Away From Home

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Giddens is no longer a Jayhawk

As you all should have expected by now, J.R. Giddens is leaving the KU basketball program:


Kansas guard J.R. Giddens is leaving the program, a month after the junior was stabbed during a bar fight.

Giddens, the Jayhawks' top returning scorer, is recovering from a knife wound he sustained in Lawrence last month.

"We've talked numerous times about this and basically last night, we came to the conclusion together that it was in his best interests and our best interests to part ways and go in different directions," coach Bill Self said Thursday.

Self said Giddens will transfer, but has not decided on a new school.

Giddens and five others were injured in a fight outside the Moon Bar on May 19. An artery in Giddens' right calf was cut and the wound required 30 stitches.

Police have received conflicting accounts from those involved and witnesses about what led to the altercation.

"We have responsibility as players here to wear the uniform with pride and understand the responsibility that goes along with wearing the uniform," Self said.


Bravo, Coach Self. Every program should have this attitude.

Gender discrimination in Texas

Texas, once again, is enforcing gender stereotypes:


Singing soprano is for girls only in Texas' elite All-State Choir, eliminating a 17-year-old boy's chance to audition for a statewide honor and raising questions about gender discrimination.

The Texas Music Educators Association on June 15 denied a request from Mikhael Rawls to audition this fall as a soprano, a part traditionally sung by girls.

Rawls sings countertenor, a little known male voice part that has surged in popularity in classical and operatic circles. He can sing an octave and a half higher than most boys his age, and he feels most comfortable singing in that range.

He has even won first place as a soprano in the University Interscholastic League's competition two years in a row.

The association, however, does not allow boys to sing soprano or alto, or girls to sing tenor or bass.

. . .

Neither [association spokeswoman Amy] Lear nor association president Kerry Taylor could think of another male who ever wanted to audition for a traditional girl's part on the All-State Choir. Taylor said the policy doesn't amount to discrimination because Rawls can try out for any of the more traditional male parts.


Taylor's defense is just plain wrong. A school cannot bar girls from trying out for the football team on the grounds that "they can just try out for volleyball instead." A restaurant cannot refuse to serve minorities just because "they can eat at the restaurant next door."

Discrimination is one of the most asinine policies that society has ever come up with. I'm a firm believer in meritocracy. If Rawls is capable of singing soprano well enough to be part of the elite choir, then let him do it!

If Texas really wants the All-State Choir to be the best it can be, then it should take the best possible singers. It matters exactly zero whether he has an "M" or an "F" beside his name.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Adios!

Well ya'll...it's been fun. We're leaving in the morning to go visit Scott. It should be fun. We'll be back the 8th. Then the 9th is my birthday. Yay. so I will talk to you all then. I'm sure I'll have some exciting stories to share by then. So...bye for now.

On the law

I have a question. Everyone needs to respond -- parents, siblings, friends, even random people I've never met. Fortunately for you, it's a pure opinion question, so there's no right or wrong. You have no excuse for not answering!

Anyway, here it is:

Should the law be based on societal norms, or on societal ideals? In other words, is good law based upon the way society is, or on the way society should be?

Name That Tune!

Well I hear you went up to Saratoga
and your horse naturally won
Then you few your Lear jet up to
Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun

And society has reached a new low

From CourtTV:


A California man facing life in prison for crashing his car into a UPS truck will not dispute that his actions resulted in the death of the driver when his trial opens Monday in Nevada County Superior Court.

Instead, Scott Krause's defense will argue that the defendant believed he was trying to escape man-eating subterranean beings when he ran into Drew Reynolds' truck on Jan. 6, 2004.

. . .

"Everything had to do with his escape from the hemadrones," said Nevada County District Attorney Michael Ferguson. "According to the defendant, he was afraid they were going to put him in cargo and ship him to China to be eaten."


I have nothing to add.

Companies oppose fast, cheap broadband

Courtesy of Professor Lessig:


There's a fascinating and important battle going on in Lafayette, LA. Citizens are pushing a referendum to permit the Lafayette Utility System to sell bonds to fund a project to "expand its existing fiber-optic network in Lafayette to everyone in the city." The move is being fought by the telcos -- who would rather bring much more expensive DSL and cable to everyone in the city. John St. Julien and Mike Stagg have been blogging the fight. There's a great website explaining it. And today they've announced the winners in the "Fiber Film Festival," a film contest run to explain the benefits of fiber.

The theorists, of course, who live life in theory-land, object. In theory-land, all this stuff should be provided by the market. In theory-land, the government should stay away. And I'm quite sure, in theory-land, there's lots of cheap, fast broadband available to everyone. Yet most of us don't live in theory-land. And some of those unlucky real world people living in Lafayette have a good shot at getting something that the rest of us real world sorts only dream about -- cheap, fast broadband access.

Good luck with the referendum, Lafayette. Your example might well bring the rest of us down from the clouds of theory-land.


I agree with the Professor.

Fun at UPS-land

Ordinarily, having a package shipped 10 days early is an unexpected treat. This time, it was just frustrating.

I ordered some packages last week. The shipper said that they would be delivered July 7, so I gave them my new address -- the one I will be living at on July 7. Instead, they decided to ship the packages last weekend, so they are "here" now.

Since (quite obviously) nobody was at the new address to receive the packages, I went out to the UPS center (in Laurel) to pick them up. The packages were there; I got to see them. However, UPS requires an ID with the delivery address on it -- which, being as I don't actually live at the new address yet, I obviously didn't have. My picture ID verifying that I was in fact the intended recipient wasn't sufficient, because it didn't say "Amherst Ave" on it. Interestingly enough, they will hand your packages over to someone with a different name, just so long as they have an ID with your address on it.

So, I asked if I could change the delivery address. They said no, only the shipper can do that. So, I called the shipper, asking if they would fax over an address change authorization.

Of course they wouldn't. It was silly of me to think that they might be helpful.

After waiting on hold for 10 minutes, I finally got through to a representative, located (for my convenience) somewhere in the vicinity of Calcutta. She informed me that I could change the delivery address, but that it would take 24-48 hours to propagate through the system and make it back to UPS.

OK, I said. Just please also fax over an authorization, so that I can go ahead and pick up the packages now. No dice.

See, this is what I don't understand. Once the rep puts in the order to change the address, it's done. It's authorized. Nobody else needs to approve it. All that happens next is that the order works its way through the system. So I simply requested that we shortcut that propagation by also sending a fax. Note that I didn't want her to forego using the "proper" system, I only wanted her to do this too. What difference does it make to the shipper if UPS receives the change immediately or in 24 hours? It's getting changed either way, isn't it? It would have hurt them zero and helped me immensely to do this.

But no. Customer service? Sure, if you consider getting thrown out of a window into a pit of scorpions to be "service."

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Name That Tune!

So if you are in sight and the day is right
She’s a hunter you’re the fox

Cellphone jamming devices are still illegal

From the Telecommunications Reports daily newsletter:


The FCC clarified [yesterday] that the sale or operation of transmitters that are designed to jam mobile phones is illegal. The agency said it issued a public notice on the issue "in response to multiple inquires." "Anyone involved with such activities may be subject to forfeitures, fines, or even criminal prosecution," the Commission said. It said it has seen advertisements for mobile phone "jammers" that are touted as capable of blocking signals in public places such as commuter trains, theaters, hotels, and restaurants. "Inquires about the use of cellular jammers are often accompanied by comments that the use of wireless phones in public places is disruptive and annoying," the Commission said.


True, this isn't actually news -- the devices have been illegal for a long time. I see that as a good thing. People shouldn't have their cell phones jammed in public places.

