Saturday, January 21, 2006

Quote of the Day - January 21, 2006

Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.

- Herbert Hoover

Warranted Searches and Seizures

Nope, I'm just going to skip right over the whole wiretapping/domestic spying thing and go straight to the government's subpoena of Google. I'm not sure why the government has the right to do this. It seems like the definition of a fishing expedition. Except that they aren't fishing to charge Google with anything. They're trying to gather data to make a case for bringing back a law that has been blocked by the Supreme Court. Are they really allowed to do this? Are companies required to hand over information even if their company, their employees, their customers, and anyone else connected to them are not under investigation? Hey, Cigna! I think your records might help me make a case for healthcare reform. Hand 'em over.

So what makes a search and seizure warranted as described in the fourth ammendment? It doesn't explicitly state that it has to be connected with a crime. Just that it must be "reasonable" than there must be probable cause. Is it reasonable for the government to want mine company databases for "random" information? It just seems flakey to me. If Google takes it's case to the Supreme Court, the decision could have far reaching consequences in the age of electronic databases and intellectual property. If they can request a random week's worth of data on searches, why not a weeks worth of data on purchases by credit card customers? Or claims filed with insurance companies?

Lost in Familiar Territory

Every once in a while, I will see something entirely, mind-numbingly familiar but get the sudden sense that it is, in fact, completely foreign. I most often associate this with the spelling of words (like writing "write" and thinking "that's not how it's spelled, is it?"). But I keep getting this sense in places. I got off the subway the other day where I often switch trains and suddenly felt completely lost. This evening, I got off the interstate and didn't recognize the exit ramp, even though I've taken that exit from that direction at that time of day dozens of times. My subconscious mind pulled me in the right direction while my conscious brain was still struggling to convince itself that everything was perfectly familiar and I wasn't lost. It's very disorienting. Maybe I just need more sleep. Or more caffeine. Whichever.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Let's Swing by Jupiter on the Way

New Horizons is on it's way to Pluto. (And, no, I had nothing to do with it). Because it was able to launch today and wasn't forced to launch in, say, early February, it will be able to use Jupiter's gravity to sling-shot it Pluto and arrive 5 years earlier than it would have without Jupiter's help. And this baby is booking on it's own - it will only take 9 hours to get to the Moon and one year to get to Jupiter. After that, it's a 9 year road to Pluto. This will be the first probe to visit Pluto, which has been the subject of some controversy the last few years. Will Pluto become the Ceres of the Kuiper belt? Or will Xena, Sedna, and Easterbunny become planets?

Once New Horizons is done with Pluto, it's off to the the Kuiper belt, where Pluto's cousins live. What it learns about Pluto, it's moon Charon, and the Kuiper belt may put the controversy to rest - or it may fuel it anew. See you in ten years!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

TV Pop-ups

My television has been infected. Everywhere I look, I see pop-up adds. It's not enough that I have to sit through the commercials. I have to put up with the advertisements at the bottom of the screen that inevitably cover up some important detail of the scene. And unlike on the internet, I don't have the option of closing the ad and getting it out of my freaking way.

This is one lesson I wish the networks would unlearn from the Internet. It's ridiculous. TNT in particular is bad. I had stopped watching it for a while for this very reason. But Underworld was on last night, and I wanted to see it again before the sequel comes out next week. There was a pop-up every five minutes urging me to continue watching so that I could see a sneak peek of scenes from the sequel. And each time I saw the pop-up, I wanted to not keep watching just to spite them. If they had added sound effects to the ad (which they have in other pop-ups that I've seen - imagine watching a key dramatic scene, only to hear jingle bells or squealing tires that entirely don't match what you are seeing and actually drown out the dialogue), I probably would have given up. Why should I see the sequel if you won't even let me enjoy the first film? Stupid network.