Archive for April, 2011

Subway Pole Leaner

How I hate you subway pole leaner.  You know who you are, don’t feign ignorance.  You think you’re the best thing to have happened to civilization since the discovery of fire.  You carry yourself through life with an overzealous swagger.  You know who you are.

You’re sneaky too.  There is no clear demographic that you hide in.  You can be of any race, any creed.  Men, women, well-adjusted transsexual, it doesn’t matter.  You are impossible to profile.  You attack from all angles, like terrorist sleeper cell that attacks people’s nerves and sanity.  Sneaky bastards.  And unfortunately for the rest of us, you bring your vulgar disregard for public well-being to the NYC public transportation system.

You also attack at all hours.  This means that you lean on those poles at the most annoying and inopportune of moments.  Rush hour?  Consider it done.  Late night/early morning bar return?  Of course.  You will firmly plant you ass, shoulder, side, or all of the above, on the balance lifeline of your fellow commuters.  People are packed into the trains like the obese at an Old Country Buffet.  And like those unfortunate souls, we struggle to stand.  Especially during the stop/go delays and abrupt turns that are the hallmarks of NYC commute.  These trains have hand holds for a reason, but that’s not good enough for you, you need a cradle.  Then you have the gall to remain oblivious to other people suffering, unable to stand properly because they don’t have anything to hold onto.

Some people try to give you a massive hint by slipping their hands in to grab the pole, brushing your body in the process.  Some politely ask you to move.  But in most cases, your ego is too massive to care.  So let me break this down for you.  Working a pole is only permissible at certain places and times.  Just to give two examples, it is okay if you’re at gym class or working at an establishments involving a lot of one dollar bills which help you “pay your way through college.”  Bodying up during a ride is not the correct venue.  The next time you decide to do it, think of all the trouble you’re causing your fellow commuters.  If that still isn’t enough of a deterrent, I sincerely hope that someone will punch you in the face.

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The NBA – Where Blown Calls Happen

The NBA is rigged or perhaps the referees simply suck. I’m keeping track of the crap calls (and no-calls) in the 2011 playoffs for the games I have time to watch:

  1. Denver @ Thunder, Game 1: The offensive goaltending in the last 2 or so min that didn’t get called screwed over an otherwise exciting game. This has even been reviewed by the NBA and they admitted they blew the call (source).
  2. Knicks @ Boston, Game 1: Controversial offensive foul call on Melo in the last few min and the no-call on Garnett’s illegal screen on Douglas leading to the go ahead three by Allen. The no-call was admitted to be a screw up after review by the NBA. (video and explanation and source at bottom of article)
  3. Pacers @ Bulls, Game 2: Flat out wrong and terrible call on the missed jumper in the last few min. Had it not been called, the putback+foul would have potentially cut the Bulls’s lead down to 2. Then on the very next possession by the Bulls, Rose airballs a well defended shot and no looseball foul is called on Boozer who pushed Foster into the airball. This gives the Bulls the ball back and with less then a minute remaining, seals the game.
  4. Knicks @ Boston, Game 2: 3 missed, ovbious no-calls during the game (one of them in the fourth) all during critical momentum swinging moments for the Knicks that could have let them build some sort of momentum in a game where they only had Melo. The worst was the blatant foul on Melo along the baseline that would have put him at the line for 2 shots that did not get called.

For the games I haven’t had time to watch, it seems that the officiating was just as bad (source). If what people have been saying on the internet is true (rarely the case, but hey I’m writing about this so why not), then these games were also badly officiated:

  1. Portland @ Dallas, Game 1
  2. Philly @ Miami, Game 1
  3. Indiana @ Chicago, Game 1

The NBA knows that this first round has had some terrible officiating as the announcers for all of the above possessions have been dumbfounded by the calls live on television. No matter how bad previous playoff reffing has been, I’ve never seen a string of such obvious bad calls happen right at the start of the playoffs. What’s worse is that these calls are all happening towards the end of games and could have allowed the losing teams to win. Bad calls/no-calls are part of the game and they tend to balance out, but rarely do so many occur at the end of games. Worse is that all of these calls happen during critical junctures and end up swing the momentum towards the eventual winning team (I wonder why…).

