Saturday, February 26, 2011

As Gays Become Part of the Mainstream, They Can't Always Beat the Stereotypes

The White House, in the as reported in the Detroit News just made history by appointing Jeremy Bernard, an long-time Obama supporter, the first male and openly gay social secretary.

His tasks:

The new high-profile assignment means he will be responsible for planning a variety of social functions and pulling them off without a hitch, including lavish state dinners
I'm sure he'll be fabulous.

Pew Research Center News IQ Test

Give it a try here: Pew News IQ Test.

No googling for answers, just take the test cold and see how you do.

I got 11 out of 12 right, which means I did better than 98% of the general public as surveyed. This certainly says somethings about the level of awareness of the general public, as the quiz is not particulalry difficult.

Reading all these fine blogs in my blogroll must be paying off.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Don't Expect Effective Action From The UN Or EU On Libya

The UN and the international community seem in quite the quandary as to what to do about Libya (they really don't want to call on NATO and the US to actually do something).

Stern diplomatic notes have failed, and the EU's condemnatory resolution seems far to timid and dare we say, an example of typical European hand-wringing? Go over to UN Watch and read the whole thing, then peruse the entire UN Watch blog, its real good.

Maybe the international community can take some baby steps first, like removing Libya from its seat on the UN Human Rights Commission. Of course that might be seen as too harsh a measure for some, and could also raise some questions as to why some of the world's greatest human rights violators have seats on the council.

Listening to NPR on the way in to work today, it was interesting listening to a UN official being interviewed hemming and hawing as to whether Libya could or should be removed. She seemed to want to punt the whole issue to the Security Council.

If the UN can't even take that step, don't count on the "international community" to start any real intervention anytime soon. But all hope is not yet lost, there is a rumor that harsh language may soon be unleashed, followed by some vigorous finger-pointing.

Updated: Sure enough, The UN Human Rights Council is now mulling over maybe suspending Libya.

Maybe if the UNHRC spent less time condemning Israel to the exclusion of any other activity it might speed up the process somewhat.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Really Hate Winter.

So on Sunday after it had been beautiful all week with no snow on the roads and everything feeling almost spring-like, it began snowing heavily and we ended up with 8 inches of heavy packing snow all about. The snow stopped falling that night.

On Monday the only saving grace was that it was President's Day so lots of people, unlike myself, had the day off. I spent quite some time in the morning shovelling off the driveway and had quite a workout so I could get out and get to work. I layed down at least 20 pounds of salt and declared the driveway as passable as it was going to get.

My driveway was the only cleanish bit of roadway around where asphalt was visible. The snow was not yet off the roads. In our subdivision, where the government plough dare not roam (The sub is required to pay for its own snow removal and everyone pays for that) the road still had a layer of snow but it was plowed, packed down and slippy but pasable.

Once out of the sub onto the public road, my Jeep almost bottomed out as nothing had been plowed. That road travels through multiple jurisdictions so you could tell who had the competent snow removal service going. I think the road by us is the county's responsibilty so it was understandably low on the list, hence the tire tracks in between the great mounds of snow.

Crossing a major street after a mile or so, the road suddenly showed signs of plowage, with only a few inches on the road of slippery stuff but no fear of bottoming out or getting pulled around by the mounds of snow. After 4 more miles and crossing yet a major street the street became clean enought to eat off of - asphalt visible with not a drop of snow, beautiful.

Of course, that night heading home the road near my house was still in the same shape and had yet to be plowed, nor had it been touched by the Tuesday morning drive to work. Finally by the Tuesday evening rush hour it was plowed. I put a bit more salt on the driveway as it was becoming slippery again.

Yesterday I came home at night after work and went to get the mail.

Dark night, dark driveway, new formation of black ice.

You can see where this is going. So did my feet.

Both feet hit the ice and both went right up in the air. OUCH.

Good thing I knew how to breakfall or it could have been nasty. More salt was then thrown on the driveway after the ice had already been melted by some coarse language.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Muslim Cosby Show, Really?

Clarence Page and Katie Couric thinks a Muslim Cosby show is just what we need to be all touchy-feely and have greater "national comity".

