Has The President Has Usurped The Constitutional Power Of Congress?

Has The President Has Usurped The Constitutional Power Of Congress?

This is an excellent question and it will be debated on June 8th. The Intelligence Squared debate series is excellent. All debaters are allowed to speak and no one gets shut down. They actually debate ideas and not throw ad homonym attacks at each other. Imagine the concept!

As for the topic I think not only has this president usurped the power of congress but the past president has as well.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochi and Telling Tales

With yesterday being Lag B’Omer here is something I wrote a few years ago pertaining to the joyous day. It was a thought that crossed my mind regarding Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (RASHBY).

Most, if not all observant Jews know the famous story of RASHBY. He and his son are forced to live in a cave for 13 years because Yehudah ben Garim told the Roman government about some unflattering things RASHBY said about them. As a result of those unflattering remarks the Romans wanted him dead.

However there is another story which RASHBY is a part of where he was the one who told and caused trouble form someone else. This is another famous story, where Rabban Gamliel is deposed because of his (continued) treatment of Rabbi Yehoshua. The Talmud in Brachos tells us a student asked Rabbi Yehoshua if Maariv (evening prayers) is an obligation or optional? He answered and then the student went to ask Rabban Gamliel the same question and he answered the opposite of Rabbi Yehoshua. The student told him this and Rabban Gamliel embarrassed Rabbi Yehoshua for the third time. At the end of this entire story the Talmud asks how this student was and it was RASHBY.

I find this to be an interesting juxtaposition of stories. One he is the victim and the other he is the cause and both have to deal with slander. It seems logical that the story of the cave happened when he was older while the other story was when he was a young student.

What if RASHBY having to hide in the cave was a Devine punishment for causing all the trouble for Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua?

I don’t have an answer.

Bloodrush by Ben Galley – A Review

Note: This was published on my old blog last January 15, 2015. If I can find the I’ve begun reading the final book of the trilogy and will be posting a review when I’ve read it.

Cover of Bloodrush

I got my hands on A review copy indie author Ben Galley’s new novel, Bloodrush, and now that I’ve finally finished it, I can give it a review. This is Ben’s fifth book and is different than his Emanska series as the protagonist is a young man of 13 and not a grizzled and jaded veteran. Additionally it isn’t set in your typical fantasy setting, it’s set in in the Wild West. I had never really read any “western fantasy” before so this is a new sub-genre for me to be reading.

Bloodrush is the first book of the Scarlet Star Trilogy. It takes place in an alternate universe which is a little steampunk and set in the 1800s, during the time of western expansion and railroad building. Where this universe split from ours was sometime in the dark ages. I asked Galley for a specific point but he indicated that would be going into spoiler territory.

Being this is a dark fantasy book and the first one of a trilogy, I thought it would interesting to review the world building and magic systems Galley has developed in addition to a review of the book. Let’s face it, if you like fantasy it is more than likely you like discovering new worlds and learning about new magic systems.

World Building – Back in the early 90s there was a debate between two similar sci-fi shows, Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9. And which one was better. One of the reasons I preferred Babylon 5 was because the world was messy and lived in. There wasn’t a perfect being or government that existed. I beleive Galley does a very good job of building his worlds for the same reason. They feel lived in and messy, and that is the way a world should feel. Additionally the extra characters that live in the world always seems to be delighful.

Magic System – The magic system in Bloodrush is similar to the magic system used in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. The concept is a person ingests something which gives them abilities. In the case of Bloodrush it’s blood of different animals as opposed to Sanderson’s ingesting of metal. (At this time it’s important to point out I don’t think Galley stole the idea from Sanderson, nor am I making such an accusation.) As all good magic systems should, there are downsides and drawbacks to using the magic.

The Review – Now it’s time to focus on the book and all of those bookish things like plot, characters, etc. Overall I thought the book was well done. I felt for Tonmerion and his plight. Tonmerion as a character was well flushed out and his desire to get back home and take revenge was understandable for a boy of 13, especially when he has the ability to do magic. His plot line throughout the book was well paced and tight. What I’ll call the B plot (Rhin attempting to find a Hoard) was a little slow but the twist at the end I didn’t see coming. Having said that I thought the resolution of the plot twist was a little too quick. In my opinion it should have lingered into the second book.

The antagonist(s) were pretty evil and their plan was a plan I didn’t think of. I did think it was an effective use of introducing certain aspects of the larger world. I did expect them to be around for more than one book. However having thought about the plot and what may come in the next two book, it made sense.

