Saturday, May 06, 2006

FBI detains, releases foreign passengers on US airliner - Yahoo! News

FBI detains, releases foreign passengers on US airliner - Yahoo! News: "FBI detains, releases foreign passengers on US airliner"

Well, at least these guys weren't shot for suspicious activity. At least they were still alive to be released later when it was discovered that they were legitimate. I suppose, that's a plus for security operations after the London tube shooting and the guy on the tarmac in Florida.

But the reasons theses guys were suspect are even less reasonable than any cited in those other cases. From the news report ...

The men raised suspicions on a domestic flight headed to Newark International Airport as they were referring to helicopter flight manuals and speaking to each other in a foreign language.

"Rightfully so, people got suspicious," said Stephen Kodak, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

RIGHTFULLY SO? Has it become suspicious to do business in a language other than English on flights? ALL these guys were doing was working on a plane, exactly what thousands of other businessmen and technical specialists do every single day. They happened to be doing it in a foreign language ... since when did that become illegal, or cause for suspicion?

I am happy this didn't end in a more serious situation. But several men were detained for no reason except the prejudice of passengers and air marshalls ... at NO time did these men behave in a threatening manner, or in a way that suggested they were a threat to anyone. I refuse to give up so much of my freedoms that I am willing to condone the detention of people who did nothing except work on a plane in a foreign language. To accept that as normal is to admit the terrorists have already won ... they've already forced us to abandon our belief in equality, justice, rule of law, and trade it in for fear and paranoia. I sincerely hope that hasn't happened, and the fact these guys aren't dead on the tarmac is perhaps a baby step in the right direction. But they were four technical guys doing business on a plane ... we should be ashamed at trying to justify what happened.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What does Net Neutrality mean?

George led off the Hour last night with a segment on net neutrality. This is a buzz-phrase of late, but I wonder if its as important as people are making it out to be. If you want to do some independent reading, ZDNet has a pro and con blog posted, and Wikipedia has a good article posted about some of the basic concepts involved. But there's some basic architecture and history issues that I think people are forgetting in all this.

The first thing to do in any discussion of net neutrality, to my mind anyway, is to define your terms. When we use the slang 'net, or internet, do we actually know what we are talking about, in a specific sense? The "internet" is really a combination of three kinds of things ... hardware like cables and tcpip cards and phone lines that allows data to be transmitted across it, a set of protocols that determine how that information is processed and understood, and a layer of software that implements that protocols on the hardware.

The current issue of net neutrality focuses mostly on the hardware side of the triangle ... the backbones and cables and links through which the modern broadband internet experience is delivered. This hardware, in today's world, IS largely owned by cable companies and telecoms, especially in the broadband era.

Its worth pointing out that in some ways, the 'tiers' that people talk about already exist. Because of specific hardware configurations, your ISP can deliver its own content to you FAR more efficiently than it can deliver content from the net. Leaving out the issue of content availability, the simple equation of fewer machines involved makes the data transaction that much faster. Companies like AOL were created entirely on this model, of providing a tiered Internet experience to dial-up users in an era when most ISP's simply connected folks to the basic net. The success of their efforts can be debated ... while AOL still exists in some forms, rivals from that era like CompuServe don't seem to have been as lucky. But regardless of the existence or size of an AOL entity, its name has become synonymous for a dumbed-down Internet experience, and for poor customer service.

One of the reasons that services like AOL didn't survive as tiered services was that people preferred the unfiltered experience. People still do ... its what the internet is built on. And the thing is, its the protocols that matter. There will almost certainly be premium subscription services to certain kinds of content, as there already is on the internet, services that provide better access to that content. But there will also always be the other end of the internet because the protocols demand it. In an extreme world, where 'big telecom' refused access to people providing the 'old internet' or severely hampered their efforts, they would simply find another form of hardware to use to send the signals.