The Detroit News: Muslim 'Cosby Show' worth a try

Would the show humorously address the risk of the girls in the family suffering honor killings for dating non-muslims?

Will the show make a decent running joke about the local Imam declaring that Jews are descended from apes and pigs?

Will each episode conclude with a family member exploding with happiness?

Will the teen suicide bomber in the family wrestle with issues like premature detonation?

Will the mom sadly reminisce about how her children have blown up so fast?

Sounds like quite the explosive hit show to me.

US Citizens Slain By Pirates, Perhaps Its Well Past Time To Take Somali Piracy Seriously?

The Detroit Free Press: U.S. says pirates kill 4 Americans on yacht off Somalia
The U.S. military says pirates killed four American hostages they were holding on a yacht off Somalia’s coast.
While yeachting unescorted in pirate-infested waters is probably not the safest way to spend a vactation and it was not the safest choise to make, these are US Citizens and there certainly needs to be a response that killing US Citizens will have a cost and will not be unanswered.

It is certainly time to take a hard stand against the pirates including revising the rules of engagement to allow for appropriate interdiction of this threat. Far too many ships have been held for ransom with their passengers and crew harmed and far too much ransom has been paid to encoyurage mnore acts of piracy.

After the yacht passengers had died, the Navy boarded the vessel:
...Two pirates died during the ensuing confrontation, and 13 were captured and detained. The remains of two other pirates who were already dead also were found. In total the U.S. said that 19 pirates were involved in the hijacking of the Quest.

13 captured? Sheesh, the US Navy is either losing its touch, hamstrung by ROE, or suffering from having lousy aim. Now we face the prospect of 13 trials with appointed public defensers and nice housing is US jail cells for an extended period of time. That's no way to fight piracy, as it certainly does not deter the pirates form siezing vesels for ransom or simple murder and plunder if all they face is a warm cell at the end of their exploits rather than a long drop with a short rope.

Perhaps it is time to expand the Marines' record of anti-piracy operations from the shores of Tripoli to the shores of Somalia?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dr. Crippen, I Don't Presume

New evidence is leading to possible doubt of the guilt of Dr. Crippen, the first suspect caught via morse code.

The Detroit News: DNA undermines notorious murder case

DNA evidence is casting doubt on Crippen's guilt and reopening questions about a British murder on par with Jack the Ripper's exploits. Though there have always been skeptics of the case, the evidence discovered by a Michigan State University forensic scientist has created tension between Crippen's family, skeptics of the science and especially residents in the United Kingdom with deeply held beliefs.

The tests showed the torso found in the Crippen's basement, that led to his execution by hanging in November 1910, was not his wife after all:
Female ancestors were needed to examine the mitochondrial DNA, which is in the cells that are passed on through maternal lineage.

The results: No match between Turner's living descendants and the century-old evidence. A second testing produced the same results, and additional testing showed that the torso belonged to a male.

Foran's work was announced in 2007, but it wasn't until now that the science has been peer-reviewed and published. He said he had no personal interest in the results and no one paid him to do the study. In fact, the results startled him, he said.

"I was a little surprised because it is so widely accepted that the remains were Cora's," Foran said. "But the whole identification was based on this one scar. In this day and age, no one would accept that as being a positive ID."
Assumming the tissue samples were uncontaminated after all these years, the question then becomes whose torso was it, and what was it doing in the Crippen's basement?

Based on these tests, Michigan relatives of Dr. Crippen are trying to clear his name, have him exumed from the prison burial ground where he lies, and returned to Michigan for burial.

It is quite interesting how scientific development, in this case DNA analysis, are causing new uncertainties with previously established truths, and either helping to solve mysteries from history or deepen them.

In another historical footnote,Captain Kendall
, the man who sent the wireless transmission from his ship that lead to Crippen's arrest after Kendall spotted Crippen on board, was later appointed Captain of the liner Empress of Ireland. He and was her Captain when it went down in the St. Lawrence River in 1914 after being struck by the Storstad.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Closing Thought For Tonight.....

