Saturday, June 12, 2010

Girl has got to get PAID

By now I'm sure you've all heard of Abby Sunderland. If not, you know what to do.

Without getting into a long discussion, let me say that I am not among those who think it's irresponsible for her to do this. If she's capable, great. Go for it! There are enough people in this world who say NO all the time, they don't need me.

I was a little dismayed when I saw pictures of her boat, saw a web link (, clicked it, and saw all kinds of cheesy merchandise for sale. Here I thought I was going to be brought to a website where she discusses her preparation, her reasons for making the journey, maybe some updates along the way. Nope.

I'll be honest, it made me think less of her. My opinion of her is still positive, but it's a notch lower than before.

In one sense I can't blame her. It can't be cheap to make a voyage like that. And now they're down one whole sailboat (most likely, according to the NY Times story)!

To be fair, she does have a blog and a website on which she does discuss some of the things I mentioned above (maybe all, I haven't read back far enough).

But the impression I am left with is that this is more a job for her than a calling. A way to set herself up to get paid (book deals and all that).

On a lighter note, I hope they didn't order too much Abby16 merchandise! Let's face it, time is running out. She won't be 16 forever. And it looks like she's not going to make that trip around the world while she is 16. Abby17 anyone?

P.S. Team Abby answers the critics:

Are Cameras the New Guns?

Check out this story. Do the words "double standard" come to mind? What about "loss of freedom"? What about "police state"?

This is poison to a free state. If you don't agree with that statement, I have one word for you: "Baaaa."

Would they refrain from using video just because you had not given your consent? (The question makes you laugh out loud, doesn't it.) Of course not. It's okay to add camera surveillance all over the place, at red lights, in some major cities, and at some events. But God forbid a free citizen records some video in a public place.

Police don't have any problem focusing cameras on you. Check out this story from Oklahoma:

"Oklahoma is preparing an unprecedented statewide deployment of automated ticketing machines designed to generate $95 million in revenue. Instead of using red light cameras and speed cameras, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) is preparing to sign a contract with a for-profit company that will track all passing motorists with a network of at least twenty automated license plate recognition (ALPR, also known as ANPR) cameras. The devices would also 'generate significant additional revenues' by issuing $250 citations for expired insurance using the Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System (OCIVS) database that went live in July 2009."

"'DPS envisions a system of automated enforcement of vehicle insurance which incorporates, at a minimum, the following processes: capture vehicle license plate data from stationary locations along selected highways using cameras (and) barcode scanners,' a DPS request for information dated October 16, 2009 explained. 'Oklahoma’s new license plates include a barcode.'"

"The proposal includes a requirement for the ability to keep 'daily statistics and related data on vehicles for which license plate data was captured,' which could include logging the date, time and location any particular vehicle passes a stationary camera. The two largest red light camera vendors, Australia’s Redflex Traffic Systems and American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which is one-third owned by Goldman Sachs, offer a nationwide tracking service that uses automated ticketing machines."

Nationwide tracking of vehicles? George Orwell may have been off by a number of years, but Big Brother will get here--unless we wake up.

The article goes on to mention the usual problem of innocent drivers being accused by this system. Amazingly, in one case it resulted in a death:
"On May 19, 2008 a Northumbria, UK police officer engaged in hot pursuit of a vehicle that had been flagged by the plate recognition system. While speeding through the neighborhood, the officer struck and killed sixteen-year-old Hayley Adamson. It turns out that the database information that triggered the alarm was incorrect and the car being chased was had done nothing wrong."

One vendor stated, "The vendor and DPS will be accused of ‘trolling’… not really knowing status but hoping that enough vehicle owners will actually be driving uninsured vehicles to make the system profitable. This is certain to create a vast number of failed citations, a very high level of bad press, public resistance and reduced revenues… If a name and address is sent in a broadcast email to many insurers, that would be in clear violation of both state and federal DPPA laws, inviting challenge in the courts and also greatly reduce the ability to provide revenues to the state; that too means that current projections would have to be reduced; this is a serious problem with the current system."

