with prepaid there’s always some kind of thing you need to watch for, but that also goes for postpaid. With prepaid, each carrier offers some perk (or catch) that may help you save money (or spend money). A perk for someone might not be for someone else. You will need to review each prepaid carrier plan carefully to determine what works best for your needs and budget. From personal experience, T-Mobile has the most well-rounded plans and best service (least dropped calls) for my area. You may find that Tracfone works better for you. So, do your homework.

Links:

2009 ends, 2010 begins

Posted in Uncategorized by commorancy on December 29, 2009

Well, we come to the close of another year and we look forward to the next with eager anticipation.  Some of us will resolve to change ourselves and make resolutions.  Hopefully, whatever choices you make will work out for you in a positive way.  With 2010 fast approaching, Randosity will continue to write articles based on whatever comes to mind.. in the spirit of randomness.

Hopefully, our economy will continue to improve.  Hopefully, the job situation will improve and more companies will begin hiring more staff.  Whatever happens in 2010, Randosity will be there to write commentary about it.

With that in mind, Randosity would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season and a very happy new year.

Obesity Overtaking America

Posted in Health, health and beauty, Uncategorized by commorancy on December 13, 2009

You’ve heard all about this issue in the media. But, what you may not know is that this issue is now even reaching into the military (including our armed forces in Iraq).  The Pentagon has reported that obesity has doubled since 2003 in the US Military. Here are people who are actively serving for our national security and they’re becoming obese.  I always thought that army food wasn’t that great and was designed to keep the troops’ healthy.  I guess that’s not happening.

Some people attribute stress to the obesity epidemic in the US.  But, who or what is to blame for the growing waistlines?  Clearly, people do need to take responsibility for what they eat.  On the other hand, the human body does not come with an owner’s manual.  So, these two issues combined with the media, the food industry, so-called professionals, easy access to foods and misinformation lead to the waistline growth.  Which one is to blame?  They all are.

Food Industry

I know we all want to blame and, in some cases, even sue the food industry for this issue.  In some cases, lawsuits may even be warranted.  However, each person needs to take responsibility for their body.   Unfortunately, in some situations it may not be possible to purchase and eat your own foods. You may end up being in a semi-captive situation where you eat what you are given and have no access or say in the foods that are served.  In these cases, that establishment is to blame for feeding you poor quality food choices.  This may be the situation in the military.  This situation may also follow for lower income families who need to eat, but cannot afford to purchase produce due to its higher costs.

However, when the person can purchase their own food, make their own food and then eat that food freely, that’s where self-responsibility must take place.  You can’t blame the food industry when you have choices.  Basically, as a consumer, you must take responsibility for your food choices.  But, even more than that, you need to take responsibility for your body.  You can’t push your growing waistline off onto food manufacturers because you made the choice to eat their food.  There may be other liabilities that you can call the food industry on, but it isn’t personal responsibility for your body.

Food manufacturers do, on the other hand, provide loads of misinformation on their food items, so you have to become an intelligent and informed shopper to avoid these FDA-endorsed yet very deceptive food labels.  Note that deceptively labeled food items would be a liability for the food manufacturer except for the fact that the FDA has endorsed and approved those mislabeling practices. So, while you may want to sue the food manufacturer for mislabeling, you simply cannot.  These practices are definitely legal.  But, that doesn’t make them right, helpful or help you make an informed choice.  That said, you need to understand how to read the labels and discard the useless deceptive information and to determine just how nutritious something really is for you.

Three types of macronutrients defined

Of the three types of main nutrients your body needs, these are protein, carbs and fats.  Protein consists of meats, fish, eggs and is also in other products like milk, cheese, nuts and beans.  Fats consist of oils and is in foods including butter, avocados, nuts, fish, meats and table oils.  Carbs may be the hardest to identify in foods, but consist of both starches and simple sugars.  Starches include corn, rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, rye or any other type of grain.  Simple sugars include any granulated sugar (sucrose), fruit sugars (fructose) and dextrose (included in some food items). Sugar Alcohols should also be considered a simple sugar of sorts and these include maltitol, xylitol, mannitol (or any other sugar ending in ‘ol’).  Other sugars include maltodextrin and oligofructose among others.

