Last.Played 1.1 Released

An update for the Last.Played pod for blogCFC has been released. 

Nothing too major, but if your site gets moderate traffic, then this should reduce the number of error messages you get due to XML contention.  So instead of having the XML file with the song information get hit up on every call of the pod, the values are instead stored in the Application scope of your site.

Head on over to the main Last.Played page to get your updated copy.

Thanks For Wasting More Taxpayer Money, Senator Spectre

money-down-toilet So, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spectre seems intent on wasting more of Congress' time and taxpayer money into figuring out why the NFL destroyed the “Spygate” videos.  I mean, it couldn't be as simple as not wanting other teams to be able to get their hands on them as well to the expense of the Jets.  Nope, they had to be trying to cover something up.  Instead, he has to take a vendetta on behalf of Steelers and Eagles fans (who, by the way, don't particularly care any more) to take down the Patriots and the league.

Glad to see that our government is taking the time to focus on the big issues instead of getting into issues like Spygate and Roger Clemens' performance enhancing drug use…

Why The Grammy's No Longer Matter…

grammy01Last night, they held the 50th Annual Grammy Awards as The Recording Academy  tried desperately to hang on to it's last shred of relevance…

…and then it all flew right out the window.

I have to admit that it's been a long time since I found the Grammy's relevant.  Heck, I found MTV's VMAs more relevant until 10 years ago when they threw the awards away for a teenage popularity contest (I'm pretty sure this year Hannah Montana will win every VMA).  My interest in the show is so low that I probably would have watched the completely worthless Pro Bowl first.

It's not just that the show is boring, but the Academy has continued to show that it is unable to keep up with the evolution of music over the past two decades.  Major awards go to one hit wonders, half of the nominated songs and albums you've probably never even heard, and many of the winners are simply the most popular artists (especially in the Rock category, as the most popular artists seem to be the only ones the judges have even heard of).

Looking at this year's nominees and winners, it seems like some kind of bad joke.  Amy Winehouse taking home five awards for one average song (and I'm being kind calling it average…I think it's awful).  Telling that to one co-worker today, I was told, “Well, she has a beautiful voice.”  That's great, but the award is called “Record of the Year”, not “Has A Pretty Voice”.

And how many people even knew Herbie Hancock was still making music?  I haven't heard anything from him since “Rockit” back in the 80's.

And the Foo Fighters, whose 2007 release pales in comparison to some of their past works, won the “Best Rock Album” over Daughtry, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen and Wilco.  Heck, I can list at least four other album releases from last year that were better than the “Best Rock Album” and weren't even nominated (Paramore – Riot!, Linkin Park – Minutes To Midnight, Hard-Fi – Once Upon A Time In The West, and The Bravery – The Sun And The Moon).

Even Feist, who provides the music in those divinely irritating Apple ads these days, received several nominations.

So, as The Recording Academy desperately searches for relevance in a continually diversifying world of music, they just can't seem to get it right.  Next year, turn off the crap they call a show, and turn on your favorite tunes.  Even if nobody else agrees, go ahead and enjoy what you like best.

Politically Speaking: My Take On The Issues

Before you have any serious political discussion, especially regarding presidential candidates, I believe that it is important to identify where we are coming from.  Therefore, I am going to present here my take on a number of the key political issues that have and will continue to come up over the next nine months.

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Iraq / Middle East

First off, let me just say that I'm not happy we got involved in this mess in the first place.  However, now that we are where we are, I have to say I'm conflicted.  I hate playing “police” to the rest of the world; being chastised when we don't get involved in some situations, and being condemned for getting involved in others.  I'd love to be able to step back and say “Hey, it's your problem…deal with it”.  However, that's unlikely to happen any time soon.

On the other hand, I'm sure that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would simply lead to mass chaos.  There's almost no leadership in position to try and run the country, and too many hands grabbing for the power.

Basically, that leaves me in the position that we need to put a loose timetable together for withdrawal from Iraq, and this timetable will likely be in the 5-year range.  Unfortunately, that doesn't seem fast enough for many voters, but given the situation I feel it's a realistic approach.

Immigration

In the simplest form, I'm not a fan of amnesty for illegal immigrants because it rewards those who break the rules.  I'm disgusted by the free education that illegal immigrants who don't pay their taxes get in many areas of the country.  If you want to reap the rewards of living in the U.S., I also believe that you should pay the same price as the rest of us.

Yet, the larger problem is employers, who often are not punished strictly enough for knowingly employing illegal immigrants and not paying benefits or taxes for them.  It's pure greed, and not a desire to benefit the lives of these immigrants.

Taxes

In general, I'm favor of tax cuts for a number of reasons.  And no, one of them is not so that my paycheck will be larger.  I'm quite happy to pay my taxes because I believe the price is often worth it.

However, I do believe that wealthier individuals have a duty to pay a larger percentage in taxes than those with lower incomes.  Almost like a luxury tax in baseball where even if it doesn't level the playing field, it at least helps benefit the lower earners to some degree, leaving them with more of the money they need to get by.

Another problem with taxes is that I believe things are done very inefficiently in most governments (national, state and local) in our country.  Many practices fly at the governmental level that would kill even major corporations.  However, there is no great incentive to improve this because there is no true bottom line.  If we need more money, the government always seems to find it.

Therefore, I'm in favor of tax cuts because I believe many of the governmental departments and organizations need their budgets reduced so that they take a long, hard look at how they do things.  Eliminating unnecessary programs, streamlining communication, and domestic outsourcing could lead to some major improvements in what can be done, even with a reduced budget.

Line-Item Veto

I am strongly in favor of granting the president the power of the line-item veto.  For one, it would strengthen the power of the presidency, something that has been disintegrating steadily over the past several decades.  Secondly, it would reduce the number of garbage add-ons that are often tied to legitimate bills,

like pay raises for congressmen or special pet-project funding cases.

Gun Control

Even though I don't own a gun myself and likely never will, I fully support people's right to bear arms.  Those who take care of their weapons and follow the

existing laws regarding gun control aren't a threat to any of us.

However, I do believe that many of our gun control policies are not enforced strictly enough.  If we focus our efforts on illegal arms, then maybe we can better

work to keep them out of the hands of criminals.

Government & Business

I personally feel that the government should keep their nose out of business as much as possible.  The laissez faire approach works pretty well in most cases, especially in today's information age.  People know about the practices of different companies, holding them to a greater level of accountability that we have seen in the past.

Specifically, in the case of the current real estate market and sub-prime mortgages, I say let those companies dangle in the wind.  They made a bad business decision, and they should have to deal with it and not be bailed out by the government.  We've already seen one industry get bailed out this decade (the airline industry following the 9/11 attacks), and it was simply a government sinkhole that the airlines took advantage of.

Similarly, I don't advocate the involvement of government in finding alternatives to gasoline and oil.  This is because I feel that the market will eventually shift and demand reasonable alternatives, and we should just let the market take it's course.

Keeping companies who are not prepared for emergency cases or to deal with bad markets are not companies we should be trying to keep around anyway.  In the end, someone will step up to take their place.

Education

I know I have friends who are education majors who will vehemently disagree with me, but I'm very much in favor of a voucher system when it comes to education.  The current system is geared too much around bare minimums when the goal should be to make the school system as good as possible.  However, with teachers caught down in the bog of low pay and mandated testing, where is the incentive to change lives.  Even the most dedicated and inspired new teachers quickly get beat into the system like a square peg into a round hole in the current system.

That why I believe it's in the best interest for schools to compete with one another, like is done in the corporate world.  This competition would encourage schools to get their students to succeed, get the best teachers possible, and treat those teachers more fairly.  It would also likely drive down education costs, as each school worked to get the most out of their money.

It's really the only way I can see to change the currently stagnant education system.

Social Security

I am also in favor of the privatization of Social Security, as I feel that it can be better managed by a company with a vested interest than any government agency can do.

