Browse Month: July 2005

07/28/2005

From an article in The New American:

Phyllis Dintenfass is an unassuming, 62-year-old retired teacher from Appleton, Wisconsin. She has never committed a crime against persons or property, but faces a year in prison and $100,000 in fines as a result of her collision with a federal official.

Last September, Mrs. Dintenfass and her husband were passing through security prior to a flight at Appleton’s Outagamie County Regional Airport. Since something she wore repeatedly triggered metal detectors, Mrs. Dintenfass was taken to a “secondary screening area” by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supervisor named Anita Gostisha. The would-be passenger complied as Gostisha used an electronic “wand” to scan for metal objects.

Gostisha then used the back of her hands to check the area beneath Dintenfass’s breasts, provoking her to “lash out.” According to Dintenfass, her reaction was to reciprocate the unwanted and uninvited physical contact while saying, “How would you like it if I did that to you?” Gostisha claims that the middle-aged woman – uniformly described as mild-mannered and inoffensive – also “slammed her against the wall,” which would certainly be a proportionate response to what reasonable people would consider a sexual assault.

Dintenfass flatly denies shoving the TSA official. In any case, she was arrested and charged with “assaulting” a federal official. A federal jury found her guilty of that supposed crime on July 26. Sentencing will occur on November 1.

Dintenfass “punished Anita Gostisha for doing her job,” complained federal Prosecutor Tim Funnell. U.S. Attorney Steven Bispukic added that TSA officers, who perform a “vital function” are “entitled to protection from assault.”

Perhaps the only positive aspect of this case is that we now have an official acknowledgment from federal attorneys that the invasive, degrading physical contact regularly inflicted on air travelers by TSA drones is a form of “punishment” and “assault.” But this implicit admission is bundled with the assumption that federal officials, who belong to a specially privileged and protected class, are entitled to assault common citizens – in the name of “homeland security,” naturally.

07/26/2005

Now that Microsoft has renamed Longhorn to Vista, they have an interesting task ahead: convince consumers that upgrading to the new version of Windows next year is a good thing to do. Most people don’t want to mess with the hassle of an upgrade, especially if they have everything working “just right”. Witness the number of people (and companies!) still running Windows 98 if you don’t believe that.

Anyway, I found a list of features that will be included in Vista. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • new search mechanism
  • parental controls
  • “better” home networking
  • translucent windows
  • IPv6 network support
  • encryption of entire disks
  • automatic hard drive optimization (read “defragmentation”)
  • secure boot
  • There are a few other eye-candy sorts of things, I’m sure. In the end, though, the list is completely laughable because– you guessed it– both Apple’s OS X and Linux KDE and Gnome desktops already support all of these features. Microsoft should consider changing “Vista” to something more apropos like “Yesterday” to represent the fact that their fancy new features have been around for (in some cases) years on alternative operating systems.

    Innovation. Hmph.

07/23/2005

If anyone still wonders whether the U.S. patent system is broken, or whether people and companies will step up to ever-higher levels of idiocy, stop wondering. Microsoft has patented the emoticon.

That’s right, the little smiley in your e-mail message or on your instant-messaging client is now under the jurisdiction of Microsoft. Technically they don’t own the characters themselves (although heaven knows if they’re working on that too) but rather the transmission and reconstruction of the smiley face graphic. Wow, that’s sure innovative!

Mark Taylor, executive director of the Open Source Consortium, says:

“I would have expected to see something like this suggested by one of our more immature community members as a joke on Slashdot, and probably would have chuckled at the absurdity of the notion. We now appear to be living in a world where even the most laughable paranoid fantasies about commercially controlling simple social concepts are being outdone in the real world by well-funded armies of lawyers on behalf of some of the most powerful companies on the planet.”

Sheesh.

07/23/2005

The recent flip-flop flap at the White House has me standing and cheering. After the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team won the national championship, they were invited to a photo op with President Bush. Many of the team members wore flip-flop sandals in the photo, prompting some kind of otherworldly outrage from people who think the attire was much too casual for such a prestigious (hah!) visit.

As someone who goes everywhere barefoot, wearing sandals only if I must go into a store or restaurant, and in fact not even wearing socks to church, I applaud their sense of fashion and wish more people would follow their lead. Shoes are highly overrated.

