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Totals: 0 days (May 20, 2013) : $BTC 0.00 ; $LTC 0.00
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Last night I was walking home from work, minding my own business, listening to my CBC podcasts. I only got as far as the bus station though, when I passed by a couple of guys arguing loudly. It was the kind of arguing and yelling that would easily escalate to physical violence, so I slowed down a bit and paid close attention to them. The pair of them both sounded a bit drunk, but I couldn't say whether there was any alcohol or drugs involved.
I kept going, but took out my earphones, and slowed down to a stop for a listen once I was around the corner. As I turned to look, I see somebody's hand on the ground, palm up. So great, I think, they're actually fighting now. It would have been so easy to walk away, ignore a couple of drunks. Or else just stay where I was, not get involved at all, just call the cops. But I didn't. Instead, I think I did the right thing. If there were weapons of any kind involved, I would certainly have done things quite differently, I'm hardly stupid.
Now, I'm hardly a big guy at all. So all I did, then, was put my headphones away, and walk slowly and cautiously back. I saw the two of them wrestling, one guy on top of the other guy, both face up. They're still being loud, and one of them seems to have a girlfriend who is also yelling at the pair of them to please please stop. I sized the whole situation up, realized that neither one really wanted to hurt the other. And while they're both being loud and insulting each other, I can't for the life of me tell what they're actually arguing about.
I should interject here a bit of a description. The three of them looked homeless, there were some bags of their belongings nearby I spotted after it was all over. Their voices were slightly slurred, but I couldn't pin it down to alcohol or drugs or some kind of mental health problem. The guys were a little scruffy, mustaches. I don't have as much to say about the lady, I was mostly paying closer attention to the men, but she was perhaps a bit cleaner. It was clear to me they were all just waiting for the local Out Of The Cold program to open up, so they could have a warm place to spend the night and have something decent to eat.
This was all taking place near a wooden bench, situated between the bus terminal and the police station's parking lot. It would only have been about 5:10pm, downtown St. Catharines, so there were still quite a few people around. But nobody else was stopping to watch or trying to help, just me.
So I was standing there about ten feet away, looking down at the men, one pinning the other to the ground, and I spoke up. Calmly but firmly, I simply asked, "Do you need me to phone the police?" And at that, they both stopped, a bit startled. One said yes, the other seemed slightly more shocked, and he said no. They both got up off the ground.
When the woman heard me, she seemed to be the most grateful of them. Her first answer to my question was "Yes!," however she didn't really want the police to come, she kept pleading with me as I stood there silently looking on, "They're brothers!"
One thing I knew for certain, was that if all three of them would just stay quiet, they'd calm down enough, go their separate ways, and they'd make it through the evening without anybody getting hurt. Or more hurt, anyway. But of course feelings are running high, and it takes quite a bit more yelling and insulting before that finally happens. One brother shows how angry he is by punching a nearby light, but to me I see how restrained he's really being because he'd rather break his hand on a pole than hurt his brother.
But they were both calming down, all because of my simple intervention. Just having me standing there silently, not walking away, paying attention. That, and the given threat that the police would show up shortly if I chose to make that phone call.
About twenty feet away I spotted a man standing behind a car, talking on his cell phone. "Oh good," I think. Even though things are settling down, and I was pretty sure nobody was going to get hurt, if I was misreading the situation then the police would be here shortly anyway. All I had to do now was stand my ground and watch over them until either the men could stop insulting each other long enough for one to calm down and go elsewhere, or until the police finally showed up.
And as luck would have it, calmness won (sort of). One guy was pushed down, but he didn't retaliate because I was there. After pushing his brother, he walked away, off through the bus terminal.
That left the other brother there with his girlfriend. I can see his left wrist is in a cast, and I see all of his bags stashed in the bushes beside the sidewalk. There's nothing left for me to do do help now, so I slipped my last two bus tickets out of my wallet. I handed one to her, and one to him. I give him a last bit of advice, that if his brother comes back, he should just go across the street to the police station and they'll help him. "But he's my brother," and I see the pain in his eyes. I know I don't need to give him any kind of lecture about "tough love", so I just say "Sometimes..." and give a kind of shrug. I go to shake his hand, and even though it's his left hand in the cast, that's the one he offers to me, just his fingers sticking out. And then I shake the lady's hand too, and she is more appreciative and thankful. Her hands are rough like a farmer's. And with a simple "Good luck" to them, I head off, back on my way home again. Checking my watch, it's about twenty minutes later.
