Net neutrality

All the various discussions of incidents wherein ISPs have done “shady things” all ignore WHY they made those moves over the simple fact that it happened. Instead the ready assumption is that ISPs did it to extort money from the content platforms, and this has led to presumptions of things like “micro transactions” and all kinds of other fear mongering merely “because they can” because ISPs in many regions hold a monopoly.

Except businesses typically try to avoid losing customers. A company having a monopoly in a region doesn’t mean they can just do what they want. Not when they still have to answer to municipalities (who answer to voters). And if a business artificially prices customers off their service, that’s not exactly a good thing.

BitTorrent was blocked by ComCast because BitTorrent is designed to saturate an Internet connection when downloading. Even prior to P2P, download managers already existed with the intent of taking advantage of HTTP protocol flexibility to download files from multiple sources (aka “mirrors”) with the intent of saturating your Internet connection. P2P sharing arguably started with Napster, which gave rise to other P2P network protocols like Gnutella and, eventually, BitTorrent.

Unless throttled in the client software, P2P is designed to saturate an Internet connection. And will saturate an Internet connection, which can affect network availability in a home or apartment, college campus (something I had fun dealing with when I was in college), or a local region.

Video streaming is also designed to saturate a connection. Video streaming protocols will change quality settings based on bandwidth availability between the sender and receiver. We’ve all seen this with YouTube and streamers have likely experienced such as well trying to stream via YouTube or Twitch. All of that has the potential to affect availability for everyone.

So much of the hyperbole over what could happen if the “Open Internet Order” is repealed seems to avoid the question of why ISPs did those “shady” things and merely looks to the fact that it happened. And that does nothing to further any understanding. And it’s fueling a lot of baseless speculation as well.

And the idea of “micro transactions” and extortion comes from a very, very broad misunderstanding of the whole “fast lane” concept. Recall where I said that video streaming is designed to saturate a connection up to the maximum throughput needed to stream the video at the requested quality settings. And the sender will throttle the video stream if congestion is encountered. In other words, video is very bandwidth intense. And given that Netflix and YouTube both support 4K streaming (likely with few consumers right now), this isn’t a problem going away any time soon.

Enter the “fast lanes”. While it’s been portrayed as ISPs trying to extort money from Netflix, there’s actually a much more benign motive here: getting Netflix to help upgrade the infrastructure needed to support their video streaming. Since it was the start of their streaming service, and the eventual consumption of it by millions of people, that led to massive degradation in Internet service for millions of other customers who weren’t streaming Netflix or much else.

To alleviate traffic congestion, many metropolitan areas have HOV lanes, or “high occupancy vehicle” lanes to encourage carpooling. The degree to which this is successful being highly debatable. The “fast lane” concept for the Internet was similar. But when the idea was first mentioned, many took it to mean that ISPs were going to artificially throttle websites who don’t pay up. When what it actually means is providing a separate bandwidth route for bandwidth-intense applications. Specifically video streaming.

And since these were sources of complaints among the general populace — whose only knowledge of computer networking, let alone the structure of the Internet, isn’t much — this led the FCC to talk about trying to regulate the Internet infrastructure. Since regulating the Internet is something that governments across the world have been trying to do for at last the last 15 years. And since they haven’t had much luck regulating what happens on the Internet, regulating the infrastructure is the next best thing.

Misconceptions and misunderstandings, and the speculation and doomsday predictions that have come from all of that, lead to bad policy. And it’s fueling much of the current discussion on net neutrality.

Note: The above is a comment I attempted to put on a video for Paul’s Hardware, but the comment appears to have been filtered or deleted.

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Dress codes = censorship?

It’s finally happened. I really wish I could say I’m surprised by this, but I would be lying. Dress code enforcement now means female fashion censorship. I wish I was making this up. And I wish I hadn’t already called it.

This comes from Fashion Beans writer Brooke Geller: “Planes, Trains, And School Dances: Censorship In Women’s Fashion“. The article was also only recently published. From what I could find embedded in the HTML for the article (Ctrl+U in the browser), it was published on November 16, and updated a few days later.

So let’s get into this.

Spaghetti straps, loose-fitting blouses, and even exposed collarbones have all prompted disciplinary action from disapproving teachers, some of whom have sent these students home early. Why? Because their clothing was apparently inappropriate.

Not “apparently inappropriate”, but in violation of the school dress code. In all incidents I’ve evaluated on this blog, I’ve not found ONE that is not a dress code violation.

With schools standing firm on their policies while outraged reactions intensify, these incidents—which seem to be becoming more and more common—have sparked an important debate on what’s more inappropriate: the length of a teenage girl’s skirt or the way she’s viewed?

Both are actually important. After all, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to see young women attending school in miniskirts or Daisy Dukes…

What exactly is the official reason for these restrictions? According to more than one justification that’s been given, it’s to protect other students from being “distracted” by their female classmates’ bodies.

I’ve said before that school administrators need to STOP giving this as a reason for enforcing the dress code.