07/21/2005

The thermometer says 105 degrees. Wow. That’s a hot day to be playing ultimate at lunchtime…

07/20/2005

Of course most parents think their kids are geniuses, but I have to say I’m impressed with Alex. Yesterday he read almost the entire first Harry Potter book. I don’t know how many other eight-year-olds read 280+ pages in a single day…

07/19/2005

Happy 60th birthday, Trinity.

If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky,
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One…
I am become Death,
The shatterer of Worlds.”

— From the Baghavad-Gita, and attributed to Robert Oppenheimer after he saw the Trinity explosion

07/19/2005

Anyone who doubts that Hollywood has finally, completely, and utterly run out of ideas would do well to consider that Paramount Pictures has now acquired the film rights to the Smurfs. They are planning to make a computer-generated trilogy (yes, trilogy) to be released in 2008.

Oh. My. Word.

And I have no idea what “let’s Smurf!” means, but the mind boggles.

07/19/2005

The sheer stupidity value of the story below is so high that I can’t even think of a good joke to go with it.

From the Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“An American Airlines flight returned to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shortly after taking off Monday because a threatening note was found on board, federal authorities said. Flight 605 departed from the airport for San Juan at 6:53 p.m. It turned back when a passenger discovered a napkin with a bomb threat written on it, FBI Spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said.

A passenger found the note when they flipped down their tray table, Orihuela said. The note said “bomb” repeatedly and had “meet the parents” written in parentheses.”

You’ve got to hand it to the TSA: they’re always looking for new and innovative ways to keep America’s skies safer. Sheesh.

07/12/2005

I was talking to Dirk yesterday; he’d called from his cell phone while he was driving home in the pouring rain. We were talking about the usual nonsense and enjoying ourselves, when all of a sudden he screamed:

“I’m going to die! I’m going to die! I’m going to die!”

There were a few beeps, and then silence.

Thinking he was pulling a fast one on me, I was playing along. “Dirk? Are you dead?” After a moment he came back on and said quietly, “I was just in a big accident. I’ll call you back.”

Yikes. It turns out he’d hydroplaned on the wet road and dove into a ditch off the highway. The car was trashed, but luckily he was okay. Definitely a bummer of an evening.

07/11/2005

Seen on Fark. It’s funny because it’s true.

07/11/2005

To all those people who laugh at me for going everywhere barefoot, I refer them to the recent study from Portland, Oregon. Scientists who apparently had run out of research ideas decided to compare people who wore shoes and walked on sidewalks and streets to a group who walked barefoot on cobblestones.

John Fisher, who led the study, said this:

“Nearly all the 108 volunteers in the study said they felt better after the exercise. But only the half who walked the cobblestones showed significant improvement in balance, measures of mobility and blood pressure.”

There you have it. Although I admit I don’t often wander around cobblestone streets, clearly there’s some benefit to walking barefoot. Playing ultimate barefoot is good for bonus points.

07/11/2005

I’m waiting breathlessly to hear how the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decides to handle a recent (March 2005) application by some clown in Hawaii to trademark the name “Jesus Christ”. Here’s a portion of the filing information:

Serial Number: 78583223
Mark (words only): JESUS CHRIST
Standard Character claim: Yes
Current Status: Newly filed application, not yet assigned to an examining attorney.
Date of Status: 2005-03-21
Filing Date: 2005-03-09

Address:
Maria, Ronald./K
PO Box 2868 89226A Farrington Hwy
Waianae, HI 96792
United States

It looks like Ronald has big plans to sue everyone who goes to church or prints a bible. I wonder if you could sue someone for saying a prayer?

Sheesh…

07/10/2005

“Build a man a fire and he is warm for a day.
Light a man on fire and he is warm for the rest of his life.”

— Jason K. Larson

07/09/2005

A Taco Bell in Pittsburgh seems to think some of its female customers should be paying more for their lunch.

Hint: see the last item on the menu.

07/04/2005

Nothing stops the Forehand of Doom.

07/01/2005

As part of the sudden increase in shark attacks and lightning strikes– at least from the media’s point of view– comes the story of seven-year-old Kaylee Shriner of Tonganoxie, Kansas. She was asleep in her bed when lighting hit the house, blew through her ceiling, and struck her bed. The bed, which apparently wasn’t manufactured to withstand a lightning strike, promptly burst into flame. She jumped out of bed and told mom and dad, and according to her statement to the media:

“Dad said a bad word, and then Mom heard it, and then she went upstairs, and then she said a bad word, and there were lots of bad words around here.”

Ahh, kids are so much fun because they’re so brutally honest…