GadgetMania RSB The thoughts and musings of Donald Brown longer than 140 characters It's time to federalize elections Wed, 25 Jan 2017 14:55:26 -0800 OK, the Resident in the White House is all concerned about voter fraud because that special snowflake just couldn't have gotten fewer votes than Hillary, he just couldn't have!

Very well, time to federalize elections involving candidates for the US Government (President, Senator, House of Representatives) - and might as well have the state elections handled as well. Here's what I'd do.

(1) National ID card, done in a way that any citizen can get one. By that I mean, in every community, there will be opportunities to get the card without losing a day or two of wages, liberal proof needed to get one (basically, needs to be proven you aren't a citizen to be denied one, rather than you must prove you are a citizen to get one). Frankly, I'd do without it, but that's not going to fly so we need an ID done right in a way that isn't discriminatory.

(1a) The National ID card has a strip readable by a computer. You can vote anywhere and you will get your local ballot, at least for the federal offices. This system will make sure that the same card can't be used in multiple places. If someone moves, a simple system of changing their stored "home" location will be provided.

(1b) Should a holder of a National ID card later be determined not to be a legal voter, their card will be voided and no longer able to be used for voting.

(2) Every community gets enough voting places that nobody has to take a long trip to get to their voting place, enough that long lines aren't required. The polls will be open from Sunday at 6pm local time through Tuesday at 6pm local time. All voting at booths will be done with marked paper ballots which are electronically read and counted. The paper ballots must be preserved for 5 years after an election. Early voting will be provided at times appropriate to the communities served. Absentee voting will also be allowed.

(3) For the Presidency, electoral college votes will be distributed in this way: The person winning the most votes in the state gets two electors. Each congressional district is counted separately and the candidate getting the most votes in that district gets one elector.

(4) The US Geological Survey will be responsible for the drawing of all Congressional districts, to ensure that all districts are drawn without political bias. A set of standards will be drawn up and approved by a bipartisan commission, the USGS will apply those standards to draw the districts.

See? All possibility of voter fraud removed. And in the process we get fairer elections. Exactly what Trump and the Republicans want, right?

Trump - time for some debates Fri, 11 Nov 2016 08:56:27 -0800 One of the many concerns about Trump being President is his willfull ignorance. That won't do. He needs to learn a lot about a number of issues, and not just from his echo chamber. So here's an idea that won't happen, but would be good at any time of transition.

Hold some debates.

Pick issues where there are people who disagree. Climate Change, Fracking, Trade, whatever. Find the experts on both sides (and let the advocates of a side pick their experts and presenters) and hold debates. Each side gets 45 minutes to make their best case, uninterrupted by the other. No in-studio audience (but air it on the web and C-SPAN). Then, 15 minutes of back and forth discussion, asking questions of each other and letting the other side answer. A moderator only exists to keep time and stop overtalking. Each side also prepares a website with their presentation and additional data supporting it.

Even if the President-Elect ignores what he heard and goes with his echo chamber, there'd have been a chance for new information to seep in. And should the President-Elect choose to reverse course on a policy, he's got things to point to about WHY.

I still support the Electoral College Fri, 11 Nov 2016 08:46:12 -0800 As anyone who knows me in person or followed me on any social media site, I'm not happy with how the election turned out. (Better descriptions would be infuriated, appalled, and scared shitless.)  Since Hillary won the popular vote, many people are saying "Do away with the electoral college" and there's even an end-run being tried to effectively do away with it without the public debate and messiness of actually amending the constitution.

I disagree. I support the Electoral College. Not to say it can't be improved, but I think it's good for the country. Why?

(1) We are a geographically and economically diverse nation. It IS important that the rural states with their different needs than big population urban centers get listened to. Without the Electoral College, candidates will go where the people are, the big cities, and pay little to no attention of the rest.

(2) We are a very closely divided country on the right and the left. The differences in popular vote are always, as a porportion of the total vote, very small. Elections are like trials - their most important task is to render a decision, give some finality to the process so we can move on.

(3) We are unfortunately diverse in how we count votes, and there are errors in how they are counted. You know when pollsters talk, they give "bounds of error" meaning that they know their numbers are near reality but probably not exactly right. Well... vote counts are like that too. That's why we do recounts in close elections, and even those recounts are open to error. A standardized voting system would have real advantages (particularly one setting forth number of voting areas needed per capita, number of booths, etc.) though potentially be more subject to hanky panky - and in any case I don't see that happening soon. The times when the Electoral College "got it wrong" is when the popular vote difference was VERY small. Yes, I'd say within the bounds of error.

Here's my fear if the Electoral College was ended. Right now, the election is over. My side lost and a horribly wrong person was elected, but it's a fact. Now we make plans for how to deal with the next four years, how to put pressure on Trump to limit the damage he'll do. Without the electoral college, we'd see recounts and challenges and court cases until January. It wouldn't even matter if, within a district, if the election was close. Picking up a few thousand more votes is just as good in a district where your candidate won in a blowout as a tight district or where you lost in a blowout. No candidate would be able to start a transition plan. At some point the courts would have to step in and say "The election results stand as they are" and won't THAT be a popular decision for the losing side.

Again, I don't think the Electoral College is perfect. Every state gets one EC voter per congressional district plus two for the two senators. I think ending winner-take-all is a fine idea, instead have two votes go based on the state-wide popular vote and then have each district pick a EC vote.

But if we're going to get incised about how we do elections, I'm MUCH more interested in standardizing and fixing the way we do it.

First, any required ID has to be easy to get, whether you're a middle class person who has had a driver's license all his life and a birth certificate in a safe deposit box, or a poor person who has never had a driver's license, the birth certificate was lost in a fire or maybe your parents never got one and the DMV is two bus rides away meaning you have to take a day off work to get it.

Set standards for vote by mail, number of polling places per capita, early voting so EVERYONE has a chance to vote. And an idea to consider - make it a voting week, 7 days. In high population areas, consider 24/7 voting. Nobody should have to choose between voting and working. Nobody should have to spend hours in line to vote. Nobody should have to stand in a half-mile long line to vote. We're better than that.

Use a computerized national system to track any instance of double-voting. Make that a felony. It'll be a huge waste of money for a problem that doesn't exist, but if I can get the rest I'll throw the right a bone.

