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Writing at NBC’s Pro Football Talk, Mike Florio (partially referencing points made by Tony Dungy) makes a great point:

On this topic, NBC’s Tony Dungy made an excellent point during Wednesday’s PFT Live.  The 11-5 Jets must play at the 10-6 Colts, and the 12-4 Ravens will be playing at the 10-6 Chiefs.  No one has complained about the inequity of those situations.

And given that the Packers and Eagles have the same record and that the Packers beat the Eagles in Week One, all four wild-card games feature a division winner hosting a team that, technically, had a better overall season.

Talking about playoff reseeding based solely on record is a slippery slope.  It weakens divisons, which I think are aligned about as well as can be expected given the NFL’s current makeup.

EFF Deeplinks: Stand Up Against TSA’s Invasive Security Procedures

The Transportation Security Administration has adopted “enhanced” security procedures — presenting people with the horrible choice of either submitting to body scanners that show passengers unclothed or submit to what are called “groping” pat-down techniques which include touching both breasts and genitalia. As some have noted these processes appear to have little likelihood of increasing the safety of fliers.

Individuals appalled by these procedures have a right to submit formal complaints to the TSA. It is important the passengers and crew submit complaints to showcase the widespread resistance to these procedures. TSA maintains that they have seen no increase in complaints about the new security procedures. EFF will be filing FOIA requests to test this claim, but in the meantime we wanted to make sure that people who wished to complain knew how to make their thoughts and feelings heard.

There are informative links to online forms, iPhone apps, and other ways to complain about the security theater at airports.  Flyers are being forced to give up their Fourth Amendment rights as well as their dignity in the name of “security”.  It’s a sham.  Fight back.

To quote Ben Franklin (thanks for the reminder, Scott):

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Don’t be forced to be part of “they”.  Resist having your rights and dignity taken away.

Mark, Scott, and I headed out in the early afternoon to Allentown; finding that parking wasn’t yet open, we stopped at a TGI Friday’s for an early dinner.  Taking a different way back to the Fair, we found a Boy Scout Troop selling parking spaces for $5, less than the $8 the fair was charging, with much better street access.  It was appropriate, because when the show was done I wanted to get the hell out of that venue.

I hated the seats at Allentown Fair, but I always love seeing Rush.  Their films before, during intermission, and after the show were better-produced than ever, and very funny.  They came out with a strong “Spirit of Radio”, and highlights in the first set for me were the new single “BU2B”, the first live treatment of “Presto” (probably among my top 15 personal favorites), the triumphant return of “Marathon”, and “Workin’ Them Angels”.

Set two was led off by the seven-song “Moving Pictures” set, and it was the first time I got to see “The Camera Eye” performed live.  It was quite satisfying, although there were some awkward (to these ears) edits that took about 1.5 minutes out of the song.  I enjoyed the new single “Caravan” as well, and Alex’s new 12-string intro to “Closer To The Heart” was transcendent.  I actually played part of that on 12-string acoustic myself performing at Mark’s birthday party last Saturday.  Nowhere near Lerxst’s talent, that’s for sure, but it was heartfelt.

The encore of La Villa Strangiato (with a carnival-themed keyboard intro) and Working Man was a satisfying end to a great show.  Songs from many albums were represented, and I didn’t miss the drop of “Dreamline” from the set.  Looking forward to getting the new album “Clockwork Angels” next year and seeing Rush live yet again!  Next time I’ll be more careful about what seats I purchase!

I attended last night’s Rush concert at the Allentown Fair.  TicketMaster asked me for a review.  Here’s what I entered.  I’ll be surprised if it’s approved:

[1 of 5 stars given]

This review isn’t about the show; at least, what I saw of it.  Rush always rocks and they’re my favorite band.  However, this is the first Rush show in 20 years of seeing them where I didn’t have a view of Neil Peart.  Unless you count the times they showed him on the video screen.  When I purchased tickets to this show, I got third row in section A, which was the reserved-seating ground section furthest to the right.  The seating chart didn’t show the stage, so I went ahead on faith that TicketMaster was indeed giving me the best seats available.  They didn’t.  We arrived at the venue and were amazed to find that our seats were nowhere near the stage.  We were at least 30 yards away from stage left’s edge and were at such a bad angle we could just see Geddy and Alex.  Neil’s drumkit and the video screen behind him were completely blocked from our view.  From my point of view, the Allentown Fair and TicketMaster conspired to rip me off.  Everyone around me felt the same way.  It was shameful to charge us the highest ticket price for seats that were worse than the general admission grandstand.  I won’t be coming back to this venue and I’m going to recommend against patronizing the Allentown Fair.

