Sunday, January 30, 2011

New At Say Anything: New Congress Revives Internet Record Rentention Initiative

The new Congress has a lot on its plate. Working to reverse or at at least render less harmless the healthcare law, turning around the economy, reversing the unemployment numbers, dealing with a newly-nuclear Iran (not to mention a still-nuclear North Korea), the recent events in Egypt. Any and all of those things should take precedence over reviving Bush-era legislation to force internet service providers (ISPs) to maintain detailed records of the websites users visit.

A Judiciary committee aide provided a statement this afternoon saying "the purpose of this hearing is to examine the need for retention of certain data by Internet service providers to facilitate law enforcement investigations of Internet child pornography and other Internet crimes," but declined to elaborate.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing ISPs to store records of their users' activities for later review by police.
Thanks to the GOP takeover of the House, the odds of such legislation advancing have markedly increased. The new chairman of the House Judiciary committee is Lamar Smith of Texas, who previously introduced a data retention bill. Sensenbrenner, the new head of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, had similar plans but never introduced legislation. (It's not purely a partisan issue: Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, was the first to announce such a proposal.)
I don't see how the goal of catching child pornographers -- a worthwhile goal to be sure -- justifies infringing the rights of millions of law abiding internet users. I note the use of the nebulous phrase "other internet crimes"; a pliable, ill-defined concept that can both be used to represent any hot topic in the world of cybercrime and serve as a handy placeholder for whatever the listener cares to envision.

The problem here is that using any single crime perpetrated by a small percentage of the population to justify sweeping legislation that trods roughshod over individual privacy rights paints everyone as a presumed criminal. This might arguably be necessary if it were the only way to procure evidence against a perpetrator. Except of course, it isn't.

(Click here to read the rest of this post at Say Anything.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Consumer Advocacy Guide (In Unstructured BASIC)

Consumer adovcates are fun. They get outraged over some perceived injustice and go into nanny mode, pushing for all sorts of government oversight for things that could better be managed with willpower. Occasionally, these forays end up causing the harm they were originally intended to prevent.  That's always fun. Plus, they're so cute when they get all frothy about how blood and death will follow in the wake of ignoring their sane, sensible approach to safety. Even when ignoring them doesn't lead to any such thing. Even when listening to them doesn't change a single blessed thing.

That's not to say that consumer safety is unimportant. It would just be nice if these issues could be debated without the copious amounts of hyperbole and excited fatalism they normally engender. Until that exalted day arrives, here is a handy guide for the budding fatalistic amrageddon junkie consumer advocate written in the closest thing to a universal language the cosmos has ever known.  Unstructured BASIC.

10 REM Copyright 1973 Amalgamated Mechano-Machines, Inc.
90 GOTO 50

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New At Say Anything: This Politician Had An Attempt Made On His Life. Can You Name Him?

Picture this: a politician is making a public appearance. All is going well until a person in the crowd makes an attempt on the politician's life and in the process gravely wounds an innocent bystander. You could be forgiven for immediately thinking of Gabrielle Giffords right now. The parallels are certainly there. However the above scenario actually happened back in September. The politican in question was the governor of Missouri.
In September 2010 Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was scheduled to speak at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City.

At some point, wearing black clothes and a bullet-proof vest, 22 year-old Casey Brezik bolted out of a classroom, knife in hand, and slashed the throat of a dean. As he would later admit, he confused the dean with Nixon.
You didn't hear about this? That's odd.

Click to read the rest of this article at Say Anything.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Iron Chef (Okay, Maybe Tungsten, Or Perhaps Molybdenum)

For many, cooking is a chore. It's a necessary evil, like flossing or Congress. Some avoid it altogether, choosing instead to eat out as often as possible and subsist on bologna sandwiches and grape Crush when funds are low. I personally enjoy cooking, and I've much better at it now than I was three or four years ago. In that time, I've discovered the secrets to happy, successful cooking.

Step 1: Hire A Good Sous Chef. A solid backup is imperative. Someone who can dice an onion, stir a sauce, and sharpen a knife while you're drinking wine is an invaluable resource.