Brought to you by Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach:

Detroit Area Group Wants To Ban Employers From Asking If Applicant Is A Felon - What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The Detroit News: Group pushes banning felony question on job applications

A group that helps ex-convicts re-enter society is working to get more Metro Detroit communities to "ban the box" on job applications that asks about felony convictions.

The Macomb County branch of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative, or MPRI, is organizing an effort to get municipal governments to stop screening out job candidates based solely on their criminal history.

A growing list of cities in Michigan already has done so, including Detroit, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Nationally, dozens of major cities — including Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Memphis; Minneapolis; San Francisco; and Seattle — also have done away with the question.
Its not like those cities don't have healthy populations of felons and crime rates to with them, eh?

In a bizarre twist, the advocates of getting employers to not ask the felony question up front claim not asking will let the felons explain their crime.

How employers will know to ask about the details of the applicant's felony if they're not allowed to ask if the person has been convicted of a felony raises a few issues.

Not to mention the potential liability an employer may take on in hiring a felon, especially for certain offenses, especially when an argument is made that they should have known by asking up front.

Employers don't think this a great idea:
Employers have had the question on job applications for decades and use it to screen candidates, said Michael Burns, executive vice president for the American Society of Employers. The Livonia-based group is a nonprofit that has provided programs and consulting services to human resource professionals since 1902.

"(New hires) have an impact on everyone else in a workplace and employers want people who are going to contribute positively," he said. "They have to decide whether someone who's made bad choices in their lives is someone they want coming in contact with their other employees and their customers."

However, Burns said parolees aren't a protected class of job candidate and employers have a right to know up front if prospective hires have a criminal past. Many employers will still hire applicants with criminal records once they learn what type of offense was committed, he said.

"Employers have a right to the information and how they use it is completely up to them," Burns said. "A criminal record isn't something that should be hidden from employers."
So far its not, but given the efforts to make felons a protected class, that day may not be far off.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

You Can't Take The Text From Me

Borders’ management opened their books this week and turned to Chapter 11.

When Borders announced it was declaring bankruptcy, it was quick to assure its e-readers that their e-texts that were stored for their Cruz readers would still be available and not affected by the bankruptcy and the reorganization of the company.

There are some definite advantages to e-books: My Droid X is loaded with 20 books, and there is a lot of convenience of having them with me in a small package with an easy-to-read screen with a pleasing font. Thanks to the Baen Free Library, I’ve had the opportunity to read a number of authors I would not have otherwise known about or tried, leading to my purchasing many of their books after the generous free samples of the first few books in a series, and also the chance to load my Droid with books I already had in paper format, leading to convenient transportation of many a good read.

Of course, my eBooks are stored locally on the Droid or my computer, not at the mercies of an entity that instead of filing Chapter 11 could have filed Chapter 7 and disappeared, taking the eBooks with them. Paper books that you purchase offer some permanence – the store going out of business doesn’t result in your books being taken away or failing to work.

Having your data, in this case eBooks, stored with a entity that can go away, leaving you without a copy of the data is a problem, and one that more people will likely face and need to deal with as they begin to depend on applications and data stored in a “cloud” online. Sometimes that cloud is not going to have a silver lining but instead bring a perfect storm to the cloud users.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Very Imperfect Case of Self-Defense

Self-Defense is one thing, but when you mess up, you can expect to receive a manslaughter conviction.

Detroit man gets minimum sentence in vigilante shooting

A man who had come to symbolize for many their frustration with rampant crime in the city for his act of executing a man he claimed to have caught breaking into his east-side home was given a minimum sentence today.

Tigh Croff, 32, was ordered behind bars for two years for killing Herbert Silas, 53, by shooting him in the chest Dec. 28, 2009, after Silas had stopped running and put his hands in the air in surrender.
Mr. Croft is a very sympathetic figure - a man earning an honest living as a security guard, being victimized by having his home broken into 3 times in a short period and finally catching one of the burglars in the act.

He certainly well-represents all those frustrated and victimized by Detroit's out-of-control criminal element. Indeed, that sympathy led him to have a mistrial in his first trial.

