Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Holiday Scam: Gift Cardjacking

I got an email from the University of Colorado police department this morning with a warning of a new scam. It appears that criminals are writing down gift card serial numbers, leaving the card on the hook to be purchased, then watching the gift card website to see when the card has been activated. Wow, if only these scum would put their innovative minds to good purpose.

The police memo recommended buying only cards from stick not displayed or cards whose serial numbers can only be revealed when a scratchable covering is removed.

Here's the email:
The CU Police Department would like to inform everyone in the campus community of a -gift card scam- that could make someone's holidays less than happy.
This information has been available for some time and has been reported in news sources such as the Wall Street Journal, but it bears repeating at this time of year when gift card purchases are common.

Information has been received from sources that indicate thieves have been going into stores and have been writing down gift card serial numbers from gift cards that are openly displayed for sale on racks or counters. The thieves do not take the card; rather they leave it for some unsuspecting customer to purchase. The thieves then periodically check the card web site to determine when the card has been bought, activated and a balance made available on that card for use. Once the balance is available, the thieves strike quickly, using the card number for online purchases and tapping out the card balance as quickly as they can, leaving the holder of the card with little or no value on the card.

Security experts suggest that if gift cards are purchased, that they be obtained from a stock of cards not kept out in the open or that the gift card has security features that would prevent this type of scam from happening.
Some gift cards have a scratchable covering over the serial number, and that covering is removed at the time of purchase, revealing the serial number. This type of card can help prevent such scams as it is easy to see a card that has been tampered with due to the serial number covering being missing at the time of purchase.

Saudi Arabia: Street Cred

From Informed Comment

The New Middle East Cold War: Saudi/Israel/Lebanon versus Iran/Syria/Iraq/Hizbullah

Helene Cooper with Hassan Fattah of the NYT has the scoop that Saudi King Abdullah told US VP Dick Cheney two weeks ago that if the US withdrew precipitately from Iraq, the kingdom would have little choice but to support the Sunni Arab guerrillas. The Saudi government had pledged to the US not to do so as long as US troops were in Iraq. But it is alleged that Saudi oil millionaires privately already send money to the guerrillas. Saudis, as Wahhabi Muslims, belong to a sect that is to the right of Sunnism. But the Wahhabi tradition dislikes Shiites and in any Sunni-Shiite struggle, the Wahhabis will come in on the Sunni side.

This item is no surprise, of course, and I have brought up this likelihood a number of times myself. What is remarkable is that it is being stated by the Saudi leadership and published in the press. The Saudis are usually circumspect. If they are leaking this sort of thing, their hair must be on fire with anxiety.

This public posturing is no surprise. There is now jockeying to see who will take control of the situation in Iraq. Iran, Saudi Arabia, or al Qaeda.

There is a lot of talk about how the Saudis are worried about Iran but this is not the case as much as they are worried about an al Qaeda friendly Iraq (on their border). The Saudi royals know that an al Qaeda's goal is to take them down and they need to show some "street cred" in Iraq to head off this challenge.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Climate Change Denier?

From Global warming: the chilling effect on free speech

Whatever the truth about our warming planet, it is clear there is a tidal wave of intolerance in the debate about climate change which is eroding free speech and melting rational debate. There has been no decree from on high or piece of legislation outlawing climate change denial, and indeed there is no need to criminalise it, as the Australian columnist suggests. Because in recent months it has been turned into a taboo, chased out of polite society by a wink and a nod, letters of complaint, newspaper articles continually comparing climate change denial to Holocaust denial. An attitude of ‘You can’t say that!’ now surrounds debates about climate change, which in many ways is more powerful and pernicious than an outright ban. I am not a scientist or an expert on climate change, but I know what I don’t like - and this demonisation of certain words and ideas is an affront to freedom of speech and open, rational debate.


For all the talk of simply preserving the facts against climate change deniers, there is increasingly a pernicious moralism and authoritarianism in the attempts to silence certain individuals and groups. This is clear from the use of the term ‘climate change denier’, which, as Charles Jones argued, is an attempt to assign any ‘doubters’ with ‘the same moral repugnance one associates with Holocaust denial’ ...

I have used the term before. I thought it described the people who would ignore evidence, emphasize outlying evidence and deemphasize more common evidence, play rhetorical word games, etc. in order to be critical of anthropogenic climate change fairly well. There was absolutely no connection in my mind between a climate change "denier" and a Holocaust denier. In fact this seems a dubious connection that is more designed itself to extinguish free speech. If ever you are confronted with someone who is obviously in denial you better not mention that fact or you will be accused of trying to associate them with Holocaust denial. What rubbish.

