Tuesday January 10th, 2017 16:06 Trust, confidence and getting what you pay for

Doubtless, many people hear phrases like “I’ll just take it to Best Buy/the Apple store/etc.” all the time.

Me, not so much, given that I’m usually the repair point they’re taking ‘it’ to.


No matter how badly I’ve wanted any given person to take any given device anywhere else, not once have I let such words pass without at least a bit of snark – e.g. “Yes, and since I’m hungry, I’m going to go lick the bottom of a McDonald’s fry trough. Same as any other food, right?”

Listen up, people:

This is an actual ad for an ‘advanced’ Geek Squad tech. Having an A+ cert is ‘preferred.’

For those unaware, an A+ is the toilet paper of the cert world. Most certs are crap in general, and completely unnecessary for someone with a decent resume, but that one just comes right out and says ‘You will have no serious responsibilities or challenges, not the least bit owing to the fact that the supervisor who will be conducting your interview barely knows the difference between CMOS and ATMOS.’

The Apple ‘geniuses’ have an even lower bar.

But why should anyone give a damn, so long as the computer comes back fixed?

Well, besides it costing a whole lot more money and taking an absolutely absurd amount of time, Best Buy, specifically, is full of thin-skulled twits that are all too happy to rifle through your computer or phone in order to fulfill the childish fantasy of playing Junior G-Man in the service of unscrupulous FBI agents.

It’s kind of funny to a tech person that the world is just now finding out that the Bureau has been paying Geek Squad nitwits to spy on customers. Especially since the case in question has had that as an open question for nearly a year now.

The thing is that we’ve always known they were doing that. This is just the first time there may be court-recognized proof.

Think of it this way:

If you’re sending off a computer to be repaired, it stands to reason that you don’t know much about computers. Odds are, you don’t know much about – to revisit my earlier example – making fast food either.

So why do you trust one group to handle a device full of personal correspondence, photos, and videos as if they are beyond reproach, but check the bag to make sure you got your fries while the other is still in the window, watching you insult their capabilities?

Literally the only thing that the Best Buy employee has on the McDonald’s employee is having done a similar job for one year. This qualifies them for ‘advanced’ work.

So is it hard to imagine that (probably) young, barely-skilled retail employees jump right in at the movie-script-esque prospect of spying for the FBI?

About as easy to imagine as a pimple-faced teenager intentionally dropping your burger on the floor?

There’s little chance that anyone not doing anything wrong will end up in such dire straits as Dr. Rettenmaier. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. And it doesn’t mean that the government gets to employ entry-level retail employees as de facto federal agents and send them off to rifle through your data just because a USB port broke on your laptop.

In: Computers, News, PoliticsNo Comments

Tuesday November 22nd, 2016 13:54 Fixed it for you, Mr. Welles

And now I’m going to tell you about a Trump.

Trump wanted to cross a river, so he asked the American voter to carry him.

No, said the American voter, no thank you. If I let you on my back you may sting me and the sting of Trump is death.

Now, where, asked Trump, is the logic in that? For Trumps always try to be logical. If I sting you, you will die. I will drown.

So, the American voter was convinced and allowed Trump on his back. But, just in the middle of the river, he felt a terrible pain and realized that, after all, Trump had stung him.

Logic! Cried the dying American voter as he started under, bearing Trump down with him. There is no logic in this!

I know, said Trump, but I can’t help it – it’s my character.

Let’s drink to character.

In: PoliticsNo Comments

Wednesday November 9th, 2016 15:57 I’m not angry. I’m disappointed.

I trusted you, America.

I trusted that there couldn’t possibly be over 50 million people in my own country with the motivation to physically go to a polling place and say “Yes, I want the sexist, racist, pig-ignorant fascist Cheeto to be the President of the United States.”

I trusted that, while those people who are actually sexist, racist, pig-ignorant fascists were always going to vote for him, that there were more than enough of us willing to stand up and say “That’s not okay.”

I did not for one second trust that the (often) poorer, less-educated white electorate would vote in their own best interest, because I have been alive for 33 years and damn well know better. I trusted that they would not do it with such enthusiasm.