Instead of manufacturing an excuse, or saying the young women in question will be “distractions”, the administrators need to merely state they are enforcing the dress code as written. A lot of dress codes are written objectively, and can be objectively enforced. The administrators don’t need to say anything beyond that. And should have copies of the dress code at the ready when pressed.

The problem, however, is the “distraction” excuse has become the thing to which female students and feminists have latched. And it has led to the narrative that dress codes are inherently sexist and are even being used to sexualize prepubescent girls.

“Distraction” was the reason cited when 18-year-old Macy Edgerly was sent home for wearing leggings and a long shirt. Rose Lynn was also told her outfit—leggings, a cardigan, and a top that entirely covered her midriff and cleavage—”may distract young boys.”

Okay let’s look into these. Macy Edgerly went to school in cropped leggings and a long shirt. At the time, she was a student in the Orangefield Independent School District. While distraction was cited in the immediate for Macy being coded, her sister admitted on Facebook that the outfit Macy chose violated the dress code.

The dress code allegedly allowed leggings, but only if what was worn over them adhered to the “fingertip rule” — it must extend beyond the tips of the fingers when the arms are extended loosely at the sides. Macy’s sister, Erica, admitted the shirt didn’t fit that definition.

Rose Lynn’s story comes from Oklahoma. What Brooke is omitting from her statement is Rose’s top was a tank top. Which is about universally disallowed under school dress codes.

There’s Deanna Wolf, whose daughter wasn’t allowed in class because she was wearing an oversized sweater over leggings. Or Stacie Dunn, who had to leave work to collect her daughter Stephanie because her outfit exposed her collarbones.

Stephanie Dunn’s story I’ve already tackled. Like Rose’s story, the concern in question was the tank top. All students were required to wear a crew-neck shirt. No exceptions.

Deanna’s incident was similar to Macy’s in that she chose to wear leggings with an oversized shirt. Something her school’s dress code did not allow, contrary to the assertion of the linked article. From page 29 of the student handbook, emphasis mine:

Students may wear yoga pants, tights, leggings, or jeggings as long as they are used as an undergarment covered by shorts, skirts, or dresses that are at least no higher than three inches above the bend of the back of the knee.

In other words, leggings are not to be pants on their own, which is what Deanna chose to do. Again, she was objectively in violation of her school’s dress code.

Or Melissa Barber, whose daughter Kelsey was told—by her teacher­—that her top was not well suited for the size of her breasts.

The problem with Kelsey’s shirt is the exposed middle in the top. If it was a completely solid top, she likely would’ve been fine. Even though she has a large bust.

And I say this as a husband to a woman with large breasts. Who has herself gone through dress code issues as well — and who defended herself by pulling out her copy of the dress code every time an issue has come up.

For these mothers, their opinions are much the same: It’s not okay to keep a student from learning because of their outfit. And it’s certainly not all right to imply that an underage girl looks too attractive for her male classmates to be able to concentrate on their own work.

Given that it is both a parent’s and student’s responsibility to know and comply with the dress code, the mother’s opinion is irrelevant. If a student is determined to be in violation of the dress code, they will be kept from the classroom. Just as they would also be sent home from work for not complying with a workplace’s dress code.

And again, the distraction excuse should not be made by school administrators. Instead where dress code violations occur, they need only cite the dress code.

Aside from conservative parents outraged at the idea of a young boy wearing a dress, there’s been little fuss over the length of their shorts or the tightness of their shirts.

High school dress code restrictions may be designed to be non-discriminatory, but it’s disproportionately affecting girls far more than boys. And while that isn’t necessarily illegal, it’s still unfair.

No it isn’t in the least unfair. After all we don’t say that criminal laws are racist if they are disproportionately enforced against one demographic. Okay, rational people don’t say that. We aren’t repealing murder laws because blacks are more likely to be murder perpetrators. Yet I don’t think anyone is saying that murder laws are racist. Or at least I hope not.

If the policy is demonstrably neutral, then as long as the disproportionate enforcement isn’t due to targeting one particular demographic, the policy doesn’t need to change, regardless of how unfair it might seem.

Yet that is exactly what is being proposed. Quoting Tricia Berry, an engineer and collaborative lead of the Texas Girls Collective, an organization that seeks to motivate girls and young women to pursue STEM fields:

However there are cases where policies end up having a disparate impact. It’s important that schools look at the data and recognize when one group is disproportionally affected by a seemingly neutral policy. In the case of dress code restrictions, if the policies are penalizing female students or transgender students or any other group at rates higher than others, it should be investigated and the policy creators should be willing to adjust accordingly.

Again, as long the policy itself is demonstrably neutral, then what matters is whether the enforcement is demographically neutral, even if one demographic is being penalized more under the policy. The only thing the disproportionate penalization shows is one group’s greater likelihood to disobey the policy.

Again, we don’t repeal or massage laws due to one demographic being more likely to violate them. You can use individual situations as a push to reevaluate the codes to either be more specific or to allow something not previously allowed.