Step 1: Check

Step 2: Prepare A Menu. Knowing what you're going to be making ahead of time is smart. That way you can prepare the ingredients, plan on an execution strategy, and find the number of a good takeout place that serves the same thing if you start the kitchen on fire.

Note to self: talk to Macy's teacher about
adding "broccoli" to next week's spelling list.

Step 3: Prepare The Ingredients.  Preparation is everything. Having everything measured out, chopped, diced, washed and peeled makes the whole endeavor run smoothly. The French call it "mise en place".  Those French; they have a pretentious phrase for everything!

Macy got the hang of egg wash battering in a hurry.

Step 4:  Cook.  All the preparation and wine drinking leads up to this.The execution of the meal is almost as satisfying as eating it. No fires, no burns, no blackened remains hurled out the back door: these are the trappings of a successful foray in the culinary world.

Most definitely not takeout.

Step 5: Enjoy The Fruits Of Your Labor. After it's all said and done, you finally get to eat. If you're like me, you're likely at least a half bottle of wine into this thing, so the food is bound to taste delicious no matter what.  But if you followed these steps closely, more likely than not you've created something to be proud of.  And if not, you've got a half bottle of wine left, so get busy erasing this memory from your brain.

Note to Child Protective Services: Macy is drinking apple cider.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blogging The NFL Playoffs: Falcons Vs. Packers, The Second Half

Keys to the second half:

1.  Matt Ryan needs to stop sucking.
2.  Brian van Gorder needs to stop sucking.
3.  Green Bay needs to start sucking.

9:03  The Falcons have the greatest first- and second-down defense in the history of the NFL.  They also have the worst third-down defense in the history of the NFL.  Seriously, I've read magazines that could stop a football team better.

9:07  35-14.  I should have known not to get my hopes up this weekend.

9:12  Fox just ran a House promo.  Candice Bergen's still alive.  Huh.

9:15  Long pass to Jenkins.  It's being reviewed.  I have a 100% real and totally not fake trillion dollar bill that says this catch gets overturned.

9:18  Okay, I'll put up that same 100% real and totally not fake trillion dollar bill that the review official were too busy comparing Aaron Rodgers autographed jock straps to actually look at the play.

9:20  Now Koenen shanks a punt.  Bad things that haven't happened to the Falcons yet: Abraham's leg comes off at the knee.  Mike Smith develops vertigo.  The Dome collapses.

9:24  The Falcons have quit in this game.  It's official.

9:31 Tony Gonzales gets his first catch of the night.  And his first injury.  What exactly is that Atlanta did to piss God off?

9:35  Oh look, we're down 42-14.  Maybe we should start running out of the no huddle.  Now that it's the fourth quarter I mean.  When we're losing by 28 points.  When running our usual run it up the middle on first and second down offense hasn't done jack crap all night.  Yeah, we should definitely start running that now.

9:38  I think Mike McCarthy is going to send that fifteen year old kid who won the Punt Pass and Kick competition in to finish this game off for Rodgers.

9:39  42-21. The Falcons offense shows up, finally.  You're a little late.  But at least my liquor cabinet is well stocked.  Apologies in advance for the inevitable decline in my typing skills as my blood becomes more saturated.

9:47  I honestly expected a bird that had somehow gotten into the Dome to fly into that 50-yard field goal try and deflect it between the uprights.  Is this the first thing that has gone wrong for the Packers tonight?

9:51  Ryan has shown none of the pocket presence he displayed all year long.  He isn't stepping up at all; instead he's just standing there, hoping against hope that someone gets open before he's decapitated.  I really like him, and I think a lot of his problems this year (when he's had them) has been due to the handcuffs put on him by Mike Smith's conservative offensive philosophy.  He's played like crap tonight though.

9:54  Ryan fumbles the snap.  That's it, I quit.  I'm going to watch Shadow of the Vampire on the DVR.  Maybe a real vampire will come and suck my blood.  The Falcons have already sucked out my will to live.

Blogging The NFL Playoffs: Falcons Vs. Packers, The First Half

So here we go again, Falcons playoff football.  See how I played it off like the Falcons are always in the playoffs?  Pretty cool, huh.  God, Atlanta, please don't blow this.  Everyone in the world is picking you to lose.

