Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle


Tonight I feel like I live in a community more than ever before.

Up until last week I lived on 8th Street South in Kirkland, right next to the Little League baseball fields - the street is part of a Kirkland known as the Everest Neighbourhood.

Recently, longtime neighbours of ours, the Aubrey's, decided that it was time to downsize after living here since 1972 and raising their kids in their house on 8th. They applied to subdivide their land, but permission came with the stipulation that 5th Avenue South that connects 6th to 7th should be extended through to 8th - obliterating a footpath and lovely area of the neighbourhood in the process.

Not to mention the fact that commuter traffic generated by such a cut-through would destroy the quiet and kid-friendly street one block west.

You can read more about this at the Kirkland Courier's site and this map will show you what I'm talking about.

An appeal was lodged and tonight a quasi-legal hearing was held at Kirkland City Council. It was quasi-legal in the sense that the council members were effectively judges and jurors on the issue and were not allowed to hear any arguments about the case beforehand. Arguments would be presented for and against and entered into the record and most frustratingly, audience members had to be quiet and respectful - no clapping and no standing up and shouting “WTF!”.

You can understand that I was sitting on my hands and biting my tongue throughout the whole proceedings.

There were many empassioned arguments including one by a neighbour who had done some severe homework, turning the city's own planning policy against itself.

So many friends from the neighbourhood showed up. Many with kids. Everyone supporting the appeal. Did I mention that 7th Street has almost forty kids under ten years of age living on it? It's an old school neighbourhood with young parents; kids playing on the street side of their houses with other kids; neighbours chatting and doing favours for each other.


A community that would have been destroyed by a short-sighted, follow the rules, planning policy.

The end result? A unanimous vote by the council1 in favour of our neighbourhood.

Surrounded by neighbours, I have never felt so much a part of a community.

Rock on.

1 Incidentally, there is a certain council member who urgently requires that a bureaucratic stick be surgically removed from their arse. 

Insane Kirkland Annexation Behaviour?

Apparently Kirkland is about to annex a whole chunk of unincorporated King County, which would almost double the population of Kirkland.

The insane thing is that the citizens of Kirkland, whose resources will get spread thin, don't get to vote on the issue - only the citizens in the area targeted for annexation!

Oh, and being a ten year (high) tax paying non-US citizen, I don't get to vote anyway…

No taxation without… Oh. Whatever.

Why Am I Sceptical About Hillary Clinton?

I find nothing appetizing about people that jump on a political bandwagon, especially in an area that I care deeply about.

Clinton, who is reportedly planning to seek the Democratic presidential nomination for the 2008 election, has aligned herself with hardline right-wing Republican senators in order to pressure Congress into researching the impact of electronic media on children.

Games are an art form. Politics does not belong in art.

Flame on.

John Edwards On YouTube

John Edwards is running a new type of campaign, or at least reaching out in a new direction.

John Edwards at Gnomedex 2006

In recent years, the candidate that could control the TV media and perform well would hold great sway with the voters. This time around, Edwards is embracing Citizen Media, what with Scoble on the plane with him, and videos on YouTube, the voters are going to get unparalleled access to a candidate.

Just as he promised at Gnomedex.

I just hope the unfettered access doesn't blow up in his face! If it doesn't, maybe we'll get to see the real man.

TSA == INS 2.0?

In this post, Seth Godin relates the non-customer centric nature of the TSA. As a non-US citizen and as someone who as travelled into and out of the US many, many times over the past twenty years, it seems like business as usual.

The difference is that this time US citizens are getting the obnoxious end of the stick.

The INS has been treating us non-citizens like that for years. We just understood that it would never change, as US citizens, i.e. the voters, were never exposed to it.

Now US citizens get their share of the pain.

It's interesting how things progress… First it's them, then it's you…

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UK RFID Passports Cracked, Sorta…

I think I'll be keeping our latest UK passport renewals under a tinfoil hat.


