2013
Aug 
20

Don’t Be Stupid. 5 Easy Ways To Protect Your Online Freedom

Hey guys, our reaction to the existence of PRISM and Xkeyscore will determine the course of world history.  Kind of a big deal, right?  Yeah, well human rights are kind of a big deal.  The advent of the Information Age has created a few extremely powerful monopolies, and now we know that they are working together to deprive millions of people of basic human rights.  The reaction we have to this will determine the level of freedom that citizens all around the world are able to enjoy – maybe even for most of this century.

You have two options:
1. Stick head in sand.
2. Do something about it.

In case you don’t think this is really that big of a problem, let me boil it down for you.  There is a good reason that we use the line “I know where you live” when we want to jokingly threaten one of our friends.  It means they can’t hide from us, and that we could come and ambush them at any time.

Okay.  Google knows where you live.  It not only knows where you live, but it knows what you know.  In fact, odds are pretty good that it knows every website you visit and every digital conversation you have with every contact in your email.  Maybe it even knows every phone conversation you ever have.

“But I don’t care.  I have nothing to hide”… says the most ridiculously short-sighted person in the room.  Of course you don’t have anything to hide.  I mean, it’s not like you ever use a credit card number to buy stuff online.  It’s not like you have money in your bank account that you might want to use for purchasing food / clothing / shelter sometime.  It’s not like you have any shade of disagreement with the ruling power structure in your home country, or drive above the speed limit, or might ever want to anonymously gather information about a medical condition / stock portfolio / insurance policy / anything-else-in-the-world.

The truth is that you have plenty to hide, and so does everyone else.  When we pretend otherwise – even in the name of convenience – we end up laying down a huge pile of fundamental freedoms all in one big heap on the floor.  Rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Rights to free speech, freedom of assembly, and most fundamentally of all: our rights to privacy.

The problem is not that there are any big evil conspiracies out there.  The problem is that there doesn’t need to be any big evil conspiracies.  Game of Thrones says it best…  “People are not against you; they are for themselves.”  It’s not paranoia – it’s a simple recognition of reality.

Microsoft’s / Apple’s / Google’s / Facebook’s interest in making money and growing a monopoly is not always in line with your interest in keeping your data safe.  And even if that were true by some miracle, it still says nothing about the employees and their connections.  You can look up the latest numbers anywhere: identity theft is *huge* and it will only get worse.  And on a much bigger and more terrifying scale: freedoms of speech and assembly are both fundamentally defeated when it is rendered practically impossible for that speech or assembly to be private.  The existence of PRISM and Xkeyscore should scare the **** out of anyone who even remotely cares about liberty, freedom, or justice.

So what do we do?  Where can we start?

Well, philosophically, it’s just decentralization.  Power to the people, baby.

Ronald Reagan said “centralized power has always been the enemy of liberty”… and of course it has.  Power = liberty.  Centralized power is the exact opposite of liberty by definition.  It will be as simple online as it ever was offline: we just need to stop centralizing power.

Practically, here are five easy things you can start doing right now:

1. Use Firefox instead of IE or Chrome.  You could even go with TOR if you’re really serious about privacy.

2. Use DuckDuckGo instead of Google.  In fact, speaking of browsers and DuckDuckGo, head over to Fixtracking.com and grab some really wise add-ons.

3. Use email instead of Facebook.  Better yet: join Diaspora.  The world desperately needs that right now.  It’s time for Web 2.0 and personal choice to replace Facebook and its control over our identities.

4. Only enable Flash when you need it.  It’s slow and buggy, and it is spying on everything you do.  HTML5 is getting more common now anyway.

5. Use different things for different purposes.  This applies to email accounts as much as it does to devices and computers.  Don’t let any big evil company control your life – and PLEASE DO NOT let big evil companies work together.  Put eggs in different baskets.

And if you’re a bit more technically savvy, you then you might want to look at VPN’s for your networking, custom ROM’s for your Android phone, and Open Source software replacements wherever possible.  The important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to escape slavery.  Even if right now you think you need FB to be cool, Apple to hear music, and Google to even use your phone – you can still get your freedom back one step at a time.

The Internet is like one big all-you-can-eat restaurant.  Be the patron; not the meal.

2013
Jul 
2

Big News

Hey guys, it’s Brad and Shalita here. Straight to the point: we’re getting married!