And... END GERRYMANDERING. Put every redistricting plan to a non-partisan commission with a judge having to approve them. Every congressional district needs to be poportional to the state's population, as geometrically even as possible, and where possible make the political and ethnic diversity within the districts match the state as a whole.

But DONALD, I hear some whine, that will cost money for the states who can't afford it. OK, make the feds pay it. Feds pay for it, Feds run it. Our elections are worth it.

Two from Earth-2 - Macgyver and Lethal Weapon Sat, 15 Oct 2016 14:39:03 -0700 There are two reboots this season. I like to think of reboots as the "Earth-2" version. (If you don't know, in the DC universe, there are multiple earths with slightly or significant differences of the heroes we know - and if you don't know, I'm curious why you find my stuff interesting.) Both of these shows have some of the same touchstones - but only one really gets the feel.

First, the good - Lethal Weapon. No, this show is not high thoughtful drama, but neither were the movies. They've created a new arc for the characters, but the same interplay, the same chemistry - and the same tendency for things to go horribly wrong resulting in car crashes, windows blown out, and usually an explosion. It's just for popcorn munching - FUN popcorn munching.

Then the bad - Macgyver. I really want to like this, and I haven't completely given up on it. The guy playing Macgyver, he's got the patter right, he shows the confidence when pulling off a Macgyver trick. But... Mistake #1 - he's got a team as opposed to Mac going into a situation alone. Mistake #2 - Mac hates guns, won't use them. In one episode of the old series, he got a gun and disassembled it to use the parts. Earth-2's Mac doesn't like guns either - but that's OK, one of his teammates is a young Jack Dalton who always carries multiple guns and uses them with abandon.

But biggest mistake - in the pilot his girlfriend is on the team, but things go wrong and she's shot - except whoops, she wasn't really, she was in on the plot and so Mac's got a tragic backstory and is looking to track her down. Wrong. Mac has a settled mind, usually, so sees the solutions no one else does, how to put things together no one else can. He's got some history that on rare ocassions arises - but it's the exception as opposed to the norm. The real Mac is a happy geek making things happen.

And yet... there are bits where they get it just right. When recruiting a hacker from jail, he describes his role as "That stuff you do with computers? I do it with everything else." So I'm still watching it. But the towel waiting to be thrown in.

Just WTF does Trump think the Generals have been doing Thu, 08 Sep 2016 01:40:40 -0700 OK, I have HAD it with Trump's stupidity.

"I'll ask the generals to give me a plan within 30 days to destroy ISIS." IDIOT! You think until the Great Snakeoil Salesman gives they order they haven't worked on plans to destroy ISIS????

Here's my guess what they'll say:

Sir, we do not need 30 days, we do not need 30 minutes, here are the plans that represent our best thinking.

Plan 1 - Invasion. Massive numbers of boots on the ground. We take all of the ISIS controlled territories. Casualties will be significant. One issue will be separating out the ISIS members, can't even say it's a combatants vs. non-combatants because there's also a civil war going on. We almost certainly will wind up in a fight with the Syrian forces, Assad would not stand for another army in his country. There will almost certainly be massive civilian casualties which will radicalize the survivors creating the next terrorist threat.

Plan 2 - Massive bombing runs. Flatten all ISIS controlled territories. The ordinance required will probably require manned bomber runs and so will have some casualties, though less than Plan 1. Massive civilian deaths, survivors and relatives radicalized and quite ready to inflict what damage they can do to us - and to be honest, if someone did that to our country trying to take out some group, I'd feel the same.

Plan 3 - What we're doing now. Targetted drone attacks on leaders, provide support for armies in the area, and work to negotiate a resolution for the revolution in Syria. It's not fast, but it's working, ISIS has been forced out of most of the territory they had held. Minimizes civilian deaths, because the armed forces are neighbors may be viewed less as an invasion force and any desires for revenge will focus on the countries supplying troups.

On the nature of dictators Thu, 04 Aug 2016 02:17:43 -0700 Was having a discussion with someone on Twitter about whether dictatorships were left or right and things got past the 140 character limit. So I'll put my arguments together here.

Dictatorships can be recognized by an assumption of absolute power. No opposition is allowed. The population only has what rights the ruling person/party allows (and usually can withdraw those "rights" as desired). But there are several paths to dictatorship in our modern world, and no, they aren't all leftist. (I'm leaving out more historical methods like conquering territory or hereditary kingships/emperors)

Communist Dictators

These gain power with a message that the common man gets a raw deal because the rich have all the money and own all the businesses and treat everyone else as serfs to be abused. Lenin and Mao are the best examples. Once given power, they have the ability to seize anything and parcel it out "for the common good" that tends to be for the rulers' good. No opposition is allowed because the Party is the worker's party so any other party would be against the workers. (Yeah right). These dictatorships are strong left wing. Under them, while the common man's condition may improve from prior conditions (if you were poor and don't offend The Party), only members of The Party will thrive. Absolute top-down economic plans just don't work.

Side note: not all leftists are working towards communism or a dictatorship. No, socialism is not a synonym for communism.

Strong Man Dictatorships

In these cases, the general populace feels put upon but rather than a primary economics argument, the dictator promises to protect the people. They'll bring "Law and Order". They'll make the country great again. Often, they'll also talk about rebuilding the military and make the country strong. There will often be a scapegoat to blame for the country's problems (Jews, Communists, whatever) and they promise to crack down on that group. Opposition parties are "discouraged" and eventually banned because Our Fearless Leader is the one who knows where our country must go so anyone challenging him wants to take the country in the wrong direction.

Once in power, these dictators often don't fiddle much with economics and those with property can keep it (unless you're a member of the scapegoated groups). Businesses may thrive under the new regime, so they support it's continued existence. And even the general populace may prosper (again, the general populace not in the scapegoated groups) and the dictator may be popular for quite a while. But eventually the despotic nature asserts itself, Lord Acton is proven right again, and they're set for revolution.

Under the normal classification of political philosophies, these dictators are right because they aren't trying to run the economy and support capitalism (within limits). Examples of strong man dictators include Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Pinochet. (And yes, Hitler was a classic right-wing strong man dictator. The fact that he called his movement National Socialism has as much meaning as The Democratic Republic of Vietnam which was neither Democratic nor a Republic.