Several minutes later, a pair of police cars speed by, obviously dispatched to the scene I'd just left. I debate whether or not to go back, but decide to just keep heading for home. Having witnessed physical violence on both brothers' parts, plus the little act of vandalism when the light pole broke, and considering that I had absolutely zero idea what the argument was even about in the first place, I realized they'd be better off talking to the police on their own.
On my walk home, I wondered. Why didn't anybody else stop? The only thing it took on my part to help them, really, was to bear witness. Me standing there watching was enough for them, even in their current state of mind, to realize that they'd gotten out of hand and they needed to stop. And so they did stop. But everybody else was too afraid to get involved.
It's only one month until Christmas. Keep this story in mind. When you see somebody who needs help, treat them with kindness and compassion, and do what you can to help them. 'Tis the season!
An Open Letter to Steve Jobs:
Dear Steve Jobs,
You simply cannot have it both ways. And you cannot expect developers to take this offensive action on your company's part silently. Specifically, giving hardworking authors the go-ahead to create 17+ rated apps, and then ripping the rug out from under them without any warning, this is unacceptable. It is an outrage!
The iPhone is your toybox, true. You are legally entitled, I imagine, to create any rules you feel fit and enforce them, but by acting all wishy washy like this, nobody will want to play with you anymore, no matter how shiny your toys are.
Some examples of what's apparently still being allowed in the appstore, and what's been removed:
App removed from store: Arousal
App allowed in store: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Challenge
App removed from store: Daisy Mae's Alien Buffet
App allowed in store: Novelty Pen
App removed from store: iStrip - Sexy Pen
App removed from store: iJiggles
The iPhone's parental controls do work for apps too, and if I want to filter out risque apps on my phone it's quite simple to change the setting in my phone. I just need to select one option under the Parental Controls, and then any apps rated as 17+ aren't even visible until I say so again!
But even so, there is this terrible silliness with Apple's rules for app ratings. If these apps must be rated as 17+ to be approved:
Perhaps the blogosphere has the wrong impression here. If this recent action on Apple's part is just a first step to help rectify these parental ratings for apps, then I am all for it! Let non-porn apps (like Safari replacements) have a less restrictive setting, and risque apps have an adult-only setting. Heck, in the forthcoming iPhone OS version 3.2 and/or 4.0, you can change the defaults so that nothing 17+ is allowed unless enabled (ie. opt-in instead of opt-out). That would potentially annoy current users, but it would be a sincere gesture on Apple's part that you are taking the issue of "inappropriate apps" seriously.
In any case, this is a situation where Apple cannot remain silent.
Those posts were written in the wake of the Columbine (and other) killings. A few students were so emotionally disturbed that they decided to go out and kill the people they perceived as their tormentors. A lot of attention was given in the media about the violent video games they had been playing, some attention was given about the torment they felt from the bullies, but very little attention was given about their mental states.
One of the most common psychiatric disorders in youth is ADHD. Oftentimes when left untreated, such easily treated conditions can lead to much more serious disorders such as ODD or Depression.
Disorders such as these, when left unrecognized or untreated, can be devastating, both to the sufferer and to those around them. Feelings of worthlessness, poor self-control, aggression, these are the things that lead to violence. And usually, they are very easy to treat. Find the right combination of therapy and medication, and you'll be able to feel "normal" again.
One in five children needs this kind of help, and thankfully many of them are getting that help. Unfortunately, many are not. A recent UNICEF report informs us that in Canada, mental illness among children has risen, but only 20 per cent are getting treatment.
And so what is a parent to do when their teen just doesn't want to be helped? Imagine this not-so-hypothetical scenario:
The teen stops taking all of their medication, saying "it's not working". The parent is dumbfounded, because they have seen the difference in behaviour: while on medication they are stable, and while off medication they are not. The teen drops out of school, starts taking drugs, gets involved in various crimes. The parent tries every available resource, including the police, social workers, doctors, but nothing is helping. And at the back of the parent's mind all along, "if only he'd take his meds!"
As a parent, you're responsible for the well-being of your children. That includes education, food, a home, and their physical and mental health. If your children lack any of these basic necessities, then you can be punished. And yet, here in a civilized country like Canada that is a champion of human rights, there are no services available to guarantee those basic needs are being met, when it is the children themselves who are the ones refusing to cooperate.
Help us make the world a better place. If you are a resident of Ontario, Canada then you can sign our petition. Download it and print it out, and sign it. Get your friends, coworkers, neighbours to sign it. When you have finished collecting names, just contact me and I'll let you know where to send it. Thank you so much for your help!
