Keeping Up With Them Joneses

Yes, I don’t update this blog much… but who can blame me? I have a lot on my plate. Besides, quality over quantity right? As the days and weeks and months in the near future go by, I will try to get my life more in order and update this a lot more with all kinds of stuff. I have ideas of everything from weather updates to more political posts. If things start going better for me, look for a lot more to start appearing not only here, but on my website too. With that, I get to my main post…

As a progressive in America today, I love the Internet. Boy howdy, do I love the Internet. Before the advent of the so-called New Media – blogs, internet TV, internet radio, and podcasts, among others – it was hard to find progressive voices. Now, it’s hard to throw a stone without hitting a progressive on the ‘Net. From blogs like the Huffington Post, to terrestrial progressive talk stations being available to non-covered areas via Internet streaming, to the many progressive podcasters out there, it’s a very frequent occurrence.

My Alternative Media page on my main website is an extensive, but not nearly exhaustive, directory to the many resources out there in Media World for progressives – both the New Media, and the Old Media (radio, TV, newspapers). Another page has my favorite media sources. All of these are updated on occasion.

There are many reasons why someone would want to get the most from the New Media–one of the main reasons being their interests don’t get served adequately by conventional media sources. I’m no exception to that – I like progressive programming and progressive Christian programs, as well as LGBT-oriented dance and talk radio, among a few other things. Ain’t gonna find much of that on the regular FM dial. Thankfully, we have the internet.

First, let’s cover the means of keeping connected and their usefulness:

* The regular old desktop computer: when you’re at home, it’s a great way to do everything related to internet media, and is the main hub of anything. After all, you generally need one of these to be able to configure and sync more portable devices.

* Cell phones: Many, if not most, cell phones nowadays have the ability to connect to the Internet through cell tower connections, meaning loads and loads of coverage. There are caveats, though: there are only certain phones that can do more advanced things like stream internet radio and download podcasts. All web-enabled can display web pages though (duh), so it’s good to check up on weather and news and blogs and such.

* Laptops, netbooks, internet tablets, and other large wifi devices: While impractical in many applications where ultra-portability is needed, these devices can be very useful while in restaurants, seated in waiting rooms or on trains (thank you, TRE, for the free wifi access!) to keep up with the new media.

* Wi-Fi-enabled pocket devices: This is my main way of keeping up – my iPod touch falls in this category. These are easy to carry around, but only work around wifi hotsports, of course. Many of these have access to internet radio streams and/or podcasting features.

The first thing that is useful to do is create a text file in WordPad or a similar program listing your favorite new media sources: list your podcasts with links to homepages and feeds, list your net radio stations with links to homepages and streams, list blogs with links and RSS feeds if applicable, and also links to news sites and such. This makes it real convenient to keep track of everything. With this text file, you want to have that on all the computers you use frequently, perhaps on thumb drives, and also on your mobile devices if they’re capable of that. My file is on my home computer, laptop, and also my iPod touch via the Files application, as well as my flash drive. If you have an iPod touch and/or an iPhone, I highly recommend Files. On the PSP, you can put the text file on your Memory Stick and access it from the web browser using the “file:/” prefix and then the path.

Now, keep in mind, I can only go over procedures for devices i own and/or have had experience with. For help with a device that I don’t mention here, try a Google search for the topic – in this case, a search for “how to view text files on [insert device here]”. Most of what’s in this post will focus on the iPod touch (my current main device) and the PSP (my former main device).

The first aspect I will cover is internet radio. A good idea, as stated earlier, is to get the stream URLs and put them in your text file entries with station names and home pages, perhaps including ‘backup’ streams for stations with multiple streams. Most of the time, station streaming links will be directly to the stream URL, allowing you to copy and paste. Other times, an in-browser streaming box will come up (most of the time it’s WMP). In those cases, right-click and go to Properties to get the URL. There are also certain cases where a trick is needed, like SHOUTcast.

You can extract SHOUTcast stream URLs by opening the station in Winamp, and right clicking on the current song or program. Copy the URL from the little URL box, paste it in a web browser, and then right click on ‘Listen’ to copy the link location (your browser may say ‘target’ instead or something to that extent). Bingo – you got your listening link.

For podcasts, it’s simpler. Any show that has a podcast, or is a podcast itself, will make the feed available to you for subscriptions. List titles, homepages, and feeds in the file.