GOP threatens baseball

More lunacy, courtesy of the Washington Post:


Major League Baseball hasn't narrowed the list of the eight bidders seeking to buy the Washington Nationals and some Republicans on Capitol Hill already are hinting at revoking the league's antitrust exemption if billionaire financier George Soros , an ardent critic of President Bush and supporter of liberal causes, buys the team.

"It's not necessarily smart business sense to have anybody who is so polarizing in the political world," Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) said. "That goes for anybody, but especially as it relates to Major League Baseball because it's one of the few businesses that get incredibly special treatment from Congress and the federal government."

Rep. Tom M. Davis III (R-Va.), who was a strong supporter of bringing a baseball team to Virginia, told Roll Call yesterday that "Major League Baseball understands the stakes" if Soros buys the team. "I don't think they want to get involved in a political fight."

Democrats weren't about to let the broadsides go unanswered.

"Why should politics have anything to do with who owns the team," Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) asked. "So Congress is going to get involved in every baseball ownership decision? Are they next going to worry about a manager they don't like? I've never seen anything as impotent as a congressman threatening the baseball exemption. It gets threatened half a dozen times a year, and our batting average threatening the exemption is zero."


Are you kidding me? Dragging politics into this? The government doesn't even own the team!

I guess this just shows that Republicans will politicize anything, especially in this town.

Somebody please debate this with me. I really have no idea how anyone could possibly think this is a reasonable position to take. Enlighten me.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Name That Tune!

I, the undersigned, do hereby bequeath, grant, and transfer all current and future responsibility for developing, creating, proposing, evaluating, and judging any and all "Name That Tune" posts to my fabulously lovely teammate and sister, Erin. It is the express hope that this divestment of responsibility will result in an increased occurrence of lyric samples to which the loyal readers of this blog have no correct response. Any rights or abilities not expressly transferred herein shall remain non-exclusively with the grantor.

Scott

Ten Commandments decisions

The Supreme Court today provided some guidance into when it is OK to display the Ten Commandments on government property (MSNBC, Findlaw):


A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government land, but drew the line on displays inside courthouses, saying they violated the doctrine of separation of church and state.

The high court said displays of the Ten Commandments — like their own courtroom frieze — are not inherently unconstitutional. But each exhibit demands scrutiny to determine whether it goes too far in amounting to a governmental promotion of religion, the court said in a case involving Kentucky courthouse exhibits.


I'll save you a giant writeup of this one and just ask -- what do you think?

Grokster decision

The Supreme Court ruled today that companies offering file-sharing software can be held liable for copyright infringement (CNN.com, Full text):


In MGM v. Grokster, the high court unanimously overturned a ruling that had barred Hollywood and the music industry from suing Internet services used by consumers to swap songs and movies for free.

"One who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright ... is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties using the device, regardless of the device's lawful uses," Justice David Souter wrote in the ruling.


The issue in this case was whether companies such as Grokster, Napster, etc, can be held liable for the illegal copyright infringement of its users, even if the software is capable of noninfringing uses as well.

The file-sharing companies said that all they provide is a platform to share and discover files. They argued that they have no control over how someone uses the software, including whether it's used to share copyrighted or non-copyrighted material.

On the other hand, Hollywood and the music industry argued that even if the companies don't have control over how someone uses the software, the companies are fully aware of how their software is being used, and in fact design their software specifically to profit off of copyrighted material.

Obviously, Hollywood and the music industry won.

The surprising thing to me is not that the case came out as it did, but rather that it was unanimous. All nine justices agreed.

One technology that's left in the air as the result of this ruling is BitTorrent. BitTorrent is an application that is being increasingly used to share large files, because it transfers from multiple people at once (meaning the downloads can occur very quickly). One of the biggest uses of BitTorrent is for transferring Linux installations, which typically reach 1 GB or more in size, and which are not only legal to share, but are encouraged to be shared. My initial feeling is that BitTorrent can be distinguished from Grokster (meaning that it wouldn't be subject to this ruling), but I can't say for sure until I've read the Grokster decision in full.

Brand X decision

The Supreme Court today handed down a ruling in FCC v. Brand X, ruling in favor of cable companies (MSNBC, Full text):


The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that cable companies may keep rival Internet providers from using their lines, a decision that will limit competition and consumers' choices.

The 6-3 decision is a victory for the Bush administration, which sought exclusive control to promote broadband investment from deep-pocketed cable companies.

Judges should defer to the expertise of the Federal Communications Commission, which concluded that limited access is best for the industry, the high court said in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas.


The question in the case was a highly legalistic one -- whether cable internet is a "telecommunications service" or an "information service." While this may seem to be just a matter of terminology, the difference is quite substantial.

"Telecommunications services" are subject to regulations that require local providers to allow other companies to use their lines. This is why you have a choice of local telephone service (for instance, in Manhattan, you can choose Birch rather than SBC, even though SBC owns all of the lines). This is also why you have a choice of DSL
providers.

By contrast, "information services" have no such regulation. They do not have to permit other companies onto their lines. This is why you do not have a choice of cable television -- you either buy it from the one provider (in Manhattan, Cox), or you do not buy it at all.

The argument was this: Cable companies contended that since they are providing internet on the same lines as their television services, the internet offerings should be classified the same as television. The counterargument is that the internet services are so similar to the services provided by DSL companies that it should be classified the same way.

The FCC ruled that cable internet is an "information service," and as quoted above, the Court deferred to the FCC's determination. The biggest result, of course, is that you still will not have a choice of companies to get cable internet from. (There are a whole host of other effects as well, but this post is getting too long as it is. If you're interested in these other effects, let me know in the
comments.)

I didn't sleep at all last night

Why, hello, Mr. Coffee. You and I are going to become very good friends today.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On Shaq

To those of you who say that Shaquille O'Neal is a poor role model, look at this:


Shaquille O'Neal returned to the Forum on Saturday, not for an NBA game, but to pick up his MBA. The man who once called himself the Big Aristotle was the tallest and most famous of the 2,200 University of Phoenix graduates at the arena. But O'Neal said he was simply getting ready for the real world.

"It's just something to have on my resume (for) when I go back into reality," the 7-foot-1 Miami Heat center said before picking up his master's in business administration. "Someday I might have to put down a basketball and have a regular 9-to-5 like everybody else."


Oh, and he's also a police officer. Not just on paper, either -- he actually does actual police work:


O'Neal, who is currently leading the Miami Heat against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals, has joined a Department of Justice task force that tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet.

The 7-foot-1, 325-pound center was recently sworn in as a U.S. deputy marshal and, on the Saturday afternoon before the Miami-Washington playoff series, O'Neal spent six hours with Miami Beach police investigators helping with cases.

Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca says O'Neal is becoming familiar with the techniques and software the officers use to track down the predators. O'Neal spends countless hours on his home computer, logging into the police network and learning the ropes.

"I put a lot into it, and when I am done playing, I plan on going undercover and then being the sheriff or chief of police somewhere, either Miami or Orlando, I don't know yet," O'Neal said recently. "Everyone knows the love I have for the people who defend the streets and the people who defend our country, the armed forces, the Army, Navy, Marines. I want to do something like that, help the community.

"And I want to do it the right way, like everybody else, not just a famous figurehead that gets a job because he is a famous basketball player. I want to really learn the business."


Still say he's not a good role model?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Surprise!

So I was just about to go to work today and I was sifting through our mail. To my surpirise I got my room assignment and roommate for next year, when they told me I wouldn't get it until the beginning of July. Her name is Sarah Gonzales. Boy, I hope I don't hate her.

Young Republicans support sending other people to war

It seems that the Young Republicans support the war, just as long as they're not the ones getting killed:


Young Republicans gathered here for their party's national convention are united in applauding the war in Iraq, supporting the U.S. troops there and calling the U.S. mission a noble cause.

