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Echoes and Mirrors » Augusta

Archive for the ‘Augusta’ Category

The Great Apartment Hunt

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Is over. But man, it’s rough. I don’t know why it’s so difficult. It just doesn’t seem like it ought to be if you live outside a major metropolitan area. If anyone in New York reads this, well, my condolences. And also: just ignore me, it’s obviously not that difficult where I live compared to you, you wonderfully-cosmopolitan you. This wouldn’t have been such a bother if I wasn’t working on a couple of big projects for school and entrenched in a war of attrition with my school’s financial aid office. Apparently there are new federal regulations that don’t permit them to award grant money until after spring grades have been released. Which is a week after the semester ends. And Summer registration was two weeks ago (okay, it was early registration, but really, if you don’t register early, you’ll never get the courses you need). So amidst all of the academic chaos, I also get to move all my shit into a new apartment, likely wait a week or more for the cable to be hooked up so I can actually use the Internet, and never find anything important that I didn’t identify as such and squirrel away in my car ahead of time.

Given the relative income in the area I live, the housing costs are surprisingly high. Compared to Wisconsin, at any rate. But that’s neither here nor there. I found a place I can afford, that has one bedroom, will allow me to have a cat and thus allow my decline into the world of crazy-cat-guy-dome, and doesn’t have a pesky gas stove that I would inevitably cause to explode during a drunken cooking session. So that’s the upside. No roommate but my budget will probably force me to decide between things like air-conditioning or beer, cigarettes or food and tuition or beer. I really like beer, though, so I suspect my decisions have already been made for me.

And if you browse around the Augusta Craigslist, you’ll notice that, relative to other places, it’s a barren and decrepit place. Yet I managed to find an apartment on there, if only as a testament to my laziness in even attempting to search. elsewhere. So when I saw this xkcd comic today, I couldn’t help but say, “yes, that is exactly what it is like. Fucking Craigslist.”

$1600 / 1386153BR 3BATH, MODERN SLIDING DOORS, GUEST ROOMS, GARBAGE DISPOSAL. FREE MANDATORY PARKING (ENFORCED). CONVENIENT TO ALDERAAN.

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In Which I End Up Sounding Like a Conspiracy Theorist

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

I’m not big on conspiracy theories. Some are more entertaining than others, sure. And some are right in pointing out that something isn’t right in re whatever it is they’re theorizing conspiracies about. And I have one of my own.

I’m really concerned that I haven’t heard much really about this:

Artificial Leaf Could Be More Efficient Than the Real Thing
Speaking at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in California, MIT professor Daniel Nocera claims to have created an artificial leaf made from stable and inexpensive materials that mimics nature’s photosynthesis process.

The device is an advanced solar cell, no bigger than a typical playing card, which is left floating in a pool of water. Then, much like a natural leaf, it uses sunlight to split the water into its two core components, oxygen and hydrogen, which are stored in a fuel cell to be used when producing electricity.

Nocera’s leaf is stable — operating continuously for at least 45 hours without a drop in activity in preliminary tests — and made of widely available, inexpensive materials — like silicon, electronics and chemical catalysts. It’s also powerful, as much as 10 times more efficient at carrying out photosynthesis than a natural leaf.

With a single gallon of water, Nocera says, the chip could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Provide every house on the planet with an artificial leaf and we could satisfy our 14-terrawatt need with just one gallon of water a day.

And it’s ready for production use. A gallon of water per day (probably more like 3-4 for American households, but really, that’s still not very much). In fact, they’re going to make them. And sell them in third-world countries that lack centralized power grids.

Couple it with a little wind turbine and a solar panel, and you’ll never pay for electricity again.

But we will never see this in America. Except as a niche market sold to eco-warriors and survivalists. (Not that anyone seems to have much of a problem with either group, but most of those who claim association are readily identified in some way as a nut.) Now here’s my crazy bit: it’s okay to lower your power use, but it’s impossible to cut yourself off from the power grid. I think it’s even illegal in most places (I could be wrong about that, but it seems like something a housing code would include for making a house livable).

And it’s not about electricity. It’s not about people being lazy. It’s not about economics. Or the environment.

It’s about power. Not the electrical kind. But big-industry, centralized power. As long as there is a very small number of places generating everyone’s electricity, they have America by the nutsack.

