In Which I Respond To Comments To My Letter To The Editor

November 17, 2014 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Over the weekend, I had a letter to the editor published to both NewsOK and at the Tulsa World. Both sites, published the letter with little modifications. The letter itself is mostly a rehash of my earlier article about Oklahoma’s low voter turnout and its impact on future petitions. It also called for real reform to pass.

However, there was one problem. I wanted to respond to a comment on the Tulsa World which I felt poorly reflected on the current petitioning climate. Tulsa World reader J. Lee wrote:

It appears that many people don’t really care what happens. But that is absolutely no reason to lower the party petitioning burden especially to what it was 40-50 years ago since the population has increased over a million since that time.

Any entity which lowers it standards to appease a few will eventually be left with no standards.

What J. Lee wrote here does a real disservice to those seeking to form a new party in Oklahoma. It is based on the false premise that Oklahoma’s petitioning laws and the change in 1974 was based on some actual reasoning based on population. That is not true at all.

The problem with this is that the Tulsa World’s commenting policy prevents me from responding to this comment directly. The Tulsa World wants me to pay nearly $200 just to comment on articles of interest. That is not happening. So instead, I am responding here in the hopes that interested people will read it and misinformation will be cleared away. If anyone out there has a subscription or still has commenting enabled because they have not reached their monthly ration of articles, feel free to respond to J. Lee with the following:

Let me lay out a few facts for you. I hope that I won’t have to explain any of this too much.

Population of Oklahoma:
1970 – 2,559,063
2010 – 3,751,351
Percent Changed – 46.6%

Voting Population of Oklahoma:
1972 Presidential Election (last election before new rules went into effect) – 1,057,396
2012 Presidential Election (most recent similar election) – 1,334,872
Percent Changed – 26.2%

1974 party petitioning requirement – 5,000 signatures or 0.47% of the 1972 vote
2014 party petitioning requirement – 66,744 or 5% of the vote cast in 2012
Percent Changed – 1,235%

If we wanted to adjust the number of signatures needed to form a new party based on population, then we would have this amount:
5,000 plus a 46.6% change = 7,330 signatures today.

However, if we base it off of voting population, we would get this number:
5,000 plus a 26.2% change = 6,310

Both of those calculations are far far smaller than the current signature requirement that is 1235% higher than it was in 1972.

So do you want to rethink your position?

Again, I would love to respond myself. When I aired my issues with the Tulsa World on Twitter, their only response was to upsell me on a subscription. They offered no real solution. I guess, if anyone wants a real conversation on a news site, they will have to go with NewsOK where all you need is a free account to read everything and comment to all articles.

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Who Are My Game Dev Heroes?

July 29, 2014 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Last week, Gamasutra asked everyone who their game dev heroes are. I missed the question when it was asked, but made a brief response yesterday. While I have considered the question before, I have never really voiced my answer. So I would like to take some time to explain who these people are that inspire me.

When I think of a game dev hero, I think of a person who I feel has impacted me on a personal level. Someone I aspire to be like or whose work greatly influences my own. It would be easy to rattle off names like Will Wright, John Carmack or Tim Schafer, but it seems like those big names, while impacting the industry as a whole to a large extent, have never really made me who I am today.

So who are my heroes then? Who inspires me to be the best game developer I can be? Here is what I told the Gamasutra audience:

My heroes? I would have to say Lars Doucet, Robert Boyd, Christer Kaitila, and Adam Saltsman. These guys are the indie devs I admire most and whose work has most influenced my own. While I have a lot of mad respect for a lot of AAA developers, none of their work or inspiration has impacted me on a personal level like these guys.

So let us explore these guys one at a time.

Robert Boyd

Robert Boyd is one of the founders of Zeyboyd games. They made their start making satirical RPG games for the XBox Live Indie Games service. Their first games, Breath of Death 7 and Cthulu Saves The World were never much of a financial success on the XBLIG service. Granted, that service was never really much of a money maker except for a rare few people. However, the games they made were a critical success. That critical success led them to move on to some really awesome successes.