The same thing goes for blogs, almost. Like podcasts, list titles, homepages, and RSS feeds. Text RSS feeds are best used in – surprise, surprise – a text RSS feed reader. Google Reader is great for that purpose, and has a mobile version too.

As for other stuff, it’s pretty straightforward. List titles and relevant info and homepages for internet TV stations and terrestrial radio stations and the like, perhaps seeing if maybe one or more of your favorite ‘Net TV stations has a streaming app or something.

With that, let’s move on to the methods of tuning in…

For streaming on your home computer and/or laptop, there are several programs you’ll need that will cover pretty much all streams:

* Windows Media Player (.asx, .m3u)
* Winamp (.pls, .m3u, IP streams lacking extensions)
* RealPlayer (.rm, .ram)
* Flash, for in-browser streams that use it

On a regular computer or laptop, it’s fairly straightforward. When you want to listen in, either go to the homepage and click the link or copy/paste the stream URL into a web browser (it should ask if you want to open it in its relevant program) or into the streaming program directly via “Open”.

There exists many apps for many different devices that can tune into net radio stations. For the iPhone/iPod touch, Blackberry, and any device running Windows Mobile 6 or higher, WunderRadio is the way to go. This app has many streams from the RadioTime directory (save for the ones from Clear Channel) and more. In addition–and this is perhaps the neatest part–you can add your own streams by entering the stream URL in the address bar of the Web section. After you type it in, it starts the stream and you can favorite it. Bingo! For other non-supported devices, be sure to seek not just an internet radio app, but try to find one that allows you to input custom streams also.

For Clear Channel stations, there is iheartradio for the iPhone/iPod touch and BlackBerry.

SHOUTcast stations are accessible by their iPhone/iPt app, but if you do not have one of those devices, you can use the method of extracting streams I described above. Put that in your text file and get that into any device.

Another thing to look out for are station-specific streaming applications – poke around station sites to find apps like that.

The PSP supports internet radio, but the default player stinks for miles. Use the no-custom-firmware-needed program FreeRadio to add custom streams (M3U and PLS only, nothing else supported) and even podcasts.

Speaking of podcasts, for your computer/laptop, use a program that can catch and download podcasts. iTunes is probably the best example, though there are many others like the Zune Software and MediaMonkey. MM is the best out of all these, in my opinion, for the simple fact that it consumes fewer system resources than iTunes and supports many devices for synchronization.

Most Wi-Fi devices also have some way to download podcasts wirelessly and store them temporarily for listening.

On the iPod touch/iPhone, you can use the iTunes app to find podcasts and download them. If you notice, though, you can’t add your own feeds, so you’re out of luck if what you want is not in the Store. Fear not, though! RSSPlayer comes to the rescue! Download RSSPlayer from the App Store – only 99 cents – and you can add any podfeed you want. Also neat is how you can manage your podcasts all in that program – download, listen, delete, and such – without any crossings to and from your music application.

For the BlackBerry, check out PodTrapper.

To access your RSS feeds from a mobile device, try entering the feeds in an online reader that has a mobile site, like Google Reader. That way, all you have to do is point your device browser to the site and bookmark that.

I think the links to sites are fairly straightfoward. Tip: look for mobile versions and/or apps, for versions of your favorite sites that are compatible with your devices. Some devices can handle full sites, though, like the iPhone/iPod touch. Even then, there might be apps or mobile sites. Check around for your options.

So there you have it: tips on how to make the most of the New Media. To some of you, I may have just been stating the obvious. To others, I may have filled you in on some great tips – and it’s the people in this category I was aiming for with this post. In the future, I will have tips for other things, like tracking the weather. For now, I’m gwoodboy. Look for another post fairly soon.

A Love Affair With Transit, Part 1

Most people know the bus as that big vehicle that passes down major streets and stops whenever a person(s) stand at the signs at the side of the road. It’s like a mystical land that they sometimes think about visiting, but end up backing down after some thought. What a lot of people don’t know is just how awesome that “mystical land” is and how many benefits visiting it carries.