All sugars ultimately become glucose in the body.  So, eating that piece of bread is ultimately the same as eating a piece of candy.  The only difference between candy and bread is the amount of fiber it contains.  Most finely granulated white flour is really no better than sugar and digests with similar speed.  With white flour based foods, you might as well be eating straight sugar.  Eating ‘whole wheat’ based items may slow down the digestion some, but that’s all dependent on the amount of fiber.  Most ‘whole wheat’ items may be partially made with white flour, so be careful with that.

Basically, your plate needs to consist of proteins, fats and carbs in the proper quantities to keep the body balanced.  Too many of any one of these nutrients and your body will compensate by becoming fat or having other issues.

A Society of Grain

The grain industry has a huge hold over our food supply.  You simply look at the average American meal and you will see one thing that dominates the plate: grains.  These include primarily include corn, wheat and rice.  But, there is also barley, rye and sorghum.  These grains are then made into items such as bread, crackers, cakes, cookies, cupcakes and pasta.  Once added to the plate, these items consume at least 25-50% of our dinner plate and probably 50-100% of our snacks.

Starchy vegetables

On top of these heavily starchy grains, we add yet another starch to our plates in the form of a potato and corn.  Yes, corn is both a grain and a vegetable depending on how it’s used.  So, between the bread and the potato, our dinner plate now contains probably 50% or more starches.  If you add corn as a side dish, that’s even more starch and makes up for at least 75% of the meal.  But, starch and starchy vegetables aren’t the complete answer to obesity.. even if the low-carb diets would like you to think so.  We’ll come back to the starch and weight relationship shortly.

Vegetables

In the vegetable category which should consume at least one-third of the plate, we should be serving green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens and similar.  Other vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, soybean (green), green beans, leeks, etc.   Unfortunately, many people choose to skip this portion of the meal.  But, this portion needs to consume at least 25% of the plate (and actually, these should consume the most).  The reason they should consume the most is that they are high in fiber, low in calories and fill you up. Unfortunately, many vegetables can also cause flatulence and other intestinal issues (due to higher amounts of fiber).

Protein portion

Of the rest of our plate, we reserve the protein portion of the meal.  This includes foods such as, obviously, meats like beef, chicken, eggs, pork, turkey, fish and other seafood.   For vegetarians, there are other sources of proteins such as legumes, soy and other vegetable proteins and even milk (if lacto-vegetarian).

Beans

Legumes should be catagorized separately because they are both a starch and a protein at the same time.  So, while it’s great that they contain protein, they are also fairly starchy.  So, eating them in addition to other starches only serves to undermine any sensible weight loss approach.  So, be careful when adding beans to your plate.  Beans include white beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas, English peas, sugar snap peas, peanuts, refried beans, black beans, Lima beans, fava beans, etc.  It’s pretty easy to identify a bean on the plate just strictly due to its consistency and texture.  Beans also have one additional side effect that can be unpleasant in a lot of people: gas.  So, if you know you are intolerant of beans, be careful adding them to your plate.

Fruits and Nuts

Fruits should be considered a sugar (carb) combined with fiber.  So, when adding these in, understand that they add to your total calorie intake as well as your sugar intake for the day.  Nuts are considered both a protein and a starch.  So, again, add them into your total protein and carb intake for the day.  Fruits, like vegetables, are far lower in calories than nuts.  So, you can add more fruits to your diet (assuming you aren’t carb intolerant or diabetic) and reduce your calorie intake.  Nuts, on the other hand, are high in calories.  So, eating lots of nuts can add a lot more to your calorie intake than you think.

Dairy

Dairy products (cheese, milk, milk-based products) can be reasonably high in both calories and carbs (lactose), so be careful when adding lots of dairy to your diet.  Yes, diary does contain calcium and vitamin D (fortified), but you should try to find other ways to add calcium and D to your diet than through dairy.

