Oct 1, 2015

The Case of Canadian Cable Cutter and the Content Copyrights Catch-22

"I banish thee, foul cord! Trouble me no further!"
Hi, my name is Jesse, and I'm a cable-cutter.

You've likely heard the term before. If not, allow me to enlighten you: Cable-cutters (or Cord-cutters) are those of us who have chosen to forgo exorbitant monthly cable TV bills in preference of various internet-based streaming services and other sources of content. Our numbers are growing every year. Cable television, to us, is an anachronistic concept; one in which we pay for tons of content we never watch, and the content we do want is played piecemeal at scheduled times.

This is the era of streaming: we watch as much of whatever we want, whenever we want to.

Sep 26, 2015

Parable of the Violin... and also Star Trek

One of the greats...
A stage - empty but for a spotlight and a stradivarius violin: one of the world's finest.

Onto that stage walks Joshua Bell, arguably one of the world's finest violinists. He picks up the instrument, and begins to play...

Over the next five minutes, he draws out a heart-rending lyrical melody, angry and passionate fireworks, perfect chromatic scales that leave other musicians agog. Bell brings the music to a dynamic, tonal, and emotional crescendo. The climax of the music is palpable.

Sep 16, 2015

LEDs Are Not IEDs

"Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.”

Oh noes! It's a bomb... isn't it?
President Obama tweeted the above in response to the recent story of 14-year old Ahmed Mohammed. On Monday, Ahmed brought a homemade clock to school as an engineering project. School administrators claimed that the clock was “bomblike”. Ahmed was arrested. Like, actually-put-in-cuffs arrested.

Sep 10, 2015

The Fallacy of the "Secret Master Key"

I’m often at a loss on how to explain to people the thorny social issues which arise from our complex contemporary technology. Much of the time, in order to even begin discussing the implications of a particular topic, you have to explain all sorts of complicated underlying concepts to your audience. By the time you arrive at what is actually THE POINT, your listeners, intelligent as they may be, have that glazed-over look in their eyes which tells you that you're trying their attention span.

That’s why, when a perfect, real-life analogy falls into my lap, I seize it. That’s what I’ll be doing here.

Sep 9, 2015

Looney Tunes

Under the law court buildings in downtown Vancouver, there's a minimalist sculpture of a red spring. Taking a photo through it from either end produces a tableau effect quite reminiscent of a mid-20th century Warner Brothers cartoon title card. I made a quick template in Photoshop to add the appropriate lettering. Sadly, I can't distribute the fonts used, but you might be able to find something with a quick googling...

Sep 2, 2015

Popular TV Shows Reverse Decision to Cancel NBC

This piece was originally posted as a Facebook note in April of 2015

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - Several popular TV shows announced today that they have decided to give broadcast network NBC another chance to stave off cancellation, tentatively reversing a decision made by the group earlier this spring.

Actor Joel McHale, speaking on behalf of the Consortium of Popular Shows (CPS), had this to say when asked for comment:

“What we’ve seen over the past month is an outpouring of support from dedicated fans of NBC, many of whom favour the traditional broadcast TV network model to newer streaming services.”

“We’re working hard to give the appearance of working hard to save this network. As such, we’ve decided to renew NBC for a limited season, and then review their performance based on an archaic ratings system which has long been outmoded by more modern technologies.”

Steve Burke, CEO of NBC, was visibly nervous during the press conference, but nonetheless made this brief statement:

“We’re super grateful to our fans, and to CPS for having faith in us. We’re staying positive about the future of our network!”

Moira Philler, a grandmother from Concord, NH, organized a letter-writing campaign to save NBC after hearing about the cancellation plans:

“It’s just awful. NBC is a mainstay of television, an iconic brand. People tell me that these newfangled streaming services are more convenient with more content. Well I say to them: what’s more convenient than simply turning on your TV and letting whatever channel you’re on decide what you’re going to watch at any given hour? Besides, streaming happens over the internet, and the internet is scary.”

Others have been more critical of the network.

“They have a cult following,” remarked John Maines of Denver, CO, “But if you ask me, a handful of weirdos and old people aren’t enough to support a TV network.”

Pressed for comment, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, simply laughed balefully for several minutes until our reporter awkwardly absconded. 

