New Divining Rod for Drunkeness

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis area police have a new gizmo to use on motorists:

More St. Louis-area police officers are carrying extra gadgets this holiday season to help them catch drunks on the road.

Several police departments in Missouri and Illinois have acquired the new technology during the past year. It is geared for traffic enforcement and could be key in the campaign to halt drunken driving during the holidays.

In the past six months, St. Louis County police bought portable breath testers for each precinct station.

Now officers in the field can easily test a driver who might straddle the line between sober and illegally drunk, police said. Results from the tests are not admissible in court, but officers can use the test as probable cause to arrest a driver then test him or her on a more sophisticated machine at the jail.

That’s right, fellows. They’ve got a new divining rod that, if it twitches right, indicates you might be in violation of the law. Enough to arrest you and drag you downtorn or to Clayton. For violating a law that’s sliding slipperily but certainly to the point where wearing an alcohol-based cologne will make you legally intoxicated. Why do the police think this new gizmo is important?

“Some professional drunks can fool you,” said Maj. Timothy Fitch, commander of the St. Louis County police patrol division. “Even if they can pass the field sobriety tests, they can’t pass this.”

Got that? People who are “professional drunks” can pass field sobriety tests–by not behaving in such a manner as to indicate the alcohol has affected them! Could it be that they’re perhaps not driving badly either?

What, you think I am making this up and it will only be applied to people who drive forty miles an hour in reverse on the shoulder on the wrong side of the highway? Wrong.

Departments expect these gadgets will come in handy during roadside safety checks and extra patrols scheduled for the New Year’s holiday. [Emphasis mine.]

Roadside safety check? Buddy, that means the sobriety checkpoints the police set up on the roads wherein all vehicles get screened. So whatever false positives this thing provides, complete with paddy wagon ride and booking, that means you Mormons are eligible, too.

A pile of cash and another nick in our liberty, for what? Here’s the numbers, in a metropolitan area of up to three million people (depending upon the counties you include):

Officers gave DWI violations to 713 drivers through November last year. They arrested 922 in the same time period this year.

That’s almost three arrests per day. In a population of three million. Obviously the profession of drunkeness does not pay well, or most professional drunks are telecommuters. What’s the life savings?

Last year, Missouri lost 525 people in alcohol-related crashes.

Fewer than two per day, and I would wager that many of those deaths were self-inflicted.

Individually, drunk driving deaths are tragedies, particularly the non-drunk victims. However, I do dispute that all the effort and ever-tightening legislative and law-enforcement nooses drawn around the problem probably have entered the diminishing returns effort. And it’s more than the returns that diminish; it’s our very freedom, Chester.

Now have a Guinness, and walk home, for crying out loud. A little cool air will clear your head, and you could use the exercise.

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Join Your Loyal Citizens Book Burners Watchers Brigade

Drudge links to a story entitled FBI urges police to watch for people carrying almanacs in the San Francisco Chronicle. Lead:

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.


“For local law enforcement, it’s just to help give them one more piece of information to raise their suspicions,” said David Heyman, a terrorism expert for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It helps make sure one more bad guy doesn’t get away from a traffic stop, maybe gives police a little bit more reason to follow up on this.”

The FBI noted that use of almanacs or maps may be innocent, “the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities.” But it warned that when combined with suspicious behavior — such as apparent surveillance — a person with an almanac “may point to possible terrorist planning.”

To better prepare you intrepid citizen informers out there, I’ll give you a head’s up to other suspicious characters in America:

Educated people.

That’s right, folks. Keep an eye out for:

  • Physicists.
    These diabolical intellectuals study such dangerous things as force, velocity, gravity, and other skills useful to terrorists who want to use everyday objects and the laws of nature against innocents.
  • Chemists.
    These “scientists” study how natural and artificial combinations of atoms interact, which can lead to substances harmful to the population.
  • Biologists.
    These dabblers in the arcane arts know how microorganisms–as well as larger organisms, such as angry mutant sea bass–can be used against the children.
  • Engineers.
    These hands-on appliers of science understand the way bridges work, buildings stand, dams hold, and electric circuits work. It’s best to let the FBI know immediately if you find an engineer around a possible target. Particularly if the engineer is doing something suspicious, like holding a clipboard.
  • Information Technology professionals.
    Computer geeks, misanthropes and asocial misfits all, know the vulnerabilities of the technological infrastructure of the nation, nay, THE WORLD!

You don’t need to fear all academics, intellectuals, or college faculty, however. Although English, History, and *-Studies departments fancy themselves revolutionaries, they’re harmless.

