Category: Family

Hurt kids? That’ll be a beatin.

Recently two girls were kidnapped from their family’s stand near their home. The girls were then “sexually abused” before being released, found, and returned home.

We can be thankful that the girls were not killed and the trash that performed this act (a man and woman) have been arrested and charged with these horrible crimes.

What amazes me is that the father/family was interviewed by the Associated Press and he feels sorry for them while the interviewer reports he expressed no anger in that same article. I won’t say that this man is better than me because no one knows that. However I will say that he has much better control than I do as evidenced by his demeanor. I would be strongly encouraging anyone willing to help the trash who performed these acts to endure the pain themselves.

It is my opinion that anyone committing these types of crimes against children should be severely beaten at least, and perhaps be lucky enough to endure the same torture they inflicted as well. I don’t say that lightly as I am pretty nonviolent and believe in accommodating most anyone and their beliefs. Those children did not deserve this and they will never regain their innocence from before this incident. To that end, these criminals should endure something just as horrific and traumatizing rather than to enjoy the memories of their crimes and be fed, educated, and entertained at my expense.

Maybe I’m wrong. Let me know if so in comments.

The Romeike Misdirection

So, I happened across a post about the Romeike family and how they are being forced to defend their religion and prove persecution in their home country of Germany so they can have asylum here in the United States. Countless hours have been logged by some religious law club in an attempt to argue in favor of these poor folks being granted asylum so that they do not have to endure the continued persecution which the German government heaps upon them.

As an United States citizen I was appalled that our government would even think about not granting asylum to these people who are being persecuted for their religion. Our constitution has enshrined in it the very ideal that religion is something we should all be allowed to practice (or not) in any form reasonably (unless you’re Muslim, because they’re bad). These people should be taken in, given freedom as we take it for granted, and enjoy their lives. We all deserve freedom no matter what our country of origin.

Then I did some background checking.

The only article I could find with supposedly first-hand information was written with 90% composition by their primary lawyer. Obviously that was biased as can be. This family claimed religious persecution, was granted temporary asylum, and this court proceeding is to determine if they can stay permanently. In the article I found it is laid out that the family didn’t like some of what their kids were hearing in the state run school, and so pulled them out. In the US – no big deal. In Germany – big deal. All children are required to attend school up to a defined level in Germany. This is a good requirement I feel. However Germany was about to put the parents in jail for not sending their children to school.

I can imagine ‘Oh those poor people. They must send their child to a state school. If only (insert religion) was allowed to have a school then this could be avoided.’ Great news! There are many church schools in Germany which are acceptable to the state since they meet the minimum education guidelines. I do not know if the family chooses to not like any of the religious schools or if the cost is prohibitive however there are other options the family could choose from if they had the desire.

This then leads into people screaming religious persecution and an attack on the right to raise your kid how you feel is best. No, this is a law passed to ensure a country is not populated by uneducated morons. Germany has a long history and much different circumstances than the US. Their laws are different for many reasons. This does not mean your religion is being persecuted, it means you don’t like something and threw a fit. Frankly, I don’t like the district my kids are enduring. I would love to send my children to a private school so they could actually learn, however this is waaaaaay too expensive locally – because I’m not Roman Catholic. Mother Church has decided that since I am not of their faith we must pay more than double the cost of Catholics. Perhaps I should seek asylum somewhere.

This is not a case of religious persecution. End of story. These folks should be shipped back to Germany post-haste.

Blu-ray, Linux, and Digital Restrictions

At my house we use Linux as our operating system almost exclusively. The only exceptions to this rule are our iPhones and an iPod Touch. Otherwise it’s all Linux on the laptops, tablets, server, GoogleTV, and firewall. Linux is simple, free, and generally as useful as Mac OSX or Windows. Occasionally there are hiccups with specific tasks such as moving music to the iPhone since Apple locks them down, but this is usually overcome within a week after any iOS update.