Just like AOL couldn't corner the dial-up internet market, when they tried SO hard to make people want a tiered browsing experience, people trying to create tiered internet systems today will both succeed and fail. They will succeed in creating the tiered systems, and people will find use in them ... but they will also fail to destroy the neutrality of the net itself because that has little to with the hardware its being run on. That neutrality is a result of protocols that treat data bits as data bits, and as a result are incredibly efficient at transporting huge volumes of data. As George's guest said last night, David has a lot of ways of taking down Goliath in internet affairs, and I tend to think efforts to thwart the neutrality today will fail for the same reasons they have in the past, and succeed in the same ways too.

Media Bias in action ...

This week has been somewhat remarkable for the concept of speaking truth to power, though its a bit difficult to tell from watching media outlets like CNN or US network news. Last night on the Hour, George did a bit on a fellow named Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who challenged Rummsfeld publicly on specific statements he's made in the past at a press conference recently. There's been some coverage of McGovern's questions, but the tone of it has been fascinating.

The linked article at Salon discusses the interview Paula Zahn had with McGovern last night as well. I saw the report and interview, and the transcript here describes well some of the pointed questions she asked, and what direction they were pointing. What it doesn't point out is that the story started off with heavy coverage of the protestors that had been removed for shouting Rumsfeld down earlier, and then led into McGovern, suggesting that he was in some way similar to people who were trying to shout down their opposition, to protestors who WERE causing a public disturbance.

And, the article in Salon left off Zahn's most important, most telling question. It was about the point when Rumsfeld asked security not to remove him, as there was a guard starting to manhandle him out of the building. She asked him is he gave Rumsfeld credit for that. His answer was appropriately incredulous, but Zahn seemed to ignore it completely. McGovern pointed out the PR issues with having a rational questioner dragged out of a public, televised press conference, and rightfully concluded that Rumsfeld's actions were self-serving, not in defense of free-speech. The fact that he even had to call a guard off of a rational former CIA agent is telling ... McGovern was posing no threat, was not yelling, was not interrupting Rumsfeld unduly, and was speaking with verifiable fact. There was no reason for him to be ejected, none at all.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Puppets Who Kill ...

There are times when words are simply insufficient to truly describe something. The title "Puppets Who Kill" is such literal truth in advertising that its hard to visualize it without actually watching an episode or two. It seems too absurd for words, and, in fact, it is ... yet its one of the most original and funniest shows around.

Imagine a half-way house for criminal puppets. The Bill ventriloquist's dummy is an easy cliche ... Buttons the Bear, the corporate sponsor who lost it all for reasons of moral turpitude, or Cuddles the comfort doll, are far less easy.

It sounds like an absurdist play ... a sort of "Samuel Beckett meets the Muppets meets Ren and Stimpy" half hour thats hard to describe completely in words. Its produced by Canada's Comedy Network, so I don't know how much exposure its getting around the world, but next to Corner Gas, its probably Canada's most innovative comedy show, at least that I've seen. If you live in Canada, look for it on Comedy Network ... if not, check out the website ... its a very odd, but VERY funny show, lol

Performancing Metrics

Performancing Metrics:
Post Views
Post Views
Technorati tags:

I've been using a metrics service for this blog recently, and its been interesting to see what posts get read, and when. Last week, I posted a poem called "The Other Day," something that I wrote several years ago. Up until today, it got very few page views, and suddenly, today, its the most popular page on thing on the site, lol.

Its nice to see people reading everything ... the poetry and the essays I write, but I wonder what makes for a run on one or the other in a given day, lol. Kinda kool though *G*

The Fool and the Knave |

The Fool and the Knave |
The Fool and the Knave

Status-obsessed D.C. journalists tut-tutted at Stephen Colbert's irreverent performance -- ignoring Bush's war against their profession.

By Sidney Blumenthal
Technorati tags:

Blumenthal adds fuel to the people telling critics of Colbert to wake up. This article is mostly discussing the icy reception the Colbert skit is getting in the mainstream media, and its fascinating to see people call his show 'rude' and 'obnoxious.'

