Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

Because they won’t lose any of that data over five years

September 26, 2008

Vehicle spy-cam data to be held for five years • The Register

Authorities will store details of car journeys surveilled by the new national Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system for five years, the Home Office has revealed.

Senior police officer had said the data on millions of vehicles would only be kept for two years, the Guardian reports. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is examining a complaint by Privacy International over the extended retention period.

What an absolute treasure trove. And if the police can’t find current offenses the data is good for prosecuting, they can just mine it to make up new ones.


Somebody trying to make “republican” less of a dirty word

March 24, 2008

There’s a discussion going on at The Reality-Based Community about Douglas Kmiec’s endorsement of Barack Obama, in which I think the participants (perhaps because they are reality-based) dance around the more important meaning of Kmiec’s “As a Republican” catchphrase.

Mark Kleiman summarizes:

Mike O’Hare thinks that Kmiec has has reasoning backward: from loyalties to principles, rather than the other way around. Like Jonathan Kulick, I think that Mike’s anaysis misreads Kmiec. For “As a Republican, I believe … ” I think one should read “Consistent with the principles that lead me to adhere to the Republican Party, I believe … “

In context, Kmiec’s rhetorical use of the phrase is designed to remind the readers he wants to persuade that he’s one of them, sharing their commitments, and nonetheless prefers a candidate who doesn’t share those commitments.

But that aside, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to acknowledge an obligation to one’s core tradition.

What Kleiman and the others fail to talk about (perhaps also because they are academics and mostly polite) is what that “core tradition” might be. During the past two decades, the core tradition of republicanism has been to abandon whatever principles one might have had — fiscal responsibility, limited government, separation of powers, even states’ rights — to achieve electoral success, political power and the graft that can go with it if only you are corrupt enough. That graft includes not only the government contracts, the favorable legislative, judicial and regulatory treatment, and the money, power and publicity that come from access to powerful people, but also the “independent” think tanks, the endowed chairs, the Centers for the Study of This and That where useful idiots can have sinecures. In short, the whole apparatus of a pet chattering class.

When more than half the country thinks of republicans, that’s what comes to mind. Some deplore it, others are ecstatic, but either way, that’s what the brand has become. Heck, the very fact that I could reasonably use “brand” in that last sentence tells you how far the party has sunk.

So when someone like Kmiec talks about believing certain things “as a Republican”, he’s not just trying to assert his in-group credentials or acknowledge his debt to an intellectual tradition. He’s trying, ever so gently, to reassert that intellectual tradition and remind his fellow-travelers that it once defined them. Self-styled “republican” intellectuals who continued to support the ugly, corrupt power machine that the GOP has become long ago mortgaged their souls for a mess of pottage (and some very nice shiny pottage it has been); Kmiec is, I think, trying create a reality in which that’s not so.

Slightly faster than a five-year-old jeep

March 12, 2008

BBC NEWS | Technology | Green sports car set for launch:

Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 08:38 GMT E-mail this to a friend Printable version Green sports car set for launch By Jonathan Fildes Science and technology reporter, BBC News Morgan Lifecar A “zero-emission” sports car with a top speed of nearly 100mph is set to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. The hydrogen-powered Lifecar, based on the design of the Morgan Aero-8 roadster, produces little noise and only water vapour from its exhaust. The lightweight model packs advanced fuel cells and an energy storage system that gives the car a range of 250 miles (400km) per tank of hydrogen. It has been developed by a consortium of UK companies and universities.

 “Figures suggest the car should be capable of doing 0-60 [miles per hour] in about seven seconds,” Matthew Parkin of classic sports car manufacturer Morgan told BBC News.

It’s nice that they’re positioning the thing as a cool ultralight sports car (with no airbags, no padding on the seats and so forth to save weight), but couldn’t they actually get some, y’know, performance. A jeep cherokee really isn’t such a tough target to beat, and real consumer “sporty” cars tend to have times in the 5-second rang.

Forward to the 19th century

March 6, 2008

Low-tech Magazine: A world without trucks:

The most important problem of an underground logistics infrastructure is the initial cost. The Dutch calculated that their nationwide network would cost them around 60 billion Euros – and that’s ten years ago. The plan was buried in silence. Nevertheless, the researchers also calculated that an extension of the road infrastructure would cost almost as much. That’s because the maintenance costs (paying the truck drivers, repairing the roads) and the external costs (economical losses due to traffic jams, accidents and pollution-related diseases) are much higher with a road network.

Getting delivery trucks off the roads would be a truly wonderful thing.

Too bad it will be mostly useless in the US

March 4, 2008

Phone with fold-away screen launched | Technology | Reuters:

The 5-inch (13-cm) display of Polymer Vision’s “Readius” is the world’s first that folds out when the user wants to read news, blogs or email and folds back together so that the device can fit into a pocket. Polymer Vision, spun out of Philips (PHG.AS: Quote, Profile, Research), whetted the appetite of gadget fans more than two years ago when it showed off a prototype. Now the gadget is in production and will go head-to-head with Apple’s (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) iPhone and Amazon’s (AMZN.O: Quote, Profile, Research) ebook reader Kindle when it hits stores mid-2008.