I can’t stress how disappointed I was when we were seated.  Of the more than 20 times I’ve seen Rush I’ve been seated in many positions, but none made me madder than last night.  I didn’t even have a decent view of the video screen we were near:
Rush at Allentown Fair

I could say more, but I think I’ve made my point.  Don’t patronize the Allentown Fair.  They are ripoff artists just like TicketMaster.  Rush, please don’t play there ever again.

Update (9/2): The only place I see for TM reviews to be filed is under the band, not the venue.  (How very convenient.)  The reviews for Rush are here.  My review was submitted last night (9/1) and it’s not there yet.  There are several other low-star reviews of the show submitted yesterday, but none criticizes the venue as much as mine did.  It was probably declined by the site admin.  Thanks for the comments so far.

Rush-Caravan-Squished, originally uploaded by aharden.

Please Geddy, Alex, Neil, and Nick, don’t produce another album that has the sonic imperfections of Vapor Trails! Please remember that we have a volume knob!

Your Fan Always,

USA Today: Floyd Landis admits doping, accuses Lance Armstrong

In a bizarre twist to a long-running saga about doping in sports, cyclist Floyd Landis has finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
He also has accused former teammate Lance Armstrong of using drugs to win his seven Tour de France titles.

And to think I defended this man:

Why would one dope and then perform at such a blistering pace as he did on Stage 17, knowing the attention that would draw?

Apparently he thought he would get away with it!

I just shared this with my extended family on our private forums and thought it would be useful to cross-post here:

You may have heard that Facebook’s default privacy settings are under scrutiny. It’s been discussed to death in the tech media the last few weeks. Among other things, Facebook is trying to make using your Facebook account through “unauthorized” third-party tools a criminal offense, and they’re having third parties insert their code onto non-Facebook websites to track users’ online habits. My takeaway was that I didn’t get enough value from Facebook to justify having a presence there. I’ve deactivated my account and will probably delete it soon; the only thing that’s holding me back is losing the URL.

While I’m not recommending that any of you deactivate or delete your accounts, I would recommend that you check your privacy settings and “dial back” those settings that might be making your postings/photos/etc. available to people outside of those who you’re comfortable sharing with. Facebook has changed their default privacy settings several times since the days when “private” was default, and if one hadn’t changed from the defaults, their settings were gradually made more public. The best illustration I’ve seen of this is here:

If I were going to continue using Facebook, I would login only when I want to use the Facebook site and would then log out. This would prevent Facebook from collecting data from non-Facebook sites I visit without my expressed consent.

Sorry to get preachy, but I know many of you use Facebook and I wouldn’t want you to be caught offguard if your online activities are being observed more than you’d like!

Reading this NYT article in the Sunday Patriot-News, I couldn’t help but think that the officials that are up in arms about Google’s “inadvertent” Wi-Fi data collection are ignorant about the security available when web browsing:

“Google is in the process of frittering away its last shred of credibility,” Mr. [Till] Steffen [the justice senator for the city-state of Hamburg] said. “The company must immediately disclose to what degree it has secretly eavesdropped as we’ve sent e-mails to friends in Germany and the rest of Europe or as we’ve done our banking in the Internet.”

This prompts a question: are there still banks that don’t use HTTPS when dealing with customers’ sensitive data over the internet?  Even if someone is using open, unencrypted Wi-Fi, their HTTPS session data is protected with encryption.  That would also be the case for any other protocols that encrypt their payload end-to-end (POP3S, SFTP, SSH, etc.).  For example, I use HTTPS sessions by default with Gmail and Google Reader.

The cited German privacy laws as they apply to electronic communications seem to be a way to compensate for the ignorance of those who implement and use this technology in unsecure ways.  I’m not a fan of Google’s collection of that data, but I don’t think that they are on the wrong side of this issue.  Wi-Fi is a broadcast-based technology using public airwaves, and if you’re not securing your broadcast you’re open to being spied upon.

I think the bigger issue here is whether the benefits of technologies like Street View and Wi-Fi-based geolocation outweigh the personal liberty of people whose image or data might be caught by a machine.  Would it make a difference if the Street View vehicles had a bunch of photographers in the back as opposed to automated cameras?  If they had nerds wardriving with laptops as opposed to automated Wi-Fi sniffers/collectors?  I can only recommend that you protect your communcations and wear a mask in public if you’re worried about this kind of stuff.  Or, for now, move to Germany. 🙂

Yes, I’m a fan of Google in general and Street View in particular.  It’s nice to be able to view pictures of an unfamiliar location before having to navigate it for the first time.

From the middle to the end of June we took a trip down South that included my cousin Laura’s wedding and a week at Walt Disney World.  It was our first trip there since 2004, and our first with the kids.

