Lunaya Pravda

31 January 2007

Armed or not, use what you've got

Man sets woman on fire in downtown Seattle

Lighter fluid also landed on the overcoat of Gus Jones, an 82-year-old who lives in the Central District.

Jones, who is recuperating from a broken hip, was downtown after visiting his doctor.

After the assailant grabbed his shoulder, the elderly man whacked the attacker once with his gray, metal cane.

"I smelled that lighter fluid and hit him. I cussed him out," Jones said. "I bent my cane."

The quick reaction of an unarmed elderly man, combined with those of the two men who chased the attacker down and held him for police, are comforting to me, knowing that this happened very, very near my office. In fact, I was at Gelatiamo about an hour prior for an off-site meeting over coffee.

Given the detatched, reserved attitude downtown workers often manifest - unfortunately, maintaining detachment is a necessity around here - I'm glad to know that some folks haven't become so apathetic as to let this go without reaction.

(And by the way, Gelatiamo is an excellent place to stop for delicious coffee and exotic pastries, or a smooth, creamy gelato when it's warm, if you happen to be in downtown Seattle. I guarantee you'll enjoy it, assuming you aren't flambéed while you're there.)

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26 January 2007


N.Y. scanners spark union cries of "geoslavery"

Every morning Dennis Colson, a surveyor at New York City's Department of Design and Construction, begins his work day by placing his hand on a scanner to log his time and attendance at the office.

The use of hand geometry and other biometric data, like facial and iris recognition, is not new -- the University of Georgia pioneered the use of hand geometry when it installed scanners in its student dining hall in 1974.

But the planned roll-out of hand geometry scanners in all New York City government agencies has sparked union cries of "geoslavery" and assertions that technology developed for security will be used to track, label and control workforces.

Hmmm... "geoslavery" is a new term for me. I have to admit my first reaction was one of skepticism and weariness at the comparison to slavery. Just as hurling the "Nazi" name-calling makes me question one's credibility, so do I question the credibility of crying "slavery" at the drop of a hat.

But if the concern is tracking when an employee's hours, there are ways to do accomplish it without obtaining unique personal attributes from employees - attributes which could then be sold/given/stolen to others. And that's even assuming the employer has a right to such information, which I don't think it has.

Is it possible workers are somewhat to blame for allowing themselves to be treated as a commodity? (There's an important distinction between treating your skills as a commodity and allowing yourself to be treated as one). They've put up with all number of abuses: tracked bathroom visits, electronic leashes, smaller cubicles with less privacy, etc. They are shunted here and there like a cattle drive. Where exactly did they think all these dehumanizing policies were headed? Towards a freer, more pleasant, more adult working environment? Nope - we've been sliding towards infantilizing our adults for the last three decades. (And some of them exhibit behavior that begs for such treatment, but unfortunately the consequences befall us all in the name of equality.)

Instead of striving towards a goal such as Best Buy's results-oriented workplace, where one's performance is measured not by punching a clock, but by how much one accomplished towards his goals for the year. If goals are exceeded by working 6 hours a day, most of it from home after the kids have gone to bed, then the company is happy, and the employee's quality of life increases. Hand geometry, retinal and voice scanning technologies have no place in this kind of work environment.

That's where the workplace of the future should be headed. But only if employees stop tolerating being treated like a commodity for the sake of the almighty dollar. Our skills should be for sale - our bodies and souls should not.

25 January 2007

Round up the usual suspects!


Bills would require samples of DNA from crime suspects

A bill in the House would require police to take DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony or a gross misdemeanor, while a more aggressive bill in the Senate would require a DNA sample from anyone arrested for those offenses. Existing law requires DNA samples to be taken only from convicted felons.

The Washington State Patrol's DNA database feeds the one used by the FBI.

But this quote is really a gem:

"The problem we have is that in our justice system, people are assumed innocent until proven guilty," he said. "I support the idea of the bill, but you can't help law enforcement all the time."

I can't pretend we still operate under "innocent until proven guilty" as a standard in our judicial system, but even if we did, that's a PROBLEM?

