SOPA blackouts just might kill the bill

This past Wednesday, the world went dark. Quiet. Well, part of it anyway. If you’re reading this article I’m going to assume you visited at least one of the 115,000 websites that had made alterations to their frontpages in a “blackout” protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act. For Wikipedia, it meant displaying a mostly black page with the Wikipedia logo and an explanation of the ramifications of the bill. While some sites went for similar service-outages, others made small changes to raise awareness. Google simply put a big black box over the logo on its homepage. Participation hit every corner of the web, from content aggregators like Reddit to the porn networks. It seemed like everyone was opposed to the bill, even if just for a day. I thought it must be a fluke.

It wasn’t. Millions of people signed an anti-SOPA petition that Google had put together, and that was just one petition. Several sites held similar petitions and email drives, all of which reported hugely successful numbers. Still, the biggest number on the day of the blackout was eighteen. Eighteen is the number of Senators who changed position on the bill. Changed. In some ways that’s an inspiring figure – it’s fantastic to see that activism can produce change. On the other hand, it’s more than a little disconcerting that people in office were ready to pass a bill that could have such a negative impact on the most valued aspects of the web, namely that it is free and open.

Wednesday wasn’t an all-out victory over thoughtless legislation against the internet. The day also saw the US Department of Justice seize and shut down file-sharing site Megaupload. I’m not going to claim that the site hasn’t been involved in any criminal activity — it very likely has — but as several other sites have mentioned, the indictment has a few inconsistencies. In one instance, the indictment charges that “a member of the Mega Conspiracy made a transfer of $185,000 to further an advertising campaign for involved a musical recording and a video.” That seems not only within the confines of the law but daily business practice. As Ars Technica points out, “When Viacom made many of the same charges against YouTube, it didn’t go to the government and try to get Eric Schmidt or Chad Hurley arrested.”

That’s where Anonymous came in. You knew they wouldn’t stay out of this one. After Megaupload went down, the hacker collective organized DDoS attacks against just about everyone involved in the Megaupload case, including the DoJ, the MPAA, and the FBI. In short, Anonymous took a piss all over the good vibrations of the blackout, and certainly the goodwill of anyone who may have been on the fence about the whole SOPA thing. It goes without saying that Anonymous hurt the conversation just as much as the blackout may have added to it, and that’s not something lawmakers will soon forget.

This is why I think the blackout’s effort to kill SOPA could still be a “maybe.” While the bill does look like it has been pulled off life support, the Megaupload indictment and the Anonymous attack stand as two steps back after that one big step forward. I’m hoping the internet pulls through, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was Wednesday night.


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Babewatch: Gina Carano goes Haywire

If you like badass babes, you’re going to love Gina Carano. She’s a Strikeforce MMA fighter and she’s starring in “Haywire” which opened this weekend. Check out Bob Westal’s positive review of “Haywire” in our movie channel. Her character in this film will definitely be a candidate if we do another Badass Bracket.

We put together a slideshow of some great photos of Gina from the film. If you have a thing for girls with guns, you’re going to like some of these shots. The first shot is from Gina’s Maxim shoot, so check it out for some other great photos from our friends at Maxim.


Drink of the Week: El Presidente

El PresidenteThe name of today’s DOTW notwithstanding, this post is not brought to you by the ongoing Republican primary or anything else happening in the world of U.S. or Latin American politics. Instead, we all should thank the good people of Denizen Rum. As always, I appreciate the free bottle but I also appreciate the very reasonable price tag for a fifth which, depending on taxes in your area, might give you enough change from a $20.00 for a Double-Double at In ‘n Out. That’s something because this is tasty stuff, a bit more sophisticated and complex than your standard Bacardi, but in the friendliest way.

