Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Important safety tip (#18 in a series)

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

A while back, I suggested the words ‘f–king” and “b-tch”, along with the conjugate “f–king b-tch”, do not belong in a professional email.

To that list, I now suggest that the word “whore” be added.

Also: pay the writer! But that’s not really a “safety” tip…

Important safety tip. (#17 in a series)

Friday, July 12th, 2013

I shouldn’t have to say this, should I? People aren’t this stupid, are they?

Apparently, they are. So, safety tip:

If it is hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement, for the love of Ghu, please use a pan.

Random notes: June 15, 2013.

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

NYT headline:

Minnesota Man, 94, Is Investigated for Nazi Ties

I think, with Father’s Day approaching, this is an important safety tip for everyone. A tie may be a good gift for Dad, if he has to wear ties and if you put some thought into it. However, I’d recommend staying away from ties with Nazi iconography, just as a general rule.

When two student journalists from Paw Prints, the newspaper of West Islip High School, set out to investigate school security, they thought they might do some good, maybe win the award for story of the year in the Long Island Press high school journalism contest. Instead, the article was quashed, and they wound up with a grown-up lesson in the consequences of testing nerves in a post-Newtown-massacre world.

Randal Schwartz, call your office please.

(That was perhaps my only disappointment at YAPC. As I noted, I did get to shake Larry Wall’s hand, but I never saw Randal Schwartz; I’m not even sure if he was there.)

There’s a protest singer singing a protest song.

Another NYT headline:

A Precarious Olympic Bid for Istanbul

Not Constantinople?

(Technically, I suppose that’s nobody’s business but the Turks. And, I guess, the IOC.)

Random notes: May 12, 2013.

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Remember Detective Louis Scarcella, aka one of the “likeable scamps” who put David Ranta away for 22 years?

The other shoe has dropped.

The [Brooklyn district attorney's] office’s Conviction Integrity Unit will reopen every murder case that resulted in a guilty verdict after being investigated by Detective Louis Scarcella, a flashy officer who handled some of Brooklyn’s most notorious crimes during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.


The development comes after The New York Times examined a dozen cases involving Mr. Scarcella and found disturbing patterns, including the detective’s reliance on the same eyewitness, a crack-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions [Emphasis added - DB] and his delivery of confessions from suspects who later said they had told him nothing. At the same time, defense lawyers, inmates and prisoner advocacy organizations have contacted the district attorney’s office to share their own suspicions about Mr. Scarcella.

And more. I don’t want to quote the entire article, but this is an important paragraph because it illustrates a key point: what you post on the Internet doesn’t disappear.

A prosecutor’s view of Ms. Gomez is available in an Internet posting on a cigar-smokers forum. Neil Ross, a former assistant district attorney who is now a Manhattan criminal court judge, prosecuted the two Hill cases. In a 2000 posting, he reminisced about a cigar he received from the “legendary detective” Louis Scarcella as they celebrated in a bar after the Hill conviction.

In the post, Mr. Ross said that the evidence backed up Ms. Gomez but acknowledged, “It was near folly to even think that anyone would believe Gomez about anything, let alone the fact that she witnessed the same guy kill two different people.”

Ms. Gomez is the crack addicted prostitute mentioned above. She’s dead now.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to manage a motel in the Rundberg/I-35 area? The Statesman has your answer.

(Note to my out-of-town readers: the Rundberg/I-35 corridor is notorious as a haven for drug dealing and prostitution.)

Austin politics note (readers who aren’t into Austin politics can skip this one):

We had an election yesterday. Specifically, we were asked to vote on bonds for the Austin Independent School District.

There were four bond proposals on the ballot, totaling $892 million. That’s right: AISD wanted to issue nearly one billion dollars worth of bonds.

This is one of the few times where I’ve actually seen organized opposition to a bond election in Austin. There were a lot of large “vote no” signs in yards and in front of businesses. Surprisingly, even the Statesman came out and opposed the bonds. (Our local alternative newspaper, the Austin Chronicle, endorsed the bonds. But the AusChron has never met a tax, a bond issue, or a government boondoggle they didn’t like.)

The end result: half the bonds passed, and half the bonds failed. This is kind of a “WTF?” moment: you’d figure the voting would go all one way or the other. Then again…

Proposition 2, which totaled $234 million, would have relieved overcrowded schools, which district officials said were among the most critical needs on campuses. The proposition contained three new schools and campus additions that district officials say are desperately needed. It also would have funded a 500-seat performing arts center at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, something critics called a luxury.

“a 500-seat performing arts center at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders”?!

Proposition 4 would have provided $168.6 million for academic programs, fine arts and athletics. That measure had several controversial proposals in it, most notably $20 million for renovations to the old Anderson High School to create an all-boys school.

Those are the propositions that failed.

Proposition 1, which passed by just a few hundred votes, will provide $140.6 million for health, environment, equipment and technology. The bulk of Proposition 1 will go to technology upgrades, including new computers and networks, and will pump money into energy conservation initiatives.

