A blog experiment by Brad Mills.


When we own the news

With two days to go, it has been a week of notable deaths — four historic American icons have met their demise.

Ed McMahon First, Ed McMahon, faithful sidekick of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show for thirty years, passed away on Tuesday. Ed hosted the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, and Star Search when I was growing up, and was the easily-recognized face behind the American Family Publishers sweepstakes which promised, "You may already be a winner!"

Farrah Fawcett Second, Farrah Fawcett, one of Charlie's Angels, probably best known for either the best-selling poster shown here or the hairstyle she wore in it, passed away this morning after a film career which spanned three decades. She posed nude in Playboy at the age of fifty, and I don't care who you are — you've really got to admire a woman who is still proud enough of (or at least not ashamed of) her body at that age to do that.

Michael Jackson Third, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, has died of an apparent cardiac arrest. Michael had a lengthy musical career which started when he was eleven years old as a member of the Jackson 5. He launched his solo career at the ripe old age of 13 the year I was born. And despite the ridicule, speculation, and controversy he created and tolerated in latter years of his life, he was truly loved by millions and always seemed to generate a media frenzy.

Which allows me to clumsily segue into the fourth notable death this week.

Before Michael Jackson's death was officially confirmed, the social networks were atwitter (pardon the pun) with rumors which quickly spread across the globe. Those in the know were able to get the news out through the Internet, bypassing the anchor desks and stodgy sound bites, and into the minds of the consuming public. Meanwhile, corporate media was following protocol and saying "we are unable to confirm at this time" and avoiding speculation. The news spread regardless, and by the time the facts had been sanitized, checked, double-checked, and triple-checked, the world had already put the pieces together itself and discovered the truth.

When news travels faster than can be reported through official sources, those sources are no longer official, and their relevance is called into question.

So today, hours before the death of the man who brought us the moonwalk and Thriller, the ivory towers collapsed and corporate media passed away. Sure, it will continue to exist — it is a money-making venture, after all — but beyond that, it no longer matters.

Remember where you were when you learned Michael Jackson died, but more importantly, remember where you heard the news first.

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Five arty things

Paledaddy has this up at his blog... sounds like a neat idea, so let's see how it flies here.

I am entering into the following contract with the first five people who comment on this post and then commit to do the same on their blog. Just read below and if you feel up to the task copy the following into your blog and leave me a comment.

  1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I make. Whatcha get is whatcha get.
  2. What I create will be just for you, with love.
  3. It'll be done this year (2009).
  4. I will not give you any clue what it's going to be. It will be something made in the real world and not something cyber. It may be weird or beautiful. Or it may be monstrous and annoying.
  5. I reserve the right to do something strange.
  6. In return, all you need to do is post this text on your blog and make five things for the first five to respond to your blog post.
  7. Send me your mailing address — after I contact you.

So there it is. Any takers? Make sure to submit your email address with your comment (which won't be displayed here) so I can contact you.

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A Pampered Chef evening

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Holy frijoles

A late lunch today found me at Taco Bell on Patrick Street at its hour of peak activity. There was only one cashier working, which means whoever made the schedule somehow forgot about this busy stretch of time, or somebody called in sick leaving the other employees in a lurch. When you're running a cash register — and I know this from experience — a good rule of thumb is to keep the herd moving along the best you can. And despite flying solo, the cashier here was doing a smashingly efficient job at that.

So my turn came up, I placed my order, funds were exchanged. At the conclusion of our transaction, the cashier said to me: "Have a blessed day." Um... ok.

I've been trying to figure that phrase out. Was this a request she was making of me, like it's something I have complete control over? I mean, if I wanted to, is it really that simple — just make it happen? And if that's not the case, what exactly was she getting at?

Is it safe for me to conclude she intended this in a religious context? Was there some mysterious force at work at Taco Bell today, maybe a miracle of tortillas and carne asada going on in the back — maybe water being turned into carbonated beverages by processes I could never fathom?

I didn't really pay attention before, but I probably should have afterwards, to see if everyone else was met with this same request. Perhaps it was just me, the scruffy-looking guy in the Hawaiian shirt, who looked like he needed some kind of blessing bestowed upon him, even of the self-induced variety. I will add for the record that some of the other patrons were much scruffier in appearance than I and probably genuinely could have used it.

And how does one respond to that? I'm not a religious person. This person — without qualms — can essentially profess to me a faith and system of belief which doesn't interest me at all. In fact, I have nothing to offer there which doesn't offend. And it's generally not a good idea to offend someone taking your order at Taco Bell.

There is a subtle injustice here, as those without belief are often looked upon with a certain disdain by those who subscribe to religion. In fact, in many cases, those who merely believe differently are looked upon in the same way. It's always been my understanding that religion taught tolerance and respect. I don't think the cashier at Taco Bell was disrespectful to me, but I think if I'd told her I didn't believe in that kind of thing, I probably would have gotten an earful. That seems unfair, and I think completely misses the point religion is supposed to provide.

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Weirdness at IHOP

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Why I use Linux

I promise to not make this into a blog of geeky computer stuff. But I do want to get this one thing off my chest.

Those who've known me over the last few years know I'm a pretty big fan of Linux. This is a pretty recent occurrence — I'd played with Red Hat a bit in the late 1990s, but I didn't seriously start looking at Linux until two years ago. With Windows Vista looking like a flop and Microsoft shoving everyone down the upgrade path by dropping support for XP, I felt an urgency to explore alternatives. Two years and at least three Windows-based viruses later, and every computer in our house is now running some version of Linux. So a large part of it was born of my reluctance to let Microsoft push me around and bully me into the OS of their choosing. Some of it is because I was just tired of dealing with viruses and malware.

Another large part is Windows Genuine Advantage. Basically, Microsoft is trying to prevent theft of their product — I realize that. However, harassing people with reminders to activate, register, and all that nonsense is a strange and somewhat unprofessional way for a multi-billion dollar company to act toward its customers. Here's the thing: WGA sends information about your computer's hardware back to Microsoft as part of the validation process. Well, maybe I don't think this is any of Microsoft's business.

But systems without WGA aren't allowed to properly use Windows Update or the Microsoft Download Center, and at one time, downloading Internet Explorer 7 required WGA (though this isn't the case any longer). You know, browser and system updates are pretty damned important. People spend a lot of time on the Internet and conduct secure business there. So you have a choice — compromise your privacy by sending your information to Microsoft, or compromise it by using an outdated browser which is no longer supported. Yes, Firefox is available, but that's not the point — the point is feeling free to do what you want without sacrificing your privacy.

And to beat it all, you're paying Microsoft for the privilege. Not only does Linux not cost one red cent, you can get the source code for it and rewrite parts of it to act the way you want it to. The same can be said for the thousands of software packages which run on Linux. Freedom has multiple meanings here — cost is but one of them.

So. Pay a fat corporation for viruses, malware, unsecure products, violations of privacy, and lack of choice, or just get your computing done, keep your information to yourself, have a system which never gets a virus, and do it while keeping your money where it belongs — in your pocket.

That's why I use Linux.

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