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Guess What? [Mar. 20th, 2007|09:05 pm]
I love Jessica Katz!
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Freedom of Speech in NYC is Dead. [Mar. 1st, 2007|10:14 am]
[mood |aggravatedaggravated]

Res. No. 693-A:

"[A] Resolution calling on the Council of the City of New York to declare a symbolic moratorium on the use of the "N" word in New York City.
Whereas, the Council encourages the citizens of the City of New York to cease using the "N" word and to encourage all others whom they may encounter in their daily routine to cease from using the word as well; now therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York declares a symbolic moratorium on the use of the "N" word in New York City."
I find the "N" word to be offensive and disgusting. However, passing a law abridging our right to speak is even more offensive.

Unfortunately, the community at large, and the vast majority of the African-American community, has decided that the "N" word is not offensive, and can be used in a positive way. I disagree with this assessment and never use the "N" word.

However, this law is unconstitutional. First and foremost, this law is an abridgment of speech. The Constitution of the State of New York explicitly states in §8 that "Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right;and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press." Clearly, this resolution restrains and abridges speech, and creates a chilling effect on people speech and musical expression.

Secondly, naysayers argue that this law has no teeth and can't be enforced. However, it is a settled principle of law since Marbury v. Madison that if there is a right, there must be a remedy, even if a prohibition is "symbolic" and has no enumerated remedy. Perhaps the punishment for using the "N" word should be symbolic as well, like a symbolic public tongue lashing by a member of the prestigious city counsel.

Lastly, the law is overbroad and vague, since this resolution can arguably be read to include any word that begins with the letter "N". Too bad those "Nincompoops" over at City Hall don't understand that the 1st Amendment and our State Constitution protect everyone's right to use offensive speech.

If this doesn't make your blood boil, I don't know what will! Write the city counsel and tell them that you don't want them trampling on our hard earned civil liberties!

NYC Counsel Resolution 693-A | Constitution of the State of New York | First Amendment Annotated | digg this
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Death of my favorite Diet Soda [Jan. 30th, 2007|04:29 pm]
[Current Location |New York City]
[mood |determined]
[music |NPR evening edition]

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of kicking back a diet Dr. Brown Cel-Ray soda. Little did I know that it would be the last one I would ever drink.

For those of you not familiar with Cel-Ray, it is a refreshingly light celery flavored soda. It tastes like a subtle ginger ale, with celery overtones. It goes great with traditional Jewish deli fare, such as a corned beef/tongue/pastrami sandwich on rye. It is a "grown-up" soda, and it is definitely not to everyones taste. In fact, I hated it the first time I tried it as a seven year old raiding the temple refrigerator. I thought, "only old people would want to drink a vegetable flavored soda."

Last week I developed a sudden craving for a can of diet celery goodness. So, I went to the store. Couldn't find it. Went to a deli. They were out of stock. "What is going on here?" I thought.

I searched Google, and heard a number of different stories. Some people heard that the entire Cel-Ray line was discontinued. Others claimed that diet Cel-Ray was still in production, but that the store owners were just saying it was discontinued because no one was buying it.

Why all these discrepancies? Lack of public relations machinery. It appears that the Dr. Brown brand has been bought and sold a few times. In the latest machination, After Cadbury-Schweppes acquired Canada Dry, they sold the brand to an entity known as the Pepsi-Cadbury Bottling Company of New York, which is probably some sort of corporate subsidiary or partnership of both Pepsi/Pepsi Bottling and Cadbury. All of these mergers and acquisitions confused the buyers and distributors, and most importantly, the customer base.

So, what exactly is the bottom line? According to a sales representative at Pepsi-Cadbury, only the diet Cel-Ray line was discontinued "quite a while back". When pressed about why production was stopped, the sales representative stated that "it didn't justify mass production" and that there are no future plans to sell diet Cel-Ray in the future.

