This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This is Epth Nation 2.0

I'm excited about this announcement -- The content of This is Epth Nation is moving! Now, don't worry, all the old posts will still exist at the new server,! However, all the new posts are going to be exclusively at the NEW site. That's the bad news. This post will be here indefinitely to point you to the new site, so don't get your pantaloons in a wad. Just update your bookmarks (or keep coming here and clicking on the link). Some of the new site's features are:

Not going down when Blogger gets denial-of-service attacked!
Better comments, with real moderation!
No *&$#! comment spam or post verfication words!
A better e-mail address --!
Post Categories! It will probably take me a year to categorize all my old posts! Yay!
A real RSS feed!
A better search function!
An endless array of colorful templates I can search through until I find the right one!
The cache' of going to an actual "epthnation" domain!
Static "Pages" I can use to write messages to you, my loyal readers!
And much, much more!

Remember, that's You can also type and get the same effect. It's awesome! Let me know how you like the new colors, and if I need to change them. I'm not good at those kind of decisions. I need the web equivalent of an interior decorator.

I'm really excited about this, except for the categorizing posts part...

Chris Rock's Mom Sues for Discrimination

Check this story out: Chris Rock's mom is suing Cracker Barrel Hick Restaurants, Inc., after she and her daughter waited 1/2 hour to be served. Here's the relevant CNN article. It's hard to know which paragraphs to reproduce here, because they're all so much fun. ex)
Cracker Barrel has in the past faced numerous lawsuits and a federal inquiry over complaints of refusing to serve black customers, discriminating against minority workers and firing gay employees. The company has taken steps to rebuild its folksy image and reach out to minorities.
Clearly Cracker Barrel has a problem with discrimination, with it being so "folksy" and all. Is it really still being run by hick farmers? Is it really a place of rampant discrimination? Well, let's see what happened to Rose Rock and her lovely daughter...

Rock, who is from Georgetown, said she and her 21-year-old daughter were the only blacks at the chain's Murrells Inlet restaurant in April. She said when she asked the manager about the delay she was told they could have a free meal.

"He never called over the waitresses and asked, 'Why did these people sit here for a half hour without service?' " she said. "The only thing he said was we could have a free meal and neither of us wanted to eat."

What does this tell us? Rose Rock went into that restaurant looking for racism, and was fortunate enough to find the appearance of it. Her quote seems to suggest she wanted the manager to dress down the waitstaff in front of her, to satisfy her righteous lust for blood. SHE GOT A FREE MEAL, FOR PETE'S SAKE. The manager correctly resolved the problem, as far as I'm concerned. So why does she think she was discriminated against? People fail to get service at restaurants all the time. And by people I mean me. If you don't alert the waitstaff to your presence after about 10 minutes, then that's on you, buddy. This is America. You can demand satisfaction here, and most places will give it to you, even if you're not white.

The problem with the CNN story is the reporter was too busy calling the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission and other unrelated people to get the actual important details, such as:
Was it really a half-hour, or was it a "customer service" half-hour (which is really more like 15 minutes)?
Did numerous waitresses pass her table? If so, did they sneer or scowl at her? Did she sneer or scowl at them?
Does she have a history of not tipping at this restaurant? Did she act all bitchy when she was seated, or did she appear to be a normal customer?
Has this happened to her before at this restaurant? At other restaurants?
Did she make contact with the waitresses at all before going to the manager? Did she look around in the distance, trying to make eye contact with a restaurant employee (which is the universal sign for "we need service here")?
Did the manager apologize? Was his tone harsh? Did he seem uninterested in her plight?
Were any other (white) customers receiving bad service at this time?

Now, it's not all the reporter's fault. Cracker Barrell has probably forbidden any waitresses or the manager from speaking with the press, and at this late date there's no way to find any of the other customers or eyewitnesses to the situation. So it's basically a he-said she-said thing, and the only way the truth will come out is if there's a real investigation or some kind of "deep throat" informant comes forward. Until then, the people that assume racism will say she needs to stand up for her rights, and the people that assume non-racism will shake their heads and wonder why she didn't just take the free meal.

And until Cracker Barrel is renamed to White Person Barrel, this will probably keep happening.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Top 10 Things I Experience at my Job as a Computer Human

10) Gay porn pop-ups. Yick.

9) "Windows in Spanish" that customers would like switched back to English because some evil Mexicans changed it without their consent. I'm not kidding.