Having said that though I have come to the conclusion that, in terms of the climate change debate, such a term is not helpful. It just sets up tribalistic camps that are not conducive to open discussion. It may be hard to tell by the news coverage of late but there is still plenty of work to do on understanding climate change and the human role in it (this is not to say we should take no action on it). Open debate is the means by which we in open societies address major issues. Sure there are abusers of this open debate, people who point to it and claim that the debate shows we should not take action, that we don't know enough. But we shouldn't let the abuse of a few miscreants stifle open discussion. Science and open society require open debate in order to function properly and the term "climate change denier", fairly or not, has become weighted toward stifling rather than opening debate. I think it should be dropped.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Homeland Security - Coast Guard Issues

Whistleblower Uses YouTube To Accuse Lockheed Martin Of Jeopardizing Natl. Security.
Homeland Security - Coast Guard Issues

Whistleblower Uses YouTube To Accuse Lockheed Martin Of Jeopardizing Natl. Security.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Structure is good.

Procedures are good in that they create structure for structure. Of course we are all well versed in how procedure is bad. It is bad in the same vein that structure is bad. Hence the phrase thinking out side the box. A box is a structure.

So structure can be bad. This reminds me of the old saying. God give me the ability to change what I can change and accept what I can’t and the wisdom to know which is which. There’s the rub. When does structure hinder progress? That is entirely individual. Not just to the circumstance but also to the person. Some of us are unlucky to know whether we need more or less structure in our lives (actually, I think people who need more structure tend to know they do more than people who need less tend to know they need less. This is a side effect of a society that favors structure.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Why I turned off the Super Bowl after 10 minutes

Two years ago there was outrage (by whom? Who is orchestrating this?) over the exposing of a nipple during the Super Bowl half time. Oh my god, there was a portion of a woman’s anatomy on television!

After that low point in Western Civilization there was talk of bringing the family atmosphere back to football and the Super Bowl. (Family atmosphere? Football?) But OK, let’s sit down and watch this family Super Bowl. Unfortunately, after viewing the first 7 minutes of play (about 15 to 25 minutes of actual time) we had to turn-off the game because of the violence. Not the violence of the game, though it does have large bodies crashing into each other, it also shows teamwork, inter-team sportsmanship, and the joy of play. No we had to turn off the game for the level of violence in the advertisements.

There were two particularly violent ads that stood out from the rest. There was one for a movie that showed guns, shooting and very dark imagery and there was another that showed cave men kicking, and getting squashed by, dinosaurs (never mind that cave men and dinosaurs never co-existed and were separated in time by 65 million years.) Though there was no actual dinosaurs injured in the ad the visual language and visual impact said that it was OK to kick small animals that happened to be passing by. Couple that with the image of a man being squashed by a dinosaur and you had an extremely violent ad.

Now I know that many on the so called religious right see the human body and sex as the worst possible subjects for children (why they may even ask you a question right there and then about sex if you don’t “protect” them.) and have no problem with violence (they hold a violent world view after all) but for me and MY family, violence is evil.

It is evil because I believe that televised violence promotes fear, that it promotes violence, and that it promotes disengagement from society. These three sins are running at an all time high and that can be traced right back to the images we allow into our heads and thus into our psyches.

Now I do not want government regulation. I happen to believe in and respect freedom of speech and that can mean freedom to make me turn the channel too. Thus I will make my request not to government but to the networks who claim to want to present a “family Super Bowl”, please turn off the violence. Turn-off the violence for OUR families. Turn-off the violence for our mental health. Turn-off the violence for the future of our nation. Then maybe we can have a family Super Bowl, one that we won’t turn-off.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hoshi Motors Honda Acura and Volvo Repair Boulder Colorado

***** (5 stars)

The best place in Boulder CO hands down to bring your Honda.


Coyote Motors (*****)

***** (5 stars)

The best place to take your Subaru in Boulder (the second best place being Hoshi Motors)  Avoid Suparupair.  And Independent Motors I'm not a big fan of either.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I'm Chinian, not Chinese

What a load of crap. Do you know ANYONE who thinks that the "ese" ending with regard to Chinese, Japanese, etc. is derogatory? Of course not. This sort of blatant victimhood stoking is sadly not uncommon in the PRC.


Friday, January 13, 2006

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China map lays claim to Americas

Hate to break this to you guys but it wasn't Columbus, the Chinese, or Eriksson that "discovered" American.  There were about 80 million or so people living on the two continents in 1492 whose ancestors had been here for about 12,000 years.


Good News--and Bad -- Kennedy 311 (5758): 145 -- Science

Sorry Donald,In reference to the Hwang affair. I agree that this was not a rebuke of the peer review system. I agree that the system is basically sound. But you toss off the damage this has done to the basic trust the public and many scientist have in your journal. Just last week I was reading an interesting article in your journal about depression. I found the article to be very convincing and exciting. But at the end I realized that my first thought was "I wonder if it's true?" This question shocked me. We need the highest level of trust in our leading journals, and though I also agree that we cannot enter the labs and notebooks of every researcher, the tenor of your article was sort of flippant to the degree that, sadly, I still feel that I'll wind up asking the question, "Is it true?" So what we might need here is a serious approach to how things at our leading journals will improve so that we can trust our science (and your Science) again.