I did not for one second trust that people would rationally consider the balance between the two candidates and make a reasonable decision based on the evidence, because I have been alive for 33 years and damn well know better. I trusted that the difference was so blindingly apparent, that even a quick glance would suffice.

It seems I was wrong on all counts.

So I’m pretty disappointed.

And I lied. I am angry.

I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.


In: PoliticsNo Comments

Thursday August 21st, 2014 02:10 I will say one thing about Michael Brown

I have heard a number of Very Serious People and seen innumerable internet bloviators repeat a particular thing about the Michael Brown case that really deserves a response. It’s all some derivation of:

‘I’ll bet that, when all the facts come in, we’ll see a much different picture of what happened than what the [insert racist code word or direct epithet, depending on commentator’s current forum (also accepted: Librul Media)] say happened.’


I’ll take your wager if you take mine: that when all the facts are presented, they will show that a police officer shot and killed an unarmed person.

Double or nothing that another cop will do the same thing, somewhere in this country, within a week of that incident.

I understand if you won’t accept the second part because, in fairness, I already won: Andrew Gaynier, August 10; Dillon Taylor, August 11; John Winkler, August 11; Ezell Ford, August 11; Armand Bennet, August 11 (technically, he didn’t die, but he was shot in the head, so A for effort).

Double or nothing again if you can resist the urge to comment on race and stick to the fact that it took me 2 minutes on Google to find the names of 5 unarmed people that were shot dead by the police in a matter of 48 hours, and perhaps we should be focusing on the systemic problem of cops using disproportionate deadly force – not the details of what happened minutes before the latest body dropped.

In: News, Other, PoliticsNo Comments

Monday March 3rd, 2014 20:56 Opinion entitlement and the wagging of the dog

My mind has drawn an odd thread between two recent events: Russia invading Ukraine and Arizona’s state legislature trying to legalize discrimination against gay people.

Oddly enough, it is not because Russia is an entire country in which it’s pretty much illegal to be openly gay, though many who claim the Arizona bill to be a good call would benefit from duct-taping those two ideas together and seeing how comfortable they are with the juxtaposition.

It’s that it reminds me of the early 90s, right after the wall fell in Berlin.

If you recall, there was that civil war in Georgia that Russia stuck its nose into (though, for that one, both sides were pulling Russia by the ears).

One also recalls how common homophobia was, largely fueled by the still-unchecked AIDS crisis for which middle America had yet to be given a Hanks-Washington educational primer telling them that they weren’t going to die from being in the same room as a gay man.

Though I was young, I remember enough to say that there was not this pervasive sense that everyone is a fucking expert on everything.

Turn on the news. Right now. Find a channel talking about Crimea. No, not Fox. They’re talking about liberals being horrible. Yes, it might be regarding Crimea. No, that is not the same thing.

Now, listen for five minutes.

Did you hear the phrase “I don’t know,” or some derivation thereof? Did you hear someone talking about needing to get more information before answering a question? Did you see a face you’ve never seen on the news before with a tagline touting decades of experience dealing with Ukraine, its politics and its relationship with Russia? Someone with a degree in international relations? The night janitor from the Moscow branch?

If you did, you were watching something called a “foreign” news station. We don’t do that.

Here, we have developed a destructive tradition of injecting the idea of “everyone’s entitled to their opinion” into our daily lives.

It’s a nice concept.

As a concept, it means that you shouldn’t shit all over someone for having different preferences than you do. When I say that I don’t like vegetables on my pizza, the most vocal opposition I should have to deal with is a suggestion of where to get really good vegetable-topped pizza that someone thinks will change my mind. A vegan mashing me over the head with a leek for daring to eat pepperoni in place of wheat gluten would be seen as going too far.

Our failure in this area is not what everyone thinks it is. I can say that because I’ve been carefully observing this phenomenon for a very long time (note: soon, we will see why this is important).

The problem is not that we’ve expanded the range of included opinions, though many claim as such.

The feminazis and homosexualists* and atheists and other mud people have mixed their non-white, non-traditionalist, non-christian viewpoints with those that are good and righteous, diluting them into a mess from which only hell itself can spring.