Techdirt reports

There's been an odd rush by governments to move to RFID passports, even though there are serious concerns about how secure they really are. Over in the UK, where many RFID passports are already in use, a security researcher and a reporter were able to crack some aspects of the passport. It is, admittedly, a limited crack, but it could potentially be used to make a clone RFID chip for a counterfeit passport.

Noone saw that coming

A Much Better Night Than Two Years Ago

As I sit here glued to the TV and various online feeds, CNN are predicting that the House of Representatives has gone to the Democrats and that they'll also take the Senate.

Six governerships too…

I wonder how the world will seem in the morning…

Should Kids Get A Vote By Proxy?

Via Jason Kottke, we find an interesting idea by Juan Enriquez about giving parents of children under eighteen an extra vote per child, the idea being that if two parents have two children then the family has four votes instead of two and that parents will take the long-term future well-being of the country into account.

Why not give parents of kids under 18 one proxy vote per child? Only then will there be a strong voting block to counter growing gray power. It is also time to quit spending more than we earn. And above all, it is time to realize just how fragile countries can be.

Of course, while reading this I pondered the fact that neither Nabila nor I are US citizens, yet both of our our children are. Would we get two votes? :-)

That Just About Sums It Up

The Independent on America's domestic policy vs America's foreign policy.

This week, George Bush used his presidential veto to block a bill on stem cell research, saying he couldn't support the 'taking of innocent human life'. In Iraq, six civilians are killed by a US air strike, while casualties in Lebanon and Israel mount. George Bush (and Tony Blair) oppose UN calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Or, how about this one:

[Image via Kottke.]

A Disease?

Aren't there quite a few other things more important and relevant than videogames for the CDC to be worrying about?

Oh, and maybe while Lieberman and Clinton are at it, they could find some real issues to pontificate on? Come on. Big issues. There's quite a few around right now - help the party out a little here.

[Tip'o'the'hat to Greg Costik for the link.]

Police State

Ok, this is just downright scary.

From 2006 Britain will be the first country where every journey by every car will be monitored. What on earth is going on back home? Any of my UK readers care to comment?

More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to allow the police to convert thousands of existing traffic cameras so they can read number plates automatically. The data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure police communications network.

The UK seems more and more foreign to me every day…

And there's more

The new national surveillance network for tracking car journeys, which has taken more than 25 years to develop, is only the beginning of plans to monitor the movements of all British citizens. The Home Office Scientific Development Branch in Hertfordshire is already working on ways of automatically recognising human faces by computer, which many people would see as truly introducing the prospect of Orwellian street surveillance, where our every move is recorded and stored by machines.

Even though I rail on the US sometimes, at least there is well-formulated protections in the form of the Constitution and Amendments (which of course are currently under attack). Elsewhere, including in my beloved home country, the governing powers seem to be making it up as they go along. All in the name of the “war on terror”.

Lets just hope that the terrorists haven't basically won by transforming our society into one based on fear. A fear that lets us gladly give those in power the tools to herd and monitor us like sheep.

[Thanks to various, including Joe, for the links.]

Read this

Just read this. I've been trying to summarize my thoughts, but Kevin just gets to the point.

Gun control?

As this is my 500th post, I thought I'd make a splash with some thoughts that have been rattling around my brain for a while - it's time to lay them out and invite comment…

Guns, weapons, call them what you will ([“This is your weapon, not your gun. It's for shooting, not for fun”]), are a necessary part of the world. They are a tool; a means to an end.

And they actually can be a lot of fun.

Contrary to popular belief, the UK is not gun free. Growing up, I was the captain of my school's rifle team (303 prone), had a number of friends whose fathers owned rifles (one of which was a hobbyist gunsmith) and spent many happy afternoons at an outdoor range - sometimes shooting, sometimes operating push-up targets standing in the trench, pushing up mechanical targets as the shooters walked down-range, popping them up as the shooters dropped prone on command - I'll never forget the occasion when the guy who has bearing down on my target flipped his Sten to fully automatic and cut the target in half…

I enjoyed it. It was a controlled, safety-conscious environment.