On to the cocktail, which was supposedly invented by a Yankee bartender working in Cuba. As per Wayne Curtis, back when little Fidel Castro was not even old enough for his first game of sandlot baseball, Cuba’s somewhat beleaguered President Gerardo Machado, offered one of these to our own el presidente, Republican Calvin Coolidge. Silent Cal remembered that there was this thing called prohibition going on and politely declined.

Nice story, but my first attempt at the drink seemed to explain why El Presidente has become a relic stateside. I found the classical recipes to be sweet to the point of being cloying — and that’s something considering my sweet tooth.

I therefore followed the lead of booze blogger Matt Robold and halved one sweet ingredient, orange curacao, at his suggestion. I liked that version better but I decided to also halve the amount of grenadine he suggested. I found something close to perfection when made with the Denizen rum. This version works slightly less well with plain old Bacardi, but it’s still very nice.

El Presidente (impeached, but not deposed)

1.5 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce orange curacao
1/4 teaspoon grenadine
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you want to be traditional, stir for a very long time over crushed or cracked ice, or you can do like I do and shake it vigorously, though the drink might not look as pretty if you do. Your call.

Strain into our old friend, the chilled martini/cocktail glass. Fire up original mambo king Perez Prado on the music player of your choice, imagine a day when Cuban cigars are no longer contraband, and have a sip.


If you want to go more traditional/way sweeter, the classic version offered by cocktail super-historian David Wondrich simply doubles the amount of curacao, and I think 1/4 of a teaspoon is probably the same as the “dash” of grenadine he suggests. I will say that, while I loved my version of the drink, at no point was I able to achieve the orange color the drink has in most (but not all) photos. Mine was more of a pale pinkish hue somewhat as you see above, even with just a tiny amount of very sweet, very red grenadine. It tasted amazing, so I can live with that.

One quick suggestion, if you are determined to go with the full 1/2 ounce of orange sweet stuff, you might do as some have suggested and substitute Cointreau for the curacao. It’s not bad.



Friday Video – Hard-Fi, “Suburban Knights”

Click here to listen to Hard-Fi’s Stars of CCTV on Spotify

We would not bank on this, but we’re fairly positive that one time, while watching a New York Jets game, we heard this song in the background leading up to the kickoff following a Jets score. Which, if true, is awesome on a number of levels. One, because we love that mile-wide “Heeeeeey, Oooooooooh, Ahhhhhhh” hook in the chorus. Two, because it’s called “Suburban Knights,” and the New York Jets play their games in New Jersey. Those jokes just write themselves.

Hard-Fi lead singer and principal songwriter Richard Archer is a funny bloke. We spoken with him three times, and each time he seemed to be talking faster than he had the previous time, which is pretty impressive considering that he talked really fast the first time we spoke. (Eventually, we got playback equipment that allowed us to slow the tape down. Man, what a godsend that was.) Sadly, the band’s most recent album, 2011’s Killer Sounds, is import-only, a growing trend with UK acts (Kaiser Chiefs, The Feeling). Luckily for us, it’s available on Spotify. Seriously, how did we live without Spotify?

Speaking of which, yes, the above Spotify link does not point to the album that features “Suburban Knights.” There is a reason for that – Stars of CCTV is better. It also features a nifty cover of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” Dig in.


Marathon Mission: Complete

I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was sitting against a fence, shivering, my calves tied into knots and my hip flexors threatening to burst into flames, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I’d force my eyes open, take a sip from the water bottle I’d been handed after I crossed the finish line, and then my eyes would slide shut again. Open, sip, repeat.

At one point, a concerned medic approached me. “Everything OK?” he asked. I forced a smile, told him I was fine, just needed to rest, and then I gave in. I shut my eyes once more and drifted off, maybe for 30 seconds, maybe for 10 minutes. I’d never been overwhelmed by the urge to sleep after a race, but I’d also never run a full marathon. I finished (just barely) the Chicago Marathon in October, but as I sat against that fence in the chute for the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, I could finally say that I had run a marathon. Well, once I woke up, I could say it.