Did no one actually watch a Steven Colbert show in advance of Saturday night? Does it actually surprise people that he said 'rude' things? He says rude things every day on his TV program, and anyone who expected him to do a different show on Saturday night was deluding themselves.

In another spot in today's Salon, Tim Grieve points to an article by Richard Cohen that takes Colbert to task for not playing to his audience properly. "In Washington he was playing to a different crowd, and he failed dismally in the funny person's most solemn obligation: to use absurdity or contrast or hyperbole to elucidate ..." Clearly, Cohen has missed the point here. While everyone in the room Saturday night thought Colbert's crowd was the Press Corp, Colbert knew differently, and he DID play to the crowd. He was hired because of the popularity he gained from his work on the Daily Show and his own Colbert Report ... the show he gave Saturday night played to the same audience that got him to that dinner in the first place.

That the mainstream media folks were embarrassed by what he said, that Bush was incensed, that people were clearly uncomfortable ... well, that was THE WHOLE FREAKING point people. He was hired because of his performances on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, and he delivered the same show. He is now being pilloried for it, and I submit its still all part of the joke. He expected this response ... thats why he didn't seem to care that he was 'bombing' Saturday night. He knew he wasn't bombing, regardless of the fact he wasn't making the people in that room roll in the aisles. The jokes weren't TO them ... the jokes were ABOUT them.

Lapdogs | News

This an excellent and fairly exhaustive litany of offences committed by the Mainstream Media (MSM from here on out) after 9/11 and in the run up to the war in Iraq. Laid out in this detail, it seems to me a pretty damning indictment of how the media handled intelligence claims before the war, and the very reporting of dissenting voices.

Perhaps the telling moment for me is the Oct 2004 peace demonstration in Washington. When 100000 citizens march on Washington for any reason, its a news event. When they are marching in protest to a war that US soldiers are actively fighting, it rises to the level of front-page news story without so much as a second thought. For a rally of that size to initially receive no coverage, and then to be portrayed as a clash of competing protestors, when numbers for the pro-war side were several orders of magnitude smaller than the anti-war side, goes beyond claims of an oversight.

It may be possible in other cases to buy media claims of ignorance, of stupidity, of impotence in the face of power. The media might be able to get away with the claim that no one seriously questioned Bush before the war, because finding evidence to contradict the claim requires some research. But several papers of record, including the paper of the very city where 100000 people gathered to protest the war, ignored a significant protest, and there's no real hiding that fact. The people were there, the protests were there, the story was there ... it was the reporters and MSM who weren't there. Its impossible to imagine, in this case especially, the reverse protest being so thoroughly ignored. Had those 100000 showed up in Washington to support the war, there's no question the crowd would have been on the front page of the Washington Post, even with Hurricane Rita in Texas. The fact that it wasn't is the clearest indication of a badly biased media reporting about the current US administration.

Lapdogs | News:

Cowardly and clueless, the U.S. media abandoned its post as Bush led the country into a disastrous war. A look inside one of the great journalistic collapses of our time.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from former Salon senior writer Eric Boehlert's new book "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

By Eric Boehlert
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Cell phone data mining

Who's buying cell records online? Cops - Security -
Who's buying cell phone records online? Cops Net sellers tell Congress they supply law enforcement officials with call lists
This was a fascinating article. Recently, it came out that various companies were selling call records from US cell phones (I am unsure if this applies in Canada, but so far, I've heard nothing to suggest that its possible in Canada). US Congress launched an investigation into the allegations, and now that some of the requested documents are showing up, its interesting to see who is being listed as clients.

The most obvious suspects are there, ofc. Debt collectors seem to make up most of the clients, according to the article, but they also pointed out that various levels of Law Enforcement are also on the list. But I suppose what I found most interesting about this was the attempted justifications for the practice. Its unclear exactly how these records are obtained, but one method used is pretexting. "Investigators call mobile-phone companies posing as legitimate customers and trick service representatives into delivering copies of records. Many Web site sellers maintain the practice is legal, but cell phone companies, the Federal Communications Commissions and numerous state attorneys general have said impersonation of consumers is fraud."

