Archive for December, 2008

Privacy?

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

As of tomorrow, sex offenders in Georgia will be subject to a new law that requires them to register their online accounts and passwords with the state government.

From the article:

“State Sen. Cecil Staton, who wrote the bill, said the measure is designed to keep the Internet safe for children. Authorities could use the passwords and other information to make sure offenders aren’t stalking children online or chatting with them about off-limits topics.

Staton said although the measure may violate the privacy of sex offenders, the need to protect children “outweighs a lot of the rights of these individuals.””

What. The. Hell.

For one thing, I continue to be disturbed by the ease with which government and the media manage to conflate “sex offender” with “child molester”. This means that someone with a public urination charge on their record could have their email monitored in order to “protect children”. A minority of sex offenders have a history of child molestation, but so far as the grandstanding buffoons in government are concerned, they all do.

Second, to ask something I know I’ve asked on here before, why are sex offenders the only people who are tracked and vilified like this after they’re paid for their crimes? I’d really like to know if there are any convicted burglars in my neighborhood, but there’s no registry for that. It sure would be handy if I could find out whether my neighbor beat someone to death with a rake twenty years ago, but that would be a violation of his privacy. But if someone across the street got caught having sex in a car, they’d be marked for life and subject to this sort of scarlet letter legislation.

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” – H L Mencken

Banned Words

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Every year, Lake Superior State University, which must have pretty much no other claim to fame, posts a list of the top overused words and phrases of the past year.  I feel like I’ve heard of this list before, but it feels especially appropriate this year. 

http://www.lssu.edu/banished/current.php

I’m so glad that “Green” made the list.  This used to be my favorite color; lately I feel like choking on my own vomit whenever I hear someone utter this word.  A green car used to be one that was painted green, preferably with a nice, ozone-depleting urethane laquer paint.  Now, not only does it imply a whole host of things that have no relation whatsoever to that particular wavelength of radiation that is visible to the human eye, but it has been overused so much that even this second meaning has become incredibly vague.  Green, go fornicate with yourself.

Gas Taxes

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

As we all know, a big slice of the price of gasoline is taxes that are intended to be used to fund the maintenance of roads and highways. As vehicles become more and more fuel-efficient, though, the amount of revenue that each individual motorist is putting into the pot is decreasing. If you’re only buying two thirds as much gas because you bought a car with a smaller engine, then you’re going to pay two thirds as much tax as you did before.

The governor of Oregon has an idea. Rather than using the idea of tax-per-gallon, he wants to work with auto manufacturers so that people have to pay tax-per-mile instead. So, if you trade in your H2 on some pansy little Prius, you’ll use less gas but still pay the same amount in taxes.

The current proposal is a tax of 1.2 cents per mile, rather than 24 cents per gallon. In essence, cars that get more than 20 miles per gallon (which should be almost everything on the road) will pay more.

Excellent. I can’t think of any way that this could go wrong. I wonder if the gov would want me to equip my bicycle with a transponder as well?

Photo Frame Malware

Monday, December 29th, 2008

A public service announcement from roadflares.org: several popular digital photo frame products, including this Wal-Mart Photo Keychain and this desktop frame from Samsung were sold with malicious software and viruses preloaded on them, or included with the device software. As always, make sure that your Windows antivirus is up to date before plugging anything new into your computer.

Merry Christmas.

Thoughts on Bills/Pats

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

The end of another season; the Bills just dropped their eleventh straight game against the Pats, this one a 13-0 shutout at home. Some thoughts:

  • If you’re not in Western New York today, you probably don’t appreciate from the television just how strong the wind gusts were. At one point in the first half, I heard the downspout on the front of my house rattling against the porch. I walked to the front door to check to see if it needed to be repaired, and the wind was so strong that I couldn’t even open the storm door against it. I’m not a small guy; I’ve got to imagine that trying to throw or kick a football in wind like that would be nearly impossible.
  • Completions to three different tight ends? From the Bills? That’s new.
  • I think that this game might have been the decider for Ralph on whether or not to keep Jauron as the head coach. Personally, I’m a big fan and I hope he stays on for another year. But that bizarre clock management at the end of the first half combined with the terrible pass play called on 4th and 1 in the second half definitely didn’t help his chances.
  • Almost no passing in the first half, and this has to be the game that Lynch misses.
  • On the subject of running backs — apparently it’s better to have three veterans like Faulk, Morris, and Jordan than to have a second year man (Jackson) and two rookies (Omon and Hall). Fred must have been pretty worn out by the end.
  • More great catches by Reed. He’s not just for blocking any more.
  • I don’t think you can question Trent Edwards’ toughness any more. A defensive end speared him with his helmet at the end of the game, and the defender was the one that didn’t get up off the turf.
  • Jason Peters is probably going to hold out again, and Kirk Chambers is not a suitable replacement when that happens. Left offensive tackle is one of the most important positions in the game, and the Bills need to find a reliable backup for it.

For the third season in a row, the Bills finish 7-9 and out of the playoffs. As for me, I’m 38% (6/16) on my predictions from the start of the season. I assumed that New England would have their playoff spot all locked up and be resting some starters for this game, so I thought we had a shot. Whoops.

So, in a year when we play the two worst divisions in football (the AFC West and NFC West), and come away with 6 wins against them, we can only manage to beat one other team and got swept by our entire division. This does not fill me with optimism for next year. But I suppose that’s my lot in life for being a Bills fan in the first place.

I must be hallucinating

Friday, December 26th, 2008

This is a niche category that Nintendo has decided to market to hyper allergic agoraphobic frolf players.  There is a reason why this game was in the please steal me discount bin and not locked behind glass in Target.  Just a gem from my holiday shopping This and $50 drinking fountains for cats(thems the cheap ones).

Garfield Minus Garfield

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Garfield, the comic strip, is one of the least funny items in the newspaper. I’m including the obituaries in that statement.

However, when you remove the titular cat, it’s a brilliant and incisive bit of three-panel angst. Enjoy.

Let It Snow, Reprise

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Hey, my street was on the news Monday night.

Between Friday morning and Sunday evening, there was roughly 21 inches of snow in the city of Buffalo. The first plow showed up to clear my street on Monday night. Things were so bad that the local NBC affiliate news chose us as the example of shoddy snow removal by the city.

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time outside with a shovel, helping people to get their stuck cars unstuck. Hopefully this bad publicity will irritate the streets department into working a little quicker on the side streets.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

I just wanted to post a note on here while it’s still (barely) Christmas wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and so on. As anyone on here knows, I’m hardly a religious man. Still, I think it’s worth reflecting on the Christian moral tradition, of which Christmas is a lynchpin. This is the season where we celebrate a man whose primary message was that people should be decent to one another, just because we’re all human and we’re all in this together.

Cheers.

303

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

This past weekend, the SCACA (South Carolina Arms Collectors Association) held its winter show at the Carolina First Expo Center.  I haven’t been to a gun and knife show since I was at RPI and purchased my very first weapon, a British .303 bolt action rifle from the second World War two.  I later ended up selling that gun, much as it pained me to do so, but I did need the cash, poor college student as I was.  I still have my .22 plinker rifle, a semiautomatic number, so I wasn’t _completely_ disarmed.

At any rate, I was browsing the show in search of a 40 or 45 cal handgun, when I stumbled upon a fellow hawking old military pieces.  Sure enough, there sat a 1943 British .303, as it must have looked not long after sniping a few Nazis through the ticker.  I talked with the fellow, nice guy, and he knocked a Grant off the price so it was practically a steal.  I snagged a box of .303 ammo on the way out (as well as a 40 cal S&W that caught my eye) and soon I had doubled the size of my firearms collection (in addition to my .22 rifle, my grandfather gave me his 12 ga shotgun a few years ago when he quit hunting).

The amazing thing, as I later reflected upon it, was that even in this day and political climate, I was able to walk into the show, select a firearm I’d like, hand the man behind the counter cash and have him hand me the weapon.  Yes, licensed dealers do have to have the prospective buyer fill out the “instant background check” but there were also sellers aplenty advertising “private sales” with no paperwork required- just cash.

South Carolina rocks.