11/29/2005

I’d like to stand up and cheer for people like Deborah Davis, a fifty-year-old mother of four who was recently arrested on a Denver public bus for refusing to show identification to a police officer. She was simply riding the bus, talking on the phone to a friend, when the officer stepped onto the bus and asked everyone aboard to present photo identification.

Knowing her rights, Ms. Davis refused. A second officer was summoned– he, too, asked to see her identification. She refused again. A federal officer was called to the scene, with the same result. She was promptly put into handcuffs, removed from the bus, and taken to the police station. There, after a bit of creative thought, the police charged her with refusing to comply with official instructions (a federal misdemeanor). She was told if she ever rides that bus again she will be arrested and put in jail.

The case is scheduled for federal court in two weeks. It should be interesting to see what happens. Technically, she has committed no crime– there was no sign stating that all bus passengers must provide identification, and there is no law stating that United States citizens must do so at the request of any law enforcement officer. In fact, demanding to see someone’s identification when no crime has been committed and no warrant issued is an illegal search. There are clear Constitutional issues here, making me wonder whether it will go to the Supreme Court eventually.

As our society becomes more indoctrinated to the official War on Terror stance that “security means freedom”, we grow increasingly complacent. We hand over our driver’s licenses without a second thought, simply because someone wearing a uniform asked for it. This is a dangerous path– one which probably has Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson turning in their graves. Hopefully more people like Ms. Davis will continue the struggle to free us from our own government.

11/18/2005

Clearly not everyone learned their lesson from the famous Hot Coffee from McDonald’s Lawsuit a few years ago, because some woman is suing Dunkin’ Donuts for– you guessed it– burning herself after she dropped hot coffee on her foot. She thinks the agony she suffered is worth a cool $15 million.

When, oh when, will people learn that stupidity and clumsiness doesn’t entitle you to money?

Clearly we need more robust warnings on all products…

11/17/2005

Could the end be in sight?

Congressman John Murtha is taking a stand against the Bush administration’s strategy of endless rhetoric and endless occupation of Iraq by American troops. He took the House floor today and demanded that U.S. soldiers be immediately withdrawn from Iraq. What’s interesting here is that he’s not only a decorated Vietnam veteran, but he’s been known for the last thirty years as a “hawk”. He voted in favor of the Persian Gulf war, as well as the Iraq occupation.

I guess he’s had enough, like so many other Americans. Time for Bush and Cheney to stop this continued stonewalling about “until the mission is accomplished” and consider the real impact this war is having– not only on American morale, but on the troops themselves and of course on the Iraqi people.

In all likelihood, of course, this is a futile gesture and the referendum will be voted down by Congress. Even with Bush’s popularity plummeting, he still manages to carry some clout with his cronies.

11/16/2005

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny. When the government fears its people, there is liberty.”

— Thomas Paine

11/15/2005

Straight from Palm Beach, FL:

A former First National Bank and Trust customer filed a lawsuit against the bank in Martin Circuit Court Wednesday, asking for $2 million to compensate for stress and pain he said he suffered over an overdraft charge on his account.

Barnard Lorence filed the suit himself, claiming he was treated rudely by a bank manager when he asked to reverse the $32 penalty he was charged for overdrawing his account by less than $5. He accused the bank of falsely advertising that it cares about its customers.

“What they don’t say is they have at least one manager who will be obnoxious and arrogant if one attempts to try to communicate with the bank,” he wrote in his suit.

Lorence said he has brain damage from a 2001 accident and the stress of the conflict with the bank is making his condition worse. He said he can’t sleep because he can’t stop thinking about it. He asked for millions, saying a few hundred thousand dollars would be a slap on the wrist to the bank and it deserved to be “paddled.”

So let’s see if I understand this correctly:

1) I can’t balance a checkbook and write one too many checks.
2) I ask the bank to cancel the (admittedly hefty) fee for it.
3) They say “no”.
4) I whine like a baby, spend all my waking time “thinking about it”, and sue.
5) PROFIT!

