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Random Acts of Blogging II

By Brian | October 19, 2007 | Share on Facebook

Once again, the things I want to blog about have exceeded the time I have available to blog. Hence, we move into “quick hit” mode.

First up: Violent crime has increased for the first time in more than a decade. What is to blame for this distressing news? The Bush Administration? The Democratic Congress? A weakening economy causing increased pressure on low-income youth? No. Apparently, it’s the iPod:

In the first three months of 2005, major felonies rose 18.3% on the New York City subway — however, if cell phone and iPod thefts are excluded, felonies actually declined by 3%.

Thus far, in Washington, D.C., in 2007, robberies of iPods on the Metro alone account for approximately 4% of all robberies in the city, compared with well less than 1% of robberies in 2005. Likewise, in San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, there were 4 reported iPod robberies in 2004, 102 in 2005, and 193 in 2006. The increase in iPod robberies on the BART between 2004 and 2006 accounts for a 23% of the increase in robbery in the entire city over that time.”

You see, it seems that iPods are criminogenic, which means they “create crime.”

iPods [are] “criminogenic (creating crime)” because they lack antitheft protection, because they are not tied to a subscription service and can thus be used after they’re stolen, because they’re “high-status items and may be stolen for their status,” because they make the owner less aware of his or her surroundings, and because they’re easy to identify, thanks to the visible white headphone cord and ear buds.

It sounds crazy at first, but when I look at that list, it starts to make some sense…


Next, we have Apple’s new OS X Leopard Operating System, due to ship on October 26. Apple touts more than 300 new features of the OS, although many of those are features of the applications that ship with it (like Address Book, Dictionary, DVD Player, iCal, iChat, etc.). Hey – remember when bundling applications inside your OS was considered anti-competitive, monopolistic behavior? But I digress…

What I found absolutely fascinating about this list of features was how many of them already exist in Windows Vista. There are semi-transparent window title bars, dynamically populated folders, live icons that show a preview of the application rather than just a static icon, improved Spotlight searching (including Boolean operators), e-mail stationary, group calendar scheduling, etc. In all, I counted roughly fifty of the three hundred changes as things that Vista already has up and running.

I’m not complaining, of course. These features are useful in Vista, and I’m glad they’re in Leopard now. I’m just surprised, because an Apple OS release typically includes innovative interface ideas, which are then implemented by Microsoft in the next Windows release, sparking cries of “Foul!” from Mac Zealots who claim Microsoft is just parroting what Apple has done. It seems we’ve achieved more of a “leapfrog” model now, which is just awesome news for PC consumers…


Moving from technology to politics, the month of October was a big one for high-profile, liberal documentaries. First there was this report about Canadian, Belinda Stronach, formerly a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Conservative Party, who switched to the Liberal Party in 2005.

In 2004, she gave an interview with the CBC defending the Canada Health Act and arguing against a two-tier health system, in which those who could afford to pay more would receive speedier access to health care (the system touted as far superior to the United States’ system in Michael Moore’s Sicko).

In 2007, she was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (a common form of breast cancer), which required a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. On the advice of her doctor, she flew to California and paid out of pocket to have the surgery done there (something Canadians can’t do in Canada under the Canada Health Act she so stauchly defended).

And of course, if we’re going to mention Moore, then we have to mention Gore. Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth (review here) has been distributed to 3,500 London schools, along with four other short films about the environment.

A lorry driver and father of two children, 11 and 14, sued to have the film declared unfit for schools because, he said, it was “politically biased and contains serious scientific inaccuracies and ‘sentimental mush’.” The British judge agreed that the film promoted “partisan political views,” but did not ban it from schools, instead requiring that teachers “warn pupils that there are other opinions on global warming and they should not necessarily accept the views of the film.”

Later in the month, Gore went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, although his opponent got more votes (kidding…)


Sticking with politics, a quick mention is warranted on the Iraq war:

A congressional study and several news stories in September questioned reports by the U.S. military that casualties were down. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), challenging the testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus, asserted that “civilian deaths have risen” during this year’s surge of American forces.

A month later, there isn’t much room for such debate, at least about the latest figures. In September, Iraqi civilian deaths were down 52 percent from August and 77 percent from September 2006, according to the Web site icasualties.org. The Iraqi Health Ministry and the Associated Press reported similar results. U.S. soldiers killed in action numbered 43 — down 43 percent from August and 64 percent from May, which had the highest monthly figure so far this year. The American combat death total was the lowest since July 2006 and was one of the five lowest monthly counts since the insurgency in Iraq took off in April 2004.

During the first 12 days of October the death rates of Iraqis and Americans fell still further. So far during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which began Sept. 13 and ends this weekend, 36 U.S. soldiers have been reported as killed in hostile actions. That is remarkable given that the surge has deployed more American troops in more dangerous places and that in the past al-Qaeda has staged major offensives during Ramadan. Last year, at least 97 American troops died in combat during Ramadan. Al-Qaeda tried to step up attacks this year, U.S. commanders say — so far, with stunningly little success.

Things are still not going well enough over there, of course. And one large bomb can reverse all of these statistical trends. But regardless of what party you belong to, this has got to be good news…


And finally, it’s been a while since a newspaper sent undercover reporters through airport security in order to embarrass the TSA, right?

WASHINGTON – Security screeners at two of the nation’s busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.

Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.

At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, screeners missed about 60% of hidden bomb materials that were packed in everyday carry-ons – including toiletry kits, briefcases and CD players. San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private company instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows.

These studies, while making for great headlines, continue to miss the point. The goal of airport security is not to find every bomb. The goal is to make people who would consider bringing an actual bomb on the plane think twice about doing it because of the high likelihood that they will be caught. In other words, security works when it prevents people from trying to bring bombs on planes, not only when it catches someone in the act of doing so.

That number, of course, is impossible to measure…

Topics: Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging, Tech Talk | No Comments »

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