I'm not an exciting person, but anything that crosses my mind that I care to share with the rest of the world will appear here.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Three cheers for crowd sourcing...
I've said before that I don't belong to social networks because I value the private details in my life. Unlike many people who post a remarkable amount of personal detail about themselves on social sites, I'm aware that everything I post online will live forever, so there is some self-censorship.
When it comes to solving (or preventing) serious crime, however, I think law enforcement officials are entitled to use whatever tools are at their disposal. In my opinion, Great Britain's policy of using public street cameras and facial recognition software is a model that should be copied by everyone. If you're in public and committing a crime, you should have no expectation of privacy.
And placing bombs at the site of the prestigious Boston Marathon qualifies as a serious crime.
I didn't think that the United States (and Boston, in particular) had the means to do this kind of tracking. What I hadn't counted on is the remarkable cooperation of businesses and the massive amount of crowd-sourced photos and videos making the job easier for the authorities.
Much of the stuff you see in military and spy movies about real-time facial recognition and movement tracking software may or may not be real. But, in the case of this manhunt, it's clear that the police were able to quickly establish the identities of the perpetrators.
Recent news reports indicate that one of the suspects has already been killed (during a "violent police chase") and I don't believe it will be long until the other suspect - his younger brother - is also apprehended.
I hope this second brother is taken alive. I'd love to know the motivation for the attacks. I'd also enjoy the thought of this person having to spend the rest of his days behind bars.
Monday, April 15, 2013
What a wild Masters! I will admit I was rooting for Tiger to win it. And, if he hadn't made the PERFECT approach shot on the 15th on Friday, there's a good chance he would be standing with his 15th major championship trophy.
Most people who lose a tournament may be able to point to one TERRIBLE hole, or one TERRIBLE shot that went astray and resulted in a score for that hole that took them out of contention.
In Tiger's case, he can point to one PERFECT shot that had the same effect. Hitting his third shot to the par 5, 15th hole on Friday, he hit the base of the flag stick, right above the hole. The ball ricocheted backwards, and landed in the pond that surrounds the green. Forced to take a drop, he made virtually an identical shot again, but instead of hitting the pin, he hit the green, landing less than 2 feet from the hole.
Had that been his first approach shot, he would have scored a 4. As it was, coming after a drop, it translated into a 6. But later on, during an interview with the press, Tiger described what happened, and how he was careful to drop his ball a bit further away from the initial point of the ball (so he wouldn't drop the ball in his own divit). Apparently, that's a sin that would normally result in disqualification. But, since nobody noticed it during the match, he was instead assessed a 2-stroke penalty and was allowed to continue.
Instead of scoring a 4 on that perfectly played hole, he carded an 8. Tiger lost the Masters by that exact 4 stroke margin.
But, there was another consequence for that shot. Had Tiger scored a 4 on that 15th hole and not played the remainder of the round in a bit of a funk, there's a good chance he would have ended the day in sole possession of first place. And that would have meant the cut line would have been at +3 instead of +4.
That one-stoke difference in the cut line allowed the amazingly talented 14-year old Chinese golfer Tianlang Guan to make it into the weekend. He beat, by more than two whole years, the age of the youngest Masters participant to make the cut. Just imagine what stories this grade eight student will have to tell his classmates when he returns to school in China!
Saturday, March 16, 2013
How dare they!
The nerve of some governments! How dare they shut down illegal smuggling tunnels dug under the border between Egypt and Gaza.
Apparently, the owner of a smuggling tunnel already destroyed at least once before but re-dug, is complaining that the Egyptian government has chosen to again destroy his smuggling tunnel. Readily admitting that the tunnel is used for illegal movement of goods, the owner is still miffed that his investment of over $1M (US) will be wasted.
He argues that the government of Egypt has destroyed his only livelihood.
If this wasn't so funny, I'd almost want to cry... (read full story)
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
If there's one person you definitely don't want to say this to, it's this New York policeman.
Are you sure your information on Facebook is private?
Let me begin by saying I don't have a Facebook account. No Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, or any other social media account either.
It's because I value my privacy. You might wonder, then, why I have a blog. Well, that's a fair question. I started blogging more than 10 years ago. Those were simpler times. There were no social networks, per se. Instant messaging was just starting out (ICQ was all the rage). There were no camera phones, heck there were no smart phones of any description. Blogging and webcams were coming of age, but these online diaries were so obscure (for the most part) nobody but the most prolific or interesting of the world's bloggers were on anyone's radar.
And there was no monetary advantage to be had by anyone "tracking" the posts of bloggers. Unless they chose to include links to various causes, you really didn't get much of a feel for these peoples' personal lives unless they wanted you to.
So, back to today's world. Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social websites are hugely centralized and there exist a growing number of indexing services that make searching for people unbelievably easy. Personal information is worth real currency, and there are now many organized efforts (from both marketers and criminals) to determine your likes and dislikes.
Despite the privacy controls available on many social networks, it has been recently reported that researchers have been able to indirectly determine much of the "personal" information about you that you may not have elected to share with the world.
The concept is so simple, it's scary. Human beings have a tendency to "hang out" with like-minded individuals. The majority of people you "friend" are probably those with which you share some underlying traits. Researchers need only find out information about your "friends" to be able to make some reasonably accurate inferences about you. So, if you happen to have "friends" that are not as concerned about their privacy settings, it's likely that a determined researcher will be able to build a "profile" of the people they befriend - thereby discovering information about you that you hadn't intended to share.
So, the next time you think your information is private, take a look at the information of the people you have befriended. Look at what they say on their social media sites, and you may find them talking about you (for the good or bad) and saying things that you didn't want exposed.
Friday, February 22, 2013
There's no justice here
I used to be a relatively frequent contributor to the local paper's Letters to the Editor; so frequent, in fact, that some of my letters were passed over to give others a chance to have their voices heard.
When the electronic version of the paper came out, readers were invited to post their reactions online. Fortunately, because there was no need to "make space" in the printed edition, all opinions were welcome. That is, until some impolite and undereducated people started using the online comments as their bully-pulpit and starting spewing spam.
The paper's reaction was to remove the capability to post comments anonymously - in order to comment, you had to have a Facebook account. Although I question why some people would say things on Facebook that they would never say in person (despite the fact that comments on Facebook have more permanence), my real problem with that website (and other social media sites) is the amount of personal information that is available to determined hackers. So, I don't have a Facebook account, or a Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, ...
And because of that, I can no longer post my opinions in the local newspaper.
The story I most want to comment on is the current trial of police officers accused of covering up the misdeeds of one of their own. As the evidence mounts, and it becomes more and more clear that severe repercussions will befall those officers who abused the public trust, the most senior of the officers charged has decided to resign.
He states that the "stress" placed upon him during the period between the alleged offense and the current trial has made him too unhealthy to continue in his job. He has decided to retire, two months shy of the trial's next court date. By retiring, he will automatically have all charges against him dropped. Why? Because the charges are laid by a departmental disciplinary committee. And if he's no longer a cop, he's no longer bound by their rules.
Without a guilty plea or a guilty verdict, there is no way the disciplinary committee can revoke or reduce his pension; or reduce his rank (thereby affecting the amount of his pension). He knows that. He's taking the same dishonourable path as his former boss, the Police Commissioner, who also resigned to avoid facing disciplinary action.
I don't know the law well enough to say whether a policeman can be brought up on criminal charges for obstructing justice. I do know that it's unlikely this officer will face any jail time for his alleged offense.
What I hope is that the victim of police violence at the heart of this affair will have standing to sue this corrupt officer in civil court for his role in the coverup.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Is this Mr. Ed reincarnated?
You need to have some real smarts to do this: http://youtu.be/o5snVfeb_Kw
Saturday, January 19, 2013
WTF??? How is this allowed to happen in the streets of Israel?
Did you hear the one about the two Jews walking down the street, minding their own business...
Seriously, there is no reason why two devout Jewish men, walking down the street not harming anyone, should be accosted by a mob of thoughtless people. Frankly, I have no idea whether the "attackers" were Jewish or non-Jewish. I just know they were cowardly and uninformed.
As the video asks, why aren't scenes like this broadcast on the world news? Is it because the victims of the attack are Jewish?
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