Religious Dictatorships

Or for a shorter word, theocracy. We must live under the rules of God as the ruling party believes them to be. No opposition is allowed because they want to take the country away from God. The economical system is dependent upon the religious belief system, though usually restricted capitalism will take place.

In modern times, these dictatorships are almost completely Muslim. But there have been Christian dictatorships (and there are those who speak as if they want to institute it here.

Is Israel a religious dictatorship? I don't believe so, because while it does identify as a Jewish State and many laws clearly favor jews (particularly orthodox jews), one can be a citizen in good standing and yet be in a member of another religion.

In theory, theocracies are neither inherently left or right. They are almost always the more conservative wing of the religion, but that's not the same as economic conservatism.

After the revolution

Once a dictatorship is in firm control, they do start to resemble each other. Whatever the initial justification for seizing power, holding onto that power becomes the top priority. Informers, harsh punishment for those who threaten the state, etc. The early ideals (if they were ideals as opposed to just political points) become less important than staying in power. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt and abbsolute power corrupts absolutely."



Three Good Trailers from SDCC Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:23:54 -0700 As the three regular readers of my blog know, I was at San Diego Comic Con last year. Probably won't go back, I knew going in that I dislike crowds and long lines and learned I really hate crowds and long lines. But it does have some of the geekiest stuff released there. A bunch of trailers came out this weekend:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This is my "Must See" movie of the year. It's in the Harry Potter Universe, but placed several years ahead of the stories in the books and has a plotline completely separate from the books. First, I'm a big Harry Potter fan, love the world she created. Love the books but thought the films suffered a bit, because they just couldn't put all that stuff in the movies. J.K. Rowling wrote this screenplay, so it's designed for the screen. It's part one of a trilogy and looks like a lot of fun.

Justice League

I've been REALLY skeptical of this movie. I hated Man of Steel and didn't like Batman v. Superman much more. So the news of building into a Justice League movie sounded bad. But... this trailer gives me hope. It's not nearly as dark as the first two, either in the color scheme or in tone. And yet they're clearly preparing for an epic fight. And yes, Aquaman is a badass as the King of the 7 Seas should be. It's just a trailer so plenty of time to mess it up, but there's some hope.

Wonder Woman

Similarly, as part of the fruit of the poisoned tree of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, I've been skeptical but the buzz has said that this would set its own tone. This trailer sets that. I'm loving that the Amazons are WARRIORS. Yes, they go into war in completely inappropriate garb, but it's a comic book. As for Wonder Woman herself, I like the way the costume works in action. And the shield standing up to the rifle shots, great. (Probably made of vibranium) I hope the glow on the magic lasso gets toned down a bit as they finish production, but other than that, look and feel is spot on.

And it also does have it's lighter side. Etta Candy was always good for a laugh and it's now a laugh with some snap. Steve Trevor is properly confused and off his game dealing with the Amazon Princess.

Gun Control - taking shit seriously Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:26:17 -0700 OK, it's time for some serious gun control. Here's my plan. No, the NRA won't like it. This is a feature, not a bug.


For the purpose of this act, a gun is defined as any weapon that fires projectiles at high speed with the potential to kill. This includes handguns, rifles, semi-automatics, etc.

Regulation of sales

#1 Anyone who sells more than one gun in a year (other than to a registered and licensed gun seller) must be registered and licensed as a gun seller. An unlicensed seller can only sell a gun owned for over a year. Licensed gun sellers must be licensed by the federal government and the state government. ANY infraction of laws concerning gun sales will result in a permanent loss of the license to sell guns. As part of the licensing, a gun seller must post a bond which will be forfeit if the license is revoked for cause.

#1a A gun sold by a non-registered gun seller must have been owned for one year. The seller is responsible for ensurring that the new owner register the gun to avoid the implications of Section 5.

#2 A registered and licensed gun seller must submit a potential buyer to a full and complete investigation. This will explore (a) criminal convictions, (b) mental health issues, (c) restraining orders, (d) recent passage of gun safety program, (e) inclusion in the terrorist watch list, (f) whether a gun has been purchased in the past 60 days. This investigation may take up to two months.

#3 Any individual can only purchase one guy every 60 days. Exceptions will be made for registered gun clubs, security companies, or other organizations as set forth by Congress.

#4 Anyone purchasing a gun or getting a carry license must have taken an approved gun safety course. This course will include graphic depictions of the victims of gun violence, safety issues, the law, and passing a “shoot/don’t shoot” simulation (the simulation can be done on a computer). A 51% score will be considered passing to purchase a gun, a 95% score will be considered passing to get a carry license.

#4a Every gun will be sold with a locked case. The code for the case will be sent to the owner 12 hours after the purchase, by SMS message, email, or paper mail.

Responsibility of gun ownership

#5 If a gun owned by a person is used to kill or seriously wound someone else in any situation other than self-defense, the gun owner is subject to negligent homicide charges. This includes the gun being stolen, a child finding the gun and accidentally killing someone, suicide by other than the owner, other accidental shots, etc. If the owner is a corporation, the president of the company will be subject to those charges. Exceptions can be made for on-site use at gun clubs or training organizations provided the person shot had signed a waiver.

#5a All guns must be registered with the weapon type, serial number, picture, owner name, address, social security number.

Carry restrictions

#6 Within the boundaries of a city with a population over (size to be determined), all guns taken out of the owner’s property must be carried within a locked gun safe. Anyone caught with an unlocked gun will have that gun seized and be arrested for 30 days. Individuals can apply for a license to carry up to two handguns. Applications must include reason for carrying the gun, passage of a gun safety course with a 95% score within the past six months. Any carry license shall be suspended while under a restraining order, and for one year after hospitalization for mental issues. States and/or cities can add additional requirements for receiving the license. In 2020, these carried guns must be equipped with smart technology ensuring that only the owner can operate the gun.

#6a Members of security organizations can issue more powerful weapons to members on duty. These guns must be collected from security officers at the end of shift. The responsibilities and penalties of Section 5 still apply.