To counter this, Stern has assigned Danny Crawford to officiate Game 2 of the Mavs/Portland series. The Mavs have a well known 2-16 record in playoff games officiated by Crawford, and this seems to have drawn attention away from the recent terrible officiating. It’s a shrewd win-win move for Stern. If the Mavs win, Stern can point out that the referees are not biased and that Crawford does fairly officiate Mavs games. If the Mavs lose, then controversy will shift to Crawford, and everyone will forget about the above three games.

For the fans, we all lose since attention is being drawn away from this circus that is NBA officiating. Curious to see the outcome of the Portland @ Dallas game, I watched it from start to finish looking for particularly bad calls. While there were some iffy calls during the game (in particular, the ticky tack calls on Mathews), none were as egregious as what I saw in the games listed above. Looking at the news the following day, I see very little attention on the bad games and more focus on how the Mavs were able to win game 2. So Dictator Stern won this round and has successfully drawn attention away from the shitty state of the playoffs. Too bad for all of us fans as this just means the NBA will continue moving towards being the worst officiated professional sport in the world.

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Voting Machines – Yes or No? Oh wait, I rigged the choices.

Ignore the title of the video since it is sensationalist and not accurate. However, you should listen to the testimony. The computer program explains that there are only 2 ways to verify that voting machines are not rigged:

  1. view the source code on every machine prior to compiling and embedding it on the machine
  2. have voters also hand in the traditional paper ballots as a failsafe audit trail

What I’d like to talk about is #1. In particular, the common response given by companies like Diebold (they have renamed them selves after being accused of creating bad/rigged voting machines, but that is another discussion altogether) on why the source code should not be open sourced. All voting machine companies have constantly made the argument that the hardware and software tech behind voting machines should be kept secret and proprietary. They give these reasons:

  1. Security
  2. Trust

However, every reputable programmer I know (and even all of the stupid ones) has argued that these reasons are false and misleading. Since the general public does not understand how computers and software works, people will assume that big companies “know what is best.” However, as this very well qualified developer testifies, these reasons are pretty much shit.

  1. Diebold relies on security through obscurity. Meaning that it is more secure because people don’t know what software is running and therefore can’t look for holes. Well Windows is the easiest example of showing that this argument is pure crap. Everyone in security knows that security through obscurity is a very weak deterrent (especially when dealing with something as big as voting/politics). The payoff is huge so people will look for holes in your actual security model and if you do a shitty job, it will not be hard to crack.
  2. Then there is the issue of trust and as this testimony shows, you really should not be trusting these types of companies to be honest. Whether or not this company was approached for rigging shouldn’t be a concern. Rather everyone should be worried that with a single company controlling all aspects of development and rollout, any corrupt politician can just pick up a phone and know exactly who to ask to try and rig an election.

If source code and hardware is open sourced, there is no single controlling body that can modify the code base away from the prying eyes of the public. In fact, shouldn’t it be obvious that being able to see the source code and hardware designs would instill more confidence that nothing is being rigged? Open source projects (big ones) are generally more secure than proprietary counterparts because we have so many people looking at the code and criticizing it (and fixing it).

The continuance by the government on relying and granting monopolies to companies like Diebold is mind boggling. If we really want to stop all of the controversy over voting fraud/machine rigging, then just open source the code and hardware and create one governing body that audits and rolls out the machines during elections (make that process transparent too). It’s that fucking simple, and all developers have been arguing this for years. And now I shall end this on a controversial statement: the biggest indicator that voting fraud (or rigging) is happening is that the lobbyists have been successful at keeping voting machines proprietary and in the hands of companies like Diebold (if you read up on them, most of the other voting machine companies were absorbed by Diebold and they are now essentially a monopoly in this sector).



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Lying to Kids

As a kid, I loved Saturday morning cartoons.  Hell, I probably still would if I could get out of bed that early.  There isn’t much bad I can talk about but one thing that always irked me was the false advertising for some shows.  Many programs had amazing intros that the actual programming never lived up to, case in point—Captain Planet.

