Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Friday, 2021.10.15
Another ingredient for a happy marriage: Budget the luxuries first!

		Robert Heinlein, "Time Enough For Love"

2008.06.28

Paper Wars

Turns out Eric Scheie and I are fighting the same battle today. My efforts are far more modest than Eric’s, involving one puny schredder and a few garbage bags. Still, there is a lot of paper I HAVE to keep, mostly related to Janet’s psychotherapy practice. Stuff I can’t distroy for a few years yet due to some rather vague legal reason. Ack. Nonetheless, I toss what I can.

What’s interesting about the battle in Eric’s trench is he apperently gets far mor junk mail than I. He quotes from these folks:

“The amount of paper junk mail sent each year in the USA is staggering — some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened.”

The most staggering thing about that statistic, assuming it’s true, is that of those 4 million tons, over half of it actually is opened.

Who are these people?

2008.01.31

No Knock, No Knock…

The latest police drug/SWAT raid gone bad:

The parallels to Cory Maye are pretty striking. You’ve got a young guy minding his own business, with no criminal record, whose worst transgression is that he smokes a little pot from time to time. A bad informant and bad police procedures then converge, resulting in police breaking down his door while he’s sleeping. He fires a gun to defend himself, unwittingly kills a cop, and now faces murder charges.

The difference here from most other botched “no knock” raids is the homeowner defended himself, killed a cop (which he didn’t know was a cop) and is now facing murder charges. When the tables are turned, the home owner’s family buries their dead and the police bury the incident under an “internal investigation.”

There are far too many of these botched raids across the country every year and they are growing at a disturbing rate. It’s the consequence of literally giving police departments military surplus weapons with no culpability for police when they screw up. The idea of a SWAT team descending on you for jaywalking, while still laughable, is a little less so with each botched, unnecessary military-style police raid for misdemeanor crimes. I believe it was Napoleon who said: “You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.” If you literally give the police this power, they will find a reason to use it. It could even be said they must find a way to use it. We pay them to do that. The problem is, it’s moving down the path of unrestrained abuse. And it’s long past time to put some much needed checks and balances in place.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change soon and a good reason for not tolerating drug business in your neighborhood. Not just because of the drug dealers but because the increasing probability the police will screw up their raid with deadly consequences. Maybe even to you.

2007.10.09

Nothing Says “We Care!” To Your Customers Like A Good CYA Strategy

Saw this article on the front page of the September 7-13 dead tree edition of the Denver Business Journal: “Rising laptop thefts push prevention initiatives“.

It’s not enough simply to call in the IT people or have an expert run a “penetration test” of your company’s network, say lawyers who specialize in data security.

They insist that executives need legal as well as technical advice up front. They say companies face new data-security laws as well as evolving legal notions of what precautions they need to take.

That sounds really good. It’s a difficult task and requires a team effort. But hold on there…

[Bryan Cunningham, a principal of the Denver law firm Morgan & Cunningham] cites a key advantage to bringing in lawyers up front: “If you hire a law firm to supervise the process, even if there are technical engineers involved, then the process will be covered by attorney-client privilege.”

He noted that in a lawsuit following a data theft, plaintiffs usually seek a company’s records of “all the [data-security] recommendations that were made [before the breach] and whether or not you followed them. And if you go and hire technical consultants only, all that information gets turned over in discovery. [But] if you have it through a law firm, it’s generally not.”

So there you have it. Park the problem behind a lawyer straight away. But why stop there? Why not implement a corporate-wide strategy to shield all manner of mistakes, mishaps and negligence behind attorney-client privilege. Have attorneys supervise your employees and “consult” on safety issues. Cover the whole supply chain and service path while your at it. No more embarrassing or expensive issues falling out of discovery related to bad employee behavior, OSHA violations, service incompetence or product problems.

In actuality, this article is poorly titled. This isn’t a “prevention initiative” for data security, it’s a preemptive initiative for corporate irresponsibility.

This approach is a disincentive for businesses to provide adequate data security. It’s much more cost effective to pay a team of attorneys to “supervise” the data center than it is to implement and maintain a data security strategy (as the article notes, the threats are constantly changing and so must the security strategy.) What does a corporation care about 100,000 customer credit card records they let loose into the wild if they’re shielded by attorney-client privilege and not likely to be held accountable or responsible? Rather than caring about prevention, they will care more about squashing any news of such a loss. And this, I grant you, is a brilliant strategy for accomplishing just that.

[Edit History]

2008.05.26

Grammar fixes.

2007.05.24

Urban Scare Crow – The Fine Print

I’ve written previously about my urban scare crow. It has served me well for close to 3 years now. A recent rash of arrogant, smug, self-rightous doooooo-gooders of various sorts have seen fit to interpret the scare crow’s message, shall we way, rather liberally. “I’m not really a solicitor. I’m here for an important cause.” Well, it had better be to tell me my house is on fire, the locus are coming or you’re bleeding to death.

Turns out, their important cause is to tell me what heinous damage I’m doing to the planet animals my soul what ever gross nominalization they have printed on their clipboard and how money and/or a signature can heal my evil ways. This has prompted an addendum to the urban scare crow:

Urban Scare Crow - The Fine Print

Lucky for the clinically thick I lack the time to chase after my 50 bucks. But hey, at least I know of one hobby to pursue in retirement.

🙄

2007.04.29

The Truth Never Changes

Except when it does. The Truth defined by Claudius Ptolemy stood for some 1,400 years before the Truth defined by Nicolaus Copernicus ground Ptolemy’s cosmological Truth to dust. The Truth had changed. When one Truth, however, stands as long and has as deep a roots as Ptolemy’s, it can take a great deal of time to be eroded by the new Truth. Such was the case with Copernicus’ Truth. When so many of a society’s beliefs have been built upon a particular Truth, society is loath to relinquish the old Truth in favor of the new.

It is the same for personal beliefs and what each of us perceive as the “Truth.” An attorney friend of mine leverages this inertia when questioning witnesses in court. He begins with “Would you agree the Truth never changes?” The answer to this question is usually “Yes.” The one exception I know of was when this question was asked of a research MD expert witness. Science types, if they learned the idea of science at all, know the Truth changes. But the average bear believes the Truth, as they understand it, is as solid as a block of stone. My attorney friend then skillfully guides the witness into acknowledging the Truth of the case he is presenting. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

When the battle is between one who knows the Truth changes and one who believe it does not, my money is on the one who knows they are dancing on quicksand.

There are, of course, areas of human experience where the unacknowledged absurdity of immutable Truth make the experience what it is. Take this for example…

The Bean

It’s “The Bean”, as the locals call it, in Chicago. I took this picture last week while there on business. Is it art? Does it reveal a Truth to you?

Most of the visual arts are lost on me. I know what I like. Asian calligraphy and the works of David Lee and Frances Ku are particular favorites. But “The Bean” wasn’t revealing any Truths for me that day. That is, not until I looked no further than my own feet. There it was. The Truth revealed just as clearly as if it had been, well, chiseled in stone.

AT&T Plaza

It’s a commercial. (I did say most of the visual arts are lost on me. That’s probably why I play piano and cello rather than muck about with paint or clay.) But what about this…

Wacker 1

Found this after wandering East on Wacker to Lake Michigan. Again, no Truths were revealed, not even chiseled in stone. But I do know it had puppies…

Wacker 2

I shall leave the subject of Truth from Art alone and instead focus on the Truth that drives, reassures and comforts most of us. It’s the Truth of “reality.” But here again, there is an often unacknowledged contamination of subjectivity. There is the Truth of facts and the Truth derived from those facts, the interpreted Truth.

Just West of where I live can be found baked into the stone footprints from some long dead giant lizard. Virtually everyone agrees to this fact. The footprints are there. The creature, and any such creatures like it, have long since vanished from the planet. Where the Truth of these footprints becomes schizophrenic is in how the fact of those footprints are interpreted. My interpretation, and the resulting Truth I carry around, says those footprints were left there millions of years ago. Others interpret those prints has being no older than a few thousands years, what with the Earth not being older than some particular reference claims. A single Truth of fact with two associated, yet incompatible interpreted Truths.

A popular and politically correct Truth to hang your hat on these days has to do with global warming and whether or not it’s an established fact. My read is that it isn’t. Man’s experience with the weather is just too small a window from which to claim having any kind of clear view of what the global climate is doing. One hundred years ago, some scientists and much of the press was all abuzz with claims that the next ice age had begun.

I believe it is a good thing to reduce the amount of pollution we, as a species, spew into the atmosphere. I’ve believed that since high school when the high pollution alerts in Denver, compounded by the city’s infamous temperature inversions, left the air smelling like a sewer for weeks. Today, even with the population having growing significantly, the air is much cleaner. The global warming hysteria has not deepened my conviction in this regard.

So Al Gore is burning tons of jet fuel to haul is ass around the globe in order to set up circus tents and parade his “An Inconvenient Truth” dog and pony show. (Sidebar: When was it the Academy created a slide show category for it’s award?) I’m left with several questions. Who’s Truth is Gore selling? Inconvenient for whom? How can such a complex issue contain just one Truth? Frankly, I don’t think the Earth gives a damn about us. 4 billion years ago it was a sea of molten rock with no atmosphere. Life has been wiped clean from the surface and recreated anew probably more times than we know. The hysteria about global warming is a self-serving one and those on Gore’s band wagon are more interested about their own skin that saving the planet. The planet will save its self and will do so with the same indifferent cruelty and violence from which it began.

Listening to Gore and his evangelists leaves me with the creepy feeling that the solution to the “problem” of global warming is for others to solve (usually through some sort of sacrifice) so that they can continue living the life to which they have become accustom. (Man, are they going to be pissed if some killer asteroid is discovered for which they can’t buy impact offsets.) Setting the problem to rights, assuming it exists, will take something Al Gore and the eco-elites are apparently incapable of: An Inconvenient Effort.

[Edit History]

2007.05.01

Interesting article from ScienceDaily (“Earth’s Climate Is Seesawing, According To Climate Researchers“) illustrates my point about our window to the nature of Earth’s climate being rather small. For all their credentials, the scientists really don’t know for sure what is happening with the climate. Those that claim to be sure, probably aren’t honest scientists. (H/T Bryan at Hot Air)

2007.05.02

Added link to David Lee’s work at Lahaina Galleries.

2007.04.04

Evil Twin

😈

I have one. Do you?

I’ll just let mine introduce himself…

Wow. He has birth certificates and everything. What he doesn’t have is a sense of responsibility for paying his own damn bills.

More to the story of my Evil Twin can be found here. I have more than 20 years of history in dealing with this idiot from time to time, frequently in response to risks against my credit rating. I suppose at some point all this background, plus much more, will be posted on the blog. But for now, all I wanted to do was experiment with how to embed audio files into my blog.

2006.11.30

Want A Pancake Breakfast? Papers, Please! Papers! Quickly!

It’s tragically laughable that a Quincy, Mass. IHOP would require photo ID’s before seating people for a pancake breakfast:

John Russo has been a victim of identity theft. So when he was asked to fork over a photo ID just to be seated at an IHOP pancake restaurant, he flipped. “‘You want my license? I’m going for pancakes, I’m not buying the Hope diamond,’ and they refused to seat us,” Russo said, recounting his experience this week at the Quincy IHOP.

The restaurant now has agreed to reverse the policy of requiring customers to turn over their driver’s licenses before they can order – a rule that was enacted to discourage “dine and dash” thefts.

This part, however, made me gargle my coffee:

Russo said a security guard at the restaurant had “at least 40” licenses in hand when he arrived to eat.

40 people actually handed over their licenses! With sheeple like this, why the hell worry any more about open boarders, sleeper cells, egregious “surveillance” by governement and employers, corrupt bureaucrats and weak-ass enforcement of the Constitution?

(H/T: Bruce Schneier)

2006.09.02

Steal This Lunch

Go ahead. I dare you. From the New York Times:

For those with autonomy in their jobs – generally, well-paid professionals – breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator.

I think what creeps people out, and by people I mean “guys”, about this is that it’s stuff which was once inside someone’s body and now is on the outside. Most generally, when this happens, it’s not a good thing, ranging on a scale from unpleasant (“Earl, there’s something on your nose.”) to disgusting (“Earl, that looks infected.”) to flat out horrifying (“Somebody get a tourniquet around Earl’s torso fast!”).

To most, there’s nothing cute about a baby burp, especially as the count rises over time. Although Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes might go gaga over baby’s goo goo given their propensity for collecting trophy excretions. What’s worse, from a guys perspective, is the stuff is being saved. And for non-clinical reasons at that. Imagine a bag labeled “Earl’s sputum. DO NOT TAKE!” or “Earl’s sperm. DO NOT TAKE!” parked in the office refrigerator right next to your egg salad sandwich.

That’s how guys think about it. Of course, babies think otherwise. They have yet to be bent by our convoluted, contradictory and puritanical social conventions. They have yet to be pressured by peers and crushed by the protuberant herd in their journey from self expression to self repression.

Personally, this doesn’t bug me. My perspective is rather pragmatic on these things, the result of having grown up with five sisters, three of whom followed my mother into nursing careers, and supporting my late wife, Janet, through 10 years of battling breast cancer. These experiences left scant room for mystery in regard to what women have to deal with while growing up and trying to forge a career.

Pump away girls, it bugs me not.

A discussion thread is happening about this article over on Althouse (H/T, by the way).

[Edit History]

2006.09.03

Fixed klutzy sentence.

2006.09.23

Edited for clarity.

2006.10.02

Updated dead link to Tom and Katie’s trophy.

2006.06.11

You Don’t Belong To You

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

A new state law that would allow Floridians to block access to their credit histories could be superseded by one of several federal proposals now working their ways through Congress.

Consumer advocates say one of the federal measures in particular would eviscerate the state “security-freeze” law, which was designed to protect credit files from identity theft.

I’ve been an advocate for such a credit report freeze for a long time. Credit checks are a critical link in the chain of events leading to identity theft. Anyone attempting to use your personal data to acquire a credit card, cell phone account or plethora of other items and services typically has to clear the credit check hurdle. In my experience, this has largely been regarded as a mere formality, something to breeze through on your way to acquiring that wicked kuel widget. If the vendor hit a credit lock, the bell would ring and stop the transaction.

I have not had my identity stolen, but I do have an Evil Twin. Some deadbeat dad with almost the same name as I (different middle name.) Since first becoming aware of this cretin during my first semester as an undergraduate, its been periodic waves of cleaning this bum’s stain off of my life. I’ve been sued by hospitals for Evil Twin’s unpaid medical bills, chased by the State of Alaska for child support to the tune of $40,000 (I have no children), harassed by a correspondence school in New York for non-payment of course materials and bunches of other bill collection issues. Some of Evil Twin’s slime ended up on my credit report and it took two years of effort to clear the record.

Had I been able to lock my credit report, this piece of the headache would have been prevented. The time measured in years it takes to clear a credit record is more than offset by the relatively infrequent delay in completing large item purchases (the ones that typically require a credit check.) And that’s all it is, a delay. I have every confidence the vendor will be interested in my money even after waiting a week or two.

But unfortunately for you and I, the credit card companies are not particularly interested in our pain and suffering. That’s all just collateral damage under the bridge in the name of maximizing business profits.

The Industry wants to limit the opportunity to freeze a credit history to those victimized by ID theft or those who have good reason to suspect their personal financial information has been compromised.

“The Industry” isn’t interested in preventing our suffering but they are willing to let us close the barn door after the horse has run off. Consider this: Its as if “The Industry” has control over all the doors on your house and by default all those doors are unlocked. This is so they can walk in when they please and entice you with nifty bobbles and shinny trinkets. They cannot do this if you control the locks. However, if your house is robbed and everything of value cleaned out, “The Industry” is gracious enough to let you lock the doors so that vast stash of nothing you have won’t be stolen.

I suspect most of the population has a purchasing strategy that doesn’t go much beyond their brain stem and can be summed up as “See shinny object. Bite.” But then there’s the rest of us who give due consideration to our purchases. A minority who are capable of independently determining what are our needs and what are our wants. Believe it or not, we don’t need advertising to discriminate between the two.

Many consumers may not realize how inconvenient a freeze on access to their credit records can be until they try getting quick approval to finance a purchase, said Anthony Dimarco, vice president of the Florida Bankers Association.

“My biggest concern is if a consumer signs up for a freeze, then goes shopping at a department store and wants to get instant credit approval to buy something,” he said. “Suddenly, reality raises its head. You can’t unfreeze your credit instantaneously. The person may realize that’s not really what they want.”

That’s your biggest concern, Mr. Dimarco? First may I suggest some mouth wash because your breath stinks when you make such feeble attempts to tell us how we should be thinking about this. Secondly, your assertion reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about what at least some of your customers want. Those who are diligent about preserving the integrity of their credit history and who choose to make the effort to lock their credit report, are not the type to find themselves in the middle of a department store blindly signing up for instant credit. Rather, myself and others realize there is a far greater chance of some criminal attempting to get your instant credit in my good name. That’s what reality’s head looks like to us. And preventing that, Mr. Dimarco, IS what I really want.

[Edit History]

2006.08.02

Amy Alkon reminded me of another aspect to this issue. In addition to being particularly insensitive toward actually preventing fraud, “The Industry” would also rather you do the leg work for them in tracking down the deadbeats. Its implied in the description of what I’ve had to battle with in regards to my Evil Twin. A company is owed money by Evil Twin. Some butt hole flips open the phone book, looks up my name and says “Oh, look! Evil Twin is in the phone book!” and they initiate the machine to start hammering me for Evil Twin’s delinquency.

Sometimes I wish having a thought was attached to the pleasure/pain centers of the brain such that logical thoughts had a pleasant sensation whereas illogical thoughts had all the comfort of giving birth to a water buffalo through the nose. Note to “The Industry” bill collector butt holes: Deadbeats are not responsible enough to maintain their own phone number and such so just move along.

Alas, all I can to is rant, for sure as water buffalos are big, “The Industry” isn’t likely to care. In fact, they would care greatly if some legislation with muscle was in place that dinged them mightily for not fact checking. “The Industry” would undoubtedly vigorously fight such legislation. No, they would much rather I go to great lengths to prove the negative, that I am NOT Evil Twin. Having done that, they move on to the next poor soul listed in the phone book with the same name as the deadbeat. You would have an easier time convincing me that I am short than convincing me this is anything other than deliberate strategy.

2005.12.08

From the Just-Between-You-Me-And-The-Cube-Farm Department

I never assumed I was alone in detesting the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone tree systems which are becoming ubiquitous when calling companies of just about any size. I was delighted to find that a gentleman named Paul English maintains a list of keypad cheats called “The IVR Cheat Sheet“.

While I begrudgingly submit to having to learn yet another way of negotiating the information age’s equivalent of walking across hot coals (i.e. the phone tree), my concern for this latest “advancement” goes deeper. Namely, if I wish to discuss a bill with my insurance company, for example, I am forced to say my account number and social security number loud enough for the machine to understand me across a voice line. (This assumes I don’t know the cheat codes.) The required volume needs to be sufficiently loud enough such that anyone within 20 feet or more is going to hear me recite my account information. And if the machine doesn’t understand, those within hearing range will benefit with the repetition of sensitive account information. In order to protect this information, I now have to secure my environment, which is not always possible. Such IVR systems are decidedly less convenient and less secure.

This point is, not surprisingly, omitted in a response to Mr. English’s cheat sheet by Angel.com, a leading provider of on-demand IVR solutions. Angel.com has released their own “cheat sheet” for the business which use IVR products. Tip number two reads:

Do not hide the option for callers to speak with a live agent. No matter how useful your IVR system is for customers, there will always be a segment of customers who prefer to speak to a live agent to resolve their issue.

Prefer? It should be a requirement that account information must be keyed in via the telephone keypad. Several provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) were put in place to protect patient privacy. Most generally this applied to hospitals and doctor’s offices. I see no reason why insurance companies shouldn’t be accountable for providing the same level of privacy to their customers.

[Edit History]

2006.03.09

A related story on the problems of speaking aloud from Peter Cochrane’s blog, “Snooping on a BlackBerry fool”, and a discussion on Bruce Schneier’s blog.

2006.08.13

Updated link to Paul English’s “IVR Cheat Sheet“.

2004.08.26

Urban Scare Crow

I believe I’ve hit on a solution for the incessant door-to-door solicitations at my home. There used to be a sign on my front door that said, in bold, “NO SOLICITORS“. Except for a few self-rightious bible thumpers and the occasional butthole, the sign was honored. But someone, probably one of the more aggressive solicitors, pulled the sign down – screws and all. Frustrated after being hit three times within an hour one evening, I ordered the following placard from one of those custom on-line sign shops:

NO SOLISITORS
Violators will be charged a
$50 SOLICITATION FEE

This is taped next to the doorbell and on the inside glass of the storm door where it cannot be removed without serious damage to the door. Since posting this, there hasn’t been a single violation and summer is typically prime door-to-door sales time.

Apparently, the bastards don’t give a crap about respecting a homeowner’s wishes. But they sure as hell are sensitive to hits on their wallets.

😀


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