But there's no such unanimity when they're asked a more personal question: Would you be willing to put on the uniform and go to fight in Iraq?

In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles.


I'm sure the soldiers over there would like to survive too.

Thailand redux

Remember my earlier post about Adam's trip to Thailand? He's updated the diary with reflections on June 4-6. Check it out!

Code Red

well tonight I went to my brother , Paul's, baseball game. They won 7-4. They should have won by more though. Unfortunately, their main pitcher was gone and the other team got a bunch of runs in one inning. Oh well, we won. Ahhh baseball.

Now I am watching "A Few Good Men." Such a great movie. Good acting. "You can't handle the truth!" A classic.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Nuisance question

Let's suppose that Koch Industries buys the land right next to your house, and proceeds to open an oil refinery. Like all refineries, this one is noisy, loud, dirty, and fills the sky with smoke.

Do you have the right to go to court and get the refinery to stop?

The current answer to this question is Yes. The refinery is what's called a "nuisance," and because it prevents you from enjoying your property, you can get an injunction to stop it. [Note: The aforementioned sentence is greatly oversimplified.]

But here's my question: Is this proper? Should the law be this way?

Getting an injunction against the refinery would mean that the refinery has to shut down. (I know of no way to operate an oil refinery without being noisy, loud, dirty, and smelly.) Therefore, society would lose the benefit of the hundreds or thousands of jobs supplied by the refinery. Society would also lose the processed oil that the refinery could have been supplying to the market. Not only would there be fewer jobs, but there would be higher oil and gas prices.

All because you "got there first." Your personal, subjective benefit of being able to use some small piece of land has just caused public, objective harm to society.

You selfish weasel.

Instead, shouldn't the law promote that which is best for the whole of society, and permit the refinery?

Newbie

Well thank you Scott for calling me "fascinating" although I'm not sure if that is so much true I will try to be interest and frequent in my postings. I am here to spice things up. However, I am new at this so bare with me and if you all hate me then feel free to start complaining.

Rechristening

Look at the top of this page. Notice anything?

That's right, I've rechristened the blog.

Now before you take off running in pure terror at the unannounced change, let me explain. Calm down. Get a glass of warm milk.

The name has changed to reflect the addition of a new member of my blogging team (now 2 members strong!) -- my sister Erin!

*round of applause*

I figured she'd make a good contributor, not only because she's such a fascinating person, but also because she'll be heading off to college this fall, and this will provide a good platform for her to communicate with the home base. You know, kind of like it does for me.

Anyway, everyone give her a warm welcome.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cartoon

The only sane response is to sit in a box and drink beer from a hat.

Blumenthal on Brownback

Max Blumenthal of The Nation has written a very insightful article on everyone's favorite tool Senator, Sam Brownback. Some of the highlights:


On June 6, just two weeks after declaring, "All of the President's nominees--both now and in the future--deserve a fair up or down vote," Kansas Senator Sam Brownback used a parliamentary maneuver to block the nomination of Julie Finley to be US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

. . .

Brownback's [Presidential] ambition is becoming clearer by the day. He has already made trips to the primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. And just as his likely contender for the Republican nomination, Senate majority leader Bill Frist, exploited Terri Schiavo to burnish his "culture of life" credentials with the GOP's religious base, Brownback has used Julie Finley. The difference is that Frist got burned publicly and was widely criticized for his maladroit handling of the Schiavo affair, while Brownback received credit from the religious right for standing up on principle to President Bush, while most of the mainstream media gave him a pass. Having reaped the political benefits of opposing Finley, Brownback quietly lifted his hold on her nomination on June 10.

. . .

"Pat [Robertson] got me elected in 1996," he recently told Newsweek. It is true that Brownback generated unprecedented support from social conservatives in his victory, but something much darker was also at play, a scheme he remains mum about to this day.

In June 1996, during Brownback's run against Frahm, he was visited by Carlos Rodriguez, a consultant to Triad Management Services, a shady, for-profit corporation run by a veteran Republican fundraiser. After the meeting, Rodriguez shot off a memo reading, "This is perhaps one of the most, if not the most important races in the nation in regards to the conservative coalition. As such we must do everything in our power to ensure a Brownback victory in the primary." Triad funneled cash to Brownback's campaign through its scores of clients, including two of Brownback's in-laws. Triad's finance director even accompanied Brownback to Republican headquarters to dial for dollars. Under federal election law, corporations are not allowed to make direct contributions or provide free services (like fundraising help) to politicians. After helping him defeat Frahm, Triad steered $410,000 to a front group, Citizens for the Republic Education Fund, that ran a single attack ad against Docking repeatedly throughout a two-week period, propelling Brownback to victory. Democratic Senate investigators believe this money came almost entirely from the Wichita-based Koch Industries, America's largest privately owned energy company, which had already contributed more than $30,000 to Brownback's campaign.

. . .

In spite of his pious public image, Brownback's spiritual life seems to be defined by his wealth and corporate ties. In 2002 he converted to Catholicism under the guidance of the Rev. John McCloskey, a leader of the secretive right-wing cult Opus Dei. At the time. McCloskey operated out of a K Street office with a mission to spread the Gospel exclusively to the rich and powerful, whom he calls "the righteous remnant." Brownback refuses to discuss his conversion, perhaps because of the controversy McCloskey has generated by, for instance, demanding that Catholics who use birth control leave the Church.

. . .

On June 13 Brownback informed the Topeka Capital-Journal editorial board that he would not seek another term in the Senate but was exploring a run for the presidency instead.


I will bite my tongue -- hard -- and say only this:

Sam Brownback is an embarrassment to Kansans.

Kelo debate

I suppose many (well, at least one) of you are expecting a big post from me regarding my thoughts on Kelo v. City of New London, which was handed down today.

Well, I'll fulfill half of that.

At the moment, I don't much feel like organizing my thoughts into a coherent post. So, I'll let you start the debate.

The ball's in your court. Make the first point, and I'll debate you.

Name That Tune!

"You couldn't get that color if you had a personal genie."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Cartoon

Is it peasant season already?

Patriot Act used to spy on library records

Have you ever attacked the Patriot Act in front of one of its supporters? They're always quick to observe that the ability to spy on people's library records has never been used, right?

Turns out they're completely wrong:


U.S. librarians say they have been asked at least 268 times since 2001 to give law officers data about readers, despite repeated Justice Department denials that it is interested in patrons' reading habits.


Why would the Justice Department lie so brazenly? Right to the public's faces?

Oh, right, because it's part of this administration.

Private accounts shot down

"Private accounts" as a solution for Social Security have been shot down, hopefully for good. From the AP:


With the acquiescence of their leaders, key House Republicans are drafting Social Security legislation stripped of President Bush's proposed personal accounts financed with payroll taxes and lacking provisions aimed at assuring long-term solvency.

Instead, according to officials familiar with the details, the measure showcases a promise, designed to reassure seniors, that Social Security surplus funds will be held inviolate, available only to create individual accounts that differ sharply from Bush's approach.

Under current law, any Social Security payroll tax money not used to finance monthly benefits is in effect lent by Social Security to the Treasury, which uses it to finance other government programs. Government actuaries say the surplus is expected to vanish in 2017 when benefit payments exceed payroll taxes collected.

In addition, the GOP bill "doesn't deal with solvency," according to another official, indicating it would avoid the difficult choices of curbs on benefits, higher taxes or changes in the retirement age needed to implement the president's call for long-term financial stability.


I consider this a victory. As I've previously ranted in this space, private accounts are a very bad idea. However, the current system, which permits the government to loot and pillage Social Security funds Viking-style, was also a very bad idea.

This report indicates that the new legislation will fix these problems. No private accounts, and no marauding the "lockbox" (what a laughable term).

