Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: January 2008 Page 2 of 3

Bardo: The End Is Near

Dr. Dremo's

This month will see the end of another Arlington institution: Dr. Dremo‘s (nee Ningaloo nee Bardo Rodeo) is closing. They’re advertising a staff reunion* for this Saturday (Jan. 12th), and the last day is Jan. 26th (well, technically, Jan. 27th, as they close at 2am). I can’t tell you how much I love this place. It saw me through law school and job stress while helping me celebrate birthdays and friendships. Stop by for a pitcher of Racer X or Bardo’s own James Brown Ale and an hour at the pool tables before they go.


TSA: Protecting Us From Grave Threats (like 5 year olds)

Seems that a lucky 5 year old shares a name with a fellow on the No-Fly List, and our ever-alert TSA intercepted and inspected him in Seattle’s airport. Even better, in a move that inspires a Dave Berry-like “I am not making this up” disclaimer, the TSA told the mother that she was not allowed to touch her son in the process, as he was a “security risk.” The mother gets points from me for not turning that into a serious security situation right there.

Update:  Looks like we’ve got another 5 year old national security threat on our hands.

Related: Behind the Security Theater Curtains: Schneier Interviews [TSA head Kip] Hawley.

Perfect Day

Perfect Day

Yesterday was absolutely beautiful. The very best I could ask of from a January day in DC. So, instead of working, I went for a ride.  Titles come up when you mouseover frame (but not photo, it seems):

City livingCapital Crescent TrailNote to self:Dalecaria TunnelWisconsin Ave

Local wildlifeNational Zoo ClockConnecticut Avenue, from belowFemale Union Band Society GraveyardK St as it should be

RosslynStill have not figured out how to ride this partC&O CanalBusy intersectionNew Dixie Liquor

Approach to NationalKey to RosslynStill GeorgetownEarl of SandwichU Like

Self PortraitMercado LatinoMy exIotaCan't Capture Everything

Try it yourself, some time.


On Commenting

I discovered a new dimension to my recent frustration with Google, today.   In addition to being arbitrarily locked out of web mail, site stats, and browser syncing, I’m no longer able to comment on blogs that only permit comments from registered Blogger users.  Like the other items, however, this is more of an inconvenience than a real loss, as I generally don’t participate on sites that require registration to comment.   However, I tried to offer something substantive and useful (an exception, I know) on another site concerning the FCC’s approach to the multiple ownership rules, only to discover that it wouldn’t post because, well, Google hates me (temporarily, I hope).  That’s a real shame, I think.

Registration for comments is cumbersome and time consuming, and it provides yet another vector through which an email address can be lost to the aggressions of spam lists.  I suspect that the proprietors of most sites with registration requirements don’t realize that they’re closing the doors to many would-be commenters.   Further, to the extent that registration requirements are imposed to prevent spam or ban certain people, those can be efficiently handled on the back-end without too much work (ask anyone who uses Akismet, for example).

So what do I like?  Open comments that permit a user to pick her own name, attach a URL (if desired), and aren’t moderated by default.  An option to be notified of future comments on that thread is gravy (which I recently added here, by the way).  This can be one of many identity options in a commenting system including Blogger, OpenID, etc., but it should always be an option.

Who does it right?  Well, most anyone with an open commenting system.  It’s easy to participate at any of these places, because they’ve chosen to offer simple and open commenting.  A good example of a hybrid system is over at the Freewheeling Spirit, where not only do you have the option of simply using your own chosen ID and url, but you can pick from a plethora of existing ID systems that you probably already use (e.g., OpenID, Blogger, Typepad, etc.).  And, for gravy, you can simply pick “anonymous.”  I’ve not asked, but I suspect it wasn’t all that hard to set up.

Who does it wrong?  Lazy sites that restrict comments to registered Blogger users.  Sites based on SoapBlox or similar infrastructure that require far too many hoops to jump through to leave a simple comment.*  Sites that show a commenting option, but then say “Comments restricted to team members only” when you try to post (and, of course, there are no team members).   Sites run by such control freaks that each and every comment must be approved before posting, making it impossible to carry on any sort of conversation there.

That’s enough meta for now.  I just ask that, if you run a site where you welcome conversation, please take a look at your commenting process.  A few easy tweaks here and there could improve the conversation for everyone.  Thanks.

*Big community sites (such as DailyKos or RaisingKaine) are another matter entirely. 

Friday Notes: Iowa-free Edition

Mark Story is a photographer sharing his latest work, Living in Three Centuries: The Face of Age, online.  Most of the subjects are well over 100.  Here’s your chance to look age in the face.


“Have a Plan to Kill Everyone You Meet.”  That’s the sign inside a Marine forward operating base in Fallujah, and it’s posted with little – if any – irony.   It also helps provide the narrative construct in this very well written article by journalist Michael Totten.


Iggy Pop’s The Passenger + Peggy Lee’s Fever = musical brilliance.  (really, follow this link)


Early-bird registration for David Isenberg’s annual Freedom to Connect conference ends on Sunday.  I’ve been to a number of Isenberg’s events over the years, and I cannot recommend them enough.  If you’re interested in participating in a conversation (not simply hearing from) some of the top thinkers and actors in where the Internet is going, check it out.  I’ll probably write more about this later, but thought I’d give the heads up on the end of early-bird registration now.

Police State: Keeping You Scared

Maybe the use of the term “police state” is a bit overwrought. The US isn’t one right now (but we certainly are a surveillance society). But every time I see a story like this, or this, I’m reminded that we’re slouching toward that police state.  What did I just link? Well, the first was about this program, which Cory Doctorow has appropriately recognized as “facecrime“:

TSA screeners are learning to recognize set of secret, forbidden facial expressions. If your face slips into one of these during a TSA inspection, you will be taken off and given a thorough, secondary screening

[ . . . ]

TSA officials will not reveal specific behaviors identified by the program — called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) — that are considered indicators of possible terrorist intent.

But a central task is to recognize microfacial expressions — a flash of feelings that in a fraction of a second reflects emotions such as fear, anger, surprise or contempt, said Carl Maccario, who helped start the program for TSA.

Now, I don’t believe for a second that a few days of training (which is all they’re getting) is going to turn any of the TSA employees I’ve ever met into someone capable of making that judgment. But that’s really not the point of this program (or the public announcement of it). The point is twofold – first, to continue the security theater efforts at making the public feel like the government is doing something to keep them safe, and second, to continue to keep the public fearful enough that it doesn’t object to the first.  Impressively self sustaining, no?

The second story, however, is my favorite. It can be summed up with this picture:

FBI Billboard

This is part of the FBI’s new digital billboard alert program.  And you can see how it checks off all the requirements, just in this picture alone.  It’s attention catching, it’s got the scary brown man with a vaguely Arabic name, and it reminds you that there are bad people out there who will hurt you.   Whoever picked this out as an example surely has a fine career ahead of him or her.

These billboards are not just going to be fancy versions of the old post office wanted posters.  No, they’re going to actively participate in your life:

Billboards will also be used to display “high security messages to relevant communities” and the FBI also plans to establish a “protocol” for high priority “hot pursuit” messages to run straight after crimes are committed.

I feel safer already.  You?


Killarney National Park, Ireland

The GOP Field as Buffy Villains

Karen just tipped me off to these great matchups of the GOP primary contenders with the various villains from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Mitt as the Mayor? Absolutely.

Travel Music: Hong Kong

Music from a few dreamlike days in Hong Kong. Click on any track for it to play. The Chemical Brothers’ Where Do I Begin is in my lifetime top 10.

Testing out something I’ve long wanted to do. It appears to be working from this end, but if it’s odd on your end, let me know? (And “odd” *definitely* includes unprompted audio. I hate that.) Thanks.

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