#7 Outside of the the cities listed in #6 - Any state, county, municipality, or property owner can demand that the same limitations on carrying be upheld. Clear signs must be posted telling gun owners of this fact, unclear signage can be used as a defense. Additionally, property owners can ban the carrying of guns even with license. Again, clear signage is required.

#8 No limitation is placed on guns kept on the owner’s property. Those who feel the need to build a large collection of weapons for hunting or protection or other reasons may do so, albeit very slowly. However, the penalties of Section 5 would apply even on the gun owner's private property.


#9 In the first six months of this act, gun owners may turn in their guns for a tax deduction equal to the market value of the gun prior to the passing of this act. These guns must be turned into a recognized law enforcement agency that must ensure the destruction of the weapons. Any guns turned in that were not destroyed and used under circumstances listed in #5 will subject the leader of the law enforcement agency to the penalties listed therein. Guns not turned in or sold to a licensed gun seller must either be registered within these six months or be made permanently inoperative.

#10 In the first twelve months of this act, the license requirement is waived under Section 6 (though restriction on weapon types still applies).

My proposed debate format Sun, 28 Feb 2016 06:52:02 -0800 (1) The candidates are put in soundproof booths. They can hear all that goes on, but the mic is controlled

(2) Only one candidate's mic is live at a time. A candidate can signal the moderators that he or she would like to respond to something.

(3) When a candidate starts throwing around insults, or saying something known to be false, the microphone is shut off.

(4) If the microphone has to be shut off three times, the booth is lowered from the stage and the debate continues without that candidate.

(5) Any candidate refusing to participate will be the subject of at least 5 prime-time television ads describing them as a coward who apparently doesn't have the self-control to think they'll be able to handle the debate format.

Are you for America or not? Thu, 25 Feb 2016 09:01:26 -0800 I've been arguing in various forums the pro-rights side with regards to the Apple vs. FBI disagreement. Someone responded with "It's Principle. Are you for America or not?"

Here's my reply:

Oh yeah. "Are you now, or have you ever been a communist" "America, Love it Or Leave It" - Sonny, I'm 56 years old and I've seen that felgercarb thrown around time and time again by people who don't have an actual argument but hope they can scare people into supporting them.

Oh, and yes, I am for America. A country founded on the idea that citizens are not serfs or the property of the state, but free individuals with inalienable rights. Some of those rights are listed in the Bill of Rights, but as the Bill of Rights itself points out, it is not an enumeration of the rights of the citizens but a few called out for special concern.

Privacy is key to those rights. Self-determination is also at the core. The FBI is asking the court to take away the self-determination of those at Apple to create the code they choose to build reflecting the values of Apple and its employees and instead create a tool that Apple considers immoral and dangerous, one that endangers the privacy of every Apple customer - and insists that Apple give it their approval by digitally signing it.

I say NO! NO! This is America. This is a land of rights. This is wrong.

Does that mean some bad guys may escape justice, even very very bad guys? Perhaps (though it should be a message to the FBI to pursue other leads, which they are doing). But we have many protections for individuals that sometimes let bad guys escape justice. We don't let the police beat confessions out of people. We let people talk to lawyers, doctors, and priests and have those conversations beyond the reach of the law. We allow companies to sell and individuals to buy paper shredders. We do this because the horrific acts of bad people, even terrorist attacks like San Bernadino or even 9/11, do not change who are unless we let it. We remain America after attacked. But if we turn our back on our heritage and our fierce determination to protect our liberty, we would no longer be America.

It's principle. Are you for America or not?

It's not a great night for Trump Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:06:55 -0800 First, yes, it's a good night for Trump - any win is a good night. But I don't think it is as great as it seems.

This is a weird year. Normally, after Iowa, a third to half of the field is ready to fold their tents. Then New Hampshire puts the final nail in the coffins of the weaker candidates, we're down to two or three candidates with potential and maybe another dead man walking. I was sure that was what would happen after Iowa, but after tonight's result, there are five or six candidates who still see a chance - only Carson and Fiorina are clearly out of it. (And even they might see a reason to keep going.)

But eventually the winnowing will happen. We'll be down to two or three candidates. And those supporting the candidates leaving the race will switch to other candidates. And with the possible exception of Carson - I don't see any non-Trump candidate whose followers would gravitate to Trump.

If the winnowing happens in time. South Carolina will be like New Hampshire, Trump won't get close to 50% but the other candidates will split the non-Trump vote and so it will look like a significant win. The important date is March 15th - primaries after that date are "winner takes all" so even a 33% win gets all delegates.


About the Iowa Caucuses - it's about the tickets, not the winners Mon, 01 Feb 2016 21:14:09 -0800 People are talking about who won Iowa, who lost Iowa, etc. - and it really doesn't matter.

Iowa's caucuses serves two purposes. First, although it's less true than it used to be, it's small size is the equivalent of opening a play off Broadway. You have a chance to get attention for less than it would cost in California, etc. Someone who doesn't have a chance can make a splash and get attention.

Second, we kick people out of the race. You don't have to win in Iowa, being #1 is just bragging rights. But you have to show you're serious and can get some following, or your run is over. This is usually called "earning a ticket out of Iowa". There's always two tickets out of Iowa, usually three tickets, rarely four. If you got a ticket, that's a win. If you didn't get a ticket, that's a loss. Whether you got the #1, #2, or #3 ticket really doesn't matter.

So Cruz, Trump, and Rubio continue their campaigns, and maybe Carson convinces himself "I've still got a chance". Everyone else goes home, disappointed but without the debts from a full campaign. On the other side - Clinton and Sanders fight on, and O'Malley probably folds his tent soon.

Does this mean that some candidates get weeded out who shouldn't? Depends on the meaning of "shouldn't". Neither Cruz nor Trump nor Rubio would've been my choice if I'd still lived in Iowa (but then, none of the candidates had my enthusiastic support). But it's no surprise that the others would be sad today, or any real reason to think they'd do really well elsewhere, the only surprise tonight is how well Rubio did.


The HTTPS mandate - annoying, overreaching, not the apocalypse Sun, 31 Jan 2016 16:41:40 -0800 Google's Chrome browser and Mozilla's Firefox browser will soon be flagging sites that aren't encrypted. This is a minor annoyance to me, a greater annoyance to Dave Winer, and from what I've read, confusion with others. So here's my take on it:

First, the basics, what is HTTPS (skip ahead if you know this) - much of the web's core systems were designed when the Internet was used by a small group of relatively trustworthy academic types. One of the side effects is that data is sent unencrypted. So when you go to a website and either see a kitten picture, or discuss your medical conditions, or do online banking, anyone on the network could see whatever you do and capture anything you type. So yes, anyone on your network can see that you're reading this blog.