The first success was porting those two games to the the PC and getting them on Steam. I believe that once on Steam, those two games made more money in a month than they did in a year and a half on the XBox.

Because their games were so critically successful, they were able to land the contracts to make the 3rd and 4th games in the Penny Arcade RPG series. This was not something just anyone could have done. The Penny Arcade guys had a lot of confidence that Robert and his team could not only make the games, but bring about the humor that Penny Arcade fans desired.

Following those games, Robert and his team sought to make another game of their own. They went to Kickstarter to fund Cosmic Star Heroine. They sought $100,000 and made $132,689.

So what is it about Robert that makes him my hero? I think it is the perseverance that he displayed. He could have easily have given up after BoD7 failed to make much money. He could have switch gears and went to work for someone else. But he didn’t. He kept going and today is doing what he loves and doing it well. That is the kind of person I want to be in my game development career. I want to be able to just put my work out there and keep going despite all the hardships and missteps along the way.

Follow Robert on Twitter.

Adam Saltsman

Adam’s contribution that puts him on my hero list is the work he put into the Flixel game engine for Actionscript. This game engine is what has had the greatest impact on my game development efforts of anything anyone else has done.

For the longest time, I was floating aimlessly in a vast sea of game development potential. I had no direction, no motive, no drive. I would wander from game engine to game engine, testing the waters but never finding that right combination of tools to turn me from hypothetical game developer to actual game developer.

Then I found Flixel. The Flixel game engine was exactly what I was looking for in a game engine. It was 2D. It worked with Flash. It was relatively easy to use and figure out. I spent many days and weeks playing with it and porting some of my game development works to it. In fact, my first efforts to make one game a month were using Flixel.

So it was this game engine, that Adam created, that really got me started in actually making games. Without it, I would probably still be lost and without purpose hoping one day to be a game developer rather than actively working to become one.

Follow Adam on Twitter.

Lars Doucet

Lars is someone that has a number of things that I really admire about him. The first is in tandem to Adam’s contribution. I had been using Flixel for a while but really wanted to move to something that would be capable of native applications for PCs and mobile. But I really didn’t want to have to learn something new. It was through Lars that I learned about Haxe and the Flixel port to that API.

Since then, Lars has been a major advocate for Haxe adoption by other game developers. He has switch from Flash, which he used to create his first Defenders Quest game, to using HaxeFlixel to for the sequel.

But that is not the only thing that I admire about Lars. He is also a very outspoken person about the problems with modern copyright laws and the games industry’s general attitude toward it.

I had always been of the opinion that the fights against piracy were fruitless and that developers would be better served spending their time working to please their fans. But it was Lars’ article about the four currencies people use when choosing whether to buy or pirate that really spelled out how I felt.

Granted, I had always been outspoken about these issues myself and have posted many other articles to this effect. However, it was Lars that really spelled it out and made something that was nearly irrefutable to advocates of stronger copyright laws and DRM.

Follow Lars on Twitter.

Christer Kaitila

Christer’s contribution to gaming is probably one of the most important to me when it all comes down to it. Even with Haxe and Flixel and the inspiration of other developers, I have still be hesitant to put my best foot forward. Perhaps it was simply lack of experience and dedication, but I never felt like I was a game developer. But something that Christer did turned that around.

He founded the One Game A Month challenge. This was founded after he himself made a personal commitment to make one game every month for twelve months. When he saw the changes in him that came about because of it, he sought a way to help others achieve that same change.

When I learned about it, I wanted to jump right in and do it myself. I signed up and wanted to get to work making my one game a month. But the first year, I didn’t do it. I think it was fear that held me back. But the more I read about the project, the more I reflected on all my missed opportunities in the past, the more I realized I needed to step up.

So in January of this year, I made the commitment to make that one game a month. Seven months into the challenge I have succeeded in all but one month to make a game. I am well on my way to make the rest of the games and potentially finish that one missed one.

