Derek's Blog Page

Can a libertarian curmudgeon survive in a post 9/11 America? Is it possible to create the perfect meal on a Baby Q grill? Will Elaine finally succumb to her innermost desires? Check out my novels - which I am excerpting to separate blogs as I write them. Just click on my Profile button to access their links.

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Location: Citrus Heights, California


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

So let's talk about Apple's new iPad

First things first. Don't think of it as a dedicated ebook reader. Don't think of it as a handheld supercomputer. Don't think of it as an oversized iPhone. The best thing to do is imagine that it's an iPod Touch with a 9.7" screen, multi-touch support and the ability to do anything a Touch can do, but easier on the eyes.

Now, does that mean you can't read with it? Nothing of the sort! I've got a 1st-gen iPod Touch and I have loaded it with Stanza, eReader, Kindle 4 iPhone and the Barnes & Noble ereader. I read books with it - but I have always complained about it's teensie-weensie display. The iPad will give me about 6 times the screen area of a Touch; not bad for reading.

But I can also use it with the SD-card or USB adapters to import photos from my digital camera and the Photoshop app to do immediate editing of images while I'm in the field. My primary editing computer is a large Gateway Core 2 Quad w/21" monitor and there's just no way I can haul that outdoors to field sites. I think, therefore, the iPad will also do well for me in this area.

Further, the iPad's screen is large enough and the flip-case versatile enough that I can use this as an "I'm away from my desktop" writing computer - and if I get the 3G version, I'll even be able to connect to the internet wirelessly and do any research I need to perform.

All in all, not a bad combination.

Now we're already hearing that people are upset by the lack of a built-in camera and no ability to directly use it in iPhone mode. C'mon! First off, who it their right mind wants to stick a large, heavy device up on their shoulder to make a call??? This is not a PHONE!!! Further, the size and weight of the iPad precludes it from handling well to take photos, so the idea of a built-in camera on the back is ridiculous. Now it would have been nice to have a front-facing camera for those who actually USE a webcam, but I'm not one of them - and having to hold it 'just right' to keep myself in the frame doesn't make sense either. And if the iPad is in it's dock, there's enough room along the top edge to clip an external webcam in place.

I think that one area this will work is as a replacement for those textbooks and netbooks that kids need in school. Wait and see, but I bet Jobs has already thought of this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To the creators of Antivirus Live...

May you rot in Hell! May terrorists determine where you live and launch an attack which results in the kidnapping, torture and murder of every member of your families!

Even worse, may the US government determine who you are and do an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo where you'll remain for the rest of your tortured lives!

'Nuff said.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Read an ebook week.

Have you read an e-book this week? Have you read an e-book at all? Do you have friends who have never experienced the joy of reading an e-book? If you've answered "No" to the first two or "Yes" to the last question, you need to get ready for Read An Ebook Week - and you better hurry as it arrives early in March.

To learn more, click on the pretty green banner ad at the top of my blog pages or click on the title of this post. You'll be taken directly to where you'll learn more about ebooks in general as well as the upcoming Read An Ebook Week.

I have no doubt that most people who regularly read my blog happen to be interested in ebooks, but you may well have friends who have never taken an Amazon Kindle in hand to read their favorite authors. Let them know what they're missing and also tell them that they can now read Kindle ebooks on their iPhones, iPod Touches and PC computers as well - and that Amazon is close to releasing a version of the Kindle software for the Macs as well.

Don't delay! Get the message out!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Piracy Exists Offline!

Can you believe it? There are literally THOUSANDS of offline book piracy organizations that blatantly advertise their ability to get you the latest and hottest bestsellers for NO COST! Not only that, but they're about to hold their annual gathering where they will discuss how to best further the designs of their insidious cabal!

So if this cabal is annually costing publishers and authors over $100 BILLION!

What is this secretive society? Why, your local library, of course. If you want more on this, click on the title of this post and read the article.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award

Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award competition is now open. If you haven't heard, Amazon, Penguin and ClearSpace ran this competition last year, awarding $6,500 to the winner. This year, the prize money runs to $15,000 (in the two categories of General Fiction and Young Adult Fiction). What makes it great for undiscovered authors is that it will now be open for even self-published authors.

The submission period runs from January 25th through February 7th. So if you're close to finishing that novel you've been working on or have one that you've self-published, dust it off and submit it!

Again, all you have to do to get to the site is click on the title of this post. Me, I'm getting back to work on "Homebrew"!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Total Decriminalization of Marijuana.

So did you happen to hear about the attempt in California to totally decriminalize marijuana? Yep. I don't know if this is going to go anywhere, but I thought I should put my two cent's worth out here.

First up, if you click on the title of this post, you'll get taken to the online version of the graphic book, "A Drug War Carol". While this is a graphic novel, it is packed with real facts on the history of the war on marijuana - as well as "illegal" drugs in general. If you like what you read, you can also buy a paperback version from Amazon.