HTTPS is an improvement to encrypt everything between your browser and the web server. Not only can others not see what you're typing or reading, they can't even see what pages you're visiting. This is important for a number of activities like online banking or buying stuff online, and great for things you want to keep private. There are those who want to keep everything private, and wish every site was HTTPS - but can't because many websites don't support it.

To support HTTPS with your website, you need to buy a certificate from a place like, set it up on your website, and start giving out URLs with https:// instead of http:// - this has gotten a lot cheaper in the past few years, and easier. But it is an expense, and something you need to keep updated on the server.

BTW, there are two types of SSL certificates. There are verified certificates, where they make sure that I am indeed the one and only GadgetDon, doing business as gadgetdon. These are more expensive, and you have to jump through a number of hoops to qualify for it. Apple Computer has done this, as has Google, so when you visit those sites you know it's the real thing. Unverified certificates say nothing about who owns the site and just encrypts. And that's plenty for the vast, vast majority of sites.

Until recently, unencrypted was the norm, encrypted sites using https were less common and marked with a "lock" in the URL address bar. And a generation of education about "before you enter sensitive data, look for the lock!"

What's changing now

Firefox and Chrome browsers are going to put up a symbol on unencrypted sites, in part to warn users when their data isn't being encrypted and in part to push more websites into using https.

(1) They aren't blocking unencrypted sites, they aren't putting up a big warning saying "WARNING! THIS SITE IS DANGEROUS" (like they do with sites with known malware), it's just a small icon.

(2) I'm not sold on the need of this. But I'm a pretty advanced user and once every few months I do encounter a website where I think "damn, this should be encrypted". So what's the tradeoff between warnings on the vast majority of unencrypted sites that really don't matter that they're unencrypted vs. the few that REALLY need warnings on them? Google and Chrome came down on "warn"

(3) If you're on the fence of whether to encrypt your site, I'd say "go for it". I'm not encrypting, but there are a few articles I didn't write because it could be sensitive. Side effect - if you are getting email from the same server, your email gets encrypted too, and some of that CAN be sensitive. And it's never been cheaper or easier to encrypt it.

(4) After all these years seeing how few people notice a "lock" icon or favicons - I doubt that many people will even notice the icon. Those who do, most will understand "oh it's just saying it's not encrypted" - and if it doesn't matter, won't care.

T-Mobile's Binge On is a Net Neutrality violation. Which is Net Neutrality's fatal flaw Wed, 11 Nov 2015 00:42:05 -0800 Samsung has a deal where if you buy a 4K Samsung TV, you get a free Samsung Galaxy 6. While I'm not in the market for a 4K TV of any brand nor particularly interested in a Galaxy 6, this is considered a good thing for the customer. On a much smaller stage, this past summer, the local grocery store offered a tub of free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream with purchase of some frozen pizzas (and yes, I took advantage of the deal, the pizza was OK but the ice cream was great).

Apparently, I conspired to a violation of Ice Cream Neutrality, the grocery store picking winners and losers in the ice cream market. Except nobody talks about Ice Cream Neutrality. And what's considered acceptable behavior in every other market, make customers happy and thus loyal by giving them FREE STUFF, is an attempt to control the Internet.

There are some potential risks of bad behavior by ISPs that justify many parts of Net Neutrality regulation. ISPs should NOT be allowed to block or artificially slow down traffic to sites they don't like or are in competition with services they provide. And if they get in bed with one provider, maybe that's iffy (really iffy there's any connection between that provider and the ISP).

But what T-Mobile has done with their music products and now video is provide free access to all the major players without counting against the monthly data limit. Does this put Joe's Video Shoppe at a disadvantage? Maybe. But they're already at a great disadvantage. And it's not like people only use one service. So for the three T-Mobile customers who do use Joe's Video Shoppe, they haven't been charged for the bandwidth used watching Netflix and Amazon Prime so it's easier to decide to stream stuff from Joe's Video Shoppe because you have more room.

More importantly - T-Mobile is providing FREE STUFF. Customers usually like regulations because they benefit them directly. They get protected from faulty stuff sold to them, they make sure prices are properly labelled, etc. (Yes, there are arguments that some regulations make things worse, make prices go up, etc. - but that's a side issue.) If those who are arguing that what T-Mobile does is a violation of Net Neutrality and the FCC must stop them get their way, the public is going to ask "what are we getting out of this? And legitimately so.


Why I don't want sequels to movies I love like Inside Out Sat, 07 Nov 2015 18:50:20 -0800 Just rewatched Inside Out. It has become my favorite Pixar movie. And one I pray will never get a sequel. Why?

I read something once, I think it was from David Gerrole, two basic rules of story-telling. The first is that it must be the most important story ever in the main character's life (or why are you telling THIS story instead of the other one?). The second is that there always has to be a lesson to be learned. There's no place like home, value you're friends, a hero is someone who keeps people safe. It doesn't HAVE to be learned, that's one thing that makes many tales into tragedies, but we as the audience should see someone not learning it.

Obviously these can't be taken as absolutes or as the only rules that matter. As I recall, he was pointing out how episodic TV like Star Trek had to break it (with many stories each season, and they could be aired in any order so characters had to end pretty much where they were). But when I look at the movies and books I love most, there's a lot of truth in it.

Sometimes, books are written as series (the Harry Potter series is one story, broken up into episodes). And sometimes, you get a great sequel by changing the focus of the story. (The Godfather Part II is largely the story of the son, and how it differs.) And sometimes, you can just break the rules and do great stuff.

But still, they aren't bad rules. And Inside Out is a great example. SPOILERS BELOW.

The main character of the movie is Joy, the main emotion of a girl named Riley. There's also Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but it's pretty much accepted that Joy is in charge, and a good day is when the memories are mostly joyful. A bad day is when Sadness gets near the memories or the console and Riley is sad.