Mr. Croft made a series of serious mistakes in this situation:

1. Chasing the suspect for 3 blocks after he caught the guy breaking into his house.

When the criminal is retreating and no longer presenting a threat, you've won. Don't start chasing them as you then shift from victim to being an aggressor. Not to mention chasing a felon is not the healthiest thing to do. You don't know where he's going, if he's armed or if his buddies are waiting around the corner. Instead secure your location, call the cops and let them go play cops and robbers - after all its what they like to do and its their job to do it.

2. Shooting the burglar after the chase when the criminal surrendered and did not present a threat.

Once the person is not presenting a threat of deadly force, you are no longer legally entitled to use deadly force.

3. Making a bombastic statement before shooting.
"I told him he was gonna die, and I shot him."

Follow the wise words of Eli Wallach - When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk.

There's no place for bravado in self-defense, and it opens the door to your future cell. Of course, in this situation Mr. Croft should not have been shooting. The statement he made indicates not a mindset of self-defense but one of retaliatory homicide. Remember that if you have to shoot in self-defense you're shooting to stop the threat, not to kill your attacker. Leave the Hollywood repartee on the silver screen where it belongs, not on the street.

4. Making tons of incriminating statements to the police after the incident.

To remove absolutely all doubt that Mr. Croft was no longer properly acting in self-defense when he shot Silas, he told the police about the above statement and capped it off by stating that the burglar had his hands in the air and "had that mercy look".

There's something to be said about shutting up and asking for a lawyer.

In short, Mr. Croft went from victim to criminal real fast through a series of major errors in judgment beginning with that first wrong decision to pursue.

Thankfully, the judge has shown him considerable mercy. Judge Michael Hathaway did so first by dismissing the second degree murder charge and then giving him the shortest possible sentence under the law of two years for use of a firearm in a felony and 3 years probation for manslaughter.

You really should see a doctor about that stabbing pain in your head......

From The Detroit News: Doctors remove knife from man's head after 4 years

(Insert jokes about comparable anticipated wait times under Obamacare here)

Surgeons in southern China successfully removed a rusty, 4-inch knife from the skull of a man who said it had been stuck in there for four years, the hospital said today.

Li Fuyan, 30, had been suffering from severe headaches, bad breath and breathing difficulties but never knew the cause of his discomfort, said the senior official at the Yuxi City People's Hospital in Yunnan Province. Li told doctors he had been stabbed in the lower right jaw by a robber four years ago and the blade broke off inside his head without anyone realizing it, said the director of the hospital's Communist Party committee's office who would only give his surname, He.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday at the Marshbank Winterfest

On Saturday I took the kids to the Marshbank Winterfest. The weather was warm (for February) and sunny which made it a perfect day to get outdoors.

Marshbank Park was closed last year because of extensive renovations and it was nice to see the results.

The offer of seeing sled dogs was enough to get the kids out of the house and outdoors. When we arrived at 1:30, The park was packed with people. We met up with some neighbors and friends at the park and wandered around.

The kids wanted a tractor hayride so we got in line for that and had a nice ride through the park.

After the ride they went off to pet a reindeer. I believe this one ran over someone's grandma last year:

The reindeer handler was consistently warning all the kids to only pet the hind end and stay away from the antlers. Thankfully the reindeer was quiescent and seemed to enjoy the attention, and no child was impaled.

The kids then did an egg toss (plastic eggs filled with birdseed), which they quickly dropped. Then a bean bag toss where they each won a movie poster and a necklace from 104.3 WOMC (ok, every kid won those but don't tell them that).

We then stopped into the new shelter and got a pizza slice for Abby, a hotdog for Leah and a bowl of chili for me, and a bag of chips to share.

We then walked up to see the sled dogs, but all tickets for sled dog rides were gone before we even arrived at the park. After seeing the dogs, Leah declared that it was "enough for one day" and we walked back to the car and went home.

The Winterfest was pretty well done and the kids had a good time, but had they ran it the full day or spread it over two days it would have made the crowds a bit more manageable. In any case, it was good to get the kids outdoors and active for the afternoon.

