Privacy, Borders, and the Internet

I was reading an article about Facebook and Canada’s Privacy Commissioner today. In a nut shell the article says that Canada’s Privacy Commissioner doesn’t meet Canada’s privacy laws. Facebook apparently disputes this but whether or not it does or does not isn’t the point of my post. This article has reminded me of others before it, only the names have changed.

What happens is a social networking site or other Web site is created in one country and because citizens of another country use it, they seem to be expected to live up to the second countries privacy (or other) laws. Now I don’t know if Facebook has an operation in Canada or not, but I know that other past stories I’ve read had countries (or states) taking or threating legal action against Web sites that did not have any operations in their jurisdiction. This is just madness and has to stop. I’m not saying Facebook has the world’s best privacy model. I agree they should do more to protect users privacy but you can’t expect a Web site operator to know and follow the laws of 195 countries not to mention laws of various territories, states, etc. that make up these countries. As long as the privacy terms are disclosed and follow the laws of the country the site is incorporated in, it should be up to the user to determine if the privacy is adequate. With the never ending news stories of lost laptops with social security numbers and other personal data, the privacy of Facebook is not really a huge concern for me. I just figure that everything I put on there may at some point be seen by friends, enemies, criminals. people who couldn’t care less, employers, and my mom.

Really, what do you need for a Facebook account now-a-days, an e-mail address? Sure they say to use a real name but I know many people who don’t and you can easily get a pseudo-anonymous e-mail address. In other words, everything you post on Facebook is what you decided to make available to at least a limited public sphere of friends. Whenever you give something to friends such as a phone number or tell them a tale of your latest adventure you can, or should, consider that they will share that with their friends. No matter what the policy is, even if it lives up to Canada’s privacy policy (or any country’s policy) will not save you from yourself. Users of social networking and other Web sites need to keep this in mind and not post or share anything that they would have a problem with being public.

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Reading Dracula

Thanks to the power of twitter, I have found a blog that is publishing Dracula in “real time.” Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an epistolary novel, which is a novel written as a series of letters or diary entries. The blog is adding new entries on a the day that it was written by the narrator “so that the audience may experience the drama as the characters would have.”

I have never read Dracula but I have subscribed to the Dracula Atom feed and will be following along. This is a great use of social media and I suspect others will publish epistolary novels this way.

Corned Beef and Cabbage in a Crock Pot

I don’t normally do food recipes on my blog, but a couple people on facebook have asked me how I cook corned beef and cabbage in my crock pot. Here is how I do it. I really like the way this comes out, but as they say, your mileage may vary:


Corned Beef (I like ones with separate seasoning package)

1 head cabbage


3 or 4 white or red potatoes (I keep the skin on)

1 Turnip (optional, if you use turnips, make pretend they are potatoes in the rest of the recipe)

1 onion (I usually use red, but it doesn’t matter)

1 bay leaf (optional)

1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves (optional – I don’t bother dicing it, because I’m going to take it out and not eat it)


2 tablespoons of dry white wine OR 1 splash of white wine vinegar


1.Skin and cut carrots into about 1 1/2 or 2 inch long pieces or so (less if they are thick) (optionally: cheat and use baby carrots)

2. Cut onion up into disks (about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick… it doesn’t really matter because I don’t eat them)

3. Cut potatoes (usually in thirds, depending on size). I keep the skin on, but do what you want

4. Place onions and carrots on bottom of crock pot (if they don’t all fit, don’t worry, just put them in with the the potatoes).

5. Place corned beef on top of onions and carrots.

6. Place potatoes and any remaining carrots.onions around the corned beef.

7. Cover with water

8. Add wine or vinegar. I’ve also used beer in the past and it was OK, but I think wine is better. If you use wine, for best results place a little extra into chef.

9. Throw in bay leaf and crushed garlic

10. Turn crock pot on low.

11. Make coffee and go to work

12. Come home from work

13. About 20 or 30 minutes before you want to eat (depending on how al dente you want your cabbage) cut your cabbage into wedges. Depending on the size of the cabbage, I either quarter it or cut it into sixths

14. Place cabbage in crock pot.

15. Turn crock pot on high

16. Cook until cabbage is to your liking

17. Serve with spicy mustard and if you can get it, some nice rye bread. Note: In Binghamton rye bread is not a viable option :-(.

Note: If you cook the corned beef all day, the corned beef will basically fall apart when you try to cut it. I like that, but you may choose to cook a little shorter length of time if you rather have nice slides. If you live close enough to work, you can get everything ready before work and go home for lunch and turn the crock pot on then.

Note 2: If I have some other extra veggies, such as celery, I might throw them in to the pot as well, but I take them out before serving.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you chose to celebrate) and a Happy New Year!

New Blog Theme

It still needs some tweaks, but I have made some changes to my blog theme. It is now based on the DarkNight 2.0 Theme 2.0 by David Chait. I think it is pretty readable despite the black background. I still like my old theme that Greg Haase built for me, but this matches my Web site a lot better.