Things go badly wrong, Joy and Sadness are sucked out of Headquarters with the core memories that make up Riley's personality, and the movie is mostly about the struggle to get back there (plus the problems that the other emotions have trying to run the show and the effect on Riley's life). In the process, Joy realizes that she's hurting, not helping Riley by keeping sadness locked away and not allowing her to work through the times she's unhappy. When Joy and Sadness return to Headquarters, she has Sadness take control, letting Riley cry out her troubles and have her parents see her unhappy and help her rather than relying on Riley to cheer everything up. Moving on, they now have a control where all emotions have a role to play, and the memories developed have twinges of multiple emotions.

It was a really great movie, the kind Pixar used to do but slipped a bit recently. It's also been financially successful and a critical hit. So I'm sure that Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, is thinking "sequel!"

Don't do it, Bob, don't do it.

This clearly was Joy and Sadness's most important story, that journey back. In the world they've created, the emotions never leave HQ, it's unheard of. So a story of another trip out just isn't reasonable. There will never be another story as big as this for the emotions. Yes, Riley will go on to bigger adventures, but Inside Out isn't about her except as the effect of the story that the emotions go through.

And more important - Joy has learned her lesson. She will want Riley to be happy and give her lots of happy memories, but she knows now that it's more complicated than that, that the other emotions have a role to play in Riley's development and mental health. To do a new story where she's unlearned that lesson, well, that's just going to make a very weak sequel.

That's not to say that I won't enjoy little shorts, like "Riley's First Date?", they can be short and cute and just for fun. Just no sequel.

BTW, I have very similar concerns about a sequel to The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible had to learn about living in the present, caring for his family and people around him. That's what lifted it from Just Another Superhero movie (and I say that as someone who often likes Just Another Superhero movie). Not sure where to go with a sequel, and apparently that question is what has delayed it. I trust Brad Byrd when he says that they got the right story for the sequel, but it's why I'm glad they did let it go so long.

Dear Sigmund - Man, I've missed M*A*S*H Thu, 05 Nov 2015 22:02:59 -0800 Was flipping through channels, and happened upon an old rerun of M*A*S*H. The episode was Dear Sigmund, where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman deals with depression by a visit to the 4077 MASH unit. I'd forgotten how good they mixed comedy and drama in 30 minutes.

I'm not sure I buy it, though, someone able to deal with depression by visiting the 4077. No, it's not clinical depression, it's experiential, so other experiences and ways of thinking can help one get out of it.  But as someone in a situation that's sometimes not so good, not sure experiencing people deal with it will help.

But don't overthink it. If you haven't seen it for a while, apparently it's on YouTube. Definitely worth a rewatch.

Going back to the drawing board Wed, 04 Nov 2015 19:40:47 -0800 I've mentioned before I'm designing a board game, thought I had a pretty good design. But got a real surprise in the most rigorous playtest yet. The feeling of risk that I'd thought was there, they weren't feeling it at all.

Gremlins In Space is meant to be a casual co-op game. So I wasn't expecting the players to be overly challenged. But still, with Gremlins appearing on board ship every turn, I thought there would be some sense of pressure. But they had it well in hand.

I think I may be going back to sabotage cards, but this time the gremlins are still there, causing the sabotage. Each turn, after the gremlins get zapped, they work on their sabotage. But how do I make it both challenging and yet not a losing proposition for casual players.

It's a bit dispiriting - I really thought I had it solid. Now, back several steps.

#TheLibrarians are back for Season Two. And it's going to be great! Tue, 03 Nov 2015 18:18:35 -0800 The Librarians is a series on TNT. Only ten episodes a season, and the season opener was a two-parter, so they have to make the best of each show.

They did. Oh boy did they ever. tl/dr version - this new series is FANTASTIC and I'm looking forward to see what happens next (and wishing there'd be more than 10 episodes in the season). Oh and it's not too soon to start wishing for Season Three.

If you don't know, it started with a made-for-TV movie, The Librarian and the Quest for the Spear, first aired in 2004. In it, Flynn Carson, played with wonderful geekiness by Noah Wylie (ER, Falling Skies, and he also was Steve Jobs in Pirates of Silicon Valley) is a perpetual student. He's earned 22 Ph.D.s and wants to earn more, but his professor kicks him out of school to go learn in the real world. He gets recruited by The Library, a secret organization under the New York Metropolitan Library. The Library is where all sorts of powerful magical artifacts are stored, protected from the outside world and vice versa. It's run by Judson (Bob Newhart at his deadpan best even when he kicks ass in a fight. Yes you read that right. Bob Newhart kicks ass in a fight) and Charlene (Jane Curtain also shining in her role). There is ever only one Librarian who goes out and stops magical threats and retrieves dangerous artifacts, and new Librarians are thrown into the deep end to see if they drown. They do get a guardian. Yes, the movie was more than a little cheesy and the special effects were more than a little cheap - but it was FUN!!! If you haven't seen Quest for the Spear, go get it and rent it. On iTunes, it's listed in with TV shows. It's also on Hulu if you have a subscription, and Amazon to rent/buy.

Two sequels were created, The Librarian: Return to King Soloman's Mines and The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalet. Both fun, though frankly didn't have the hold on me that Quest for the Spear had. There had been rumors that there might be a fourth movie someday, which would be nice, then the anouncement came of a series, The Librarians, starting last season.

In Season One, the main bad was Dulaque, played deliciously by Matt Frewer. Someone was killing the other potential candidates when Flynn became the Librarian. Three are saved - an art historian, a thief, and a mathematical genius with a brain tumor. A guardian is also recruited, against Flynn's wishes. To keep the contents of the Library out of the hands of the Serpeant Brotherhood, Charlene and Judson break the Library's connection to our world. Season one is about the three Librarians In Training going on adventures while being trained (and protected by the guardian) while Flynn is out there looking for a way to get the Library back (and while Noah Wylie is filming episodes of Falling Skies). Loved it, one of my favorites from last season, and was thrilled it got renewed.

Season Two premiered Sunday night, and it's off to a great start. This time, while the Library is back, it's not quite working right. Also, Prospero (yes, Shakespear's The Tempest's Prospero) is using the magic released into the world in Season One to seek power.

Going to get into some spoilers from here on. BEWARE! SPOILERS BELOW!