In my first post for this Runner’s Journal series, called “Why Run?”, I laid out some of the reasons I had been drawn back to the sport I’d abandoned in the 15 years since high school. Among those reasons, I wrote:

“I run to challenge myself, to set a goal and accomplish that goal. I run to find my limits and expand them, to redefine my comfort zone, to defy that voice inside my head that tells me my legs hurt too much and my lungs can’t take any more. I run to prove to myself that I can accomplish anything if I’m willing to work hard enough.”

The 3 hours and 44 minutes I spent running through Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe epitomized that paragraph. It was most definitely a challenge to accomplish my goal of running a full marathon. I blew past my limits and bulldozed my comfort zone during the race, and did my best to ignore “that voice” for the final six miles or so. I set out to run the whole race, and save for a handful of quick pit stops to guzzle some water or Gatorade, I did just that, even when “that voice” was pleading for a break at mile 24. I kept my feet moving, refused to walk, and crossed the finish line almost an hour faster than I did in Chicago last October. Then I took a nap.

I won’t pretend that I accomplished anything monumentally profound last weekend. Heck, it seems everyone is running marathons and half marathons these days. But it was a significant personal achievement, a moment I won’t ever forget, a moment I once thought would never happen, and yet there I was in the chute, medal in hand, mission accomplished. I was sleeping, but I was there.

I didn’t think I could, until I did

“I run to find my limits and expand them.” In hindsight, this line is perhaps the most accurate in the above paragraph. I remember how awful I felt after finishing my first half marathon, and how fantastic I felt seven months later after my third. My body wasn’t ready for 13.1 miles in Columbus, but by Cleveland, it knew what to expect and I cruised to a PR.

Last Sunday, my body was toast. I crossed the line sore, nauseous, thirsty and exhausted, certain I couldn’t have run another 10 feet. That’s exactly how I felt after my first half marathon. Now, a 13-mile run qualifies as an easy day. Will the pattern hold next month when I hop onto a plane to run the Tokyo Marathon?

Man, I hope so.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting Tokyo will be easy just because I finished the Arizona Marathon, but it should be easier. Not only will my body be better conditioned to handle 26.2 miles, but perhaps more importantly, I now know that I can, in fact, run a full marathon. Clearing that mental hurdle is huge. Telling yourself you can do something is one thing, but proving to yourself that you can do it is another.

At the expo the day before the race, I bought a shirt that said “Inspired to Run” on the back. Those three words sum things up beautifully for me. The act of running – of hitting the pavement or treadmill several times a week, braving the elements in the dead of winter or peak of summer, logging mile after mile after mile on lonely roads and rolling trails – isn’t a whole lot of fun. It’s not easy either. But it’s damn sure rewarding.

I’ve accomplished things during these two years of running that I never thought were possible. In about five weeks, I’ll add one more item to the list when I run a marathon in Tokyo. That’s incredible to me. And it’s no coincidence that, with each mental hurdle I’ve cleared in my training, my confidence in other areas of life has soared as well, driving me to pursue other personal and professional endeavors that once seemed out of reach and unattainable.

That may sound corny, but it’s the truth. There’s a reason running has exploded in popularity over the last decade. There’s a reason I have friends and family members emailing me for beginner training tips or advice on picking their first pair of running shoes (I’m no expert on either subject, by the way). There’s a reason people like my aunt, who ran her first marathon last year at the age of 53, fall in love with the sport. She’s done a bunch of half marathons, some sprint triathlons, joined a team for Ragnar last year, and probably accomplished so many other things that I don’t even know about. She also completed her second marathon in Arizona last weekend, and was thrilled to PR by about three minutes. That’s what it’s all about.

I am a marathoner. I had to wait three months longer than anticipated to be able to say that, but it doesn’t make it any less sweet. I can’t relax yet, though, not with the Tokyo Marathon on the horizon. I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I pick my routine back up Sunday with an easy five miler, but there’s only one way to find out.