Friday, July 09, 2004

A Metaphor a Day

I wish I had written down the impetus for the metaphor but I didn't. Alex being gone is what I'm referring to. When I got divorced and the kids went stateside while I was in Europe, I wrote a story that described a man cutting a hole in his midsection on the left side of his torso with a steak knife and then hollowing out the area as a way to describe what it feels like to have your kids taken away. Strange that I would think that and then Alex would tell me one day that love comes from your liver. I always thought it was from the heart but what she says makes sense given where I felt the loss the most.

And now Alex is gone. Temporarily though, only four months. The pain isn't the same. It's strange, like a joyous melancholy and I'm not saying that simply for the ironical pleasure of it. It's truly a glorious sadness. And here's why:

I know she's coming back. I know she's out there thinking of me and longing for the same day I am, when we see each other again. In that sense, the loss I feel only makes me more aware of how special out bond is.

Thinking of this yesterday I found myself thinking that the loss isn't like having the sun set. It's simply that she's been eclipsed. There is an empty space where she used to be, but the space only blocks out direct access to her warmth. At the edges of that space, at the edges of my awareness, I know she's there. I can see pieces of her at home. Long strands of hair on the pillows. Feminine shoes with graceful curves at different places in the house. It is exactly like the view of the sun when the moon covers the center perfectly and leaves only the blinding corona that will blind you if you stare long enough.

If I think about that empty space long enough, I want to sleep.

So instead I don't dwell on her empty space. I think about the time that seems so far off when the moon will leave its place in the sky and let her light shine on me again. I think about her warmth. And still I miss her.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Comcast Point-Counterpoint or "Peer-to-Peer and How to Steer Clear of the Legal Fear Gears and RIAA Leers"

This is classic. Before the whole filesharing debacle began and people happily downloaded much loved music from peer to peer networks, I participated. Then the legal battle began with people sued at random, mostly poor people who couldn't afford the music to begin with. And, of course, the RIAA is going to exploit this fact by backing it with untold dollars.

So, I stopped sharing. I did a little reading and it seemed that you were safe if you downloaded for personal use and didn't share. Just like recording a show off of the TV, right? You enjoyed it yourself and that's it. You recorded a song off the radio, made a mix tape, and you were happy for hours on the drive, right? So if I record it off the radio or download it, what's the difference? As long as I don't provide it as a distributor, am I ok?

I don't know. That's the bottom line.

So I went to my ISP, Comcast, and read the Terms of Service. They address filesharing. Since I'm not sharing, only downloading and storing does the ToS apply to me? Are they considering any consumer of a file a filesharer? Sharing is when you give and take. What if I only take? How is this different?

With this in mind, I went to Comcast.net's on-line support. There wasn't a category for someone who can speak intelligently on their Terms of Service (and now I know why, that person either doesn't exist or is deemed inaccessible by Comcast) and this is what ensued:

chat id : 40c0e096-1031-42b6-ae18-1c2bde88ed77
Kerry.4868 > Thank you for contacting Comcast Chat Support. My name is Kerry. What is your full name and how may I assist you today?

Jeff > There wasn't really a precise category for this... so... hope you can help
Jeff > I am wondering about P2P
Jeff > I read thge ToS


Kerry.4868 > I'll try.
Kerry.4868 > What is your full name, please?

Jeff > and it doesn't say much about storing and downloading while not sharing
Jeff > Jeffrey Ethan Begley


Kerry.4868 > We do not provide a P2P service.

Jeff > I understand

Kerry.4868 > Are you requesting information on Personal Web Page?
Kerry.4868 > (PWP)

Jeff > but you provide the connection through which I p2p
Jeff > no
Jeff > peer to peer file sharing


Kerry.4868 > We provide your internet service, but do not troubleshoot other company's websites or programs.
Kerry.4868 > Is there something else I can assist you with today?