Good nerd action movies need a great villain to keep interesting. Chuck, a favorite of mine, had a great villain in Season Two with Chevy Chase, suffered with a weak villain played by Brandon Routh, and picked up with Timothy Dalton. The show runners behind The Librarians know this. Season One, Dulaque was great because he both enjoyed playing the villain and yet thought he was a hero - and once he was, he was actually Sir Lancelot of Camelot, out to restore the glory days. The keeper of the Annex of the Library, Jenkins (played by John Laroquette at his annoyed best) turns out to have been Galahad. Dulaque was defeated at the end of the Season One finale, but not necessarily destroyed, which makes me hopeful he'll be back. Alas, his faithful assistant Lamia, also lots of fun, won't be - Dulaque killed her to open the door to the Loom of Fate.

Season Two will focus on fictionals, fictional characters brought to life. Prospero's tale was told so often and with such fervor that he was made real on his own, others are summoned by Prospero. His assistant is Moriarty, and he's at best a reluctant assistant. I forsee fun things when Moriarty is able to turn the corners on Prospero. We've also seen Alice through the Looking Glass's Red Queen, and the book version of Frankenstein's Monster (which, if you didn't know, is NOT afraid of fire - but Flynn and Ezekial find other ways of dealing with him).

This is going to be a great fun ride coming up!

New Star Trek series! YAY! Only through CBS All Access! BOOOOOO! No details? WTFFFFF? Mon, 02 Nov 2015 09:15:26 -0800 Those who know me, know that I am a major Trekkie. (Or Trekker, if you prefer, never cared for that controversy.) So the news about the new Star Trek series should be the highlight of my day. Scratch that, highlight of my week. Naw, highlight of my month! There's still lots of stories to be told, and I always thought Star Trek was better as a series telling individual shorter stories than big blockbuster movies.

But today's announcement (click here) leaves me annoyed and pissed off. It's great that it will be available on ways other than plain old TV, but CBS All Active is (a) overpriced and (b) if I was going to pick any service based on content, it's pretty near the bottom.

I'm also a Marvel fan, and was mildly annoyed at the series coming out on Netflix (was a Luke Cage fan back in the day, so a series with him is exciting). But only mildly annoyed, because I've been a Netflix subscriber in the past, and they've got a lot of stuff I'm interested in.

So, not happy about the service it's on. But that's only half of why I'm pissed off.

Read the announcement. They're doing a new series with new characters. AND THAT'S ALL THEY'RE SAYING. Not about when it's placed (classic trek/new trek movies? Going back? Going forward?). Not about the setting (Another Enterprise? Another ship? Starfleet Academy?). The only details are about the service, how it will be aired. That bothers me, and that worries me.

Because I suspect that means they don't have those details. They don't have a vision of what they're doing. It's all about cranking the money wheel.

Worst, because it's on digital, it's probably not going to get the funding that a network show would get. So they'll have to cut corners. That's not inherently bad, many shows on cable did creative things to get by with less money. Digital effects have gotten better and cheaper, so you can do good TV on a budget (the Librarians Season Two opener was great TV on a budget). But those details they didn't include would help show if we're going to get cost-effective Star Trek or just cheap Star Trek.

Maybe I'm overworrying this, and my displeasure with it tied to CBS All Access is making me overly cranky. But every past Star Trek announacement, even the one for TNG that was part of the creation of the UPN cable network, talked about the story, where they were going. That this announcement is just about how it's delivered makes me unhappy.

Day 1, #NaBloWriMo Sun, 01 Nov 2015 17:12:16 -0800 This is the start of NaNoWriMo, a nationwide thing to write a novel in a month. Every year I promise myself I'll particpate, and every November for one reason or another I'm not in a position to do so. But I do want to do more writing, so I'm doing something else, write something on my blog every day. I'll do my best to make it worth reading - some personal philosophy, some reviews (Day two will be about The Librarians, almost certainly), maybe some pictures, and hopefully a short story or two. Appreciate all who read it, appreciate comments even more (hint hint hint!)

Why? I sometimes think of being a writer, I think I've got stories to tell. And I've got to get into the habit of writing. So this is putting a pinky into it.

Yes, I use my own blogging software that doesn't have comments, comments over twitter/facebook preferred.

Back To The Future Trilogy - Fatal Flaws done well and poorly Thu, 22 Oct 2015 15:14:39 -0700 Last night I went to the theaters for a maraton showing of all three Back To The Future movies. Yes, it was incredible geeky fun seeing them on the kinda big screen again (it was a multiplex, after all).

But I was able to put my finger on my problems with BTTF 2, largely but not completely ameleorated with BTTF3. It's Marty's Fatal Flaws.

I've read that every interest character (definitely every interesting hero/protagonist) has to have a fatal flaw), and the difference between victory and tragedy is his ability to deal with it. (Or her, granted.)

In the first Back To The Future, Marty is smart, talented, can see options, etc. - but his fatal flaw is his lack of confidence. He can't send in the mix tape because people might not like it, say he's no good, and it paralyzes him into inaction. He's aware of it, can be pushed/push himself out of it, but it's there dragging him down. By seeing it in his young father (I don't need spoiler alerts, do I?), plus accomplishing some great stuff, he's able to deal with his fatal flaw - it may still pop up, but he can handle it. Yay! Victory!

In BTTF 2 and 3, he's got a sorta related but very different fatal flaw. He cannot abide being called a coward, so when people suggest that, he sets aside all reason and rationality and says "I'll do it". If he's aware, he doesn't show it, and in BTTF 2 it's completely incontrollable. Want to completely change every plan of Marty? Call him a coward. Even though it causes him problems every time we see him give in to the dare, he doesn't even try to argue his way out.

In BTTF 3, when he's being called out by Mad Dog Tanner, he's able to beat it down. Hooray! Marty is cured! Later, when the event happens in modern day that was to have ruined his life, no more fatal flaw, yippee!

I didn't like it.

First, maybe it's just me, the lack of self-confidence was more relatable. More importantly, it was a flaw, not a compulsion. Marty struggling with his flaw is interesting, even when he fail. Marty doing something stupid because of his flaw is a time to apply palm to forehead.