Similar to many other children, I partook in a healthy dose of Captain Planet.  The show touched on all the key points needed for early morning success, an awesome hero and terrible villains, special rings that imbued the wielder with control over the elements, and an underlying message of love for the planet.  Big win.  But the discrepancy between intro and show always bothered me.

The cartoon posed a pretty standard thirty minute formula every week.  Bad guys trash the planet which leads to useless kids with rings trying to stop said trashing.  Their attempts were so futile the only thing the enemy does is laugh and gloat.  After these kids are proven useless, they gather their wits and “WITH YOUR POWERS COMBINED…I AM CAPTAIN PLANET!”  Cue theme song, pollution brought down to zero, and the day is saved.  A satisfying conclusion for all involved, curtly wrapped up in the mere five minutes it took the Captain to appear and bring a beat down in the name of Mother Earth.

On the other hand, what did the introduction show?  It had amazingly powerful kids who use their rings as if possessed by the gods, bringing down elemental judgment on villains who can do nothing but curse the fates in the wake of such ferocious supremacy.  Earth boy made a mountain erupt out of flat ground.  Fire guy liquefied concrete to stop a get-away car.  Wind girl wrapped the evil doers in a tornado.  Water girl created a skyscraper of crushing waves to save a dolphin.  I’ll ignore Heart; he’s all sorts of useless, even in the exaggerated intro.

So how did this display of awesomeness transform into the incompetent beings I saw in the show?  And why did I have to sit through 25 minutes of built up suspense and Leggo My Ego commercials to get to the real planet-saving/ass-kicking from Captain Planet?  We were lead to believe that each one of these power imbued model UN kids was able to take down one or two villains each, all by their lonesome.  On the contrary, they were totally incapable of replicating this feat, even all together, during the show.  This incompetence wasn’t the result of any special evil scheme from the villains, but rather because they somehow forgot to use the ridiculous skills I listed above.  The show did not deliver on its promise of an action packed 30 minutes.  In fact it didn’t even deliver on half of that.  A 16.6% conversion rate is pretty terrible by any measure.  15 years later, I’m still bitter, shame on you producers of Captain Planet.

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Small Dogs on Sidewalks

New York City is what most of us consider a fairly populous place.  However, even within its small cramped confines lay pockets of extreme activity.  There are the usual suspects like SoHo, 5th Avenue, 32nd Street, Times Square, and the like.  Then you have your lesser known areas that will remain anonymous for this particular excerpt.  Their names are not important.  What is essential is that all of these locations share one over arching characteristic that you’ve most likely figured out by now—they are bursting at the seams with people.
There are herds of humans moving, dodging, criss-crossing, and generally going about their business in that uniquely New York sort of way.  Barely suppressed sidewalk rage, mixed with a blatant disregard for traffic laws, topped off with a diva attitude, and tunnel vision for a straight path to the destination.  This intense cocktail of activity all occurs on small strips of land that are meant to comfortably handle a third of the bustle they see daily.

Even after years of watching this hustle and bustle, my description cannot truly do these untamed hubs justice.  So it goes without saying that these areas of the City are not the ideal places to go on a leisurely stroll with a rodent sized canine companion.  The thought process that goes into deciding to partake in such a stroll is beyond me.  Logically, it causes unneeded stress to the two most invested parties involved.  The dog will be in constant danger of being punted by an unsuspecting foot, and the owner of said foot will be shaken when they almost crush an unnaturally small mutant dog.  Let’s face it, evolution would never have allowed them to survive in a natural environment.

In fact, the only unaffected individual is the owner.  Any owner merciless enough to throw a creature that small into a stamped of human traffic either has the emotional capacity of cement, or the amount of brain power typically exemplified by Saturday morning cartoon villains who lose weekly battles to a Carebear.  Of course a combination of the two is not totally out of the question.  However, as an optimist, I would like to believe that people are naturally good, and hence I lean much more heavily on the latter culprit of stupidity.  And alas, for all of man’s medical miracles, there is still no cure for that particular ailment.  So while these people continue to live their blissfully ignorant lives with their pets in tow, the rest of us must live our days in constant fear of crippling a dog.

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