This challenge has also motivated me to attempt a Kickstarter campaign. While that campaign doesn’t look like it will go anywhere, I at least attempted it, which is more than I could say a year ago.

Follow Christer on Twitter.

Conclusion

I could probably list a few more developers in this post, but these are the four that I feel are really deserving of being called my personal game dev heroes. These are the ones that I look to and think about when I am needing the motivation to keep going. Without the contributions made by these four people, I would probably still be silently working on a never ending project. Instead, I have now released nine games and two works in progress to my website.

So I thank you guys for everything you do to change the world of game development for the better.

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My Latest Letter To The Editor Is Published In The Tulsa World

June 6, 2014 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

My latest letter to the editor points out that the legislature once again failed to pass ballot access reform. This one was published by the Tulsa World. I sent the same letter to the Daily Oklahoman.

Another session of the Legislature has ended and Oklahoma is still number one in having the worst ballot access laws in the nation.

Oklahoma has the harshest laws regulating who can form a new political party or who can be on the presidential ballot. All other states have an easier process for both of those actions.

This year, the Legislature considered House Bill 2134, which would have greatly eased both of those processes, but once again was quietly killed it. The bill would have reduced the number of signatures needed to form a new political party by half. It later was changed to reducing the independent presidential petition requirement by half. The bill went to a conference committee where it languished and died. This is the same sort of committee that has quietly killed every ballot access bill in the last six years.

Oklahoma is in sore need of new political ideologies and new leadership outside the current parties. But we will get neither if we keep electing the same people who block efforts to allow those ideologies and leaders access to the political process. We need to reform our laws, but more important, we need to vote out of office anyone who votes to deny political freedom in Oklahoma.

My letter was also published by the Daily Oklahoman. Here it is as they published it.

Another session of the Legislature has ended and Oklahoma is still No. 1. In what? In having the worst ballot access laws in the nation. This state has the harshest laws regulating who can form a new political party or who can be on the presidential ballot. All other states have an easier process for both actions.

This year, the Legislature considered a bill that would have greatly eased both of these processes; once again, lawmakers quietly killed it. The bill would have reduced, by half, the number of signatures needed to form a new political party and to meet the independent presidential petition requirement. The bill went to a conference committee, where it languished and died. This is the same sort of committee that has quietly killed every ballot access bill that passed both chambers of the Legislature in the past six years.

Oklahoma sorely needs new political ideologies and new leadership outside the current parties. We will get neither if we keep electing the same people who block efforts to allow these ideologies and leaders access to the political process. We need to reform our laws, but more importantly we need to vote out of office anyone who denies political freedom in Oklahoma.

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Sorry Representative Cleveland. Media Hype Is Not Justification For Legislation

December 3, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Oklahoma State Representative Bobby ClevelandI am sure many of you have heard of the recent media scare called the “knockout game“. In this “game”, an assailant targets a random individual and attempts to knockout that person in a single punch. While the media has been playing this up as a dangerous new trend for youth, reality is far from it. Aside from the media reports of this “trend” there seems to be no verifiable evidence of it being an actual thing.

But don’t let facts get in the way of a law maker who wants to “take a stand” on what he sees as a dangerous threat to the safety of the citizens. This is my State Representative Bobby Cleveland for you. Cleveland is a freshman legislator in the Oklahoma House and he has yet to find that niche that will make him a household name in Oklahoma. Last year, his major contributions were the repeals of some old and outdated criminal laws, such as a law that made it illegal to horse race on main street. While he wants to keep that up, he has now set his sights on other areas he would like to tackle. One specific case is the “knockout game”.

Disappointed to see him waste his time and legislative slot on something like this, I wrote him a letter hoping to convince him that this was a bad idea. I specifically applauded him for his repeal efforts, explained that the “knockout game” is probably not a real threat, and pointed out that his proposal would most likely end up as one such law that someone else would end up having to repeal in the future.

Representative Cleveland,

I have greatly admired your efforts this past Legislative Session to repeal old and outdated criminal laws. It has been a breath of fresh air to see someone in the Legislature take that effort which so rarely happens.