Worst, in BTTF 2, it's just something that happens. There's no struggle with his fatal flaw, it's just a cheap, lazy script bit to make a smart guy do something incredibly stupid. It's not until BTTF 3 that Marty appears to be aware of how much it negatively affects his life and that he has a choice not to give in. I suspect that's because BTTF 2 and 3 were filmed back to back so they were saving it for 3 - but in all other ways, BTTF 2 is it's own story (as is BTTF 3).

I did enjoy all three movies. There's a lot of good stuff in BTTF 2, and a whole lot of good stuff in BTTF 3. But I think I'd have enjoyed it more without the cheap "call me coward? I'll show you! I'll do something stupid!" bit.

New Game: Thug Wars Mon, 21 Sep 2015 19:56:42 -0700

I'm entering a contest for designing a game with just 18 cards - and nothing else. My first entry is thug wars where two players form a small gang and go to war. They start by drafting four, then go through the remaining cards trying to hurt the other gang while improving their own.

After the battle, Boss Adams has a power of 24, no special scoring rules apply.

But Boss Mosty got 34!  The Baker brothers are stronger together, so they're each worth 8  3 x 8 is 24, plus 10 for Cain Kriss. So Boss Mosty wins, Boss Adams sleeps with the fishes.

it's still in testing  if you want to download and print it out, click here.

I'll be playtesting Gremlins In Space at #Strategicon Mon, 24 Aug 2015 22:13:59 -0700

A week from Friday, I'm heading to the LAX Hilton for Strategicon, a really great local board game convention. For the first time, I'll be running sessions, where I'm going to try to lure people in to play Gremlins In Space.

I've shown bits and pieces here, but I think it's ready for the public to have at it. If you're in the Los Angeles area and like board games, come join us. If you're doing, please sign up for my play tests, it'll be so embarassing if I'm sitting there alone.

Gremlins In Space is a light co-op game, 1-4 players, plays in about 30 minutes. We're trying to get some art ready for the prototype boxes (and trying to get the prototypes ready). I'm looking forward to this.

There's also a Game Jam on Saturday, create a game in a very short time. I hope I get put in a good team!

Ant-Man, Kinda weird, a little silly, lots of fun! Fri, 17 Jul 2015 21:05:17 -0700 I saw Ant-Man this morning. I loved it. It's very different from other more recent Marvel movies.

In the Cold War, Hank Pym and his wife Janet worked with SHIELD as Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Wasp sacrificed herself to get into a rogue nuclear missle, shrinking too far and sliping into a quatum universe. Hank abandoned super hero work, trying to find some way to get Janet back - and refused to give SHIELD and Howard Stark the secret of his size changing technology.

Jump forward to today. Hank's old assistant has almost recreated the technology. Hank needs a thief. And Scott Lang was just let out of prison...

There's something inherently silly about a superhero who shrinks, and the movie doesn't ignore that. On the other hand, there are great fight sequences that show that yes, Ant-Man is a true super-hero. Unlike the other heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scott needs training to know how to use the shrinking suit - and it doesn't come that easily.

But he learns. He has an epic fight with The Falcon, and then the main fight is on. Heroics and severe ass-kicking takes place. And you'll never look at Thomas the Tank Engine again - but the fights are still deadly and a sense of real threat.

Scott does have some sidekicks, and I think the movie would've been stronger without them. But given the decision to include them, the sidekicks step up well.

There are two extra scenes in the credits (one in the middle, one after credits) that are must sees. It's pretty clear that Ant-Man will be in Captain America: Civil War, and will be on Team Cap

If you're looking for a serious drama, this isn't it. But if you want fun and some real heroics, you want to see this movie.

The End Of All Things by John @Scalzi Sun, 05 Jul 2015 16:23:39 -0700 The latest book of John Scalzi's epic Old Man's War series comes out on August 11th: The End of All Things. But it was released as four eBooks this past month, and I've enjoyed it tremdously.

First, as much as I've enjoyed it, this books should NOT be your introduction to this series. The prior book, The Human Division, ended on a cliffhanger and The End Of All Things picks up after it. At a minimum, you really want to read The Human Division first. It's also good, and for a short time the eBook versions are on sale for $3.99. Make sure you get the full Human Division - it also was released serially so some eBook stores may still have the separate parts.

I think the Human Division will get you into the series well enough. If you want to do it right, you should first read the initial book, Old Man's War. There are three books between OMW and HD (Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoe's Tale) but Human Division picks up pretty well. And personal opinion, the middle books aren't my favorites. They aren't bad books, just not the sort of book I like to read many times.

I'm not sure what I can say without giving out a bunch of spoilers, or trying to recap five books without spoiling any of them. Briefly, the epic is about the Colonial Union, who governs, protects, and expands a number of human colonies in a universe filled with unfriendly aliens (some given good reason to be unfriendly). The Colonial Union builds its armies by recruiting 75 year old men and women from Earth and putting them into young genetically modified bodies. Old Man's War covers the early career of John Perry. The Colonial Union has been doing this for 200 years, and other than 3/4 of all soldiers dying, it works pretty well. But in the Last Colony, things go wrong. The Human Division is about the Colonial Union having to shift to diplomacy, and a hidden group causing trouble. The End of All Things is the fight with the no-longer hidden group.

Why do I love this series? First, I find the world fascinating and well thought out. Actions have consequences, even if those actions take a while. And even more, I love the characters.

Harry Wilson, in HD and EoaT, is a Colonial Defense Forces soldier who left Earth on the same ship as John Perry. He can fight and he's good at it - but he's more at ease dealing with tech, and he's been assigned to a diplomatic team as a technical advisor and trainer. I like his attitude - he takes his job serious, but not life. Ode Abumwe is a Colonial Union Ambassador who doesn't seem to like people that much - but there are layers, and she's good at her job. Hafte Sorvalh is an alien who is a troubleshooter for the head of the Conclave.  And a new major character is Rafe Daquin, who starts as a pilot and becomes a brain in a box controlling a ship - but he's a smart brain in a box.

These are all clever people solving problems, and solving them in unusual ways. (Other problems pop up that are unusual, so that's important.)

I really enjoyed the four parts of End of All Things and I'm looking forward to the final compiled book (with a few extras). I listen to audiobooks more than I read these days, and this is going to be great.