7:06  Enough with the banjo and the "it's the FALCONS VS THE PACKERS" lead in stuff. Just kick the ball off already.

7:11  Did they say this is the Zac Efron Band?  Isn't he the kid from High School Musical? Who knew he could sing. (Song continues...)  Oh wait, he can't.  Don't quit you day job, whatever that is.

7:15  Kickoff.  Okay, we didn't fumble.  My first wish came true.

7:23  Well, the Falcons game plan of getting into 3rd-and-eight-or-greater as often a possible is a success so far.  You can only convert so many of those, guys.

7:27  Color guy say, "the last time these teams played Atlanta predominately rushed three guys."  That is an utter lie.  The Falcons blitzed almost every play when the played in December.  I am now officially ignoring everything you say.

7:29  The first turnover comes courtesy of a heads-up play after the Falcons blow 3rd-and-13.  That's it, lull them into a false sense of security, then GET 'EM.

7:33  First 4th-and-inches of the game for the Falcons.  Go for it.  Seriously.  Go for it.

7:34  Nice.  If Ovie Mughelli had eaten one less cheeseburger this week he doesn't have the heft to get that.

7:36  Hey, Michael Turner, thanks for showing up.  When he wants to be a beast, he's a something from the Paleozoic.

7:53 "Maybe Jordy Nelson can be a hero for the Green Bay Packers."  Maybe someday you won't be a complete tool.  Seriously, just come out and say, "I really want Green Bay to win this game".  You'll lose your "objectivity" but at least you'll be honest.
7:56  Eric Weems, Pro-Bowler.

8:07  How many bratwursts did it take to buy off Chistopher Owens?
8:13  The DirecTV commericial where the superhero is too busy watching TV to notice that the city outside is turning into Detroit when the Pistons win a title is pretty good except for the fact that he's watching "Twilight".  Who is he, Effeminate Lad?

8:20  See, Matt Ryan, when you throw one like that it makes people question your arm strength.  Throw the damn ball.

8:23  Now John Abraham is limping.  Rub some dirt on it, John.  Fulton Kuykendall is the second best pass rusher on this team and he retired in 1985.

8:30  So, I'm not an NFL defensive coordinator, but if I saw Aaron Rodgers buying winter coats on eBay while scanning the secondary, it might occur to me that rushing three guys is never, ever going to work.  Eight-person zones are also about as useful as checking Georgia Bulldog  academic transcripts for A's.

8:33  Touchdown Packers.  Oh well, it was a fun year, I suppose.

8:39  FFS.   Bing it.

8:41  Breaking out the hard liquor now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How To Get That NFL Head Coaching Job You've Always Wanted

Some Goo Gone will take that right off.
The NFL playoffs are underway, which means that the annual rite of Winter, known as the coaching carousel, is in full swing.  NFL head coaches for the league's lesser children get cast aside in favor of new blood starting with the playoffs because that is when the league's non-playoff teams can  grant their assistants permission to interview for the big chair.  Some coaches are fired mid-season and guys are hastily promoted and have a big sticker that says INTERIM plastered right in the middle of their foreheads.  But usually teams that do that are the ones that are the most dysfunctional and poorly-run.  And they certainly don't then promote those interim-bots to fulltime status.  Crap.  Am I inadvertently talking about the Vikings again?  I think I am.

Anyway, head coaching spots in the NFL are few in number, and thus, as you might expect, hard to get.  Normally, these coveted jobs go to people who fall into one of two categories:

1. Former coaches of other teams.  Also known as "retreads", these are people who were head coaches somewhere else and were fired at some point.  This usually works out about like you'd expect; they failed (at least) once before and got fired, so why would this time be any different.  Still, it works out once in a while.  But for every Bill Belichick there is one Dan Henning.  And one Dan Reeves.  And one Eric Mangini.  And one Mike Martz.  And one Dennis Green.  And, like, 37 Jim Mora Jrs.

2. Golden Boys.  These are either college coaches or NFL coordinators who are deemed ready for the big chair.  There has been  mixed success with this one.  Nick Saban, Speve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, Mike Singletary, Lovie Smith; these guys all failed and either went back to college or joined other staffs with coordinator credentials.  Except Singletary; I have no idea what he's doing now.  Hopefully it doesn't involve dropping his pants.