It seems a pretty clear case of fraud to me. If you are using false information to obtain anything that you are not legally entitled to using true information, well, that's the definition of fraud in my books. What these companies are doing is the first step to identity theft ... What's to stop the same person from calling my doctor and pretending to be me to get my medical information? Or calling my bank, pretending to be me to get my financial information? Its fraud, clear and plain, IMO.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Making Colbert go away

A lot has been made of the fact that Steven Colbert wasn't funny in his Press Corps speech from this past Saturday. Check out the video here ... ... he played the show 'in character' and frankly, in case people haven't noticed over his time on The Daily Show, and now the Colbert Report, a lot of his characters are intentionally not funny.

Remember when John Stewart went on Crossfire a year or so ago. Again, people said he wasn't funny, and he wasn't ... he wasn't trying to be. In Stewart's case, he was being himself, and making a point ... in Colbert's case he was playing a character and making a point. But if you've watched even a moment of Colbert, its pretty clear (to me anyway) that sometimes the point is more important than making people laugh out loud ... like Dennis Miller or Bill Maher, Colbert's 'comedy' often transcends the notion of funny.

He doesn't try to hide that one his show ... when he plays a character, he plays it over the top, to the end and in your face. There's no doubt where he stands, and his humour often comes from the fact that he is actually saying what he's saying. He was hired to speak at the dinner ... did anyone think to ask him, specifically, to be funny?

Perhaps he wouldn't like me saying this, in this way ... maybe he thinks he IS always 'laugh out loud' funny. But form my perspective, he routinely uses irony and sarcasm to form his humour, and while it may not make you laugh, ironic and sarcastic satire is a time honoured comedy tradition.

Maybe Colbert set out to get up Saturday night and make people laugh out loud. Thats certainly possible, but it seems to me it would go against his character. No, I think he said precisely what he wanted to say, and he's getting JUST the reaction he wanted to get. His point was NOT to make people laugh ... it was to make them say "OMG ... did he actually just say that with Bush 10 feet from him????" That was the joke ... the joke was that someone was actually smart enough, or dumb enough, or whatever, to book Colbert 10 feet from President Bush.

I could be wrong ... but I think Saturday night went precisely as Steven Colbert intended. The more people complain, the more he smiles. The joke is still running folks ... and everyone whose trying to say he wasn't funny on Saturday is a running part of it. That's just it ... he wasn't trying to be funny, not in a laugh out loud sorta way. I think, frankly, the real joke is hilarious.

On any given hit, you get 8 of the most amazing photos you've ever seen, and more links to others. I'll warn in advance ... I've found this page to be highly addictive. Whether I am looking at the calendar mode, checking out interesting sets, exploring the photo groups, or even seeing interesting photos from the last 7 days I've often spent more time than I should going through these images, lol. There's some amazing stuff out there

Poll Shows Many Can't Find La. on Map

Poll Shows Many Can‘t Find La. on Map
Poll Shows Many Can‘t Find La. on Map
Staff and agencies
02 May, 2006

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer 25 minutes ago
This is an article that I've been discussing on New Continuum recently.  There's been some very good comment, IMO, and I'd liek to share it here I think ...