I'm quite interested in seeing what this "individual accounts" statement is all about, however.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

My day with the PFF

I went to a conference today that was put on by the PFF. For those of you who are interested, the topic was a proposed "Digital Age Communications Act." Recognizing that (ReadersInterestedInThatTopic == 0), I'll leave it at that.

What I will mention is that there were two Congressmen there: Senator Ensign (R-NV) and Rep. Pickering (R-MS). Both had their interesting moments. Observe:

Senator Ensign was all about the soundbites. He talked about how awful it is that the US cannot regulate or tax Skype (since it's based in the Netherlands), but did not mention that the Act does not fix that problem.

He also served up this gem: "I like freedom."

Gee, thanks for the news flash. I never would've guessed.

Rep. Pickering's gaffe was far funnier, however. First, a little background: Several decades ago, the Supreme Court was fighting with the issue of how to define, and therefore ban, "obscenity." Justice Potter Stewart opined that he could not define obscenity, "but I know it when I see it."

Today, Rep. Pickering was talking about how it's difficult to ensure that universal service will be preserved into the future, since it's hard to define what exactly the goals of universal service are. He offered up this instant classic:

"It's like pornography. We know what we want."

Social security privatization punishes the poor

Interesting article in the Manhattan Mercury:


Most proposals for private accounts, including those of the president's 2001 Social Security Commission, require that the majority of lower-income individuals convert their investments to a monthly annuity at retirement. Annuitization means that the assets in an account are converted to a stream of monthly payments; the payments end when the owner and spouse both die. Upon death, the balance reverts to the government. Nothing is available for children and other heirs.

For the rich and upper middle class, the story is different. Most will be able to keep their personal accounts to pass on to heirs or use as they please. Persons in middle-income groups can keep part of their personal account but will have to annuitize perhaps 60 percent of their accumulation.

Why the different treatment of the rich and poor? Let me quote the Social Security Administration. "Mandatory annuitization is designed to ensure that account holders do not draw down their balances too quickly, thereby risking impoverishment or becoming a burden to ... government antipoverty programs." That is, lawmakers and the president's commission are afraid the poor and middle class will waste a personal account and become a burden on wealthier taxpayers.

If a person's basic Social Security does not yield a monthly benefit above the poverty level (as defined by the Social Security Administration), then the private investment account must be converted to an annuity. For the poor and many middle-income persons, the only certain way to provide heirs an inheritance from private accounts is to die before retirement.


(Note: The author, Ed Olson, is an associate professor emeritus of economics at Kansas State University.)

That's right. The rhetoric being spouted by BushCo is patently false. Bush and the rest of the propaganda rakers continually cite the poor as being the "big winners" when, in actuality, they're the big losers. And not only that, but it's designed to be that way.

Why is this? Because wealthier people might end up helping out someone in need, which is obviously an unbearable tragedy.

Photo labs rejecting pictures

From the brilliant Lawrence Lessig:


So the world is bursting with extremely cheap, very good high quality digital cameras. No doubt the vast majority of images snapped (is that the verb these days?) with those cameras are by people who have no interest in enforcing a copyright. Yet as Grant pointed out to me, the AP reports, an increasing number of photo labs are refusing to print "high quality" digital images, out of fear that they "might" be professional photographs, and therefore, "printing the pictures might be a copyright violation."

This begins to make plain a point Rusty Russell suggested to me in an email recently: No doubt copyright is a property right. But why isn't anyone out there defending the property rights of digital camera owners? This is a conflict in property rights, produced by an insanely inefficient property system -- copyright. The solution is not, as some seem to believe, to abolish copyright. It is instead to abolish the insanely inefficient part. Yet it is the character of our time: to argue against inefficiency is to mark yourself as a "communist."


Do you take good pictures? Then you can forget about getting them developed -- at least without a fight.

It seems that when the rights of big corporations begin so directly impacting the rights of the ordinary consumer, then there is a flaw somewhere that needs to be corrected. Historically, such flaws have been "corrected" in the favor of the big (read: rich) corporations.

What will happen here? Time will tell.

[By the way, this coincides nicely with a topic I've been turning over in my mind for a few days -- the (possibly) out-of-control nature of our copyright system. Expect a full post on this in the near future.]

Cartoon

Don't worry folks -- the War On Science can be funny!

More on the War On Science

I know I keep posting over and over about this, but this stuff is important, and doesn't nearly get enough press.

Now the ACLU is joining the campaign against the administration's War On Science:


The American Civil Liberties Union charged Tuesday that the Bush administration is placing science under siege by overzealously tightening restrictions on information, individuals and technology in the name of homeland security.

The administration "has sought to impose growing restrictions on the free flow of scientific information, unreasonable barriers on the use of scientific materials and increased monitoring of and restrictions on foreign university students," the ACLU said.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks the government has actively increased the use of classifying information to keep it secret, including the use of the category "unclassified but sensitive" and extending classification authority to more departments, the ACLU said.

Robert Hopkins of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy criticized the ACLU for seeking to politicize the issue.

"The report chooses to criticize actions taken to address security concerns in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack," Hopkins said. "The administration has worked in good faith with serious members of the science community, including the National Academies, to determine the best way to enable the conduct of science without providing terrorists with a road map for pursuing their aims."


That's right folks -- the administration's response to these allegations is "How dare you question us? Trust! Accept! Conform!"

My response? NO!

"Science" and "unquestioning conformity" are polar opposites. Science is all about questioning, learning, and sharing. I'm surprised that Bush hasn't classified Einstein's theory of relativity, since it's necessary for figuring out the physics of a nuclear blast.

*knock on wood*

Monday, June 20, 2005

More on Crash

I'm posting more about "Crash," mostly because I feel like it, and well, that's about it.

First off, read the Ebert review. It gives away some of the scenes without giving away the movie. It'll give you some sense of what I'm talking about.

This movie is unique in that two days after seeing it, I'm still thinking about it. When's the last time you could say that about a movie?

Many movies like to push the envelope just because they can. This movie actually accomplishes something with its offensive parts. It accomplishes this: It makes you think "Wow, there really are people out there that think like that."

(Don't tell me "Those aren't real people, it's just a movie." Of course I realize that.) The believability of the characters brings it home in a way that most movies could only hope for. I guarantee that not a single one of you could see this movie, and then honestly say that the characters were not representative of real, living people.

One of the very effective aims of this movie is to illustrate and remind the audience of just how hurtful people can be, simply through the preconceptions they form and harbor about people they don't know and have never met. The movie then follows the interactions of those characters, powerfully demonstrating how their preconceptions ended up affecting their lives and causing some fairly major problems -- even getting one person killed.

Which brings me to my larger point. It's easy to say "Don't be prejudiced. Get to know everyone individually." But the fact of the matter is that everyone has prejudices, in some way.

More on the War On Science

In a continuation of my earlier post about the administration's War On Science, here's a more complete list. To summarize, these are some of the topics which have been censored or outright falsified to serve the administration's political interests:

    Cattle grazing
    Hog farming
    Climate change
    Air quality at ground zero
    Toxicology of mercury
    Effectiveness of condoms
    Effects of oil drilling on the Arctic Refuge
    Abortion
    HIV/AIDS
    Cancer
    Stem cell research
    Ground water


And this is just what's been made public!

Interactivity = a Very Good Thing

Toward the continued goal of making this blog interactive, featuring as much two-way communication as one-way, I shall attempt from time to time to foster a debate.

And for the love of God, DEBATE! Discuss! It's the single best way to learn. I don't care if you don't know much about the topic -- that just gives you more reason to jump in, ask questions, and learn! And don't worry about getting hassled -- if anyone posts any personal attacks, or anything belittling, I will personally delete their comment.