With this in mind, you may be thinking it's just not possible for you, neither former coach nor golden boy, to land one of these prestigious jobs.  You would be wrong.  The trick is to nail the interview, and I am going to tell you how.

First, wear a coat and tie.  You won't be doing that while roaming the sidelines screaming things like, "watch the screen!" and "can't anybody on this mother$%@!#* team tackle!" but you want to display an air of class and sophistication that you can peel off like, well, like a suit once gameday comes.  Your buddies may admire your fashion sense, but a team owner is not going to be impressed with your authentic jersey/team branded sweatpants/team color Nikes/backwards team baseball cap ensemble.

Second, drop certain time-tested phrases into any conversation you have with your interviewers.  These include:
  • "3-4 defense"
  • "Team unity"
  • "I want this to be a more disciplined football team."[*]
  • "Process"
  • "The only thing the prevent defense does is prevent winning."
  • "fade route"
  • "I'm not interested in bringing in Brett Favre for a tryout."
  • "I think this team has the talent to be in the Superbowl in three years."
  • "4-3 defense"
  • "You win and lose a football game in the trenches."[**]
If you drop those nuggets of airy wisdom, your chance of landing the job go up, like, 438%.  Trust me.

Castle Grayskull will be mine!
Third, and this is big: never agree to work for Al Davis or Dan Snyder.  Seriously, walk away.  You're better off wherever you are now.

[*] Note: when referring to a football team, always refer to it as a football team.  Never just say team.  Everyone knows what you mean, but say it anyway.  It makes you sound like you know what you're talking about, like a television color man or Andy Reid.  Seriously.  No one in the business at any level ever says the word "team" without preceding it with the word "football" anymore.  Only losers do that.  Don't be a loser.

[**] Note: same thing goes for football game.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Wedding Diaries (Part 2): Outsourcing

I intend to blog here about all the stupid/crazy/maddening/interesting/fun things that happen on the road to making this wedding come off.  However, in the interest of making things easier for all our friends/family/potential guests, I thought it would be a good idea to have a central clearinghouse for wedding-related information.  With that in mind I have created a website that will be used to communicate useful and important tidbits like who is doing the flowers, what's on the menu, whether we decide to go with black-tie or a beach theme for the ceremony, etc.

Check there for the bricks and stones that make up the latest wedding related news.  Keep reading here for all the mortar that both holds those bricks together and makes building the house interesting.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Wedding Diaries (Part I): In Which A Date Is Selected

As you may be aware, there are impending nuptials in the new year.  No, not Prince William and Kate Middleton.  No, not whoever Jennifer Aniston is trying to marry this week.  I'm talking about the other big wedding slated for 2011: Donna and I.

A lot goes into a wedding, even one which is, as compared to some, a relatively simple affair.  Cakes, dresses, flowers, food, guest lists, invitations, music, not to mention a budget to rein all this in.  But the one thing that must be sorted out first, the decision from which all other decisions must flow, is a date.  This necessarily means picking a venue.

We had a few places on our list, through it got whittled down fast.  One place is already booked for the dates we wanted (and backed up with a long waitlist for each date) despite our being told that bookings couldn't be taken until January 1st.  This means that either hundreds of people started dialling the phone at midnight as the ball dropped, or this place is full of crap and lets "special people" (read: friends) book whenever they want and tells other people to go screw themselves.

At any rate, it has come to pass that our public shackling special day will be...

Saturday, September 24th 2011 at a friend's house.  (Cue trumpets)

Oh, I should also point out that "a friend's house" is actually "A Friend's House", a rentable venue for such events, and not someone's back yard.  It's a beautiful place with a little church that apparently gets around more than I do.  Check out the website to get the historical info.

This venue has everything we wanted: an outdoor option (with the ability to take it indoors if necessary), a large play area for kids, the ability to host a barn dance, plenty of parking.  The only drawback we saw was its location; it's not exactly in the heart of downtown Fargo.  Oh well, you can't have everything I guess.

