Archive for October, 2012

What it Would Take to Get Me to Vote Romney

About a month ago, I posted my refutation to some of the more idiotic things said by people who want me to vote Mitt Romney. I’m about to share some of the same thoughts, but also explain what it would take to get me to vote Romney.

There is about a 99% chance that I’ll be voting for Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party candidate for President. Why, you ask? Simply put, he’s the guy I like most. I don’t have much love for Mitt Romney, and voting for him would be a protest vote only, not a meaningful vote.

As I stated in my previous post, I live in Minnesota. Minnesota consistently votes Democrat for President. The last Republican to win Minnesota was Richard Nixon in 1972. We were the only state to go for Walter Mondale in 1984 (though likely because he’s from Minnesota). Only Washington DC joined us in not voting for Reagan. This year appears to be possibly moving more toward an even race, but is still in the Obama/Democrat category.

With Minnesota likely to go Obama, a vote for Romney is a protest vote. It’s an “anyone but Obama” vote. I don’t cast “anyone but…” votes, I vote for the guy I like most on the ballot.

“But You’re Wasting Your Vote”

You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, and you’re welcome to come up with whatever justification you wish for casting your vote, but I’ll decide what constitutes wasting my vote, thank you very much.

How you come to the conclusion of whom to vote for is your business. I don’t cast “lesser evil” votes, or “anybody but…” votes. I vote for the candidate that I like the most. For most races down the line, that ends up being the Republican, mostly for lack of any other choice – it’s the Democrat or it’s the Republican. In races even further down the line, such as school board, city council, or county office, it is often the Liberal Democrat vs. the more moderate Democrat. Whomever comes closest to my political philosophy gets my vote.

That said, it’s my opinion that “lesser evil” or “anyone but…” votes are the ones that are wasted. If there is a better candidate on the ballot, but you refuse to consider him/her because he/she is third party, you’re just rubber-stamping the status quo. In the case of the Presidential race this year, voting for Mitt Romney is voting for the guy who will drive us toward the cliff at a more leisurely pace, rather than speeding ahead with the pedal to the metal. I prefer a candidate that turns the bus around and heads away from the cliff.

“But A Vote for Anyone but Romney is a Vote for Obama”

I addressed this one in my previous post. This logic is completely idiotic, and using it shows that you don’t think at all, you just repeat the garbage you hear others saying. Just sit down and relax. You think Mitt Romney is the only other candidate. Well, just rest well knowing that since I’m not voting for Obama, my vote is as good as a vote for Romney. That may sound strange, but it’s your own bullet-proof logic.

“So What Will it Take to Get You to Vote Romney?”

I’m glad you finally got around to asking. That is what I set out to address, isn’t it?

Put simply, Minnesota will have to be very close. There will have to be a reasonable chance that it will go to a recount. Anything else and I’m going with the guy I like.

Why so close? Well, in any other case, it’s hard to make the argument that my vote really will make a difference in the outcome. If, as is normally the case, Minnesota is headed toward sending 10 electoral votes to the Democrats, then voting for Romney would be a protest vote. It’s an “anyone but Obama” vote. If that’s the case, what’s the difference between voting for Romney (who can’t win Minnesota) and Virgil Goode (who also can’t win Minnesota)? Neither guy will win Minnesota either way. In that case, a vote for Romney is a vote for the status quo. A vote for Romney says that I buy into the system. It’s Kang vs. Kodos.

If it suddenly swings in the other direction, and Romney becomes the projected winner in Minnesota, then a vote for him is simply a rubber-stamp for him. I don’t like him, and don’t have any desire to rubber stamp him. Sure, he’s the lesser evil, but still not my guy. He’s not the guy that will turn the bus around and head in the right direction.

“Why Do You Keep Talking about Minnesota? This is a National Election!”

Go back to third grade History and Civics class. We don’t have a national popular vote. We vote for electors from each state, who in turn vote for the Presidential candidates. My vote affects who those electors from Minnesota will be. Romney could get every vote from every voter in every other state, and it will make no difference who the electors from Minnesota are.

What was the Point of this Post?”

