Category Archives: var

Ghost in the Future

I didn’t go to the theater to see the new release of Ghost in the Shell, nor will I. My abstention has nothing to do with the white-washing boycotts involving casting a Caucasian actress into an Asian role (though, there is a metric ton written about it online, if you care to partake). Rather, my economic voting merely involves not pandering to Hollywood for gutting and monetizing a masterful, philosophical manga/anime as a dumbed-down, lowest common denominator cash grab. I’ve watched Ghost in the Shell anime for the past 25 years (including spin-offs such as the re-write Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie that came out in 2015 also as an anime, and Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence anime that came out in 2004).

The original Ghost in the Shell goes into deep questions regarding artificial intelligence, technology, ethics and morals, and racism as a growing problem as society develops into the 21st century and beyond. The answers to these questions are left to time as much as the audience, and I’ve noticed my thoughts on the movie(s) change over time as I see technology develop as well as corporate and governmental adaptation and control over it.

Part of the issue is that human existence is no longer limited to the human body, and thus an individual’s existence no longer ends when the body dies. This has been the case for some time. Ever since we could store data, we have transferred memories to computer and digital storage. Thoughts, ideas, photographs, desires… it’s to the point now that people put account longevity clauses or terminations into their end of life wills: Twitter, Facebook and other online accounts, etc. This extension of the human mind is currently at stake with government and corporate invasion of privacy with cloud storage, browsing history, encryption, et al. Do a person’s rights end with their human body, or their existence? Do their final wishes laid out in a legal last will and testament allow for continuance of digital existence in online or digital storage?

If we can’t even answer these questions and get them right, how are we as a society to govern and control artificial intelligence?

The short of it is this: we as a society aren’t ready for AI. Sure, baby monitoring systems or cars with advanced safety features are beneficial. But the human influence over AI, if the government, daily news broadcasts of violence and crime, and weekly scandal of corporations are any indication, would prove to be a tainted seed the likes of which programming could not overcome. We aren’t civilized enough yet as a civilization to create artificial life.

But none of that is going to stop the shareholders from pushing tech beyond our limits …

 

Featured image Laughing Man logo copyright Bandai Entertainment and Manga Entertainment from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, designed by Paul Nicholson after reading The Laughing Man by J. D. Salinger, using a quote from The Catcher in the Rye (also by J. D. Salinger)… did I cover everybody?!?

Down (to) the tubes

A week ago I got a Blackstar Fly 3 practice/mini amp, which sounds great if you approach it with the full and clear understanding it’s a battery powered, plastic-enclosed 3 watt solid state amp running though a speaker the size of a Cuties tangerine. It’s not a full 4×12 stack, nor is it ever going to sound big like one. What’s remarkable to me, however, is how good solid state amps sound now compared to when I started playing in 1984. Go figure, right? Shocking what 30 years of technology can do…

It’s been so long since I’ve owned a solid state amp, I’m reminded of what a proper, royal Pain In The Ass tube amps can be. Turn it on … wait for the tubes to warm up. Wait for the tubes to cool before turning it off. Wait for the tubes to fully cool before moving the amp. Different brands of the same size tube have different tonal characteristics, so you have to try different ones for your particular amp to find what sounds best to your ears. Heck, even same brands of tubes with different shelf age can sound different. And replacing the tubes when they start to wear out or fail. And rebiasing the amp when you put new tubes in. Dealing with roughly 450 volts of electricity in the amp when you’re biasing it (you can’t bias an amp that’s off)… that kind of power isn’t something you want to aimlessly tackle with a fork in each hand, kids.

With all that maintenance and extra cost, do I still prefer tube amps? Yes, yes I do. To my ears, they sound richer. You play the amp just as much as you play the guitar: depending on the pick angle on the strings or force striking the strings, the amp reacts differently without touching any of the knobs. Roll back the volume knob on the guitar, cutting the signal to the amp, and the growl of the distortion will equally roll back and start to clean up. A solid state amp will keep that same growl, just at a lower volume. Tube amps are more organic in that regard. They react to how you’re playing at that exact moment. But they’re also finicky and far less tolerant to weak or fluctuating current that solid state amps. I’ve played some places that had poor electricity and my tube amp sounded thin or weak in its distortion.

Do I think solid state amps, or digital amps, will ever be able to fully replicate the sound and nuance of a tube amp? Sure, given enough time and technology. But until then, I’ll stick with my Marshall tube amps and manual transmission car and safety razors and other Old Style ways.

Featured image used under CC license from .tungl

Go home Yahoo, you’re drunk (part trois)

Yahoo has had another hack. Yes, another. No, not the one announced about two months ago for 500 million accounts (that hack occurred in 2014). This hack is one billion (which occurred in 2013). No, this isn’t just more of the tally for the one with 500 million. Confused yet? If you’re still using Yahoo for anything, then I’m confused too.

Long story, short: Yahoo discovered another hack of one billion of their accounts (they seriously have that many?… they can’t all be active accounts… seriously). Yahoo doesn’t know yet how this one happened. (Judging from all the previous hacks, can we just file this under Competency and move along? -Ed) Some sources cite that spammers have purchased this hack database for $300,000. At least, we think the dollar figure is attached to the one billion account database. Yahoo has had so many hacks lately, they’re starting to all blur together like a slurry of ‘Here’s how not to do things’ reports.

Makes folks wonder if Verizon is sticking around with this potential merger thing in the hopes it gets so bad that Yahoo pays them to acquire the company.

All jokes aside: change your password for Yahoo. And, change that same password you use everywhere else even though you know you’re supposed to use a separate password for each account but you haven’t gotten around to setting up KeePass or LastPass. Or, close your Yahoo account. And probably set up KeePass or LastPass.

Or, y’know, all of the above.

Death of the Constitution, thanks

Funny, I didn’t think I’d be old enough to see the dystopian future become the dystopian present.

The likely candidate for the head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, states “The use of strong encryption in personal communications may itself be a red flag,” according to Motherboard. Notwithstanding that just about every politician uses encrypted communications in both work and personal mediums (they’ve been red-flagged for years, right?), this is a dangerous stance on a number of levels. The view that private communication should be subject to the Chilling Effect, and that the First Amendment may no longer hold weight in his eyes is troubling.

Further, this stance (oft repeated by other politicians and alphabet soup agencies) indicates that metadata is no longer sufficient for their appetite. Ever wanting more (more power, move over-reach, more control, more room to operate outside the law), simply collecting metadata on millions of U.S. citizens not under any investigation or suspect of any crime is not enough. They now want content.

Not to anyone’s surprise, the government now wants to know who you talk to, and when, and for how long, and how many times, but also what you say. And what will be the next step when the content isn’t enough to satiate their hunger for more?

This has to end.

The rampant disregard for personal freedom, for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the notion that the government and law enforcement are above the law has to stop. Ever increasing is the fact it’s You The People, not We The People.

I am able to write this blog thanks to the First Amendment. The First Amendment holds five freedoms: freedom of speech, the press, religion, peaceful assembly and to petition the government. These freedoms weren’t included as the 21st Amendment, or the Tenth, or the Third. It was the very first, and thus most important, documentation of specific freedoms every citizen of the United States owns.

I use the word owns specifically here – we own them from the debt paid by the founding forefathers and from veterans and from all that has come before in America. Bought and paid for with work, blood, war, sweat and tears. It was a heavy price paid. And it will not be stolen or bartered or de-valued by those corrupt officials that believe the laws of this country are their door mat.

Featured image blended by BitMerc.

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The election has come and gone (mercifully), and to the shock of some parts in the country there was a winner and a loser. Shocking. Curiously, that’s usually how an election goes. Someone wins, and someone loses. There are no Certificates of Completion or Attendance Ribbons. Everyone can’t be a winner. You are not a special little snowflake.

I don’t really have any emotional attachment to either the winner or the loser of this election. They were the two worst candidates I’ve seen in over four decades. It was like trying to decide between dying by lethal injection or the electric chair. No matter which you pick, you aren’t going to be feeling all that great at the end of the cycle. Besides, I don’t trust anyone in government, anyway.

It’s funny how people are rushing to encrypt their emails and messages now after the election. Like the thought didn’t occur to them prior to November 8? Is their content now suddenly secret? They think the government wasn’t reading them on November 7? Do tell – inquiring minds want to know…

In far lighter news, Watch_Dogs 2 releases in a tick over 24 hours. So, woot for that and all. And, A Tribe Called Quest dropped a new record on Friday, much to my surprise and delight. It’s called We Got It From Here – Thank You 4 Your Service, in case you were wondering. The second track “We the People” is particularly good, methinks.

That’s about all fit for publication. There’s plenty more going on here, but … again… “fit for publication.”

Deuces.

Featured image used with permission from JokieGameplay