Friday, June 30, 2006

back to reality

Well, after lots and lots of travel, I made it back to the USA.  Right now I'm sitting in a cafe in Madison, catching up.  It's good to be back home where things feel right, people drive on the right side of the road, soft drinks are cheap, drip coffee is common (bleah), and the money is green.

On the way back, my travels took me on a train to the Sydney airport, on a plane to Los Angeles, another plane (late by 2.5 hours) to Chicago, and then a car to Milwaukee then Madison.  When I landed in Chicago, two bad things happened; first, my plane was very late due to crew being late to show up.  Then, since we landed late, I missed my connecting flight to Madison.  

(9:30pm) As a result I tried to re-book for a later flight -- but the next possible flight was at 4pm a day later.  I decided to try and get put on the standby list for the 12am flight to Madison -- and to do that I had to walk CLEAR across the Chicago O'Hare airport to the gate... both the shuttle bus and train were broken.

(10:10pm) When I got there, the nice lady informed me that there was no way in hell I would make the flight, and that I should think about taking the bus that goes to Madison at 11pm.  So I made a call to United using a service phone (after using the nice desk-worker's cell phone to call RAM and arrange a car ride from a friend).  The nice folks on the other end of the line informed me that they could not cancel my ticket over the phone, I would have to speak to someone at the service desk.  So I walked to the nearest service desk, and got in a line that extended way down the corridor.

(10:50pm) Still in line, waiting, talking to some other nice folks.  United begins cancelling flights due to weather and a surplus of baggage they will have to send to other airports.  The line grows immensely.

(11:20pm) Finally talk to a service rep who says he can't refund the flight since it's bound to the LAX->Chicago flight.  I ask him for a travel discount or free flight voucher.  He gives me a $50 discount voucher for my next United flight.

(11:40pm) Arrive at bag claim looking for my Milwaukee friend.  I think I spot my luggage sitting by one of the claims, but I was told to get it in Madison  on the following day, so I give up the search and head for the toilet to take care of what pressure built up during the last 4 hours instead.

(11:45pm) Find my friend, get in a car, go to his house.  We arrive a bit after 1 and I hit the sack.

(1:00pm) We leave for Madison the next day, and head to downtown where, at 3:30pm, I meet up with RAM and finally see her!  Yay!  I pick up my new cell phone (email me if you want the number) and then my pal and I go to pick up my bags.

(4:20pm) I easily find my bags.  The Madison airport has been overhauled, and looks beautiful now!

(5:30pm) I finally change into clean clothes at the hotel and clean up.

The rest is history.  I have a good sleep, and then today I'm tooling around downtown Madison looking for trouble.  My throat is sore and I think I'm getting a cold, but other than that, things are back to normal.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

suing myspace

A 14-year-old Travis County girl who said she was sexually assaulted by a Buda man she met on sued the popular social networking site Monday for $30 million, claiming that it fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators.The lawsuit claims that the Web site does not require users to verify their age and calls the security measures aimed at preventing strangers from contacting users younger than 16 "utterly ineffective."

Teen, mom sue for $30 million

Wow.  What is the world coming to?  I thought we got over the sue-happy days when it was a good idea to take a bite out of McDonalds to recover from stupidly spilling coffee on yourself.

I believe that people are responsible for what information we put on the Internet.  That means that the parents need to teach their kids about the dangers of the 'net, just like saying "don't take candy from a stranger."  Parents: I highly recommend finding out who that boy is that your daughter is cruising around with -- and maybe even find out where she met him.

Hell, she could have posted her address and phone number on an unmoderated Geocities webpage or on a Usenet news group!  A reaction to the news article:

By Stav June 20, 2006 09:20 PM

‘“None of this has to be true,” the lawsuit said.’ Why don’t you just sue the whole internet? “The internet does nothing to protect promiscuous teenage girls who give out their phone numbers to total strangers. You can lie about yourself!” eyeroll

Wow, you can LIE!  I didn't know that!  I have sixteen fingers on my left hand.  Where are the truth police?

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

should they watch us?

"If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Wired News: The Eternal Value of Privacy -- Bruce Schneier

Bush wants to allow NSA rights to perform wiretaps without subpoenas (Link), and a lot of people have a problem with the pro-wiretap argument above.  In his article, Schneier argues that there are good reasons to dislike these arbitrary wiretaps without being a criminal.

Further discussion on this article takes place in its comments, and on other blogs as well.  I found the discussion in the comments at Concurring Opinions quite interesting. (The article itself is well thought out).

"... I have three secrets. But I wander the yard in my nightgown and I don't care if the government listens to me gripe about my daughter in law. You could hear it, too, if you want.

I suppose I'm sort of unique in that my life is an open book, but still, why would the government care to look in my window? They're looking for specific stuff and if they think I'm that interesting, more power to them. You're probably not that interesting, either.

There's a bunch of "french engineers" however, down the street, who come and go, and sometimes they are different "french engineers." I'm thinking terrorists. I'd down with tapping their phones.

Posted by: annegb at May 24, 2006 11:40 AM"

Concurring Opinions: Is there a Good Response to the "Nothing to Hide" Argument?

The problem I have with the wiretapping is the automated or seemingly arbitrary "violation" detection.  Like the problems discussed with the no-fly list errors, similar things can easily happen with wiretaps.  I see this as more severe than, yet similar to the speed-trap cameras.  Some areas have automatic cameras that take photos of your car when you're speeding, then send it to the police.  You later get a ticket in the mail.  It's all automated -- and that's my gripe.  I usually don't exceed the speed limit (too much), but when I do there is usually a good reason.  Sometimes people need the more trivial laws overlooked to make life more tolerable.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying people should get away with murder, but we don't want to be living in a police state -- a society where law dictates everyone's behavior instead of protecting safety and liberty of its subjects.

One part of Schneier's article that hits home talks about how just the possibility can change how we live:

How many of us have paused during conversation in the past four-and-a-half years, suddenly aware that we might be eavesdropped on? [...] Maybe the topic was terrorism, or politics, or Islam. We stop suddenly, momentarily afraid that our words might be taken out of context, [...] But our demeanor has changed, and our words are subtly altered.

Back to the camera issue -- what if something is miscalibrated?  What else could they be doing with the camera?  Perhaps my state has a seatbelt law -- they might use similar cameras to take photos of my car and fine me if I'm not wearing a seatbelt.  What if the camera catches me on the cell phone? How far can they look in my car to find something wrong?  I'm sure if my life was scrutinized carefully, anyone could find something illegal. 

Wiretapping extends into peoples homes, which are traditionally considered off-limits to law enforcement unless they have a just cause (and subpoena) to peek.  Maybe I like to serve wine to my 16-year-old son with dinner.  Maybe I like to soak in my back-yard hot-tub naked.  These are liberties that I enjoy -- simple things like this make our country great -- and it could change if we let them scrutinize everything we do, finding out how each of us is a criminal.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

oss and bug liability

Glyn Moody writes about Bruce Schneier's Wired article discussing software vendor liability; Moody mentiones that if vendors carry bug liability it might scare open-source software developers out of existence.

I disagree... I think perhaps the legal liability would provide an exception for open-source vendors since you can look under the hood before you use the software. Not only that, but you can fix it yourself. On the other hand, when you buy a Microsoft product, you just have to trust that it will work as advertised.

(via Slashdot)