Additionally, requiring DNA upon arrest for crimes that have nothing to do with DNA evidence on the theory that the arrested individual will likely commit more severe crimes is more than Draconian - it brings us into the era of Thought Crime. You might become a more violent offender, so you, Mr. Shoplifter, deserve to be in our little database for life, just in case you decide go career in your criminal life.

It's shit like this that destroys my faith in America. The fact that this would even be proposed seriously (by more than one person, no less)... I can't even go on.

All I can do is hope that in 30 or 40 years we'll look back on this period in American history with disgust and shame. Wishful thinking, I know.

And I'm not placing any bets on the possibility that if such an attrocity were to become law, we'd suddenly find police abusing their "round up the usual suspects" powers just to collect more DNA profiles.

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24 January 2007

Goodbye, HoT

I have to wonder what the hell is up with Hammer of Truth lately? Despite the site's decidedly pro-Libertarian (big L, not little) slant and its unnecessary focus on Libertarian Party happenings, which do nothing but cause me to yawn and change the channel, opinion pieces worth reading could still be found.

It's been sidelined for two or three months now, supposedly so that LibertyMix can be launched. Only one update has thus far been given, and that was more than a month ago. If they'd like to keep some readers, at least give us updates every couple of weeks. And why they couldn't leave the old HoT content up while working on the new launch... well, that's beyond me.

So sorry, HoT, but you're the weakest link (jeeze, did I really just use that cheesy line?). Instead, I have replaced you with freeman, libertarian critter's new site feed.

10 January 2007

Rave for salad

Here's a rave for my dinner salad tonight: red lettuce, roma tomatoes, carrots, celery, purple cabbage, cucumber, green onions, and a hint of purple onion. Yum!


Dear e-stores

I'm an avid believer in online shopping. I love how it enables shoppers to bargain hunt without driving all over town, and to track down items they might not otherwise find in their city. It's beautiful, really.

However, if one more store asks me to register with a username and password just to make a one-time purchase, I'm going to wring someone's neck. To be specific, I'm trying to order a decent swimsuit that will work for repeated use in swimming laps. Fashion suits are far from suitable (pun intended) - they fade, stretch, sag, and generally aren't designed for that kind of wear and tear. Not many stores carry the kind of suits made to take such abuse, so I've turned to online retailers.

But every (and I mean EVERY) single one wants me to register with a yet ANOTHER username and password I won't remember before I can complete an order. After my attempts to purchase as a guest were rebuffed by a third e-tailer during the checkout process, I sent the company a nastygram telling them exactly why they just lost a sale.

It seems to be a disturbing trend in e-commerce - some of my favorite sites have now gone over to the dark side. Look, you boneheads... I have no problems remembering my addresses (both shipping and billing), and my credit card number. Those don't change often. But usernames and passwords always have to be unique, and I can remember only so much.

So please, stop asking me to fill my head with such a waste of space. One of these days, my poor brain will hit capacity, and where my first grade teacher's name was once stored, I'll now be able to recall only username "gwendolyn" password "qwerty07".

Just stop it! Argh!


04 January 2007

Geeking out over WikiMapia

I just wanted to take a moment to rave about the WikiMedia Foundation's WikiMapia. It's an online map whereby users can find, mark, and describe just about any location using Google Maps data as its base. It's searchable by city, place name, or tag. As with other Wikimedia endeavors, you can edit and report for deletion anything you find misleading, incorrect, or just plain silly (such as people who think it's cool to find their house and label it "Annie's house". Or even worse, "My house".)

Want to find Machu Picchu? Here it is. The Hagia Sophia? Done. How about the temple of Angkor Wat? No problem.

Another useful feature is the page header changes depending on your location, giving you the country, region, and nearest city. It works with Google Earth, if you have it installed, and can be used in a GPS.

One change I'd like to see is the ability to hide locations not of your preferred language. As it stands now, there are posts in multiple languages (which is to be expected - it makes sense that much of what can be found in Japan is tagged in Japanese), but unless your desired place is famous, it makes for a bit of unpleasant hunting to find english placeholders for that same location, if english placeholders even exist. You can specify your language, but that applies only to new locations you identify, and any comments you might make on existing locations.

I look forward to seeing how this will improve over time, but so far, I'm impressed already.

(Note, it defaults to satellite coverage when you load it, so though you can turn the satellite layers off, dial-up users should proceed with caution.)