The bigots and the rednecks and the christopaths and other knuckle-dragging tripe have clung to their outdated, backwards, ignorant positions such that anyone with half a brain can’t be heard over the sheer volume of hate speech.

Here is one of the very, very, very, very, very few points at which I will declare that Both Sides are wrong.

The problem is that we have expanded the definition of “opinion” to include any piece of brain vomit that falls out of someone’s skull.

Any time I ever open up a browser to this post-entry page, it is after hours of doing nothing but lookin’ shit up. I don’t open it at all if I didn’t have a knowledge base before doing that research.


Because it doesn’t count as an opinion if you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.

Sadly, that is no longer a requirement to participate in public policy or public discourse.

This is why we have twits suggesting military intervention in Ukraine. This is why that uninformed drivel is presented with equal weight against those who say that no one wants wide conflict in that region and that any possible intervention by the US that butts up against Russia, with whom we have an increasingly tense relationship, will be met with strong opposition from China, India and Europe, who all have considerable stake in maintaining stability and economic relations and saying otherwise is chicken-hawk nonsense from people who should just sit down and shut up.

Note that this is not my opinion, because I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. That’s the opinion of smart people who have international relations degrees and decades of experience with Ukraine and Russia and their politics and relationship. So that’s who I’m going to listen to.

This is also why we have bigots and homophobes getting terribly confused about what constitutes religious freedom.

Once you make every preference or belief into an opinion, culture kicks in to tell us that it is inherently valid. Slap on the most popular religion in the country, and now we’ve got a situation brewing.

I’ve got a family full of christians who will tell you that, even if you think homosexuality is wrong, the most that the christian god wants you to do is try to lead them back to the “right” path. I’ve read the book myself. The god that has them treating gay people like lepers spent a whole lot of time hanging out with lepers.

There is no necessity to get in to the bafflingly obvious biological and cultural and legal ways in which it is patently box-of-rocks ignorant to think that a discrimination law is a good idea. Their own holy book does it for me.

Thinking such a thing is just that. It’s a thought. A stupid, craven, worthless thought that should die before it slowly trickles through the mush these people call a brain, lest it make way to the mouth and be spewn out loud.

But, yet again, this is something which, on teevee, is given equal weight to “You can’t be serious. This is blatantly unconstitutional. You could put Scalia on the Bench while giving the other eight a chloroform facelift and it still wouldn’t stand up. Not to mention the fact that out of over a billion christians on this planet, the only other ones codifying homophobia into law are Vladimir Putin and some African assholes who our own government discourages us from visiting because of terrorist threat.”

As one professor put it, “You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”** Whether we will eventually hand the reigns of opinion back to those that actually possess one remains to be seen. For now, I will say this:

I fully respect everyone’s right to think whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want. But I will not respect whatever they think, whenever they think it, just because they did.

*no bullshit, some of these fuckwads use that term
**bastard stole my first choice for post title

In: News, Other, PoliticsNo Comments

Friday January 17th, 2014 15:55 In which I must admit that the Portland pimp suing Nike is correct

Today there’s a story making the rounds about some severe, psychotic douchebag who almost killed someone with a pair of Jordans and is now suing Nike for not labeling the shoes as dangerous.

Though this post pretty much demands art, I am not putting up a picture of that tool.

Partly because I have no choice to admit that the guy has a real point.

This lawyer has a nice chart of what assault charges mean in Oregon. Based on the news story, the alleged assault pretty clearly shows intent, as one would have a hell of a time accidentally demolishing someone with a pair of shoes. By the law, that intent puts him up for at least assault 2. That’s where it gets sticky.

Note: Assault 3 is basically ‘special circumstance’ assault 4 with the latter’s optional felony charges being standard

The use of a weapon and the presence of “serious injury” become very important at this point. The charges say that he used a weapon, but did not cause serious injury (requiring surgery doesn’t qualify? seriously?).

Since the law simply says “dangerous weapon,” the definition of dangerous weapon is subject to the interpretation of the prosecutor bringing the charges. In that, the district attorney is pretty well free to decide anything is a dangerous weapon after the fact. The same goes for “serious injury.”