DART Bus

It’s actually quite unfortunate how a good portion of America views public transit. Aside from residents of cities that are dense enough to necessitate high transit usage (New York and Chicago come to mind) most people think of the bus as the domain of the poor, homeless, and criminal and/or that they are “too good” for the bus. Yet others are out there that just make excuses, like their trips taking longer, no privacy, et cetera. In cities that have train systems, the public view tends to be a bit more positive than the bus, but it is still quite negative. These opinions come in part from the jacked up vision of what the “American Dream” is, or more generally, what an “ideal life” is supposed to be like. Thanks to irresponsible media programming, greed, and some other factors that are harder to grasp, that view tends to be a life in the suburbs, away from the “icky” city centers; house with a big yard, two-three children, and more to that extent. While these factors are most certainly topics for future posts, the main point for this one is that part of that “dream” involves the car.

America, as well as some of the other industrialized nations of the world, has come to worship the car. Only a minority of the population wants to take advantage of some great transit systems that are much better for the environment and much more affordable; most everyone wants to cruise around in a big, fancy car or truck.

What people in general need to realize is that the automobile ain’t all that and no bag of chips. Let me tell you right now: Dark Serge ain’t a big fan of a multi-ton potential death machine that belches all kinds of crap into the air and that costs oodles of money to run and insure. He prefers clean-traveling, efficient buses and trains that take him where he needs to go with little concern for expense and road rage–and you should too. Wihout further ado, I present you with my Reasons Public Transit is Awesome!

1. It’s Affordable

Remember back in 2008 and such when gas prices reached their most recent peak at a little under $4 a gallon (and in some places, even a little under $5 a gallon?) Guess what segment of the population didn’t sweat it much at all? That’s right, transit riders! (In fact, many people who would have normally driven packed the buses and trains to save money!)

While some transit agencies raised fares to help cover the extra cost for fueling up their buses and trains, that fare increase was nowhere near the increased cost of driving. In fact, transit has always been, and always will be, cheaper than the car.

Let’s imagine a guy named Paul. He lives in Garland, a short bus ride away from Downtown Garland Station on the Blue Line. He owns an average car. It gets 20 mpg, on average, in the city. He has an average American commute, 32 miles every day, for five days a week. In other words, 160 miles a week for commuting. In his personal case it’s from Central Garland to West Irving. Factoring in his other activities, his weekly mileage total is the same as the American average, 230 miles. Gasoline is around $2.80 a gallon. Every week, he spends $32.20 on gas. In a month, that’s $128.80. Keep in mind, this is only gas–he’s also spending $145 a month on insurance, the American average. Then we throw in 15 more dollars for miscellaneous costs like upkeep. That means it costs Paul $288.80 a month to drive.

Gas Station

You can just *feel* your wallet getting lighter, can't you?

Now, guess how much DART charges a month for a regional bus/train pass–not just DART on the Dallas side, but one that also includes Fort Worth’s “T”?

$105.

That means it costs less than half of his driving cost to just take the bus and train.

I don’t know about you, but I’d want to save some money by taking transit rather than driving. I think you would too, actually. According to the American Public Transportation Association, households that use public transportation and live with one less car can save on average $9,000 every year.

What’s more, some people can save even more than the average by using transit just because of who they are. Do you work for a major company that subsidizes transit passes? Are you a high school student eligible for reduced fare? Are you a college student whose institution offers passes to students, faculty, and staff? If so, then there you go! Transit just got even better for you.

2. Hello There!

Recent studies show that despite the advent of the World Wide Web, proliferation of social media, and other related factors, the average American has fewer close friends today than the average American had in 1980 (Statistics on the number of mere acquaintances are probably the opposite, however.) We are in actuality becoming more isolated from each other.

“But I have 500 friends on Facebook!”

Oh, believe me, I know you do. But think about it: how many of them ‘friends’ do you actually hang out with frequently, on a one-to-one or small-group basis? (No, parties don’t count.) How many of them do you talk to daily or semi-daily? I thought so. Our expanding isolation from others, and in the process isolation from our communities, is caused by and manifests itself in many different ways.

One way it’s manifest is by our isolation while traveling. Instead of hopping onto the local transit system where there’s other people to possibly interact with, most people opt to travel in their own little cubbyhole–their car or truck. This leads to more isolation, and in turn helps feed apathy toward gaping social and economic problems like outcastism and homelessness cause of people distancing themselves from said problems. That is a dangerous trend (and probably part of the reason why the Republican Party is even still viable). We need to reconnect with our communities, and one of the ways we can do that is through interaction on transit.

