It looks like “free software” is becoming a little less free these days. I got a new computer earlier this year and just realized my favorite screenprint software wasn’t on it; so I went to download it last night. Well, bad news. It seems the download site here now attaches a little piece of adware to your install to cash in on your free download. There may have been a way to avoid it; but I don’t remember – it was late and who reads these things anyways?

Well, the adware in question forces you to use something called “claro-search” for lots of functions. It’ll hyperlink words on various websites for an advertisement, change your Firefox/Chrome search to Claro Search instead of Google or Bing or whatever. It’ll also reset your homepage to Claro Search. As if that weren’t annoying enough, it’ll also install a toolbar. Removal doesn’t seem to be difficult, just annoying.

To Remove Claro Search in Firefox, use these steps:

If you use the built in search function, click the down arrow and select “Manage Search Engines”. When the popup appears, select Claro Search and Click Remove.

Then, go to Tools->Add-ons and and look in your Extensions and Plugins tabs for Claro Toolbar and Claro Ads. Remove both of them.

Finally, go to your Windows Control Panel and find the Chrome Claro Toolbar and the Firefox one. Remove both.

Reload your browsers and you should be good to go. Also reset your homepage.

Guess that’s the last time I download anything from – unbelievable.

So I enjoy watching reality shows. I admit it. I’m fine with it. I like that they are “unscripted” and seemingly random – so you don’t see the same story over and over again. All sitcoms show the same situation over and over again, just with different actors. But it’s always the same story. We know the outcome. It’s just how we get there that’s in question. Boring.

So, reality shows are much better entertainment. But can we do something about these things here? Don’t insult my damn intelligence. If you are “scripted” – don’t make it obvious. Yes, we get the stars of your reality show are the heroes and need to win; but let’s not make it obvious that you are skewing the show to make them heroes, okay?

The moment a reality show does something obvious fake, that I feel is just insulting to my intelligence, I never watch it again. Let’s do a few cases in point.

My wife hates that I watch these shows. Especially Operation Repo. I no longer watch this show. Not really because of her, or Sonja or anyone else – but it thinks I’m retarded. Yes, at the end of the show it says that these are recreations of repos and not filmed live. I know they aren’t real. I can tell. I’m not stupid. But don’t throw it in my face, okay? A season or two ago, the guys had a repo with a dude who pretended to be from the FBI stalking this lady. They need to repo his car and he tells them that he’s a government agent or whatever. No one believes him of course. The lady comes storming out, claiming he’s a stalker and what not. So they drive off with his car. Funny. I laughed, I admit it. But this most recent season, this same dude comes back and is a government agent again? And they believe him? Really? The short spanish dude was at both scenes. He can’t have not recognized this guy. But here we go, thinking the viewer is a retard – and suggests that this guy is a real government agent. After last season establishing this same guy as a creepy stalker? C’mon. It’s insulting.

SyFy (fuck you and that retarded name, by the way) has a new show called Monster Man. Shows this Paul Bearer type guy who makes monsters for movies. Okay, cool premise. Thought it’d be something like Face Off, showing you how things are made – and it does this. But anyways. First fucking episode. Dude from The Asylum wants them to make a two headed shark for a new movie they are making – probably for SyFy, cuz the premise is too damn stupid to make it to theatres. Anyways …. so the dude goes off to do research on a shark. Me? I’d watch some shark documentaries if you want good footage. He goes on a boat (ugh, really?) and then into a sharks cage (and you wore your stupid makeup? ugh). The footage they show of him underwater with a shark is obviously doctored. One time they pan away, and the shark moves in a total opposite direction, so you see that it was obviously inserted into the frames. Really? On your first episode? So, anyways, the Asylum guy wants a two headed shark and brings him a picture with 2 heads on top of each other. What idiot would even think of this? Of course, you’d want them side by side so – you know- both mouths were functional? I know the Asylum makes some crappy movies, but c’mon this is beyond the pale. So the dude comes up with a better design (side by side! wow, that was hard!) and the Asylum dude ponders it like he’s really thinking, “No, I seriously came in here thinking that shark head over shark head was fucking brilliant. Also, I’m retarded.” So he stands there for a few minutes (high drama! will he like the design?!?!) then says that does work better. No shit, sherlock. Thus ended my time with Monster Man. Blatantly insulted me twice in a single hour. Good job.