My Friend EdB responded with ...
The biggest problem in Education in USA school is that we expect
teachers to make students learn while it is the students responsibility
to learn and the teacher is merely a resource for the Lerner to use. 
The problem here is also that many teachers are very poor resource
people.  Then the the learners have to take responsibility to learn
from the resources available and it is a parents duty to guide their
children ( entice, cajole, reward, bait, reinforce negatively and
positively) toward learning to read, write, do general mathematics and
become self directed learners
It doesn't happen that way because for some reason our educational
system thinks that teachers and administrators can make students learn.
   I was an Educational consultant for a Govt. Sponsored Program in
East Tallahatchie, MS  I heard a 5th grade teacher ask the class about
a film they watched on China which did show scenes of the Great Wall. 
I felt good about her technique on follow-up with  questions about the
Great Wall--she ask why did they build such a wall.  One eager child
and obviously one of the smarter ones raised and wave his hand.  The
teacher said OK Jon tell us why they built the wall.  John said "they
built it to keep the Red Chinese in and and they Yellow Chinese out!" 
Not too bad--if you stretch yellow Chinese to mean Mongol Hordes, but
the teachers answer is what floored me.  She said :"Right."
The teachers can be pitifully ignorant especially in elementary schools
where they have to be generalists with broad backgrounds in many areas
to do a competent job.  If the learners resources are poor then it is
more difficult to acquire knowledge.  Of course one might say there are
plenty of books in the library and I would say you are right.  A self
directed learner does not need a a school or a teacher to learn.  Most
of the people in this group have learned more on their own than they
ever did in a PS.  A lot of the group even found schools and teachers
hindered their learning.
It was terribly disheartening to listen to a CNN interview of some
Senior HS girls on the subject of how Katrina had affected their
education--their main concerns were about their HS club activities
friends and their Prom--so much for the elite people that CNN
interviewed.  By now you probably know I am a retired educator that
wishes the system could change to become learner oriented instead of
teacher-administrator oriented.  EdB .
ahasverblue added the following question ...
This has been a topic You have often touched, I have often wondered if You
could elucidate on the methods You have thought of to "educate", if I may
use that term, children and young ones to assume responsibility to learn for
themselves. In my view there are surely, say, 8-year old ones smart enough
and with sufficient foresight to assume that responsability, but I believe
they are a devastating minority, what to do with the majority of normal kids
? To learn autonomously is something youngsters can - perhaps, with lots of
luck - do from a certain age on, say 14,15 years, but prior to that I
believe other methods have to be used.  Learning is literally hard work for
the brain, and not only young humans, intelligent as they might be,
naturally shy away from that. A "normal" boy for example would always prefer
to gun and blast down as many people possible on a computer screen then
learning where a city lies or to calculate a root. And many, many ask, what
is that possibly good for ? Just recently I was left speechless at a heated
discussion with the parents, both academics, of my god-children, who both in
all earnest asked me what the sense there is in all the reading of
literature that is required here from a certain grade on ...
I added the following comment to ahasverblue ...
To me, it begins in early childhood ... toddlers who are encouraged to
do educational activities instead of watch TV will grow up more
inqisitive.  Children who are read to regularly, and taught to read as
they are read to, will grow up more interested in reading in learning. 
Kids that grow up in an environment where learning, reading, education
is portrayed by their parents and siblings as fun, normal, and
interesting will naturally grow up more interested in education.

This IS up to parents, IMO ... if you want a kid that learns
for themselves, foster and encourage that behaviour from the beginning
of life, in the home, and provide examples of you learning, reading,
being educated.  How is a child supposed to discover the pleasures of
reading, if their parents never pick up a book in front of them?

to which our colleague Nikki added ...
so!   And television is a passive activity.  All of the pictures are 
already realized.  Whether being read aloud to, or playing “Goddess in
the Garden” (a favorite at our house, lol) or “Cowboys and Indians” or
whatever, the pictures are formed in the child’s imagination and it is
their very own creation of story and picture and interpretation. 
Education is not something that  parents can just send their children
off to get.   It is, in my opinion, something for parents and children
to do together, using any and all resources, including public schools.

our version of the game, the Indians always won over the cowboys to
their way of thinking and  together they returned the land to it’s
pristine condition….talk about imagination, lol.

Saturn in Blue and Gold

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

As I said yesterday, the Astro pic of the day has some mind-blowing shots. This is another example of the kind of photo I am talking about ... maybe its just cause I am a space geek, but stuff like this takes my breath away when I see. Amazing ...

Astronomy Picture of the Day
See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My homepage ...

