Miscellaneous

About the Enhanced Airport Security Screening

When I flew to Salt Lake City and back last week, I didn't experience any physical and emotional abuse from the TSA.  Maybe it was so traumatic that I've blocked it out of my memory.  More likely, Midland and SLC hadn't implemented the more aggressive pat-downs and body scans.  Maybe if they had and I experienced them first-hand I'd have a better understanding of why everyone seems to be in such an uproar over the new TSA policies...but I doubt it.

I'm as embarrassed by my body as the next guy, but I really don't care at all if a TSA employee has a peek at my kibbles and bits for the sake of safer air travel.  Am I worried about the potential danger due to scanner radiation?  Nope.  You subject yourself to 1000 times more radiation during a transcontinental flight than you do during the scan.  Wouldn't I feel violated by the enhanced pat-down?  I don't feel violated when my doctor touches my junk in a strictly professional manner.  I'm not sure why I should feel any different if a TSA employee were to do so.

On TDS last night, Lewis Black put it this way (video embedded below):

...the one thing people won't stand for: the government interfering with our travel plans.  I see.  So in the name of fighting terrorism we're willing to start wars, waterboard people, and kill civilians with unmanned drones...but the one line we won't cross is our waistline!

Reader Comments

This morning a 15-year-old allegedly stabbed and killed a 17-year-old and critically injured an adult man and two other children in his foster home.  It's not the kind of thing that happens around here very often.  I think this is the first time that I've read a story like this in the local newspaper (link) and paid attention to the "Reader Comments" section.  It's very strange...comments from the biological mother of the victims, from friends of the alleged murderer, etc.

Miscellany May 13, 2009

» While conservatives understandably are exercised about the apparent double standard of Wanda Sykes filleting Limbaugh while Obama sat by grinning (what if it had been a Republican president and a liberal being attacked?), we should also try to imagine how conservatives would react to a liberal former VP enjoying his retirement by attacking the sitting conservative president.  Well, we don't have to imagine.  In today's article skewering Cheney, Dowd gives several examples of how conservatives responded in similar situations when the tables were turned.  So, which way do I prefer it?  I guess I'd lean towards everyone feeling free to speak their minds...but let's have some consistency.  Don't freak out over a conservative making a joke in poor taste if you don't do the same when a liberal does it.  Don't freak out about a liberal ex-leader criticizing the actions of a sitting president if you don't do the same when a conservative does it.

» Timothy Noah makes the case for why he thinks Republicans are sore losers in presidential politics.

» Real Life Twitter (h/t Mike Todd)

» Stewart impales Pelosi:

Miscellany 6 May 2009

» Who ever said America was on the road to perdition?  Surely we've got things turned around now that we're getting tough on "fleeting expletives!"

» If you make a big deal about transparency regarding the ~$800 billion stimulus and about how every dime will be track-able at recovery.gov, you really ought to deliver...and if you don't, at least have the sense not to blame your failure on inadequate data storage capacity.  This is 2009! (h/t WSJ)

» "Obama takes Jesus' advice: "when you pray, go into your room, close the door & pray to your Father, who is unseen"" Surely no one will take a dig at him for that, right? (link) (h/t Jimmy Shaw)

Miscellany April 27, 2009

» This recent news story (about a 23-year-old resident of our town being hired by his uncle to kill his aunt but aborting the mission when one his cousins was also in the house when he arrived to do the deed) really got me somehow.  You hear about stuff like this all of the time on TV and in places far the way, but it felt strange thinking about someone in my community being hired by his uncle to kill his aunt and acting on it.

» What little confidence I had left in the financial guys calling the shots in the current and previous administrations is dwindling quickly (e.g., this and this)

» I don't accept that whether or not torture "works" is the main issue in determining whether or not we should torture, but if you do: how bothered would you be if it was true that the real "...ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections" (link) ?

» Unless you're a Marine, please stop with the "Ooh-rah!"

Miscellany 25 April 2009

» I was bummed to hear that This I Believe was being dropped from NPR but then glad to hear that the project and podcast will continue.

» This guy (Major David Frakt, Air Force Reserves judge advocate and defense counsel in the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions, guest on "On Point" in January in an episode on Closing Guantanamo) must get a lot more jokes about his name in the post-BSG era

» I was disappointed to hear that Reaper won't be coming back for a 3rd season...also worried that Life may suffer the same fate.

» Situations like this (link) give civil rights efforts a bad name.  New Haven, CT, gave their firefighters a test to determine who was qualified to be promoted.  Then they threw out the results because it would have meant that no blacks and few Hispanics would have been promoted this time.  Either they should be ashamed for giving a test that did a lousy job of judging worthiness for firefighter promotion...or they were embarrassed by the results and would rather promote to leadership roles people who are less prepared to lead in the life-or-death job of firefighting than face the apparent reality that there happened to be no blacks and few Hispanics who are currently ready to be promoted in the New Haven fire department.  It's not hard to understand why folks get upset when we discriminate in the name of eliminating discrimination.  Let's get rid of racial and other pernicious forms of discrimination, but I don't think this helps.