Cuz it relies on high-speed cell networks, which really just aren’t there yet, and especially not around here. But I do love it.

The kind of thing unions were invented to prevent

March 3, 2008

 Environment workers to lose jobs:

Although no immediate pay cuts were involved, about 130 employees, 10% of staff, would not receive rises in the near future. Their pay “will be temporarily held back in order to bring their salary within their new pay grade”, the agency said. A spokeswoman said: “At lunchtime on Friday, 758 of Sepa’s staff (57%) had accepted the voluntary pay offer. “The remaining staff who have not accepted the offer will receive notice on 4 March that their existing contracts of employment will be terminated at the end of May. “These notices of dismissal will be accompanied by an offer of immediate re-engagement on the new terms and conditions.”

And of course the Scottish EPA is pretty much cutting its own throat if the 40+ percent of its workforce doesn’t accept the new terms. I do wonder a little what the history is on this. Most managers know better than to just give an organization that size a sudden take-it-or-leave-it new wage offer. (And you have to admit that the blatant untruth of the claim that wages would be “temporarily” held back doesn’t give one a good feeling about management. Temporarily means that at some future date they’d receive extra raises to make up for the loss now, rather than “just consider the money you’re paid next year as the money you were supposed to be paid this year, and the money you’re paid two years from now as the money you were supposed to be paid next year.”)

Sometimes the facts are just biased against you

February 29, 2008

Outspoken scientist dismissed from panel on chemical safety – Los Angeles Times:

Chemical industry lobbyists say Rice’s comments to the Legislature, as well as similar comments to the media, show that she is a biased advocate who has compromised the integrity of the EPA’s review of the flame retardant. The EPA is in the process of deciding how much daily exposure to deca is safe — a controversial decision, expected next month, that could determine whether it can still be used in consumer products. The role of the expert panel was to review and comment on the scientific evidence. EPA officials removed Rice because of what they called “the perception of a potential conflict of interest.” Under the agency’s handbook for advisory committees, scientific peer reviewers should not “have a conflict of interest” or “appear to lack impartiality.”

What they don’t seem to understand is that impartiality doesn’t mean cutting the baby in half just to avoid making a decision. Impartiality means making a decision on the best facts available. Of course, this is the same stupid mistake that most of the mainstream news organizations make, when they assiduously source a bunch of lies and then give equal weight to others telling verifiable truths.

EPA officials were not available for comment Thursday. Environmentalists accuse the EPA of a “dangerous double standard,” because under the Bush administration, many pro-industry experts have served on the agency’s scientific panels. The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, reviewed seven EPA panels created last year and found 17 panelists who were employed or funded by the chemical industry or had made public statements that the chemicals they were reviewing were safe. In one example, an Exxon Mobil Corp. employee served on an EPA expert panel responsible for deciding whether ethylene oxide, a chemical manufactured by Exxon Mobil, is a carcinogen.

Oh, wait. I see. It’s OK to be partial, just as long as you’re partial in the right direction.

The computer history museum needs a copywriter

February 24, 2008

YouTube – Remington-Rand Present the Univac:

UNIVAC is one of the earliest commercial computers and was easily the most famous computer of the 1950s. This film, produced between 1950 and 1952, shows how the UNIVAC computer was used in business, defense and by the census. The film shows several of the important portions of the UNIVAC system at work, including the high-speed printer, the UNISERVO tape drive, the UNITYPER, card readers and the mercury delay line tanks that served as main memory. The programming process is fully discussed and a business problem is demonstrated.

That introductory paragraph is even more stilted than the voiceover in the film, and that’s saying something. But it’s a great institution and I can’t wait to look at the rest of their videos…

The water engine, 25 years later

February 16, 2008

I’ve been following the secure digital pseudonym stuff for 25 years now. It worked then, it works now.

Imagine you could prove you were 21 without revealing your date of birth — or anything else about you, for that matter. Or qualify for a loan without disclosing your net worth. Or enjoy the benefits of e-commerce, e-health and e-government without a moment’s fear that you are open to identity theft.

But as long as it doesn’t cost anyone but the person whose identity is being stolen, who cares? On the other hand, they have an
SDK that you can play with if they like you, so maybe I should make nice and try to download…

Only one talking genital in this culture, buddy

February 14, 2008

The Daily Weekly: Times Won’t Run Vagina Ad (Seattle Weekly):

To publicize the event, the group produced a print ad for placement in the Seattle Times, among other publications. But, much to the group’s chagrin, the Times declined to run it unless the sponsors altered the artwork (pictured above) — which they refused to do. “The artwork was something we didn’t feel was appropriate for our audience,” says the Times’ VP of advertising, Mei-Mei Chan.

The article is straightforward enough, and the Times is perfectly within its rights to be a bunch of closet misogynists (they seem to think it’s perfectly appropriate to run mostly-naked people in erectile-dysfunction ads). But it was the comments that skeeved me right out. There are some pretty twisted people posting there,  and all of them want to explain in graphic detail how their particular sexual hangup justifies censoring the ad’s artwork.