I know, right?  RIDICULOUS(ly awesome).  I suppose we should tell the story here or something, so here goes our best shot:

We’ve been an official couple for six months.  The beginning of this thing involved a conversation which started with me explaining to Shalita about my favorite animals and why I like them so much… and ended with me asking her if she would like to stop being single. :-)

Over the last six months, we’ve made it a point to get away from the city at least semi-regularly.  We go out to some scenic place in the middle of nowhere, NZ (like you might have noticed with the last post) and get some quality time exploring with each other.

Just on Saturday, we again skipped town and headed out for the middle of nowhere.  This particular section of the middle happened to be Otaki Gorge.  I (Brad) had no idea what it would be like there, but it turned out to be beautiful – with a suspension bridge over a mountain stream and all kinds of crazy native birds surrounding the place.  To simplify what is actually already a pretty complicated story: we started a conversation about each other, about the idea of spending your entire life with another person, and yes… about my favorite animals. :-)   This time, the conversation ended with me down on one knee and Shalita in a state of shock.  (Good thing she said “yes” eventually!)

We don’t really have any details figured out as to what happens next, but odds are now pretty good that we’re getting married at some point in the near future!  We’re both totally looking forward to it, looking forward to seeing you guys at the celebrations sooner or later, and definitely both looking forward to living with our favorite person in the world!  G*D is good…

~ Brad & Shalita

good lookin (and really humble) couple

good lookin (and really humble) couple

2013
Jun 
4

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Now let me see… what could I do with an entirely free (and utterly beautiful) day on a nice, long weekend?  How about something awesome and filled with stuff I like?  Getting away from the city noise: check.  Good music: check.  Exploring new places: check.  Breathtaking and amazing views: check.  Even more breathtaking and amazing girlfriend: check.  Stars and mountains and South Pacific islands: check.

And since I’m doing a roadtrip with my girlfriend, why not make it on some of the most deserted / fun / wide-open / beautiful / winding / well-kept roads in the world?  Cool.  Thanks for being all sweet-as like that, New Zealand.

That title (no, I’m not putting in here again) is the longest place name in any English-speaking country in the entire world.  Turns out, it’s in New Zealand.  Turns out, it’s also kind of in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.  Good thing for us that the middle of nowhere is still within striking distance of a day trip from Wellington.  Been there, done that.  They don’t sell T-shirts… yet.

And whenever they do, they’ll have to be really big ones.

2013
May 
15

Death and Dreams

What would you do if you suddenly learned that your body was riddled with cancer?  What if you found out next Wednesday that you had a year left to live?  What is it in this world that really matters to you?  When it comes down to it, what do you really care about in this life?

And I’ve got nothing against going concern.  I’m not talking about quitting your job or booking RTW or hiring a battalion of hookers.  That’s not the point I’m making here.  The point I’m making is: if you know what really has first priority in your life… what you really and truly love… the impact you want to have on this world… then what are you doing about it?

I don’t care whether or not you get paid to “pursue your dreams” – whatever the **** that’s supposed to mean.  There are extremely few people in the world who can be so fortunate as to make a living doing something they would do for free.  And what are those dreams of yours?  Selfish and narcissistic emotional investment in something you can’t control?  You want to be a pop star?  You want to win the lottery?  You want to be a combination CEO / professor / award-winning-author?  Okay… and so do millions of teenage kids who have been raised on the same TV you’ve been watching.  Good luck with that.

Sorry if I sound harsh; it’s only because I’m speaking to me first.  I have absolutely no control over whether I become a rock star.  When it comes down to it, I don’t even control whether I live to see another year.  What I CAN control… is me.  Right now.  I can keep trying to make my life about G*D instead of me.  I can keep making music.  I can keep creating and writing and thinking and innovating.  I can show love to everyone in my path, and especially to the ones whom I care about the most. Life is too long to avoid making a living – but it’s too short to avoid doing what really matters.

Truth is, if I found out that my life was almost over, I would be at peace with that.  I’ve been born into a beautiful life for no apparent reason, and I’ve had it far too good for far too long.  More to the point: “To live is Christ.  To die is gain.”  I know I would be going to a better place… not just in the politically-correct-but-actually-boldfaced-lie way that we all love to repeat at funerals (for straight is the gate and narrow the way that leads to eternal life, and few enter in by it)… but in a way that’s more real than anything in this tired world could possibly be.

I’m not a good person – but Christ is the best saviour.  And that’s how I know.  So when I tell you now that I wish I could share what I’ve been given with everyone in the world – know that I mean it in more ways than I could ever tell you.

Sometimes I wish I could do that Vulcan thing where they transfer thoughts – but that would just take all the fun out of it.