3. Lose Yourself in a Book… Without Crashing into a Street Light!

One of the most common criticisms of transit is that it takes longer to get places than if you were to drive. For example, it takes an hour to get from Fort Worth to Richardson by car, but takes 2.5-3 hours if you take transit. There is a gaping hole in the critics’ argument, however:

Have you ever tried reading while driving? Typing on a computer? Surfing the Internet? Finishing some written/electronic work? Playing a video game? Hint: if you haven’t, don’t. If you have, shame on your ass.

What I’m getting at is that while transit takes longer, you’re able to make productive use of that time, because you’re not the one with hands on the wheel driving. You can pull out a book and read without running off the road. You can surf the Internet, assuming you either have a cell tower Internet connection for your laptop or you’re on a vehicle with WiFi such as the Trinity Railway Express here in North Texas. You can whip out your PSP, DS, laptop, or iPod touch/iPhone and play a video game (just make sure to wear your headphones!). You can make good use of that longer period to enjoy some light leisure or get some work done, instead of having to concentrate on the road and/or engaging in road rage.

4. Ahh, the Smell of Nature (Rather Than the Smell of Pollution)

Us environmentalists are in love with public transit for a very good reason: According to the American Public Transportation Association, municipalities that have public transit help to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons each year, which is the same as if New York City, DC, Atlanta, Denver, and Los Angeles combined totally stopped using electricity. It’s much more fuel/energy efficient to move a whole lot of people in a huge vehicle (such as 30 people on a bus) than if the same amount of people were to each drive even a small car. The benefits increase when we talk trains – DART even boasts that their light rail vehicles have the emissions of an average golf cart. They also have much better capacity than buses–DART’s trains, classified as “Super Light Rail Vehicles”, carry 150-200 people each!

Parker Road Station in Plano

Not just light rail. SUPAH light rail!

Just one person riding transit exclusively saves an average of 4,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere annually. Taking transit can also reduce pointless travel, saving even more energy and reducing pollution a bit more.

Then, there’s the political side of it. Our main fuel is of course gasoline, made from crude oil. Most of that oil comes from countries that are quite hostile toward us, mainly in northern South America and the Middle East. We are pretty much dependent on a lot of our enemies just to keep this country going! How much sense does THAT make?! If just 10% – *ten percent!* – of Americans took public transit daily, we could reduce our foreign oil dependence by 40 percent! That’s almost half! (Yes, I know that was narmy. So sue me.)

5. Ready for a Run?

Everyone knows America is fat, and only getting fatter. We hear a lot about our diet and exercise issues, but most of the people talking about all this miss a big contributor to this problem – our cars!

Seriously, look at it: You walk a few feet to a garage or a bit more if you have to go to an apartment complex parking lot, and are mostly shaded while doing it. You simply sit in the car, moving only your feet a bit to operate pedals, then get out close to your destination.

It’s much different for us transit riders. Most of the population in transit-utilizing communities do not have (a) bus route(s) running right in front of their house, and even fewer have an actual, physical bus stop directly in front of their house. Most of the time, you have to walk to the bus stop, or in the case of some places that are more distant from stops (very common in the suburbs), bike there. That is much better for being active and getting exercise than just plopping down into a car. It’s even more of a workout when you realize you’re running late and have to RUN! to the bus stop to make it before your bus leaves.

Mockingbird Station Bus Stops

HOME FREE!

Then there’s transfers. Many, if not most, transit trips involve transferring from one route to another and/or transferring between two routes of different modes of transport (such as from a bus to a light rail line at a train station). You gotta walk and make it, after all.

Finally, we get to the final part – deboarding. Like when you’re boarding, you rarely get dropped off right in front of your destination. Most of the time, you have to walk or bike to where you need to go from there.

All of what I mentioned is much more active than driving. Helps you keep more in shape when you gotta walk and bike some, eh?

So there you have it. A Love Affair With Transit, Part One. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m fairly sure I made a pretty dang good case for transit already. But don’t worry, there’s more coming up later on, cause Transit is the Ticket!

Fakin’ and Shakin’ and Pretendin’ You’re Prayin’, Part 1

Whoa, is this thing on? It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, as y’all have seen. Serge has been going through quite a lot over the summer and more recently too, so this blog kind of fell by the wayside. As a blogger, I should not have done that… but everyone has rough periods, right? Dark Serge will try his best to not let the blog get moldy again.