But don’t use the disproportionate likelihood that young women will be penalized as a reason to reevaluate dress codes. Especially when MOST young women comply with the dress codes without issue or complaint.

This is probably the last thing a teenage girl wants to hear, but the clothing censorship doesn’t stop when high school’s over.

Any adult person—regardless of gender—will encounter dress codes at some point in their life. Upscale restaurants, weddings, and luxury trains all require some degree of respectable attire. Even nightclubs often have strict dress requirements.

And here is where things really start to take a turn. Aside from citing incidents of dress code enforcement on commercial flights, the rest of her article latches onto the fallacious “distraction” excuse and really flies with it. Perpetuating the myth that dress codes are inherently sexist, only because they are being disproportionately enforced against young women.

And going even further by calling dress codes “fashion censorship”.

* * * * *

Let’s see if I can inject some rationality back into this discussion, since all rationality appears to have been flown up to 40,000 feet and dropped out the back of a cargo plane.

First and foremost is the obvious: people largely don’t like being told they cannot do something. Especially if the action in question is one for which there is no demonstrable or perceivable harm on anyone else. And how a person dresses readily falls into that.

Brooke’s biggest flaw with the article is not making any mention of workplaces and employers. None. Search her article for “employ”, and you’ll see it come up once, when mentioning “employee passes” with regard to United Airlines. And “work” shows up three times, and none in relation to a workplace. Search for “job” and you won’t find it.

And I really have to wonder why.

Actually I know why she never mentioned workplaces and employers. It completely invalidates her argument and the statements she quotes from Tricia Berry.

While casual workplaces are becoming more common, there are still dress codes that still apply, restrictions on what “casual” dress is allowed. A lot of workplaces require business casual or business professional dress. And in some workplaces, you have a uniform requirement.

When I worked for K-Mart back in 1998 into 1999, first as a cashier then as a shift supervisor, our dress code was pretty simple: white collared shirt (golf shirt or button-down) with the red vest over top and name tag prominently visible. Tan khakis. Jeans were not allowed. Shoes had to be one color (white, black, or brown) and had to look presentable (i.e. not torn up or falling apart). Collared shirts with the K-Mart logo were allowed as well.

Quoting an earlier article:

In the real world, what you think “looks fine” might get you sent home from work. Without pay if you’re hourly. And repeated noncompliance with a dress code is grounds for termination.

Dress codes are enforced at school to prepare students for them after school. Students are removed from school for dress code violations just as they will be removed from work for dress code violations. And school is about educating and preparing our youth for life on their own as an adult.

Imagine if all schools required business casual dress or a uniform. 1 in 5 schools do have uniform requirements. But perhaps we need to start having that nationwide, or requiring business casual dress at least. Again to ensure there is virtually no subjectivity from the equation.

And, again, school administrators and teachers need only cite the dress code when coding students for violations. Stop making the “distraction” excuse. Just cite the dress code, and have copies of it on hand so you can point out the violation specifically.

 

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Ethereum mining rig

For about the last month, I’ve been Ethereum mining, putting a GTX 1060 (“Rack 2U GPU Compute Node“) and 1070 (“Mira“), and an R9 290X (from “Absinthe“) at this. In part to see what the hardware can do. And I’ve been rather impressed with the R9’s performance that I decided to build another standalone node for Ethereum mining using another AMD graphics card.

And the graphics card is the only new contribution to this, the only hardware I didn’t have previously. Everything else was hardware I already had on hand.

New graphics card

That is the Sapphire Nitro+ RX 580. Specifically I picked up the 4GB model. My only slight concern was power consumption.

I managed to find the Nitro+ card as an open box at Micro Center for a very nice markdown. If not for the markdown, however, I would not have gone with this as it’s one of the more expensive RX 580s on the market. I would’ve instead looked for a lesser RX 580, or possibly looked for an RX 570 instead.

Initial form

  • Chassis: PlinkUSA IPC-G4380S 4U
  • CPU and cooling: AMD FX-8350 with Noctua NH-D9L
  • Mainboard: Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3-1333
  • Power supply: Corsair AX860
  • OS: Ubuntu Server 16.04.3 LTS

In my 10 Gigabit Ethernet series, I mentioned building a custom switch from the above hardware. And after disassembling that switch to replace it with an off-the-shelf 10GbE SFP+ switch, I never reprovisioned that hardware for anything else, despite planning to do so.

So assembling the system was pretty straightforward: drop the new graphics card in, plug it up, find something to act as primary storage, and go.

One thing that was frustratingly strange: Ubuntu did NOT want to play nice with the onboard Gigabit NIC, or with a separate TP-Link NIC I attempted to use. I was able to get the networking functional with another HP 4-port Gigabit NIC. Fedora 26, however, had no issues playing nice with the onboard NIC.

But this was only a temporary build. I had no intention of leaving this card plugged into the FX-8350. Again the initial build was in this merely because it was mostly prepared. And I initially couldn’t find the mainboard and processor I wanted to use to drive this mining machine. I did find it later that day, so I decided to let the system run and I’d swap things out the next day.