Okay. So back to my opinion on this issue.

So many people currently residing in jails and prisons within California are there because of misdemeanor possession of drugs. In the full-time prisons, as opposed to the short-term county jails, this figure often exceeds 60% and in some (Yes, we have FAR TOO MANY prisons in California - there's a very politically powerful union formed just from correctional officers (guards).) cases this runs as high as 80%. These are people who, whatever their other faults, are serving time solely for having a small, yes, SMALL amount of drugs - quite often just marijuana - on them at the time they were arrested. California's prisons are so overcrowded that a 150%-of-rated-capacity population is considered 'uncrowded'. Also, because of various hijinks by the guards' union, it is considered 'cheaper' to pay these guards overtime for 20-40 EXTRA hours per week than hire more guards - which by the way is adding hugely to California's debt problems! By decriminalizing all possession, cultivation, use and sale of marijuana - as well as wiping marijuana possession convictions from the records, 40%-45% of all current convicts would be eligible for immediate release from these prisons! (Others who have been convicted under such laws are either being prosecuted for other crimes and may need to be held in jail (not prison) or have committed crimes in prison and are serving other sentences concurrently.)

With an immediate release of those 40%, we'd slash the need for guard overtime and we'd relieve much of the tension caused by massive prison overcrowding. So just for state budget reasons, decriminalizing pot makes sense in California.

But there are other economic reasons for doing so. Decriminalizing pot means that police funds could be used to target more serious crimes, such as rape, assault, murder, theft and the like. This means that police forces could do a better job without requiring more money (and more taxes) from the local citizenry. Also, by legalizing pot, (whether pot use is regulated or taxed, or not) we take away much of the incentive for criminals to smuggle it in or grow it illegally. If a person can buy pot seeds, gardening supplies and grow the plants - openly - in that person's yard, the person no longer will have need to support the criminals by buying 'illegal' pot. And let me tell you, the actual process of growing plants is far cheaper than buying the stuff smuggled across the border - something like 95% cheaper! Which means this saved money can go towards other legal items. Further, if the gangs can't get the money for 'illegal' pot, they won't set up huge farming operations where thugs with automatic weapons congregate.

Think this doesn't make sense? Well look at what happened when we first created Prohibition and then, later, repealed it. People did no magically stop drinking when Prohibition went into effect. No, they just switched from cheap, LEGAL sources to expensive, ILLEGAL sources. And in doing so, they showed to the gangs that huge profits could be made supplying their demands. Sound familiar? And despite the federal government's best efforts, including their hero, Elliot Ness, enforcement of Prohibition did NOT stop the smuggling and sales of bootleg alcohol. No, what stopped it was the repeal of Prohibition. Despite this fact, almost as soon as Prohibition ended the federal government switched its sights to marijuana and heroin and made both of them illegal. At that time, as a percentage of the population, use and abuse was very low, something like less than 5%. Now, after more than 70 years of criminalization and prosecution? Something like 40% or more of our population has at least TRIED marijuana with close to 15% using pot or coke on a regular basis.

So why keep up the charade? Because prosecuting 'drug crimes' is a big business. Not only is a large part of the budget for police agencies targeted to direct 'prevention' of drug crimes, but there's also a secondary group of crimes created by criminalized drugs - that is crimes committed solely to raise funds to buy the high-cost 'illegal' drugs. Yes, burglary, carjacking, mugging, convenience-store robberies - so many of these crimes these days are committed to get money to buy illegal drugs. If a joint cost five cents - and it probably would if it were bought from a neighborhood grower who didn't have to worry about 'the law' - or if one could just grow one's own supply without fear of prosecution, one would not have to rob a convenience store or mug an old lady.

And it's not just direct police costs. We saw this during Prohibition, the rise of the use of high-powered weaponry by the criminals to 'protect' their supplies. It was a novelty to see John Dillinger use a Thompson machine gun to rob banks, but with the need to drive off competitors and police, it became quite common for mobsters to spray-and-pray with those same weapons while protecting their hooch. Again, sound familiar? Early on in the Drug War, most drug smugglers used small weapons - but more often just relied upon their smarts to outwit the police. Now? Both sides have automatic weapons, explosives and body armor. And there's an entire industry relying upon the 'drug trade' to create a market for these items. Does anyone remember the time when cops didn't have SWAT teams loaded with kevlar vests, 'Fritz' helmets, night-vision goggles and AR-15 assault rifles? All this came about because of the War on Drugs.

And then there's the medical front. Look at the average pothead. Then look at the absurd claims of the anti-marijuana government agencies. Does anyone really believe that pot causes so much 'medical harm'? Really?

No, keeping pot illegal only makes sense if you want ot keep crime on the rise. Legalize Pot Now!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

So I wonder... Just how LITTLE will a person settle for.