Anyway, without further ado, on to the main post!

—–

Logic would dictate that if someone claims to be a Christian, they’d be people who follow the teachings of such Christian cornerstones as the Golden Rule, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and the Great Commandment. Unfortunately, as anyone (and especially any misfit) knows, the world is anything BUT logical.

Let’s look at the case of a “fictional” character named Karl. Before I go on, the reason “fictional” is in quotes is because of the simple fact that this is going to pretty much be a retelling of a real experience I had with the name of the offender changed. All the names in this post series will be that way.

Anyway, Karl is a fellow UT Dallas student just like your old pal Dark Serge here. He is someone who claims to be a good Christian. He goes to church regularly, is in the main Christian organization on the campus (FOCUS – the Fellowship of Christian University Students), and overall has the appearance of the friendly Christian student.

Taylor is one of my fellow misfits. He is lonely and seeking some brotherhood here. Perfectly understandable, seeing as how you see many of the guys around here walking around with their little buddy-buddies acting so close you’d think they’re blood or something. Taylor wants that too, cause after all, he ain’t sub-human by any stretch of the imagination.

Taylor and Karl know each other, and are friends (or so it seems…) Taylor asks Karl for a little help, because he (Taylor that is) has tried all the conventional crap when it comes to making friends, but he’s been rejected by clubs left and right, his roommate is indifferent about him, people flat out tell him to ‘f— off’… pretty much overall, he has failed at the typical stuff. Taylor, being a major misfit, missed out on his childhood and wants to make youthful memories before his youth ends. So he ain’t exactly got time to try and go about a “natural” pace when it comes to friendship; he has to press the gas a bit for closeness because the “natural” way would cause him to run (much more) dangerously low on time for recovery.

Taylor finishes explaining to Karl, who acts understanding.

“So,” Karl asks, “what do you need me to do exactly to help you?”

“Well,” Taylor replies, “I figure you know a fair number of people here; maybe you could connect me with some people and help explain my situation, so maybe they’d want to help fill the friendship gaps I have in my life.”

“Okay,” Karl says. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”

The next day, Karl approaches Taylor, who is sitting beneath a tree with his laptop.

“Taylor, I think that your problem could go away if you just showed an interest in other people. If you do that, then people will naturally gravitate toward you, and…”

Without warning, Taylor gets up and walks away. After all, if he had stayed much longer, he might have just gone ballistic on Karl.

Divide by Zero Error on a Calculator - Logic Bomb

Logic 0, Logic Bomb 1

So who was right? Here’s a hint: his name ain’t Karl.

There are myriad reasons Karl is in violation here. Can you guess which?

Let’s say you’re a doctor, and you have a patient that really needs antibiotics. As someone who is (supposed to be) professional, what are you going to do? Are you going to give the guy the aspirin, or are you going to jam a laughing gas mask on him and do open-heart surgery? The answer’s fairly obvious: you’d give him the aspirin!

So why did Karl decide that Taylor needed the typical advice mantra when Taylor already knows all that has failed and that he needs direct help? Several reasons:

1. People will be quick as lightning to jam advice into someone’s face and walk away, but very few care enough to actually get off their fat ass and help someone directly. In other words, an epidemic of laziness.

2. Culture has unfortunately developed to embrace the Ayn Rand-type “ideals” of selfishness, ‘bootstraps’, and other “you’re on your own” type of opinions. Karl knows that Taylor could use direct help, but he still did an advice dump since he’s a slave to the status quo.

3. Part of Karl’s ego depends on him always being right, so when Taylor proved otherwise, it burst his “high and mighty” balloon.

4. Karl is a hypocritical Christian.

Oh yes.

It’s really interesting and thought-provoking how so many people claim to follow a religion that teaches quite clearly that you should help those in need directly. It’s almost like they are talking the talk but failing to walk that walk. Yup, that’s it.

Everyone knows what the Golden Rule is: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In addition, the Great Commandment reads:

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)

As for the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Serge here will put it in a nutshell for all y’all. A Jewish traveler is beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of a road. Despite seeing that injured man lying there, a Levite and a priest (!) pass right by him (hey, who knew New Yorkers existed way back then?) Finally, a Samaritan comes along. Keep in mind, Samaritans and Jews were rivals in that age. But what did that Samaritan do? He stopped and helped. Yes, I know–SO radical, right? Right?