The new season of NBC is scheduled to begin April 30th.

The Hongerwinter - or Why I Can't Rip Wrapping Paper

This piece was originally posted as a Facebook note in December of 2013

The other day, our office building's property manager arrived with a Christmas gift basket. If you work in an office building, this is one of those little perks that come with your tenancy. As my co-workers and I begin to pick the basket apart, I eagerly pull out a small box of chocolates, wrapped in red paper. That's the point where I get weird.

I freeze. My hand hovers over the box, seemingly immobilized by an unseen force. I hear myself say, "This paper is too nice to rip," and out of the corner of my eye I see my co-worker give me a pointedly odd look. I step back to my desk, grab my utility knife from my tools drawer, and return to the front desk. I proceed to carefully and delicately slice each piece of scotch tape on the package until I can unwrap it without tearing the paper at all.

The Luxury SUV

This piece was originally posted as a Facebook note in July of 2015

Dear Luxury SUV,

I write you to apologize. This afternoon, as you flew through the barren wasteland of East Vancouver, you were about to blitz freely through that two-way stop, when I, a lowly pedestrian, approached the intersection to cross, thus forcing you to come to a screeching and inconvenient halt.

Wretched I was - tired from work, laden both with my laptop and two full bags of groceries, and worst of all, tainted with the foulness of PUBLIC TRANSIT. Forth I shuffled, like a dung beetle, under the blazing sun.

You were magnificent. Shining, gleaming white. Resplendent in your design. What was your purpose? Town car? Off-roader? Ah, but what hubris and ignorance I show: for your purpose is simply TO BE; TO GO. You move forward, your glorious halogens lighting up this undeserving world. Your V8 heart beating brightly, 15 miles to the gallon... crushing all opposition beneath your grandiose wheels with traction control, all in the perfect comfort of dual-zone climate control. The world, WE are your road. Blessed are we to be so.

As you crept mid-way through the intersection, I sensed your impatience, and hurried along, encumbered as I was by my earthly luggage. As I neared the opposite curb, you raced past just behind me, your magnificent valves emitting a beastly roar to signify your displeasure; Your distaste at my very existence for having cost you these precious seconds from your divine passage through this plane.

I shed a single tear, ashamed for my transgression. As I turned in reverence, I caught a glimpse of your majestic form as it departed. A pictogram of figures graced your rear window: FAMILY.

I could never understand.

Forgive me.

On Drowning

This piece was originally posted as a Facebook note in March of 2014

Did you know that I almost drowned once?

I may have mentioned it to some of you. Perhaps I needed to explain a certain awkwardness I had around water. Perhaps I was simply grasping for something to talk about in a group setting; tapping a traumatic memory to relay a personal touch to the current topic of conversation, thus proving I have something to contribute.

What did you think about just now when I said I almost drowned? Perhaps you concocted some narrative in which I swim too far out during a day at the ocean: I misjudge my abilities and my mortality, forcing a local lifeguard to make a dramatic rescue. Or perhaps I fell out of a raft on white water, scrambling to keep afloat whilst dodging rocks. How very dramatic that would be.

I'm Back

Greetings fellow Humans. This post marks culmination of my long-contemplated return to blogging. After spending almost a decade (~2003-2011) previously blogging on this domain (under the title "Geekman's World") my posts petered out and I decided to transition to using social media.

That was disastrous.

Social media is death to writing. Don't get me wrong, I love social media as a sort of tool for social-interaction micro-transactions. A "Like" here, a witty comment there, a continuous stream of outrage over the shitty thing conservative politicians are doing... but it does not foster creativity. It's a good platform for sharing other people's creations, but that's it.

Many of the posts I made over my first eight years of blogging are best left dead. However, I will ressurect some of my best work from the old Geekman's World, from the equally-defunct "Twisted Pair" IT blog, and from Facebook notes.

This will be a place where Jesse Schooff can interact with the world at large. This will be a home for writing, IT stuff, political discussion focusing on digital rights, graphic design, music, and any other creativity I spew forth into your hopefully consenting eyes.

I hope to improve on the site design, but well see: a simple design follows a simple function. Stay tuned! And thanks for reading.