Junk Foods & Soda

When trying to readjust your diet to be more healthy, you really have to get rid of these from your diet.  Junk foods are those that add calories without substance.  They may make you ‘feel’ good while you’re eating them, but the sugar high that you get and the subsequent weight gain isn’t wanted.  So, avoid junk foods.  Junk foods include potato chips, pretzels, bread (more than one piece per meal), crackers, Triscuit, Wheat Thins, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, rolls, biscuits or anything basically that uses refined white flour.  Refined white flour needs to be removed from any healthy diet.  Junk food also includes straight sugar based candies like hard candies and candy bars.  It also includes pies and ice cream. If you need baked goods, then make them from nuts, coconut or other alternative flours than refined white and wheat flours.  Note that whole wheat flour isn’t.  If the flour is ground to a powder, then it is not whole.  This is yet another label that mislabels the food.  Anything that’s ground to a powder consistency is refined to the point where it takes no digestive processing.  Note that I also include Pizza and Hamburgers in the junk food category because the food contains 40% or more refined wheat based flours.

As for commercial sodas, avoid them.  If you must drink sodas and want to be frugal, buy a SodaStream carbonator and carbonate your own water.  A SodaStream will save you money over time and prevent you from having to carry home heavy bottles of soda water.  If you can afford the costs and want to deal with carrying heavy bottles home, buy soda water in liter bottles.  Then, use your own sweeteners (like Stevia) and flavorings (like Vanilla) to create your own homemade sodas.  This avoids the acidic issues of commercially produced sodas and it also avoids the unnecessary preservatives and additives that are placed into commercial soda flavorings.  It also avoids the added sugars and potentially unhealthy lab created sweeteners.

Resting body caloric needs

The number one issue when it comes to weight gain or loss is how much to eat.  The suggested daily calorie allotment on the Nutrition Facts label of foods usually shows a 2000 calorie a day and sometimes a 2500 calorie a day value. This labeling implies that this is the number of calories YOU should be eating.  In fact, this assumption is incorrect. You cannot know how many calories per day that your body needs unless you get evaluated by using a device that measures your resting caloric needs.  One such Resting Metabolic measuring device is called the BodyGem.  This device measures several things at once through a mouthpiece where you sit and breathe.  As the devices are quite expensive, they can be found at better health clubs like 24 Hour Fitness.  As part of getting a membership, 24 Hour Fitness will measure your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) with the BodyGem. For example, my resting body caloric needs were tested at 1700 calories per day.  Even more than this, you need to understand what that number represents.  Is that the number at which the body will stay in equilibrium (i..e, no gain and no loss)?  Or, is that the number at which the body will gain or lose weight?  This information was not made clear to me.  So, getting yourself tested is only half of the battle.  You need to make sure you understand what that number represents.

Calorie?

Many people just assume that people know what a calorie represents.  In fact, most people don’t.  One calorie is the amount of food it takes to raise one liter of water one degree when that food is burned.  So, they burn the food in a controlled environment and then determine the how many calories the food is based on how much it raises the water temperature.  Note, however, that burning food is not an identical process the body uses to convert the food into energy.  Burning something is a combustion chemical process.  The body doesn’t use combustion to convert the food into energy. Instead, it relies on lock and key chemicals (solvents) to dissolve the molecular bonds of the foods. Thus, a calorie is only a representative measure of how the body works.  It’s symbolic and is allegedly equivalent enough that it works.  So, we’ve all taken for granted the calorie and what it represents when it may, in fact, not be as accurate as we would like.  For the sake of argument, however, we will assume that the calorie as measured is accurate for the purposes of this article.

Unrealistic labeling

Unfortunately, the FDA and the food industry are both working together to keep the public misinformed.  It’s unfortunate, but the food labels are really not there to help consumers.  The Nutrition Facts label is probably the only label on the package that you can trust as far as sheer numbers go.  So, what is inaccurate about the labeling?  Well, let’s start with the numbers of servings.  Realistic labeling for a small package of chips should state 1 serving per package.  Instead, many food manufacturers break down what should be a single serving into multiple servings.  So, you might find that single serving package stated as 2.5 servings.  So, the entire nutrition facts will only show you the amounts for 1 sub-serving of that bag of chips (which is about 1/3 of the package).  Ok, so who’s going to eat 1/3 of a package and put it away? For many reasons, this labeling idea is stupid.  First, it’s a single serving package and should be treated and labeled that way. Second, no one will store 2/3 of the package for later consumption as it will be stale in only a few hours.  But, the casual consumer might not look at the number of servings and assume that they ate 80 calories when they, in fact, just ate ~240 calories.