Anyway, a new (small) rant.
Basic Capitalism 101
If I have something that you want, you can buy it from me. If the amount of money that I'm willing to part with it for is less than or equal to the amount you're willing to spend on it, you give me the money and I give you the item, and we're both happy. But if the amount I'm asking for is more than you think the item is worth, then you don't buy it from me.
This is the basic premise for nearly all of our commerce. Due to competition between various sellers, if I charge too little then I may get more customers but I can easily go broke. If I charge too much then I may make more profit but I will sell to fewer people and I can still easily go broke.
So the Walmarts of the world tend to sell "for less" but tend to be selling items of lesser quality in order to maximize the profit per item. All basic capitalism. When there are lots of sellers and lots of buyers things tend to balance out pretty nicely, overall.
Advanced Capitalism 203
But when there are very few sellers (because the items are scarce, for example) or when there are very few buyers (because the items are only useful to a small minority) then you can throw pretty much all those rules out the window.
If I owned something that was rather rare that only a few people wanted, then I would be a fool to say "this is the price". Give me that much or more, and you can have it. Try to buy it for less, and I'll just say "no thanks". In this situation, I'm most likely to maximize my profit by holding an auction: all interested buyers try to buy it at the same time, and the one who values it the most gets to buy the item. This is how rare items such as art is often sold.
Now take for example my domain "kill.com". Domains are plentiful, but some domains are much more rare and much more valuable. Short common English words were all snapped up very early in the Internet boom, and despite the bursting of the Internet Bubble a while back, these domains still hold much of their value.
Now, who in particular would want my domain? I can think of quite a few possibilities. Movie studios. Anti-gun or anti-game lobbyists. Maybe even porn hawkers, although I really really don't want to think about exactly what kind of porn they'd be hawking. Heck, I've even got a kinda cool idea for a movie, a thriller, that would be perfect and (for Hollywood) rather original too. But the point is, it's not really a big market, but those that would want the domain would also be placing a high value on it too.
But if I were to post a message, "I'm selling my domain for $X" I'm completely screwing myself. Somebody who doesn't think it's worth that much will just go away without talking to me or trying to haggle, and I'm screwed. Somebody who thinks it's worth more than that would just snap it up, and I'm again screwed because I didn't get as much money as my domain is worth.
So I don't post such a price. I do indeed have one: a minimum price below which I wouldn't dream of giving up my rather valuable domain. But I also know that my domain is actually worth more than even that price.
I can hold onto my domain for the next twenty years, it won't become any less valuable over time. If I don't sell it, then I haven't lost much of anything, and it's one of the coolest geekiest things anybody can have besides their own name.
In other words, I've got no incentive to go to much of any work selling this thing, and if you want it you gotta play by my rules. But like I said in my disclaimer, I'm not stupid. Offer me enough money and I'll have a wistful feeling at my loss, plus a lot of cash. ;-)
But today, I bring to you a brand new rant.
You are The Suck™
I happen to own a domain, namely "kill.com". I registered it quite some time ago, as a play on my nickname "possum". As "roadkill.com" was already taken, I realized I could use "road.kill.com" instead, and so this poor excuse of a website was born. I don't make a lot of money (read: none whatsoever), but that's hardly the point.
I do happen to use my domain for email. Some websites just don't "get it", so to speak, and require people to register an email address before, say, they download a program or document. Since I already get a freakish amount of spam, I use my domain to create "throwaway" email addresses. One address per site, and that way I can keep track of which ones are selling accounts to spammers, and which ones actually adhere to their privacy policies.
On the internet, your email address is your identity. It is your signature. It is your only way of proving you are yourself. In other words, when somebody is using your email address, it is basically a case of "identity theft". They are doing nothing less than pretending to be you.
Most websites like yours are aware of this problem, and their solution is very simple. People can create an account with any email address they choose, but they cannot use their account until the email address has been verified. How is this done? They just send one single email, and until the user clicks on a link or types in a secret code included in that email, their new account remains inactive.
This benefits everybody involved. Your marketing databases are accurate, the users have a working account, and us poor schlebs that own real, actual domains like "kill.com" don't have to wade through an additional couple of hundred marketing emails every month on top of the regular dose of spam.
So do the right thing, MySpace. Heck, I've already told you this more than once, but it appears that it the job of "Not Me!" to read the comments submitted to your website, as I have never even once gotten a response. Not even a simple "Thanks for your interest" form letter.