However, I am greatly disappointed to see that you are proposing to introduce a bill which, if passed, would simply add to the list of pointless and outdated criminal laws. I am referring to your proposal to add further penalties to those playing the supposed “knockout game”.

http://newsok.com/oklahoma-lawmaker-seeks-to-deter-knockout-game/article/3908821

What really disappoints me here is that you are giving into the media hype around a game that may not actually exist and one that is not known to exist at all in Oklahoma. There have been exactly ZERO reports of anyone targeted this way in Oklahoma.

http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/25/is-the-knockout-game-a-hate-crime-is-it

We already have adequate laws against assault in this state and making an “example” of a particular kind of assault, which may not actually exist, does not seem to be an effective use of the Legislature.

I highly suggest that you end this idea of a law against the “knockout game” before you add to the pool of laws that someone like yourself will end up trying to repeal 10 years down the road.

Thank you for your time,

I will give Rep Cleveland credit here, he responded the same morning I sent my letter. I love it when I get quick feedback from my legislators. Unfortunately, his response was pretty light on substance. He did not really address my concern but simply restated his position that the law is needed for some as of yet unknown reason.

Good morning Zachary,

Thanks for your concern. First of all we do not have a law for juveniles that participate in the Knockout Game.

I am simply proposing that anyone under the age of 18 if they are convicted of knocking someone out they will be tried as as an adult.

Although, I am continuing to file Bills to repeal outdated laws, I believe my bill is important for Oklahomans.

I plan to repeal 31 laws this next session.

Again thank you for your concern.

Representative Cleveland

As you can see, this response really didn’t address my concerns in any reasonable fashion. So I sent a followup email. I responded to his email asking questions about each statement and then expanded my idea that this proposed legislation is a bad idea and does not address any real problem.  Oh. And I threw in a reference to another lawmaker who gave in to some rather absurd media hype.

Representative Cleveland,

Thank you for your quick response. I appreciate the effort you put into keeping the channels of communication open between yourself and your constituents.

I do feel the need to respond to your justification for your proposal.

You wrote, “First of all we do not have a law for juveniles that
participate in the Knockout Game.”

Do we not currently have laws for juveniles who participate in assault? Are those laws deficient in some way that they would not cover this perceived threat?

You wrote, “I am simply proposing that anyone under the age of 18 if they are convicted of knocking someone out they will be tried as as an adult.”

Is there really a need to take a youth, who is still growing both mentally and physically, and taking their life and future away for this perceived threat? Is the destruction of the future of a youth really a valid solution to this perceived problem?

Additionally, your bill proposed a solution, but I do not think you have fully identified a problem it is meant to address. I sent two links in my previous email. Both of which called into question the nature of the “knockout game”. Both expressed the idea that this “game” may not actually be a problem or even a “thing”. If this is nothing more than media hype, what puts your proposed legislature on higher ground than Senator Shortey’s proposed ban on using human fetuses in food production?

My main concern is that too many laws are introduced and passed based not on fact or science but on knee-jerk reactions to media hype. I would not want to see another law introduced on such flimsy grounds.

Again, I got a quick response from Rep Cleveland. Unfortunately, he seemed to have quickly grown tired of trying to defend and indefensible position. His letter was short and pointless. He did not address anything that I asked and did not provide any further justification.

BTW, I appreciate the nice things you said about my repealer bills. My knockout bill is more of a statement trying to get the word out that Oklahoma will not tolerate this game in Oklahoma. I understand where u are coming from. Again thanks for contacting me.

BC

In the end, what we have here is another lawmaker giving in to media hype and attacking the new and “scary” thing that your kids must be doing. It is a shame that he would defend this proposal rather than face the facts of the matter. Unfortunately, this behavior is rampant in legislatures across the nation.

All is not lost though. There is still time for Representative Cleveland to drop this idea. Legislators do not yet have to file legislation they wish to address in the 2014 session. So he could wake up to reality and decide that this legislation is a bad idea. Unfortunately, he has already gained press time for his idea and with that, his determination will probably be solidified. Which is sad really.