Consider my earlier post on repealing the 22nd Amendment the first discussion point. Jump in there and comment -- I refuse to believe that nobody disagrees at all with what I said. Now go!

Name That Tune!

"Hands and feet are all alike, but gold between divide us.
Hands and feet are all alike, but fear between divide us.
All slip away."

Somebody left the cake out in the rain!

Oh no! I was gonna eat that cake, but now it's all wet, and I don't
think I want any.

On repealing the 22nd Amendment

Partially in response to Mela's earlier comment, and partially because I think people should know about these things, here is the text of a Constitutional amendment that has been introduced into the House:


The twenty-second article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is repealed.


(The 22nd Amendment imposes a two-term limit for the President.)

My initial thinking on this is that getting rid of term limits is a good thing. Isn't it fundamentally undemocratic to say "Oh sure, you can vote for anyone you want, except this guy"? Isn't it absurd to essentially punish someone for doing a good job?

It's possible that giving someone the ability to remain President for an indefinite number of terms could result in a quasi-monarchy. However, as long as we continue to have free and open elections, featuring free debate, I don't think that's much of a danger. I have faith in our Constitution to guarantee and ensure free elections. Free elections mean that the President would have to continue to justify him/herself every four years, and if the voters think they're doing a good job, then why not let them continue on?

Also, think about what happens currently. If a President is popular at the end of their second term (and would thus be likely to be re-elected), then their party will just run a candidate as identical to that President as possible, to capitalize on that popularity. If they end up running near-identical candidates anyway, how is that any different than running the same candidate?

Another side benefit would be a more even distribution of Presidential authority over the term. Currently, presidential power peaks in year 5 of a presidency. The reason for this is that the President has the weight of a successful referendum behind him, so he can effectively claim the authority of the people. Also, lame-duck status has not really set in yet. After year 5, however, the President becomes too much of a lame duck to get anything accomplished, so years 7 and 8 are the least powerful of all. (Think about it -- it makes sense. There are plenty of studies to back me up.)

Getting rid of term limits would remove this sharp decline in effectiveness, because there would be no such thing as a lame-duck President anymore.

Yes, I'm advocating letting Bush run for a third term. However, this seems like a necessary evil. Besides, he's poisoned himself far beyond re-electability anyway.

We as a citizenry either want the best person available to be President, or we don't. It makes little sense to bar someone from the chance to be elected solely because they'd been elected twice before.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bush doesn't even believe in science

This makes me so sick, I can't even write coherently about it. Read for yourself.

Name That Tune!

"And if you take my mic right now, one thing you'll never do is take my love away."

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Crash

I went out to Arundel Mills Mall today. It's simply huge. For example, a 24-screen theater would completely dominate the map of a normal mall. It did no such thing here. The place has a Bass Pro Shop the size of a Sears!

Anyway, I saw the movie "Crash," featuring Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, and Matt Dillon. I hadn't actually heard of it before, but it was fantastic. It's a drama about racism and stereotypes, and features characters that are normal enough to believe. Parts of it are somewhat offensive, since every character says what they're thinking, particularly the stereotypical things. For example, when a Latino locksmith changes the locks on Sandra Bullock's house, she believes that he's going to keep a copy of the key and give it to his "gang homies" so that they can rob her. It turns out that he's a good family man, with a 5-year-old daughter that he adores.

It's an exceedingly powerful and superbly acted film. Ten out of ten stars.

Name That Tune!

"There were few at the scene, but they all agree that the slayer who ran looked a lot like me."

KU exposes failing students


More than 100 students who failed their classes at the University of Kansas last semester found out who shared their misfortune. The school's Office of Student Financial Aid sent an e-mail to 119 students Monday notifying them that they were in jeopardy of having their aid revoked.

But the names of the students were included on the e-mail address list — meaning everyone who got the e-mail could see the names of all the other recipients.


Full story here.

Come on, people -- bcc: is your friend. I feel really bad for those students.

40 Million Credit Card Numbers Stolen

From the Washington Post (among others):


More than 40 million credit card numbers belonging to U.S. consumers were accessed by a computer hacker and are at risk of being used for fraud, MasterCard International Inc. said yesterday.

In the largest security breach of its kind, MasterCard officials said all credit card brands were affected, including 13.9 million cards bearing the MasterCard label. A spokeswoman for Visa USA Inc. confirmed that 22 million of its card numbers may have been breached, while Discover Financial Services Inc. said it did not yet know if its cards were affected.


Pay very close attention to your credit card statements, people. 40 million cards represents a very sizeable portion of the total number of issued cards -- the chances that your number was stolen is significant.

Just a heads-up.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Name That Tune!

"This is the noise that keeps me awake, my head explodes and my body aches."

Update

Big update here. You've been warned...

We have another roommate now. Here's the story: Back in March, one of Joe's friends heard that we'd be needing a subletter over the summer. Joe told him the price, and the guy said it was too much, and he'd find something cheaper. We chuckled to ourselves, and said OK.

Recently, said friend came crawling back and offered to pay $400/month to sleep on the couch. Basically, it's pure profit for us. The utility bills won't go up much, and it's $400/month that we weren't expecting to get. Sounds like a deal.

Also, our internet is down. Just because, apparently. I'm leeching off the neighbors right now (thank you, insecure wireless connections). Well, sometimes I am -- it keeps dropping the connection (grr). Not only that, but the soonest that Comcast said they could send somebody out here is WEDNESDAY. That's right -- FIVE DAYS from now.

And finally, Express just opened at the mall. (It's a clothing store -- I know, I know, I'd never heard of it either.) They have good dress shirts that retail for $50 on sale for $20. W00t!

I could write more, but I'm sick of typing.

Airplane joyride

From MSNBC:


FORT PAYNE, Ala. - A 14-year-old boy stole a Cessna and went on a late-night joy ride, taking off and landing twice before being arrested, police said.

The teen suffered minor cuts and bruises on the second landing because the plane came down hard, causing the landing gear to collapse and the propeller to dig into a road beside the airport, police said.

The teen allegedly took his mother's van from their home Wednesday night and drove to the airport in Fort Payne about five miles away. He said he then found the key in the unlocked plane, removed the Cessna's tie-downs, started the engine, and began driving around.

"The next thing he knew he was in the air," Police Chief David Walker said.

. . .

"We've never had a problem before with planes being stolen, so I guess we have been a little lax in our security," said Larry Noble Cowart, who owns Valley Aviation, which runs the airport and owns the plane.

Cowart said the teen could have entered through the typically unlocked airport gate or climbed a fence.


Cue the terrorism hype. How long until certain "leaders" in this country start freaking out and scare everyone with this?

Now they're just being ignorant

It's one thing to stick by your beliefs. That is often a positive trait. To stick by them even when all the evidence is against you, however, is just ignorant:


An autopsy that found Terri Schiavo suffered from severe and irreversible brain-damage has done nothing to sway her parents' position that she deserved to live and may have gotten better with therapy.

The long-awaited report Wednesday found Schiavo's brain had shrunk to about half the normal size for a woman her age when she died March 31 after her feeding tube was disconnected.

The autopsy also determined she was blind.

Bob and Mary Schindler disputed the results, insisting their daughter interacted with them and tried to speak. Their attorney said the family plans to discuss the autopsy with other medical experts and may take some unspecified legal action.

. . .

"There's nothing in her autopsy report that is inconsistent with a persistent vegetative state," said Dr. Stephen J. Nelson, a medical examiner who assisted in the neurological portion of the autopsy.


Even Bush isn't swayed:


In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the autopsy did nothing to change President Bush's position that Schiavo's feeding tube should not have been disconnected. He had signed a bill, rushed through by Congress in March, that was a last-ditch effort to restore her feeding tube.