The numbers of servings issue is but one on the label.  In addition to the above, the Nutrition Facts lists total Daily Value (DV%) based on a 2000 or 2500 calorie per day diet.  Again, you need to know if your body gains or loses fat based on those assumptions.  If your body gains at 2000 per day, then you shouldn’t be using those DV values as a guide.  You will need to calculate your own Daily Values for yourself based on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Other mislabeling issues include the front of the package.  Again, based on the number of servings they put into the Nutrition Facts panel, they can then say ’80 Calories Per Serving’ on the front of the package.  This then makes the consumer assume that because it appears to be a single serving package that the entire package contains 80 calories. Again, mislabeling at its finest.

What it comes down to is read the Nutrition Facts label closely and read two pieces of information: Numbers of Servings and Calories Per Serving.  Then multiply that out in your head to find out how many REAL calories are in that package.  Remember: Numbers of Servings * Calories Per Servings = Total Calories in package.  Always determine this before you put that food into your cart.  What you think may look like 80 calories may end up being 500 calories.

Eating Out

With laws being enacted in many states requiring restaurants to put nutritional information on the menu, you can now see that Pepper Encrusted New York Strip with Penne Pasta and Spinach is 1500 calories.  1500 calories!  That’s nearly my entire daily allotment of calories in one meal!  Combine that with their 800 calorie desert and you’re well over your daily recommended intake with one single meal!  That doesn’t even take into account breakfast and lunch you ate earlier.

Weight Loss

It’s simple, to lose weight you need a calorie deficit.  That means that you take in less calories than your body expends in a day.  With a calorie deficit, the body reaches into its fat stores to provide energy.  This means you can’t eat that 2300 calorie meal combined with breakfast and lunch and expect to lose weight.  It won’t happen.  In fact, that’s the recipe for weight gain.  This will, over time, add pounds to the hips and give you the spare tire that you don’t want.  It makes you buy bigger clothes and feel bad about yourself.  But, the food industry feeds other industries including the health industry, the insurance industry, the hospitals and on the other side, the food industry itself, the restaurant industry and even the clothing industry (as you get bigger).  So, eating more and gaining more weight gives you incentive to spend more money on health and weight related issues (including gym memberships, supplements, weight loss fads, diet supplements and so on).

The simple truth about weight loss: you lose weight through a calorie deficit.  You have to eat less than your body expends.  Yes, this means you need to remain hungrier than you’ve ever been.  But, hungry means your body is losing weight.  You can’t lose weight without being hungry at times.  But, the desperate hunger you feel initially will subside over time as your body pulls from the fat stores and gets used to less calories.

Calories per day

This is yet another misnomer.  We think of our bodies in terms of a 24 hour period and how many calories we shove into it during this period.  This is wrong.  The body doesn’t know the concept of a day (or a 24 hour period).  The body utilizes a continuous cycle of processing.  When you eat, you interrupt the fat loss process by adding external calories.  Once those calories are finished being processed by the body, the body can then go back to utilizing internal calories from its own stores.   This means smarter eating.  When you do eat, eat foods that process completely to give maximum nutrition and then allow the body to go back to processing internal stores. This means smaller meals more often to reduce food processing times.  Large meals keep your body processing external foods far longer.  With a larger meal, there is a large likelyhood that your large meal will still be processing once you start your next meal.  So, your body never gets into fat loss mode between meals.

Instead, you need to think of your body as a constant processing machine.  It doesn’t recognize a 24 hour day.  It continually processes.  So, you need to think about eating foods not in a 24 hour period but on a continuous basis.  So, about every 2 waking hours you should eat a small meal.  That’s the necessary amount of time it takes to process the small meal. You do not need to eat while sleeping.  In fact, the sleep fasting period lets your body burn fat. However, if you go too long between meals, the body may go into survival mode and conserve.  Adding a small meal keeps the body aware that it is receiving external fuel and helps prevent survival conservation mode.  Note that the body’s conservation mechanism can help you lose weight (as well as gain it), so you need to understand how to manage that by eating small meals.