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Letter To The Editor of NewsOK: Repeal Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

August 2, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Recently, news broke out that the Caddo County DA was using a private organization to run a civil asset forfeiture ring on a 20 mile stretch of I-40. In response to this I sent in the following letter to News OK:

In response to the July 28 story, “Prosecutors return $21,227 more to Interstate 40 travelers”, This is honestly just sick. Civil Asset Forfeiture is nothing more than legalized theft by cop. We would not stand idly by if some thug was robbing us blind, but for some reason too many people just roll over and take it when the thug is wearing blues.

There are two things that we can learn from this story. The first being that civil asset forfeiture needs to go. We should not be forced to defend our property from allegations that the inanimate objects were involved in criminal activity while the owner of the property is not charged.

The Second is that we should never consent to a search of our vehicle when pulled over, nor should we voluntarily answer potentially incriminating questions, or questions that might expose us to civil asset forfeiture.  Do not tell cops you have cash.

We the people need to stand up to institutionalized thuggery. We the people need to demand the repeal of all civil asset forfeiture laws.

It was published today with these edits:

Regarding “21K seized by task force is restored” (News, July 28): Civil asset forfeiture is nothing more than legalized theft by cop. We wouldn’t stand idly by if some thug was robbing us blind, but for some reason too many people just roll over and take it when the thug is wearing police blues.

There are two things we can learn from this story: The first is that civil asset forfeiture needs to go. We shouldn’t be forced to defend our property from allegations that the inanimate objects were involved in criminal activity while the owner of the property isn’t charged. The second is that we should never consent to a search of our vehicle when pulled over, nor should we voluntarily answer potentially incriminating questions, or questions that might expose us to civil asset forfeiture. Don’t tell the cops that you have cash! We need to stand up to institutionalized thuggery. We need to demand the repeal of all civil asset forfeiture laws.

E. Zachary Knight, Newcastle

There was also another posted along side it by another concerned citizen.

In “21K seized by task force is restored” (News, July 28), District Attorney Jason Hicks said, “I believe I have done everything right.” That’s just it — he followed the examples of many task forces across our nation. These stops happen to hundreds of people every day. The forfeiture laws were intended to take away the ill-gotten gains of “drug lords,” but they have grown to include any citizen who happens to be carrying money. These crimes perpetrated by our law enforcement have been featured many times on shows like “20/20.” They know most travelers won’t make the expensive choice to come back to that state, hire a lawyer and try to get their money back. Forfeiture is a civil action. You don’t have to be guilty of anything personally. The money is the property that’s being charged with a crime — the crime of having traces of drugs on it. You can’t defend that.

I agree that Hicks has done nothing illegal under our nation’s current forfeiture laws, but in the spirit of the law he has damaged our faith in law enforcement. I hope the people of Caddo, Grady, Jefferson and Stephens counties remember that on election day.

Norma Sapp, Norman

Hopefully, this fiasco and the resulting outrage will get the Oklahoma Legislature to repeal these laws. Oklahoma is one of the worst of the worst when it comes to protection of private property from legalized theft by cop. It gets a grade of D from the Institute For Justice.

 

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Short Story Work In Progress: The Two Day Forest

May 28, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

I have been toying with this idea for a story for a while now. It is part of the back story of the novel I am writing and I have wanted to flesh it out. Since I have been out of the swing of things with my novel and the world it is in I have decided to work on a few short stories based on the world. Here is the synopsis of the story:

The mayor of a small city is only a year away from an election. Not having done much to impress the voters and seal his next election, he decides to raise a specter of fear among the people so that he may be seen as a savior to the people. He decrees that the city is under a major threat from sorcery and that he will be creating a task force designed to stop this threat. Because of this new regime, a sorcerer living in the nearby forest is flushed out and is forced to confront the mayor. He attempts to first solve the problem peaceably but when that fails he is forced to use drastic measures to defend himself.

