It seems like every time I make a blog post, I’m doing it out of plain guilt. Last time I posted anything (and I do mean anything) was back in May, and even that one was long overdue.

Okay, I think I need to do this one thing at a time; what’s new and my opinion on current world events….

My personal life
Still no news to speak of, I’m afraid. I’m still single, still looking (slightly), and feeling kinda desperate. Thankfully, I’m able to hide my desperation – I’m told that desperate guys are even more likely to be ignored by attractive females (at least in my target age group; twenties). Aside from a ticking biological clock, everything is just about the same.

I finally worked up the nerve to go for a brand new laptop last month. I had been drooling a little over the Dell Studio laptop range for a few weeks, and considering my then-current laptop had just passed its third birthday, I thought it was about time to renew myself. The old one was also a Dell (Inspiron), but it was starting to run a bit slow again, and that’s after a 1GB upgrade the year before. After some upgrading in the configuration menus of the Dell online shop, I ended up with the following new features (not on my old one); 15.4 inch widescreen with WLED backlighting and up to 1440×900 resolution (in pixels), BluRay reader and DVD-writer combo drive (with slot feeding), HDMI port, 4 USB ports (the old one had “only” 3), Firewire, built-in Bluetooth, built-in smartcard reader, built-in 2MP webcam, built-in microphone, infrared remote control (a standard Windows Media Center one), Wi-Fi Catcher (which can detect the presence of a wireless network without having to boot up Windows), fingerprint reader, and, of course, Windows Vista Ultimate edition. That, combined with Office 2007 Ultimate obtained from my employer, makes up quite a laptop. The price wasn’t too shabby, either (considering the features included). The multimedia keys are quite fancy as well. OK, you’d have to see them to know what I mean.

Not to worry, the old laptop will also have a renewed life. Once I’m 100% sure I’ve transfered everything from the old one to the new, I’m reinstalling the laptop (with the system recovery CD/function which basically resets the laptop back to factory condition), and I think I’ll lend it to my stepdad. He has yet to have a laptop of his own (he has just been sharing my mom’s laptop when she’s not using it herself).

Work life
Meh, just about the same here as well, even though the projects we’re getting involved with are getting motivation up a bit. I feel I’ll be with this company for a while longer. I’ve even put my own home-business on semi-hiatus just to avoid catching focus from any new customers, and to let me maintain focus on IntraHouse as well as other half-done projects.

I’ve started to dabble a little in puppetry in the last 6 months or so (practicing mainly “sans-puppet”, ie. with just my hand), with inspiration from the Muppets, and I’m working myself up mentally to buy the final few components that enable me to build a puppet of my own. I’ve already bought small sheets of fleece (two shades of blue), felt and cardboard to use as skin, mouth and jaw skeleton (in that order, mind you), and I’m just missing foam rubber to use as insides. From before, I already had bought me a premade puppet (mid-teen boy with blue sweater, jeans, keychain and one pierced ear – you might notice it if you go looking for hand puppets yourself), but I also wanted a puppet I could completely call my own. Granted, I did buy instruction sheet and template for the type of puppet I’m about to build (“glorified sock puppet”), and the materials I’ve bought is likely to last for two complete puppets, one in each shade of blue. This will tell me whether I’m skilled enough to make the puppets by myself (or at least able to keep my interest in building it from the ground up), or if I’m better off just making a design on paper (or a generic design concept) to pass off to an actual (and more skilled) puppet builder. If my skills are up to it, my next step will be to buy larger quantities of the materials and fabric dye to create variance in puppet colors. Also worth mentioning is that the two different shades of blue I’ve already bought are also of two different fleece textures. I will be buying rolls of white fleece of whichever type works out the best. At least it’s somewhat of a starting point, but judging by my usual progress, I’ll be heftily surprised if I get started on building one of these puppets before Christmas. So there.

Website back-end
I’m not sure I want to think about it. The project is still in the starting blocks, and the starter forgot his starter gun at home. I’m trying to push a little through every once in a while, though.

Yep, I’ve been working with her and her website since May as the technical administrator for the forum section of “Kicesie’s Closet” – along with a couple of other administrators covering other aspects of the forum (I just handle the technical part). She has already revealed a little bit to the readers of her MySpace blog, but with the most recent design change for the forum section, she’s probably going to introduce her YouTube viewers to the website by the end of September. No promises, though; she’s always busy with several things happening at once. Even so, I feel it has been an interesting journey and a quite interesting project to be involved with so far. It has certainly opened my eyes to a couple of things, as well as situations and possible real-life settings I was unaware of.