And damn, was I a good shot.

When I moved out to the States, I met a number of people who owned guns. I went out shooting with them and had a blast shooting at reactive targets.

It's a great sport.

I also have no problem with hunting, or any other responsible firearms related activities. But what the hell is it with the whole concealed weapons, own as many guns as you while like storing them in your closet, thing?

In the UK, yes, the really bad guys will have weapons. But in the general case it ain't gonna happen. In the US, you're always worried that someone might be “carrying”.

It all seems to boil down to the second amendment. The right to bear arms.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

What do you believe was the intent there?

Maybe I'm wrong, but that amendment was written to enable the citizens of this country to protect itself against a dictatorial government. To protect itself against the very thing it was leaving behind.

Now, I'm probably the first person to say this government needs to be dismissed, but I don't believe an armed citizenry is going to make it happen. Nor should it.

Surely, the reason we have the Supreme and Federal court systems is to interpret the Constitution and amendments in the spirit in which they were intended. Blind, to the letter interpretation gives proliferation and protection into hands for reasons unforeseen and unintended by the founding fathers.

Heck, I'll save the problems of blind interpretation by religious zealots for another post…

There seems to be so much confusion, reinterpretation and changes in the law that it seems obvious to me that we have no idea what they meant, and that to say “it's my second amendment right”, means that you get to do what you want with your weapons and carry them where you will, because “I can't afford the Porsche to make my dick look bigger, therefore this gun will have to do.”

Can someone please tell me why you need to carry that Glock into my child's daycare?

Maybe I'm wrong, but then I'm just a Brit who can't vote and gets taxed for the priviledge…

Asbestos suit on.

A Higher Power

Please tell me it ain't so. From the BBC: "God told me to invade Iraq, Bush tells Palestinian ministers."

The Real ID Act

So the Republican Congress attached an amendment to the latest military appropriations bill that basically mandates the implementation of a National ID system. This, although disgusting, is not news. Wil Wheaton has a good write up over on his site.

What is news is the details within it prevents the possibility of judicial review in certain provisions.

Section 102 of H.R. 418 would amend the current provision to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive any law upon determining that a waiver is necessary for the expeditious construction of the border barriers. Additionally, it would prohibit judicial review of a waiver decision or action by the Secretary and bar judicially ordered compensation or injunction or other remedy for damages alleged to result from any such decision or action.

Go and read a great analysis over on Ars Technica.

Slippery, slidy slope anyone?

Two Words

Utter disbelief.

How on earth did Bush win? I was half expecting a landslide victory for Kerry of the '97 UK election variety, but I guess that was not to be.

Everyone now seems to be into the post-election analysis, discussing what went wrong, etc... I'll sum it up - Middle America just doesn't get it.

We are all, but mostly our kids, going to pay dearly for this.

Pleasure Boat Captains For Truth

Yee Haa! Make sure you check out the videos - it's about time we had some balanced reporting in this campaign.

When George W. Bush talks about his past, he uses the words "reckless" and "irresponsible." He claims that in 1986, after half a lifetime of hard drink and easy women, he finally sobered up-- and he wants us to believe he'll never revert to his hard-partying ways.

But the captains who piloted his pleasure craft during those "wild" years, as well as his fellow pleasure craft revelers, see him in a very different light.

Pleasure Boat Captains for Truth

Politically Motivated Terror Alerts?

Here's a good one over at JuliusBlog which claims that the timing of the terror alerts shows striking correlation to dips in Bush's popularity ratings. Although it does seem a tad farfetched, I guess I wouldn't put it past the old boy. Especially with the last one appearing just after the DNC conference and based on old, pre-9/11 data that has "suddenly come to light". Ahem.

Anyhow, make your own mind up.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.