Intermediate form

  • CPU and cooling: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ with Noctua NH-D9L
  • Mainboard: MSI KN9 Ultra SLI-F
  • RAM: 2GB DDR2-800

Wait, a 12 year-old platform driving a modern graphics card? I know what you might be thinking: bottleneck! Except…. no.

While this combination certainly is not powerful enough to drive this card for gaming, it’s more than enough for computational tasks such as BOINC, Folding@Home (though you’d really want a better CPU), and Ethereum mining. The aforementioned R9 290X is running on an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ system without a problem. It overtook my GTX 1060 on reported shares, despite the 1060 having a several day head start, and is reporting a better hash rate than my GTX 1070.

So… yeah. As I’ve pointed out before, most who scream “bottleneck” are those who have no clue how all of this stuff works together.

The slow lane

That being said, though, the RX580’s performance out of the box left much to be desired: 18MH/s out of the box. When others are reporting mid 20s to near 30? What gives? I mean the R9 290X was outperforming it. These are the hash rates reported to the pool by ethminer:

  • GTX 1070 8GB: 25.4MH/s
  • RX 580 4GB: 18.4MH/s
  • R9 290X 4GB: 24.8MH/s
  • GTX 1060 3GB: 19.9MH/s

I thought system memory was holding back the mining software, so I swapped 4GB into the system. No difference. Had a slight improvement swapping in Claymore’s Dual-Miner for the original ethminer, but still wasn’t anywhere near what I thought I should’ve been seeing.

The GTX 1060 rig had been offline for a few days, so I moved the mainboard (Athlon X4 860k) from that into the 4U chassis and installed the RX 580 into that, then swapped out Ubuntu for Windows 10. Pull down the Claymore miner for Windows, and attempt to run it… No significant difference in hash rate.

Which rules out the platform as the culprit. And I didn’t have any reason to think it would be. Instead the platform change was due to my concern the Linux driver may have been holding it back, thinking there would be a performance boost by running the Windows driver. And out of the box there wasn’t.

But setting the “GPU Workload” setting to “Compute” instead of “Gaming” boosted the hash rate to about 22.5MH/s. Time to overclock.

One thing I didn’t realize ahead of this: the 4GB RX cards have their memory clocked at 1750MHz, while the 8GB RX cards have memory clocked at 2000MHz. Which definitely explains the lackluster performance I had out of the box — and likely why it was returned to Micro Center.

And in reading about how to get better mining performance, everything I read said to focus on memory, not core speed.

So with MSI Afterburner, I first turned up the fan to drop the core temperature. Then I started bumping the memory with the miner running in the background to provide an instant stability and performance check. I was able to push it to 2050MHz. At 2100MHz, the system locked up. I was not interested in dialing it in any further, as any improvements would’ve been within margin of error.

Final verdict: ~26MH/s. About on par with my GTX 1070. And almost 45% increase in performance by setting the driver to Compute and overclocking the memory.

The fact I was able to get 24.4MH/s out of the R9 290X, running the AMD driver on Ubuntu Server with no additional configuration (since I don’t know if you can configure it further), shows I must have a really, really good R9 290X, since it was only 10% lower than my GTX 1070 on reported hash rates from the mining software.

Until I swapped out ethminer for Claymore’s miner. Then it overtook my GTX 1070 on hash rate.

Other systems

I mentioned before that this isn’t the only mining rig I have set up currently. Along with Mira, I have two other systems, one with the aforementioned R9 290X and GTX 1060, both running Ubuntu Server 16.04.3 LTS and using Claymore’s miner.

First system:

  • CPU and cooling: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ with Noctua NH-L9a
  • RAM: 4GB DDR2-800
  • Mainboard: Abit KN9 Ultra
  • Graphics card: XFX “Double-D” R9 290X 4GB (water cooled)
  • Hash rate: 27.5 MH/s

Right now this system is sitting in an open-style setup. I’m working to move it, and the water cooling setup, into another 4U chassis. I just need to, first, find a DDC pump or possibly use an aquarium pump inside a custom reservoir.

Second system:

  • CPU and cooling: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ with Noctua NH-L9a
  • RAM: 4GB DDR2-800
  • Mainboard: MSI K9N4 Ultra-SLI
  • Graphics card: Zotac GTX 1060 3GB
  • Hash rate: 19.8 MH/s

Not much to write home about at the moment. I’m considering swapping this into one of the 990FX platforms to use Windows 10 so I can overclock it and see if I can get any additional performance from it. Since it’s a hell of a lot easier to overclock a graphics card on Windows.

The GTX 1060 also is not water cooled, but that might change as well, though using an AIO and not a custom loop. Which is a reason to swap it into a 4U chassis and out of the 2U chassis that currently houses it. But I’d also need another rack to hold that.

Recommendations

There really are only three graphics cards to recommend out of what’s on the market, in my opinion: the GTX 1060, RX 570, or RX 580. As demonstrated, the RX 580 is the better performer, but also has higher power requirements compared to the GTX 1060.