2013
Apr 
24

All Hail The Enlightened Media

I’m really glad that New Zealand passed the same-sex marriage bill.  It means we can all stop arguing and misunderstanding each other.  It means all of us can finally shut up about “us” and “them” and start getting along like normal people again.  It means that the loud and angry idiots on both sides of the issue have substantially less to be loud / angry / idiotic about.

Yes, I’m glad it passed.  G*D is Love – and all the people angrily screaming otherwise will have good reason to stop and reconsider now.  On the flip side of the same token, I’ve been continually horrified at the incredible conceit and condescension among supporters of this movement.  That holds true not just in NZ but everywhere you look.  People all over FaceBook are talking about this as if it were an “idea whose time has come” and as if it were exactly the same as women’s suffrage or the abolition of slavery.  Almost every AP article I see about it says “New Zealand is the 13th” and “France is the 14th” as if it were some kind of race to the finish line of marriage equality.  The assumption behind all of this is that it’s a human rights issue and anyone with an opposing view must be:

A. backward and stuck in the past
B. bigoted and intolerant toward homosexuals
C. using some narrow-minded interpretation of religion to justify discrimination

Nobody wants to be backward / bigoted / narrow-minded, do they?  So let’s all push onward to the wonderful future where everyone can live in equality before the law.

Sounds great, right?  I mean, it’s not like this is an extremely deep and multi-layered discussion involving several of the most complex systems in our known universe.  It’s not like ALL of the fundamental facts surrounding this are still very much open to debate.   Never mind those decades of research aligning with conventional wisdom and giving us all kinds of very good reasons to be hesitant about this.  Never mind the millions of people out there who are not in a big hurry to jeopardize anyone’s kids in the name of social experiment.  Never mind the fact that we may easily be causing enormous harm to the causes of justice and equality by doing this.  No, it’s basically just a few enlightened, progressive thinkers bringing the shining path of progress to legions of the backward and narrow-minded.

This could be just my bad luck, but I’ve only seen one single news article in this entire week that even bothered to (very briefly) mention any other side to this story.  I’ve checked Stuff.  I’ve checked Al-Jazeera.  I’ve checked all over the place… and I get the feeling that it’s actually really intentional.  A one-sided approach to any controversial issue like this is NOT an accident for any organization which claims to be unbiased.  Such is life when just a few enormous media conglomerates control 90% of the outlets in the English-speaking world.  Such is life when those same conglomerates are made of struggling news agencies that are essentially paid to play politics and create controversy – not to spread truth.  They’ve decided that we won’t care about Ron Paul, that we will care about Kim Kardashian, and that marriage will be the next great frontier in civil rights – amidst a lot of juicy controversy and dramatic sacrifice for a noble cause (of course.)

I’m just saying: unless we take the time to look up facts and start thinking for ourselves – we will only ever know what they want us to know.  We will only ever see what they want us to see.  And it will only turn out bad for us and for society as a whole.  We have an enormous responsibility to promote equality and justice for everyone in our society, full stop – not just whichever special interest group is shouting the loudest this week.  If we allow ourselves to become products of a system that cares nothing for the good of society, then we have completely failed to do that.

Care about these celebrities and these politicians… becaues they tell you to.  Be sad about the Boston bombing but not all of those other far more destructive and horrifying world events of this last week… because they tell you to.  Support gay marriage and equal rights instead of being a backward and narrow-minded bigot… because they tell you to.  Do as they say and don’t worry about it.  Go with the groupthink.  You don’t want to look bad, do you?

Small wonder that we start out as kids being taught en masse to prefer memorizing and regurgitating instead of thinking critically.  We end up as adults who are controlled en masse by that same preference.

2013
Apr 
10

Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel

So, my dear friends and enemies, today marks a change in the life of this website.  In the past 27 months, I’ve gone from Nebraska to the other side of the world and back again – multiple times.  I’ve explored all over The Land of the Long White Cloud, and I’ve taken you with me to every corner of it (and then some).

At this point, I’ve gone from exploring a remote land on the far side of the world… to being an official resident of it.  I’ve gone from being almost broke / starving / homeless in a faraway city where nobody knows me… to being an integral part of my organization, the senior member at my flat, and the front man for my band.  I’ve got awesome friends and a completely amazing girlfriend.  Everywhere I look, I see RIDICULOUS blessings from G*D Himself – all of which I have done absolutely nothing to deserve.  Even with all of the bad parts thrown in, I still truly believe that I’m one of the luckiest guys in the entire world.  And I don’t even believe in luck.  G*D is good.