War on terrorism
Plain and simple, it’s not working. At least not in the way that was intended. Tourists coming in to the U.S. are almost seen as possible terrorists until proven otherwise. The latest idea from the United States customs officials – giving them full authority to confiscate a traveler’s laptop on suspicion of music or movie piracy – well, it just gives me one more reason against taking a vacation through the U.S. The so-called Patriot Act is also more of a joke. Simply put, it enables the American government to grab any person hostile to the U.S. and even bypass the U.S. legal system completely when accusing that individual of acts of terrorism – even if that person is completely innocent. “Innocent until proven guilty” my sphincter ani externus. Anyone supporting the “Patriot Act” deserves a good slap in the face. I’d like to be the one doing the slapping myself, but I’m afraid there’s just too many faces in need of such a facial impact. I won’t encourage you to do it for me, but at least make those who support it to provide a valid reason for why they support it before handing out the face slap. Just “stopping terrorists” isn’t a valid reason; there needs to be a more well-thought-out reason that will avoid an immediate face slap.

War on piracy
The war on piracy is yet another joke. RIAA, MPAA, IFPI, BSA and their likes are showing mafia tendencies in their hunt for pirates. They just don’t seem to understand that their behavior hurts the artists and companies they represent more than they’re helping them. I’ve only seen good examples to combat piracy in recent years, and the “Stealing is piracy” preview ad required to be shown on most DVDs nowadays (an ad that can’t be skipped, I might add) is not it. Downloading a movie from the Internet is not the same as grabbing a DVD from the shelf in a store; you’d have to subtract the cost of printing and logistics to even begin comparing those losses.

Personally, I think the only way to combat piracy is to redirect the ad campaign a bit. The way it is today, piracy equals criminal activity on the same level of hell as drug dealers, molesters and murderers. Why can’t there just be a campaign that says something like “if you buy the movie on DVD, you’re encouraging the producers to continue making great movies” or in similar terms for music? Recent laws and the increasing use of DRM just alienates your customers and fans instead of stopping pirates in their tracks. In fact, both the implementation of laws (and legal threats in general) as well as DRM only motivates pirates even more. Just to use one example: Spore is heavily “infested” with DRM, which requires you to have an Internet connection at least every 10 days, or your game stops working. Spore can also just be installed 3 times; meaning, if your computer is being reinstalled or you switch to using a laptop more than twice, you’ll have to call EA phone support and beg them to reset the installation counter. You can already see these effects by searching for the game on Amazon.com; the game only has two stars or less (out of possible five), just because of the DRM use. The cracked version of Spore supplied by pirates has been reverse engineered to remove both of these “features” – and is subsequentally DRM free. Also, you’ve probably seen these FBI warnings and intro on several DVDs, right? The pirated versions do not include any of these, as those warnings are just in the way. Is it any wonder people would rather go for pirated games, software, movies and music?

I personally own roughly 770 movies and TV series on DVD, but I’ve also downloaded “illegally” from pirate sites. That goes also for some of the music in my MP3 collection. In the case of Weird Al, I downloaded his latest CD from a Russian website (one that charges a small sum for each song to cover their bandwidth bills). I thought the quality of it was so good, I actually bought the full CD from Amazon.com a short while later. And in the case of movies, I’ve downloaded several from pirate sites. The movies that were good, I’ve later bought on DVD (legally), as was the case with Chicken Little. The movies that were not so good, I haven’t bothered to spend my money on (out of respect to the producers, I’ll avoid naming these). Some have turned out to be “a little above average” (but not “great”), and I’ll just be on the lookout for these at a bargain bin or during sales campaigns at a number of online stores I normally use.

A little tip to both music producers and movie producers: if you make it good quality, people are more likely to buy. And when it comes to those who only download stuff, you can’t stop it. The way producers and industry professionals are fighting piracy can be compared to standing downstream trying to stop the river flow equipped with two regular-sized sporks. Or trying to catch tadpoles with a spear. Or trying to catch a mosquito with a pair of uncooked spaghetti sticks. You choose the analogy. In any case, it’s not working. The so-called economic losses due to pirates are actually not due to lost sales because of pirating; it’s rather due to the cost of hunting down pirates. You’re actually spending more money on catching the pirates than what the material is actually worth.