Jeff > I'm not asking for troubleshooting
Jeff > I am asking about the Terms of Service where they apply to peer to peer file sharing


Kerry.4868 > What are you asking then?
Kerry.4868 > Go to the comcast.net homepage and click on Service Center -- you will see information concerning file sharing.
Kerry.4868 > Your reference number for this chat session is:
Kerry.4868 > 18147021

Jeff > Does Comcast have a policy regarding downloading copyrighted materials if they are NOT shared and only stored
Jeff > I don't share, merely download


Kerry.4868 > The Terms of Service are available at the bottom of the Comcast.net homepage.

Jeff > Which I read and do not provide an adequate description for people to download and store but do not make the files available to others

Kerry.4868 > Is there something else I can assist you with today?
Kerry.4868 > Do you require further assistance today?

Jeff > Yes
Jeff > The Terms of Service do not provide information on my specific case
Jeff > who can I contact for further info?
Jeff > Who is the person who can answer specific questions on the ToS


Kerry.4868 > Comcast abides by any US law concerning filesharing. If subpoenaed for information concerning customers, it is provided.
Kerry.4868 > At the bottom of the comcast.net homepage, you will see a link for Contact US -- click on it.
Kerry.4868 > Do you require further assistance today?

Jeff > Understood. But I don't fileshare. I only consume. That is not addressed and is what my questions concerns.
Jeff > Is there a contact for the legal dept at Comcast?


Kerry.4868 > You will need to talk to a lawyer if you want the absolute translation of the law.
Kerry.4868 > You may not contact Comcast's corporate lawyers for this issue.
Kerry.4868 > Is there something else I can assist you with today?

Jeff > I am asking for Comcast's stance on it.

Kerry.4868 > I've given you where to locate the Terms of service and how to contact Comcast.

Jeff > Ok. I guess that's as good as it can get then. Thanks for putting up with me.

Kerry.4868 > As a technical service representative, I am unable to provide you with any legal advice -- you will need to research how the law applies to you.
Kerry.4868 > If you do not have any further issues, please close this chat window.
Kerry.4868 > I have terminated this chat session because of you have been inactive for quite some time. If you would like further assistance you may re-enter Chat Support. Thank you for choosing Comcast. Have a great day. To protect your computer and connection to the Internet, please ensure you have the latest security updates from Microsoft www.microsoft.com/security. If you have any questions visit our Online Security Section in the Service Center on Comcast.net.
Kerry.4868 > Analyst has closed chat and left the room


As a note: Kerry closed the chat window so fast I almost didn't have time to copy the text. "Quite some time" to a Comcast tech support guy is about fifteen seconds.

This conversation illustrates something quite important in the p2p battle currently going on. I am not a lawyer. I can read and write and have quite a bit of college under my belt, but I'm afraid I'm pretty weak when you enter into copyright law.

So what is a music consumer to do?

Do I wait around to find out if I'll be sued for storing music for personal purposes? Is it illegal if I purchase the CD and then rip it onto my hard drive so I can listen via MP3 player? What if I share it with my wife? When I purchase a CD is the implied use for the whole family? Am I violating the law if I play it at a party and we video tape it?

How the hell do I know?! I have to get a lawyer in order to ensure I'm not ignorant of the law?

So... I ask my ISP. I thought that was rational. I pay for their connection. They have terms of service which broach my particular question. So I'll ask them.

And that is the response... specific advice is to read the ToS again and then hire a lawyer to answer my questions on their policy. Not once did I ask the guy what my legal obligation was. I asked how their (Comcast's) terms of service applied to individuals who download and store music for personal use and take care not to share it.

The bottom line is that I still don't know if what I did was wrong in the eyes of my ISP.

So, with all this in mind, I wish to give Comcast a fair shake. I'll try their tech support live-chat again and see what happens...

And the miraculous occurred! Read on:

chat id : bc51f63b-91a0-4e48-8fe0-a71047d57940
Eleanor.5166 > Thank you for contacting Comcast chat. My name is Eleanor. How can I help you. May I have your name please?

Jeff > Jeff Begley

Eleanor.5166 > Hello Jeff

Jeff > I am looking for someone who can clarify the Terms of Service
Jeff > Hiya


Eleanor.5166 > How can I assist you.

Jeff > I asked a question about the ToS with another analyst... and I didn't get clarification so I thought maybe I asked in the wrong way

Eleanor.5166 > What do you need to know?