Instead, citizen, you should focus on nefarious characters who read books. Sound harmless? Consider someone who reads:

  • Comic books or mystery novels.
    These people often determine that there exists a standard of right or wrong aside from U.S. law and court rulings, and often read books where “good” triumphs over “evil,” often without the proper bureaucracy in place to spread blame for failure or leak credit for success.

  • Science fiction.
    Non-academics or speculative individuals often read these books, which, like religious documents, contain fantastic versions of reality or blueprints for the future. These individuals are harder to trace than academics since they’re “freelancers” who often have telescopes, chemistry sets, or workshops in their homes, garages, or closests and are not subject to sanction by removal of federal funding.

Of course, anyone who reads literary fiction or Oprah’s book choices are safe enough–for now–because they’ve embraced a passive fatalism that will make them easier to control less likely to perform wanton acts of destruction.

So turn your neighborhood watching eyes on those cash only used book stores, loyal citizens, and the federal law enforcement officials will review bookstore and library records to see who has the dangerous information.

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The End of the Conversation

Since we painted our master bathroom last autumn, I’ve been meaning to recaulk around the tub. It’s starting to break down and show its age. Not that the mold spores mind. They’ve found a good home and some tasty latex upon which to feast. But I’ve meant to recaulk this tub since about spring, but I haven’t had quite the stretch of time to devote to it. Several hours at least, non-stop, to devote to the project. How could I find the time, when Civilization III called?

But since I had a personal day on Christmas Eve, I had a long block of time available. Particularly since I could not leave the house until the FedEx truck delivered Heather’s Christmas gift (which is another story entirely). So I got into the bathroom and began removing the existing caulk. I think a previous owner just applied a layer of latex caulk over an existing layer of silicone caulk when it came time for him/her to do the deed. So it took me almost five hours of intermittent scraping, cursing, and swearing to get all of it off. Once I got the old caulk off, it was a breeze to apply a new ring of caulk.

So although I was reluctant to perform this much-needed household maintenance, I’m still proud to have done it. But why is it that the casual conversations end when people ask me how my holidays were and I answer:

“I spent Christmas Eve in the bathtub with a razor blade and wondered if I really wanted to go through with it.”

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Book Review: Who’s Looking Out for You? by Bill O’Reilly (2003)

I have read O’Reilly’s first two nonfiction offerings (The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life amd The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America), so you can expect I’m somewhat a fan of O’Reilly’s message. Be that as it may, you should know that I don’t fully appreciate, in an O’Reillyriffic way, his television show; as a matter of fact, I drew attention to my recent personal record of watching forty minutes of his sixty minute show. I don’t even bother with his radio show. So my enthusiasm for all things O’Reilly is somewhat tempered.

His books, though, and in particular this book, captivate me. Contrary to what his schooling and his valuable work experience with CBS, Fox, and so on, bring him, he’s a better read than a watch. He gets to elucidate his points in far greater detail than when he’s got a two minute Talking Points Memo or five minutes to spar with someone with an opposing viewpoint. Still, The O’Reilly Factor is nice, and The No Spin Zone drops a lot of names, but this book is the masterwork of them all.

The title question frames the message. Who’s looking out for you? O’Reilly contends that none of the power structures out there, from the government to the media, really have your individual goals and best interests in mind. Of course not; those institutions really aren’t about your best individual interests, but they often act as though they are, so it’s a point that we the people need to remember.

Of course, even though I agree with his points in the book, O’Reilly has a couple things to with which I contend. First of all, he’s a blowhard. He even illustrates this in the book when he quotes himself disagreeing with an opponent and calling him a pinhead. However, I get the sense that he knows the role he’s playing, that he is a bit over-the-top. Kind of like Rush Limbaugh speaks with a tongue-in-cheek in many cases. I don’t get that sense with many opposing viewpoints, from Michael Moore to Molly Ivins and Barbara Ehrenreich.

Second, O’Reilly asserts that he’s on your side. Well, no, but thanks, Bill. I know enough to know you’re suspect as well. You don’t know me, and you might crusade for an idealized collection of people you know as the little guy, but unless I know you personally, I still see you through the filter of MegaOther–that other person who speaks to many people anonymously and individually. So you might be good to your friends, and you might be good for me as you pursue your audience, but I don’t put all my faith in trust in you, Bill.

I know you’ll understand.

Still, gentle blog reader, I’d recommend this book highly. I have given it as a gift this Christmas to a family member I value highly. So although I won’t give it to all six of you regular readers (especially since Heather can just read mine), I’ll give you my honest opinion that it’s worth reading.

Take it for what it’s worth. I’m only looking out for my personal integrity as a reviewer. You might not even like it.