Finally, remember that biker bar show on TruTV a year or so ago? That show lost it when they did an obviously faked surveillance scene to catch someone’s mom doing something or other. Who knows. Who cares. But the cops in that scene were so obviously faked and the situation so obviously retarded. I’m not surprised that show got booted off the air. Yeah, that was the last time I watched that episode too.

Alligator Boys is already getting to this point, too. Good show over all. But c’mon. Stock footage of the same underwater alligator in nearly every episode? And in one episode, the dude with the cowboy hat says, “I never have to get in the water. That’s what he’s for!” Five minutes later, something magical happens that requires him to get into the water, of course. Ugh! He decides to get on a boat, which he promptly sinks due to stupidity and is swimming with the alligator and the other dude. Fuck me. Really? Sinking a boat, so you get a big HA-HA about getting in the water? Geesh. Just make the show about their job and lose the stupid buffoonery. It’s a decent enough concept as is.

C’mon. Can we not get people ruining shows about weird people doing their jobs? Stop writing scripts for people who aren’t actors and can’t even make you suspend disbelief. Some of these reality shows are becoming more like pro wrestling every week. Don’t ruin my already pitiful excuses for entertainment.

So this is a spoiler post. If you don’t want to know the Mass Effect 3 endings, don’t read it. Pretty simple. You’ve been warned.

So, at the end of Mass Effect 3, you get a choice of 3 endings. Control the reapers, destroy the reapers or join with them. Controlling the reapers is symbolized by blue (paragon) but the pre-selection sequence shows the Illusive Man, who is clearly red (renegade). Using this option ends the reaper invasion, by letting you control the reapers. Destroying the reapers is symbolized by red (renegade) but your pre-selection video shows General Anderson, who is clearly blue (paragon). Using this option destroys the reapers but also kills the Geth/Quarians and most technology. The third option is a symbiosis option or something, which is the happy middle ground I guess? You enter a beam of light and alter the DNA of everything to become a hybrid of machine/organic life.

But let’s step back a second. So the catalyst is a child? Or something, I guess. He’s the kid you’ve been seeing in your dreams, who is also the kid you saw die when you left earth at the beginning of the game. Wait. What? Yeah, I don’t get it either. And he lives on the Citadel or something. Waiting for the crucible, which he has no idea exists – because it was created by many disparate races over the different cycles that the Reapers have attacked the universe. Wait. What? It’s not logical.

But take a step back from there and let’s talk about things that -were- good ideas in the ending.

The idea that the reapers only harvest technologically advanced species, leaving the less evolved ones alone. This is why humans/asari/krogan/etal were left alone last time. This makes sense, if you presume that Reapers are feeding off the technology and energy from these cultures. It also follows from this that the spider things on the Citadel are taking a sort of silent census, your presence on the citadel determines that your species is advanced enough to be assimilated. I forget their explanation in the original Mass Effect – I think they were explained as the Citadel care takers or something, they ignore everything around them and just repair/maintain systems.

So every 50,000 the reapers come and destroy the species that are too advanced and are thus occupying the Citadel. If, as explained in Mass Effect 3, the reapers destroy everyone because they don’t want them to get to powerful to destroy the reapers, then wouldn’t it simply just make sense to destroy the Mass Relays? Since that is what allowed most races to advance so quickly – by pilfering knowledge they gleaned from these devices. The Illusive Man even says that humans have developed more in the past 100 years than they have in the past 10,000. So really, the reapers are bringing about their own destruction in this sense, aren’t they? If the reapers’ goal is to prevent societies from getting too advanced, then why not slow down their progress? Clearly, the method would be to destroy the Mass Relays.

It just seems like a convoluted plan by the reapers. Near nonsensical. It rendered the plot of Mass Effect 1 as irrelevant and pointless. And Mass Effect 2 as equally pointless. Why make a human reaper if your goal is to destroy the humans? Maybe there were other reapers created in similar methods? An Asari-Reaper, a Krogan-Reaper, etc? This would lend support to the catalyst’s claim that they are helping these races ascend. But no evidence of such is seen. Instead, Asari are turned into Banshee’s, etc. So the goal is different for each race. Why turn humans into husks if your goal is to make them ascend? It seems counter to the point.