Oh, and according to the Japanese, Nuclear Power plants can get really dangerous sometimes. We have a pretty good track-record here in the US, sure. I guess that will last forever. We will never have a problem like that, right?

So it’s like this: they have figured out a way to dispose of a multi-billion dollar industry that, when faced with a natural disaster or a drunk engineer or a crack in some concrete, could irradiate huge sections of the planet. And that industry will instead continue building nuclear reactors really close to me.

And it’s not just in electricity or utilities industries – the federal government has been continually centralizing law enforcement and other things for decades. Everyone wants to do away with distributed computing that doesn’t have a centralized host (this new Cloud Computing thing is the solution to decentralized internet gibberish). There is a war against anarchism. They powers that be are insisting that for everything, somebody has to be in charge. And to that I say, no. No there doesn’t. Fuck off.

You wanted to see my crazy: there it is. I think that corporatism is going to destroy what’s left of humanity with e-books and fucking cloud computing. We’ll all be hooked up to the same power, internet, and ‘distributed’ systems. All traffic will be monitored or be pay-per-view/use and being outside of its grasp will make you an outsider in the truest sense. It’s going to taxonomize and categorize everything until we can’t fucking breath. And we’re going to shell out cash to the big centralized machines that give us our little happiness. And don’t forget to update your fucking facebook status either, to let the marketing drones watching that you’re upset or happy.

Yes, I’m on the power grid. That doesn’t make me hypocritical. If I shunned the power grid I wouldn’t be able to do anything. There is a line between being ideological and being stupid. We can still choose quite a bit right now. And we can still be anonymous (I don’t mean Anonymous, but you can be that too, if you like) for the moment. And when that changes, I’ll be in Peru, with a leaf-powered home, drinking Ayahuasca and laughing at everyone. I hope.

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Run For the Borders

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I like Borders. I have the rewards plus card and everything. I like to go there and drink coffee and read sometimes. The B&N used to be okay until it moved into the mall. Not that the move changed it necessarily, but now going there brings with it the whole package of “going to the mall” crap that keeps me away from the mall in general. We have a small bookstore here. One. It’s okay – they do more of the collectible / rare stuff. We also recently got a 2nd & Charles, which is a huge used bookstore. It’s like candyland for people like me.

So when Borders announced it was filing for bankruptcy, I was sort of saddened. And I look to the e-reader bullshit as the reason. E-readers are great for Amazon… they don’t have stores to maintain. But Borders needs people in their stores, not buying an e-reader and then never coming back. Every time I’m in any bookstore, there are plenty of people shopping for books. So I’m not inclined to believe that people don’t read anymore. There may be fewer, and it may be the younger people, but they’ll catch on one day.

But thankfully they’re not closing the Borders near me… yet. It’s a fairly busy store. I imagine it’s actually profitable to operate. Then again, I know nothing about business. They seem to be closing 5 in the greater Atlanta area, though. I don’t think the big one near Lennox is one of them.

I can see the novelty of the e-reader, but I don’t get it. I like paper and I like putting a bookmark in it.

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NIMBYs win battle against dirty homeless people

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

First on 12: Neighborhood wins “war” to keep homeless vets off their street.

“You know,” said Susan Chick. “That’s not who you want living in your front yard.”

Somebody is building, gasp, a housing complex for homeless veterans near the VA hospital. So the neighborhood got the convenient entrance to a housing project scrapped, leaving the residents with a much longer distance to get to the VA hospital.

“The veterans benefit and the residents benefit. I’m happy,” said Catherine with a smile. “I may even take a vacation behind all of this.”

Wipe that smug grin off your face and go on your fucking vacation already. The veterans got no benefit from this – just an inconvenient gate that makes their trip to the hospital more difficult. What you got was them walking through a different neighborhood.

I don’t know how somebody could do something so blatantly narcissistic, obtuse and uncharitable yet smile and act proud of it in the news. What arrogance.

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The Masters – What the hell is this crap?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Last year during the golf tournament that millions seem to enjoy, I lived about a quarter mile from the course. It took me over two hours to get to the grocery store one night when I forgot it was going on. I ended up all the way across town avoiding detours and bullshit. It was not pleasant. No errand was pleasant that week.