Here is the State of Oklahoma bid solicitation:

"The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) is interested in expanding their current verification process to include a system of automated enforcement of vehicle insurance that will encompass a larger target group without expending manpower, resources, or agency dollars."

"The vendor will be paid, in arrears, an agreed percentage of proceeds recovered on each administrative penalty for the offense of having no vehicle liability insurance in force. Neither the State of Oklahoma nor DPS will provide, at any time, any funding for this system. Funding of start-up, testing, implementation, administration, maintenance, support, and on-going cots will be the responsibility of the vendor as specified in the contract."

And you still thought it wasn't about the money???

Actually, it's worse than that. It turns out that cops don't even need to photo/film/measure what you're doing to convict you. Their standard of proof is quite a bit lower. Thus is freedom lost.

"The Ohio Supreme Court just ruled that a police officer needs nothing more than his or her informed guess on how fast a vehicle is traveling in order to issue a traffic citation. ...As of right now, officers can merely say that you're exceeding the posted speed limit and you'll be stuck with points on your license and a hefty fine to deal with."

Nor do they need any reason to stop you.  Witness some chilling videos showing what I think are illegal checkpoints. We NEED cameras pointed at thugs in uniform. (part 1 of 3) (part 2 of 3) (part 3 of 3)

In that final video they mention a website,, that sounds interesting. I haven't checked it out much, but it looks like a decent resource to check out if for some reason your blood pressure is a little low.

I fully realize that some of you will say that these are no big deal, just answer their questions and move on. But where does it stop?

Remember what I said earlier about the most popular post on These key paragraphs are worth repeating:

"And yet, when it comes right down to it on the particulars, we can't stand the police. We keep a constant lookout for them when we drive. We dread being pulled over. We know in our hearts that they are out to get us, and represent more of a threat than a security for our freedoms.

"In the end, we need to realize that the police are like all other government employees: self-interested, living off tax dollars, parasitical on our liberties."

Book burning, the modern way

XKCD just keeps getting better. What do you mean you're not reading it yet???

Anyway, just how do you burn "books" nowadays? Be careful...

Be sure to read the mouseover text, too.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Apple won't do search. Or will they?

Here is a fascinating take on Apple's stance that they won't do search. It all depends on the definitions you use. Nothing is firm in the era of the Internet...

The spin machine is in gear!

Not sure how BP's efforts to cap the oil leak are going, but their public relations campaign is in high gear. Check out the Google screen shots below. Or just go to Google and do a search on "oil leak" or "oil spill." Here, let me help:

Looks like they have spent a lot money to make sure their side of the story is out there! They want to be on top of the page, every time! By the way, BP also spent the money with some of those other search engines, too. What, did you think I was going to show screen shots of them, too? Dream on!

Seriously, though. BP is at the top of every search engine, every time. What does that cost, I wonder...

Engage your team

Great advice about how to lead your team:

To add some personal thoughts, beyond the above link...

I believe that a good leader shields his team from internal company politics and frees up his team to do their jobs. Some of my bosses have done this very well (this is rare). Others haven't. I know that when I manage people this will be one of the main things I will strive to do. I think I already do it informally.

This point was driven home to me a long time ago, when I was relatively new to the working world. My boss and I took MBA classes at night, and we always took the same class (copy notes when one of us was traveling, study together, do projects together, etc.). In one of those classes we took Myers-Briggs tests (Wikipedia link, MBTI Basics from We evaluated ourselves and our companies, with the goal being to see how well we matched the culture of our companies.

The results were fascinating. I was a great match for my company at the time (Cooper Power Systems, my first job out of college), which matched my subjective impressions. I was doing fun work, learning a lot, and working with great people. My boss' test results didn't match the company so well, however. Out of curiosity we compared our impressions of our company, and surprisingly (or not) found them to be very different. How could that be? Comparing my impression of the company with my boss' impression of himself cleared it up: They were nearly a perfect match. I saw the company as a great match for me because (1) my boss was a great match for me, and (2) my boss shielded me from all the politics and other negative stuff about the company very well.