Either the catalyst is lying (possible) or the writing just doesn’t make sense. I’ll go with the latter.

So anyways, let’s say you choose the symbiosis option (entering the beam). You die; apparently. Robots and organics merge into a new DNA structure. Normandy crashes on some planet and Robot Joker and EDI get to get freaky or something. So, I fought to save the galaxy so Joker and EDI could have sex? Really? I know I’m oversimplifying, but it’s not a very satisfying conclusion.

You choose the control the reapers option. You die, apparently. Reapers leave the planet. Normandy crashes onto some planet and Joker and (insert your love interest) leave the Normandy. What’s weird here, is that I had Liara on the mission -and- as my love interest. Yet there she is. I had assumed she died running towards the beam thing. Bad writing, again? Poor forethought?

You choose the destroy the reapers option. You live, or so you can infer from the final glimpse of y our body.  Rest is identical.

Maybe the ending is just a dream and you do die on the way to the beam or are severely injured and the rest is imagined? This is somewhat possible as the rest of the game plays very oddly – you get a gun with unlimited ammo. You are injured, then suddenly not so injured. After the Illusive Man dies, you are lifted into a beam of light with obvious allusions. Then the choice of heaven or hell, as perceived by the gatekeeper (the crucible).

But either way, you have no real option as the ending. Mass Effect 2 left you with destroy the reaper ship or don’t. I opted to destroy it, and didn’t do the other play through; but there was a real choice with apparent consequences – especially given that the ending to ME3 is different if you didn’t destroy it (in some endings, the earth is destroyed).

All in all, 3 pretty terrible endings for an awesome franchise. During the game, I had assumed the catalyst would be something stupid (it was) but that it’d channel the power of the Mass Relays to destroy the Reapers somehow. Or, in a worst case scenario, you lose this “cycle” but you get a movie that shows your “progress in this cycle” allowed a future cycle to complete the crucible and finally destroy the reapers. This would have made Liara’s “time capsule” near the middle of the game relevant instead of a few pointless Paragon/Renegade points.

That might have actually been an interesting ending, too. Shepard, sensing defeat at the hands of the Reapers and knowing that the reapers ignore primitive cultures, orders Liara to fire her time capsules at planets where life is just starting to gain a technological foothold. Thus giving them a head-start, and consolidating all the data on the crucible so they aren’t working from behind in future cycles.

That probably would have made everyone’s sacrifice very worthwhile. Not for themselves, but for their prosperity. And that would have been a pretty good way to cap off this series.

Yep. Put them in charge of 1/5 of the economy.

Crumbling sidewalks near the Jefferson Memorial are sinking into the Tidal Basin. Reflecting pools are filled with green, smelly water. And millions of visitors have trampled the soil into virtual concrete where grass can’t grow.

So they’ll fix it right? Just like they’ll assign funds properly to 1/5 of the economy, right? Yeah, right.

Last year, when dozens of ducks and ducklings died of avian botulism because the water in a mall pool near the Capitol was so fetid, and as urgent repairs were needed to stop the Jefferson Memorial’s sea wall from sinking into the mud, the Senate killed a $3.5 million earmark for the mall.

Instead, funding went to projects back home. All told, Congress sent home more than $181 million in earmarks through the park service budget last year – an election year – according to data compiled by the group Taxpayers for Common Sense and analyzed by the AP. Nearly half that money was driven by lawmakers who were on the House and Senate appropriations committees.

Wait. You mean, given the choice between maintaining a decent park for everyone and giving money to their own voting bloc, they choose the latter? I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you.

At least we know that congress is so competent at running things that service will be efficient and without any wait times. Oh hell.

And now we are promised a tax increase for this wonderful service? Well, damn. Why didn’t you tell me in the first place? Sign me up, man.

Less care. More waits. More inefficient. Higher taxes. Less choice. It has all the makings of success!