Its a Jeep Thing

My 2001 Jeep Cherokee passed a major milestone this week:

Yes, 150,150 Miles, and it is still going strong.

Aside from some issues with the A/C system and the Idle Air Controller going bad, there have been no serious problems. The utility of the Jeep for shlepping stuff, including everything from heavy dive tanks to household goods is excellent, and its four-wheel drive has been a serious help this winter as it has every winter.

Sadly, 2001 was the last year of production for the XJ for North American and Eurpoean sales, but they were still being produced through 2005 for sales in China.

With luck and continued regular maintenance, I'm hoping my Jeep will make 200,000 miles. #1 Daughter (age 7) wants it for when she turns 16 and can drive, as long as we repaint it pink.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

On The Train Again....

I had a great visit with my Dad this weekend.

He's able to get up and around and is tons better since the surgery and on the way to a hopefully full recovery. The surgeon went in and widened the canal in the spine and eased the pressure on the nerve, and the differenc eis night and day. All you can see is a 1.5 inc scar on his back and he's looking great and getting around well. Saturday we went out around Toronto and it was his first day out and about in 8 weeks.

For brunch we went to Cora's, a very nice spot for some excellent food and great friendly service. If you're in midtown Toronto I'd highly recommend stopping there for breakfast. Great food, tons of nice fresh fruit and coffee, eggs, crepes and assorted side meats delectable and numerous enough to satisfy the hungriest and most demanding of patrons. In other words, brunch was awesome, and I had good company too.

After brunch we did a bit of shopping. Dad is still not allowed to lift over 10 pounds so I was glad to be there to help carry stuff.

We bought some wine, and in Ontario you can't buy that just anywhere. We had to go to the LCBO, the government run wine/liquor store, as opposed to the imaginately named (and again government run) Beer Store. Musn't let the proles buy it in corner stores -- madness could well result.

The selection wasn't terrible at the LCBO but any Kroger, Hillers, or Meijers would have far more wines on offer for sale and many would offer about the same variety of spirits. Some types of wine were completely missing such as sake and quite a few brands were notable by their absence. Ah well, they like it that way.

Dad was a bit tired so after the shopping we went home and relaxed. I helped him with some computer issues and we watched some episodes of Band of Brothers. Later we had dinner and took it easy and after breakfast this morning I got on this train to head home.

The train's internet service keeps blipping in and out so I can't do any work on my VPN, and we're now only 10 minutes behind schedule.

Getting on the train at Toronto station is an experience.

They don't want you sitting in the relatively comfy chairs by the boarding gate. No, those must be left unoccupied. Instead, they have you line up with everyone until its time to board. VIA customer service seems to consist of a bunch of crabby and rude people. People who feel they missed out on not being elected class commisar at school and are making up for the lost chance to enforce their version of undisclosed rules on others.

It would help if they put up signs telling you which line is for which train. However, that would be informative and would make them lose the opportunity of barking at you for trying to move forward to see what line is for which train. Thankfully I got in the right line so I'm not bound for Ottawa or Montreal at the moment, at least I certainly hope not.

THe internet connection on this train drops the web just about every two minutes or so, making me close out the IE, log back in and then try again momentarily. Pretty frustrating but since we're only 15 minutes behind schedule and coming up on London I probably should be glad to exchange wonky internet access for a relatively timely arrival at Windsor.

Oh, and did I mention the really sharp edges on the arm rests of the seats? Squared off and sharp enough underneadth to draw blood when your leg rubs it as you stand up? Yep, VIA rail is quite a way to travel.

I'll post this while the connection is still good and we'll see if I can reconnect somethime between London and Windsor.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Blogging on a Train

Ah, the romance of the rails.

I drove across the border to Windsor today to take a train from Windsor to Toronto. I'm going to visit my Dad, who is recovering from back surgery that he finally got after 8 weeks of being in very intense pain from a bulged disc that was pressing on a nerve. Intense as in can't walk, can't get up or downstairs and having trouble just standing - that kind of pain.

The surgery seems to have been a great sucess and he's recovering nicely.

