My initial reaction to the report that the U.S. Government has access to all sorts of data from Verizon and that it may have some level of ridiculous access to the servers of all sorts of internet behemoths was outrage. Things have changed since then and it’s this post from Andrew Sullivan that has convinced me of the error of my outrage. Buried in the post is this nugget:
But are we actually going to prevent government from using Big Data, while Google plumbs its depths even further and Buzzfeed even schedules its content by chasing algorithms? At least there is some minimal check on the government, a judicial court.
I’m no fan of the Patriot Act or FISA or any other law that provides for ridiculous surveillance of American citizens. I never bought into the “war on terror” and all of the measures that were passed to “protect” us from the enemy. Virtually one of those measures was an over-reach by a government that was over-eager to assert power in a way that was and probably still is unimaginable. I am a firm believer that the best way to combat the enemy, whoever it is — terrorists, communists, the boogeyman, is to stay truer to our ideals than we ever have. Instead, ever since 9/11, this country seems set on a path of eliminating those rights in the name of security.
I get it. To an extent. I, too, want our government to be able to stop every terrorist plot it can. I want no more shoe bombers, Boston Marathon bombers (by the way, if you can get a hole of the July Runner’s World Magazine, read it. If you struggle with what the marathon bombing means, read it. You’ll have a renewed faith in humanity). I don’t want this country to descend into chaos, where a terrorist could strike at any moment, where a suicide bomber can blow himself up at the Starbucks down the street. But I don’t want to lose my right to privacy, my right to be free from intrusion into my thoughts, my communications, my life … without probable cause. Many of the latest reports of government action certainly point to an intrusion on those rights.
But, here’s the deal. Andrew Sullivan has it exactly right. As he so frequently does. Google. And Yahoo. And Microsoft. And Amazon. And Facebook. They and their internet brethren know more about you and your personal habits than the government ever will. Where’s the outrage about that? Why is that OK — for companies in their search for ever-increasing profits to know about every internet move you make — but in the name of security, the government can’t have access to the same data. If it is acting legally, the only way the government can access the data is with court approval. Generally speaking, of course. But these companies, in their search for profits, have unlimited access. So, the question is … is the outrage properly placed? Invading your privacy is OK when it’s in search of the almighty dollar, but it’s not OK when it’s about securing you and your family? Just seems somewhat odd to me.
A while ago, I posted about the American River Bike Trail. It’s this wonderful oasis in the midst of Sacramento’s urban sprawl. As long as I’ve ridden on it — which likely means something close to 40 years — there have been stenciled, painted words on the trail reminding users of the trail that there is a 15 miles per hour speed limit. Problem is a lot of bicyclists would be stifled at 15 MPH. Problem is it’s not just a bike trail. It’s multi-use. Joggers. Walkers. Families with children peddling their little bikes furiously and zig-zagging all over the place as they do. Dog walkers. It isn’t just about the bicyclist. While I generally peddle along at a pedestrian 15-17 miles per hour, there are plenty of cyclists who hit 20, 25 and 30 miles per hour. Plus, there are the group cyclists. Packs of them, drafting off each other and zipping along at speeds that far exceed the posted speed limit. The trail is a great place for bicyclists to train away from the danger of street traffic. What happens? There are accidents occasionally. I have no idea how many.
Last week there was an article in the local paper that the rangers who patrol the trail will now be equipped with a radar gun and they will start ticketing bicyclists who exceed the speed limit. This at a time when budget cuts have reduced the ranger presence on the trail, potentially leading to an increase in criminal activity. And, of course, cyclists are in an uproar. I’m not necessarily on their side since I generally stay pretty close to the limit and there have certainly been times when their zipping along has left me feeling less than safe. There were a few times, years ago, when I took my oldest to the trail. We’d peddle along slowly at his speed and, as he zigged and zagged as little kids do on a bike, I could only pray that a speeding cyclist didn’t come from behind and smack into him he he zigged when he should have zagged. So, I get it.
But, why single out the cyclists. What about the runners who run on the wrong side of the trail? Or worse, rather than running on the crushed gravel shoulder, insist on running on the paved trail? What about the walkers with their dogs who let the leash stretch across the trail? What about the walkers with there dogs that aren’t on a leash? What about the walkers who walk three wide?
There’s plenty of blame to go around for accidents that happen on the bike trail. Ticketing bicyclists who exceed the speed limit seems to be right. But at the same time so incredibly wrong.
In the last 10-12 years, I’ve tried the following:
To learn how to play the harmonica.
To teach myself how to play classical guitar.
Took violin lessons (for about a month).
And then switched to the saxophone.
Considered the bongo drums. Enough to buy a book to help learn them, but not enough to get very far.
This after a lifetime of being pretty much non-musically-inclined. Yes, when I was a kid, my sisters took piano lessons and through them I learned how to play the piano. Nothing more than Christmas Carols and pop songs. If I really wanted to, maybe piano would be the best option for me, but it doesn’t hold the same allure as other instruments.
I haven’t done much with any of these instruments the last couple of years as a result of the crush of other obligations and interests. I’ve decided it’s time to change that. So, you, my loyal readers, get to play a role.
What instrument should I focus on at this point (thank you for your assistance):