I would like to end with a disturbing thought. Diet Cel-Ray was discontinued in 2005. However, I drank a can of diet Cel-Ray 3 months ago. Is the soda your drinking now 2 years old?!?! Yikes!

bevnet story | egullet story 1 | egullet story 2
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Why Supreme Court Justices Avoid Certain Topics: Ethics [Jan. 28th, 2007|08:57 am]
[Current Location |Home]
[mood |happyhappy]
[music |Fox News Sunday]

In a recent column in Slate, Dana Lithwick makes much ado about Supreme Court Justices avoiding topics that might come before the court.

Unfortunately, Ms. Lithwich fails to address the simplest explanation why Justices will not discuss questions by reporters that are going to come before the court on turbulent issues. The answer is simple, so simple that a first year law student could answer the question: Judicial Ethics.

The Code of Conduct for United States Judges allows Judges to engage in extra-judicial activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. However, the Code explicitly warns that a Judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties. A Judge should also refrain from political activity.

Most importantly, the Code specifically admonish Judges to avoid public comment on the merits of a pending or impending actions.

While the Code is not binding upon the Supreme Court, it was approved by the Chief Justice and the Judicial Conference and is binding upon the lower courts; therefore, the Supreme Court must set a good example. Otherwise their hypocrisy would destroy their ability to effectively administer the lower courts. Furthermore, a breach of judicial ethics by a Supreme Court Justice could potentially lead to disciplinary action by State Bar disciplinary committee, which would be a political disaster for the Judge. One could even imagine situations where impeachment and removal by Congress could result from unethical conduct.

Looking at these rules as a whole, one can see why most of the Justices refuse to comment on "volatile" and "turbulent" cases. They don't want to loose their legitimacy as an institution by appearing partial and political.

Ms. Lithwich's column attempts to address the exceptions from this general stance. She admonishes Justice Breyer for discussing Brown v. Board of Education in the same week that he was hearing two school-integration cases and criticizes Justice Stevens for discussing flag-burning and Justice Scalia for discussing Bush v. Gore. However, these arguments are red herrings, since these areas are generally considered settled law by the vast majority of the legal community. To the extent that the issues are not settled law, the Justices routinely refuse to address the fine points which might come before the court.

This is not to say that the Court does not have ethics problems. According to a report on ABC News, Justice Scalia "spent two nights at the luxury resort lecturing at the legal seminar where ABC News also found him on the tennis court, heading out for a fly-fishing expedition, and socializing with members of the Federalist Society, the conservative activist group that paid for the expenses of his trip." And shockingly, Justice Clarence Thomas "received tens of thousands of dollars in valuable gifts, including an $800 leather jacket from NASCAR, a $1,200 set of tires, a vacation trip by private jet, and a rare Bible valued at $19,000."

These appearances of impropriety harm the institution of the Supreme Court and to rule of law in the United States. The Supreme Court should be embarrassed.

ABC News Story | Slate Story | digg story
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Stay in place and carry a knife: Two things every 11 yr old Boy Scout knows [Dec. 7th, 2006|09:53 am]
[Current Location |New York City]
[mood |coldcold]
[music |NPR]

It is a sad commentary on the state of our society that grown adults do not know basic survival skills.

The tragic death of Cnet editor James Kim is a case study in survival preparedness. The Kims were driving along a freeway and missed a turnoff hat led them down a small mountain road on a Thanksgiving vacation. Heavy Oregon snow disabled their car. The family was trapped. Having only some water, breast milk and some baby food, the Kim family survived for 7 days. However, tragedy struck when James Kim made the wrong decision and left his family to search for help. James Kim was found dead, 8 miles away, 2 days after the family was rescued.

What went wrong? The Kims started off on the right foot. They had shelter, heat, food, and water. And they waited. Over a week. Then bad decisions were made.

Leaving the car to search for help was a mistake. A serious fundamental mistake.

According to every resource I have found, if you are trapped on a road during a blizzard, you stay in your car, and you only leave your car if you can find help within 100 feet of the car. Taking an 8 mile hike, by yourself, through tremendously rugged mountain terrain not following a trail, outfitted with tennis sneakers, blue jeans, a shirt and a medium-weight parka is foolish and is a perfect recipe for hypothermia.