8) Going into a high-rise office building (dealing with getting there, parking, and going up the complicated elevator system), only to find out that the computer is at the customer's house.

7) Walking through 1-foot wide carved-out paths in people's homes to get to their computers, since they have too much junk lying around because of "flooding" three months ago. But it was like that before the flood. Who do they think they're fooling?

6) The utter uselessness of McAffee anything and all Norton products besides Corporate Antivirus. I'm serious here. Zone Alarm, too. They're like a punch to the face, these products.

5) Being shown 100 pictures of a mourning dove a customer nursed back to health. My mother hates mourning doves, and therefore so do I.

4) The evil SpySherriff, who is out to make all computer humans look bad. Can't we find something to defeat him?

3) 1st and 2nd-graders who will click on everything in front of them even after you tell them 5 times not to touch the mouse. And then there's the white kid with the afro who looks stunned by know, that was probably me 28 years ago. Only I had a bowl cut.

2) Driving through Highland Park and University Park and dealing with 3 construction crews on every block, stylish moms crossing streets without looking, numerous lawn-care people with their pickup trucks pulling giant metal cages, school zones, and stop lights every 10 feet. Somebody should scatter these white people. I hear Oak Cliff needs some.

1) People who think they know more than their friendly neighborhood computer human, but don't know anything they haven't read online, and we all know how accurate that ON THEM!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another Test in Ubuntu

Let's go back to geeky things, since my beloved wife deemed the last post the "gayest post ever." She clearly knows nothing of the ways of love.

I'm using the Ubuntu (there's that word again) "post blog entry" program, which supposedly can post via the blogger API. That would be pretty awesome, except the only buttons I have to format text are bold, italics, and add link.

I really don't use much more than that. Maybe I should start. It would clearly make me a better blogger.

I suppose I should have mentioned that this was only a test before I started rambling. Well, the italics work...

Skimming the Top of Interesting Waters

Take a look at this count-pointercount in Forbes magazine, where a nice guy named Michael Noer gathers a bit of sociological data, organizes it, and uses it to advance the conclusion that mean who marry "career women" are unhappier than those who marry..."non-career women," I guess. I hope he has his flame-retardant suit on, because those career women can type (or have someone type for them), and they aren't happy. In fact, they wouldn't let Mr. Noer even post his article without a poorly thought out response right next to it that doesn't even address his main point. Elisabeth Corcoran starts out by attacking men who are stupid, and blaming them for the foibles of career women. Her message seems to be "Become better men, and then career women won't be unhappy with their lot in life or blame you for not making enough money or cheat on you with some high-toned lawyer with slicked-back hair and a $1,000 suit." Can you see how this doesn't really help?

So she's dumb, but he is too...what he's trying to do is pretty awful, getting men who are dating successful women to think twice about marrying them (and getting men who are married to them to feel resentful, for that matter). The unfortunate message of his piece is that career women have something inside them that makes them worse wives. He then backs up his message with "scientific" data. That's the problem with social science -- there's no accounting for the individual woman, or the personality change.

I'd like to make the obvious point that each individual marriage is unique, and doesn't necessarily conform to the sociological data. In fact, if you are deciding whom to marry on the basis of sociological data, you deserve to get divorced. Whatever happened to falling in love and then committing yourself to that person? Is that no longer a good idea? I know we all get caught up in having the best possible life at all times, but is there no room for real Marriage anymore?

The sad fact is that she makes a lot more sense than he does, especially when she talks about how marriages work because of sharing and sacrifice and all sorts of other values we were supposedly learning in preschool. Marriage is a big step, but it's a step that has to be made in the dark, and with a willing heart. It's scary, but it's supposed to be. Find a woman you love, and then...

Wait. Is the problem that most men today are incapable of true love? Hmm.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Might Just be Free

So here's the thing about Google Docs -- There's no way I would type anything sensitive or personal or even important on here, because of the vast network of Google bots (presumably) spying on everything. I mean, that's the only way they can make money on this cool stuff, right? Like I said, getting away from Microsoft has its price, and that price is currently an alliance with Google -- the company that's keeping a record of ip addresses and search terms "for a rainy day." Is this a battle of evil empires? I don't know.