Anyway, anouncements will be going out in the next couple of months, and I'll be adding posts here as the planning progresses.  We already have a few other decisions made, but I'll keep those for another day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New At Say Anything: California Supreme Court Neuters The Fourth Amendment

California's Supreme Court has ruled that police may search cell phones of suspected criminals without a warrant. The court's decision allows police to listen to recorded messages and read texts on the cell phones of people under arrest.
The ruling handed down by California's top court involves the 2007 arrest of Gregory Diaz, who purchased drugs from a police informant. Investigators later looked through Diaz's phone and found text messages that implicated him in a drug deal. Diaz appealed his conviction, saying the evidence was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The court disagreed, comparing Diaz cell phone to personal effects like clothing, which can be searched by arresting officers.

"The cell phone was an item (of personal property) on (Diaz's) person at the time of his arrest and during the administrative processing at the police station," the justices wrote. "Because the cell phone was immediately associated with defendant’s person, (police were) entitled to inspect its contents without a warrant."
That last sentence should ring alarm bells for anyone who cares even a modicum for privacy in this country.

Click here to read the rest of this post as Say Anything.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The More Things Change

I was six years old when Star Wars came out.  My parents took my younger brother and I to see it one evening not too long after its release.  From the opening sequence where Princess Leia's little space Prius was being chased by Darth Vader's gargantuan star destroyer -- resplendent in gun metal gray like a Hummer in a chop shop -- I knew, knew it was the greatest thing that had ever been or would ever be.  From that moment on Star Wars was stitched into every fiber of my being.  I remember watching the local PBS station, which was barely recognizable through the static on the poorly-aimed antenna that perched on our roof, because it was airing some segment on some show brought to you by the Chubb Group that was showing footage of the escape from the Death Star and the subsequent space battle.  Great shot kid!  Don't get cocky.

He even bought C-3PO's.

The next several years would be dedicated to getting every Star Wars related toy in the universe.  Between my brother and I, we came as close to accomplishing that goal as anyone who wouldn't serve as inspiration for Comic Book Guy ever did.

Years later we outgrew the toys of course.  We later staged grand battles in the back yard, setting up the models and ships and playsets and action figures in vast battle lines and pitting plucky rebellion against evil empire.  Casualties were counted and victors declared.  The rules of engagement were simple: if you got knocked over by the pellets we were firing from the back porch you were dead.  Sorry Luke.  Later stormtrooper #4.  How desperate is the rebellion?  The medical droid from The Empire Strikes Back just took a slug to the sternum.  Why is he on the front line?

I know what you're thinking.  In our defense we had no idea how much this stuff would be worth today.  I could have retired ten years ago if I had had the foresight to keep this stuff in good condition.  Oh well.  At least I don't have to go to work until Wednesday.
The last remnants of a once-mighty empire.

So there I was at Christmastime, watching my nephew play with... a rescued box of figures my brother had found in the attic.  It was apparently the only thing to survive from our formerly formidable empire.  Of all the playsets, ships, guns, costumes, lightsabers, helmets, and comic books all that remains is a partially filled case of action figures.  My nephew was enthralled.  He set them up and knocked them down and set them all up again.  In the coming years I'm sure they'll still be there and he'll still be playing with them.  And if the time comes when he seems to bore of them, and if he's very good, I'll whisper two words to him that will rekindle, if only briefly, his love affair with toys his dad and uncle played with 35 years ago.  Two words I hope will light up his eyes the way mine lit up when that star destroyer thundered across the screen in 1977.

Pellet gun.

Another Year, Another Facelift

Like changing out the calendar, making out a list of resolutions, and writing the previous year on a check, I've changed the look of the blog again.  I've got a three-year streak now.  There are two main reasons for this.  One, I get bored with the look of the site, and two, my last layout change inadvertantly and not on purpose copied the look of a friend's blog, as well as the look of other blogs I've seen throughout the year.  That burnt orange text has gotten pretty popular.

Anyway, I love old maps and the like, so when I saw this template I thought I'd give it a try.  It necessitated a new banner, so I got to keep my rudimentary art skills honed to a dull edge.

Anyway, happy new year to all!