28 November 2006

Thanksgiving Leftovers

The kid's five day Thanksgiving weekend (I took four and a half days) is over. The pilgrimage to and from the ancestral homestead is complete. Here are some left over stray thoughts in its wake.

1. The airline magazine makes a strong case that Apple OS X based computers are more stable, more secure and easier to use. They can also use Window's based data filed. The main drawback now is that Windows software is much cheaper and often a sunk cost, and the Apple hardware (especially accessories) are expensive. Maybe this chasm could be ended by having Microsoft simply selling OS X under license as Windows 2007. I can dream? Can't I?

2. A recent issue of the Economist reports that one place you would expect to be the heart of the anti-nuclear movement, Ukraine, home to the worst nuclear disaster of all time, is buying more nuclear reactors as part of a global trend driven by global warming concerns. Politically other nations are warming to nukes as well.

3. The Economist also claims that Milton Friedman actually has far less of an influence on Chile than is commonly assumed.

4. The liquid and gels on planes ban is stupid and implemented poorly. Instead of discarding such things, they could offer to gate check them. Worse yet, the Transportation Security administration flier on security rules incorrectly implies that the ban applies to checked luggage, even though it doesn't, and also gets other things wrong.

Of course, also nuts is the TSA color coding threat system. We've had no days on green, blue or red, lots of yellow days and a few orange days that haven't demonstrably improved security.

The TSA also don't trust its own systems -- the deeply paranoid keep your bags with you every moment rule is very intrusive despite the fact that it makes little sense if only ticketed passengers whose bags have been scanned are allowed in the airport after the security gates.

5. Alcohol regulation is another heart of darkness. Colorado, for example, allows you to get booze in a restaurant, but not a liquor store on Sunday. And, why does it make sense to allow sales of 3.2 beer, but not other alcohol in grocery stores, except four that have special licenses (most notably the Target Store in Glendale, Colorado's own Las Vegas). Regulatory distinctions between different kinds of alcohol consumption are fundamentally irrational. And why in the world is it illegal to buy a car on Sunday? Massachusetts had a ballot issue on the subject this fall (I don't recall if it passed or failed).

6. One of the first warning signs of domestic violence on the horizon is loud, angry fighting. Neighbors hear it. (Insert "My Name Is Luca" lyrics here.) It is unpleasant. It is frightening. As long as nobody hits anybody, and the sound isn't louder than a raucous college party, no laws are broken and law enforcement can't intervene. And, this is probably largely good policy. Inserting police into a volatile relationship is a recipe for escalation and permanently broken relationships, that might otherwise heal.

On the other hand, doing nothing when the community is aware of crisis brewing isn't great either. Perhaps the best kind of person to intervene would be someone with almost no power. Not like the social services worker who can take your children away. Not like the policeman who can put you in jail. Just someone to say, "yes, the world has noticed", who can offer voluntary, constructive options.

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