Monday, September 22, 2008

Minnesota RNC Trials

As reported by Minnesota's City Pages, the Minnesota City Council has declined to launch an investigation into police conduction during the Republican National Convention earlier this month

[...]Ostrow could’ve just come out with it and said, “We don’t see a need to mount an obligatory sham investigation, because the Minneapolis police department is moving forward with an obligatory sham investigation of its own,” which, granted, would have made for even worse PR.


Read more at City Pages.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mashedlife.com Review

I heard about it for the first time today, but mashed life already has a slough of sites touting the revolution in its simplicity. You will have to go to the site for a comprehensive explanation, but it allows for one click access to password protected sites. Yes, this is useful, and it has a few other neat features that will not be hard to find out about.

I don't expect everything to work perfectly on launch. Ubiquity has issues, but I am still a strong advocate. However, since nobody else on the web seems to have anything bad to say about mashed life, I will fill in the niche.

I found 3 issues with the service.

1) It didn't work for all sites.
The one button that is supposed to give you access to sites is a bookmark (or more precisely a bookmarklet). That bookmarklet scans the page you are trying to login to and pastes your username and password into the appropriate fields when it finds them. Or, more precisely, if it finds them. It didn't work for 2 of the 10 sites I tried before gave up on the service. One of them used frames, the other had an unusual form. Mashed life was useless on both.

2) One account per site.
The Firefox password manager can assign an unlimited number of username and password pairs to a given site. Mashed life will only store one. I have more than one Google account. I have heard of people having multiple Facebook accounts. The second account will have to be committed to memory, or stored in some other service. but Mashed life is not the final solution for this situation.

UPDATE:
Kevin pointed out you can use multiple accounts for a single service. Mashed life will then direct you to "a selection page to ask you select which [...]account you want to log in to"
.

3) Can't distinguish multiple login options.
My web host has a login form that has two buttons. One is for site maintenance, the other is for it's affiliate program. Mashed life's one button login automatically logs me into the affiliate program. I would have to use another service to access the maintenance tools.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When the elephants come to town

Minneapolis paper City Pages requested readers send in cartoons about the RNC under the heading "When the elephants come to town". This entry stands out:
[http://media.citypages.com/2325302.0.jpg]

See more here.

It looks like it has been a rocky senate campaign. Minneapolis Star-Tribune now reports Franken(D) within 4 points of Coleman(R). Independence Party candidateDean Barkley is at a steady 13%.

Both Republican and DFL primaries were held on September 9. Coleman won his party nomination with 91% of the vote. Franken only won his nomination with 65% of the vote. Coleman has been trying to scoop up the remainder of the democratic voters, but has not yet been able to get a commanding lead with this strategy. Possibly because there were actually more ballots cast for Franken (164,136) than for Coleman (130,973).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Johnston's Law

The most employable trade will always be the useful idiot.

Minnesota Politics

For a course at UPEI I am following U.S. election through the media of Minnesota. I am required to submit a weekly summary of my findings. I will be publishing those findings on this blog with the label Minnesota08. Enjoy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

How a cell phone ban is different from drunk driving

I argued in a previous article that a cell phone ban was bad legislation because it wouldn't do anything that the Highway Traffic Act and property rights doesn't already do. Or if they don't already deal with the issue of distracted driving they are broken and need fixing, not another separate law to deal with the hole.

I also anticipated that such an argument could easily be applied to drunk driving. While I would be interested in hearing the case made, I don't endorse this argument at this time.

One reason that I am more against the cell ban than drunk driving is the nature of detection. It is very difficult to detect a drunk driver by merely watching the body in the driver's seat. It is usually necessary to observe the irregular driving behavior to suspect drunk driving.

Cell driving is different. This can be detected by observing the driver, separate from driving behavior. Irregular driving is not necessary to detect cell driving. That is to say, those who have been cell driving since the first cell phone, who have decades of experience, and who have never had a single incident, can be charged for doing what they have found a way to manage perfectly.

Conversely, those that have learned to drive drunk perfectly without showing irregular behavior will rouse no suspicion from passing authorities.

The tools of governance should be only as fine as are needed to create a free and prosperous society. Laws should be coarse and inspired, abstract and prophetic. Writing law is an art. It is the legislators job to carefully craft a compromise between the mutually exclusive ends of rights and responsibilities.

A legislator spending time writing into law the difference between driver distraction of a cell phone and a radio, is a waste of everybody's time, resources and freedom.

How formal education hinders understanding of fundamental concepts

Or, I knew school was bad for me.

This lecture discusses fundamental ideas in science that are (marginally) better understood by children before schooling than even MIT science graduates.



I have gotten a lot of heat lately from friends about a choice I made not to complete two of my courses last semester. The courses were both completed save a final paper. In trying to complete these papers I had several conversations with the professor, the same one for both courses.

Most every one of these conversations ended in frustration, failing to get my professor to re-evaluate his assertions even in the face of new information and perspectives. It was as though he expected me to assume his assertions merely because he was the professor.

As the above lecture demonstrates, teachers and professors may, even in the objective sciences let alone the more subjective humanities, switch useful ideas of the student into the less useful ideas of the professor. Only a healthy challenge can determine which is which.

The more strongly teachers and professors resist challenges from students the more important it becomes that they be challenged.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cell phone ban is lazy legislation

CBC Story: MLAs debate reach of cellphone ban on P.E.I.

The government that governs least governs best. There is no demonstrable need for such a ban. Those that make mistakes while driving, due to inattention, carelessness, or malice, already have a legal infrastructure to deal with them. There are civil property rights and the Highway Traffic Act.

This is similar to the argument against the need for hate crime legislation. It is not the states job to micro-manage what goes on in our heads or our cars. The state has a role to play regulating gross interactions, trying to create an environment where mutually profitable interactions can take place. The more mutually profitable interactions that are able to take place without state interference the more free and prosperous that society will be.

There are those that can talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time. Should these people be disallowed to do so even while there is an infrastructure for those that try to do so unsuccessfully. If there were an accident tomorrow because of the use of cell phones I would say the same thing.

So long as the existing infrastructure handles those cases effectively there is no need for such a cell ban. If the civil property rights and Highway Traffic Act did not deal with these cases effectively then they should be revised abstractly. Once these existing laws where adequately revised to deal with cell phones effectively they would also be equipped to handle any other distractions that may come in the future. To legislate specifically about cell phone use is a lazy cop out.

Yes, such an argument as this can be used to attack drunk driving laws. And there may be validity to such an attack. But notice that if legal drunk driving is preposterous and phone driving isn't, then they are different problems that can have different solutions.