So if you pick up a GTX 1060, you can save a little money and get the 3GB model and still have a decent hashrate. You can even try overclocking it on Windows if you desire. The 6GB model may give you better performance (since it has more CUDA cores), but it’s up to you as to whether you feel it’s worth the extra cost. The mini versions work well, but the full-length cards will provide better cooling on the core.

For AMD RX cards, run those on a Windows system with the driver set to “Compute”. You can also save a little money and grab the 4GB version. Just make sure to overclock the memory.

* * * * *

If you found this article informative, consider dropping me a donation via PayPal or ETH.

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Revisiting the Quanta LB6M

Back in January of this year, I acquired a Quanta LB6M to upgrade my home network to 10GbE, at least for the primary machines in the group. In recently also acquiring a better rack for mounting that switch plus a few other things, I noticed the switch becoming painfully hot to the touch on the underside.

Now immediately after receiving the switch, I swapped out the 40mm fans on the switch’s sled to alleviate a very noticeable, high-pitched whine. The fans I replaced them with I knew weren’t going to draw air nearly as well, but all indications online were the switch shouldn’t overheat.

Yet the switch was obviously overheating. Thankfully it didn’t appear the switch was malfunctioning, but just getting so hot that I couldn’t touch the switch without feeling like I was going to burn myself.

I moved a fan to blow air on it to alleviate that as much as possible as a temporary measure, knowing I’d eventually have to pull it out and open it up. Let’s just say I should’ve done this before initially deploying the switch.

In removing the copper heatsink from the primary processor, it was obvious my switch was not refurbished in any fashion. Normally when you remove a heatsink from a processor, thermal compound stays behind and you end up with some on the processor and the heatsink.

Almost none stayed on the processor. And what attached to the processor had hardened and needed to be scraped off. In hindsight I should’ve followed up with a metal polish, but ArctiClean took care of it well enough.

So did this help? Not really. Still don’t regret doing it, though, as it very obviously needed to be done. But there was something else I failed to notice while I had the switch off the rack: the fan sled.

Anymore today, ventilation around fans tends to be honeycomb to maximize airflow. The type of grill you see above, however, is obviously not the right kind for airflow. Perhaps that’s why Quanta felt the need to put 40mm fans (AVC DB04028B12U) on this thing that rival 80mm fans on airflow. And no I’m not joking on that. They move A LOT of air at a pretty good static pressure, but are LOUD!

And the 40mm fans I have in their currently don’t come anywhere close to what the stock fans allowed. So cut the fan grills and everything’s good, right?

For the most part. The switch is still getting noticeably warm to the touch, but not the scald-your-hand hot it was previously. And an increased airflow was the first thing I noticed after powering on the switch after opening up the sled.

So both definitely needed to be done. If I’d opened the fan sled without changing the thermal compound, it wouldn’t have made nearly the difference. And no I’m not posting a picture of the metalwork I did to do this. I’ll just say that I wish I had a better setup to get a cleaner result. But it works, at least.

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When a solicitation has NOTHING to do with the article

Over in the sidebar to the right, you’ll notice I have a statement saying that I reserve the right to publicly post any solicitations I receive. I’d been hesitant to actually do this, thinking the warning would be deterrent enough. But since that hasn’t been the case, and the most recent solicitation is completely nonsensical, time to start doing it.

This latest solicitation is from Caroline Langley. I actually didn’t see the original solicitation as it must’ve been filtered to my spam folder, or I just deleted it without opening it. But I received a follow-up from her today.

Here’s the original solicitation:

Hi there,

I was just browsing your website and saw you were interested in tech from this page (http://www.kennethballard.com/?p=4398). So I thought you might also be interested in linking to a resource we put together on the ways technology is improving our health.

Here is a link for your review:
[REDACTED]
Our post is comprehensive, up to date, and quotes trustworthy sources to give our readers the best information available. We think it would be a great resource for your readers as well.

If you were willing to add our link to that page, I would be more than happy to share it to our tens of thousands of social followers to help you gain some more visibility in exchange.

Let me know what you think and thanks for your consideration!

Regards,
Caroline

P.S. I understand some people don’t like to be reached out to, if this is the case, let me know 🙂

I think the sidebar should’ve been hint enough that I don’t want any solicitations.

And the e-mail shows that she basically just found an article on my blog to call out without actually reading it. Since the article, “On improving our situation regarding firearms“, has nothing to do with health and wellness, and doesn’t mention technology in any fashion beyond improving NICS.

At least previous solicitations I’ve received, most of them anyway, were actually relevant to the article they were calling out. This…. this is beyond nonsensical.

So Caroline, if you happen across this, consider this my response since I’m not going to respond directly to your e-mail.

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Demographics of gun violence

These numbers come from the CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Report and Nonfatal Injury Report, cross-referenced with the FBI Uniform Crime Report. All data is for calendar year 2015. Hover over each slice of the pie to see the data.

