Find Your Own Security

“Your security is not in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands.”

I’ve been saying that for three years. It is simply not the responsibility of the government to protect us in every circumstance. There will be events that are not foreseen, and there will be times when we must face the truth that the world we live in isn’t always pretty and there may be difficult choices for us to make regarding those truths. No matter how hard they try to worm their way into every facet of our lives, there will be times when the government isn’t around to offer their “help”.

The varied departments of the government don’t do one thing to make me feel secure, much less offer me any actual security. When someone is committed to their cause, it doesn’t matter if they are carrying a knife, a box opener, a corkscrew or a pointy nail file. Serious damage can be done with something as mundane as a ring of keys or a ball-point pen, yet they don’t (yet) prevent you from carrying these things on board with you. It’s simply ridiculous to think that they can throw more and more legislation at the problem, remove more and more liberties in the process, and think that it will all just go away.

The quote? That was Osama bin Laden, though I suspect that he may have meant it a little differently than I do.

Expand Your Voting Window

In North Carolina, we have “no excuse” early voting. Essentially it means that we have a time period (I think it’s a couple weeks) prior to election day, and at any time during that time period, we can go in and vote, no questions asked. This year, somewhere around 1 million people have used the system.

Frankly, I think it’s cool. Why in the world would we want to strap ourselves to the single-day method? It’s not like there’s anything special about the first Tuesday in November, and if someone decides that there is, how about ending the two-week period on that day? If nothing else, it should save schools from having to schedule teacher workdays to handle everyone’s voting on a single day. It should also greatly reduce stress on any counting of the votes. They could even be reviewed in that time.

Of course, one worry would be the condition of the voter. Namely, if you have a couple weeks to vote, what happens if you cast a vote a week before they votes are tallied, and then die? Hey, it could happen. It has happened. I’m sure it happens more frequently than we might suspect. But the same thing could happen in a single-day voting period. There are going to be people who vote on the way to work in the morning and get in a wreck on their way home in the afternoon.

I can’t imagine that this number is statistically significant.

Plastic Bag Marketing

I don’t know if anyone else notices, but at least two companies – Home Depot and Wal-Mart – established a sort of branding with their plastic shopping bags. You know, those cheap ones into which your stuff goes when you visit the checkout counter.

Home Depot’s have always (at least in recent memory) been a sort of brownish color. I think orange might be better, but perhaps the added expense isn’t worth it. Wal-Mart’s have always (again, in recent memory) been blue.

So I went to Wal-Mart yesterday and it took me until I was back in the car before I noticed that their bags had changed! They are now white, which as you may know is probably the most common color for this sort of bag, providing no differentiation at all.

Now it’s entirely possible that these companies never looked at their plastic bags as advertisment in the first place. But if that’s the case, why did they ever color them, much less put their names across the bags? No, I think they are an advertising tool.

We can look at our collection of saved bags and tell where we’ve been recently – an overwhelming amount of blue would mean we had been to Wal-Mart far too often, while a lot of brown would say that we had been engaged on many home projects. The bags could also serve as a reminder of needing to return to make yet another purchase.

So assuming these are advertising tools, why did Wal-Mart switch? Perhaps they want Wal-Mart to be associated with the generic bag market – figuring that if they associate white with Wal-Mart, they’ll see way more people thinking Wal-Mart when they see white bags. I don’t think that will work. They won’t stand out any longer.

Maybe the motivation was instead due to cost. I have no idea of the cost of producing blug bags, but I can see that if it costs one hundred thousandth of a cent less to product the white bags, a giant like Wal-Mart will save millions.

Is it worth the trade off? Dunno. Maybe I’m the only one who ever notices things like this. But if Wal-Mart starts losing sales, you heard it here first.

Firefox Extensions Revisited

It’s safe to say that my use of Firefox as my regular browser is pretty well embedded by now. I fire up MSIE on two occasions: When Firefox doesn’t work (rare, but it happens – for instance, with certain Outlook Web Access functions) and when I want to check my site to make sure it doesn’t look completely horrible in IE. As I mentioned a while back, I’m not catering to IE – and I haven’t. But I do like to make sure it’s not completely whacked. That’s it.

With that, and with the ongoing development of the Bloglines Toolkit, I’m convinced. The experience is just better. And if it’s not, I can change it. I think that’s what really made the decision for me.

Don’t get me wrong – there are some things that Firefox cannot do. The difference is that I can find ways to do them. Not possible with IE. In order to accomplish things, I simply load up the extensions. I’m down to only a handful that I use on a regular basis.

Bloglines Toolkit – Goes without saying. I’m addicted to the notification function. For what it’s worth, I don’t really use the context menu, so I have it disabled – but that could change.

Clone Window – When you CTRL-N in IE, you get a new window with all the history of the one you cloned. This extension does the same for Firefox. It also allows that CTRL-N key to clone the existing tab and open it in a new tab, even though it’s really supposed to work on windows.

EditCSS – No comparison in IE. This extension allows me to dynmically change the CSS of the page I’m viewing. Immense help when updating the color scheme of a web page (or redesigning a layout). There are other extensions that offer this ability, but I like EditCSS because it’s clean and simple. Does what I need and nothing more.

Focus Last Selected Tab – I just love having the last tab that I use selected when I close the top level tab. It just makes sense. I know where I will be when I close the tab. Simple as that.

LastTab – Despite an amazingly similar name, this is actually a different extension. This one allows me to CTRL-TAB back to the previous tab (or SHIFT-CTRL-TAB to the next one), just as in most Windows apps. Without it, CTRL-TAB goes everywhere. Maybe it has some rhyme or reason to it, but I can’t figure it out.

And that’s it for now. But because the browser can be extended by users, there may be a different list next time around.

Design Error or Pilot Error?

Just three years after it happened, we finally know what brought down American Airlines flight 587 in New York. Strangely enough, we’ve known this for three years: The tail fell off of the plane. But now, the issue is who is at fault. American says it’s Airbus. Airbus says it’s American.

No surprise. Everyone wants to blame someone else. But let me ask the question they ought to ask: If you were to build an airplane, and by simply using the controls, even improper use of the controls, the tail can fall off, who do you think is at fault? Here’s a hint: No amount of training is going to change the fact that the tail broke off the plane.

If the pilot goes the wrong way and crashes into a mountain, I can see it being pilot error. If there is an explosion of some sort and the plane breaks apart, I’m okay with it being a design problem or perhaps even terrorism.

But come on – he’s operating the controls and the plane falls apart? Even if he wasn’t trained right, the plane shouldn’t do that. In a nod to my wife’s profession, perhaps it wasn’t in the requirements. I can understand some organizations using that as an excuse, so let me be clear: If your vehicle can be operated in such a way that it can fall apart, you ought to spend some more time in the design phase.

Links in Firefox

The latest nightly build of Firefox adds a cool new feature. I’ve become somewhat addicted to tabbed browsing, despite my earlier comments, and I hate it when I click a link in an email or something and a whole new window opens up. For starters, it’s slower. Beyond that, it’s an extra window and a pain.

With the latest release, the default behavior is to open in the currently selected tab in the most recent window, which I don’t particularly like because I may have been on a page I wanted to keep. Luckily, you can also make it open a completely new tab in the most recent window (my favorite) or even open an entirely new window like it did previously. I know it’s small. But it’s sweet.