My wilderness training also informs me that staying in one place, with a group of people, is always better than splitting up individually. Staying in a group, in the freezing cold, makes sense. You can combine body heat. You can combine knowledge and resources. You can boost each others moral. You can do more things in a group, than alone, especially if you don't have a lot of resources!

Another essential piece of survival gear is a knife. It comes in very handy for a variety of purposes. Yet people don't keep one on their person at all times. I was taught to always take a knife with me when I am outdoors. But yet another recent story illustrates our foolishness in the wilderness. A 65 year old woman recently saved her husbands life by repeatedly stabbing a mountain lion with a ballpoint pen and beating it with a stick. Imagine how much better off she would have been if she had a knife in her pocket.

link to first article | link to second article
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Thanksgiving Thoughts [Nov. 16th, 2006|05:28 pm]
[Current Location |Home]
[mood |mellowmellow]
[music |NPR]

On break yesterday, I took a quick 15 minute walk around the fringes of the heavily wooded corporate campus where I work. I always seem to find neat things that everyone is oblivious to, such as an acre of raspberry bushes, an apple tree, a little pine forest, and a mini wetland area. On my walks, I usually see some sort of interesting animal or bird scurrying around. It is not that unusual to see a deer or another furry forest creature.

Imagine my surprise when I saw four wild turkeys strutting around along my route. I thought I was imagining things because the birds quickly went out of sight behind some cattails. So, I slowly circled round and caught glimpse of it again, before it disappeared. I circled round the opposite way and caught sight of them in a depression, drinking water out of a small pool. I was able to stalk up to about five yards from the turkeys before they completely freaked out and ran, sort of like Jurassic Park dinosaurs, onto a ridge in the forest twenty-five yards away. Clearly, no one has told these birds that it is Turkey Season.

My experience yesterday has me salivating at the thought of Thanksgiving dinner this year. I really can't wait to dig into some turkey this year!

Click here to see video of the turkeys!
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Is free security software making your PC vulnerable? [Sep. 10th, 2006|06:15 am]
[Current Location |Home]
[mood |irritatedirritated]
[music |BBC World Service]

I was very disappointed with the BBC article "Concerns over security software". The article purports to discuss problems with 'free' security software to protect your computer.

Sadly, the article appeared more concerned with attacking 'free' security software and promoting commercial software solutions.

For example, the link from the main BBC web page states, "Under attack: Is free security software making your PC vulnerable?" This is unhelpful and confusing. The article also hints that "when you download free security software you cannot be certain what you get." Well, how do you know what you are getting when you download closed source security software either?

Unfortunately, the article does not educate the public how to protect their computers on the Internet using free or commercial software.

I think the focus of the article should have been that wantonly downloading 'free' software security products without research or a recommendation from a trusted computer magazine/website or your local tech guru is dangerous since it could lead to spyware and viruses. In fact, downloading any program off the Internet is risky. A list of signs that your security program might not be safe would have been useful. (E.g. you have to pay by check to get the software)

A truly excellent news article would have outlined a number of trusted 'freeware' security firewall programs, such as ZoneAlarm and Kerio. It would have also discussed trusted freeware and GPL virus scanning solutions, such as Avast!, ClamWin, McAfee Stinger, and TrendMicro sysclean. A list of a number of trusted 'free' spyware removal programs such as SpybotS&D, AdAware, Windows Defender, Hijack This!, and Rootkit Revealer, would have also been helpful.

An informed and well researched news article would have also mentioned that antivirus applications from the three largest security companies, Symantec, McAfee or Trend Micro, are far less likely to detect new viruses and Trojans than other, less popular, brands.

With such poor reporting, I am not sure that computer users should rely on the BBC for helpful computer advice.

read more | digg story | Why Popular AntiVirus Apps Don't Work
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More College Testing B.S. [Aug. 30th, 2006|09:13 pm]
According to the SAT and the New York Times, "The average score on the reading and math portions of the newly expanded SAT showed the largest decline in 31 years."

That must mean our education system sucks, right?

Wrong. These new statistics are laughable. In fact, according to the SAT "The 2-point drop in the average mathematics score represents approximately one-fifth of one test question on the SAT" and "the 5-point drop in the average critical reading score represents approximately one-half of one test question."