If he were to have caused serious injury, that’s assault 1, since a weapon was used. Redefine the shoes as not a weapon, and he’s looking at assault 4, assuming the serious injury determination remains the same.

Comparing assault 4 to assault 2, the former’s maximum is the minimum of the latter.

Comparing assault 2 to assault 1, a little historical context comes into play. Back in 1994, Oregon passed Measure 11, which mandated increased minimums for certain crimes. Take a look at this chart here and you’ll see that the “serious injury” addition in cases involving a weapon bumps the sentence up by 20 months.

That’s a pretty big fucking deal if you’re sitting at the defense table or care at all about the idea of equal application of the law.

As such, suing Nike is rather a clever move, if you think about it.

If you hit someone with something, how are you supposed to know what constitutes a “dangerous weapon”? Of course you shouldn’t be hitting people with things in the first place, but once it happens, the law should evenly distribute punishment to all those who do.

By suing Nike, he is pointing out that there should exist some means by which something can be objectively declared dangerous, thus removing the legally arbitrary decision from the hands of the prosecuting attorney. Requiring things to be labeled as such is clearly a ridiculous and untenable idea, but the point is still made. Assuming he’s actually trying to make the point and not trying to cash in by way of something his lawyer cooked up, also a bit ridiculous. Either way.

Let us not forget:

Given sufficient skill, ingenuity or luck, virtually everything becomes a dangerous weapon. While it may be clear that this little bastard should be put away for as long as humanly possible, there should not be a means by which a prosecutor can, on a whim, add degrees and years to a possible sentence.

In: News, Other, PoliticsNo Comments

Monday November 18th, 2013 08:32 The ACA is definitely Obama’s Katrina

…if you simply ignore all the dead bodies.

I can’t understate how much it makes me want to puke when I hear the Serious People on teevee bloviate about how the botched federal response to a category 5 hurricane that razed much of one of our nations oldest and most populous cities which resulted in its streets being littered with the corpses of hundreds of our fellow countrymen is something that we should be using as a comparison point to a poorly rolled-out website.

In one hand, we have dead people lying in gutters while the desperate beg their government for help to escape this hellish nightmare, or maybe just some water that’s clean enough to not kill them.

In the other hand, there are people who want to buy health insurance, but have to wait a few weeks because some doofus didn’t properly load-balance some servers.

For those that think comparing the two as equals counts as high-minded political discussion, I must ask:

What fucking planet do you come from?

Because as much as I think the ACA is a good thing, I’m prepared to scrap the lot of it and use the funding to form a task force dedicated to blowing that planet out of the sky before more of you come here.

And as a reminder, here’s one president talking about people not being able to keep crappy, overpriced insurance plans that didn’t actually cover them at all:

And here’s another president talking about a guy who was, at that exact time, horribly bungling the response to a major natural disaster:

In: News, PoliticsNo Comments

Wednesday July 17th, 2013 14:54 Sometimes price cuts just ain’t enough

This happened last night:


I took a good look at that story and thought very unfondly of a time when insurance was a pipe dream for the wife and I.

It’s the city. Our taxes are astronomical. I pay about 33%. New York City rent sounds really high to outsiders; trust me, it’s even worse when you have to pay it every month. You do not leave the grocery store without spending as much on one of our shopping carts’ worth of food as others spend on a full-sized supermarket one. Those TV ads for $.99 this or $2.99 that: this is one of those places where it “may not apply.”

Knowing that and having been dead broke because of it, I viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism the concept that a change in insurance rates – even a 50% drop – might increase their affordability for those who are still economically forced to be uninsured.

After making my retort, it took a few minutes to realize my error. Luckily, I’ve been reading You Are Not So Smart (which is brilliant and you should definitely buy the book like I did), and realized that my conclusion had shades of confirmation bias.

The good @digiphile at least provided a link to a story with numbers. I can speak of myself, but I needed to gather data to justifiably make my final conclusion.

So I did just that.


I not-so-arbitrarily selected a family of four to use as a model, due to the traditional ‘American-ness’ of the unit.

Note: In an attempt to attack my own hypothesis, I used the most unfavorable numbers available. This, hopefully, also served to counter the self-interest of those producing the numbers.