This year, I live a bit further away and didn’t have to deal with anything except tourist assholes clogging up the bars. Which wasn’t really so bad; tourists don’t know a good bar from their ass. I think… Phil won? It was on Sportscenter last night but I wasn’t really paying attention to the golf stuff.

Needless to say, this week is basically dreaded by most people (who don’t like golf) around here. It’s also spring break at the local state U. I just kind of tuned it all out.

Maybe I should have actually blogged about it as a local guy who has no idea what is going on. I’ll be long-gone from this city next year, so I guess I missed my chance.

The one thing I do know is that the Augusta National course isn’t on Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’10 for the Xbox 360 and I have no idea what it looks like. Nor will I ever. And I’m fine with that.

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College tuition in GA set to rise again

Friday, February 26th, 2010

BWAHAHAHAHA…

I go to a public university in GA. The comments on the Augusta Chronicle’s page are, as always, worth the read. One of the commentrs sounds suspiciously like one of my professors from last semester (and the fact that he hints at the fact that he has his doctorate).

Chapters 6 & 7 of Lonergan’s Insight has only solidified my stance on public education being one of the few responsibilities of the government outside of the minimal state proposed by the strictest of libertarian viewpoints. Yes, I’m in favor of free higher-education. I think that even ditch-diggers and janitors ought to be able to dissect Plato’s Republic, discuss literary theory, comprehend economics, do calculus or any other of the number of “useless” skills one picks up at a university. It should be their choice though – and not billed only as the means to a higher paying job.

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Nothing fishy here. Move along.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Here’s an article that basically spells out why privately contracted probation is wrong:

She described the case of Hills McGee, a man who was originally charged with public drunkenness and obstruction of a law enforcement officer back in October 2008.

After spending the night in jail after his arrest, McGee appeared in state court to face the charges. Although McGee was indigent, he signed a form that waived his rights to an attorney and entered a guilty plea.

McGee was sentenced to 12 months on each count to run consecutively and was ordered to pay a fine of $270 and a monthly probation supervision fee of $30 per month plus a $9 monthly fee for the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Program.

Even though McGee completed 41 hours of community service in lieu of the $270 fine, because he was indigent, his probation wasrevoked because he couldn’t pay the $186 in fees he owed Sentinel, according to Long’s petition filed in Richmond County Superior Court.

As a result, McGee was thrown into jail.

And here’s another tasty bit from the same article. I found this one out myself several months ago first-hand and was appalled. Anytime it comes up in discussion, I make it my civic duty to inform them that there is no such thing as a free defense attorney in these parts:

“I am asking, is it constitutional to come in and tell people that there is a $50 application fee for a court-appointed attorney when the Constitution says, if you are indigent and a judge has the power to put you in jail, you are entitled to have a lawyer at no charge,” Long said, adding a judge can waive the $50 fee if the defendant is indigent. “It disturbs me that people are being treated that way.”

On March 18, 1963, in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S.Supreme Court established the right to alawyer for any poor criminal defendant charged in felony cases, stating “lawyers in criminal cases are necessities, not luxuries.”

That’s right: you have to pay $50 to be represented… or prove that you can’t scrape up $50. Depending on the charges, most people might find it less frustrating (albeit more expensive) to just pony up the fine money and carry on with their lives.

I should probably just keep my mouth shut if I don’t want the the sheriff’s department knocking on my door anytime soon, so I’ll just quickly mention how the Augusta-Richmond County Commission just decided not to install parking meters downtown in an attempt to raise revenue. The plan would have called for a private contractor to provide the meter maids. Whose paychecks (and likely, bonuses) would be provided by a portion of the revenue raised by parking tickets. Thankfully the citizens of Richmond County were vocal enough to stop that from happening.

Law enforcement is probably the only thing I can think of that the government should have a monopoly on. As a lefty-libertarian, I actually support public education (although it certainly needs a reboot). The rest of it… no.

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This should be common sense

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Cracked has a humourous little piece up called 7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies), but I find myself knowing better for all of them (in part from interactions with the judicial system, sadly).

In regards to #5 — not talking to the police is obstruction of justice — you don’t have to and, more importantly, you should never, ever talk to the police. Under any circumstance. If they are questioning you, there is a good chance you’ve gotten yourself into a YOU vs. THEM situation.

Of course, in regards to a DUI, they cannot punish you judicially, but the state’s DMV can take administrative actions like suspending your license. Keep that in mind.

As far as being forced to identify yourself or be arrested, in Georgia you have to be loitering or prowling or otherwise up to no good. They require that you be “in a place at a time or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity” Ga. Code Ann. §16-11-36(b) (loitering statute). Because there are so many states, Your Mileage May Vary. This is how they harass many of the homeless (whom don’t have ID) here in Augusta – they threaten them with arrest because they are obviously not in the area for legitimate business. It is an unofficial policy, of course.

#3 (Tracing a Call Takes a Long Time) is amusing because with a few tricks, you can change the number it appears you are calling from (which is very easy with a VOIP phone). Tracking a call through a poorly secured PBX isn’t impossible, but probably beyond the means of a most police departments.

Remember, everyone breaks the law at least once a day and (normally) it is unintentional. It is important to be informed.

Also, in addition to watching the “Never talk to police video” you should watch this.

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Sad times

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Just to put things into perspective: the world doesn’t stop being shitty just because it’s the holidays.  A couple of local things and one from afar.

He was tough as nails.  Watching him recover from the stroke he had last year was inspiring.  He will certainly be missed.

Parking meters in Augusta is a bullshit idea.  I live downtown and I don’t always work before 9 until after 6.  Fuck paying monthly to park.  There isn’t convenient parking anywhere except on Broad street.  The only upside is that if this passes, it won’t happen until a couple of weeks before my lease is up – which will convince me not to renew it.  I’m sure the realtors downtown will appreciate this move.  A 30-day ticket free period simply means I will continue to park for free until I move out. (Also, I’ve never seen one person get a parking ticket ever the whole time I’ve been here and my roomie leaves his car for days at a time.)

I’m surprised there is in’t anything up at dosenation.com or synchronium.net yet.  The guys at Synchronium run an online store that sells a lot of this stuff.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that they’ve been arrested without the chance to lawfully dispose of their recently made-illegal products.

On a related note – things that suck – I recently stopped having insomnia and got my sleep cycle back to something more normal. That’s actually good, but the suck comes from the sudden re-realization that the daytime is really long and full of assholes. I didn’t have to deal with this kind of BS when I was up until 6 am and slept at most 3 hours. Now, even when I lounge around in my robe and slippers drinking coffee for four hours after waking up, it’s still only 10 AM! I am questioning how most people function like this. I certainly did it for six years straight and I don’t remember liking it then – only it seems worse now, somehow.

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Silence! I will explain a bit of my life to you, wonderful plebs!

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

My cable went out for most of last week, leaving me without the distraction of the internet. I actually managed to get some reading done. I also got out of the house more. I met some very interesting people and interacted with a few I hadn’t seen in a while.

The way people see me and the way I see myself have never really been the same. And when they tell me what they think of me, I get this weird sense of leading a phoney life.

Regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

I am manipulative and intelligent. And a hell of a fun guy. But it’s not me.

Also, I need to start smoking again to balance my damn emotions, I think. The lack of nicotine is wrecking my ability to act like I’m not schizophrenic. Maybe tomorrow I’ll pick it up again.

I found my passport the other day, tucked away in the glove compartment of my car. It’s been renewed and lacks any stamps. I have the memories and can recommend good restaurants in places you’ve never heard of, but I can’t advertise it or sneakily leave it laying around my bedroom to be stumbled upon. My foreign birth certificate and box full of survival gear will have to suffice. Shakespeare said something along the lines of Life is a stage and we are all actors playing our parts. I never see myself as more than a supporting role – but who is the star of this play?

Seneca said, “Life’s like a play; it’s not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters.” Which goes back to the whole seize the day, enjoy every moment as best you can deal. In order to make portions of our life seem grand, don’t we need something to contrast them to? Misery and melancholy, or at least sadness and unpleasantness would seem to be absolutely necessary. I’m in one of the happiest segments of my life to date, right now, and I suspect that if I hadn’t been in some rather shitty places before now, it wouldn’t mean fuck-all to me.

Also, gauging a girl’s reaction to the word cunt has got to be one of the easiest qualifiers of all time. Having dated both women who would say it more often then me and those who would display embarrassing amounts of offense to the very utterance, it seems to be a good way to separate the feminazis from the feminine.

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