Lower Calorie Foods

By reading the Nutrition Facts panel closely (including numbers of servings) you can accurately determine if that food fits within your calorie requirements.  For example, you can eat that cookie if you want.  But, if you’re looking at 200-300 calories per meal, that 160 calorie cookie is over half of that meal.  You can do it, but you need to readjust your meal intake accordingly.

Eating Out Continued

Once you get into eating smaller meals more often, you may find that eating out is a thing of the past. It’s almost impossible to find restaurants that will serve you a 200-300 calorie meal.  Most average meals in restaurants are around 800-1200 per meal.  You can limit this by leaving food on the plate, but that’s a waste of money.  If you’re with friends, they may think you’re odd not eating an entire meal.  I find it simpler to make meals for myself at home.   On the other hand, you do need a cheat meal occasionally to keep the body off-guard and kick it out of survival conservation mode.  So, your cheat meal should be a ‘standard’ meal you will find at a restaurant, in addition to your 200-300 calorie per meal meals every 2 hours. You should add a cheat meal no more than once per week.

Starch and Weight

Because starch is a big staple on our plates, we must acknowledge the role it plays in our health.  We cannot deny that starchy foods are a contributor to our obesity.  Most starchy foods are combined with fat and that’s a recipe for fat storage.  The reason, starchy foods raise blood insulin levels and insulin is a carrier to bring the fat into our cells for storage.  So, the more insulin the body produces, the more likely you are to store fat.  When combined with an overly large calorie meal, these body processes are perfectly aligned to store the fat in our cells.  Because we continue to eat the same way day in and out, we do not give our bodies a chance to release the fat.  So, more and more storage of fat is added and never removed.  Thus, we get fatter and fatter to the point of obesity.  As a result of this, we need to put starch into perspective.  This means, reducing the amount of starches you eat at a meal and reduce their overall importance in the meal itself.

Losing Fat?

If you’re committed to losing the fat, you need to understand the body’s food and survival mechanisms, food labeling, foods that work for you and nutrition.  Our bodies were designed to be hunters and gatherers.  That means we eat meals when we find foods in the wild.  Once we find them (or hunt them), we would basically eat smaller meals more often rather than sitting down for a big meal.  We would also expend our energy engaging in food search. The body’s internal processes have not changed since the days of the hunters and gatherers.  But, our meals and energy uses have.   We now eat more calories in one sitting than ever in human existence.  We sit on couches watching TV, web surfing and playing video games.  The body just can’t cope with the excessive calories and, thus, adds the fat to the stores for future famine.  In fact, eating too many calories triggers the body’s survival conservation mode by storing the fat for famine situations.  The famine situation never comes, so we get fatter and fatter.  Just as not eating enough food can trigger storage conservation, so does eating too much.

There is a middle ground where you need to eat small meals to keep the body’s food processing active, but not enough food to kick in fat storage mode.  This is the balance in eating that you need to observe.  The balance is in calories that you eat, but not always what you eat.  The specific foods that you eat fills in the blanks for vitamins and minerals.  Limited calorie intake prevents fat storage and encourages fat store release.  Note that as our foods have become more calorie dense, they have been lacking in vitamins and minerals.  So, you may find that you need to add supplements for vitamins and minerals.  I recommend individual vitamins in gelatin capsules versus packed tablets containing recommended Daily Values (which could be inaccurate).

On a final note, once you get to your target body shape and weight, you will need to find your equilibrium mode to maintain that weight.  To do this, increase your calorie intake for each meal and eventually you will find that equilibrium. You will also need to eat more food the more active you become.  If you drastically increase your daily activity, you will need to compensate for that activity by increasing food intake to prevent, again, survival conservation mode (among other health issues that could arise).

Disclaimer:  This information is not intended to be used to as a diagnosis, to diagnose or as a diet.  It is strictly to be used for information purposes.  You will need to find your own way to lose the weight.  These suggestions may work to help you understand the body’s processes, but you will need to choose the foods that keep you healthy and let you lose the fat.  Everybody’s body is different, so this information may not work for you.  You should also consult with a doctor before launching any calorie restricted diet to determine any pre-existing conditions prior to dieting. This information is provided as is.  All risk of use of this information is assumed by the reader.  This information is copyright 2009 Randosity.  All rights reserved.