Recently I have begun ripping our DVD collection into digital format. My ultimate goal is to have all of our legally purchased movie titles available via GoogleTV on a portable drive. With this accomplished, we will be able to watch most of what we own without having to track down the disc and load it into the DVD/BD player. I will not pretend that this is anything but laziness, but for niceness-sake I’ll call it  convenience. Another bonus with having everything digital in addition to on disc is that we can watch it on the laptops, tablets, or even iPhones without paying again for something we already bought.

The best selling point for me in doing this other than convenience  is that we don’t have to worry about the discs becoming scratched or hazy over time. If you don’t have kids, please believe me when I say we have lost hundreds of dollars in DVDs from kids leaving discs out, dropping them, and occasionally using them as shuriken in battle. Frankly I should have been ripping our DVD purchases since we had our first player, but I did not realize how much we lose in scratched DVDs.

The backup copies of these discs are not high-quality. I am only ripping them so that we have a backup that can be used on the network or in case the physical disc meets an untimely demise. Seriously. I’m not illegally copying anything I don’t own nor am I illegally downloading the same. According to my understanding of copyright exceptions I am making a backup/archival copy of a work that I purchased legally at retail which is considered fair use, but I am not a lawyer and you should check with one before considering doing this yourself should you have concerns.

I tell you these things to tell you this – playing Blu-ray discs (BD) on Linux is very difficult and convoluted. It borders on impossible for most mortals to accomplish. I have found several loopholes and processes (and it IS a process) to play BD movies on Linux, but frankly they are all a PITA (google it). The time v  convenience is just not there for me to bother setting this up and/or attempting to rip the movies for backup.

Why might this be you ask? This is because of the movie industry using a somewhat complicated scheme (algorithm) to attempt to curb people illegally copying or stealing their work. The problem is that those who want to steal these works and distribute them can do so easily with just a little searching and clicking around the WWW. I won’t link to such things, but I found several easy ways to do so when I googled ‘copy blu ray’ a few minutes ago. The scheme by the MPAA does little to nothing except cause problems for those of us who buy movies legally. We are the people not breaking the law, and so we won’t go copy or distribute these works illegally. If one wanted to steal these works there are many, many sites where you can download the BD quality versions of most movies already. Their scheme does nothing to stop criminals.

So my choices are to sit by and wait for someone to crack BD encryption (DVD has been busted for a long time), go rent the DVD to make my backup copy, or put up with purchasing these works over and over because the MPAA wants to make more money. Well, I’ll only say that one of those options sounds somewhat reasonable, and I’m not waiting around.

Using Tech to Prepare for Disaster

This is a reprint from my ‘Ask a Geek’ column which originally ran in the Mount Vernon Register-News.

Most people don’t like thinking about disasters. Unfortunately, disasters do happen to us or loved ones. In our area we should be concerned with 3 types of disasters: tornado/storm, earthquake, and chemical spill. Most people are aware that we live in a tornadic area and that the New Madrid fault line may cause damage in our area if ‘the big one’ ever happens along that fault. Chemical spill may have some of you confused.

Our area has a low population density. This means that hazardous chemicals travel the railways and interstate highways daily. The theory is that if a spill happens here fewer people would be affected (injured) since we have less population than a major city. This is why I include chemical spills as a disaster that may happen locally.

General guidelines for disaster preparedness are: have some extra non-perishable food items stored, extra drinking water, a first aid kit, know basic first aid, keep copies of important documents and an insurance claim inventory, have extra clothing, and have a planned meeting place for your family/group. Storing of extra food is something that technology may not help a lot, unless you keep an inventory of your groceries using a spreadsheet. The other suggestions can all be assisted using technology.

Storing extra drinking water is not easy because it uses space. A gallon or two of drinking water in your pantry or a case of bottled water is something that most of us can do as preparation. Another step that you might take is to get water tablets to make bad water drinkable. These tablets are available at some camping stores, department stores, and I found them online for about $5. These tablets kill bacteria and other germs that can make you sick so that the treated water is drinkable. The water may not taste good since it is not filtered, but it should not make you sick.