Miscellany 10 Apr 09

» You might be confusing tyranny with losing...
 

» A reminder about the big picture regarding faith and politics

Psalm 146:3-6

3 Do not put your trust in princes,
       in mortal men, who cannot save.

4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
       on that very day their plans come to nothing.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
       whose hope is in the LORD his God,

6 the Maker of heaven and earth,
       the sea, and everything in them—
       the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

Isaiah 14:13-17

13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD,
       or instructed him as his counselor?

14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
       and who taught him the right way?
       Who was it that taught him knowledge
       or showed him the path of understanding?

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
       they are regarded as dust on the scales;
       he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.

16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
       nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.

17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
       they are regarded by him as worthless
       and less than nothing
.

Miscellany

» Can someone explain to me how a defense budget that is increased 4 % over the previous year will "gut the military" and "leave us weaker to pay for the president's domestic programs?"

» Anyone else think it strange that in one breath Camille Paglia chastised Michelle Obama for being overly familiar with the Queen of England (not showing enough respect to a monarch) and Barack Obama for bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia (showing too much respect for a monarch)?  And then following it up with this paragraph:

Probably the main reason for my unorthodox view of politics (as in my instant approval of Sarah Palin) is that I had much more childhood contact with working-class life than appears to be the norm among current American columnists. One of my grandfathers was a barber, and the other was a leather worker at the Endicott-Johnson shoe factory in upstate New York. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, my father was able to attend college, the only one in his large family to do so. I was born while he was still in college and mopping floors in the cafeteria. Years later, he became a high-school teacher and then a professor at a Jesuit college, but we never left our immigrant family roots in industrial Endicott. To this day, I have more rapport with campus infrastructure staffers (maintenance, security) than I do with other professors or, for that matter, writers. Don't get me started on the hermetic bourgeois arrogance of American literati!

Ugh.  I understand why conservatives love her (because she loves Rush and always prefaces her token pledge of support for Obama with a litany of (IMHO) wrong-headed criticisms), but why does anyone else?

» Conservadudes, the fellow who did the poll you're citing to show that Obama is "the most polarizing president" says that conclusion is unfair.  He emphasized that the very large discrepancy between Obama's support among Democrats and among Republicans is driven by long-term trends and by the very enthusiastic reaction to Obama within his own party, no because Obama is especially polarizing.

» The Grace Conversation blog is off to a rocky start, in my opinion.  I like the concept, and they're getting plenty of comments.  However, I think they should have allowed people to submit comments but not published them.  The 4 main authors could have worked together to incorporate any key contributions from the comments into the main posts in such a way that they remained coherent.  The free-for-all of a blog with comments doesn't necessarily make for good reading (especially for someone who comes upon it after the fact) or a disciplined focus (which is something I think a discussion like that one really needs).

Facebook Embedded Video Bug

If there was bug in software as widely used as Facebook's embedded flash video and Internet Explorer 7 (I've also seen the bug with IE6) that would cause an "Object Required" error when closing the browser, you think that it'd be an important enough to promptly fix it.  You'd be wrong.

Since Facebook started offering HD video uploads, I've been using it for video embeds on the blog.  Before making the switch, I mostly used Google Video.  I like Facebook HD better than YouTube because it allows longer clips (max 20 minutes instead of 10), it doesn't have links to other (sometimes questionable) videos at the end, and Facebook seems to have enough server bandwidth to stream nicely (with YouTube, the video often downloads to slowly to play smoothly for me).  Plus, it's nice to have it right there in Facebook for friends to see.  That's why I've stuck with Facebook for embedding HD video rather using YouTube instead.  The actual uploading of videos is a pain.  I pretty much have no luck in the evenings.  It only works for me when I start an upload in the AM.

I don't use IE, but at some point recently I noticed the "Object Required"  bug. It can be really annoying on a page that has multiple embedded videos (like a blog home page).  At first I thought it was a Drupal problem, but the other night I did some googling and found something helpful.  Thankfully, someone's posted a workaround (link).  That helps but I haven't figured out how to use it on a page with multiple embeds that are included in different posts (like a blog home page)...so I have to just put links to the video in the main posts and the actual embedded videos on pages that aren't promoted to the main page.  It's not the best solution, but it's better than nothing.

Facebook, Microsoft, whoever is to blame...please fix it.

Name tags in Picasa Web Albums

Last night I tried the new "name tags" functionality in Google's free photo management software (Picasa).  Here is a link to a description: link.  It goes through your photo collection and finds all the faces.  It groups the faces it thinks belong to the same person and and allows you to relatively easily assign a name to each face.  In the past I manually tagged photos in Picasa but gave up because it was so time consuming.  This is a nice way to do it quickly and semi-automatically.  It only works on photos you've uploaded to your web album, not the photos that are just on your local computer.  It's cool regardless.

For the benefit of all of the ladies, here is a link to a slideshow featuring photos of yours truly: link

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