For what it's worth, I still remember that boss as one of the two best bosses I've ever had (the other goes back even further, to when I was a waiter trying to pay for college, but that's another story entirely!). I stay in contact with him to this day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

10 Things Android Does Better Than iPhone OS

Blackhawks Win, Philly Fans Lose

Congratulations to the Blackhawks for a nice win last night. Tough goal for Leighton to give up, though. An NHL goaltender should not let that in.

Hartnell had a great game, with a couple goals and a nifty interference play on Duncan Keith that could have (should have?) been called a penalty but instead led to another goal.

And what happened to Pronger? He was the best player on the ice in Games 1-4 but disappeared in Games 5 and 6. He had a miserable Game 5. Then in Game 6 he's sitting in the penalty box while the Blackhawks take the lead. Later he chose to let Andrew Ladd skate in completely alone (although Ladd didn't score on that occasion). Watching the game on TV I even asked myself, "Where is Pronger?" Normally you see and feel his presence constantly. Not last night. The box score shows that he was out there, but it didn't look like it.

As for the Philadelphia fans, what a bunch of losers. Sticking around just to boo. Pathetic. I mean, it's perfectly acceptable (and expected, even) to boo Gary Bettman--he deserves it, in every NHL arena. But show a little class and at least throw a golf clap to the winning team.

And a blast from the past.  Here is a picture from when my Blackhawks won the championship!  Yes, I wore this jersey to work today.

World Collapse Explained in 3 Minutes

Humorous but all too true...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Song of the Day: Sinéad O'Connor - Troy

Normally I find and post a great new song, perhaps a song by an independent artist that I've heard on one of my podcasts dedicated to such artists.

But today I have decided to post a classic--one of the best, most intense songs I've ever heard. This was before we knew what a nutjob Sinéad O'Connor was, of course, but a great song nonetheless.

Politics, Chicago style

The trial of Rod Blagojevich has begun. It should be fun, in a Jerry Springer-ish kind of way.,0,2551123,full.story

Remember as you read this: Barrack Obama came from this cesspool. He was influenced by it and he was shaped by it. He is part of it. The most transparent administration in history? Please. Spare me.

Which reminds me, how many of you remember the name Tony Rezko? Here is a brief refresher. There is more out there, to be sure.,CST-NWS-watchdog24.article

How about how Obama became a senator in the first place?  Well, it helps to have judges on your side.  From Wikipedia (and many other sources):

"On March 29, 2004, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider ruled that several of the Ryans' divorce records should be opened to the public, and ruled that a court-appointed referee would later decide which custody files should remain sealed to protect the interests of Ryan's young child."

"The decision to release the files generated much controversy because it went against both parents' direct request, and because it reversed the earlier decision to seal the papers in the best interest of the child."

"Ryan's campaign ended less than a week after the custody records were opened, and Ryan officially filed the documentation to withdraw on July 29, 2004. Obama was left without an opponent."

Here's an interesting take on Jack Ryan: "Ah yes. Jack Ryan. The only politician I know of to go down for a sex scandal where: the woman involved was his wife, and they didn't have sex." - Jeremy Smith

Sonia Sotomayor: The myth of the wise Latina

The wise Latina. You heard it a million times prior to her confirmation hearings.

Is it true? I guess not. Consider Berghuis v. Thompkins:

Additional analysis here:

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that "after giving a Miranda warning, police may interrogate a suspect who has neither invoked nor waived his rights," according to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion ["joined," as James Taranto said, "by three other justices (if you guess who they are, you will be correct)"]:
"Today's decision turns Miranda upside down. Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent--which, counterintuitively, requires them to speak. At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so."

Did you follow that? I wonder if Sotomayor realizes that a person can invoke their right to remain silent by ... wait for it ... simply remaining silent. Reminds me of the classic quote: You can lead a liberal to wisdom, but you can't make them think.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Relax, it could be worse

Have I mentioned before that there is nothing funnier than XKCD?

Or more influential? I've posted about this before. Would it really be that far-fetched to see James Carville riding a burning alligator?