Jeff > I would like clarification on the ToS where it comes to file storage and NOT sharing over a p2p network
Jeff > basically, I download and store but do not make files available, does that put me in violation of the ToS
Jeff > I wonder because I do not share


Eleanor.5166 > No that does not put you in violation.

Jeff > so, in Comcast's eyes I can download and store as long as I don't allow the files to be shared?

Eleanor.5166 > Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Jeff > Eleanor.5166, you are wonderful... that was so easy, thanks.

Eleanor.5166 > That is correct.

Jeff > And have a good day.

Eleanor.5166 > Thank you.
Eleanor.5166 > To protect your computer and connection to the Internet, please ensure you have the latest security updates from Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/security). If you have any questions visit our Online Security Section in the Service Center on Comcast.net. Thank you for choosing Comcast chat.
Eleanor.5166 > Customer has closed chat and left the room


So, Comcast says it's ok to download and use, just not share. I realize this may not be copyright law, but it's a good enough indicator to me that it is legal. Woohoo!

For you lawyers out there gritting your teeth, I know the law is an evolving mass open to interpretation and is not a set of hard and fast rules. The layman, however, cannot afford your rates and has to conduct their own reasonable research.

Hopefully, this indicates I have done so. I'll be moving all that music onto CD as soon as possible in any case. Get it off the old hard drive. You just can't be too careful these days with all the hired-gun litigators running around the internet.

No links in this one. I was in a hurry.

"In the real world, you can do good for good's sake... and still get the girl" or Spider-Man Is NOT Off the Mark!

Well, I've thought about how to say this without sounding like it's horn-tooting. It's not, if you're going to think it is, oh well. But this is a personal account that really applies to the theme currently being talked about in various Spider-Man Blogs. See:

Matt Yglesias and Henry Farrel

Title: In the real world, you can do go for good's sake... and still get the girl

In 1998 I joined the army. Not out of some wish for college money or spirit of adventure, etc. I joined because I wanted to participate in something greater than myself and give myself to it completely.

I had two kids and a wife. She supported my decision to join.

When the air campaign in Kosovo was imminent, a tasking came down for an intel analyst to my battalion. I went immediately to my LT and begged to be sent. He did. I spent two months in Macedonia for the air campaign and moved directly into Kosovo Initial Entry for the next six months.

The marriage didn't make it those 8 months. Though it was a family decision to join, one half of the family reconsidered and bailed. Them's the breaks. I knew the risk going in, I accept the consequences. It may enrage some people to hear me speak about family like that, but if everyone was family first and put themselves and their kin above contributions to society for their entire lives we would still be a tribal, blood-feuding culture. I believe there is a time for family and a time for service and the service I chose required me to be younger and healthy... so it was my time.

So, here I am. Seven years after joining. After Kosovo I was reassigned to the US. I met my wife Alex. Truly, the girl of my dreams. Our marriage is such that forgiveness comes for anything because we know we each act out of good in our hearts. Mushy and soft sounding? Yeah. But true. I learned in my African Civilization class that the European ideal of true love between a man and a woman is an impossible ideal and this is justification for polygynous marriages (one man, many wives). Well, I'm living the ideal. Two years into the marriage and we still rush to embrace whenever one of us comes home, still call work in the morning to say hello, still cuddle at night in front of that modern version of the fireplace: the television. My marriage now holds the same excitement it did when we first met. It's been two years and change and I don't foresee it changing any time soon.

Read: Screw you African Culture teacher! My European idealic love is here, working, and gives me strength each day. Anyway... told you I go off on tangents...

I met her in April 2002, married in June 2002. I was deployed to the Middle East in January of 2003.

That girl didn't even blink. She stayed there for me in ways I never thought I needed. She never once complained, never once said I was being selfish in my attitude for serving and the inconvenience it gave our family. She was pregnant the entire time I was gone.

I never heard one peep of complaint and when I returned home she met me at the airport with the biggest smile I could have asked for. Just meeting her there was better than any parade, party or photo-op those WWII guys seemed to get in the movies.