Inevitably, the question of Palin’s experience is going to come up in the Vice Presidential debate. Democrats have been hitting this hard in the media.

After the events of the past week, the debate is the perfect time to turn this back on the press and on Biden, himself.

When asked if she thinks she is ready to become President, here is an answer that will probably not win her any points in the press, but the country at large will understand.

First off, I’m not running for President. McCain is running for President, I’m running for Vice President – just to clear that up. You all have been confused lately by the ticket.

If, by experience, you mean the people who sat up in Washington – totally clueless of the events of the past week. With Harry Reid, Democrat Majority Leader in the Senate, said “no one has a clue what to do” and Democrat Speaker of the House saying that she’d just adjourn Congress and leave it someone else to fix. And, next to me, we have Senator Biden who has been on the wrong side of every foreign policy issue in the past 25 years. Wrong on the first Gulf War. Wrong on the Surge and he wanted to cut and run from Iraq and split it up into 3 provinces, further increasing Iran’s influence in the region.

Is this the kind of experience you think we should have up there? If this is your type of qualifications and experience, then I’m not your person. If you want fresh blood up there, someone who has a history of cutting through the bureaucracy, cutting spending, and governing on the side of the people. Then, yes, I have the right experience. And John McCain and I will be ready to lead when elected.

I think it’s a terrific answer. Could probably be worded better – I’m no artist, but it would resonate around this country. People understand that Washington is a disaster (20% approval ratings for Congress) and believe that Washington is run by criminals. Exploit that; and they’ll win.

Just killing the meme here.

But before I do, can I make a point that you people on the internet will believe anything without actually researching it yourself? The meme started on Daily Kos (always a hotbed of truthfulness!) after someone pulled it out of their ass from looking at a single picture.

Then it just ballooned from there. How sad that you people seem to think that accusing a woman – with no evidence – of this sort of cover-up makes it to the front page of major Democrat sites, such as Democrat Underground, Daily Kos, etc.

First off, ignorance. The meme popularly states that most Downs births are from births under 35 (or some number below Palin’s actual age). This is because overall births are from this age group. However, after 42, woman have a greatly increased likelihood of giving birth to a child with Downs:

Recent data also suggest that paternal age, especially beyond 42, also increases the risk of Down Syndrome manifesting in pregnancies in older mothers

Again, I ask, is this the Democrat Party of the 21st century?

Now, putting the meme to sleep:

Story written In April, just before Trig’s birth.

Of course I had to check out the “Hottest Governor in the US” and quickly turned to see her pregnant (she has since had her baby) with bags and daughter in tote. Then it struck me as odd. Why is the Governor of Alaska in the airport and preparing to get onto my commercial flight?

So the meme is done, correct?

Thanks to Ace’s commenters for the link.

So it’s Halloween again and here we go again. Random kids I’ve never seen before come to my door begging me for food. And not healthy food, but for candy. And they demand it too, they ring the door-bell until I come running offering my tithing lest my house get toilet papered or they throw eggs at my house or something.

So I offer up my tithing, actually thanking the kids of coming to my house and stealing food that I had purchased with my hard earned money. Sometimes they thank me sometimes, most of the times they do not. But I continue to give my money over because it’s demanded of me. And then I say “Happy Halloween!” to them – what’s happy about it? I should call it the yearly Halloween Tax. It only affects parents with no kids, because parents with kids are out wandering the neighborhood, begging for scraps of food themselves

And when the kids come, they are dressed up like mummies, skeletons, vampires and all sorts of creatures that are dead. Much like the way that welfare kills the soul, because you are given things you didn’t earn; Halloween welcomes fake dead people up onto your porch.

Then we get strange cars driving around the neighborhood, obviously carrying kids from other neighborhoods to get candy from us. So the trick-or-treaters (re: welfare recipients) gather up in cars, drive to strangers’ houses and steal their food too. It is not about community or getting to know your neighbor. It is all about “how much food can I steal, in the shortest period of time possible.”

So this year, I once again pay my Halloween Tax, tithing my money to children and parents who – any other day of the year – wouldn’t come by my house if I were rolling around the yard on fire. But for free food, they’ll come in droves – lavish me with attention and happily walk away with my food. Then move onto the next house to steal from them too.