Breaking news! On average, students got about 1 more question wrong than usual on the SAT. Stop the Presses! Our education system is falling apart! Kudos to the NY Times for putting this in perspective...half way through the article after a sensational headline!

I think the bigger hidden story here is that there has been a drastic improvement in how intelligent graduating High School Seniors are today, compared with their parents 20 years ago. More teens know significantly more about math, science, and english today than their parents did 20 years ago. Wish I had some data to back this up...anyone got any?

read more | press release
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Republicans are Floundering and Sputtering [Aug. 26th, 2006|04:11 pm]
Republicans are in such a tight bind for Congressional races this November, that they are willing to say anything to get elected. Here is what Katherine Harris had to say to the Florida Baptist Witness:

"[T]he real issue is why should Baptists care [about the upcoming elections]? If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage...."

Well, that is the most outrageous, offensive and arrogant comment I have heard come out of anyone's mouth in a long time.

Isn't arrogance a sin? That didn't stop Harris from unequivocally stating that there was "No Question" that she will spend eternity with God in Heaven. What ever happened to the Christian ideal of humility?

Oh, and apparently, "G-d is the one who chooses our rulers." I guess that makes Katherine Harris G-d then, since she singlehandedly gave Bush the 2000 election in Florida.

Religious and non-religious people in Florida who believe that secular law should govern this country should stand up to this wicked witch and tell her that they no longer want this bigot to represent Florida. The establishment of religion and religious law is unconstitutional. Secular law is the only way to govern this country. That is not to say that religious law shouldn't influence our moral and societal values...but requiring one religions laws is not the way to go.

Judging by how desperate Republicans are this coming November, it is easy to predict that the time of the religious right is over. Long live America! Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

link to article | digg story
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Are Four-Fifths of U.S. High School Graduates Not Ready for College? [Aug. 18th, 2006|07:00 am]
According to Bloomberg News, the ACT reported that, "almost four-fifths of U.S. high school graduates failed to pass this year's standard examinations designed to show their readiness for college".

This is not accurate. I think the ACT failed statistics class. Bloomberg should also have its knuckles wrapped with a ruler, since it has been caught in a classic type of journalistic bias by relying heavily on a press release without thinking about the statistics carefully and spinning the story to make the situation look dire.

The problem with this study is that there are numerous confounding variables which weren't taken into consideration by the ACT. These variables are "hidden" in the study model and affect the known variables, but are not known or acknowledged, and thus potentially distort the data.

Some facts:

*The ACT is taken by the majority of high school graduates in 25 States. That is half of the United States.
*Approximately 40% of U.S. high school graduates took the ACT tests.
*The other 60% of students do not take the ACT. They take the SAT or another entrance exam or none at all.
*The States where the majority of high school graduates take the test are mostly in the midwest and southeast.

Is it possible that students from the Midwest and Southeast are less prepared in HS than Northeasterners and Westcoasters? Is it possible that the 60% of high school students who don't take the ACT are better prepared for college? Is it possible that your average student is very well prepared in three out of four subject areas, but is very weak in one area? These and other lurking variables destroy whatever meaning the statistics have.

Thus, the headline "Four-Fifths of U.S. High School Graduates Not Ready for College?" is pure fear mongering by Bloomberg.

It would be accurate to say only one in five met or exceeded the College Readiness Benchmark scores on all four ACT exams. It would also be accurate to say that the reason why they did not meet this Benchmark was because of sub par math and science scores on the ACT. It would also be accurate to say that most students are prepared for college with good reading, writing and social sciences skills.

The blogosphere has been buzzing with this story. Many bloggers have been using these statistics to say that 'the public school system' has failed and vouchers for private schools and homeschooling are the answer. Hogwash. Private school students also take the ACT and standardized tests and are included in the ACT statistics.

Please read the press release by the ACT and the selected state data that are linked below. The horrible interpretation of these statistics provide a fine lesson in reading news stories and press releases without critical reading and reasoning skills. Skills that the ACT and journalists should have mastered a long time ago.

read more | press release | selected state data | digg story
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