Keep in mind, I haven’t even gotten into the slap-in-the-face insult Karl hurled at Taylor without even saying it. By going straight for the dead-horse advice card, Karl basically said that Taylor was a moron that didn’t know what was best for himself and that Karl is an “all knowing wise man” compared to Taylor, who is apparently a stupid mook. Taylor explicitly stated what he needed, but Karl opted to push HIS will on Taylor. In other words, he ignored Taylor’s need for aspirin and went straight for the gas and sawboning.

People, when you claim to be a Christian, you better be a real dang Christian and practice what you preach. If someone like Taylor needs direct help, listen to them. I know, it sounds all radical. But it’s the best thing to do, and it’s what your religion calls you to do. People just have the “Dr. Phil” ‘do this to make friends’ mantra burnt in their heads to the point where they are not willing to accept anything different, especially something that calls for them to actually lend a direct hand. That’s wrong, and that’s a fact. Sure, it can’t be proven by no scientific proofs or any crap like that, but it’s no less of a fact. It’s one of what I like to call “moral facts”–facts that just represent the right thing to do. There are people out there for which the conventional crap won’t work, yours truly included.

As for the title, popular slang term for people who act like they’re worshipping up a storm in church but don’t act like a real Christian in their daily lives is that they are “fakin’ and shakin'”. They are acting like they are Christian, but they are faker than plastic flowers.

That’s all for now, but next time, we shall take a look at the case of Taylor and his interactions with Bryan. Bryan’s in violation too, perhaps even more so than Karl… come to think of it: nah, I’d say they’re equally dickish.

TEA Partiers: Ticked at Equality in America

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for over a year or so, you know about the teabaggers… excuse me, the “American Tea Party”. In a nutshell, the teabaggers are people who are angry at Democrats in Washington and President Obama. Why? Well, here are some of their reasons presented in list form:

  • Obama and Democrats are spending too much.
  • Health care reform is/was eeeeevvviiiiillll.
  • The people are being taxed too much
  • The stimulus bill was also evil
  • Them Big Bad Democrats and the Evil Black Man want to take away their freedoms
  • They hate n**gers.”WHAT-WHAT-WHAT?!”

    Oh yeah, Dark Serge went there.

    See, these protests started forming in early 2009, around Obama’s inauguration. These are mainly Republicans, conservatives, and… libertarians (excuse me, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit). It’s part of a more widespread feeling of anger among the right wing of America. Now, they claim to be in opposition to things like what I mentioned earlier, like taxes and spending, hence the name “Tea Party”. But wait, there’s something fishy here… what could it be…?

    Could it possibly be that these people should have started protesting in… oh I don’t know… 2001?!

    Seriously now, let’s look at this. Who was the president that spent billions upon billions upon billions of dollars without cutting spending in other areas or raising taxes to prevent deficits? Who was the president that actually bailed out the bankers on a blank check? Who was the president who pushed through what is probably the biggest invasion of civil liberties since the Alien and Sedition Acts in the late 1700s (a.k.a. the PATRIOT Act)?

    Well, let me show you with a picture…

    These and the private kind are the only "bushes" we should trust.

    Yeppity-yep, yep-yep-yep-yep.

    You see, President Bush was ACTUALLY doing the stuff the Tea Party is so mad about. Obama is managing spending to minimize deficits, has cut taxes for the middle class and poor, and has been working on expanding civil liberties. So why are these people so mad? We can find the answer through a look at what we’ve got in the government right now:

  • A female Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi)
  • A high-ranking gay man in the House of Representatives (Barney Frank)
  • A Muslim in the House of Representatives (Keith Ellison, who even… -gasp!- took the oath of office on a Qu’ran! Oh no!)
  • A gradual increase of black men and women in Congress, and who can miss the most obvious one…
  • The big, bad black man in the White House.Seriously. If these people were actually protesting spending and tax policy and all the stuff they’re wetting their pants over right now, they’d have been protesting when President Shrub was in the White House. They most certainly were not, though. They only started when Obama became the President. Why? Because either consciously or unconsciously, they want an excuse to be mad and try to get them evil old minorities out of the government. Simple as that.

    Now, the right wing tinkled in their pants when Clinton was in office. The thing about Clinton, however, was that he was a liberal moderate Democrat (?). He was still a “good ol’ boy” type and that helped mitigate the reaction then. Now, of course, we have a black man in the White House along with other high office holders who are not straight white males, and this has these people wetting and messing their pants at the same time. They can’t just come blantantly out and protest on that, however, that would make them seem like… oh, I don’t know… racist, homophobic bigots? So they make up all this stuff and pin it on this current Congress and administration, and get out in the streets. Don’t be mistaken, however, it’s not just them. It’s the whole right wing. It’s also not just anger either, fear is a big factor here too–the fear of the white racists that they are losing their grip on the country (which is true, thank God).

    America to them is only made of straight white people. When they say you're anti-American, they really mean anti-bigot.

    You have right-wing morons like Sean Hannity whining about this Obama “regime” (his actual term). You have people like Sarah Palin using this dangerous rhetoric to stir up fear (“we need to reload”, anyone?). You have the talk radio screamers, the Faux News bitchers, all this going on…

    And, as I said, it all boils down to anger and fear over the straight, white, “Christian” people crapping their pants over the fact that their power is dwindling. The right wing is crazier than ever nowadays over this, and it’s just gonna keep continuing. This is not a “grassroots uprising” either, it’s a corporate sham fueled by the right-wing media, like Faux News, that’s taking advantage of the anger and fear of dimwitted rednecks to make money.

    In fact, for a moment, let me make some general observations about these people. Oftentimes, you’ll hear them talking about Obama, progressives, Democrats, whatever groups/people like that, being “un-American”. Of course them haters think that, because according to them, America is only made up of straight white people. They seriously think that, too, otherwise there are no other real reasons for this kind of behavior. They also think that right-wing/extreme-right-wing views are the only “real” American views, hence them calling progressives or even moderates un-American along with the people in them movements.

    Hopefully there won’t be a domestic terrorist attack from the extreme right like Tim McVeigh’s bombing, but with all this rhetoric and all the fear it’s stirring, it’s an unfortunate possibility. All these people who are stockpiling ammo, these people who are forming these “militias”, these teabaggers, and their kind, are all angry about the fact that change is coming and bigotry in its current form is on the way out. Thankfully they’re a minority in the population. (irony intended).

    This is precisely part of why we need rational voices out there in the media, like progressive talk radio stations and podcasts; community radio stations and public radio. In addition to realizing what these teabaggers are all about, we need to support rational media sources that are promoting good debate and discussion, acceptance and progress. Check out the Alternative Media and My Favorite Things sections here to find some of them sources.

    Who will they teabag next? The world will find out soon…

  • The Dork Den Has a New Identity…

    The few of you who read this blog know that until just today, it was called “The Dork Den”. After lots of thinking, however, due to lots of confusion about dorks and nerds and such, I felt it’d be best to use another term: misfit. As noted in my earlier post The Top 10 Misconceptions About Dorks (Or, “Yes, I’m a Dork. No, I Don’t Play Magic.”), dorks tend to not fit anywhere – even with nerds – despite being in the same “region” of the social ladder. Fitting with other dorks usually works, though. If you’re a dork, wear that banner proudly, but I’m personally going to use the label ‘misfit’ from now on… I’d recommend doing the same thing, for purposes of clarity.

    Oh, almost forgot: the DorkLife™/DorkLife International™ idea is now Green Wolf™/Green Wolf International™. After all, a green wolf would not fit with all the more mainstream ones, would it? ;)

    Attention Passengers!

    Rider Alert! Rider Alert! Rider Alert!

    Okay, not really. It ain’t official or anything. But I do have some suggestions for anyone riding trains and/or buses of the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), TRE (Trinity Railway Express), T (Fort Worth Transportation Authority), or any other transit agency on Earth.

    * Smokers, if you want to trash your lungs, I don’t care. Y’all dying off early keeps the population numbers in check anyway. I do start caring, however, when you light up at the bus stop or train platform with other passengers waiting. Some of us may be allergic to your smoke, can’t stand the smell, or actually care about our health. Now, I am aware that smokers, especially the younger ones, are the kind of people who generally don’t give a flying rat’s about anything but their own narrow asses (those who do, I am not talking about you). If you’re one of those people, you obviously don’t care about others, but think about stepping to a secluded part of the platform as a form of insurance against lawsuits. :)

    * Parents, keep your kids in check. Don’t let them run around the vehicle and shut their little mouths up if they start crying or yelling or making any other annoying little kid sounds. For those who already do that, Dark Serge applauds you. If you are the kind of parent who has these stupid little conversations with your kids, talk in baby/toddler talk, can’t control your kids, don’t want to control your kids, or anything like that, do us all a favor and get a minivan. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for people using public transit – it’s great seeing a train or bus crowded cause it means fewer cars on the road – but some people just need to stay their asses off the buses and trains. Y’all are part of that group.

    * People riding with their significant others, keep public affection to hugs and walking arm-in-arm please. Sometimes I just got finished eating within the past hour or two before boarding, and would like to digest that food rather than hurl it back up. For kissing, ass-grabbing, dirty talk, sticking your tongues down each other’s throats, and similar activities, please rent a room or save that crap for when you get back home. Don’t worry, hotels are everywhere – there’s even a tunnel from Union Station to the Dallas Hyatt. Try it! (Note, added 4/4/10: Yes, ‘pecks’ ‘little kisses’ I’d consider under the kissing category here. They are still fairly disgusting. Also, it and the other stuff listed makes people like me who can’t get relationships to save our lives feel even worse cause of our lack of love.)

    * Cell phone talkers, please keep phone conversations to non-personal content only. I really don’t need or want to know that your sister and her boyfriend conceived a baby in the back of a Ford Explorer while their threesome partner drove down the LBJ.

    * Water and soap is not that dang expensive! If you smell like corn chips and ass, stay your ass off the train or bus and TAKE A SHOWER!

    If you are a responsible rider who boards and de-boards (?) the bus/train in a responsible manner, follows the above guidelines, and is friendly, congratulations and keep up the good work! ;)

    This has been a Public Transit Rider Alert from Dark Serge, thanks for listening!

    Hey, That’s Like What They Use on the TV!: The Best Weather Websites on the Web, Miscellaneous Observations

    Well, in the past five posts in this series I have reviewed five different weather websites, all of differing qualities (and kind of mixed up orderwise). These sites are useful for pretty much all your weather information needs, weather geek or non-weather geek. I can tell you one thing for sure: whether it’s dryline-induced supercells in the springtime or scattered garden-variety thundershowers early on a summer afternoon, sites like the ones I mentioned are very useful for tracking storms like that and lots of other weather phenomena as well. However, there are a few other sites out there as well that have proven to be valuable tools in my arsenal, too. These sites are more specific than the five I reviewed before, so I’ll be putting them in this “honorable mention” post. After these, there shall be a “strategy guide” to using these sites to track storms and such.

    • Plymouth State Weather Center is a weather site from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. This site I love for their multitude of useful maps, mostly the radar/satellite images. They also have other stuff like current observations from many areas and forecast models. The NEXRAD products are what I like the most, though: by going to “CONUS & PR Sites” you can access the radar sites around the USA. These are basic maps, yes, but the reason I like them so much is the multitude of products – they have the VIL images for hail size estimations and all kinds of velocity images at different scan levels…wow. And the no-frames site that is offered is very lightweight, making viewing on mobile devices like PSPs and iPod touches, Blackberrys and such easy. Heck, it is still great viewing on the laptop and desktop too!
    • College of DuPage Weather. This weather site, run by the aforementioned college in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is very much the same kind of site as that of Plymouth State. Great radar products, lightweight site, models, all that good stuff. I absolutely love their 1km state/state region radars, since they tend to show phenomena like outflow boundaries very well, which are critical for local short term forecasts when thunderstorms are scattered around the area on a summer afternoon or something.
    • Meteostar. This fairly obscure general weather site offers the usual airport current conditions and forecasts and local alerts on city/zip lookup. Their radar is basic, but not that shabby looks-wise (believe me, the background land map makes or breaks radars a lot of the time). They also have miscellaneous current conditions and forecast data for local areas as well as regions and the country at large, even having a Google Map for current conditions (once again, only at airports).

      What makes this site notable, in my opinion, are the extraordinary weather maps offered. Seriously, go to Imagery and look at their satellite images. Dang – look at that radar/satellite image! Meteostar’s radar/satellite images are very large and detailed and great to look at.

    So there you go: a bunch of weather sites that serve as great (or not-so-great) places to keep up with and track weather in your area, at least here in the United States. Someday in the future I’ll review weather sites in other countries – don’t want to leave you out! :)