According to the graph in the above-references NY Times article, that family will see their health care costs drop to as low as $1,573 per month, or $18,876 per year.

After visiting several cost-of-living estimators, FindTheData gave the lowest necessary income – without being ludicrous – for a family of four, in keeping with the intended anti-hypothesis methodology. It suggests that such a family would need $68,758 per year to survive. If we subtract the [drastically underestimated] $547 of monthly healthcare costs, we get a required salary of $62,194.

For comparison, the decidedly more liberal EPI suggested an income necessity of $93,502. Personally, that number sounds much more accurate, as my wife and I make more than that and I know we can’t afford 2 kids.

The highest median household income in NYC, oddly enough, is in Staten Island, where they make $66,985. Well…made. The Census has a more-recent, city-wide average which is far lower, but let’s keep on method here.

Simple subtraction says that this particular household will have $4,791 left over, after all their other necessities, to buy insurance. At $1,573 per month, they can afford 3 months, 1 day and 9 hours worth of insurance.

Totally ignoring taxes here. Someone who needs to take home $62k must actually make about $100k gross. That $66k in SI turns in to about $45k after taxes.


The good Mr. Howard’s reply mentioned the existence of federal subsidies for the under/un-insured. Let’s see if that helps.

Federal subsidies only apply to people within 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, which, relative to incomes required to survive in NYC, is pretty low at $23,550 for a family of four. This puts our Average Joe family at 264% of that level.

The ACA has tiered premium limits based on that percentage so that no one under 400% has to pay more than 9.5% of their income to insurance premiums. Someone at 264% is in a bit of a sliding-scale area, leaving them between 8% and 9.5%.

Putting our numbers into the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator, we get – assuming we have two 21-year-old non-smokers as our parents – a required contribution of 8.46% of income, or, $5,261.

This is still nearly $500 more than the Average Joes have to spend.

But wait. New York has a fantastic program for kids called Child Health Plus. At their income level, $5,183 per month, they can put both their kids on a plan that only costs $30 per month each, reducing their annual for the kids to a mere $720. Going by the official tables released by the governor’s office and multiplying the lowest-priced standard plan by the with-spouse modifier of 2.00, the parents’ insurance drops to $790 per month.

Now we hit a little snag in the system. Taking their kids off their insurance lowers the monthly premium, but does nothing to their federal subsidy. Though this arrangement would reduce their non-subsidized costs from $18,876 to $10,200, they still pay the same.


This was an amateur assessment. My numbers were from multiple different sources, some of which did not have the same starting point. Some of the data was old. I may have made some errors in calculation or understanding of application. This is not a proper proof.

The data I used was that which was most likely to prove me wrong, which is terribly unscientific in every way.

Yet, the hypothesis held: a nice, big reduction in already-insane insurance premiums, even when coupled with federal subsidies, does not necessarily mean that all of our uninsured will be getting long-overdue checkups come January.

It also reinforces my other point: this is a pretty sweet deal for people who could already afford insurance. If your $35k+ insurance bill suddenly becomes $18k+, you just gained $17k of disposable income. Ballyhoo.

I do hope some people are able to afford insurance after all this kicks in, despite what the math says. For now, I’m with this guy right here: we can do a lot better for each other – in some places, we already do.

In: News, PoliticsNo Comments

Wednesday June 26th, 2013 14:42 The NSA updates people who know zero about infosec

Or, The Flight of the Pig-Ignorant Pig

Completely ignoring the fact that this piece makes it clear that CNN’s Barbara Starr went to stenographer’s school, where she happened to find a journalism degree inside a Cracker Jack box

Exactly how stupid does the NSA think we are?

First off, we know that X number of people have the leaked Snowden documents and that they’re encrypted beyond the skill of any even-close-to-normal person. So this drivel is already operating on the false pretense that all of this info was just spread around to anyone who came asking.

More importantly, they are asking that we accept an additional premise: that the entire point of the leak was not about domestic application of foreign surveillance techniques.

Our unnamed “intelligence official” (which is never something one asks to be called when they intentionally release misleading information) seems desperate to reinforce the ludicrous movie concepts of secret frequency lists and guys with glasses sitting in front of 10-monitor computers looking at GUIs that elegantly shuffle around meaningless but impressive-looking sets of characters. If those sneaky terrorists found out about the back door in the snarky but lovable computer tech’s superpowered tracking program, then surely our national monuments are done for.

It would be a shame for Mr. Deep But Not Too Bright Throat if someone whose computer is more than a Facebook-checking machine should read his words.

That person might be able to point out that electronic communications still work the same way they did a month ago. And that any terrorist of affect enough to warrant the NSA’s interest is probably not out there Instagramming his blueprint and bomb stash. He knows what the hell he’s doing and the fact that the NSA is concurrently doing metadata processing on your mom’s text messages means jack shit to him.

That person might also have what I like to call a “memory,” by which they can recall late 2010 when the government was hard at work trying to change the fact that Julian Assange’s name wasn’t associated with their very favorite scare word, “terrorist,” and that it isn’t just a bit ironic to do it regarding a leak that revealed the NSA to be woefully consistent in their tactics.

So good on you, CNN. Now, back to our regularly scheduled coverage of celebrity babies and little missing white girls.

In: Computers, News, PoliticsNo Comments

Saturday May 25th, 2013 10:37 I am not a Millenial

I tried to read through this, one of the latest “let’s try to break down the new generation” stories, but I am so done with this whole thing.

I am so very, very tired of people defining everyone born after ’79 as a goddamn Millenial.

I was born in January of 1983, and every single time I read one of these diatribes, there is a blanket look of confusion and surprise plastered across my face at all the things that these kids don’t know and never experienced.


The truth is: there is very little difference between me and any given person who was born in 1978.

I loved my Gremlins 45s with the read-along books. In 1994, I was distraught over Kurt Cobain’s suicide because I did and still do love Nirvana. I also remember watching the white bronco that year. My first R-rated movie was Total Recall. I never wanted to be someone else so badly as when I first met Bastian. I know how to operate a reel-to-reel. My brother and I drove the shit out of our aunt demanding to see her recorded-from-NBC-with-the-original-commercials-intact copies of Star Wars all the time because we did not yet have a VHS player at home. I had the Enter Sandman/Stone Cold Crazy cassingle. Friday visits to the video store were a religion. The elder Bush’s presidency is a clear memory, as is the end of Reagan’s. It was a crushing disappointment when I learned how unlikely it would be for me to be a contestant on Legends of the Hidden Temple, despite the fact that it was filmed just a few hours drive away. My first video game was not on an NES. It was Mattel electronic football (which I remember as being a lot bigger).

Look, I got a million of these. The point being: what in the holy fuck do these people think I have in common with a 10-year-old?

We’re not the same generation. We’re barely the same species.

People, particularly people who get paid to write authoritatively about this topic, need to get it through their thick skulls that generational striations have become incredibly thin. Think, McFly. Think.

See? A reference I can make because I saw the damn thing in the 80s. Both sequels: in the theater. Find me a teenager who knows about velcro-topped basketball shoes.

My wife was born in 1986, and her sister is from ’89. While the two of us have a strong cultural/experiential connection, we don’t know what the hell her sister is talking about half the time. Her brother, who’s just turning 21, makes sense far less than that.

It’s an insult to me to say that I am of the same stock as people who’s first memory of Alfonso Ribeiro is from The Fresh Prince and not Silver Spoons. And it’s an insult to those people to tell them that they’re no different from someone who didn’t exist before iPods.

I don’t know how the generations should be broken up. I’m not an anthropologist nor do I have enough concept of what younger people experienced to draw those kinds of lines. But I do know that the line, as it exists now, is way off.

So until that’s fixed, stop calling me a Millenial.

In: Computers, Music/Movies/TV, News, Other, Politics, Video GamesNo Comments


IT guy, dev, designer, writer.

Got a degree in print journalism from UF but history dealt some bad cards to that industry, so I moved back to an earlier love: the computer.

Was recently at ZMOS Networks, but am now the Senior IT Associate at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

My name is moderately common, as are a couple screen names, so always look for the logo to make sure you're reading something with official Km approval.

You can get to me directly with kyle(@)kylemitchell.org