Regardless of how you feel about it, my position continues to be that the husband is next of kin, and is therefore her sole spokesperson when she cannot or has not spoken for herself. Her parents have to go through him.

When two people marry, they become one, both in God's eyes and in the law's eyes.

How lawyers get a bad name

Sometimes I hate lawyers:


An e-mail exchange between a law firm executive and a secretary over a ketchup stain has set London's legal world buzzing.

The details were forwarded across the city after Richard Phillips, a senior associate at Baker & McKenzie, sent a message to secretary Jenny Amner.

The exchange appears to refer to her spilling ketchup on Phillips' trousers and who should pay the cleaning bill, UK's Press Association reported.

The first e-mail, which Phillips sent on May 25, said: "Hi Jenny. I went to a dry cleaners at lunch and they said it would cost £4 to remove the ketchup stains. If you cd let me have the cash today, that wd be much appreciated."

On June 3, Amner replied: "With reference to the e-mail below, I must apologize for not getting back to you straight away but due to my mother's sudden illness, death and funeral I have had more pressing issues than your £4.

"I apologize again for accidentally getting a few splashes of ketchup on your trousers. Obviously your financial need as a senior associate is greater than mine as a mere secretary."

She wrote that she had told various partners, lawyers and trainees about his e-mail and they had offered to "do a collection" to raise the cash.

"I however declined their kind offer but should you feel the urgent need for the £4, it will be on my desk this afternoon."

I found me!

Check me out:


Scott Minneman has long been engaged in, and with, the practice of interdisciplinary design. This manifests itself in his own background of architectural and engineering design (BA, BS, and MS from MIT; PhD from Stanford), embedded systems, interactive video, installation art, and rock climbing, as well as his research interests in applying technology to support group design work. Scott has worked on interactive robotics for the physically challenged, and communication aids for deaf and non-vocal individuals. As a scientist-collaborator in the PARC Artist-In-Residence (PAIR) program, Scott did installations at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, The Friends of Photography, a Sony JumboTron on the facade of a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, SIGGRAPH, and a single-wide mobile home in Goleta, CA.


My doppelganger is cooler than I am!

It's the end of the world!

Today is Exhibit A for "Why I should pick out my clothes at night rather than in the morning." I just realized that I'm wearing black pants, a muted blue-gray shirt, and a dark blue tie. I think my reasoning was that the blue in the tie would bring out the blue in the shirt. It does, but the problem is that the blues actually clash. :(

This is why one should never make decisions before they've had that first cup of coffee.

*hides in his office the rest of the day*

Downing Street memo

Introducing a topic that I'm sure will appear fairly often on this page -- The Downing Street Memo!

For now, have some background information:


The British Sunday Times newspaper published the so-called Downing Street memo, dated 23 July 2002, on 1 May, after it was leaked by a former UK foreign policy aide.

In the memo, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying Mr Bush had made up his mind to take military action [in Iraq] even if the timing had not yet been decided.

A second memo, published by the paper this week, says UK ministers were told that they had no choice but to find a way to make the war in Iraq legal.


And a little humor.

And you can bet your britches that before long, there will be commentary on this rather extraordinary memo.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Poll numbers

The latest poll numbers (May results):


Bush approval

Approve 42 (46)
Disapprove 51 (48)

Action in Iraq

Right Thing 45 (47)
Should have Stayed out 51 (49)

Terrorism

Approve 52 (58)
Disapprove 40

Economy

Approve 39 (38)
Disapprove 56

Foreign Policy

Approve 39 (40)
Disapprove 51

Iraq

Approve 37 (38)
Disapprove 59

Social Security

Approve 26 (26)
Disapprove 62 (62)

Bush shares your priorities for the country?

Yes 35 (34)
No 61 (61)

Congress shares your priorities for the country?

Yes 19 (20)
No 71 (68)


Conclude what you will. I think the numbers speak for themselves.

Ford vehicles a fire risk

It seems that a $20 cruise-control deactivation switch in many Ford vehicles is a fire risk (CNN.com)


Several fire investigators hired by major insurance companies and auto engineers consulted by CNN say the switch is causing some Ford vehicles to ignite.

The $20.57 switch shuts off the cruise control when the driver firmly steps on the brakes. The switch is located under the hood of the vehicle and is attached to the brake master cylinder on one end and wired to the cruise control on the other.

On most of its models, Ford designed the switch to be powered -- or "hot" -- at all times, even when the vehicle is off and the key is removed from the ignition.

Inside the switch, a thin film barrier separates brake fluid from the switch's electrical components. Investigators say fires can occur when the film cracks and brake fluid from the master cylinder seeps into the electrical side of the switch.

Ford has already recalled more than 1 million vehicles in two separate
recalls to replace the switch.


Here's the list of affected vehicles (Dad, Mother, pay attention):


Mark VII/VIII from 1994-1998
Taurus/Sable and Taurus SHO 2.3 L 1993-1995
Econoline 1992-2003
F-Series 1993-2003
Windstar 1994-2003
Explorer without IVD 1995-2003
Explorer Sport/Sport Trac 2002-2003
Expedition 1997-2003
Ranger 1995-2003


2004 and newer vehicles do not use this switch, so they are unaffected.

GOP looks to escape private accounts

From MSNBC.com:


With the Senate Finance Committee at an impasse on Social Security and House leaders anxious about moving forward, Republican congressional leaders have told the White House in recent days that it is time to look for an escape route.

. . .

Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), a strong advocate of personal accounts, has grown so concerned he has decided to introduce, as early as next week, a bill that will not include the accounts but would reduce the scheduled benefits for all but the bottom 30 percent in terms of income. He will also offer one with the accounts, but he is
focusing on winning over Democrats on a solvency-only plan. "My sense is, let's get solvency going and make the argument for personal accounts on its own merit," he said.

Democrats are unapologetic. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said voters increasingly see Bush as the impediment to a compromise because the president has stubbornly stuck by a partial privatization proposal that has never gained broad public support. Besides, Emanuel added, after five years of pushing legislation through Congress with virtually no consultation with Democrats, White House officials can hardly complain that the Democrats are not there now.

"They never wanted our votes on a prescription-drug bill. They didn't want our votes on taxes, and now they want it on Social Security?" he said. "Go ahead. Have your party-line vote. We'll see how it turns out."



They're both right. If private accounts are such a fabulous idea (and they're not, as the public has wisely recognized), then let them stand on their own. Good ideas don't need language like "The system will fail without this!" to support them.

Additionally, the White House and Senate GOP are so used to riding roughshod over the wishes of the minority, that they have no right to complain now when Democrats hang together. But now, Bush is stuck, because he's wedded himself so closely to private accounts, but the proposal is destroying his approval ratings.

In politics, as in life, you reap what you sow.

Name That Tune!

"Big city, black city rising all around me, steal my soul away."

Are you kidding me?

From MSNBC.com:


A discussion about how evolution should be taught in Kansas' public schools degenerated Wednesday into personal attacks among State Board of Education members.

. . .

Board member Bill Wagnon, of Topeka, told the three conservatives they had become "dupes" of intelligent design advocates and said their proposal was based "on absolute and total fraud."


Umm, hello? You're in charge of the entire statewide public school system, and this is how you treat each other? Great example to set for the children.

Did I miss a TPS report?

So I show up at work at 7:45 this morning rather than 9:00, so that I can be on a conference call at 8:00. Only now I find out that the call was moved to next week, and the email saying this wasn't sent out until 8 last night, so there was no way for me to know. Plus, I'm mostly finished with my current project, and none of the attorneys will be here for over an hour and a half to give me another one.

Sigh.

On the plus side, happy hour after work!

[To assuage concerns about me posting from work -- I can post via email.]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Name That Tune!

