Yee-ow. Check out the pictures in the FoxNews.com story about a gas tanker that overturned and exploded on a San Fran highway in the wee hours of Sunday. The fire actually melted part of the road.
And no one died. Amazing.
Last week I saw over on Too Conservative a story about the Dulles South Youth Sports league making a $1000 donation to the campaign of Loudoun County Supervisor Steve Snow. Difficult to believe as it was, the report came from the Snow Campaign, not from some anonymous leak. As a parent of a child in a local sports league which is constantly hitting up the parents for more funding, the story certainly raised my eyebrows. If my kid were in that league, I’d have more than a few politely-worded questions for them.
Today’s Washington Post follows up on the story and reports that this was a simple mistake. The league commissioner, Matt Curry, says the league did not make the donation. It turns out that the check came from one Ronald Masci, a board member and fundraising chief for the league, and it was a personal donation that came from Masci’s account. So, how did the Snow Campaign report it wrongly?
Masci acknowledged that he wrote a $1,000 check to the campaign in connection with a fundraiser Snow had March 2. Unable to attend the fundraiser, Masci said, he mailed the check and wrote “Dulles South Youth Sports” on it to identify himself as a member of that organization.
“Since I couldn’t be there, I wanted them to know what organization I belonged to,” Masci said, explaining that Snow otherwise would not have remembered him.
Masci said he and some of the sports league’s other board members had met Snow in January at a political dinner at Snow’s home. Snow is also a league board member.
Masci said it never occurred to him that Snow’s campaign would list the contribution as coming from the league. He said he has since received several e-mails from residents questioning why a youth sports group would make such a contribution.
“This is what you would classically call a tempest in a teapot,” Masci said. “All I’m doing is playing my role as a good citizen, and everyone’s all over me.”
Masci’s right in that it’s a tempest in a teapot but it’s a tempest he caused with some truly boneheaded actions. I’m a member of the Knights of Columbus. If I wrote a check to Snow’s Campaign and wrote, “K of C, Council 12791″ on it, why would I be surprised that the staff at the Campaign might look at that and think that the money was being sent on behalf of the Knights? This sort of thing happens all the time where an officer of a local organization will collect the money into his own account and write a check from there. The correct thing to have done would have been to include a note with the check explaining who he was and where he’d met Mr. Snow. Clearly stating that he was the one donating the cash rather than the DSYS league likely would not have been necessary. With the only identifying info on the check being for Ronald Masci, the staff and Snow’s campaign wouldn’t have gotten confused as to who was the donor.
Still, in the end, it was a mistake and not some kind of conspiracy. Everyone can “tsk tsk” about it but I think we can simply let this one go.
It’s been a bumpy road for Phillip Thompson, the aide to Virginia’s US Senator Jim Webb. Caught by the Capitol Police trying to bring a loaded firearm into the Capitol, Thompson was charged under DC’s “you can’t own a gun” laws. When Thompson said it was just an innocent mistake and that the gun belonged to Webb, that’s when things got interesting. Webb spoke of giving his full support to his aide, but then refused to confirm Thompson’s story.
The issue was pretty clearly just a mistake. There’s no chance that anyone even remotely familiar with standard security measures in place at every government building these days would think they could sneak a gun in past the x-ray machines. Still, it raised a lot of questions that our esteemed Senator seemed uncomfortable being asked. That appears to no longer be an issue for the good Senator. Charges against Thompson have been dropped.
Authorities dropped charges Friday against an aide to Virginia Sen. Jim Webb who carried a loaded gun into the U.S. Capitol complex.
“After reviewing and analyzing all of the evidence in the case, we do not believe the essential elements of the crime of carrying a pistol without a license can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor, top prosecutor in the District of Columbia, said in a short statement.
OK, I’m all for dropping the charges. I’m for dropping the charges because the charges are based on a bogus law. But to say that the charges are being dropped because the “essential elements” of the crime can’t be proven just sounds like some someone’s letting Webb weasel out of the situation. Correct me if I’m wrong, someone, but aren’t the essential elements of the “crime of carrying a pistol without a license” basically 1) are you carrying a pistol and 2) are you licensed to carry that pistol?
Thompson was carrying the pistol. There’s no question about that in any way because there are multiple witnesses – law enforcement witnesses, no less – and Thompson admitted it. So that’s #1 down. Is he licensed to carry that pistol in DC? Again, this should be an easy matter to settle since the DC government presumably keeps those records. Based on the fact that neither Thompson nor Webb immediately stepped up and said, “Yeah, I’ve got a permit for that” I have to assume they’re not licensed.
Sounds to me like we’ve just established the essential elements of the crime. So why are we letting Thompson go?
I am suspicious that the charges were dropped in order to allow the matter to go quietly away and give Webb an escape hatch from having to engage in the debate about DC’s interference with the the Constitutional guarantees of DC citizens’ rights. Disappointing, but hardly surprising.
Back in the day, students trying to cheat on a test found some creative places to record the answers to test questions so they could refer to them during the test. I recall some kids writing on the sides of their fingers so they could simply spread their hands to see the hints they’d written. Writing on wrists where it could be hidden by a watch band and on arms covered by longs sleeves were other techniques. As I moved into high school, some of the early editions of “scientific” calculators from Texas Instruments began to arrive with enough memory capacity to store some text in there. Still, even though it was comparably low-tech there wasn’t a huge amount of cheating going on. There were occasions, sure, but it wasn’t considered by most to be justified.
Time, they say, marches on and the latest in cheating tech turns out to be the ubiquitous iPod. A teacher in a West Covina, CA high school confiscated a student’s iPod during a class and discovered the answers to a test, crib notes, and a glossary hidden in the downloaded music. Since then, other instances have been recorded leading schools to start banning the devices from the classrooms. Such bans lead to observations like this:
Kelsey Nelson, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said she used to listen to music after completing her tests — something she can no longer do since the ban. Still, she said, the ban has not stopped some students from using the devices.
“You can just thread the earbud up your sleeve and then hold it to your ear like you’re resting your head on your hand,” Nelson said. “I think you should still be able to use iPods. People who are going to cheat are still going to cheat, with or without them.”
While I am not a proponent of the idea that because people will act illegally anyway you shouldn’t have laws, there’s something to Ms. Nelson’s argument. The issue isn’t that the kids are using iPods to cheat, it’s that they’re cheating and they don’t appear to see anything wrong with it. I’m no saint but I can honestly say that I did not once use any of the methods of cheating available to me while I was in school. It wasn’t that I couldn’t and it wasn’t that I didn’t need help on some tests. It was that I, personally, wouldn’t cheat. Call it a matter of honor (it is, after all) or call it a matter of pride but I just would not do it. To do so was to admit that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to score well on the test on my own.
This is where we’ve failed our kids, not in any of the abstract, whining ways you hear so often these days. We’ve taught them that cheating is what gets you to the top (can you say Enron, WorldComm, Kmart?), that the rewards of doing so outweigh the consequences, and that you’re not really responsible for bad things that happen to you, anyway. Just as the media – new and old – have made all news local news for we adults, the kids are listening, too. They see how we adults act in the world outside high school and they don’t see us playing by the same rules we tell them are important.
They have a responsibility for this situation, too. And they should be made to shoulder it. Cheating should have real consequences – such as an immediate zero score for the test in question – and the assurance that such actions will most certainly be made public. If they and their parents are so worried about their self-esteem, then they need to be sure they’re acting in a fashion that promotes self-esteem, not touting it in public and cheating on the sly. That will make them better students today and better fellow citizens tomorrow. We need them.
Radio Free HoodaThunk? is back on the air!
The issue turns out to have been a damaged underground wire clearly sliced up by a shovel as one of the folks who live around the corner apparently were “improving” some of the neighborhood’s common areas. Put more bluntly, the little bugger started digging on property that wasn’t his and he didn’t call the “Miss Utility” number to find out where the utility lines were running in the area.
Was that Verizon’s fault? Of course not. It wasn’t mine, either, which is where the problem began. When the phone line went out nearly a week ago, I assumed nothing as I began to track where the trouble was. I checked the cordless handset I was using to be sure the battery wasn’t dying. Then I checked the cable connecting the phone base to the wall to verify the cord wasn’t disconnected or damaged. When that checked out, I picked up another phone to see if I could get a dial tone. None.
At this point in the troubleshooting process, you’ve now demonstrated the problem exists on 2 completely separate pieces of equipment connected via two completely separate cables to the connection point on the side of the house. The likelihood that the issue is with the phone, the cord, or the internal wiring is now almost zero, since any such failure would have to have happened on both phone sets at the same time.
Next, I went to the point at which all the phone wiring in my home comes together to join with the cable coming in from the connection point outside. It was possible – though extremely unlikely – that the cabling had failed at this point. Checked it; it was fine. By now, you might be getting a bit lost, so I’ve drawn you a map. Here it is.
From the left, you have my 2 phones, A and B, where I began the process. The wiring from the phones connect at point C. This is the last place that’s actually in the house where the wiring is accessible.
Finally, I took a phone outside and opened the customer access port on the Network Interface Device, or NID (point D on the drawing). The NID is called the NID because it’s the device that connects (“interfaces”) your house to the phone company’s network. Within most modern NIDs there’s a testing port. It’s usually a standard telephone jack, called an RJ-11. You take a plain old telephone and plug it in. If you get a dial tone, then the phone company is supplying service to your home but that service isn’t making into the house. That’s the wiring that’s your responsibility so, unless you’ve bought one of their wiring plans, you’re on the hook for the cost to find and repair the damage.
If, on the other hand, you plug in at the NID and there’s no dial tone, then the phone company isn’t providing the service to your home and the problem is out beyond you. In my map above, that means the problem is either somewhere in their network or at their central office where the circuit from your house ends. When I plugged in at that point, there was no dial tone. That should have been the end of the discussion. Verizon should have implemented their own testing to see where the trouble was.
Verizon’s default position, however, is that whatever problem the line’s having, it’s much, much more likely that the problem is in your house. When the Verizon engineer finally came out 3 days later, he discovered exactly what I’d been telling his people in the office. He found a bad cable. He fixed said cable. And in so doing, killed the DSL service running on that cable.
That was bad enough, but the call to Verizon’s DSL service center was, to put it midly, excruciating. A perfectly working service had been completely cut off and the logs on my router showed that it was cut off just minutes before I got the phone call from the phone technician saying he’d fixed the line. The timing is just too much: the most likely cause of the outage was the work done – outside the home, remember – by the phone tech. The Tier-1 support staff at Verizon would not even listen to that explanation. They insisted on going through their entire, idiotic troubleshooting script. When they got to the point where they were going to have me carry the DSL modem around the house and connect it to every working jack to see if my home’s wiring had suddenly morphed into an unsupported configuration, I pretty well lost it. I got to the supervisor, finally, by demanding that the Tier-1 support tech give me his name and some uniquely identifying ID so I could be sure to mention him prominently when I wrote to cancel the service. A copy was going to the FCC, by the way. The supervisor possessed a spark of intellect that got him to agree the problem was likely outside.
Again, they found the damaged cable and had to set up a repair team to run a new one. With that complete, I managed the reconfiguration of the DSL modem myself and I’m back online.
Verizon caused this minor headache to turn into a brain tumor. The personnel at their support team are so clearly not trained in how to do basic troubleshooting that it’s pathetic to even refer to them as “technicians.” I can train people to troubleshoot effectively in a matter of hours. I’ve done it before and I have no issue doing it again. This kind of poor business procedure is what loses customers for lifetimes and spreads a bad reputation far and wide. Only the fact that they’ve been allowed to be a monopoly has kept them in the business they’re in. I’m a Republican so I’m pretty pro-business and I feel the market can handle a lot of behavioral adjustment. When a company gets protected by government regulation from having to worry about the consequences of their poor service, you tend to get a company that delivers poor service. Verizon is exhibit A in this department.