Why do I tell you all this?  I guess it’s to make the point that A LOT has changed since this blog started.  The original purpose of Brad Moore At War was to fill in my friends and family about what’s going on in my life while I explore New Zealand – and to do it all in a way that incorporates stuff I love doing in the first place.  You know: stuff like photography and PhotoShop and writing about big-picture things.

But the huge, gaping hole on that list for me is MUSIC.  You may or may not know that I’ve created (and continue to create) hundreds of songs… usually with full sound production and even recording and performance cues intact, even if only in my mind for years on end.  I have my own developed musical language and my own distinct notation that I use to write it.  On top of all that, I’ve been working for over half of my life now on the universe and framework for what will be an epic (in the true classical sense) work based pretty substantially on that musical language.  You might have noticed that this is basically what I do in life: I collect Truth and Beauty, distill it down, organize it, and then hit people with it as precisely and as often as I can manage.  Even from times where I was mostly too young to remember, I’ve always fundementally been a subcreator and an artist.  Music – even more than writing and photography – is my medium of choice.

I’m going to make more room in my life for music and for creating – and because this blog has now served its purpose in at least some sense or another – I’m making that room here.  I won’t be posting faithfully every week anymore, but that doesn’t mean I still won’t post at least semi-regularly.  I’ve shown you basically all around New Zealand, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to see.  I’ve dealt with quite a few different topics, but that doesn’t mean there are not hundreds more for any given day.

To put it short: keep watching this space… we’re not over yet.  Not by a long shot.

2013
Apr 
3

Whirlwind Tour – Part IV

This… is the first post I’ve written in a very long time that hasn’t been from my place over by the Botanic Gardens.  No, I have *not* decided to move out into the backpackers again.  I’m actually posting from my girlfriend’s house with the smell of amazing Moroccan food filling the kitchen!  Basically, my life is (ridiculously and amazingly) good.

Speaking of that – we just went Facebook official… oh, about half an hour ago as I type this.  What does that actually count for?  Oh, pretty much nothing in real life… but if you’ve ever seen me with an unshakable and permanently glowing smile – I promise you this is right up there at the very top.

On the subject of things that make me smile, here’s the last set of pictures from the South Island:

2013
Mar 
27

Whirlwind Tour – Part III

Hey look!  More photos from the South Island!  What’s that?  You’re wondering where the madness will stop?  Umm… probably after Part IV, but please don’t quote me on that.

Observe:

2013
Mar 
19

Whirlwind Tour – Part II

Hey guys, you’ll be happy to know that New Zealand has not died from a giant drought.  Yet.  You’ll also be happy to know that I’ve cooked up some more graphic goodness just for you.  As always, this is “graphic” as in “photographic”.  Not “graphic” as in “violence”.  Not that it wouldn’t be sweet to have just one post on my blog that’s X-rated and filled with as much violence, gore, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll as I can possibly manage.

You know.  Keep it edgy for the kids out there.  And stuff.

And on that note, here’s another brief message from the most photogenic country in the whole world:

2013
Mar 
13

Whirlwind Tour – Part I

Wow, so you know how I’ve been in New Zealand doing all that touristy stuff for the last couple years?  Okay… now I just did most of the best parts ALL OVER AGAIN AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE – except it was with my parents and/or girlfriend instead of solo.  Can life get any better?  I submit that it cannot.

Well, I can think of one improvement: we could add a tiger with three laser guns, riding bareback on a giant robotic flying shark through the sky in a glorious display of sheer terror and awesomeness – all while Daniel Day Lewis, President Obama, and Chuck Norris stand by and applaud continuously.  But that’s pretty much it.

I’m not sure what to tell you except that we went to the North Island, and then the South Island… and basically everywhere we went was AMAZING and beautiful.  This is all despite New Zealand now going through its worst drought in many decades.  The guys at The Shire said that they would be in many thousand dollars of trouble if they didn’t get rain sometime in the next week.  Seeing as how it’s been two weeks and I don’t think they’ve seen even a drop anywhere in the Waikato, I’m guessing Hobbiton is now in many thousand dollars of trouble.  This drought is BAD news for all of New Zealand, really.

Not that we didn’t appreciate the (almost 100%) nice sunny weather for our entire nation-wide tour.  No great loss without some small gain.  Or great gain without some small loss.  And I’m really a long way from deciding which is which in this case.  Just sayin.

Here’s some pics from the sunny north of New Zealand: