Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Electronic Privacy

Although it showed up in the very techno-centric "Register", I think this article is a must-read for anyone concerned with privacy rights in general. The author is the former head of the federal computer crime unit, and makes a very basic point on how computers are different than the rest of the luggage we port around with us.

For most things, when we travel, we take the bare minimum with us -- the items we need to enjoy our trip and take care of ourselves. But in our computers we carry around information about our entire lives -- contact lists, email history, personal and legal documents, etc. The idea that the government has unlimited powers of inspection on electronic devices is akin to saying that every time you board an airplane, the government gets a free search warrant for your house.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Too Young To Party

Joahnna and I are in Santa Barbara this weekend, at my grandparent's house to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. We have a small crowd here for the party, including my grandfather's little brother and my grandmother's little sister (which means they're somewhere in their mid-80s), their spouses, my parents, and my grandmother's two sons, with their children.

There is a club house in the complex where my grandparents live, which we rented out for the evening. We had a good time, with some fun toasts and and a basic but functional bar.

It's not that we had a lot to drink. It's just that we're out of practice. Really.

We both woke up a little fuzzy-headed this morning, me with a slight headache, and Joahnna with an unusual aversion to bright lights. The elder generation seems to be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. So the conclusion is clear, and I'm man enough to admit it -- we just got out-partied by a couple of 90-year-olds.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Change Congress

Lawrence Lessig, a well-known name in the open-source community because of his views and commentary on digital rights and privacy issues, has launched an (ambitious) effort to clean up Congress by using web-based grassroots efforts.

The website is called Change Congress, and aims to get candidates to commit to four pledges:
  1. Don't accept money from PACs or Lobbyists
  2. Get rid of earmarks
  3. Increased transparency in congress
  4. Public financing of campaigns
The four items seem like a good starting point, especially since earmarks have run rabid recently. To help track how well your congresscritter is doing, they have a helpful "sludge map" showing how much PAC money each district is taking in.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Player?

I'm not sure if they're actually a new player, but this is the first I've heard of it. The Aptera is a three-seater electric with a gas-electric hybrid option. Admittedly, it's not as sexy as a Tesla or as practical as a Phoenix, but at just under $30k it is significantly more affordable than either one, and it also has appeal in that it doesn't look like anything else out there.

It comes in pure-electric for $27k and electric-gas for $30k, so for that difference the hybrid seems like a no-brainer. It gives you a car that's electric for the 90% of the time you drive around town and still has the long-trip ability of a gas-powered car, as well as peace of mind if you're pushing the limits of your range.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Drivers, Connect Your Batteries

The Tesla roadster is now in production. It sounds like the initial units will all go to people that have reserved them. I'm pretty sure Joahnna wants one, but for $100k a pop, I think I'll wait for a bit.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


After reading this article on The Register, it was clear that we needed a new category of buzzword to toss about in our current discussion on how to power our array of people-movers.

Hence, "Garbofuels" -- fuels made from garbage. It's not really a long term solution, because we don't produce enough garbage to make fuel for anything more than a small percentage of our vehicle fleet, but if it works, it at least would get rid of the trash. At that rate you could sell the fuel at a little bit of a loss and still break even if you were collecting money for trash disposal.

Joahnna and I were talking about this last night while walking back from dinner, and I think that with all the effort that's being put into it, we're about 5 years away from viable, affordable electric cars. Once you get a significant amount of people focused on trying to find a solution, it's only a matter of time before we get a breakthrough.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Call A Spade A Spade

This article in the Jersusalem Post talks candidly about the justification and effectiveness of Israel's attacks on civilian areas. The author starts out with a purely practical argument (it doesn't work), but then shifts to a moral argument later in the article.

In this case, I thought the source was more interesting than the contents.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Other Car Has Wings

I took delivery of my plane last tuesday, along with a little shuffle so I could return the pilot of the aircraft to his starting point. This also resulted in my getting my first couple hours of instruction and flying time in the Comanche.

We had a spare seat, so Joahnna jumped in for the ride, and all four of us took off from Reid-Hillview. No problems climbing out -- the Comanche has plenty of power, and climbed out at 1000'/minute even with a full load (by comparison, the Cessnas I trained in usually do about 700'/minute with just the pilot).

I have to do some more training before I can fly by myself, due to a mix of FAA and insurance requirements, but we should be jet-setting about (well, prop-setting, really) in short order.

Monday, March 03, 2008

No Sonar For You

The 9th district court recently upheld a ruling about the Navy's use of high-power sonar while training. Opponents stated (and the military does not deny) that the use of high-power sonar deafens marine animals in the vicinity, and can cause permanent hearing damage.

The part that caught my eye was the justification for continuing training even with the knowledge of the harm it was causing:
"We're a country engaged in two wars. When we send America's sons and daughters into harm's way, we must ensure they have the best possible training," [Lt. Cmdr. Cindy Moore] said.

We're a country engaged in two wars. Since "war" gets tossed around an awful lot these days, I thought I'd look it up.

It turns out we haven't had a formal declaration of war since 1942. Apparently declarations of war are passe, and have been replaced by a more ambiguous (and more defensible to your constituents) "Authorization of Use of Force". Also, we have a long and colorful tradition of congresionally-unauthorized miliary actions.

Just in case y'all thought the war (oops, sorry, military action -- it's so easy to make that mistake when, after all, your own president can't keep it straight) in Iraq was something new.