This data is also incomplete as I need to cross-reference the population numbers provided by the CDC with the murder offender and victim numbers provided by the FBI to get an “offenders per 100,000” and “murder victims per 100,000”, so this article will be amended at a later date to represent that.

Suicide

Homicide

Murder victims (all weapons)

  • “SO/SV” = single offender, single victim — i.e. “one on one”
  • Other includes
    • multiple offender, single victim
    • multiple offender, multiple victims
    • single offender, multiple victims

Non-fatal assaults involving a firearm

Unintentional injuries by firearm

Murder offenders (all weapons)

Summaries

Suicide by firearm:

  • More white males overall killing themselves by firearm than all other race and gender demographics, combined.
  • On an uninterrupted upward trend since 2007.

Homicide by firearm:

  • National homicide by firearm rate for 2015: 4.04 per 100,000
  • Black males are the majority of firearm homicide victims (53.2%)
  • Black males outnumber other demographics in age categories from age 10 through age 49, with peak numbers observed in the age 20-24 demographic
  • In rate per 100,000, blacks outpace all other racial groups in all age categories except 75-79 years and 85+.
  • Homicide by firearm rate for blacks peaks in the 20-24 age group at 49.41, over 12.2x the national homicide by firearm rate
  • Asian/Pacific Islander demographic consistently has the lowest firearm homicide rate across all age groups

Murder victims, all weapons (as opposed to homicide):

  • Males outnumber females in overall numbers of murder victims, and across all age groups except 75+.
  • Black males represent the plurality of murder victims (45.5%) and majority of male murder victims (57.6%)
  • Blacks outnumber other races for murder victims from age groups 13 to 39.
  • Over 3 in 5 black murder victims was killed in circumstances wherein there were multiple perpetrators, multiple victims, or both
  • Handguns and knives are the weapons of choice for committing murder, with handguns making up the majority of murder weapons
  • Almost 2.5x as many people are murdered by “personal weapons” (hands, fists, feet, etc.) than rifles
  • Over 6x as many are murdered by knives than rifles
  • Slightly more are murdered by shotguns than rifles

Assault with a firearm:

  • Where race of the victim is known:
    • Black males outnumber white males almost 3 to 1
    • Black females outnumber white females by over 2 to 1
  • Black males outnumber everyone else in all age groups except 55-64
  • Number of black male victims peaks in the 20-24 demographic with 7,215

Murder offenders (all weapons):

  • Where race is known, blacks account for almost 3 in 8 murder offenders, despite making up just 1 in 8 of the general population in the United States
  • In single offender, single victim circumstances, blacks slightly outnumber whites in overall numbers, accounting for 47.8% of offenders
  • Blacks outnumber whites as murder offenders in age groups from 13 to 29
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Buying used

Recently I saw this on Cracked.com in a collection of “Ways You Can’t Stop Wasting Money, in Three Steps“:

And it’s relatively easy to look at this and consider it to be common sense, setting aside the fact the only reason used copies are even available is someone buying it new. Let me throw some perspective on this.

I’ve been working on getting physical copies for the songs I had in my iTunes collection — I’ve detailed why in another article. So since this means buying a lot of CDs, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for saving money where I can, buying used on Amazon and at my local Half Price Books where possible.

Now up front the best reason to buy new is to support the talent behind what you’re buying. This is especially important for lesser-known artists and artists in a niche genre. Buying used doesn’t provide this support since you’re merely taking on a copy someone else paid for originally.

That being said, buying new may, at times, be the better option. For one, it might be the only option, depending on what you’re looking for and when.

But when buying used is an option, you need to do a cost comparison to ensure you’re getting the better value. Let me give you an example.

Currently in my Amazon.com shopping cart, I have Every Open Eye by CHVRCHES, specifically the enhanced edition which has several other tracks to it. I’ll likely buy it with the next Amazon Associates payout. Brand new through Amazon Prime, as of when I write this, it is listed at 9.47 USD with no sales tax (I live in Kansas). Again, brand new.

The lowest cost for a “Used – Very Good” copy: 4.49 USD + 3.58 USD for shipping, 9.07 USD total. A savings of 40 cents. Worth it? Depends on a number of factors, such as the seller’s return policy, but in that instance I’d buy the new copy. As mentioned before, it supports the artist. I can get the new copy with 2-day Prime shipping and I know Amazon tends to ship quickly — two things that are unknowns when ordering through the Marketplace. And I know Amazon’s return policy as I’ve had to leverage it before.

Which is one of the reasons I love Half Price Books. If a CD or Blu-Ray I buy that looks scratched can’t play (always a risk buying used), they’ll take it back. And I typically have the opportunity to inspect the disc before accepting it.

And when it comes to finding CDs that are otherwise difficult to find, places like Half Price Books can work a miracle. Another example.

Taylor Swift’s debut album was originally released in 2006 with 11 tracks, including the original version of “Picture to Burn”. A new version of the album was released in 2008 with 15 tracks, including the “radio edit” for “Picture to Burn”. If you were to order her debut album brand new today, the 15 track CD is what you’d receive. If you’re looking for that original version, used is likely your only option.