Using BlackBerrys and E-mail after work

I just read an interesting article on that dealt with the issue of non-exempt employees using BlackBerry’s and other electronic devices during after work hours. The article claimed that “Workplace BlackBerry Use May Spur Lawsuits. Basically the premise is that people who use a work supplied BlackBerry after work to do anything related to their job are working and if they are non-exempt they should be paid overtime. I’m exempt so my employer has nothing to worry about, but it is something managers should keep in mind if they are issuing these devices to non-exempt employees. The article suggests having policies in place for after-work usage of BlackBerry’s and also e-mail. It was also suggested that employers either not issue these devices or ask non-exempt employees to leave them at the office.

There was also some interesting stats in the article that I can relate to. According to the article, a survey by Cohesive Knowledge Solutions showed that the “average professional spends 50 minutes a day sending emails after work.” Also a “recent survey, 25 percent of workers said they plan to stay in contact with work during their vacations, and 9 percent said their bosses wanted them to be working or at least checking voicemail and email while on vacation.” I am sure that I am not the only person involved with library technology that can relate to these numbers. Actually, I am surprised that the number was only 9 percent who had bosses who wanted them to check their e-mail on vacation, but I guess the survey probably was based on a broader audience of job seekers.

It is true that new communication technology has made the workplace 24/7. This blurring of the lines between work and play is an interesting phenomenon and I think many of the best systems people in libraries I know truly do lead a blended life. Working and advocating for technology for libraries (esp. those who work on Open Source Software for libraries) is part of their being. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. In fact, I think it can be a good thing (as long as ones boss understands that the effort you put into work outside of work requires some flexibility on their end as well). However, people that lead this blended life need to make sure they make time for their family, friends, and themselves. I personally have been trying to go without checking work e-mail as much on the weekends and after I leave work. It is hard because it will only take a minute or two. Of course, then you see some e-mails that will only take you a minute or two to get off your to do list, and then all of a sudden, you have easily used up the reported 50 minutes a day outside of work checking e-mails.

I think in order to make this all work and not become over-consuming is good time management skills. I think this is even more so with tenure-track (and other) positions that require publications and/or presentations. While there are thousands of time management books out there, the one I recommend is Time Management for System Administrators by Tom Limoncelli. What I like about Limoncelli’s book that I haven’t seen in the other books I have browsed it is is geared towards people with jobs that require constant interruption (think “The printer is broken!”). I also like that he doesn’t just talk about time management at work. His book discusses how to manage your personal time as well as your professional time. For someone with a blended work/personal life this is a good, and possibly only, approach. One example of how he does this is suggest that if there is a chore that you have to do all of the time that you don’t particularly enjoy and it can be outsourced at a reasonable rate and quality, you should do so. For example, if you hate doing laundry, why don’t you pay the local laundromat that offers full service to do it for you. Sure it costs more than if you did it yourself, but your time is valuable. You could be getting paid to hack code for more than it would cost you to pay someone to do laundry. As I said laundry is just an example, maybe for you it is cleaning your house or mowing your lawn, or any number of other things. Another gem in his book is the calendaring and to-do list management. I really can’t do his system justice in this short blog post, but I will say that his approach can work with a PDA or a PAA (a Personal Analog Assistant – i.e. a daily planner notebook) and you should purchase the book or take it of your local library and give it a try. It really isn’t that complicated (if it was, it wouldn’t work) but I have found it effective. The basica premise with the to-do list is to have manual intervention every day on your tasks. If they get automatically moved by your calendering software, you’ll never get to them. The other part is to make sure you don’t get these long endless lists. As I said read the book to learn how he does it.

Aral Sea

Tonight I went out to a brew pub that had free wireless because someone was coming to look at my house that is for sale. It was trivia night and one of the questions was what is the biggest non-Great Lake fresh water lake. My first guess was Lake Victoria in Africa. I was correct (and in fact my iBook and I were actually was called on to confirm this). I mention this because I became interested in one of the lakes on the list of largest lakes on Wikipedia: the Aral Sea. What caught my attention was that the size of lake shrunk to 25% of its original surface area in the last 40 years. I read the article on Wikipedia about the Aral Sea and it appears that dams constructed for irrigation was the cause for this and apparently the northern part of the lake is starting to make a come back. It is an interesting read ans shows what can happen if politicians try to solve one problem without looking at what the other consequences can be.

Google Docs presentation update

As my last post mentioned, I used Google Docs for a recent presentation. I found out that some things with publishing a presentation don’t work easily if you use Google Apps for your own domain. If you publish a document, it includes your domain and the URL and forces people to log in. I guess this is nice feature if you only want to publish to people in your domain, but causes issues if you want the world to be able to see it. I fixed this by publishing the document using a Google Docs account not on my domain (although just stripping out the domain URL may work as well).

I also just read a post on the Google Docs Announcement page that Export to PPT is here! This is great news as it will make it much easier to re-purpose content into other presentations.

Coffee makes you smarter

I have a travel coffee mug that a good friend bought me that says on it “coffee makes you smarter.”

Coffee makes you smarter


Occasionally I run across an article that confirms this is true. A BBC story says that “Coffee may cut the risk of dementia” and also reminds the reader that previous studies have show that coffee may lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. It apparently does this by limiting (or preventing?) blood-brain barrier leaking. Who wants blood-brain barrier leaking? Apparently people, who unlike me, don’t drink coffee! The article doesn’t go so far to say that coffee makes you smarter, but they wouldn’t want that to come out because they want us to think they are smarter then them. If we all drink coffee, these scientist types won’t be any smarter than the rest of us.

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