Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 12 May 2006
Here's some code I discovered while tracking a bug this morning.
Friday 12 May 2006 07:56:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software#
Thursday 11 May 2006

A grand jury has indicted Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher on three misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination:

The jury also indicted former transportation Cabinet official Sam Beverage for perjury, which is a felony. And the jury also submitted to Franklin Circuit Judge William Graham 14 more indictments that are under seal.
Those indictments cover crimes that may have occurred before Aug. 29, 2005 when Fletcher pardoned all administration officials except himself.

Here's a fun game you can play tonight: Count the number of times Fox News mentions Fletcher's party affiliation, then when they run a story about Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, count the number of times they mention his.

On second thought, don't watch Fox News if you can avoid it.

Thursday 11 May 2006 16:40:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics#

USA Today reported earlier that the National Security Administration has collected an enormous volume of phone records from AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South. Only Qwest refused the NSA's request:

With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
... Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.
Qwest's refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest. But AT&T and Verizon also provide some services — primarily long-distance and wireless — to people who live in Qwest's region. Therefore, they can provide the NSA with at least some access in that area.

This is absolutely stunning. The phone companies' disclosure without court orders may be criminal. The NSA's collection of the data is certainly illegal.

I don't care what your political views, do you really want the U.S. government knowing how often you called your mother last month? Do you want some bureaucrat in Maryland figuring out how many links separate you from Kevin Bacon? Or, more to the point, Osama bin Laden? Say you call a restaurant to make reservations frequented by the uncle of the brother-in-law of the daughter of (insert terrorist suspect here)...do you really want someone to make that connection for you?

Do you want your phone company to just give this data over to the government in the first place?

I remember a simpler time when a cop had to go to the U.S. Attorney who had to go to a judge to get permission to get the phone records of a Mafia boss.

Just in case anyone has forgotten: the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. This is the law, and has been so for 215 years. It's time to enforce the law.

Polls open in 179 days and 18 hours.

Update: Anne found that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has an ongoing class-action suit against AT&T stemming from the revelations last November that AT&T had helped the NSA listen in on conversations. I imagine they'll amend the suit to take into account USA Today's allegations.

Thursday 11 May 2006 12:10:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics#

The Chicago Tribune reports today that the Chicago Transit Authority has agreed to buy 406 new El cars for the Blue and Pink lines. The cars will have aisle-facing seating rather than the mixed seating arrangement currently in use (see the Tribune graphic). This is a long-overdue improvement on the Blue line, whose trains go to O'Hare. Struggling with luggage on the current trains causes pain; the new arrangement will alleviate it.

The CTA expects the cars to roll by 2009, shortly after we have a new President (984 days from now).

Thursday 11 May 2006 10:58:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics | Software#

I heard on New Hampshire Public Radio this morning that—hang on—<ACHOO!>—<sniff>—(sorry) I heard that tree pollen is peaking right now across New England.

Thursday 11 May 2006 07:28:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#
Wednesday 10 May 2006

Bruce Schneier linked to this Wired article about Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags. It will fascinate or terrify you, depending on how thorough and disciplined you think the implementations will be. Choice passage:

"I was at a hotel that used smartcards, so I copied one and put the data into my computer," Grunwald says. "Then I used RFDump to upload the room key card data to the price chip on a box of cream cheese from the Future Store. And I opened my hotel room with the cream cheese!"


Wednesday 10 May 2006 15:27:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software#

I don't agree with everything Motley Fool columnist Bill Mann says, but I think in essence he's correct:

My editors hate it when I call people idiots. But I mean it. Our elected officials are either stupid, or they think enough of us are stupid that they can say stupid things and we'll just thank 'em for it. ... Pay $100 from the federal Treasury to compensate Americans for high gas prices? Are you people completely, utterly devoid of brain matter?
You want to blame $3 gas on something? Fine, let's start with where blame should go—on $0.95 gas.

I think he's right that cheap gas hurt in the long run, but I'm not sure that the free market justifies the enormous profits oil companies are reaping. I'll think more about this.