And religion, too (“Imagine” by John Lennon)
I tend to think my religious beliefs are quite out of the ordinary, and doesn’t seem to fit any of the organized religions around the world. Without going too deep into it, I’ll just say that my beliefs are scientifically based, with elements of Star Wars as well as spirituality. I’m not saying that Star Wars is all true, I’m just saying there are elements of logic in terms of the portrayal of The Force. I personally believe that my beliefs are the real truth, but I also believe that not all of the truth has been uncovered. I guess that categorizes me as an “agnostic”.

That said, I don’t believe the rest of the world is wrong; I see them as different observations and interpretations of the truth, simply observed and interpreted by people in ancient times, without the same level of insight into science as we do today. I also believe that the Earth has been visited by extra-terrestrial beings in the past, although not as often as some claim.

Basically, I’m fine with it, even though I’m not homosexual myself. Others think that homosexuality is a disease or even contageous, considering that more and more “come out of the closet” in recent times. It’s not contageous; times are changing, and more people are comfortable with exposing their true feelings to the public rather than closing them in. Some also say that homosexuality is a sin according to the bible. Let’s just analyze the main passages of the old testament, shall we? For the sake of simplicity, I’m using the New International Version in English:

Leviticus 18:22: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Fair enough, as chapter 18 goes into forbidden sexual relations, incest in particular (verses 6 through 17), as well as adultery (verse 18 goes into your sister-in-law: “Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.” — and verse 20: “Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.”), bestiality (verse 23), sacrifice (verse 21: “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.”) and women on their period (verse 19: “Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.”). And if we’re supposed to look down on each passage equally, we’d also have to really look into what we’re doing today:
Leviticus 19:3: Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God. — Teenagers arguing with their parents are just as much sinners as homosexuals.
Leviticus 19:4: Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the LORD your God. — So we need to remove all idols and religious icons?
Leviticus 19:5-8: When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the LORD, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf. It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything left over until the third day must be burned up. If any of it is eaten on the third day, it is impure and will not be accepted. Whoever eats it will be held responsible because he has desecrated what is holy to the LORD; that person must be cut off from his people. — In sort, food must be sacrificed to the “Man upstairs”, and be eaten the same or next day. Anyone picking up leftovers from the fridge or freezer two days later will have to be chased out of the city.
Leviticus 19:15: Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. — That’s OK. We don’t need any lawyers and lobbyists, anyway.
Leviticus 19:27: Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. — Meaning; no shaving or trimming.
Leviticus 19:28: Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. — Meaning; no tattoos, either. Autopsies are also just as much a sin as homosexuality, apparently.
Leviticus 19:33-34: When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” — Yep, we’re not exactly treating our immigrants well, are we?

Also, Leviticus chapter 20 goes into detail that all of the above are punishable by death; no trials, judges or jury – all participants should only be killed on the spot (including any animals involved with bestiality). Strangely enough, there’s no mentions of woman-on-woman relationships, so lesbians must be exempt from sin, apparently.

My point being, if you’re going to consider homosexuality a sin according to the bible, you’ll have to accept the entire bible as well. Adultery, bestiality and incest are understandable; the others are not. On the other hand, if you also believe in Jesus, you’ll have to accept the New Testament section of the Bible as well. John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. — Meaning, even homosexuals who believe in God and Jesus are cleared from sin.

So there. Nothing bad about it.

And on my behalf, if you encounter someone who are against homosexuality, ask them why. If they name religious reasons for it, ask them to be specific, ie. name the exact passages for their reasoning. If they can’t, please do give them a decent slap in the face and ask them to wake up to the 21st century.

U.S. presidential elections of 2008
I feel that Obama will be the better choice for president, as he seems to be the only one of the candidates with well-thought-through ideas. We really have no business in Iraq or Afghanistan; we (as an international community) need to find better long-term solutions for the people in these countries rather than sending in more troops. You say “stability”, I say “occupation”. And the good ol’ U.S.A. is in more debt than ever. As a stand-up comedian (I don’t remember which one) once said “they’re more worried that the debt clock won’t accommodate enough digits, than the fact that they owe 9 trillion dollars“. I mean, if the U.S. was a corporation, they’d be bankrupt several times over. Hopefully, someone like Barrack Obama can turn that around and focus more on the domestic issues.

Aaaand I think this would be enough summarizing for one day. If you want me to elaborate on an issue, or even want my opinion on an issue, do tell. I’ll try to not let it be so long until my next post.