Starting off, we have two main characters:

Mayor Frances Dupree – He has been mayor of Windale for the last 3 years. He has been a fairly mundane leader and has not done anything real meaningful. He wants to be remembered by the people for many years to come and especially wants to make a good impression on the citizens and win the coming election.

Sorcerer Hawthorne Grendel – He mostly keeps to himself and lives in the woods that border the north side of Windale. He has a strong knack for potions, spells and transformations. He has been mostly unknown by those in the town until a decree from the mayor flushes him out.

The Basic Outline for the story:

  • Frances discusses his coming election with his advisers
  • Frances announces his new anti-sorcery program to the people
  • The program weeds out a few “token” sorcerers
  • Hawthorne is flushed out and confronts the mayor
  • Hawthorne curses Frances in a bout of rage at not finding a solution
  • Hawthorne leaves and is not heard from for several months.
  • The people of Windale prepare for the planting season
  • Nightmarish begin attacking the people after dark
  • In response to the threat, the mayor decides that the only way to protect the people is to cut back the forest.
  • The people spend the entire planting and growing season to cut back the forest to prevent the creatures from attacking.
  • Frances loses his next election as the people lose favor of him and his policies.

So that is the start of it. Over the next week or so, I will be fleshing it out and writing the first couple of drafts. Look for more of it here.

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Wreck-it Ralph The Victim Of Eminent Domain Abuse

May 20, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Wreck-it RalphThis weekend, I finally got around to watching Wreck-it Ralph. Great movie. I enjoyed watching it and the kids loved it too. However, something troubles me about it that I think gets glossed over by a lot of viewers. I would like to say something about the game Fix-it Felix Jr, that is the home of Ralph.

Fix-it Felix Jr opens up with Ralph climbing into his stump (which he lives in/on). Next a bulldozer drives by and pushes Ralph and his stump into a dump. Then construction cranes come in and build a high rise condominium on the spot where Ralph’s stump used to be. Ralph then responds by trashing the building. You can view a video of this sequence over at Youtube.

The game and the movie go to great lengths in order to paint Ralph as the bad guy, although misunderstood and sympathetic. However, it never once tries to address the source of Ralph’s frustration and his motivation to be a bad guy. That motivation being that Ralph is the victim of Eminent Domain Abuse.

You see, Ralph had a low budget home. One that suited his needs, but did not bring in enough tax revenue for the city in which  it was located. Based on city zoning laws, his home was essentially taxed as an empty lot. That is not very profitable to the city. So the city used eminent domain to take Ralph’s home and property and give it to a condominium developer which resulted in a more tax rich property development for the city.

Is it any wonder that Ralph holds a grudge against the building and those who built it? Wouldn’t you feel the same way if your home was taken from you and the property given to a bunch of snooty rich people? Wouldn’t you want to trash that building and send all those people packing?

Sadly, eminent domain abuse is a very real thing. Something that the US Supreme Court allows to happen thanks to its notorious Kelo decision. Cities and states are free to take the property of anyone and give it to anyone else for any reason. There is virtually no limit to the potential for abuse. Because of this, victims of eminent domain often feel powerless to fight the taking of their property. They often want to respond in much the same way that Ralph responds in his game.

It is a shame that Disney didn’t focus more on that issue, but it better explains the relationship between Ralph and the Newlanders. They feel that Ralph is not worthy to be a part of them, not just because he wrecks their building but  because he is of a lower class not fit to live in the high rise condos.

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April Fools And All That

April 1, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Today, if you had not noticed or don’t follow me on Facebook, I have been busy posting a whole lot of posts befitting the holiday. All my posts to Facebook, with the exception of one post, have been carefully constructed to contradict my normal political and idealogical positions. I will now document them here:

First up, my first post of the day regarding what games I purchase and play:

I have decided that I will no longer buy games unless they were published by Ubisoft or EA exclusively for Windows. There is nothing better than those combos. Except maybe always Online. Who needs offline play anyway?

