November 2007 Archives

Radar love

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A story in USA Today says that the worst speed traps in Iowa are to be found in Des Moines. That's probably meant as a metro-wide recognition, rather than one of the city of Des Moines proper. Each town within the metro area has its own personality -- and so does every police department. Some are known for their rigid enforcement of speed limits (Windsor Heights, for instance), while others are considerably more relaxed. One unwelcome development of late has been the "traffic safety checkpoint", most recently attempted on Hickman Road back in September. The problem with these checkpoints -- in which a certain number of cars passing through are either randomly or specifically picked out to be pulled over and inspected -- is that they erode people's trust in the law. News of the checkpoint spread rapidly, and anyone in the know most likely took pains to avoid going through...not because they wanted to break the law, but because they didn't want to take the risk of a needless detention or delay, nor did they want to risk punishment for some minor infraction. There's a reason we have Constitutional limits on search and seizure; citizens should expect that their first reaction to the sight of police would be relief, not anxiety. "Checkpoints" like the one on Hickman may be legal in Iowa, but that doesn't mean they're the right thing to do.

(Note: Take a look at the results of the checkpoint operation)

Suit and Thai

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coolbasil.jpg Among the advantages to living in the Des Moines area is our high density of unique restaurants. (Based on state licenses, there are well over 2,000 restaurants in the metro area...or about one restaurant for every 200 people.) On one hand, you can find yourself waiting for hours to get seated at popular chain restaurants -- ever tried getting a table at Texas Roadhouse on a Friday night? And, sometimes, that wait is well worth it.

On the other hand, it's nice to be able to get into a place like Cool Basil (one of the best Thai restaurants around) any night of the week with practically no waiting. Never been to Cool Basil, you say? Then find your way to its peculiar strip-mall location (right by Toys 'R' Us and Half-Price Books in Clive) and be amazed. There's not a bad item on the menu, and as long as you order the mildest preparations, you'll be pleased even if you aren't into spicy foods. One star (out of five) is still enough to give you a little kick.

The prices are better than reasonable, they're outstanding. $25 will get you two entrees and a plate of terrific crab rangoon. And the only excuse for leaving hungry is having the metabolic rate of Bruce Banner.
donotopencdssmall.jpg After one of the Presidential candidate debates held at Drake University earlier this year, I went out to my car and found this CD or DVD sitting on my windshield, just like others all over the parking lot.

I'm a pretty technology-friendly kind of guy, so why don't I know whether it's a CD or a DVD?

Because I threw it into the trash after taking this picture.

While I admire the enthusiasm of any legitimate organization that uses new media to reach out to spread their message (that's a First Amendment right, after all), I would never, ever put a CD or a DVD into my computer unless I knew exactly who gave it to me, and why.

A study was conducted last year in London to determine just how many people would accept a "free CD" outside a train station, and then try it out on a workplace computer. The number was huge: 70% of the discs were used.

The problem is that those discs could have contained anything: Spyware, viruses, or even backdoor codes that could have allowed outsiders to gain insider access to company networks.

Unless you know exactly who's sending you a CD or DVD, and why they're doing it, leave the stupid things in the trash. Just because we have the first-in-the-nation caucuses doesn't mean we have to be gullible about our computer security.

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