Wednesday 10 May 2006 13:35:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics#
Tuesday 9 May 2006

I had planned to take two co-workers up for a sightseeing flight around Nashua last Tuesday, but the 500-foot ceilings and 24-knot winds argued against it. So we postponed until today.

The terminal area forecast right now calls for northeast winds at 14 gusting to 24 knots with 5,000-foot ceilings, with both winds and ceiling diminishing to 12 knots and 1200 feet respectively by 9pm (01:00 UTC).

So, once again, I'll use the #1 Aviation Safety Procedure: "staying on the ground."

Phooey. I wanted to fly.

Tuesday 9 May 2006 06:56:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#
Monday 8 May 2006
My office building decided to wash windows today. I am not in my office building; I am, in fact, 1,330 km (826 mi) away. Despite clear instructions to be careful with the Webcam, and to replace it when done washing the windows...well... (updated)
Monday 8 May 2006 09:09:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software#

Paul Krugman (sub.req.) confronts the wingers who try to divert rational thought by crying "conspiracy theory:"

A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, "attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance." Claims that global warming is a hoax and that the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq meet that definition. In each case, to accept the claim you have to believe that people working for many different organizations—scientists at universities and research facilities around the world, reporters for dozens of different news organizations—are secretly coordinating their actions.
But the administration officials who told us that Saddam had an active nuclear program and insinuated that he was responsible for 9/11 weren't part of a covert alliance; they all worked for President Bush. The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn't a conspiracy theory; it's simply an assertion that people in a position of power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn't do such a thing.

I can imagine Limbaugh looking thoughtful for a moment before saying: "Thanks, Paul! That sure clears things up!" But I have a very vivid imagination.

Monday 8 May 2006 07:19:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics#
Sunday 7 May 2006
I'm still getting to know the Canon 20D that Anne gave me last month. I've introduced it to my (15-year-old) 80-200 zoom that hitherto has hung out with my old EOS Rebel film camera.
Sunday 7 May 2006 08:07:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#
Friday 5 May 2006

Rocky Raccoon checked into a room. Here's the AP story:

Raccoon found atop Loop skyscraper

A wayward raccoon has been living on top of a 43-story building in Chicago's Loop.
A construction manager didn't believe it at first when a worker reported seeing the raccoon on the 36th floor of the Kluczynski Federal Building, but a cell-phone photo provided proof. The critter was climbing scaffolding at the building, where the facade is being restored.
Construction boss Tony Slavic used tuna to bait a humane trap on the roof and eventually captured the raccoon. On Tuesday, he released it into a forest preserve in suburban Chicago.
Friday 5 May 2006 16:03:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#

Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss has abruptly resigned his post. His office swears this has nothing at all to do with the hookers-and-parties scandal inching ever closer to him.

Says Josh Marshall:

We don't know definitely why Goss pulled the plug yet. But the CIA Director doesn't march over to the White House and resign, effective immediately, unless something very big is up.

I'll be watching this story.

Friday 5 May 2006 15:55:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics#
Thursday 4 May 2006
Thursday 4 May 2006 18:17:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics#

Security expert Bruce Schneier has a good article today about threats to your computer (hint: Sony is one):

There are all sorts of interests vying for control of your computer. There are media companies that want to control what you can do with the music and videos they sell you. There are companies that use software as a conduit to collect marketing information, deliver advertising or do whatever it is their real owners require. And there are software companies that are trying to make money by pleasing not only their customers, but other companies they ally themselves with. All these companies want to own your computer.

This essay originally appeared on Wired.com.

Thursday 4 May 2006 07:53:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics | Software#
Wednesday 3 May 2006 21:41:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software#
On this page....
Pop quiz: Why does this code fail?
Republican governor of Kentucky indicted for corruption
NSA has your phone records
New, improved El cars coming
Spring is here!
Getting your pocket picked without your knowledge
"Congress is a Joke:" Motley Fool
The #1 Safety Procedure
Really frustrating part about being out of town
It doesn't take a conspiracy
Fun with expensive toys
Wonder what his rent was...
CIA chief steps down
Fun with blue shirts and khakis
Schneier on who owns your computer
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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