And by some good luck a couple months ago, I managed to find the original release at Half Price Books one afternoon. And for less than what I’d pay for online.

Now to summarize, certainly buy used when you can. But depending on the price difference and quality you can find, you may want to lean toward buying new. Not because it’s “better”, but a better value. At the same time, pay attention to return policies when buying used so you don’t get stuck holding a scratched, non-playable disc with little to no recourse, since it’s in return policies that buying new can win out.

And if you have a local place similar to Half Price Books, keep an eye out there where you can, especially if they have a guarantee that’ll allow you to return CDs if you discover they don’t work, or, even better, allow you to inspect any discs before accepting them.

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Yet another “there’s nothing wrong with this” dress code violation

Take it way, Annie:

Now, any guesses as to what’s wrong with this? If you said “Nothing”, you need to look closer.

She’s wearing high-waist jeans with a cropped t-shirt. A shirt that’ll not only get you coded at school if you’re caught, but dismissed from work if you tried wearing this to a job. Again, just because you think it “looks just fine” doesn’t mean it complies with a dress code. And in Annie’s case, it’s specifically disallowed by her school district (emphasis mine):

  1. The following items are not permitted:
    1. clothing or accessories with reference to alcohol, drugs, and/or tobacco
    2. clothing or accessories with suggestive, profane or lewd symbols, slogans and/or pictures gang or other groups without permission of the administration.
    3. hoods, hats, caps, bandanas or other form of head covering
    4. Halters, midriff tops, crop tops, spaghetti strap tops, open mesh garments, garments with open sides which expose skin or undergarments, and muscle tops (oversized armholes).

Seriously this is really starting to get old. Do teens today not pay attention to the dress code for their school, since it is their responsibility to know it and comply with it? Do they not understand that they will have dress code rules they’ll have to obey when on the job?

Or do they instead expect that if they scream “sexism” loud enough, they’ll be able to get away with whatever they want? Since that seems to be the direction we’re heading.

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Self defense and victim blaming

Article: “Women need to pack gun to avoid rape, says GPO Indiana lawmaker

Representative says that a firearm is a great way to defend oneself against an attacker, though his word choice could’ve been better. A “tsunami of criticism” twists that into, in essence, victim blaming. Somehow in the last several years we’ve twisted “women should learn to defend themselves” into “rape victims are to blame because they didn’t defend themselves”… Ugh…

Crime occurs for a number of reasons, with reasons varying on the crime, so it’s not possible to teach people to not commit crimes. Most people don’t commit crimes, and don’t want to commit crimes. So the common call of feminists to “teach men to not rape”, provided such is possible, is not necessary.

Plus it presumes that men are violent apes who don’t know how to control themselves, or don’t want to, until they’re “civilized”. Just as the anti-gun crowd seems to presume that everyone who wants to buy a gun is out to kill someone.

The chance of any person in the United States being a victim of any crime, petty or violent, is very small. And you’re more likely to be victimized by someone with whom you are at least acquainted. For those uncommon stranger violent crimes, a firearm will stop an attacker the vast majority of the time. And you don’t even have to fire a shot to do it. The mere presentation of the firearm will be enough to stop an attacker in their tracks the vast majority of times. Pepper spray has the same potential, though it doesn’t work on everyone. For the other times, that’s why self defense is codified into law, and the laws and standards are much more favorable to women as well.

This won’t prevent 100% of instances, but it does change the odds. Just as contraceptives change the odds of getting pregnant, but don’t eliminate the risk 100%. No matter how situationally aware you are, no matter how much you’re on your guard, you can still be ambushed, you can still be victimized. That doesn’t mean there are not steps you can and should take to get the risk as low as possible.

But that also doesn’t mean a victim of violent crime is somehow to blame because they did not or could not defend themselves or escape. The criminal is always to blame. But since crime is a risk in any society, everyone needs to account for that risk.

Travelers are advised to not carry significant quantities of cash or significant valuables, and tourists may also be advised to avoid certain parts of a destination. If you’re on a cruise ship, you’re advised to always lock your cabin. And when at an airport or on a plane, there are steps you take to secure what is on your person to avoid having it stolen. And when you’re at a bar, to not get significantly inebriated. Because of the very real risk of crime.

This is not to say that victims of violent crime are somehow to blame because they didn’t or couldn’t defend themselves. Yet unfortunately that’s how the conversation has been twisted.

Again crime is a risk. So you need to account for it and take steps to reduce the risk of being a victim to as low as possible.

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Customer service

ArticleOwner Tired Of Rude Customers Puts Up Genius Bar Sign To Teach Them A Lesson, And It Works Instantly

The idea of customer service is, in general, satisfying customers through all reasonably-expected means. Handling exchanges and returns in retail, along with helping customers find what they’re looking for. For food service and mail order companies, it means getting orders correct and correcting any errors that arise.