For seven years I've dedicated myself to serving my country and its causes. Though it was immediately neglectful of my family, in the long run it helped the world they will inherit. Imagine if no one took that road. No army, no public service. Everyone just looking out for number one and their kids. This world would suck. No plainer way to put it.

You CAN serve and, in my case, you CAN be rewarded. Higher power. Fate. Destiny. Whatever. I'm the unlickiest SOB in the planet and I got it. I would bet that if you threw yourself into it and never looked back, you would to.

Another note: I'm an ugly guy. My wife, however, is a super-intelligent woman who most closely resembles Shakira. So closely that's what they call her at work. She wasn't attracted by my looks. She was attracted by my care and intensity, my determination, in everything I do. The moral is that you will get that Dunst if you are true about yourself. Someone along the way will notice. Some of you will think me telling you I have care, intensity and determination is a flouting of virtues. It isn't. These are virtues I work hard to practice on a daily basis. It's not easy. That road never is. But it's brought me Alex so there's no question whether it's worth the effort.

Alex wasn't the reward. That would imply I was doing it to get the girl. She's not a prize... She was the reason. I didn't even know the reason in my head until she took my heart.

Like I said before, sounds mushy and soft. But it's true.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Truth and the Press or "How To Make a Dead Man Feel Worse"

Marlon Brando died today. I found out at lunch. The first movie I ever saw him in was Last Tango in Paris. That was back when I was trying to be artsy, around 1991 or 1992, the college time frame. Saw him again in the Godfather and the movie with Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton, the Heist.

From the story done by the AP I understand he was the grandfather of method acting and spawned a whole generation to include Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and DeNiro. Another blow to the WWII generation who's living memories are fading into the Hollywood sunset.

The AP article begins thusly:

LOS ANGELES - Actor Marlon Brando (news) has died at age 80. The death occurred at an undisclosed Los Angeles hospital Thursday, attorney David J. Seeley said Friday. The cause of death was being withheld, Seeley said, noting the actor "was a very private man."

Brando revolutionized American acting with his Method performances in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "On the Waterfront" and went on to create the iconic character of Don Vito Corleone in "The Godfather."

Brando, whose unpredictable behavior made him equally fascinating off the screen, was acclaimed the greatest actor of his generation, a two-time winner of the Academy Award who influenced some of the best actors of the generation that followed, among them Al Pacino, Robert De Niro (news) and Jack Nicholson.

Sounds nice. Credit given where credit is due. Remember the man for his gifts to people everywhere and celebrate him for his talents.

Why then, would AP end the article like this:

In 1960 he married a Mexican actress, Movita, who had appeared in the first "Mutiny on the Bounty." They were divorced after he met Tarita. All three wives were pregnant when he married them. He had nine children.

In May 1990, Brando's first son, Christian, shot and killed Dag Drollet, 26, the Tahitian lover of Christian's half sister Cheyenne, at the family's hilltop home above Beverly Hills. Christian, 31, claimed the shooting was accidental.

After a heavily publicized trial, Christian was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and use of a gun. He was sentenced to 10 years.

Before the sentencing, Marlon Brando delivered an hour of rambling testimony in which he said he and his ex-wife had failed Christian. He commented softly to members of the Drollet family: "I'm sorry. ... If I could trade places with Dag, I would. I'm prepared for the consequences."

Afterward, Drollet's father said he thought Marlon Brando was acting and his son was "getting away with murder."

The tragedy was compounded in 1995, when Cheyenne, said to still be depressed over Drollet's death, committed suicide. She was 25.

Keep in mind that I wrote for two separate newspapers for a total of about four years, not long, but enough to know better.

Too many in the press these days seem willing to cloak their muckraking in a veil of truth-seeking. Yes, people likely would want to know things like this about the great Marlon Brando. It lowers him to their level and shows them that he was an imperfect being just like them.

That's the way humans do it, right? Judging people makes us feel better. Lowering them elevates us.

Most of the people wanting to read the seedy details in a great man's life would likely try and sue were their privacy invaded and exposed for the world to see.