For those who don’t follow me closely, I despise a number of positions, mostly due to DRM, that both EA and Ubisoft take. The Online-only requirement of many of their games being a big part of it. Additionally, as a Linux user, I try to avoid any game, with some exceptions, that do not have a Linux version.

Next, a little support for No-fly lists managed in secret by our government:

Reason is just so wrong on this issue. No Fly Lists are the best things the government has ever done. They keep us safe by keeping crazy people off flights. If anything, the list needs to be bigger. Just think about all the crazy people who would be sitting next to you if we didn’t have these lists. As for finding out why you are on it, you know what you did. If you didn’t do anything wrong, you wouldn’t be on the list. Simple as that.

http://reason.com/archives/2013/04/01/why-the-no-fly-list-doesnt-fly

Of course I think any violation of our 6th Amendment rights to be a very bad thing. Any process that allows the government to make decisions and dole out punishment without proper due process is a horrible practice. I would never support something like this and campaign continuously to undue all the damage done after 9/11.

I have also had a change of heart as to my political affiliation:

I have also decided to give up in my endeavor to see ballot access reform in Oklahoma. I have decided to instead join the Republican party. This means that I will be working with them to make Oklahoma a one party state in which the only options available to voters will be Republicans.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That’s my new motto.

I have been an Independent/Libertarian all my life and don’t plan on being anything else. The Republican controlled Oklahoma government has been a source of many frustrations as efforts to open elections have been thwarted at every turn. About the only thing the REpublican party can do regarding ballot access is to make it worse by doubling candidate filing fees this year.

Following that, I have also been converted to better economic principals:

I have also been converted to the idea of Keynesian Economics in which government spending drives a healthy economy. If that sounds like it contradicts my previous change of Joining the Republican Party, it doesn’t. Republicans believe firmly, if not openly, in Keynesian economics as displayed in its acts of granting special privileges and tax incentives for special interest companies. How better to drive growth in the private sector than to open up the trough of taxpayer money.

There is nothing “Free Market” about the US’s current economy or market. The government dips its dirty little fingers into every aspect of commerce. If we need anything, it is less government. It doesn’t matter if it is Republicans or Democrats who run the government, the truth is that our hard earned tax money gets taken from us and given to special interests who did not earn it. That needs to end.

Next, I have changed who represents me in the video game arena:

I have decided to leave the Entertainment Consumer Association and instead join the Video Game Voter Network, run by the Entertainment Software Association. I have learned that consumer rights can never grow and blossom without the careful oversight of a benevolent and loving corporate parent. After all, corporations, especially multi-national and publicly traded corporations, know what is best for their consumers. That loving guidance is just not something that can come from an independent organization such as the ECA.

The lack of autonomy of the VGVN was no clearer than it was during the protests of the Stop Online Piracy Act. In that protest, the ESA was busy trying to push the legislation through while the ECA was busy protesting and trying to put a stop to that infringement of our free speech rights. Silent throughout the whole protest was the VGVN. That proved once and for all that it would never be a source of real protection for video gamers.

Interestingly enough, I did have one post that was not an April Fool’s joke. It was my first post of the day and was made prior to me remembering what today was. This was in regard to a picture a friend of mine posted that seriously misconstrued the arguments against a minimum wage hike.

Who is against Minimum Wage Hikes?This is what I hate about the debate over minimum wage. Those in support of increasing minimum wage try to make it out as CEOs of big multi-billion dollar corporations are against it. They are not. They actually love minimum wage increases because it causes competition to drop out.

The people against minimum wage increases are those mom and pop shops that pro-labor people love to idolize. Those mom and pop shops are the ones actually hurt by increases in minimum wage. Those shops are already barely breaking even and adding unnecessary and costly increases to their expenses will hurt them more than anything.

By supporting minimum wage, you support big multi-national corporations and hate locally owned mom and pop shops.

So it has been an interesting day for me and anyone who follows me. I know I got my wife there for a while when it came to the switch to the Republican party. Many others were pretty quick on the draw and enjoyed the fun. We’ll have to see what I can think of next year.