Proposition 3, the other one that passed, “provides money for renovations across the district”. Proposition 1 and 3 together total out to $489.6 million, and “will add $38.40 to the property tax bill for a $200,000 home.”

Week of Gatsby: Day 4.

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Following up on a previous entry: it is legal to download Gatsby in every country except for seven. The United States is one of those seven.

If you happen to live in a country other than those seven – say, for example, Australia – it is perfectly legal for you to download Gatsby from the local version of Project Gutenberg.

Also, I wanted to link to this week’s episode of “The Ihnatko Almanac”: (Edited to add: Fixed. Thanks, Lawrence.) Andy Ihnatko touches on Baz Luhrmann and Gatsby, though his primary topic is one we brought up the other day: Sebastian Faulks continuing the Wodehouse Jeeves novels.

(I also wanted to link this because if you listen to the first couple of minutes, you’ll hear a name you might recognize.)

(Important safety tip: be careful who you page, and who you send feedback to. They just might read your name on the air. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

More unintended consequences.

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Picked this up from Overlawyered, and thought it deserved wider circulation.

Woman and a friend are having coffee. Friend mentions that her daughter just had her first baby. The daughter works in a job that pays just above minimum wage, so money is tight. Daughter stretches her money by shopping the second-hand market for baby stuff. But daughter can’t find any used cribs for sale.

I had to tell my friend that her daughter could not find a second-hand crib because the CPSC basically outlawed selling them. The CPSC has put in place a new safety standard for cribs and, by the law’s terms, all cribs, regardless of when they were made or where they are sold, must meet these new standards. Because the standard is fairly new, cribs meeting the new standard have not yet cycled down to the resale market. And because of the standard, the new cribs are quite expensive, so they will probably be used for a long time before they are available to be bought second-hand. Therefore, those consumers who count on the resale market for their basic needs—such as a crib—are out of luck.

Daughter is trying to make do with a used “play yard”. “One of its sides is broken but it has been mended with a metal rod and tape.” Not the safest thing in the world.

Here’s the punchline: the author of that blog entry is CPSC commissioner Nancy Nord.

This conversation led me to wonder if we as Commissioners are doing as much as we should to consider the full consequences of our decisions.

I’m willing to bet that people warned commissioner Nord, and the other commissioners, that this kind of thing would happen: you dry up the used crib market, and people are going to resort to alternatives that may be even less safe than a used crib. I’m also willing to bet that commissioner Nord ignored those warnings. I’m glad she’s had her moment on the road to Damascus, but it seems to me to be too little, too late.

Crime of the century!

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Somebody, or a group of somebodies, stole eight – that’s right, eight – school buses from a Chicago area bus yard last night.

The people who stole the buses drove them to a scrapyard, where they were shredded.

“There was a pile of shredded school buses about two-stories high,” one police official said. Some pieces were large enough that police could see the “Sunrise bus logo,” the official said.
Engines and transmissions from the buses had already been cut in half, and the seats tossed in a “big pile of scrap.”

(The linked article includes some photos of the pile of scrap.)

Apparently, the buses were stolen sometime between 7 PM last night (when the yard was closed) and 5 AM this morning (when the theft was discovered). So are scrap yards typically open after 7 PM on a weeknight? And wouldn’t you figure that someone would ask questions when eight school buses were driven in for scrap? Or was there more going on?

When officers arrived, several people who apparently worked in the scrap yard ran into a building, police said. Officers initially apprehended one person and later took two others into custody. The owner was arrested in the afternoon.

(This could also double as important safety tip #18 17:

The buses were all equipped with GPS tracking devices, and police were able to track “their entire movement” to the scrap yard on the West Side, police said.

Don’t steal stuff with GPS tracking devices, or stuff that you might think has GPS tracking devices. Among the things that you might think have GPS tracking devices, if you’re a criminal mastermind:

  • Airplanes.
  • Expensive cars.
  • Government vehicles, including police cars.
  • School buses that carry children.

That’s just a partial list. I’m sure others can think of more examples, but those should suffice for the crackheads in my audience.)

Important safety tips (#15 and #16 in a series)

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Three in one day? I know. But there’s a story in the NYT that offers some instructive lessons.

Chris Huhne was a British political figure. The NYT describes him as “a fast-rising politician with fashionably left-of-center views on social issues and a background in high finance that had yielded a multimillion-dollar fortune“.

He also had a lead foot. He was caught speeding by a roadside camera back in 2003, and he had three previous convictions prior to that. If he had been convicted on the 2003 charge, he would have been banned from driving and fined.

So he got his wife to say she was driving instead.

Safety tip #15: the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

Had he pleaded guilty at the time, he would have faced a $100 fine and been barred from driving for six months to a year; by lying in the case, he ultimately lost his cabinet post, the first politician in British history to be forced from office by a criminal prosecution, as well as his parliamentary seat, and, British pundits say, any prospect of a future political career.