And the parents of these children get off with no Halloween Tax at all; because they are smart. They are out chaperoning their children through the streets. Sometimes eating the food we’ve tithed to the children. Leeches.

Happy Halloween everyone!

(Bryan at Hot Air chimes in with some cool Halloween stuff – that doesn’t involve me feeding other peoples’ kids)

I’ve been with the same health insurance company for years now, since about 2002. My premiums were about $250/month, with a decent deductible and a low co-pay as well. I was pretty happy with the service, and it kept my parents from nagging me about getting insurance. So it worked on different levels.

Then, in 2005, I tried to add my wife to plan and include maternity coverage as well. Adding her raised my premiums to $582/month which was astonishing, but women need to go to the doctor more, so I was fine with that. This year, as we are possibly trying to have a child, I called to make sure that the policy included the maternity coverage as requested.

It did not and there was no way to add it. After speaking to a few people at our insurance company, I got them to allow me to add the coverage as long as it was backdated to the time she joined the policy and pay the past premiums. I said fine and send me a quote as to what the cost would be. Keep in mind, I assumed that the $582/month already included maternity coverage on it, so I wasn’t expecting a huge increase or bill. Maybe a few thousand dollars in back premiums and $100 or so per month extra at worst.

So I open my mail the other day, and I get this letter from Assurant Health.

This letter is to advise you that if you were to add the Maternity Rider effective December 15, 2005 the total amount due would be $11,206.58.


We apologize for the amount of time it took to respond to your correspondence.

I omitted the boring part of how they broke down how they came across the figure. I liked how they apologized for how long it took to get back to me; they should have been apologizing for trying to pass this off as a reasonable amount to pay. $11,000 ? Assuming you have a child without insurance, it costs between $10,000 and $20,000 or so. So, I’m almost half paid off anyways. What’s the point of this insurance? Really?

So I placed a call to Assurant Health and talked to someone on the policy holders’ line. I asked her what, on top of that $11,000, would happen to my monthly premiums if I went ahead and paid. She said my premiums would go from $500 per month to $1200 per month. I was flummoxed and asked if she thought $1200/month was reasonable for 2 people, in their early 30′s, non-smokers, no health problems, etc. She said that she has seen higher. That was helpful. She asked if there was anything else she could do to help. Other than pay off that $11,000 pill and not rape me for $1200 per month, not really.

I called around just a few moments ago and reached Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I’ve heard of them of course. So I talk to someone on the phone and they said there is some “Plan 3″ policy (or something like that) that’d cost me $313/month plus $100 (or $50, depending on the deductible) for maternity coverage. For both of us. Hmm. $413 compared to $1200. That’s a tough choice there.

Obviously, I’ll do more calling around before I make a commitment, but $1200 is crazy. $413 is quite pallitable.

While on the phone with Assurant Health (I’d already contacted BCBS as this point) and told her that BCBS quoted me $413 for the same coverage, if not a little better. She said that was possible, new business is cheaper than existing business. That’s completely contrary to every business model I’ve ever heard about it. It’s supposedly much cheaper to keep an existing customer than get a new one. Weird.

Anyways, Assurant Health sucks. If it wasn’t apparent to me before, it is now.

I’ve been waiting since the Xbox 360 has been released to buy the system. I keep waiting and waiting. I currently own an Xbox and liked several games – even though I’m not a huge gamer. I like action RPG’s and adventure games, primarily.

I’ve also been looking at the PS3 since it was released. I used to own a PS2 a long time ago as well.

But, I’m still wondering – why did either of these companies even produce these systems?

In 2007, do we really want to be playing Missile Command? Pac Man? Joust? Double Dragon? Paperboy?

Those games were fun; for their time. But it’s 2007. Surely we can do better, right?

So far, for the Xbox, the only game that interests me is Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. I haven’t seen anything for the PS3 yet. The quality of games doesn’t even seem much above the Xbox for either system.

How much longer before something good comes out? Really?

I’d buy some PC games, but I’m sick of upgrading my PC and everything seems like its an MMORPG anyways – and I refuse to play those wastes of time.