Welfare

This is one agency/service that I honestly can't believe is even still around.  It was designed to be a stop-gap assistance program during the Great Depression, and it just never went away.  I'm in favor of completely eliminating a government-run or government-sponsored welfare program, and encourage local churches and non-profit organizations to take up the cause.  I believe that not only can such a system be better run, but it can be more personal and helpful to get people back on their feet instead of helping them to continue to just get by.

Universal Health Care

An idea which I oppose 100%.  For one, it discourages doctors and researchers from trying to push the line with treatments, slowing the innovation that has been synonymous with the medical world the last century.  With a universal health care plan, there is no longer a benefit to do so.

I also am not a fan of having to carry the burden of the health problems of others.  Under a universal health care program, as a relatively healthy guy I'm likely to be paying as much for my annual check-ups as a guy who is on his 4th bypass and taking $800 of medication a month.  To me, that just seems innately unfair.  Sure, it would be great if we could provide healthcare for everyone, but to throw away everything we currently have to do so seems like one step forward and one hundred steps back.

Abortion

First off, let me say that as a man, it's often hard to have a solid opinion on abortion because it's something I'm never going to have to do personally, and not something my wife and I would even consider anyway.

That said, I do take a pro-life position.  While I've heard a lot about the “right to choose”, I can't say I disagree.  I just believe that once you've decided to have unprotected sex, you've already made that choice and should deal with the consequences, even if you chose to give the baby up for adoption.

The only exceptions I can see are situations where both the mother and baby are put at risk by the birthing process and rape.  The former because I believe it's better to only lose one live than two, and the latter because a choice was not made by the raped woman and could lead to all sorts of mental anguish.

Death Penalty

Simply put, I do believe that there are appropriate cases for the use of the death penalty, and each decision should be left to a panel of jurors.

Marriage

I do believe that the term “marriage” should be reserved as the union of a man and a woman.  Homosexual couples are free to have their “unions” or whatever term they would like to use, even though I may not agree with them.

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For the most part, that sums up (can you call this long of a post a summation?) where I stand regarding the major issues that seem to have arisen so far this election.  Where do you stand?  I completely understand if you don't view things the same way, and that's what makes this country great.  I'm still likely to vote for a candidate that sees things similarly to me.

Next time, I'll take a look at the remaining Democratic candidates and how I match up with them, followed by the same treatment for the Republicans.

Politically Speaking

As we get further into this presidential election year, I find myself becoming more interested in the nomination process as Democrats and Republicans both try to figure out not who the best candidate is for the country, but the most likely to be marketable to the country as a whole.  If you know anything about my political views, you'd know that I'm very cynical when it comes to politics.  To me, it's simply a giant popularity contest, similar to electing a class president in high school.

To go a step further, I have said before and will say again that I don't view the President of the United States much differently than I view the Queen of England.  Neither has a major influence over their country (that would be Congress and Parliament who have the major influences in their respective countries), but both are pointed to for the commendations or criticisms of the current state of affairs.  Now, this hasn't always been the case, but it's been that way my entire lifetime.  In fact, I can't even remember seeing a truly qualified candidate run for the presidency all the way to election day.

To say that television and JFK changed the presidency forever would not be an understatement.

Now, with that foundation laid, the reason why I find the primaries interesting is that there are still candidates in the mix who are qualified and truly want to make the U.S. a better place.  This year is no exception.

Next time, I plan on giving a run down of my stances on the major issues (as opposed to making this one giant political entry).  That way, you can see where I'm coming from when I put together a rundown of the candidates still in the running from each party.  Being a registered voter without any affiliation, I hope to keep an non-partisan view of the candidates, but will maintain the bias of my personal views and beliefs.  Keep an eye out for that!

Greetings From Seattle

So I'm here in Seattle for the next few days, tagging along as my wife attends a nursing conference. Seems like a nice area, and the surrounding environment, with all the thick evergreen forests, is definitely different from the normal view I'm used to seeing back in Ohio and Pittsburgh. This afternoon, we'll be spending time exploring the city. Expect some pictures to follow in the next few days.

Until then, I'll just be enjoying myself on this little vacation.