Huhne pled guilty to a charge of “perverting the course of justice”. He hasn’t been sentenced yet, but the judge in his case has indicated Huhne will probably serve time.

Vicky Pryce, Mr. Huhne’s wife at the time, was convicted of the same charge, and will probably serve time as well.

How did things fall apart?

Ms. Pryce stuck with the deceit over the speeding ticket for more than seven years until Mr. Huhne, faced with the imminent exposure of an extramarital affair with one of his political aides by a London tabloid, abruptly walked out of the 25-year marriage.
The court heard that Ms. Pryce learned the news from her husband when he confronted her during a halftime break in a Saturday-afternoon telecast of a World Cup soccer match in 2010, announcing that he needed an immediate separation to save his cabinet post.

Tip #16: if you’re going to ask your wife to cover-up your crime, treat her well. Don’t plan on divorcing her, unless you’re sure the statute of limitations has run out. And I’d check with a lawyer first, just to make sure you haven’t overlooked some crime that you could possibly be charged with.

Important safety tip (#14 in a series)

Friday, March 8th, 2013

I don’t care how good looking you are, or how handsome you think you are.

I don’t care how lonely you are after your divorce.

I don’t care how beautiful the bikini model is, or what her cup size is.

Don’t check luggage that belongs to other people.

Because the best thing that can happen to you is that they’ll find the cocaine hidden in the suitcase, and you’ll wind up doing hard time in an Argentinian prison.

TMQ watch: January 29, 2013.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Ah. The week between the championship games and the Superb Owl. Also known as “the silly week”, in which people look for things to fill space. And TMQ is no exception. This week’s column after the jump…


Important safety tip. (#13 in a series)

Friday, January 4th, 2013

For God’s sake, people, you’re adults. Act like it.

“Egging” someone’s house as a “prank” is just dumb.

Especially if that someone is your boss.

And especially if you’re a cop.

He says is handling the matter internally.

Random notes: January 4, 2013.

Friday, January 4th, 2013

It looks like this is going to be a NYT heavy day. I apologize, but I go where the interesting stuff is.

This is a no-snark story. Even though I think the main idea is well known, and gets repeated by the NYT every few years, I still think it is worth noting,

Decades later, the operators say, the images are vivid. The slender fellow in the jacket and tie, bending his knees at the platform’s edge. The reveler stumbling on the tracks at dawn, wobbly in her evening best, unable to stagger away in time. An arm reaching up, hopefully, then disappearing in a flash.
“As cruel as it makes it sound, for the individual it’s over,” said Curtis Tate, a former operator whose train struck and killed a man in 1992. “It’s just beginning for the train operator.”

According to the NYT, operators expect an average of one death per week. (There were 55 in 2012, and the system has already had the first death of 2013.)

“I was always seeing it, you know?” Ms. Moore, 45, from Staten Island, said. “I see him alive and….”

Also in the NYT, an interesting article about the investigation into the Indianapolis gas explosion.

Even before they heard that family photographs were missing, investigators said they sensed something was not right with the scattered remains of Monserrate Shirley’s home.

I’ve heard more than once that family photos being missing, or obviously taken out of the house before the event, is a significant clue to investigators that they might be dealing with arson or some other deliberate act. But as we shift towards digital photos and storage in the cloud, how long is that going to remain a useful clue?

Officials believe the home, in the Richmond Hill subdivision, had been saturated with natural gas for six to nine hours before it erupted at 11:11 p.m. The explosion was seen and felt for miles. It shattered windows and collapsed walls throughout the neighborhood, shoving some homes off their foundations. John D. Longworth and his wife, Jennifer, who lived in the house next door, did not survive.

Conveniently, the people who owned the house were “at a casino 100 miles away”, their daughter was spending the night with friends, and they had boarded their cat.

This came to me by way of the NYT: I’m linking to the AZCentral web site, but both have about the same amount of detail. The jury in the trial of Erick Venola deadlocked on the second-degree murder charges against him. Mr. Venola is expected to be retried in late February; he was pleading self-defense in the shooting of his neighbor, James Patrick O’Neill.

Why is this worth noting? I don’t note every mistrial in Arizona. True that, but: Mr. Venola was a former editor of “Guns and Ammo” magazine, and I’ve seen absolutely no mention of this in the gun blog sphere (or anywhere else) before now. It may be that Mr. Venola is not exactly a sympathetic defendant: the prosecution claims he and Mr. O’Neill were both drunk at the time of the shooting.

Interesting set of stats from the NYT, by way of JimboArthur O. Sulzberger’s obit in the NYT was the fourth longest in the past 30 years. The top five:

  1. Pope John Paul II.
  2. Richard Nixon.
  3. Ronald Reagan.
  4. Arthur O. Sulzberger.
  5. Gerald Ford.