Look in the obituary pages for non-famous people. You see the contributions and sacrifices made over a lifetime printed so the family can value their fallen kinsman and heal through fond memories. Why should the Brandos deserve any less?

A private man with private demons like anyone else has given us great gifts to better the art of film. The press repays him by running his family through the gutter.

The last words of an article on a great man will be the ones that resonate the longest in the mind. The press knows this. The press is shameful. I wonder if the AP writer's personal sins will be published upon his death.

Note: In fairness to the press as a whole, the Reuters version of the story condensed the Brando tragedies into a single paragraph placed in the middle of the story. Bravo to Reuters for putting out the facts and not letting them overshadow the loss and memory.

And James Joyner's take on it...

Morning of Day 1 or 'What I Did to Numb the Mind Yesterday' and Sovereignty

With Alex gone the house is very quiet. Pictures of us everywhere but no soft, cafe colored skin to touch.

She worries that I don't eat when she's gone so I'll keep it here for the record.

Diet:
Yesterday I ate Pad Thai Chicken, had a couple cups of coffee, one of those fake crab legs, and a chocolate chip muffin. Yeah, not too healthy.

I taped Pasion de Gavilanes for her, watched Charmed like we usually do and then played a video game. Bed time at half past midnight. When I woke up this morning I had a sore spot on the lower left hand side of my face that appears to be the start of a pimple under my goatee. I have been told by my civilian employee that beards of any type are not authorized by the employee handbook. Of course, the employee handbook also says we shall wear a shirt and tie to work each day and I see an awful lot of Polo shirts in this place. He said that was up to the main customer... so, shouldn't beards be as well? All part of the same policy. That's the round-up for yesterday and this morning.

And now onto what's in my head. I do a lot of thinking to divert attention away from that terrible hollow spot Alex fills. And my thoughts this morning are on Iraq. Prisoner treatment, US policy, election politics concerning, transfer of power; you name it. It's all swirling around in there.


SOVEREIGNTY

Most notably, thought, are my thoughts on sovereignty. What are we talking about here? Lots of comments have been made on the 'illusion of sovereignty' Iraq is about to be enshrouded in.

Let's look at the concept of sovereignty:

Sovereignty is conventionally defined as supreme political and legal authority in a given territory. It bestows upon a state an international legal personality, an ability to control its own natural resources, collect taxes, build its military and define its own system of government.

As a byproduct, this establishes the convention of borders. Imaginary lines on the very land and water. Borders allow sovereign nations to assert control over what is theirs. A nation needs to do this to protect their interests and resources from 'outsiders' who are other groups of people with their own sovereignty and borders. Then the nations build armies within those borders. The purpose of the army is to kill and destroy opposing forces when diplomatic means fail.

From this idea of sovereignty springs borders which leads to defining 'outsiders' which leads to the formation of armies based in the fear that someone will take what is within those borders.

This is what occurs when there are nations and sovereignty. You get to use words like "our own" and "foreigners" and such. Once, foreign meant not indigenous and had connotations of exotic. Now foreign is used to describe anyone not like those within your borders, likely a person or idea that could cause you harm and should be regarded with suspicion.

Where's this going? You probably already guessed. Take away the borders, take away the sovereignty and what do you have? A single government of the world with a wide variety of social and ethnic groups who are now citizens of the same planet.

How Utopian you think. How utterly ridiculous. There will still exist the same problems with resource sharing and ethnic violence. This is true. If a global government were started today, it would end in flames with lines being redrawn by local warlords loosely based on current political lines, likely.

Does that mean we ignore the prospect altogether? Not work in that direction? I hardly think that to be prudent, either.

A single government allows for a military police force to go anywhere and do anything it needs to to quell ethnic violence. Imagine the redistribution of wealth if the American economy were used to heal and feed those now considered foreign. Imagine where a terrorist could hide if a global police force, bolstered by the latest in the world's technology no longer held in secret from country to country, could travel anywhere to perform its duties.

Logistically impossible? How so? You now have the world's entire economy and personnel pool to draw from. Government would be immense? Yes, but smaller than the combined governments of the world right now.