All I do know is I now really don't need Microsoft for personal use anymore. (Business use? That's another story. I like my Blackberry that syncs up with my Exchange server, thank you very much. Not that it's my decision anyway). I reinstalled Ubuntu 6.06 on my laptop, and am using it right now to blog this. I cut-and-pasted that first paragraph from Google Docs, just to prove that I could. What do I need Word for? I can type my stories and witty internal banter in Docs, then save them to a proper format or post them on here. Unless Microsoft's going to be giving Word away for free, I don't really need it. And no, I don't think I'll miss Wingdings.

Ubuntu 6.06 has improved greatly over 5.10 in terms of ease-of-migration and ease-of-use. First of all, there's now something called EasyUbuntu, which automates a lot of the step-by-step acquisition of formats and multimedia programs. In two hours (although I had done it before and therefore had a pretty good idea of what to do) I was able to get Ubuntu to play Quicktime, Flash, WMV files, Realplayer files, standard MPGs, DivX/Xvid, DVD's, ITunes AAC files, and just about anything else I wanted it to. The point is, aside from the visual differences in the windows themselves, it looks and feel almost exactly like a WinXP machine. And it doesn't have the problems -- the viruses, the spyware, the start-up nonsense, the fricking Norton and McAffee slow-down conspiracy*, the Language Bar, the popups declaring your "system is at risk" because it thinks you need 10 software firewalls installed behind your router, etc. Plus, there's the beautiful "buttloads of free software" to install and try out, and the satisfaction of knowing that whatever ridiculous DRM or Activation Crapola Windows Vista rolls out there will not affect you in the least. You'll actually be able to use your computer for what you want without having to deal with the restrictions somebody in a big office thinks you should have. And remember, Ubuntu is free! You're paying for those restrictions Microsoft gives you. But hey, wingdings, right?

There are still problems with Linux, though -- wireless networking is an absolute beast, Windows Media licensed stuff (i.e., that you have to install a little "key" on your system to use) doesn't work, Open Office is still cumbersome and tortoise-like, free image-editing software for Linux is most certainly Not Photoimpact, and the best Linux GUI (KDE) is still virtually unusable for me because there's just something I'm not getting.

But by-and-large when I plug something in, the right thing happens. Could this be the time to switch? Should I write an "idiot's guide to Ubuntu" or something like that? Is my wife going to divorce me for being so nerdy?

One last note: I'm currently streaming my favorite radio station over the internet on Ubuntu. This puts the "fun" in functional. I can barely believe it.

*Since I have become a full-on computer tech, I now hate McAffee and Norton consumer-level products(Norton Corporate is better, but still takes up a bunch of resources). In fact, in my company we won't even do a computer service related to networking without uninstalling Norton SystemWorks or McAffee SystemCrap first.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Onion Sports Section is Out of Control

It's especially funny because I live in Dallas.

Gmail -- Elite E-Mail for the Masses

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I now have a G-mail account. That's right, I now allow advertisers to spy on the content of my e-mails and target ads at me accordingly. I'm so reverse naive right now I could reverse die. And this after all I've said about G-mail and the slippery slope it represents and how I want at least something in my life to be ad-free. You might think this makes me a loser, but I'm a loser for other reasons.

I got G-mail to test it out. My address: Now, I'm still not using it as a real e-mail address, because I'm not stupid. But I thought it would be fun to test out their new "cheap as free office" package, because I'm a nerd like that. If you do e-mail me, these are the words you're not allowed to use: terrorism, muslimism, dysfunction, steroids, Barbara Streisand. I'll let you know of any more banned words as I think of them.

Just launched: The beta, which features the "Writely" web word processor and Google Spreadsheets. For those of you keeping score at home, this means they now have a free competitor to Word, Excel, and Outlook. Microsoft has continually crushed free competition in the past with legal antitrust behavior (and the sad fact that most free office packages aren't well-advertised or any good), but this Google stuff is different. If it's relatively powerful and easy to use, I think young people like me (er...) might go for it. And that will cut into Microsoft's home market share.

Of course, real businesses will still want to use the highly-priced stuff, so Bill Gates probably isn't panicking yet. His Office package still sets the format standards for documents and spreadsheets, so MS Office will continue to generate licensing revenue, too. This is probably good, since it gives the average user something to hang his/her hat on. Standards are good, and easy, and these even happen to be functional.