Most people who walk into an establishment won’t loiter. And unless the customer is a regular and is readily recognized as a regular, chances are they also aren’t there to “connect” with the staff. And even if they are a regular, that will still likely be the case the majority of times.

There are several establishments near where I live and work where my wife and I are recognized readily as a regular. In only one of those establishments do the staff know anything about me beyond my name and I know anything about one or more of the staff beyond their name. And that establishment also has the benefit of being a small business, not a chain or franchise, that I’ve been visiting for years.

Yet some business owners don’t understand the actual relationship that exists with their customers. Take the example of Austin Simms of Roanoke, Virginia, article linked at the top. Simms owns CUPS, a small coffee and tea shop where a sign he created offered three pricing options:

  • “One small coffee” – $5
  • “One small coffee, please” – $3
  • “Hello. One small coffee, please” – $1.75

He’s not the first to attempt this, and he likely won’t be the last. So he’s definitely not the first business owner to expect more than is reasonable from his customers. His reasoning?

I decided <…> to start charging more for people who didn’t take the time to say hello and connect and realize we’re all people behind the counter.

Question: what happens if someone says the $1.75 phrase but does so in an easily-discernible impolite manner?

While patrons absolutely should be polite and kind with the staff at an establishment, amending or prepending “please” does not make it polite by default. A ready example is the phrase “please shut up” or “please leave”. Indeed both tend to be said in response to someone obviously not being polite. And not saying “please” does not make it impolite by default.

Your customers are not invited guests to your home.

Here’s how I place my order at my local coffee shop: “I’ll have a 16oz latte, to go”. And I always take it plain rather than adulterated beyond the point of being able to tell there’s any coffee in it. At a restaurant, if I don’t have any questions about any menu items, I will just place my order directly: “[Desired food and/or drink item, with or without modifications]”, sometimes prefaced with “I’ll have”. No “please” included, and not in the form of a question.

Am I being rude? According to Simms and the apparent majority of those in the article’s comments, yes. Am I somehow dehumanizing those working in food service by not including “please”? The same would likely also say yes.

However if you were to ask those serving where my wife and I are regulars, I’d wager they would say “No” in both instances. That we are not rude and do not fail to acknowledge their humanity. I’ve also had wait staff ensure I’m their customer. So I’d say my never uttering “please” to them is not really that much of a bother.

An exception to this would be modifications to an order if you’re uncertain if the modification can be done. For example, the first couple times my wife ordered the steak tips dinner at IHOP, she would request with a question or by including “please” to not include mushrooms. Once she was confident the kitchen could do that, she just made it a part of her order.

At a local small business where I frequently buy lunch, one of my favorite sides sometimes isn’t available when I arrive, so I’ll ask for that side as a question: “And can I get [side] as well?” If it’s available they’ll add it. If not, they’ll say so, and I’ll either select something else or forego the sides altogether.

Again, not saying “please” doesn’t make you rude automatically, and adding “please” doesn’t make it polite automatically. It’s everything else about how you place your order that determines whether you’re being polite. At the same time, if you place your order in the form of a question — something that most seem to do — it’s always come off to me that you are uncertain of what you want.

So the pricing idea that Simms had would, as comments to the linked article have already pointed out, lead to a false politeness from patrons who’d merely recite the words on the sign to get the cheaper price.

In coffee shops and fast food establishments, most will expect to get in and out. Trying to make pleasantries with the staff behind the counter is not conducive to the customer’s time, or to the time for those behind them in line. When I get coffee at the coffee shop near where I live, I keep my order short and direct and have my payment method already in hand to allow the order to be placed quickly.

In dining and fast casual establishments, the customer is obviously expecting to spend more time there, but not to make pleasantries with the wait staff. Where I’m a regular I can likely get away with additional pleasantries, provided the place isn’t all that busy.

Now some may say in response that the business doesn’t owe me any service. Which is true. I also don’t owe them my patronage either. The patron-establishment relationship is entirely voluntary. No one is forcing me to be there.

Businesses also have a right to kick out rude or harassing customers. They can also refuse service to someone for any reason or none. They do it all the time. But such choices have consequences, especially in the day and age of massive social media participation where a story of impropriety toward a customer or service staff, even one that’s completely fabricated, can go viral in a matter of hours.

At the same time, though, the fact I don’t use “please” when ordering doesn’t mean I’m somehow reserving the right to be an asshole to the staff that work there.

Business owners need to be mindful of the patron-establishment relationship. A business is only as successful as their customers allow them. Discourage or disparage customers and you’ll either go out of business or never grow as fast or as much as you’d expect.

In the above scenario — and others like it — the establishment doesn’t get to call many shots. The sign as well as the owner’s stated intent implies that I owe the establishment a particular demeanor when the only thing I owe the establishment is a certain amount of money when I place an order.

So ask yourself this: if I walk into my local coffee shop and say to the woman behind the counter, “Hi, I’ll have a 16oz latte,” have I just been rude to her? Have I dehumanized her? If you say “yes”, you really need to re-evaluate your point of view, as well as what is considered polite.

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