Archive for January, 2013

Why I’m Not That Worried About Gun Control

Nintendo Duck Hunt GunSo everybody’s talking about guns these days. Getting more or or getting rid of more. I think we should all want to get rid of more. After all, stocking up on firearms is kind of a sign you’re going to use them. Most people don’t buy guns just to look at, you know.

Everybody seems to have an opinion, which is usually the case in America, and as usual, we all think the other side are stupid for having their opinion. It’s become like a tradition, really. So ideally, both sides are ultimately for a decrease in gun violence, right? So we should both be acting in efforts to reduce crime.

Last week, someone asked me why I haven’t said anything about gun control, since I do typically address things like this. Reluctantly, I will give my opinion, but not without explaining why I’m all too concerned about it.

Here I Stand

As someone who has been robbed and burglarized, and as I found out recently also a victim of larceny on the count of $700, I feel like it’s okay for me to have an opinion and not be judged for it. Plus, even if you do judge me just click on one of the banner ads before you leave, it’ll make my day.

So, officially, on the record, I am… not entirely sure what my position is. Okay, but seriously I’m not 100% on this. I really believe in the right to bear arms, but at the same time I don’t believe in the right to bear atomic warheads. How would you like your next door neighbor to be performing nuclear fission experiments in their back yard at night? So though I do believe in gun rights, I don’t necessarily believe in unlimited gun/weapon rights. But still, I don’t believe simply passing stronger laws will really help us. People who are going to shoot other people aren’t stopped by a sign that says no guns. And if you think they are, I’m not hiring you to be my bodyguard!

Now Relax

In the end, both sides are going to get what they want, and that’s why I’m not too worried right now. Gun control people are going to get a weapons ban or stricter gun laws of some sort. You can count on that. But, gun rights people are still going to have their guns. I’m also not worried, because at the rate Congress accomplishes things lately, there may not be another gun law passed in my lifetime. Let them “do something,” which will probably be mostly meaningless, and then move on to immigration.

If background checks make it harder to get a gun, you’re not going to find me complaining about it. Just like even though I don’t like getting my identification recorded to get pseudoephedrine, I do like my neighbor’s house not blowing up.

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January Jams on Spotify

Old blown speakers in a wooden speaker boxAt the end of 2012 I put together a playlist to celebrate the New Year with. I’m a bit of a music junkie / audiophile, and I make playlists on Spotify to satisfy my moods. It’s a pretty neat tool, really, because unlike Pandora and iHeartRadio, you can choose  specific songs you want to listen to. So my end-of-year playlist, Underwater, became a sort of musical journal for 2012, and I had a lot of fun making it.

Now it’s January, and I’d like to make this a regular thing, to introduce music I think is good. New music, themes, forgotten sounds, industry related things. For this month, here is “January Jams.” With some new songs, and some that have been around, it feels a little bit like 1983. These are the sounds that are bringing me into 2013.

January Jams

Read the rest of this entry »

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Four More Years

President Obama and First Lady Michelle ObamaThis week was the President’s public inauguration.

I’m sure there are a lot of mixed feelings about President Obama’s 2nd term. About half the nation is excited and the other half discontented or dis-concerned, I suppose. For me, the emotion of it all has more or less passed, the inauguration just a formality. We have known who was going to be the President for almost three months now, so we’ve all had time to digest the prospects of “four more years.”

Now that it’s all done with, there are some serious issues our country faces, both at home and around the world. The State of the Union address will take place February 12, 2013, only two weeks away. Just last week a potentially catastrophic hostage event took place in Algeria. We still haven’t really taken care of budget, debt ceiling, and other financial situations, only passed a tax increase that doesn’t close the gap between spending and revenue and pushed the debt ceiling standoff back another three months. All of these are hotly debated topics, but they need to be dealt with.

There’s a huge push on Congress, or at least they think there is, to “just get something done.” Pressure on both parties is rising to compromise. Compromise and deal with immigration, compromise and get a budget. A Democratic Senate and Republican House have proved over the last two years they have the power to stop each other from some things, but there is something much more important I think we need to deal with, maybe even first.

Heal Our Land

I may have only been around for five Presidents, but I can certainly remember a time when those with opposing viewpoints didn’t seem to hate each other so much. I mean, conservatives have traditionally been against a lot of welfare programs, but it seems like in the last decade a lot of conservatives hate or look down on those who receive any kind of government assistance. Liberals have always tried to advance liberal causes, but nowadays it’s like anyone who isn’t for one of their programs is a bigoted Neanderthal who oppresses women and hates minorities. Then you have the environmentalists who treat people who don’t believe in global warming like they can’t count past their fingers and toes.

Part of it is understandable, many Republicans think our nation will be destroyed if we do not perform preemptive strikes in the Middle East. And many Democrats think Republicans want to destroy the whole planet!

But I remember learning one thing about America as a kid. We were united. We all have different ideas, but what makes us a country is that we all stand together. I refuse to resort to name calling and disrespecting the President of my country. I disagreed with a lot of things about the George W. Bush administration, but I could not stand to hear people insult his intelligence. A lot of other conservatives certainly felt the same way, but now the same people (and on the same talk shows) have been throwing out the same kind of slander since the end of 2008. They talked for years like nobody in their right mind could vote him again. Then in November the President won again, and they’ve all been scratching their heads in disbelief since.

I may have my disagreements, important as they are, but if our differences tear us apart, we will never solve the problems facing our country. The Bible teaches a divided house cannot stand. Not that I think it’s going to happen any time soon, but states are actually talking about seceding. People would talk about secession from time to time when I was growing up in Texas, but it was mostly this Texas pride thing you might notice when talking to someone from south of the Red River.

Anyhow, all I’m saying is that there are a lot of important issues being debated right now, but I feel that it is just as important we learn to get along again. There’s an article I want to write about disagreements the colonists had in the days leading up to our Declaration of Independence. They had some very, very big differences of opinion, but they managed to unite. In fact, the term “united” was not even part of our country’s title, they referred to the 13 newly formed states as the “united States.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to do my part to make the next “four more years” a little more liveable and peaceable. I won’t hesitate to state my view, but I also won’t belittle others simply for having a different point of view.

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Return of the News Cast II

A while back I wrote about reviving my old website’s news section and making it part of Standard Excellence. It’s been a long time since I kept my Tripod page up to date (as well as my DeviantArt page), but had never found a way to keep the site idea going. I used to keep the world informed of all my tech projects and random ideas. Pictures from computer upgrades and mods, audio equipment, video games, good stuff. It was great. Meanwhile here on the late great Standard Excellence, I was all but running out of things to write about and needed a boost of inspiration.

The Tripod site had a news section, which I proudly proclaimed to be the blog from before the word blog. And still do. Say what, Al Gore?! I sort of started to move that blog here, but now it’s time to bring it into full swing. For now, we’re giving it a codename until I can settle on something permanent. Presenting, Rings of Saturn. Inspired by Sega, and caffeine.

On the Front Burner

So what am I currently brainstorming? I want some YouTube videos, definitely. Reviews of tech-y products I buy. New music I think is cool. Universe-shattering scientific revelations. There will probably be at least one picture of a cat.

As a teenager my friends and I made videos with our then state-of-the art Super 8mm cameras. Now I have a 1080p digital camcorder. When I was a teenager I wrote reviews for a UK video game website, now I have my own website! Then I had like 20 bucks. Now I have a JOB!! Oh the possibilities…

Sample Photos for News Cast

I hope to bring you some interesting things to read and see along the way. Look out 2013. Rings of Saturn comin’ at ya!

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Hostage Situation in Algeria

There is a developing international hostage situation taking place in Algeria right now. I’m following updates from the UK’s Guardian website, which is providing live updates as things progress. A gas facility in eastern Algeria was attacked by a group, possibly tied to al-Quaeda, and there has been some sort of military response. Hostages have been taken, reported to be from at least 8 different countries, including the US and UK.

I’m keeping up to date on this here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2013/jan/17/algerian-islamists-hostages-standoff-live

Algeria in relation to Northern Africa and the Mediterranean Sea

Reports are changing as new information comes in. This is that confusing time when nobody really knows what is going on exactly. Apparently the Algerian military has responded, and according to the Guardian that operation is now over.

I’m sure this will be on the news tonight. CNN.com has picked up the story. The Associated Press has reported that thirty-five hostages are dead, also stating the US government offered assistance but was refused by Algeria.

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Questions Answered by Standard Excellence

Happy New Year! This is my first since November, not counting the post announcing this post. I have a little news and opinion to catch up, and a fairly big announcement about the website!

So this article is going to be in the form of  a Q & A with… well, myself. (Why, yes, they do happen to be my own questions.)

Questions and Answers

Q: Where have you been the last couple of months?!

A: I have not posted much content on the site in a while, since about Thanksgiving. This has mostly been due to busyness in my personal life. Standard Excellence is for the most part a one-man operation, though my friends help me in many ways, so when I don’t have time to write articles and attend events, the whole thing tends to come grinding to a halt. That’s no good!

At the same time, this short sabbatical has given me time to think about the overall direction of Standard Excellence, and I have also had a chance to evaluate what I have done to date.

Q: How long has Standard Excellence ben around, anyhow, and how has it grown?

A: Standard Excellence first came online in September 2010 as a sub-site on another domain, also mine. I was experimenting with WordPress, a fast-rising (and now dominating) open-source CMS for building websites. WordPress is traditionally a blogging application, but now powers some of the most popular websites on the internet (including CNN and the Wall Street Journal blogs). The first idea I had for the website was a sort of resource for men, like a what-to-do in certain situations kind of thing. I had what I felt were a few good ideas for it, but they all lacked passion. I felt as though I was writing an instruction manual, but at the same time everything was so subjective.

I posted content periodically, but never did much with it. In 2012 I began to get involved in the political party process, attending precinct meetings and conventions. There’s a lot of ridiculous things that happen in politics, at all levels, and as I involved myself, I had more that I felt just had to be written about. After the Oklahoma State Republican Convention in May, I couldn’t hold in what happened, and thus gave my account here. A day or so afterwards, to my great surprise, suddenly my site had thousands of hits in one day! Before I might get like 20 spider hits (has to do with search engines) and that would be an average day. The most I had seen before was maybe 100 pageviews.

The Big Announcement

Q: So what is this big announcement you’ve been playing up?

A: Well, for a while, even during not-so-slow news times, I have had quite a challenge pushing out content as frequently as I’d like to. The big announcement is about that. There are some other things, though, that I am planning for this year in order to enhance the site/blog. First off, there is some graphic design in the works (or soon to be, that is) that will help complete the look on Standard Excellence. That way, I can also have consistent branding from here to the Facebook page, and anywhere else I may have the name attached.

I’ve thought for a while, about what the next step will be for the site, and have decided that the next step is a new section or column. Now in addition to a “News” section and “Opinion,” there will also be a third area on the front page for technology related posts. I’m not 100% sure what this will be called yet, as there are a few naming options, but the general idea is articles about tech-related things. My perspectives on everything from trends in information technology to the latest shiny cool thing I’ve discovered. This will be a mixture of newsy and opiniony pieces, also giving me further opportunity to blur the lines between the two styles.

Another subject I’d like to include in this section is music. Music is a passion I have had throughout my whole life. I have played instruments since I was 13, and have always loved local music. Plus, technology bleeds right into the music world, whether it’s the invention of the electric guitar or albums recorded, mixed, and mastered all on a MacBook. Since Standard Excellence is primarily a Dallas/Fort Worth and Oklahoma related website, it makes perfect sense to me to also talk about our local music. This is definitely going to be only Oklahoma at first, but I also plan to talk about music more broadly, and about the music industry as well.

So there you have it, back to business, technology, music. The Big Announcement. This could also include many YouTube videos. There are a number of other possibilities I have in mind for this year, and I can’t wait to get started on them! So check back often, like the Facebook page, subscribe to the YouTube channel, tell all your friends, and shower me with Starbucks gift cards.

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