As for Google's stuff, I (so far) like the calendar because it's a) Apple-level simplistic, and b) I can reach it from anywhere that has internet access. It's also share-able by multiple Google users, which I don't care about since I have no friends.

Writely also allows for collaboration on documents, which is pretty cool and probably has a bunch of elegant uses I can't think of right now. It's also simple (if you're familiar with Word, that is), and allows one to save one's documents in a variety of fun formats including .doc and .pdf. In that way, it's got a place in this world. Michael W. Smith must be so proud.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The NBA Fires Back

Remember two days ago when my cynicism took hold of me and I questioned the NBA Refs? Well, the NBA has decided to punish whiners on the court this year, and I take that decision as a direct shot at me. Well, if Rasheed can think it's all about him, I'm allowed to think it's all about me, right? Luckily, I can't be fined by them for my constitutionally protected speech. Here's the story, from the giant sports shill

I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, whining is a huge problem in the NBA. Every time a foul -- any foul -- is called, the offending player and usually several others on his team are rolling their eyes, throwing their hands up in disgust, shaking their heads, and in general acting like my 1st-graders in computer class when I tell them not to click on anything yet. This puts off most (non-whiny) fans and is generally bad for business. I can totally see why they want to police it better.

However, in the light of the Finals Debacle of 2006, the last thing the NBA needs is more ref-protection. Coaches and players already get fines for talking about the refs after the game; what this new rule does is effectively shut out every public means of expressing dissatisfaction that players and coaches have, from the time a foul is called until the end of time. This means that the NBA office thinks it should be the sole judge of referees, and that questioning them on this is not acceptable. Does that sound like the best course of action in a post-Salvatore world?

To put it bluntly, we need more public criticism of refs from people who know what's up, i.e., players and coaches. Normally, I would be against this, but the NBA has become a special case and cannot be trusted to fix referee problems. It's the classic case of "Who's policing the police?" Is squashing dissent ever a good idea in America? Isn't this league the one that's supposed to be "fan-tastic"? Yes, we don't like whiners -- but we also don't like refs deciding games.

This isn't over, NBA.

The rule has one positive, though: we'll be treated to the delicate dance of Rasheed Wallace trying to find a way to express displeasure without doing anything the refs can see.
I really can't wait.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Review: The Last 23 Minutes of Last Night's Studio 60

After seeing 23 whole minutes (minus commercials) of the critically acclaimed new series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I'm ready to pronounce judgement: meh. It's ok, but it has the same problem shows like Gilmour Girls have: all the characters are too clever (and talk too fast) to exist in real life. This is good for ratings, but it does nothing for me. I can't invest emotionally in these people, because they're not like the rest of us. I don't know people like this, and if I did, I wouldn't like them because they're too pithy all the time.

So the question remains out there like a bug in a steel sheath that cannot be zapped -- why do people continue to enjoy not just Studio 60, but all "too-clever" TV dramas? You've got House, CSI 1-3, L&O 1-4, Grey's Fricking Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and even my beloved LOST dominating the ratings these days. Comedy is dead, and dramady is standing above it smoking gun in hand. I blame Ally McBeal. Do you realize that crap won an Emmy for Best Comedy? And now its progeny are all over the place, usually helmed by Aaron Sorkin. Funny has been replaced by cute.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying a show like Studio 60 is horrible (especially compared with shows like, oh, Matt Houston from the 80's), I'm just saying it's got cutesy pink barriers to entry I just can't get past. On top of that, the show hates Christians, and by extension, me. So why would I want to watch that?

Last night the end of the show centered on a plagiarized joke that wound up making it into the show-within-a-show's fake SNL-style newscast. That sentence did make sense. Oh, and btw -- Studio 60 isn't a fictional SNL since SNL exists in its universe (as Amelie Gillette has pointed out so brilliantly many times on The Hater), which is probably why NBC allows it to exist on its network. Anyhoo, this plagiarism threw the whole network into a tizzy, and the show definitely had that ER-style "a bunch of hectic crazy crap is going down at once, but after tonight we're never going to talk about it again because the same thing happens every week" vibe going on. Matthew Perry eventually fixed it with a little help from bad acting Amanda Peet and the fact that it turned out to not be plagiarism after all. It left me a little disappointed, actually. I wanted to see that bald guy from Sex and the City or that other guy from She Spies get canned. In fact, I'm not going to watch this again without knowing that somebody's going to be fired from the show.

Now that's realism.