So I figured it would be good to take the train - after all I can work on it, the train has got free wifi and should get me to the station in about the same amount of time it would have taken me to drive to his house. It should be easy as it would take slightly more time by train but I could be more productive on board. Between the train ticket and parking at the station it will cost more than gas money to get there but I should be able to enjoy the ride.

Well, that was the idea.

First was fun with parking. I pulled into the parking lot and no attendant was there. Plenty of warning signs that unpaid for cars will be towed. I;m early so I wait. I go to the station, get my ticket printed and the Via rail clerks there are pretty uniformally unhelpful. After awhile i finally ask them when the oarking attendnat will be there and they tell me that lot can't be used for parking, I have to go across the stereet to another lot or my car would be towed. Nevermind the lot says "Open" and "Long and Short Term Parking". Great. So I move my car, pay for parking and zip back in time to get on my train.

I should have arrived at Toronto by now but first we were sidelined before London as another Via rail train going the other direction had the right-of-way on the track. Since I'm in favor of avoiding head-on train collisions this was a sensible idea. Of course having parallel tracks would have been an even better one, yes? Then we got sidelined for quite awhile outside Brockville due first to a freight train having priority on the track and then because our train needed to be "inspected". No reason was given for the inspection so for all we know a wheel could have been falling off and we wouldn't be told.

So I should have been at Union Station at 17:30. It is now 18:00 and we're by Brantford with quite a ways to go to get to Toronto. The internet connection is sporadic and slow (yes I shouldn't complain it is rather amazing that you can connect to the internet on a moving train and get stuff done in another country, but I guess I'm a bit jaded and have high expectations of connectivity by now). The train is also packed to the gills and I'm squeezed in a seat. On the upside the passengers are pretty decent except for one lady that keeps chatting lously enough on her cell phone so the whole train car can hear about her decision to move to get a new job. Yipee.

On the upside, its been rather relaxing to do some work on the train and do a bit of internet browsing.

That is tempered by the sporadic nature of the connection, the squeezed seats and the lack of any info about the delay or estimate from the train crew about the new arrival time. In fact, I had to go to VIA's website to find that our new arrival time is estimated to be 18:46. Hooray for the Internet as an information provider, cause the VIA Rail crew sure are not.

We'll see if the trip back proves to be any better, but at least I can happily report there are no snakes on this train.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Much Snowdo About Nothing Much

So far we have not gotten the 15 inches that was promised for the Detroit area.

Overnight we received about 3-4 inches, but it is now coming down more heavily so maybe we'll see a total accumulation of a foot or so over the course of the day. In other words, not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination. It is nice to work comfortably from home and watch the snow come down out the window rather than have to drive in it.

As to why the wrong prediction of fifteen inches was made, I'd say it was due to a female meteorologist's prediction being off.

Its not really her fault. Most girls have been told repeatedly since their teens that this (hold your thumb slightly spaced from your index finger) is 12 inches, so you can see how such a mistake can occur.

Kid-Proof Tops Aren't

So this morning as I'm working from home watching the snow come down, I'm getting the kids their vitamins after breakfast.

As I reach to get the Gummy Vites out of the top of the cupboard Abby says "Let me open that".

I say its closed, she then declares that she can open it. I hand it to her and she says:

"See, it says just push down and twist, its easy".

She then opens it with a flourish and takes out two vitamins for her and two for her sister and then closes the top securely shut.

Abby then declares "Not very kid proof, huh?"


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Blizzard Warning in Southern Michigan Tonight- French Toast Supplies Reported to be Perilously Low

This is either going to suck or its going to be the most over-hyped winter storm since The Day After Tomorrow. They're expecting a dump in the Detroit area of 15 inches all at once.

Schools are peremptorily closing. Grocery stores are out of milk, eggs, and bread leading to fears of a french toast supply shortage for Southern Michigan.

Apparently comfort foods for a winter storm shut-in is French Toast. Why no runs on Cream of Mushroom soup and Kraft Dinner, both of which are more seasonally appropriate?

We'll see if this is anything to blog about or just standard winter blahs.

Update: Schools are closed in anticipation of this storm, including some schools like Cooley Law School that never close short of a major disaster.