Quick note here since I’m borrowing a neighbor’s signal. Remember how I said Verizon had managed to screw up my phone service again? Well, after being without a dial tone on my voice line for 3 days but having a usable DSL, they fixed the phone line and killed the DSL. Yesterday, their DSL techs came out and “found a problem” with yet another cable in their system and have now managed to kill off both the voice and DSL services. My entire telecom system in this house is, at present, down and not worth the power its consuming.
Verizon. Can you hear me now? No, and it’s your bloody fault. As I’ve been saying since this debacle began.
I think I’ve reached a point with the horrible, clueless service personnel in that company that perhaps, after 5 years, it’s time to consider alternatives.
More on this later. Assuming they manage to get my service re-attached.
Over the weekend, our phone line at the house failed. Again, it was a situation where the DSL at the house worked, but the phone didn’t give dial-tone. If that sounds familiar, that’s because I had the exact same issue last year – for a week. After the apparently prerequisite of telling me that the issue simply must be in my home’s internal wiring, they scheduled an engineer to come out 3 days later. When that person finally did come out, they discovered that the problem was in the wiring outside my home.
I never did actually see the engineer and his explanation over the phone to me at work was a bit vague but he apparently found damage in the bearer line leading to the house. He supposedly replaced it. When I got home, the phones did indeed work.
And my DSL was down. Hard. The modem was showing that it wasn’t seeing the network out there at all. No amount of configuration troubleshooting on the modem will handle a situation like that because the modem does not detect a physical connection outbound to Verizon’s DSL service. In network parlance, that a Layer-1 issue. Since all the other layers of a network build upon each other, a problem at layer 1 means you don’t have a network, period.
After slogging though an increasingly maddening Tier-1 support script with a technician who has clearly never actually seen the results of the stupidity he was suggesting, I finally got escalated to a manager. Frankly, James was a bit better in the troubleshooting department, but not by much. It’s just incredibly hard to believe that people who allegedly troubleshoot network issues for a living will look at a scenario where the network connection at a location was working fine right up to a point where one of their engineers fiddled with the connection, whereupon the network failed and they then conclude that the problem has to be in the wiring past the point where the engineer was working.
Common sense – not to mention actual network knowledge and experience – will tell you that the problem was almost 100% caused by something that engineer did. That’s where you look for the problem. But no, Verizon’s “support” staff can’t see past the next idiotic question on their idiotic script and they are completely careless about the effect this has on their customer relation.
So, I’m using a cell card my company provides to get critical e-mail, engineering documents, and the like while I wait for another engineer to come out and figure out what was done. Perhaps it is time for a change, after all.
The LCRC has posted their new Convention Call as required by a ruling of the RPV earlier this month. Chairman Protic had said they would do so back on the 15th.
The call contains language the RPV has ruled must be in there. I don’t have a copy of the original call so I can’t make a “state and compare” report of the changed items. The call sets the new deadline for filing to be a delegate at 6 May. I didn’t read the whole thing but I assume that people who had previously filed and been accepted as delegate don’t have to do so again. If that’s a concern for you, please read the whole call at the link above.
Oh, and make note that this Call is described as a “draft.” In my circles, that means a document fully expected to change but I’m not sure how they’d make further changes and still get this done by deadline. As always, stay tuned…
This just in:
Former President Boris Yeltsin, who engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, has died, a Kremlin official said Monday. He was 76.
Kremlin spokesman Alexander Smirnov confirmed Yeltsin’s death, but gave no cause or further information. The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified medical source as saying he had died of heart failure.
Although Yeltsin pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, many of its citizens will remember him mostly for presiding over the country’s steep decline.