Windows 7: Should I upgrade / install?

Posted in botch, corruption, microsoft, redmond, Uncategorized, windows by commorancy on December 6, 2009

After having used Windows 7 for at least a month now regularly, I’ve come to realize one thing… Windows 7 is not stable!  Things that had been fixed in Vista are now clearly broken again.  For example, I could run Vista for probably a month or longer without the need to reboot.  If I’m lucky, I can get away with running Windows 7 for about a week or two before its innards get flakey.  For example, there are now processes that hang and cannot be killed by Task Manager.  This forces the need to reboot.  Once the apps hang, it’s impossible to reboot cleanly.  So, I have yet to be able to reboot Windows 7 without having to force power off the system.  Just today, I once again tried to use the ‘Restart’ function which did absolutely nothing.  Windows 7 appeared to start the shutdown process and then clearly hung and did not finish.

I have also had a problem with Windows 7 drivers.  For example, the ATI driver I now have installed on Windows 7 is clearly bugged.  When I run Daz Studio 3, I can load a specific 3D model set and crash the system with a BSOD.  Worse, Windows 7 knows that it crashed, but it doesn’t have any clue what crashed it.  It knows it was a driver crash, but not the specific driver.  When I click the troubleshoot panel that appears after the system reboots, the panel goes away and offers no advice.

These are clearly the problems of yet another immature and sad operating system attempt by Microsoft.  Windows 7 should be more stable than Vista (which was, according to a lot of people, very unstable).  Well, I’m here to say that Vista is a ton more stable than Windows 7 is.  Yes, Vista is quirky and odd in places, but the underlying OS is pretty much rock steady.  I rarely had crashes or BSODs.  I could leave the system running for long periods of time without instability.  Windows 7, on the other hand, is just completely unstable.  This thing should never have made it out of Beta, let alone to the store shelves.

Should you install?

To answer this question is… no, do not install this disaster of an OS.  Wait until at least Service Pack 1.  When that arrives, Microsoft might actually be able to make this disaster workable.  Right now, it’s an unmitigated unstable mess.  In fact, this OS is far worse than Vista in a lot of respects at this point.  If you are on XP, stay there.  Since there is no upgrade path from XP, you probably don’t want to try an upgrade anyway.. let alone to something that’s much more unstable than XP.  Not to mention, Windows 7 has a far bigger disk usage footprint than XP.

If you are running Vista, carefully examine if you really need this OS.  Frankly, the bells and whistles that Microsoft added aren’t enough to justify an upgrade or the expense.  If you happen to buy a new computer with Windows 7 loaded, then take it.  If you want to upgrade an existing system, don’t do it.

Side by Side installs no longer available

Since the release of Vista, Microsoft has done away with side by side installs.  You used to be able to install a new operating system on the same disk drive as an existing other Windows version.  As of Vista, Microsoft stopped that.  Instead, you are now required to buy a new disk and install it on that fresh drive.  You cannot install it on the same partition as an existing other Windows install.  Windows 7 will rename the old installation to Windows.old and make it no longer bootable.  You might be able to get away with a side-by-side install on a separate partition, but I’ve never tested this.   So, if you’re thinking of taking Windows 7 for a test spin first, you should buy a new disk and install it on that blank disk.  Then, decide if you want to upgrade your Vista partition based on that test drive.  Alternatively, I’d recommend using something like Ghost to clone your existing partition for a test drive upgrade onto that blank new drive.  If you don’t like it, put your old disk back in and boot your system back into Vista (or whatever).

If you really must have Windows 7 on your machine, go for it.  But, be warned that it is not stable by any stretch.  Perhaps Service Pack 1 will fix these issues, but right now be warned that you will likely experience the same issues I have.  If you are an IT professional thinking of upgrading an employee’s computer, you should wait until Windows 7 is far more stable than it is today.

Tagged with: , ,
%d bloggers like this: