Equal Rights = Right.

Marriage (or wedlock) has been defined as a social union or legal contract between people creating a kinship. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but is usually seen as an institution in which interpersonal relationships, (intimate and sexual) are acknowledged. Such a union may also be called matrimony.

Washington state lawmakers voted to approve gay marriage Wednesday 2/8/2012, setting the stage for the state to become the seventh in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed. This action of course coming a day after a federal appeals court declared California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, saying it was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.

The bill passed on a 55-43 vote in the Washington House. Supporters of the bill’s passing viewing from the public viewing galleries and stood cheering as many on the Democratic side of the House floor hugged after the vote. Gov. Gregoire watched the vote in the wings with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, who is a gay politician and who has sponsored gay rights legislation for years. Murray said the vote marked “a day that will be remembered in the history of this state.”

Gov. Gregoire also issued a statement saying it was: “a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Democratic Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who has also sponsored gay rights bills for several years, said that he and his partner have been grateful for the rights that they have under the state’s existing domestic partnership laws but such protections are “a pale and inadequate substitute for marriage.”

During the remarks on the House floor, Pedersen read from the  the San Francisco-based 9thUnited States Courts of Appeals ruling, citing a section that stated “marriage is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults.”

As a side-note, those who disagree with same sex marriage because of religious reasons should know that  homosexuality as well as the institution of marriage predates most if not all practiced organized religion and therefore doesn’t necessarily fall under the purview of  religion or religious belief.

Surprisingly enough, there seems to be a schism (the size of which is unsure.) even amongst some in the gay community when it comes to the issue of same sex marriage. I came across this quote earlier today on Facebook and I can say with utmost honesty that it is what prompted me to do this post. Keep in mind the post was written by a gay male and honesty wasn’t coming from a place of hatred or anger. : “When it comes to gay rights and politics i don’t care to get involved with the outcome or drama. The majority of people who vote are straight… Therefore, I just try and set a good example for them to want to vote for the rights we think we deserve. I wish people would see that marriage is for heterosexuals. If we want to feel “normal” by getting married we need to prove to the majority of voters that we can be respectful when it comes to the union of two people.”

Representative Maureen Walsh Remarks on ESSB 6239

Now while setting a “good example” is all good and fine, one should not have to set a “good example” in order to prove to anyone that they deserve something that is considered a basic human right. I shouldn’t have to prove that I deserve the right to marry any more than I should have to prove that I deserve the right to use the same bathroom that a white/caucasian person uses, or the right to vote, or be a land owner….if I have the money to own land.

The best response to the aforementioned post came not too long after I myself responded to the post. The responder had this to say: “Gay people shouldn’t have to perform for heterosexuals to attain equality, nor should bigotry be permitted as a “normal” state of affairs. Most people who oppose gay marriage in the U.S. do so out of hatred and fear. It isn’t our respectfulness that anyone should be worried about–it’s theirs.” All I could say in return was “Well said.”

As a  responses to the above comment on the post I quoted, the poster had this to say: ” I’m not saying we need to conform to heterosexuals. I’m saying that the majority of voters are straight and would more likely vote gay rights if we gave them better reasons to do so. We need to set a good example and be respectful so that we can be treated equally.”

Once again the sound of needing to appease a majority in order to get something deserved by all people can be heard. While I do not agree on any level with that individual’s point of view, I do respect their opinion.

Regardless of the thoughts or opinions of those against same sex union in marriage, it is a right and as such, I feel that one day it will be universally accepted as such. Human rights applies to all humans, regardless of their ethnicity, faith, political affiliation, or sexual preference. If I want to marry a man, I’m going to marry a man.

If Homer J. Simpson (Seen in my featured image for this post.) can understand that marriage is not bound by gender, what’s your excuse?

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Movie Review: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D

Moviegoers should prepare for a blast from the past as “Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace” opened not but a few hours ago here in Washington State. The May 22nd, 1999 release is back in theaters, and it’s in 3D; which should give fans more reason to check it out.

Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic  visual effects supervisor John Knoll says the new dimension makes the film more immersive. And he couldn’t be any more right, though this is coming from me as a fan of the overall Star Wars franchise.

“The extra dimension makes the audience feel like they are more present in the Star Wars universe. I wanted to make sure that we were not turning this into a gimmick. It’s something that should feel natural and not cause eye-strain or cheapen the product so I was not looking for places to poke stuff out of the camera. I went for naturalistic stereo as though the movie had actually been shot in stereo. I think the film looks better than it ever looked before,” he says in a press release.

“As someone who prefers watching movies without having to keep adjusting 3D glasses, I wasn’t too keen on 136 minutes in the theater. I also wasn’t too sure if the 3D would make that big a difference—as far as I could remember, there was a lot of talk in “Episode I.”

In George Lucas’ highly anticipated installment, Anakin Skywalker’s epic story begins when he is discovered on Tatooine, a desert planet where Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi make an emergency landing. They just rescued Queen Amidala from Naboo, which has been blockaded by the Trade Federation army after Naboo opposed the Galactic Republic’s taxation on trade routes.

As the first of a three-part prequel to the well-loved original trilogy, “Episode I” was regarded with  mixed reactions when it came out 16 years after the last of  the original series. Some “Star Wars” fans were disappointed by the film, perhaps due to the overwhelming expectations based on the success of the original three. Movie review website Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 60 percent rating, saying that plot and character development is lacking. On the other hand, it says there’s plenty of eye candy to behold.

When I prepared to don my not soo comfortable 3D specs, I couldn’t help but wonder what all I could expect from 3D for this film. Many films seem to bombard the viewers with 3D, regardless of whether the scene calls for it or not. That was however not the case here. I was surprised with how subtle some of the 3D seemed. It wasn’t smack dab in my face, but I couldn’t help but feel like a part of the experience none the less. As I watched on in enjoyment, three scenes in particular caught my attention in regards to the addition of 3D(And I’m aware that I say 3D an aweful lot in this blog post.. mostly in this paragraph.) The first was the podracer scene with young Anakin Skywalker. I couldn’t have enjoyed watching that part more if it had been my first time seeing it. Despite the fact that I knew otherwise, I felt like his podracer could just leap off the screen and into the very theatre.

Another scene worth mentioning was the duel between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan-Kenobi, and Qui-Gon-Jin. As soon as the doors in the Naboo fighter hanger open to reveal Maul, I couldn’t help but be excited. Thankfully, that excitement was justified. Whether due to the 3D effects or just cleaning things up, there was a far crisper feel to the look of the three as they fought.

The last was the scene of the space battle. I’ve seen some awesome films in 3D before, but this is officially one of my favorite 3D scenes now. If you’ve seen Episode I before then you know that the space battle scene is pretty good. 3D simply makes it…better, for lack of a better word.

There are also a few other things throughout the movie which left me pleasantly surprised, such as cleaning up an image of my favorite Sith Lord, Darth Sidious so that if you look close enough, you can tell what the true identity of the Sith Lord is. There’s also the addition of a few other characters in the pod race scene who are not in the original theatrical version, but who I’m told were in the dvd versions of the film. Also, for all the Yoda fans out there, the little green man looks amazing in the film. At least one of my friends was happy to see the CGI Jedi Master in the place of his Muppet counterpart.

Of course I loved almost everything about the movie in of itself.. apart from the character of Jar Jar Binks. In all honesty, I kind of feel that he detracts from the film as a whole. This post isn’t about that though, it’s about the film’s transition into 3D. So, sticking with that theme, the only problem I could think of was Jar Jar’s 3D look. For that matter, the look of the Gungans as a whole could be scrutinized, but I’ll settle for Jar Jar. There are moments in the film where due to his actions and the special effects he looks like he’s made of rubber, and not in a great or even funny way. You may also notice that some of the masks for aliens such as the Neimoidians(Trade Federation) look a bit less than convincing

That said; if you’re a fan of Star Wars (including Episodes I-III) then I’d say this is something worth going to see. Especially seeing as from what I hear, Episodes II-VI will also be undergoing 3Dification.  You should however be prepared to shell out 15 dollars or so for the tickets of the currently released film. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the 3D glasses designed especially for Episode I as seen below(Anakin Skywalker pod racer style design.), but if not, you’ll be stuck with the standard specs as my friends and I disappointingly were.

Revenge of the Anonymous

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the group known as “Anonymous” (which is used in this case as a mass noun); they are an internet meme that originated in 2003 on the image-board known as  4chan, representing the concept of many online and offline community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global mind. It’s  also generally used as a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures, a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are known to only them. If that doesn’t help, think of Anonymous as a real life Laughing Man(from the anime Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex.) (Two images seen below. First image in hat and heavy coat.) The main difference being that The Laughing Man is a single individual, whereas Anonymous is more of a…..Legion for lack of a better work.

 

 

In its early form, the concept has been adopted by a decentralized online community acting anonymously  in a coordinated manner, usually toward a loosely self-agreed goal, and primarily focused on entertainment. Beginning with 2008, the Anonymous collective has become increasingly associated with collaborative, international hacktivism, undertaking protests and other actions, often in retaliation against anti-digital piracy campaigns by motion picture and recording industry trade associations. Actions credited to “Anonymous” are undertaken by unidentified individuals who apply the Anonymous label to themselves as attribution.

Although not necessarily tied to a single online entity, many websites are strongly associated with Anonymous. This includes notable image-boards such as 4chan, their associated wikis, Encyclopædia Dramatica, and a number of forums. After a series of controversial, widely-publicized protests and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks by Anonymous in 2008, incidents linked to its cadre members have increased. In consideration of its capabilities, Anonymous has been posited by CNN to be one of the three major successors to WikiLeaks.

Last year, Anonymous claimed responsibility for hacking a website belonging to the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency by releasing personal information of 2,000 passengers and of a former BART spokesman who claimed it was his idea for BART to shut down cell phone service in stations.

The goal was to hinder protests that started after BART police fatally shot a transient in San Francisco.

Once again, the hacker collective Anonymous may have struck. The group appears to have posted the addresses and other personal information of several Oakland, California, city officials to the internet. The information went up on a website attributed to the group. A note with the post expresses anger over how police have treated members of Occupy Oakland and city budget cuts that have been approved. The mayor, police chief and city council members were among those whose information was included in the posting.

Among those whose information was included on the groups website were Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Police Chief Howard Jordan, City Administrator Deanna Santana and numerous  City Council members. The group said that it was “shocked and disgusted” over police action taken against members of Occupy Oakland and recent budget cuts finalized by the city. “Since the inception of Occupy Oakland, we have been actively monitoring your behavior, and exposing the identities and sensitive information of Officers of the Oakland Police Department; as they have continued to act in an unprofessional and violent manner,” the group said. “You tear gassed us. You shot us with your weapons. You arrested us. You beat us. You also did this to our friends, and to our families.”

Quan’s spokeswoman, Sue Piper, downplayed Tuesday’s incident. “The information was already public, so it’s really not a big deal to us,” Piper said. “We just really want to go forward with the city’s business. This is nothing new.”

 

Occupy Oakland protesters and police clashed again on Jan. 28 when protesters tried to take over a vacant convention center and then damaged property inside City Hall including burning an American flag. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds and arrested more than 400 people. Also last month, the City Council finalized $28 million in budget cuts including about 80 layoffs. The Council on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a resolution to prevent future shutdowns of the Port of Oakland by Occupy members.

I’m pretty sure that if people don’t get their act together, we can expect more from Anonymous.

Movie Review: The Woman In Black

Well.. I just saw the movie “The Woman In Black” last night with some friends and I decided I might as well blog about it. I should warn you that this is probably gonna be a a ton of spoilage going on in this blog, so be warned. The Woman In Black is the latest film starring Daniel Radcliffe(From Harry Potter). Essentially, the film is a British ghost story about the vengeful spirit of a woman haunting an English town. The film itself is an adaptation of the book of the same name, written by Susan Hill.

In the film which takes place in England’s Edwardian era, Radcliffe plays the role of one Arthur Kipps; a young, widdowed lawyer who’s down on his luck financially. He lives with his young 4 year old son Joseph, and his son’s nanny (Jessica Raine) (Who I don’t believe is ever named in the movie.) Kipps’ wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) apparently died in the midst of giving birth to their son. In the beginning of the film, Arthur has occasional visions of her and is facing stress from his employers at the law firm. You get the feeling that he wants to end it all in a manor reminiscent of Sweeny Todd.  He is given an assignment (His last and final one if he fails.) to handle the estate of a deceased woman namd Alice Drablow who owned Eel Marsh, where she lived with her husband, son Nathaniel, and sister, Jennet Humfrye (Liz White). This is basically to prove to his employers that he isn’t too crippled with grief to do what’s expected of him.

Eventually Kipps arrives in Crythin Gifford, and to a less than warm welcome from the locals as they all warn him to turn and go home.  Having been repeatedly told to leave, he of course ignores the protests of his presence. At the march he starts working on the stacks of paperwork left there, but he repeatedly hears footsteps and and eventually sees a woman dressed all in black. Kipps reports the sighting at the local police station. From the time he arrives in the station, things go from mysterious to downright bad when two boys bring in their sister who drank lye and she dies in Arthur’s arms, coughing blood. She is not the first child in town to commit suicide, and the townspeople believe the “Woman in Black” comes for their children as revenge for her child being taken from her in life. This however is not a fact known by Kipps.

As he continues to dig deeper and deeper into the mystery of this mysterious figure in black and the connection with the people of the town, his cool demeanor melts (For lack of a better word.) when faced with the mountain of proof that there is indeed something dark, sinister, and truly unholy taking up residence within the walls of Eel Marsh House.

At first, being the huge Harry Potter fan I claim to be, I thought it would be difficult to view Radcliffe as anything other than Harry Potter; given the sheer success and lengthy run of the films. I couldn’t have been farther from wrong. Of course there were elements of the film that had a certain… Harry Potter-esque feel, such as Crythin Gifford giving off a somewhat Godrics Hollow/Hogsmeade Village vibe. Then there was the fact that the feel of the film was as dark as, if not darker than the last few Potter films. I couldn’t help but occasionally get the feeling that this was once again Harry Potter facing off against some dark force or another. Throughout the film, I found myself wanting to yell out “Use your wand harry.” Somehow I managed to look past all that and ended up thoroughly enjoying the film. For a horror film, it was certainly less gruesome than your typical horror movie; even your typical ghost story horror. It was a chance for Daniel Radcliffe to show that he’s more than just “the boy who lived” and the guy who defeated the most powerful dark lord of all times.I’d say he more than showed that.

The cast of the film did an amazing job. I can’t find anything wrong with their acting, no matter how hard I might try. Ciarán Hinds did a fantastic job as Sam Daily. What else could be expected from the man who portrayed Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2.?. Janet McTeer did a splendid job in the role of Mrs. Daily. Seeing her as her son is spoken about in conversation made the film for me as much as the acting in the film in general did. Liz White, although not the biggest name in the film, had the key role as The Woman In Black herself. Her portrayal of The Woman was different than what I’d expected, due to most female horror movie antagonists being more…gruesome; like the female character in “The Grudge” or in “Dead Silence”. That being said, She did a fantastic job. The last thing I’d want to walk into in the middle of the night would be The Woman In Black. The other cast members did an equally fantastic job in their roles.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’d advise going to see it.

Of Piracy and Liberty

For more than a decade,  Wikipedia (the free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation.) has spent millions of hours painstakingly building what has to be the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, Congress is considering legislation that could all but kill free and open Internet.

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in December, and the powers of the Internet—web based companies that innovate and users who populate internet—joined forces to defend the idea of a free and open ’net. Some websites have even joined in blacking out in response to SOPA and PIPA. Because of all the controversy (more than 700,000 tweets and a million emails…give or take), there may no longer be the legislative desire in the House to pass it, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the bill’s most vocal opponents.

Despite that fact, bills often come in pairs, and SOPA’s twin in the Senate is the Protect IP Act, or PIPA as it is commonly referred to. Both bills threaten to rip apart the very fabric of the Internet, compromise the world’s digital security and open the doors for censorship the likes of which have been most recently seen in China. While SOPA may be damaged, PIPA has yet to attract the same levels of negative attention. It’s scheduled for a Senate floor vote on Jan. 24 and could easily weasel its way through, under the radar. It’s quite clear that PIPA is the new SOPA, making it the next logical target.

It’s understandable that the entertainment industry is sick of sitting by while its films, records and software are being stolen by large-scale online file-sharing operations based overseas, known as “rogue sites.” But, in the name of “intellectual-property rights”, media companies have enlisted a bipartisan chunk of Congress to pass anti-piracy legislation weighted irrationally and unfairly in their favor. Copyright holders want to give themselves and the U.S. Department of Justice the power to block any and all websites accused of “infringement”. They seem to want to force Internet service providers to create a wall between their customers and these websites. To force banks and payment services like PayPal to cut off these websites’ money. They want the websites removed from search results and to ban people from linking to them. And all of that, without any kind of formal hearing.

That won’t stop people from infringing on copyrights. So long as there are people out there, information’ll find a way around the walls the entertainment industry wants built. That’s just the nature of information.

An alternative bill for possible consideration is  the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, or OPEN, which like SOPA, also has a twin in the Senate, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden, Jerry Moran and Maria Cantwell. OPEN would place rogue sites under the purview of the International Trade Commission, which already oversees patent infringement. The ITC would be given the authority to block the flow of all money and advertising to these sites, but nothing more.

I’m not sure about you, but to me that seems ridiculous. If anything, PIPA might just cause a surge in pirating information. Tell someone they can’t do something and that’s as good a reason as any for them to do just that. And get enough people who aren’t allowed to do something and you’ve got the same thing that happened during the prohibition. Sure, I realize there’s a difference between pirating information and bootlegging information… it’s a small difference, but the comparison stands valid.

This blog post has been spawned from an amalgamation of online information. If a bill such as PIPA were to pass, who’s to say I would have been able to gather the information I’ve posted.?. Who’s to say I would have been able to post it.?.

Gadget Corner

Whenever I come across tech things, I feel the unwavering need to share them with the masses…or at least as many of the masses as will read this.

1. The Smallest Live-Streaming Video Solution- Contour announced a partnership with Japan-based Cerevo to unveil the world smallest and least expensive live-streaming video solution. Contour is a hands-free video camera maker and in 2011 they released the Contour+ and ContourROAM cameras.  The Contour+ works seamlessly with the Cerevo LiveShellfor live streaming video solution.

The Contour+ weights only 5.3 oz and has a 170° wide angle lens. It delivers HD video up to 1080p at 25/30 fps or 720p at 50/60 fps. With the new Contour Connect App any iPhone and soon Android can be used to stop and start and recordings. Contours exclusive Bluetooth technology allows Contour Connect to turn the users cellphone into a wireless viewfinder, so the user can adjust shots in realtime. There are multiple mounts available allowing the camera to be attached to almost anything. What the Contour+ was missing was the ability to stream directly to the Internet.

That is what Cerevo adds to the equation the Cerevo LiveShell. The Cerevo LiveShell attaches to the Contour+ by HDMI cable and then it can send out a live stream either by wired LAN or 802.11 b,g and n compatible wireless LAN. The Cerevo LiveShell can run for 2 hours on batteries. You can control the LiveShell thru a Web-based application on a smart phone or computer. The LiveShell has a maximum resolution of 480p. It is the first device that was given the “Ustream Compatible” seal of approval by Ustream. It does come with a power adapter allowing for 24/7 stable broadcasting. If you want to see an example, the Cerevo LiveShell is currently running in Akihabara, a section of Tokyo, Japan. The Cerevo LiveShell works not only with Contour products but a multiple number of video cameras, including cameras with analog inputs.

The vision for Contour began in 2003 out of the University of Washington business plan competition when two undergraduate students and avid skiers, Marc Barros and Jason Green, devised a simple helmet camera to record their exploits. The two wanted to share video of the thrills and spills of their downhill skiing adventures with their friends and family, but they couldn’t. The frozen mountaintop was a grueling and unforgiving environment for video camcorders. Besides, when you’re zooming downhill, crashing through trees with ski poles in your hands, holding onto a camera is the last thing on your mind.

After winning third place in the competition and enough money to afford the rent on a chilly warehouse, the two friends began building and selling the Twenty20 Helmet Camera. Over the years Contour has introduced a series of innovations to make storytelling easier for outdoor enthusiasts.

Cerevo is a Tokyo, Japan based company started in 2007 they specialize in live streaming. The Contour Connect is currently available in the iTunes store and should be coming to Android 2.2.1 and above in April. The app is free. The Cerevo LiveShell was launched in Japan in November 2011 and will be available through the Contour Web site starting February 1, 2012. If you want to stream your adventures live to Ustream than you need to take a look at both the Contour+ and their new partner Cerevo LiveShell.

2. Griffin’s Gadgets on the Go- Griffin has one of the best  ranges of accessories for smartphones of all kinds, as well as MP3 players and tablets, so it’s no surprise that they’ve got a few additions to their product range. This year they’re announcing  two in-car mounts, some power solutions and a mount for air travelers.

First up, if you have a car that has an aux port (3.5 mm socket), then the WindowsSeat 3 Handsfree is the windshield or dashboard mount for whatever your drive. It comes with a combined aux cable and microphone that that can be used to make handsfree phone calls and stream music/navigation commands through the car speakers. WindowSeat’s mounting cradle holds iPods or iPhones in most shell- or skin-type cases, as well as a similar sized MP3 players and smartphones, including some popular models from BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung.

If you don’t have  an aux jack, the AirCurve Window Mount is the alternative. This windshield mount is designed as an acoustic amplifier which can raise the volume by as much as 25 dB without any batteries or cables. Designed for the iPhone 4 / 4S, simply put the smartphone in speakerphone mode and chat away.

Griffin’s PowerBlock range has been updated with new models –  PowerBlock Reserve, a wall charger for iPod and iPhone that can be plugged into any AC wall outlet to provide a quick boost of power that also has a built-in rechargeable 2,000 mAh lithium-ion battery pack for charging on the go. The PowerBlock Reserve Universal, is the same concept but quickly charges any USB device. Both models charge their own batteries at the same time they’re charging connected devices, which is often not the case with competing models. A row of LEDs serve as a power gauge, indicating how much charge is left.

Finally, Griffin is bringing a new product to the market in Q2 of 2012 with a Tray Table Latch Mount. Specifically for the air and rail traveller, the mount is designed to be compatible with 90% of the world’s airline and commuter rail tray table latches and holds your eReader, tablet or smartphone at eye level for comfortable viewing. Very handy.

3. Blue Mic’s New Microphones- If you are a Podcaster you are familiar with Blue Mic. Founded in 1995 they sought to improve the front-end of audio recording by utilizing the increased bandwidth benefits enabled by digital technology. Advances in digital processing (e.g. extended frequency response, dynamic range, project recording capability) have fundamentally changed the recording process as well as the potential for the performance of microphones. Basing many of their concepts, designs, and technology on knowledge gleaned from years of repairing and improving classic microphones from a wide variety of manufacturers, but by simultaneously integrating new technologies, materials and a first-hand knowledge of today’s recording process, Blue began to pioneer the perfect analog input devices for the digital age.

They are the maker of the Yeti and Snowball mics. This year at CES 2012 they introduced three new mics, the Spark Digital, the Mikey Digital and the Tiki.

The Spark Digital is a studio grade condenser mic. It allows for high fidelity recording. There is an onboard control for volume, gain and instant mute.  There is a headphone jack for realtime monitoring.  It connects to both the iPad and a USB device easily. It is plug and play and has LED meter which provides visual feedback. It comes with an adjustable stand.

The Mikey Digital is made for the iPod touch 4th generation, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPad 1 and iPad 2. It allows for automatic or manual gain control. There is a three gain setting. It is set up to allow for stereo recording. It has a 230 degree rotating design and comes with a built-in USB charging port.

The Tiki is an intelligent ultra-compact USB microphone. It has voice isolation and noise cancellation. It can eliminate constant background noise by the use of intelligent muting. It is optimized for podcast and music recording. It improves voice clarity for Skype and iChat.

All three microphones work with most recording software including Garageband and should be available soon. If you are a fan of USB mics, I’d suggest taking a look at these three.  Blue Mic provides quality at a reasonable price.

Sounds to Listen Out for In 2012

I’ve already talked at length about the movies, gadgets and tech, toys, and doomsday events to look forward to this year, but one thing I’ve yet to mention is the sounds of 2012.

I’ve come across some pretty decent bands that are up and coming, have yet to up and come, or already here, and I figure what better thing to do than to share them with all you fine people out there in cyber space. Keep in mind though that as usual… this list is in no particular order.

1. Howler- A ban originally born out of boredom in 2010 by Jordan Gatesmith, Howler’s been described as having a west coast sunshine meets east coast garage/surf rock sort of sound. Their first EP ‘This One’s Different‘ was released in the US on February 14, 2011. The bands lineup consists of Jordan Gatesmith on lead guitar and vocals, Brent Mayes on drums, Ian Nygaard on guitar, Max Petrek on keyboard, and France Camp (real name Jay Simonson) on bass. With a sound like theirs, they’re definitely something to look for this year.

2. Spector- These east London indie-popsters have sharp suits, snazzy specs, and  swooning melodies reminiscent of bands of yesterday(this is meant in the best of ways). Their single ‘Grey Shirt and Tie’ is sure to be a hit. They’ve been described as “reminiscent of The Walkmen mainlined into The Killers’ chugga-train drive”. With a lineup of Frederick Macpherson (vocals), Christopher Burman (guitar), Thomas Shickle (bass), Jed Cullen (synth, guitar) and Danny Blandy (drums), they’ve got  the style and the substance to make it well into 2012 and beyond.

3. Flux Pavilion- Known professionally as Flux Pavilion and otherwise as Joshua Steele, is an English dubstep producer and DJ. This newcomer’s ‘Bass Cannon’ shot him directly into the public consciousness and saw him “Zane Lowe-d” as the hottest record of the week. A recent Tweets boast” recording my first string section – that’s why I love music”. And that’s why people are going to love him. I myself wasn’t the biggest proponent of dubstep, but even I have to admit that this guy is good…really good. I think he has what it takes to make it big or even bigger than big.

4. It Lies Within- In 2011, this band signed to Luxor Records.  For 2012, this means touring and new music.  Their sound is purely melodic.. in that deep, dark, metal way. The band consists of  Zachary (Vocals), Matthew (Guitar), Michael (Guitar), Justin (Bass), and Torrey (Drums). I see a ton of great things coming from this band next year, so make sure you check them out.

5. The Uptown 4- Unlike many of the other bands mentioned/to be mentioned, they’re an A Capella group. What originally started out as a few friends singing in their backyards and having fun has become one of the fastest-growing A Cappella quartets in the entire Pacific Northwest. Their lineup consists of  Orion (Affectionately nicknamed onion-ring.) (Tenor 1), Jeffrey McGlinn (Tenor 2), Jeff Weister (Baritone), Sky Lewis (Bass), and Shawn Dudley (Vocal Percussion) Their unique sound is sure to make them a continued hit throughout 2012. If you haven’t checked them out, you should.

6. Good Weather For Airstrikes- In 2011,  this band has released a full-length, gone on a Midwest tour, and played a ton of awesome shows.  Their Indie sound is quite unique(at least to these ears.) They definitely seem to have more than a hang on their craft. Look for them to keep the ball rolling in 2012 and beyond.  With a lineup like James Radick, Joe Hillier, Josh Fenn, & Bill Grant just wait till you see what they’ve got to offer.

7. Act As One- After a bit of a brief indefinite break, Act As One is back and better than ever.  Their pop-punkish sound is quite refreshing. They bring to mind Sum41, though they are of course quite different. Along with great vocals, they boast some great instrumentals. Look for some awesome new music from these guys this year. There’s nowhere but even further up to go for Taylor Nagel, Shawn Brown, Jared McNally, Levi King, and Ben Hoffman.

8. Toy-  This indie rock/psychedelic rock band from London is comprised of Tom Dougall, Dominic O’Dair,
Maxim Barron, Charlie Salvidge, and Alejandra Diez. Toy emerged from the smoking ruble of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong(That band having been roundly shafted by a major label who paid for the recording of, then shelved, their debut album.) Now safe on indie shores with Heavenly Records, Toy are pushing a thoroughly mellow post punk sound that should have indie discos and clubs swooning throughout the year.

9. In The Name Of- These guys are a collection of musicians assembled and managed by the singer/songwriter Danny Worsnop, from various locations across the USA. They’ve raised the eyebrows and captured the attention of many. In The Name Of breaks all the rules written on how the music business works and is a fast rising new band that is definitely a name you won’t be forgetting about any time soon!

http://www.facebook.com/officialitno

That concludes my list of the sounds you should definitely listen out for this year. Though there are a slew of other bands out there who were not mentioned in my list, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth listening out for either. And while you’re at it.. keep an ear out for those artists already known… who knows.. they just may come up with something utterly amazing.

Another Geek Peek

As a followup to my blob post titled “A Geek Peek At 2012” while talking to folk I’ve come across seven more things that might catch the interest of some of you out there. Keep in mind, nothing on this list is in any specific order.

7. E3- E3 2012 may be the biggest show ever, with the new Wii U, XBox, and the PS4 tease. It’s rumored that the NetBox will be making an appearance at E3 2012. In a surprise move, Sony executives have hinted that they will reveal a new console at E3. If the rumors are found to be true, then this could mark the first time ever an entire generation will be revealed in a single place, single time.

6.  Marvel Legends- Hasbro’s line of 6-inch action figures is poised for a comeback in 2012. The first wave is said to feature figures of Steve Rogers, Iron Man, Hope Summers and the return of “Build-a-Figure” in the form of  Terrax. If that’s not enough, a new Wolverine, Punisher and a Nova Prime are just a few of the figures about to become Marvel Legends! If you’re a collector, your wallet’s going to hate you.

5. The Dark Knight Rises- Due to the disappointment of some of you for not placing this on my previous blog post, I’ve seen fit to place it here. The Dark Knight Rises will be showcasing Bane and Catwoman for the first time in the current movie franchise.  This may be the final installment of the billion-dollar Batman movie franchise. The promise that  “The Legend Ends” = the one movie in 2012 you and I would be crazy to miss if you’re a Batman fan. Will it be all it’s made up to be? Who knows.

4. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter- I have yet to read the book, but I have seen a preview for the film and honestly it looks interesting. Not necessarily 100% historically accurate, it should still make for an interesting watch. Thanks to Twilight, I’m sure Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter won’t be the worst vampire film I’ve ever seen. If you’re like me and haven’t read the book, here’s a blurb about the plot: President Lincoln’s mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers.(Told you it was a blurb.) What can go wrong with pitting the Great Emancipator Vs. the undead?

3. The Last Airbender: Legend Of Korra- As huge a fan as I am of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the world of the story, I’m sure I’ll enjoy this continuing of the Avatar story. This second Nickelodeon series is set in the world of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The difference is that this time it’s not Aang who is the hero. Seventy Years after Ang, a new Avatar named Korra appears as the hero. Though there’s a new Avatar, I’m sure this new series will dazzle me as much as the first one did.

2. Rurouni Kenshin- Also known as “Samurai X” the wildly popular ’90s manga-turned-anime series is back on with three new offerings. The first is an original animation video (OAV) called “Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen,” which retells the epic battle between our favorite red-haired Meiji-era swordsman and his heavily bandaged archenemy, Shishio Makoto. The graphics are said to be similar to the main anime series, with voice actress Mayo Suzukaze reprising her role as Kenshin Himura along with the rest of the original cast. The OAV’s first half premiered in Japan last December; the limited-edition DVD and Blu-Ray version is set for release this March.

Secondly, the  live-action version, produced by Warner Bros., finally hits theaters in Japan on August 25th. The hype broke out when the film staff released a trailer and several set photos online, plus an ad featuring actor Takeru Satoh (“Kamen Rider Den-O”) in full getup as Kenshin Himura in the January 2012 issue of Jump Square magazine. The cast for characters Kaoru, Sanosuke, Yahiko, Megumi, Saitou, and the series’ “first” antagonists Jin’e and Takeda have all been confirmed.

Lastly,but not least Jump Square announced that the manga series will resume running in May 2012, with creator Nobuhiro Watsuki at the helm. Whether this is a  “reboot” or an actual sequel is unclear, but I’m sure fans would like a new arc; or at least, for it to pick up where the manga left off 12 years ago. These dates though are for releases in Japan, to the best of my knowledge.

1. Dredd- Most people could probably agree that the first attempt to make a movie based on the popular 2000 AD character was completely awful. Just the thought of it has me hearing Stallone shouting out “I am the law!” Hopefully the remake can’t be any worse.  Danny Boyle is  producing the remake, Alex Garland is on script writing dutys and Karl Urban is playing the lead role. Given the lack of Stalone in this film, I think it’s safe to say that the new version is going to be far better than than the 90s version. Here’s to hoping.

Though this post lacks some of the flair of my previous post, I still can’t help but be excited by some of these things. Just more proof that this is going to be one heck of a year.

Santorum: Just Another Dirty Word.

If you were to go on to Google and type in “santorum”(Minus the quotes of course.), what you’d find wouldn’t be the nicest thing in the world. Now..I won’t type out what pops up at that search, but despite it’s not being all that nice, I find it more than deserving and fitting.

Before I begin digging into him, here’s a bit of information about the guy.  Richard John “Rick” Santorum is a lawyer and politician, and a  member of the Republican Party. He represented the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives (1991-1995) and the U.S. Senate (1995-2007). As a Senator, Santorum was the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, making him the third-ranking Senate Republican from 2001 to 2007.

Santorum is considered both a social and fiscal conservative. He is especially well-known for his strong social conservative positions,his role in enacting welfare reform in 1996, and his views on U.S. foreign policy towards Iran.

Since leaving public office, Santorum has worked as an attorney, served as a Senior Fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and been a contributor to Fox News Channel.

Santorum is a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 2012 election. He formed a presidential exploratory committee on April 13, 2011, and formally announced his candidacy on June 6, 2011. After running in the bottom tier of candidates for months, Santorum gained significant momentum in the weeks before the Iowa caucuses, and scored a significant second-place finish in the caucuses with just eight votes fewer than the first-place finisher Mitt Romney.

Beneath that politicians smile lies a man filled with ignorance; and not the blissful kind. In a Fox interview, Rick Santorum had some… interesting things to say on the topic of gays in the military. During the interview, a clip was played  in which he was heard to say (when asked by a gay soldier “Do you intend to circumvent the progress that has been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”) “Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military and the fact that they’re making a point to include it to a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privileged to…in removing “don’t ask, don’t tell” I think tries to inject social policy into the military.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a yes if ever I’ve heard one.

If that’s not enough, in an interview with Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan, when asked for his position on the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, Santorum said that the scandal involved priests and post-pubescent men in “a basic homosexual relationship” (not child sexual abuse), which led the interviewer to ask if homosexuality should be outlawed.

Santorum then brought up the then-pending U.S. Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, which challenged a Texas sodomy law, and went on to say that:

  • he did not have a problem with homosexuals, but “a problem with homosexual acts”
  • the right to privacy “doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution”
  • sodomy laws properly exist to prevent acts which “undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family”

How does one not have a problem with homosexuals yet have a problem with homosexual acts? It’s like saying “I like black people, but I don’t like them doing things that black people do.” It’s ridiculous.. to say the very least.

When Jordan asked “Okay, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?” Santorum’s response concluded:

“In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —” (At this point, Jordan commented, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about ‘man on dog’ with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out,” coining a phrase widely used in connection with this incident.)

In the original version of the Associated Press story, Santorum was quoted as saying:

“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”

It also included additional remarks criticizing “homosexual acts”:

“Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.”

Jordan produced a recording of the interview, after allegations of bias were leveled against her because she is married to a Democratic strategist.

This is a man who wants to be the President of the United States. A man who’s shown more ignorance than intelligence through his running for the most powerful office in the country. I don’t claim to be any sort of prophet, soothsayer, doomsayer or the like, but I’m pretty sure that if a man such as Rick Santorum was to win the office of President, this country, if not the world might as well be as doomed as those who believe in the Mayan calenders think it to be. As much as I value free speech.. and I do, it’s always sad when someone takes a gift like that and wastes it spouting such garbage. This is why “santorum” is just another dirty word.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this gem of a video I found.:

Zombie Apocalypse/Zompocalypse 101

In an earlier post of mine entitled A Geek Peek at 2012, one of the things I discussed, though briefly was the Zombie Apocalypse. In a comment to that post, someone stated that they didn’t understand the Zombie Apocalypse, so I figured I’d take the time to try and explain it to all those who may not be familiar with it.

The Zombie Apocalypse is defined as being a particular scenario of apocalyptic literature . In a zombie apocalypse, a widespread rise of zombieshostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization.

In some stories of zombie apocalypse, victims of zombies may become zombies themselves if they are bitten or scratched by zombies; or if a zombie-creating virus travels by air, sexually, or via water source. In others, everyone who dies or has died in the past, whatever the cause, becomes one of the undead. In some cases, parasitic organisms can cause zombification by killing their hosts and reanimating their corpses, though some may argue that this is not a real or traditional zombie. In rarer cases, possession by a demonic spirit or demonic spirits (released through some ancient tome, rite, or incantation) has caused the long since dead and or the closest living being to become a zombie. In the latter scenario zombies also prey on the living though their bite may not always cause an infection that kills and reanimates. In either case, this can cause the outbreak to become an exponentially growing crisis: the spreading “zombie plague” swamps law enforcement organizations, the military as well as health care services; leading to the panicked collapse of civil society until only isolated pockets of survivors remain. Basic services such as piped water supplies and electrical power shut down, mainstream mass media would no longer function and the national governments of affected countries collapse or go into hiding. The survivors usually begin scavenging for food, weapons and other supplies in a world reduced to a mostly pre-industrial or possibly post apocalyptic, hostile wilderness.

Now fiction aside, there are reasons such an event could actually take place in the real world. Here are 5 reasons.. 5 scientific reasons backing up a Zombie Outbreak/Zombie Apocalypse:

5.  Brain Parasites- A parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. Brain Parasites are the same as any other sort of parasite, though they feed off of either chemicals produced by the brain, brain fluid, or other things related to the brain. In nature there are many parasites. One such being toxoplasma gondiiToxoplasma gondii is the causative agent of the toxoplasmosis disease. In summary, extensive studies carried out under different experimental conditions suggest that T. gondii changes the behavior of rodents so as to make them more likely to be predated on by cats, the parasite’s definitive host.

From cracked.com Chances this could cause a zombie apocalypse:
“Humans and rats aren’t all that different; thats why they use them to test our drugs. All it takes is a more evolved version of toxoplasmosa, one that could to do us what it does to the rats. So, imagine if half the world suddenly had no instinct for self-preservation or rational thought. Even less than they do now, we mean. If you’re comforting yourself with the thought that it may take forever for such a parasite to evolve, you’re forgetting about all the biological weapons programs around the world, intentionally weaponizing such bugs. You’ve got to wonder if the lab workers don’t carry out their work under the unwitting command of the toxoplasmosa gondii already in their brains. If you don’t want to sleep at night, that is.”

4. Neurotoxins- Poisons that act on the nervous system. Certain neurotoxins can slow your bodily functions to the point that you’d be considered dead. The poison from fugu (Japanese blowfish) has the capability to do this. The victims of neurotoxin poisoning can then be brought back under the effects of a drug like datura stramonium or alkaloids that leave them in a trance-like state with no memory. In this state they are still able to perform simple tasks like eating, sleeping, moaning and shambling around with their arms outstretched.

There are reported cases of this actually happening in Haiti, which is where the word “zombie” comes from. Some of the most famous books on the subject are by Dr. Edmund Wade Davis: “Passage of Darkness” & “The Serpent and the Rainbow” Clairvius Narcisse was declared dead on 2 May 1962, and yet in 1980 returned alive to his home village of L’Estère in Haiti. After investigating reports of “zombis” (including Narcisse and a handful of others), researchers believed that Narcisse received a dose of chemical mixture containing Tetrodotoxin (pufferfish venom) and bufotoxin (toad venom) to induce a coma which mimicked the appearance of death. He was then allowed to return to his home where he collapsed, “died” and was buried. Ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who did the research on Tetrodotoxin explains that a Bokor would have given Narcisse a powder containing the Tetrodotoxin through abraded skin. Narcisse fell into a comatose state, closely resembling death which resulted in his live burial. His body was then recovered and he was given doses of Datura stramonium to create a compliant zombie-like state and set to work on a plantation. After two years, the plantation owner died and Narcisse simply walked away to freedom. Though there is no way to necessarily make this sort of zombie aggressive or cannibalistic; if such a thing was able to happen and on a wide enough scale.. we would certainly have a zombie problem.

3. Rage- A feeling of intense anger. It is associated with the Fight-or-flight response and oftentimes activated in response to an external cue, such as the murder of a loved one. The phrase, ‘thrown into a fit of rage,’ expresses the immediate nature of rage that occurs before deliberation. If left unchecked rage may lead to violence. Depression and anxiety lead to an increased susceptibility to rage.

In the movies 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later, the Rage Virus is a virus that turned human beings into mindless killing machines and is the cause for the zombie outbreak and subsequently the Zombie Apocalypse. Now, while the rage virus may not exist in the real world, we do have a series of brain disorders that do the same thing. They were never contagious, of course. Then, Mad Cow Disease came along. It attacks the cow’s spinal cord and brain, turning it into a stumbling, mindless attack cow. Combine the Mad Cow Disease with some people’s predisposition towards violence and there you have it.

2. Neurogenesis- The process by which neurons are generated from neural stem and progenitor cells. Most active during pre-natal development, neurogenesis is responsible for populating the growing brain with neurons. Some would even word it as being the method by which dead brain-tissue can be regrown.

Science can pretty much save you from just about anything but brain death; they can swap out organs but when the brain turns to mush, you’re basically dead. Right? Well apparently a dead body can be kept in a state of suspended animation to be brought back later. That just seems like it’s leading to bringing the dead back to life.. as long as they’re freshly dead. ya know.?. As nice as it sounds to have your loved one brought back from death’s very doorstep, the process of “reanimation” could cause a problem. The brain would die from the outside in. The outside of the brain, being the cortex, the part which makes people…. people. That would basically leave an individual a husk of their former self. Though the cortex isn’t needed for survival, you would be left a mindless shambling…zombie(for lack of a better word.). Take one freshly dead person, use the techniques of neurogenesis to regrow the dead brain-tissue or the brain stem and you have a living dead person, devoid of thought or personality.  All it takes is someone with considerable time, resources, and a need for a totally mindless workforce to obey their every wish.

1. Nanobots- Very small self-propelled machines, esp. ones that have some degree of autonomy and can reproduce. Basically they’re microscopic machines that can build or destroy anything.. in a matter of speaking.

Scientists have already created a nano-cyborg, by fusing a tiny silicone chip to a virus. One of the first things they found out was that these cyborgs can still operate for up to a month after the death of the host. Who knows…within a decade they may have nanobots that can crawl inside your brain and set up neural connections to replace damaged ones; rewiring your thoughts. Ask yourself…what could possibly go wrong with that? Nanobots in your brain after you’re dead… keeping your body moving and functioning and moving till there’s nothing left to move.  The nanobots would be programmed to self-replicate of course, and the death of the host would mean the end of the nanobots. In order to preserve themselves, they’d be forced to transfer to a new host. Therefore, the last act of the nanobot infested zombie would be to bite a hole in a healthy victim, letting the nanobots steam in and start the whole process all over again in the new host. Once in, they could shut down the part of the brain that resists (the cortex) and leave the brain stem intact. They would have added a new member to their undead ranks.

There you have it. Science has proven the possibility, feasibility, and the reality(No matter how unlikely it may be.) of a zombie outbreak.

All that’s left is surviving a Zombie Outbreak/Zombie Apocalypse. Good Luck.