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More Creepy Love Song Lyrics

Over at Signifying Nothing, Chris Lawrence takes Clay Aikens to task for his song “Invisible”. Lawrence decries the lack of subjunctive voice in the following:

If I was invisible
Then I could just watch you in your room
If I was invincible
I’d make you mine tonight
If hearts were unbreakable
Then I could just tell you where I stand
I would be the smartest man
If I was invisible
(Wait… I already am)

Dudes, that’s the second scariest song in the universe next to “Iris“. Let’s just break this down:

  • If I was invisible
    Then I could just watch you in your room

    He’s a voyeur, peeping Tom, or valued x10 customer.
  • If I was invincible
    I’d make you mine tonight

    Okay, wait a minute. If he were invincible, then he would make you his tonight. You’ve got no choice, he’s invincible, just lie back and enjoy it. Fellows, that’s called rape, and that’s what the word means. Not patting a reluctant fanny. Getting made his by Mr. Invincible, yes.

  • If hearts were unbreakable
    Then I could just tell you where I stand

    Hearts were unbreakable? You mean if handcuffs were not so confining and the hoods of police cars such unyielding headrests, don’t you? If you mentioned where you stand, that would be yet one more restraining order in your collection, wot?

  • I would be the smartest man
    If I was invisible
    (Wait… I already am)

    The final assertion is the scariest. If he were invisible, he would be watching you in your room tonight. And he admits that he is! Draw the blinds, turn on some running water and a couple of radios, and stop down at the sporting goods store tomorrow for a nice shotgun for when he gets it in his head that he’s invincible.

And they say that video games make people violent. This song is a veritable roadmap to stalking. All the lyrics need is a reference to Google, and all the pieces would be in place.

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Rovers That Pay For Themselves

So I am reading the Samizdata post on the Beagle 2 Martian lander, and I read about how Mars is going to be crawling with landers in the coming months with the arrival of Opportunity and Spirit in January. Beagle 2, for those of you who don’t know’t, is a European probe, and Spirit and Opportunity are American landers. So I look at the artist rendition and I think of a bunch of robots tooling around on the planet of Mars, and immediately I think:

Wouldn’t it be cool if, at the end of their lifecycles, the landers fought it out like Battlebots?

And then I think I am onto something. I mean, think of the possible commercial possibilities that could underwrite part of the cost of the voyage! A pay-per-view spectacular, wherein the robots duke it out in a hostile environment on another world? Dudes, I’d order my first pay-per-view event to see it! Maybe a couple of corporate logos slapped onto the landers, a special camera lander to transmit live video, and bam! You’ve got enough capital to lift the things at more than seven miles per second, werd.

Picture it. After NASA and the European Space Agency have had their time with the landers, accumulating and transmitting data back to home base, imagine the two rovers rearing up and exposing whirring blades, great spikes and drills, and articulate claws to rend the other into space junk. Because ultimately, that’s what they are, junk and refuse and detritus from our exploration. At least we could have some fun with it.

Picture the Beagle 2 and Spirit going at it on the red sands of Mars. Imagine a couple of landers doing battle on the ice of Europa, among the volcanoes of Io, or the hazy surface of Venus. I’d buy the DVDs, dammit.

So get to it, guys. Who needs the X-Prize when you can have the Solar Battlebot Championship Tour? Am I onto something, or just on something here?

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We Like To See Cohen Squeezing the Resin Bag

Richard Cohen, of the Washington Post, continues to toss us juicy pitches. Speaking of Howard Dean’s recent musing about an interesting whack job conspiracy theory that Bush knew about the September 11 attacks before they occurred, Cohen posits:

There is no excusing what Dean said. But providing a context is a different matter entirely. As Dean himself said, the Bush administration has been very stingy about revealing just what it knew about terrorist activities before Sept. 11. Couple that with the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq — nor a link between Saddam and al Qaeda proved — and you have the requisite ingredients for a conspiracy theory: Something here doesn’t add up.

Let me paraphrase: The theory doesn’t make sense, but it only makes sense to have a senseless theory.

(The little angel of paranoia on my right shoulder asks “But why does Richard Cohen want us to think that?“)

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Reassurances From Your Older Sibling

In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about how the suburb of St. Peters and its duly appointed constabulary love their new cameras, we get this reassurance:

The only incident of abuse, according to St. Peters officials, occurred more than a year ago. An employee was caught using the cameras to improperly watch people at the Drury Inn on Mid Rivers Mall Drive, a police dispatcher said.

Police spokesman David Kuppler wouldn’t say exactly when the incident occurred, or whether the person was charged with a crime. [Emphasis mine, of course.]

Why’s that at the end of the story? That deserves a lead of its own.

Remember, fellow sheep, cameras won’t keep the wolves from eating you. It will only make sure that the shepherds can identify which wolf ate you. Also, it’s apparently good for seeing what Little Bo Peep’s doing in her motel room with Christopher Marlowe when they forget to pull the shades.

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You Can’t Improve on Perfection

Taito’s bringing back Space Invaders, Slate reports. Mattel’s remaking Electronic Football II. Activision’s releasing their greatest hits in a single joystick you can hook up to your television. The commentator acknowledges the creativity inherent in working in the tight technological media. Good work.

In today’s games, though, except for Civilization III, the technology has outstripped the game play. I mean, arcade games have dwindled to three genres: Gun games, side-by-side fighters, and driving (or airplane) simulators. Home consoles have first person shooters and role playing games. Where’s the creativity in frames per second? Here’s a hint; it’s not.

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In Case You’re Wondering

Fark has a Photoshop contest for Playboy covers, and as an inspiration, they link to this story. Fark inadvertently calls the March 1980 the “best ever” Playboy cover.

Au naturel contraire. The very best Playboy covers are:

  1. November 1971
  2. November 1970
  3. May 1973
  4. December 1988
  5. July 1970

Trust me. I have seen a lot of Playboy covers in my day. Ask me sometime, and I will tell you about the Great Playboy Score.

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In My Day, a DoR Degree Meant Something

Pardon my disgust, but I just heard a DJ for KSHE 95, “Real Rock Radio”, identify Guns N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” as “the title track” to an album. Johnkin’ J!

For you damn kids, “Welcome to the Jungle” was the first track (on side 1, before we had CDs–and we liked it that way) of Appetite for Destruction. But this DJ didn’t know that. Back in the idealized-and-probably-inexistent old days, disk jockeys (back when the discs were bigger than dinner plates, dammit!) knew their music. But now, the Doctors of Rockology don’t know much.

I don’t so much blame public education as I do for the consolidated inifinitization of radio stations, wherein the disk jockeys are all utility infielders, plugged into whatever genre of music the home office determines needs a “resource.” This explains why drive time guys from the light hits stations suddenly find himself running the morning shows on country and western stations–no knowledge of Kenny Rogers or Hank Williams required!

Sorry, but it irks me. These guys dispense asides and information about what you hear on the radio, and they don’t necessarily know the truth, nor how the particular work or individual talent fits into the tradition of the style of music. And they don’t care to learn, because it’s not important. Not as important as their careers, which will soon take them out of this mid-sized market, and if they’re lucky, will land them in the overnights in a major market, regardless of whether they know or even like the damn music they play. It’s just a job, and where their enthusiasm and knowledge of the music leaves off, their knowledge of established sophomoric radio tricks, such as the novel prank phone call, takes up.

Welcome to the jungle, indeed.

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Another Flashback

Did anyone else type 0 NEW at the end of high school programming class to teach someone in the next class that he or she should really clear the memory before typing in his or her own program with line numbers starting on 10 and running it?

Oh, come on. You never even thought of it?


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Michele at A Small Victory has her Vic 20 skin up.

I saw it, and I had a flashback.

In the immortal words of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones:

10 POKE(53280,0)
20 POKE(53281,0)

You damn kids won’t get it, but you old school geeks will.

Except you Apple II geeks, but we’ll be talking to you in the playground after school.

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The Sound of Advice

MSN’s dating expert offers some advice for dating a celebrity.

Hey, my beautiful wife is becoming rather popular in the cool blogging cliques, so perhaps I can pick up some tips. Here’s the points:

  1. Assume it will end.
  2. Protect yourself.
  3. Enjoy all that celebrity jazz.

Man, that’s depressing. All pessimism and exploitation.

Perhaps I should wait for the advice for marrying an immortal goddess of beauty, baking, and bicyclery column.

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Advice for Rybarcyzk

Bob Rybarcyzk says:

So last weekend we got our first real snow of the season here. I like snow and all — it’s real pretty and covers my questionable lawn quite nicely — but snow has serious drawbacks as well.

Dude, autumn already takes care of that with leaves. I mean, I had to snatch some from the brown lawn bags at the end of the neighbor’s driveway since I don’t have any trees in my front yard, and then I had to manually spread them on the lawn much more evenly than Nature would have, but it covered the weird desert camoflauge colors that Soysia takes on in August when you properly scalp the lawn to two inches in the summer drought.

So my lawn still looks good even now that the good old fashioned Wisconsin Snow has been replaced by the Missouri Snow, which is what Wisconsonites call “rain.”

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