I would suggest that if you appreciate a good fantasy series and want to support indie authors, buy a copy of Bloodrush today. Although I have a review copy I also bought a copy of the book because I think it’s worth the price.

Apple’s Responsibility in Driving Software Prices Down

In my last post, I mentioned how independent software companies are fighting a battle with continuously dropping prices. They also have the users expecting software to be perfect and at a crazy low price. There have been lots of articles out there (many very good) discussing how the App Store for both Mac and iOS has contributed to this problem. I don’t want to rehash any of that and you can read one of those articles to gain some insight into the failures of the App Store.

There is one company and their pricing practices that seems to get away without any blame for the constant downward spiral of pricing. That company is Apple. Look at what Apple is charging for Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and even new versions of their Operating System. The grand total they are charging for those four products is $0.00. If Apple is not going to charge for software where a at least a year of work is involved (Mac and iOS), how can other developers charge for their software? In a lot of ways Apple is setting the example for all of the other software developers.

I have briefly mentioned my theory to one or two people and they have made some good points counter to my suggestion. The first point is that Apple is in the business of selling the hardware, not the software. Therefore it is OK for them to give their software away for nothing.

The argument does make sense, to a point. I think that if Apple were only giving away the new operating systems for free then I would agree. However it is not only the OS they are giving away. They are also giving away productivity applications. How are other software companies that make similar applications to competed with free?

Another possible argument is that Apple does charge for some of their software (Logic and FinalCut come to mind) so they don’t have to charge for their other software. While it is true Apple does charge from some of its professional creative software, the fact they don’t charge for used to be called the iWork suite indicates the lack of value they see for the product. Additionally they feel they can do whatever they want with the software because it is free (think how they gutted Pages and numbers for the Mac so it could be on par with the iOS versions).

There are multiple factors that have contributed to the price of software dropping. However Apple’s own pricing models should be added to the equation.

The subscription model economy bust

Independent software companies are rapidly getting into a financial bind. The prices for software they work on are continuously being pressed down because many people believe software shouldn’t cost above a certain amount. Because of this they are lowering their prices but are not seeing the profits after they drop the price. These developers then have to try to find a way to even the cash flow so they can keep the lights on and pay the few employees they have.

The latest example of this is Smile Software and their decision to switch TextExpander to a subscription model. They are beginning to charge $5 per month. As with all software subscription models they are adding some value to the software and as long as you are subscribed you won’t have to pay for an upgrade when the next big version rolls around.

There are a lot of people who are enraged by the idea they will now need to pay monthly for a product they used to have to buy once every few years. Speaking as a happy user of TextExpander I respect their decision but I don’t know if I will be joining them on this new endeavor. However just because I don’t know if I am joining them, I wish them success. In fact this tweet really summarizes how I feel:

The Subscription Economy

Not to go too Andy Rooney on you but did you ever notice how many things we rely on are becoming subscriptions? No, I haven’t  gathered them on my desk for this blog post. Amazon Prime, iCloud Drive, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud are all examples of some services that are subscription. We are even seeing networks have separate subscriptions for their content. You may even use a subscription for your IT services at work in the form of a Managed Service Provider.

It seems to me that we are in the middle of a bubble for the subscription economy.  Is this a good thing and is the model sustainable for people or companies? I don’t think that it is sustainable. Here is an example on the IT consulting side Tom Bridge (once a client of mine and now someone I consider a friend) wrote about in his weekly newsletter:

Lately, in the rush toward managed services in the consulting industry, I’ve felt a bit hesitant to adopt the practice. I looked at our stable of clients, many of whom we have worked with for almost a decade, and I did some math to figure out what they were paying now versus what they might pay if we went all-in on the MSP model.

I didn’t like what I found.

These are people that I consider friends now, that I work with through hard times and good, and in some cases it might’ve been a tripling or quadrupling of their annual bill. How is that fair to them? I may be good, but I don’t see that I’m worth four times what I’ve been charging just to match the new fancy model.

(Tom also has a new podcast focused on Mac IT Administration. If that is your thing or have an interest in it I suggest checking it out.)

I think the point Tom is making can be expanded to a point about subscription services in general. When you begin to add them up, they become quite costly. Think about people who are “cord cutters” and how much they will pay monthly to get Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBOGo and other services I can’t remember. They are still paying the same amount and in some cases even more than they were before!

Sooner than later this bubble is going to burst. I don’t think it is a bad thing because I hope this will allow independent software development companies to charge what the software is really worth and not to use other models.

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