Bonus Books 2009

These are the books I read this year after completing the resolution list.

Full Body Scanners

I was starting to be okay with this description of a whole body imaging  Transportation Security Administration plans to implement.

One, there’s technology that allows the body to be transmuted into merely a cartoon stick figure. So it’s not as if anyone’s genitalia or private parts are being revealed. Instead, it’s just an outline of the body. And then, as I say, anything odd attached to the body becomes readily apparent. (Op-Ed: Security Measures Should Be More Invasive : NPR)

Then I saw images online of what a TSA technician would see. Sadly, what I saw was not stick figures but naked bodies with obscured faces and lines where clothes hug the body. A blurred face doesn’t make me more comfortable. I don’t use dressing rooms in stores specifically because places are known to use cameras in the rooms. I’d rather take the item back than run across the possibility of being viewed in just my underwear, so being viewed naked is disconcerting.

Whether the distance of the person viewing me naked is 2 feet away or 20,000 miles makes extremely little difference to me. Not being able to see the expression of the person viewing raises the creepiness factor. Of course, I went to college at a time when really creepy guys would hang out in the back corner computer labs looking a pictures of naked women and disturbed everyone in the building. My bag was swabbed by one of those people the last time I flew out of that airport.

The images I saw were all older than April 2009, so it is possible new software absolves the nudity issue. This quote makes it sound like there are things which can be done to eliminate the nudity issue and may be what the first quote intended. I only found 4 different images and none matched my idea of a stick figure or stylized.

New software, however, eliminates that problem [nudity of minors is illegal] by projecting a stylized image rather than an actual picture onto a computer screen, highlighting the area of the body where objects are concealed in pockets or under the clothing. Dutch to use full body scanners for US flights

I’ve heard various things about how long the images are stored: not at all, 12 hours, and 3 days. So I fully expect in 2010 to hear about a scandal of pictures of people from these machines getting posted online. In Britain there was a question whether these images taken of minors violates the law despite government officials claiming the images being legal as they are not actually images.

One technology uses terahertz radiation which supposedly will detect the spectrograph of chemicals. Such a thing could detect explosives or illegal drugs.

More technology doesn’t help so much as passing along warnings about threats. This guy’s father told the right people his son was a threat. Yet he wasn’t put on the no-fly list. A 5 year olds are got searched for having the same name as someone on the no-fly list.

Making Simple Tags Work in WordPress 2.9

Followed Andy Fore’s instructions on adding WP 2.9 to the whitelist.

The only problem I have so far discovered is Tag the Net doesn’t appear to work. The error:

Fatal error: Cannot redeclare class services_json in /home/path/wplog/wp-includes/class-json.php on line 115

Looks like WordPress distributed a new class-json.php. Back in Simple Tags 1.6.5, this specific error was supposedly fixed. My guess is something about WordPress 2.9 re-broke it.

December Dilemma

From a CNN article, For Many, December’s a Dilemma by Joe Sterling (mentioned by Phillipe Copeland):

Navigating the Christmas season can be a challenge for the millions of people who don’t celebrate the holiday. Many acknowledge and sometime embrace the season’s customs, such as gift-giving and sending out greeting cards, while at the same time they are conscious of maintaining their own religious identities.

I will admit, when I was Catholic, Christmas was significantly easier. There was no conflict as I was wholly within the mainstream of others I knew. Choosing to become a member of the Bahá’í Faith didn’t significantly reduce the importance of Christmas for me. Bahá’í don’t celebrate Christmas with each other. Nor would we alienate those around us who choose to celebrate. Similarly, I would hope people don’t feel alienated when I fast in the

We still eat with family on Christmas Day. True, I no longer to to midnight or Christmas Day mass. My mother, who is also a Bahá’í stopped giving Christmas presents and only gave Ayyám-i-Há presents, a Bahá’í celebration in February just prior to our Fast and New Year. She does give presents to my brother and his wife who give and receive presents with their other family. I no longer expect Christmas presents or put up a tree, but that is okay.

Keep in mind Christmas as we celebrate it now, merges several holidays, making it convoluted. The primary one, the birth of Jesus, resonates with the Baha’i Faith. We recognize the station of Jesus and all his accomplishments. The Wiccan / Druidic winter solstice, Germanic Yuletide, the Roman Saturnia all are comingled into Christmas. As other faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Islam, Judaism, and even Kwanzaa deal with the surrounding peoples celebrating Christmas, their traditions could trade in and out with Christmas. In the end, the sentiment of giving gifts is a good one, assuming one doesn’t go to excess.

The real dilemma ought to be what is the impact of gift giving. Joel Waldfogel, an economist, thinks receivers value gifts less than the giver, causing a loss in value to the economy, so he recommends gift cards. Several Bahá’ís and Christians I know donate to charities instead of gifts.

Blinded by Money

In order to get my grandmother out of the house, Mom and I took her to see the Blind Side today. This is the classic horrible life until someone provides a opportunities and assistance. The helpers benefit by seeing how the helped improve. Annie in this case is a 6’6″ 320 pound black guy whose birth mother is a crack addict and former neighbors are gangsters. His suffering from having to deal with the old neighborhood reminded me of this shooting in Valdosta.

When it comes to the NCAA concerns the Tuohys, as “boosters”, removed him from the squalor in order to get him to play for Ole Miss, I wonder. The movie suggests this was just because there was an unfounded concern the Tuohys made Michael pick Ole Miss. It also suggests other boosters might start taking good prospects out of subsidized housing, adopt them, and have them enroll at their university. Kids from horrible neighborhoods go to schools which don’t have athletic programs and don’t get kids into college. So getting the kids into a place where they actually have a shot at having a good life seems like a good thing even if for the wrong reasons. As long as the kids are not being mistreated, I say go for it.