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Fighting Food Waste By Digging Through The Trash

February 25, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Something that has been in the news lately has been the amount of food the collective population of the US wastes each year. Whether it is not eating everything you put on your plate or throwing out stuff that you never get around to eating or even the amount of food grocery stores throw out every day because no one buys it, the fact is, we waste a lot of it. However you look at it, the US is addicted not only to eating, but wasting food.

One of the biggest drivers of food waste is the “expiration date”. This date is prominently featured on just about every package of food you find on the shelf. Sadly, it is a poor conveyor of useful information. It’s name is most misleading as nothing magically happens when that date passes. Many canned, boxed or frozen foods are good for months or years after that date as long as they are preserved without damage. Sadly, this date leads a lot of people to throw out perfectly good food.

Recently, I have gained first hand knowledge of just how much food is wasted. My wife and I took up dumpster diving as not just a way to pad out our monthly budget, but also as a way to fight this collective waste. Our first experience was so-so. We picked up a few dozen perfectly good ears of corn, a dozen packages of tortillas and what turned out to be, after cleaning, a gallon size freezer bag full of blueberries. Not bad for a first time, but nothing close to being anything to write home about.

It was what we found on our second time out that really made the effort worth while. The other night, we made only one stop and we were done for the night. What we found was about $200 worth of pizzas, pizza rolls, mini pizzas, chicken strips, waffles, toaster strudels, chips and rice mix. Seriously. All this food was thrown out. None of it was anywhere near the “expiration” date, spoiled, damaged, or thawed either. For some reason, the store we pulled this from just decided to throw it away. Just look at all this stuff in the back of our van:

The Back of Our Van

This food was more than enough to fill our medium sized chest freezer. We also stocked some of our shelves with the chips and such that we found (shelves not pictured).

Our Fully Stocked Freezer

We have plans to go out again and see what else we can find. Anything we find that is more than enough for our family will be shared with others or donated. There is no reason why all this food must go to waste.

Now, some of you may consider this gross. That is understandable. Going through dumpsters can be kind of icky. However, some things you can simply take out of the package, like we did for all the pizza stuff, or you can wipe it down with bleach wipes. It doesn’t matter, because you aren’t going to eat the packaging, just what is inside. For fruits and veggies, a vinegar bath is good enough to clean and disinfect them. So, unless you eat straight from the dumpster, there is little chance of getting sick.

In the end, this experience has given my family a new appreciation of what we have in the US. We just need to stop thinking of things as “expired” or otherwise bad. We need to stop buying more than we can eat. If you are going to buy in bulk, buy stuff that in nonperishable such as canned goods. Freezer  stuff can also keep for a long time, though not as long as canned foods. That is our hope for next time. We want to find more canned food. But we aren’t going to look a gift dumpster in the mouth. This stock of freezer food will keep us happy for a while.

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My Video Game Legislation Scare

January 18, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

I was doing a search for video game related legislation that may have been introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature. My search for “video game” returned two bills. Since the OKLegislature’s bill search is busted beyond just allowing the search, I went to a different page and typed in the bill number. What came up was a bill creating definitions and punishments for mass killings.

This shocked me and I immediately set about reading the legislation to find out how the author made the connection between video games and mass killings. I could not find a single instance of the phrase “video games” in my reading. A text search could not find it either. I thought that perhaps the author had submitted an early draft, which got indexed for the text search, but a second draft was actually uploaded to the server. Nope.

Turns out, I was looking at the wrong bill. The search for “video game” returned a bill number SB955. I then mistyped and entered SB995 into the other page. Once I figured out the error, I was greatly relieved.

SB955 turned out to be dealing with electronic recycling that I may need to consider as it mandates that any retailer that sells electronics also act as a drop off center for recycling of electronics.

The other bill that returned for “video game” was some changes to lottery regulations and the term “video game” came up as part of the definition of “electronic lottery game”.

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