What your email address says about your computer skills

Lessons From GM

The Lessons of the GM Bankruptcy, by Paul Ingrassia

Not much more to say, the article is very good. Summary: "Everybody knows that we're running unsustainable federal deficits. ... Continued denial and delay will prove ruinous. To put it another way: America bailed out General Motors, but who will bail out America?"

We have seen what happens when we kick problems down the road (GM, Greece). This could happen to the United States.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Politicizing Poverty

Why Our Poverty Measure Misleads, by Robert Samuelson

This is shocking, I realize, but it turns out that Barack Obama is politicizing poverty. The goal is income redistribution. What better way to do this than to define a percentage of the population as ALWAYS in poverty, no matter how wealthy they are?

Let me quote from Robert Samuelson's article, as he and Robert Rector (in the second quote) say it better than I can:

"The present concept [of poverty] is an absolute one: The poverty threshold reflects the amount estimated to meet basic needs. By contrast, the supplemental measure embraces a relative notion of poverty: People are automatically poor if they're a given distance from the top, even if their incomes are increasing."

"The new indicator is a 'propaganda device' to promote income redistribution by showing that poverty is stubborn or increasing, says the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector."

"Government statistics should strive for political neutrality. This one fails."

Jealousy is an ugly thing, and it is even uglier when those in power use it to drive their socialist agenda.

Note also one implication of the article. It seems like immigration is an issue that continually crops up whenever we talk about policies that impact our welfare state, whether directly or indirectly:

"But the apparent lack of progress is misleading for two reasons. First, it ignores immigration, which has increased reported poverty. Many immigrants are poor and low-skilled. From 1989 to 2007, about three-quarters of the increase in the poverty population occurred among Hispanics -- mostly immigrants, their children and grandchildren. The poverty rate for blacks fell during this period, though it was still much too high (24.5 percent in 2007). Poverty 'experts' don't dwell on immigration, because it implies that more restrictive policies might reduce U.S. poverty."

Lax immigration law enforcement contributes to keeping the poverty rate high, which in turn fuels the calls for more income redistribution. It's enough to make you wonder if the left wants more illegal immigration.

As always when this topic comes up, I need to point out that I am not anti-immigration. I happen to believe that if we did not have such benefits then all immigrants would come for the right reasons (to work and make a better life, which I have no issue with) and we would not need the immigration laws that we presently have (more on this in a future post). Government welfare is driving out private charity, and that is not a good trend.

iPhone 4 Preview (Adult Content)

Steve Jobs' presentation gets crashed by a robot. I couldn't resist posting.!

Searching for the 2010 Stanley Cup

I love stuff like this. I wonder what Google search trends show in the cities whose teams are competing for the Stanley Cup. Well, a fellow Googler in Chicago took a look. Enjoy:

Used shoes and iPods

It won't surprise those of you who know me that I bought some used shoes over the Memorial Day weekend. Yes, that is how cheap I am. The shoes cost $16 and are shown in the picture below. Incidentally, this is not the first time I've bought used shoes there...

I also picked up some used iPods (Nano, 2nd gen, before Apple changed the connectors just to f#%& with all of us who bought accessories) for my girls. They LOVE them.

Where do I buy this stuff? Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. It turns out that airlines lose a lot of luggage! What do they do with the luggage they can't re-unite with its owners? They sell it! But they don't want to sell it in a big city, apparently, where it would get a lot of attention. So UBC buys this luggage and sells it in an obscure location in northern Alabama.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Business Climate

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council recently released its Business Tax Index 2010. Check it out!

Here is the full report:

Main drivers in the survey were personal income tax rate, capital gains tax rate, and corporate tax rate. The best and worst states won't be much of a surprise to anyone who pays attention to politics, with the possible exception of Idaho.

Get your jobs here!

Are you kidding me? The Census Bureau creates jobs by firing and re-hiring people repeatedly? This from the most ethical and transparent administration in history? (I guess that was the campaign, this is now.) Well, that's what's you have to do when you don't have any real economic policy. Which happens because your administration doesn't have anybody who understands economics...