When my Firefox starts up, and when I click the "Home Page" button, the page it goes to is Astronomy Picture of the Day. This website shows a different picture every day, somehow related to astronomy. Today's image is of the giant nuclear plant that powers all life on earth. In the debate over alternative vs fossil fuels on earth, its important to remember that with the Sun's fusion, without the giant ball of burning hydrogen, well, lets just say the argument is beyond moot at that point. This picture shows the complexity of the Sun's 'surface' (thats in quotes cause the Sun doesn't really have a surface in the way the earth does), something we don't often think about. This is during a period of high spot/flare activity.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Astronomy Picture of the Day
Astronomy Picture of the Day

You are here ... the "wide-screen" version

This is perhaps the ultimate geek shirt/image for me.  If ever I need perspective, need to be reminded of the true place in the universe we offer, I find this image gives me the starkest reminder.

ThinkGeek :: Tshirts :: Science
You Are Here You Are Here
In case the vastness of the expanding universe gets you going in the wrong direction... ... seriously cool geekware

Here are some shirts I can definately relate to.  This PEBKAC one is one of my faves, and there are a few other I love as well.  Check these folks out ... if you have a geek in your life, these guys have a shirt they will they LOVE, lol.  This one is my pick ... For the record, PEBKAC is a technical term that stands for ...

"Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair"

ThinkGeek :: Pebkac
Tshirts > Sysadmin/Unix >


Stonehenge at Dusk

Stonehenge at Dusk
Originally uploaded by Elron6900.
This is another shot I took on my trip to UK in 2003. I did love the way the colours played in the background of the stones. I think a slightly longer exposure might have been better here, but I didn't actually have a tripod on this one ... if memory serves, I was manually stabalizing the camera using a chain-link fence. However, I do like the effect I ended up with :)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Steel Blue Sky

Steel Blue Sky
Originally uploaded by Elron6900.
This is one of the communications towers I work with. I lay on my back for this one, looking straught up, and I'll have you know that new prairie grass this time of year is VERY sharp. By the time I actually took this shot, my back was killing me. It was a beautiful day, though. For the record, the tower is 100m tall.

The Cyclotron ... another old poem ...

This is another poem I pulled out of my files.  As always, I am interested in comments ... hope you enjoy :)

The Cyclotron
by Lyle Bateman

When the light fades from the day,
I wander through the gothic arches
and steel-glass hallways of my mind
to find whatever is there.

A butterfly flutters on cellophane wings
through a joust of opposing ideas
on a white horse, Death comes riding
to meet Pan's pointed challenge.

A silicon flower blooms atop the adobe cliff
struggling against itself for the light
only to be trampled under the thunder
of a herd of buffalo hooves taking the plunge.

The Cheshire cat smiles and bows
as he takes his leave of his senses,
waving as they walked away,
his smile growing wider with each step.

Electron flashes colliding at random
in my cyclotronic brain
but the crystal clarity is lost forever
when darkness finally comes.

Copyright 1996 Lyle W. Bateman - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Linkback at The Hour's home page ... - The Hour
Elron, on the Closer about ID cards

I was pretty stoked to see this last week, lol.  I've been writing a fair bit about The Hour, and I was thrilled to see that George linked to one of my blog posts.  Not too much more to say about it, except another recomendation for everyone to watch The Hour.  I've apparently been watching it on repeat too ... I guess its on Newsworld at 8PM ET live ... gonna verify that tomorrow.

Test Post and Shout Out for new software | Helping Bloggers Succeed

I am testing some new software to track metrics on my blog, and they also have an interesting posting Firefox extension that I am making this post in.  So far, it seems like a really slick system ... the metrics have quite a few useful, blogger specific bits of data, and the Firefox extension seems to add some nice functionality.  Dunno if I'll always use this, but for right now, it seems like a nice little toolset.

Any bloggers out there who want to try it, click the link above and sign up.  Its fast and easy, and so far seems very useful.