"Lend me your chops for just a moment, and my imagination will make that moment live."

The real story....

Patriot Act narrowed

From CNN.com:

The House voted Wednesday to block the FBI and the Justice Department from using the Patriot Act to search library and book store records.

Despite a veto threat from President Bush, lawmakers voted 238-187 to block the part of the anti-terrorism law that allows the government to investigate the reading habits of terror suspects.

The vote reversed a narrow loss last year by lawmakers complaining about threats to privacy rights. They narrowed the proposal this year to permit the government to continue to seek out records of Internet use at libraries.

. . .

Supporters of rolling back the library and bookstore provision said that the law gives the FBI too much leeway to go on "fishing expeditions" on people's reading habits and that innocent people could get tagged as potential terrorists based on what they check out from a library.

"If the government suspects someone is looking up how to make atom bombs, go to a court and get a search warrant," said Jerold Nadler, D-New York.


One word: Good.

Global warming? Bah!

Click here for one of the better political cartoons I've seen in a long time....

Name That Tune!

"When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 4-5, it ain't to play games with you."

New Shoutbox!

By now, you have hopefully noticed the new Shoutbox, conveniently located on the right. ==>

What is it for? It's another forum for you to talk back on. Continue to use comments to talk about specific posts, but for more general/off-topic stuff, use the Shoutbox. And do use it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Who approves of lynching?

I'm assuming everyone's heard of the lynching apology that the Senate passed this week. If you haven't heard of this, please come out of your cave, and then click here.

The bill had 86 sponsors. While that may seem curious, it's simply a show of support by those 86, that they actually believe that the Senate was wrong for failing to ban lynchings for so long. What really is interesting is the list of senators who did not sponsor it:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
George Voinovich (R-OH)

Notice how they all have something in common?

If you go out in the sun, don't forget to bring a towel

In case you ever wondered what exactly the U.S. Senate is doing, well, here's something they passed just last week:

S. Res. 167: "Recognizing the importance of sun safety, and for other purposes."

The legislation "recognizes the importance of sun safety and the need for school-based sun safety education programs."

Your tax dollars at work, people. Stand up and cheer.

On decency

So I was on the Metro, coming home, and the train was largely full (as usual). At one stop, a seat became empty, and these two kids ( <10 years old) and their mom started obviously heading for it. Just before the kids got there, some lady practically dived into it, right in front of the kids. She even looked at one of the kids afterward, so she obviously knew what she had just done.

I watched all this and was appalled. Who in the world steals seats from little kids? I, of course, rose to offer my seat, but they found other (non-adjacent) nearby seats instead.

I never cease to be amazed at how little people think of one another. Nobody's ever nice to one another anymore. For example, I always try to hold doors for people if I notice they're coming. More often than not, I'll either get a strange look (as if I'm out of my mind for holding a door), or the person will just blast on through as if nothing had happened, without even a thank-you.

I can't decide whether rude people are the majority these days, or if they're just that much more noticeable than everyone else.

Seen on the Metro this morning

On the Red line, out by Fort Totten, you can see this sign:

"Unions: The people that brought you the weekend."

An interesting sentiment, in that it's not at all incorrect.

Name That Tune!

You all are too good at this game.....

"Oh why did you leave, and why won't you come and save us again."

Name That Tune!

Moving away from hip hop....

"Every dog has its day, every day has its way of being forgotten."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Name That Tune!

"So I just lean up on the wall, or sit up in the bleachers, with the rest of the girls that came to watch their man ball."

Name That Tune!

"School's out and there's sort of a buzz, but back then we didn't really know what it was."

Name That Tune!

"You give me that funny feeling in my tummy."

Cheney's off his rocker

So this morning's paper included the following quote from Dick Cheney:

"Maybe [Howard Dean's] mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell."


I'll spare you the rant that so desperately wants to spring from my fingertips on this quote. All I'll say is this: Being elected Governor of a state doesn't count as "winning anything"? And is it really proper to measure how well-loved somebody is by how many elections they've won?


[Edit: Corrected quote.]

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Shopping!

I went shopping with Joe and his friend Dave today. At one point, Joe informed me that "I hang out with Dave so that I know what it feels like to hang out with me." I'm not making any conclusions; just throwing that out there.

First we went down to Ghetto Warehouse National Wholesale Liquidators, which is down in the District. It's six stops away on the subway, and takes about 15-20 minutes to get there. Except we didn't take the subway, Dave drove. Thanks to the District's brilliant city planners, it took upwards of 30 minutes to get there.

So what was the place like? As Joe quite aptly put it, "It's like a Wal-Mart for poor people." Think of the average clientele that Wal-Mart commands, and then reduce their income levels. Also reduce the quality (and price) of the goods proportionally. That's this place.

That being said, just like not everything at Wal-Mart is crap, this place had some decent stuff too, at very good prices. I may end up getting my grill there -- a charcoal grill, with rolling stand/cart and two trays was $40. One of the best prices I've seen around here (though admittedly I haven't scoured the market).

After that we went to eat, and found a place called the "Hard Times Cafe," stuck right in the middle of a strip mall. We walked in, and the place was decked out in a quasi-Texas theme. I say quasi because, well, they failed. The food was good, though.

Then we went to Ikea! I confess, I hadn't actually been in an Ikea before. Because I suspect that the majority of readers haven't either, let me introduce you. Ikea is the king of self-assembled furniture. As you walk through the store, their "showroom" is a path through all of these little rooms, decked out with their stuff. Really a neat way to display merchandise; you get to see not only what it looks like fully-assembled, but also as part of an actual room. They also have just about everything else you'd need for a home, at pretty reasonable prices. I didn't buy anything today, but we'll probably end up making a trip back sometime after we move.

Southeast Asia

My old roommate, Adam, just got back from a 2-week trip to Singapore and Thailand. He kept a journal of his thoughts and experiences, and fortunately for us, was kind enough to post it online. You can find it here. It's quite engaging reading.

Airline LAN Parties

Excellent User Friendly today:

Click for comic...

Truly inspiring

This article is required reading. A clip:

It was senior night, the last time Ryan Belflower would wear his home [basketball] uniform. Everyone in the gym knew his story.

Ryan was a special education student who would do anything to fit in and worked tirelessly to make that happen. His basketball career began as a ninth grader passing out balls to the girls' team. Then he hooked on with the boys' team, getting there every morning at 6:30, helping out in drills, running the practice clock and cleaning up afterward.

Now, he sat proudly on the sideline in his own white No. 12 uniform.

The crowd wanted him in the game. [Coach] Amundsen wanted him in, too. But he was also afraid the slightly built 18-year-old might get hurt.

Amundsen considered all this as he walked toward Ryan and patted him on the shoulder. Off came the warmup jacket, the buzzer blew and Ryan kind of half hopped, half ran onto the court, his left leg trailing slightly at an odd angle.

The noise was deafening as he ran out on the court.

. . .

The final seconds were ticking off the clock and Clovis East got the ball one last time. This time, Ryan found a spot just beyond the 3-point line to the left of the key. He got a pass, and turned to shoot.

The noisy gym quieted for a split second as the ball seemed to hang in the air forever. . . .


Read the article and find out how it ends!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Apply liberally

Click for comic...

Ode to "Airplane!"

From the Washington Post:

"Airplane!" was a spoof of the disaster-related airport and towering inferno movies of the 1970s. And what an enormous sendup of American culture it was. Disco. "Jaws." Ronald Reagan. Poker-playing Girl Scouts. It's all there, in what is arguably the funniest movie ever made, a movie that turns 25 this summer.


To those of you who haven't seen it -- you must. Repeatedly. Right now. Go.