Differences in ideology too broad? Ahh... now we get to the sticking point.

Can a Muslim, Marxist or Communist ever submit themselves to the will of the popular vote? Yes, I am assuming a democratic government. Communism failed so it is ruled out. Muslim governments have not advanced their social programs for millennia and how many women would submit to a Muslim male dominated rule (haggle that all you want, Muslim governments are male dominated).

Democracy is the only form that would give everyone a voice in world affairs. The specific form of democracy I cannot say. Ideally it would be some sort of mass voting system unable to be breached by those wishing to control the outcome of voting, but that's speculation.

The main point is this: sovereignty is the primary cause of death and suffering in the world today. Without it, in a global community longing for a better social schema, I believe things would be much improved.

It's a long way off and I have no illusions of a great world revolution coming in my lifetime or in the next ten lifetimes. But it has merit that should be explored rather than despised. The fear of losing sovereignty is the fear of being ruled by someone imposing beliefs you do not hold.

It is all, however, based in fear. Poets like to say love is the most powerful emotion, but it is fear that rules the human heart in these days.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The State of the Neospooky Address

Here I am at a Massachusetts intersection in my life. I'd love a nice four-way Michigan east/west right now but instead I have this gangle of roads coming together going off to who knows where.

Today Alex went off to Basic Training. She's going into the Army Reserves. 4am at the recruiter, some old, wrinkled black man with a face like a olive soaked too long in oil rolled up in a beat-up minivan and took her away from here. Off to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Two months. Then I will be able to see her for a night or two before she ships off to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for another two months. What kind of irony that she goes to Basic to the very post I graduated from in February of 1998?

Ethan is in Colombia with his grandparents. Gwyn and Thoryn live in Michigan with their mother. Both of them have birthday's this week.

This is the state of my family. I'm living in Alexandria, Virginia.

.:Home Front Status: COMPLETE:.


My stint with the military is officially up July 23 this year. I finish outprocessing on July 8. I began my leave on 28 June. Yes, that's right. The Separations people couldn't fit me in so I get to take time off the new job I have in order to get reamed by HHC USAG on Fort Myer one last time. I have nothing against the Army and would recommend it to anyone. Avoid HHC USAG like the plague, though. Worse, avoid it like a dentist with leprosy. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

So, I began my terminal leave on 28 June, started my new job with a company that shall henceforth be known as BA the same day and decided to leave the job later that afternoon. I called another job prospect and accepted their offer with the complete intention of sitting here and collecting a paycheck until the offer was secured. Then I got home, found a better offer on my answering machine, accepted it, called back the other accepted offer and canceled (a very uncomfortable conversation) and now I am here. Sitting at a desk, with no one around, reading publications on security to appear busy while they scramble around playing with papers that somehow make me a more official employee. Until that time, I am in employment Limbo.

And I wait through the next couple of weeks collecting this paycheck while something better is about to solidify. Right?

.:Employment Front Status: COMPLETE:.


I have been writing a book for a couple of years now, on and off. It was largely written out of anger I felt toward the overpowering gender bias that exists in American culture today. I'm sure that will come up in the future so I'll leave it at that for now.

What is important to know at this point, though, is why the book has stalled. It's up to about 90 type-written pages but hasn't been touched in a couple of years. This is largely due to my wife, Alex. I found the fairy tale and couldn't hold on to that anger I had. She may be the single exception to the rule, but she's a powerful enough exception to flatten my inertia where the book is concerned.

Still, due to popular demand by certain family and friends, I will continue. Perhaps progress can be made while she is gone.

.:Personal Front Status: IN PROGRESS:.


And that's where I stand. A seven-year veteran, recently released, of Army intelligence who has seen four operations in the last five years and found the woman I, until recently, stopped believing existed. And in case you're one of those that thinks I'm still in the initial stages of infatuation to describe it like that, the 'infatuation' has lasted almost two and a half years.

She's the source, man. And I miss her.

And she's the main reason for this blog, though I'm sure it will branch out given my tendency to link all things by the merest suggestion of tangent.

~ Neospooky signing off in the early afternoon of 1 July 2001