Melissa did a great job of arranging the trip with Disney.  We took advantage of their offer to get 7 days of “Magic Your Way” (i.e. Park Hopper tickets and resort accommodations) for the price of 4.  We stayed at the Beach Club Resort mainly because of the great pool area and proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  We would have liked to have gotten a Beach Club Villa, but they weren’t available at our vacation time and with the promo pricing.  When we arrived, we needed to get our room assignment changed to what we had requested (two queen beds and a balcony), and the front desk delivered.  I think they hold on to some of the better room configurations for just these types of purposes (i.e., to make you think they’re going out of their way to accomodate your desires).  The room was superb; there was plenty of space for us to spread out for the week.  The in-room coffee was even good!  Two downsides: the room’s cable modem wasn’t working properly, and the excellent LCD HDTV in the room was hobbled by standard-definition programming.  I was surprised Disney wasn’t pumping HD into those rooms.  It is 2009.  Also surprised there was no complimentary internet access, wired or wireless.  I found some free Wi-Fi in the resort’s lobby and used that sparingly twice during the trip to interact with extended family and check email.

Besides the renaming of Disney/MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios since our last trip, the parks were mostly the same.  Gone was the extra Sorcerer’s arm and “Epcot” sign from Spaceship Earth.  Added were some excellent new rides: “Soarin'” at The Land in Epcot, “Toy Story Midway Mania” at Hollywood Studios, and “Expedition Everest” at Animal Kingdom.  We used Fastpasses a lot and sometimes used Kiddie Swap.  The parks were hot and busy.  On most days, we concentrated on getting to them as early as possible and leaving after lunch, coming back later in the afternoon.  Standby lines for the newer rides were outrageously long, so we used Fastpass for the ones we wanted to do.  Some highlights for me was taking Ryan on some of my favorite rides: Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, and Star Tours, for example (sense a theme?) and seeing how he liked them.

I still like Epcot the best of all the parks, with Hollywood Studios second and Magic Kingdom third.  I was only at Animal Kingdom a little bit this trip since I stayed back with a sick Zachary the day Melissa and Ryan went for the day.  As a family, I think we enjoyed Magic Kingdom the best, followed by Hollywood Studios, then Epcot.  There was more that we could do with Zachary at our family-favorite parks.

Melissa made a number of dinner and lunch reservations in advance of our trip.  We had dinners at T-Rex at Downtown Disney, Whispering Canyon at the Wilderness Lodge (definitely our best dinner experience), and Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom.  We had a reserved car for lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-In at Studios, which was a unique experience, to say the least!

Ryan, being 9, had a great time, but he was sick with a fever for about a day midway through the trip.  He didn’t want to eat much then, but he did get our and do some of the parks with us even when he wasn’t 100%.  It’s hard to keep a kid from Mickey. 😉  Zachary, at 2, did pretty well considering he’d rather not have been in the stroller so much, and didn’t want to hold hands much.  When we go back in 5 years (assuming we keep our current schedule), he’ll enjoy it a LOT more!

We were able to avoid using our car during our stay except to go to Downtown Disney and a grocery store one day.  We used our feet and the boats as much as possible, using the bus system when needed.  The buses are great, but the system suffers from a lack of consistent timing due to its tripping over itself to accomodate guests in wheelchairs/scooters.  While I applaud their focus on these guests, tying up a bus for 10 minutes to secure a guest who might not have had to wait their turn to use the bus can really throw things off when the system doesn’t try to compensate for the disruptions caused.  Don’t use the buses at Disney unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

Despite its warts, the Disney experience is still one of the best ones out there, even when there are tens of thousands of other people there at the same time.  The parks are clean and filled with staff ready to help.  I remarked during the trip that you know you’re at Disney when you see someone buffing the garbage cans.  Hersheypark and its ilk may beat Disney in terms of the number of thrill rides, but no park I’ve been to has topped the overall ride experiences of the Disney parks.  Looking forward to our next trip!

Monday’s Gillmor Gang finally convinced me that FriendFeed is the way to go to aggregate my online activities.  I’m “aharden” on FriendFeed, just like I am here and on my preferred services moving forward.

Which services do I prefer?  They’re the ones I’ll link to FriendFeed.  I may still use a service like to update my status/microblog in multiple locations, but only one of those places (right now it’s will be in my FriendFeed.

A few changes as a result of this:

  • No more daily link posting here.  My links are in my FriendFeed.
  • No more Yahoo! Pipes on my homepage (which is still being rebuilt — slowly) – I’ll embed FriendFeed.
  • I’m going to start using my account more to see what kind of data will flow out of it.
  • This may be the tool that gets me out of Bloglines and into Google Reader.  We’ll see.  I think some of the data flows I watch in Bloglines will be obviated by what I’ll end up watching in FriendFeed.

I think FriendFeed is probably doing the best job of both aggregating content and stimulating conversation around it.  I haven’t used it much, but I’ve heard a lot about it.

The only portion of my social graph that I mined when joining FriendFeed was my Gmail contacts.  I plan to ease myself into the FriendFeed pool by being careful about who I choose to follow.