Reader Talkback

So my numbers of visits per day is plummeting, telling me that I'm not writing what you, the reader(s), are wanting to read. So, I'm asking you -- what do you want to read? What types of entries would you like me to post?

Looking back through the blog, it looks like there have been three major categories of posts: posts about sports, posts about current events, and posts about my life.

Comment and discuss.

Kwitcherbeliakin

This would be laughable, except it's true:

A Texas Congressman has introduced a bill that impose a nationwide prohibition on municipally-sponsored networks.

Dubbed by the Author, Representative Pet Sessions (R-Texas), the Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005, the bill prohibits state and local governments from providing any telecommunications or information service that is "substantially similar" to services provided by private companies.

The bill, HR 2726, is similar to a host of state bills pushed by telecommunications companies aimed at fending off municipally-run wireless networks. Some of those bills, most recently one in Texas, have been stalled in state legislatures.

The telecommunications operators say that such networks represent unfair competition while municipalities claim that the services are needed to promote business and close the gap between digital haves and have-nots.

According to Sessions' on-line biography, he is a former employee of Southwestern Bell and Bell Labs.


Basically, the existing providers are mad that the cities are getting involved in their turf. You know what? Last time I checked, increased competition was a good thing.

Companies such as these have no problem competing amongst themselves; and if one gets put out of business, "well, that's just capitalism."

What goes around comes around.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Baseball goodtimes

Tonight I'm going to the Nats-Mariners game, and Sunday I'm going to the Nats-Mariners game.

Repetitive? Yes. But am I complaining? Absolutely not.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Pac-Man IRL!

It was only a matter of time before someone made a real-life version of Pac-Man:

A human version of the classic arcade game Pacman, superimposing the virtual 3D game world on to city streets and buildings, is being developed by researchers at Singapore.

Players equipped with a wearable computer, headset and goggles can physically enter a real world game space by choosing to play the role of Pacman or one of the Ghosts.

A central computer system keeps track of all their movements with the aid of GPS receivers and a wireless local area network.


Next, of course, is real-life Tetris. They could even make a Survivor: Tetris, where you have to not get crushed by the blocks!

*rushes off to get a patent*

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Name That Tune!

"Got to keep the loonies on the path."

Name That Tune!

"I don't ever wanna feel like I did that day."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Woo yay airplanes

I was in Kansas City last weekend. I will not say why I was there, because this is not the forum to do so. I'm sorry I didn't actually come into Kansas and see everybody, but I wasn't there for long. I wouldn't have had time to see everyone, so I stayed in KC and hung out with my old roommate Rob and a couple other people from K-State. It was a good time.

But here's the real reason I'm writing about this:

(begin rant)

(come on, you knew it was coming)

I was supposed to fly out of KC at 7:45 Monday night. I had it all timed perfectly: I'd land in DC about 10:45, and have just enough time to get the last train before the Metro shut down. But when I got to the airport and checked in, the agent said that the flight was delayed due to storms in DC, and wouldn't take off until 10:00. Meaning it wouldn't land until after 1:00. Meaning no Metro, and therefore, no going home.

Fortunately, I was able to call up a friend of mine that lives a few blocks from the airport, and he agreed to let me sleep on his couch. He wasn't overjoyed about picking me up after 1:00 am, but I'll make it up to him someday.

Well, this is frustrating, I thought, but at least it's under control.

Someday I'll learn not to tempt life like that. Alas, that day was not yesterday.

We finally got in the air, and were about 45 minutes out of DC when the pilots decided that the storms were still too bad, and that we were going to have to land at Dulles. [Note to the uninitiated: Remember my long rants last week about going to Ashburn? Dulles is right near there.] And at 1:00 am, we did exactly that.

Fine, I thought, still not learning my lesson, I'll just get a cab and go home. It'll be expensive, but at least I'll get to sleep in my own bed.

Except the powers-that-be decided not to let us off. In fact, they didn't even pull up to the terminal. They did, however, decide that the best idea was to refuel at Dulles, and then fly into National.

I hope that plan makes some sense to you, because it didn't to me.

At that time of night, it takes less than 30 minutes to drive into town from Dulles. Therefore, they could have easily pulled together a couple of buses and driven us into town, and it would have taken 45 minutes, or an hour tops. Probably would have been cheaper than flying a Boeing 717, too. But no. Instead, we got to sit in the freight-loading area of the airport for 90 minutes, plus another 10 for the flight.

Instead of landing at National at 10:45 pm, I landed there at 2:45 am. Which meant that I got to sleep after 3:00, and then got up for work today.

Good night.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Name That Tune!

"Cause two is not a winner and three nobody remembers."

Another grade released

Another grade posted today. Contracts II: A-.

After 3 grades, I'm looking at a semester GPA of 3.5, and an increase in the cumulative GPA. Hope I can keep it up!

Two more grades to go...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

You know you're a Republican when....

From the Daily Kos:

You know you're a Republican when...

...Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

...trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

...A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

...Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

...the best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

...providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

...global warming is junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

...being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

Ashburn sucks

So, you wanna know about my day. Trust me, you do. It's good for your soul. And if you don't want to, well, then don't.

Today, as you may or may not recall, I had to head out to the middle of nowhere Ashburn, Virginia for orientation. Which is actually closer to West Virginia than it is to downtown DC, let alone to my house. I left my house just after 7, hopped on the Red Line, went to Metro Center, transferred to the Orange Line, went to West Falls Church, and then switched to the Loudoun County commuter bus. By the time we turned onto the several-hundred-yard driveway into MCI (more on that in a moment), it was just before 9:00.

That's right. It took almost two hours to get there. Which meant that I had another two hour trip to look forward to in the afternoon. Joy.

My first impression of the corporate headquarters was "well this is pretty typical." The driveway led past rows of perfectly manicured, perfectly identical juvenile trees, between the two manmade ponds with juuuust enough curve to them that you can pretend that they're natural, and finally up to the 3-story plate glass front of the main lobby. Exactly what you'd expect a major corporate headquarters to be.

The building itself was, well, big. Imagine a 4-story office building. Now imagine 11 of them, all connected together. Now you get the picture.

We went through the orientation, which primarily being given a PowerPoint presentation, complete with handed-out printed copies and an HR woman reading the slides to us.

We interrupt this posting for a special announcement:

I absolutely hate it when people read PowerPoint slides, particularly if they're also going to hand out the printouts. Do people really expect that I've gone through 17 years of schooling and still lack the ability to read? It's insulting and unnecessary. The "presentation" aspect should supplement the slides. If there's nothing else to add -- if the slides say it all -- then just hand out the papers and go away. I can read it for myself, thank you very much.

And now back to your regularly-scheduled post...

Next up was filling out the various forms, including tax forms. It quickly became obvious that a significant portion of the group had never filled out tax forms before. A guy can only hear so many questions like "What is a deduction? What do I put there?", "What happens if I claim exempt?" before he just wants to smack some intelligence into someone. It's explained right on the form! Read it!

And then, this question was asked. I mention it separately because while the previous two questions were dumb, this one is just downright mind-boggling. One of the forms asked for your Educational History, and included choices such as "Completed High School," "Some College," "Bachelor's Degree," and so on. One intern asked:

So if I've completed some college but I haven't graduated yet, do I check "Some College"?


Bear in mind, she actually said this out loud. I kept waiting for her to follow up with If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college.

Oooh, now we come to the best part. The orientation was done by 12:30, but remember how I came on a commuter bus? That means it only runs during commuter hours -- so I got to wait until 3:30. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring a book. Unfortunately, it was a mediocre one.

Thank God I never have to go back there. It's downtown from now on. *knock on wood*

Untitled

OK Mela, you win. I'll get rid of the extended entry feature, as well as provide a recap of my day, as soon as I get rid of this headache and get some energy back.