Mostly to tell you to shut up. You sound like a buffoon repeating every idiotic talking point you hear from your Republican Party handlers. Please, stop and think a little before repeating the same old tired and illogical arguments. If your candidate can’t win me to vote for him because he’s the best candidate on my ballot, then resorting to “wasted vote” and “lesser evil” arguments just expose him as being hollow, and your reasoning as weak. Maybe consider learning some basic informal logical fallacies. You’re engaging in several of them and you’re too ignorant to see it. For starters, you’re engaging in the following fallacies: Special Pleading, Bandwagon, Black or White, and Appeal to Emotion. There are probably others as well, but we’ll start there.

The Alpine INE-S920HD: My Thoughts

My family has been on several long road trips over the last two years. By long, I mean it takes at least a day to get where we’re going. in the case of a trip to Phoenix, it took three days to get home (we took our time getting down there, it took about a week). On the most recent, our trip to Bloomington, Indiana for our son’s cancer treatments, we discussed upgrading our car audio system. Our 2005 Isuzu Ascender (a Chevy Trailblazer with the Isuzu name) has nearly 110,000 miles on it, but is still in great condition. We don’t foresee needing to get a new vehicle for another 3-5 years, but wanted to get many of the features of a new vehicle, which are found in the audio system.

When I set out to do the upgrade, I had several features that I wanted in a system, and did a lot of research to make sure I’d get them. I settled on the Alpine INE-S920HD, though one of the key features I sought is not available in this unit.

What I wanted was:

  • Bluetooth for phone calls and audio – I wanted to integrate hands-free calling with the audio system. Also, I listen to a lot of podcasts, especially on long drives, I wanted to be able to play the podcasts loaded on my Android phone through the audio system without dealing with aux-in cords.
  • iPod control – While I am transitioning toward using my phone much more for podcasts, I still find myself sometimes using my classic iPod for the same thing, especially on the longer drives. I wanted to be able to integrate that into the system as seamlessly as possible.
  • Control of back seat video – To date, we’ve been using portable DVD players in the back to keep the kids entertained. I have a pair of Philips players that strap to the back of a headrest. This isn’t great, the seats usually tip somewhat back, rather than being straight up and down, meaning the players point down and can be harder to watch. I wanted to get a ceiling-mounted video screen that could be controlled by the in-dash audio system. My research showed that this is a common feature, called “Dual Zone”. I wanted the system to play my audio choice on the front speaker, and the sound for my kids’ DVDs in the rear speakers. Unfortunately, the Alpine INE-S920HD does not have this feature. I’ll explain more later.
  • Navigation – Over the past several years, we have grown to depend on our Garmin navigation systems. I wanted to get that integrated into the audio system. First, being integrated, the system will mute audio while announcing navigation instructions, so we don’t have a radio and a GPS blasting at the same time, competing for my ears. Second, I thought it would be nice to clear off the dash a little. Third, being in the dash frees up a power port, and eliminates a cord hanging from the dash.
  • A rear camera – We have a large vehicle that can be hard enough to see out the back of. Add a couple child seats in the back row and now a video screen hanging from the ceiling and I’m left with only my side mirrors to see behind the vehicle. Having a camera in the back would be very nice, and provide added safety. I thought it would be even nicer if the rear-camera could act something like a rear-view mirror while driving down the freeway, though the Alpine doesn’t do that, it only works will the vehicle is in reverse.
  • An HD Radio tuner – When I’m not listening to podcasts, I’m usually listening to talk radio. Most talk radio is on scratchy AM stations, and it would be nice to listen to them on the HD2 and HD3 streams on FM sister-stations.

Knowing what I wanted, I set out to find something that would best provide all the items on my wish list. I quickly came across the Clarion NX602, which claimed to do everything I wanted, with the possible exception of the always-on rearview camera. (I’m not sure any unit will do that when hooked up correctly). I also found this Alpine. I’ve long been a fan of Alpine, and sought to find a reason to justify buying it. My biggest hangup was the dual zone requirement. I called Crutchfield to get some of my questions answered. Among other questions, they said this unit had dual zone support. I took them at their word and assumed that meant I’d get the feature I most wanted. Unfortunately, I ended up ordering from Newegg though, because it was almost $100 cheaper than Crutchfield. It was a third party sale, and the seller does not accept returns for installed units. I can’t exactly complain that I was misled by Crutchfield when I bought from someone else and expect an exchange.

In order to make up for the missing feature that I wanted, I had to spend $250 extra to upgrade my video system to one with a built in DVD player (seriously, $250 extra for a DVD player! In 2012, when you can buy portable units for $50!) That player has an FM transmitter built in. So now we have a make-shift dual zone. My kids listen to their DVDs with a portable FM radio instead of the car audio system as I wished from the beginning.

That said, let me move on to the features the unit does have, and my opinions about them:
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My Evolution of Media Consumption

I’m a media junkie. Whether it’s music, TV shows, or movies, I like it. I’m especially fond of podcasting. Not only do I produce a podcast, I love listening to them.

Several years ago, I bought an Apple TV. I loved it. It was a great way to serve up my iTunes library to my TVs and stereo systems. I especially liked that I could play audio from my computer using iTunes and have it come out of the speakers hooked up to my Apple TVs (I have two). If I was moving around the house, I could have the music or podcasts I was listening to played in several rooms at the same time.

I’ve been using my Apple TVs less and less though. I still like them, but I’ve come to like something else better.

It all started last winter when I built my first Home Theater PC. As I was moving away from DirecTV and toward a life as a cord-cutter (someone who gives up cable and satellite TV), I quickly came to like using Windows Media Center as a DVR for over-the-air television. For the shows I used to watch on cable/satellite, Amazon Instant Video was an excellent substitute. Paying $3 per episode ($2 if you don’t mind standard definition, lower resolution) is much cheaper for my family than the $100/month we were paying for DirecTV.

In addition to my new DVR functionality, I quickly came to like another program: Plex. Plex is a derivative of XBMC, a media player that was originally built to play audio and video files on the first XBox, but was ported over to the PC. Plex is a little different in that it requires that one computer on your network act as a server. If you only have one computer, that’s no problem, it can serve to itself (it just requires two programs: the server and the client). The server is nice because it keeps track of everything. If you start watching a show or movie on one machine, stop part way through it, and continue in another room, it will remember where you left off.

What I love about Plex so much is that it is much more flexible than iTunes. It will handle many more file formats, and you can create your own sections. For example, instead of just having one section for TV shows, we have two. One of them is the standard TV show section, and another is for German language shows, since our kids watch all of their shows in German (which we get from save.tv, an online DVR service from Germany).

One feature that I mentioned loving about iTunes was one I missed with the HTPC: the ability to play audio to multiple places. This is a feature that Apple calles “Airplay”. However, I’ve been discovering other ways to use Airplay than just using Apple hardware. I won’t get into any real depth here, but Lifehacker has an article on how to send audio to a whole host of different places, from your phone to your HTPC and others. I can now send my podcasts from my Mac running iTunes to all of my HTPCs, as well as my Android phone, as well as my old Android phone that is hooked up to a radio in my kitchen. I’m now at a point where I can have a player set up in every area of my house (though not quite every room, so the volume needs to be turned up a bit and bedroom doors left open.)

My Apple TVs are first-generation. I haven’t used any of the newer ones (they are currently on the third generation), but I’ve come to use mine so little I don’t foresee updating to newer models. There is nothing more flexible than a computer. The newer Apple TVs have app support, but Apple has had a history of limiting what apps it will allow on their hardware. Not so with a computer.

Since building that HTPC, I set up an old laptop to act as an HTPC (mentioned in the post in March), but now have also added an old Mac Mini. For the time being, the Mac Mini mostly runs Plex, but the plan is to get a copy of Windows 7 to load on it via Boot Camp for a full-fledged HTPC for my bedroom.

If you’re going to record TV to an HTPC, DVR style, it’s good to have a current-generation machine with the power to handle several video streams simultaneously. However, older machines work great for clients. The old laptop, which works just fine as a client, is a Pentium Dual Core (the hardware that is between the Pentium 4 and the Core Duo). The Mac Mini is a Core Duo. If you’ve got an old machine that you’re looking for a use for, try hooking it up to your TV and using it as a media center.

Podcasting Tips: Interviewing Guests

Since May 2008, I’ve been doing a theological podcast over at my ministry website called Echo Zoe Radio. It’s a monthly show, usually about an hour long. I always interview someone, and guests and topics vary greatly (though always within the scope of theology).

What I want to share here is my experience of finding and interviewing guests. My show is theological, but most of what I have to say here should apply to just about any topic or genre of podcasting or radio.
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