A first aid kit around the house is a good idea. Most recommendations I have seen suggest adhesive bandages (Band-Aids), gauze, tape, iodine swabs, alcohol wipes, and a medium Ace bandage. With these supplies most minor scrapes and bruises can easily be handled at home. In an emergency situation fire, ambulance, and police will be very busy. This kit can allow you to care for your group until they become available. My advice is to purchase a pre-made kit from a department store with these items included. I found a kit at Wal-mart for about $5. Through technology everything is compressed into a kit smaller than a lunch box.

Knowing first aid is also helpful in a disaster. There may be injuries to others. Your first aid kit can help, but only if you learn what to do for injuries before the disaster. The Red Cross provides advice for preparing, links to find classes in your area, and refresher courses online at http://redcross.org. I have taken these classes several times and each time helps me learn or remember more than the last class.

Keeping copies of important documents like birth certificates, car titles, or phone numbers is very important. During a disaster you do not need the stress of trying to remember grandma’s number adding to your situation. One solution is to keep a hard (printed) copy of these papers and information in a fire proof safe at your home. This is a good idea, but there are other solutions. You could scan the documents or type a phone list and save the information using a computer. Then the files can be stored on a cheap thumb drive in your emergency kit (you do have one by now, right?), at a family member’s home, or online.

The thumb drive or online storage can also contain a list of your home inventory to assist an insurance claim. I don’t know about you, but if my home was just blown away in a tornado I would have a hard time remembering how many t-shirts and pillows I had in the house. Insurance companies want that kind of detail. If you forget to file for your favorite blanket or stuffed animal loss you may lose out on reimbursement. Be sure to take a detailed inventory of your home and keep it updated once or twice per year.

There are many services that offer free online storage of your files. My two preferred services are http://box.net and http://dropbox.com. Both of these are free services to store files and can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection, including your phone. You might be nervous about storing this personal information on a thumb drive and you should be nervous. With this information bad guys could pretend to be you. Many thumb drives include encryption software to protect your information, and you should use it to stop any worries you might have about theft.

Storing extra clothing might seem like it takes up a lot of space. You may not need to keep a complete wardrobe next to your bed or in the car, but a pair of underwear, glasses, and socks would be a good kit to have handy. Using vacuum technology you can put several pieces of clothing into a bag, suck out the air, and tuck your extra clothing into your emergency kit. You can also get a space blanket and light rain poncho that are folded into a small square in case your emergency happens in the rain or on a cold night. Space blankets are thin sheets like plastic that reflect heat back toward your body. A rain poncho will help keep you dry in a storm or protect you from the sun.

Finally, have a location where your family will meet after a disaster to perform a head count and check if anyone is missing. Google Maps is a great tool to create and map out your location(s) for meeting. You can create general maps of the area to what size you want. There can also be maps with directions from places where you commonly spend your days – work, school, home, etc. This might be especially helpful to children or the elderly to give to rescuers if they become lost or disoriented.

There are many other ways technology might help you in a disaster or emergency. Please email me at askageek@register-news.com and we can share any ideas you have with others to help us all be better prepared.

Why, herro, SIUC

So, I’m now a student at SIUC. I’m attempting to gain a bachelor of science in Information Systems. To be honest, I’m thinking this is a lofty goal. My time constraints are pretty tight, and so I’m afraid that my coursework may suffer as a result.

60 hours/week driving and working.

56 hours/week sleeping (I wish).

20 hours/week dedicated to family.

That’s 136 hours per week already tied up. Now if I add in the recommended time for coursework @ 48 hours/week, I’m up to 184 hours out of 168 used up. I’m already negative and I haven’t included anything for just relaxing. I suppose if I reduce sleep to 6 hours/night then I should be able to make it. Still, I’m thinking this may have been a severe lapse in judgment on my part. Time will tell.