There's this person in California, Schubert, who was the mastermind behind CA's Proposition 8 - the anti-gay-marriage prop. We find out today that his sister, a prosecutor, is lesbian and has a domestic partner and two children. She publically takes the position that she won't take a position on gay marriage. Why? Because it "wouldn't be ethical". And why wouldn't it be ethical? Because she hopes to get nominated to a judgeship and she doesn't want to 'appear' biased. (These are not quotes but my paraphrasing of her stated views.) Huh? So, like, what gives? Does she expect to recuse herself if a gay/lesbian case comes before her? I doubt it.

No, what she's really saying is that her opinion and actions on this subject can be bought with a judgeship. So what we really need to know about her is now that we have the upper range, just how cheap could her influence be bought?

At least, that's my opinion.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dear, SIMPLE Maggie!

May I call you Maggie? I mean, it's not quite your favorite nickname of Peggy, but calling you Peggy makes me want to flesh it out to Peggy Sue, Political Shrill (Ahem! I mean 'Shill'.) and that is far too close to the truth for this post.

Dear, Simple Maggie - for you are 'simple' if you think that you can force the rest of us to ignore your constant denial of the IXth and XIVth Amendments to the U.s. Constitution. You know, the ones that inform us that you jack-booted, drum-banging, totalitarian thugs have NO RIGHT to foist your personal beliefs onto the minority simply because you don't like them. I know that it is out of fashion in today's schools to teach that the Bill of Rights is a list of rules for keeping the government out of the personal lives of U.S. citizens - really, it's a set of commandments of what rights the feds, staties and local hick politicos cannot take away from the 'peepul' - but you claim to have been a speechwriter. That means you're supposed to understand our founding documents.

So how can you forget that the IXth Amendment clearly tells us that, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." That means the government cannot tell us citizens we do not have the right to form interpersonal associations, or join into binding social and business contracts between consenting adults. Yes, marriage is a social contract. Yes, therefore, marriage cannot be denied between any consenting adults.

And the XIVth Amendment goes further to state, "... No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." That means that the states also cannot abridge the privilege of social contracts from resident citizens. That means marriage - even marriage between consenting adults of the same sex. So get over it or renounce your citizenship and move to Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, the whole 'children need families of both a father and a mother to grow right' argument COMPLETELY fails when you refuse to apply those rules to single-parent homes, parent-grandparent homes, single-grandparent homes and single-parent-with-numerous-lovers homes. If two loving same-sex 'parents' cannot form a fit home, neither can any of the others. Also, by that logic, any marriage that cannot procreate, whether due to genetic flaws or who've grown so old as to be no longer fertile, should be immediately dissolved because "love" isn't the governing factor, just 'procreation'.

So why not come clean and admit that you just have a hate-on against homosexuals? At least you'd not be lying about this.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Y'know... There are ways to get a decent deal on a Kindle 2.

For one thing, Amazon has 'refurbished' Kindle 2s for around $219, which is lower than the full-retail $259 of the new units.

However, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about broken-screen K2s. So far, I've managed to snag two of these on eBay for under $50 (including shipping) each. And, because each of these still had time left on their 1-year warranties, I was able to get them replaced by Amazon for FREE! That means I've been able to buy - through careful shopping around - $518 worth of Kindles for under $100!

One thing, you have to make sure you're bidding on a K2 that still has time left on its warranty. But even if it's out of warranty, the price for replacing the screen is $135. If you can snag a broken one for less than $50, your total cost for a Kindle 2 comes to around $180!

Get a Kindle today!

Simple Wallpaper Time!

I've rearranged the image I've been working on in Photoshop CS4. The whole image is now suitable for a 1440x900 or 1680x1050 pixel screen and I've made the Earth bigger and the Moon smaller. Download it if you like.

A follow-up to the Fictionwise problem.

It appears that the problem lies with Mobipocket's servers, NOT Fictionwise as I first believed. Fictionwise has re-issued my two titles in question in Secure eReader format as Mobipocket has not responded to them about the Secure Mobipocket versions.

Hooray for Fictionwise! (Guess I should have noticed that part of the problem was that neither Fictionwise nor Mobi could have all their staffers on hand during the Christmas holidays.)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Woo Hoo! A better layout for my blog!

Yes! After a full day of testing on my test blog, I've figured out how to widen my main blog section!

From now on, my blog will be a full 1024 pixels wide, with 250 pixels for my left column and 720 pixels dedicated to my right (main) column! That should shorten things up a bit. And it will make it easier to stuff banner links on the left without crowding the main column. I LOATHED having only 438 pixels for my main column just so I could have 160 pixels on the left. Woo Hoo!

Of course, I had to snag the divider gif and the parchment paper top/mid/left jpegs and then resize them to a 1024 pixel width, but all in all, I'm quite satisfied with the results!