Of course, if this thing works out for Mr. Lorence, I should probably consider doing the same thing with Dell. After all, they wouldn’t waive the $40 shipping fee on my server, despite the clear mental anguish the whole situation caused me.

11/14/2005

Laralee’s been threatening for years to go through our “files” and trash all the stuff we really don’t need. Today she apparently dove into our boxes and boxes of receipts and managed to provide a generous donation for our recycle bin.

One of the more interesting items she found was this receipt from 1990 (yes, 1990!) showing the Apple IIgs computer I bought. My first real computer, woo hoo! This was the system I brought to college and used for a few years until the software got too old (Apple decided not to support that model and shift all their effort to Macs, meaning there wasn’t a market for IIgs software).

Note the 768 kB of memory, the 5.25″ disk drive (oh, those days), and the bargain $450 hard drive with an astounding 40 MB of storage. Funny that now you can buy 40MB of storage for right around 4 cents.

11/14/2005

The Dell griping must continue.

As detailed a few days ago in my journal, I ordered a server from Dell and had a bit of an adventure getting the order straight. Despite my protestations, and request that I get a free shipping credit, they said they simply couldn’t do it.

Later that day, someone else from Dell called to “follow up” on the order. In reality it wasn’t a follow-up at all– it was an attempt to sell me more stuff. This woman called herself a “Technical Sales Coordinator” or something equally impressive but meaningless. Her job, as far as I could tell from her description of it, is to sell me a bunch of add-ons for my server. She was ready to sign me up for a new monitor, a laser printer, a USB drive, or anything else from the “catalog of over 70,000 peripherals stocked by Dell”.

Because she said she’s “one step above” the sales reps I’d dealt with earlier, I told her about my ordering experience and asked if she could do anything about free shipping or some kind of credit for my frustration and wasted time. Nope, it turns out all she can do is sell stuff. “Gosh, I wish I could help you with that,” I remember her saying, “but I can only manage the peripherals.”

Thanks a million.

Well, this morning I received another call from a different Technical Sales Coordinator offering the same set of 70,000 peripherals. Luckily I missed the call, because I would have really laid into her. What kind of ridiculous process is this? I place an order, the order doesn’t work and I get overcharged for it, so I complain, but no one will listen to my complaint, and then… I get not one but two calls offering to sell me more crap I don’t need! If I wanted a laser printer I would have added it to my order!

I can only hope I get a third Technical Sales Coordinator calling me, because then the trifecta will be complete and I’ll have to go ballistic.

11/11/2005

The year is 1975.

You’re using a computer (admittedly a very expensive computer) and need a gigantic amount of storage. So you buy a hard drive. The biggest hard drive you can buy. A hard drive so big it can hold… five hundred kilobytes of data.

The drive takes several days to format. But when it’s ready, hoo boy! You’re playing with power!

Isn’t the progress of technology astounding?

11/11/2005

The world has been on the edge of its collective chair recently, waiting for China to unveil the new mascot for the 2008 Olympic Games. Well, the day has come and we have not one, but five mascots! Their names are:

Bei Bei
Jing Jing
Huan Huan
Ying Ying
Ni Ni

Apparently if you say them in order like that, you’ll be saying “Beijing welcomes you!” in Chinese. You’ll also sound like you have a horrible stammering problem, and that it may be time for your medication.

From an AP article:

A plethora of real and mythic creatures were among the candidates considered by Chinese leaders, Olympic officials and design specialists over the past year. Among those that didn’t make the cut were the dragon and a mischievous magical monkey out of Chinese folklore.

Personally, I think a mischievous magical monkey would be awesome. Imagine Curious George as the Olympic mascot! The mind boggles just thinking about the possibilities there.

Best of all, perhaps, is the photo below showing Jackie Chan (the little man in an aluminum-foil coat) dancing with the new mascots. Oh. My.