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The latest episode of the BBC Radio 4 podcast Thinking Allowed discusses hate crimes. Presenter Laurie Taylor interviewed Sylvia Lancaster, whose daughter Sophie was attacked and murdered by a group of teenage thugs in August of 2007 because she and her partner Robert Maltby were dressed as Goths (Maltby was also attacked and severely injured, and as of October of 2008 had not completely recovered). The five teenagers responsible were convicted and given sentences ranging from four to sixteen years in prison.

As a result of this, Lancaster is leading the fight to expand Britain's hate crimes law to include

. . .attacks on people from sub cultures to be classified as a hate crime, allowing judges the power to issue tougher penalties.
In May 2009, then-Justice Minister Jack Straw announced upcoming changes to sentencing guidlines to take into consideration whether victims are members of a subculture.

Taylor explores the question "What is a subculture?" in his interview with Lancaster and Jon Garland, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Leicester:

TAYLOR: It's an odd question to have to ask, but how distinctive do they have to be in order to constitute a group who could be said to be the object of a hate crime?

GARLAND: Now I think that's, that's a very good question. I think one of the things that makes, say, alternative people, people from alternative subcultures something different is becuase they have got a history and also perhaps a sense of identity and community. So they are actually rather than just being sort of individuals that are targeted, they're part of this quite close-knit community that has a strong identity and an established history. I think that's one of the important things in this case.

But it's clear, to them at least, that not all subcultures are created equal:

TAYLOR: [what about] attacks on neo-Nazi groups, for example?

GARLAND: Yes, then we are on thorny territory, I think -

LANCASTER: But they've not got the same norms and values, have they?

TAYLOR: Well, neo-Nazi groups might say they share, you know, values, they share certain ways of dressing, the crew cuts, the heavy boots, or whatever, you know, that they have a distinctive thing, if they're attacked by the Socialist Labor League and flattened, presumably we want to invoke 'hate crime' in court there, do we?

GARLAND: Well, I wouldn't necessarily advocate that myself -


GARLAND: - I see the point you're making, it's where to draw the line, and this surrounds all of this hate crime debate, you know, it's regarding legislation, how we treat victims, who is a victim. And so far, at the moment, we're drawing the line in a certain place, and I think, you know, the great work Sylvia's done, is raising awareness that this line is more permeable than we thought. This boundary isn't as solid.

So, in the end, who gets to decide whether someone can have a hate crime committed against them, and what standard do they use? Until those questions get answered to my satisfaction, I'll have a problem with hate crime laws.


Nonconsensual User Tracking? Is That Like Nonconsensual Sex?

I'm a big fan of Steve Gibson's Security Now! podcast. I've learned more about computer security from a year of listening to SN than I did in TWO security/networking classes I took in college. Cost me a lot less, too.

But I'm really disappointed in something he said in last week's podcast about a privacy threat that you wouldn't normally think about: nonconsensual user tracking. This is a euphemism for "tracking your movement across the Web without your knowledge or consent, without using cookies." By collecting the headers that every web browser provides to every web site it connects to (e.g., user agent header, accept header, accept-language header), a site can eventually identify a given user to a disturbing degree of accuracy. The part of the show where Gibson talks about it is after the break (assuming I can figure out how to do a break in my spiffy new Movable Type 4 setup).

Was It An Evil Woman or Strange Magic? Heaven Only Knows

In a demise worthy of Monty Python, ELO founding member and former cellist Mike Edwards was killed when a giant hay bale rolled down a hill, jumped a hedge, and crushed his van (what is it with Brits and rolling things down hills, anyway?).  The Daily Mail has the story:
The victim was driving a white transit-type van towards Kinsgbridge when the bale of hay smashed into the front cab.

    The van swerved after it was hit and then collided with another smaller van coming the other way - but the second driver was unhurt.

    The accident caused long tailbacks and police diverted hundreds of vehicles through country lanes.

And apparently determining the next of kin is a nontrivial exercise:

    Police identified Mr Edwards with the use of photographs and YouTube footage and have appealed for help in contacting his family for formal identification.

    Sgt Steve Walker of Devon and Cornwall Police's traffic unit said: 'We don't believe he was ever married. We have identified an ex-girlfriend but she is currently abroad.

    'We think he may have a brother called David in the Yorkshire area and we obviously need to contact him.

    'Michael had no immediate family but we believe he taught cello in Devon and would ask his students to contact us if they know of any relatives.'

I can't bring myself to tag this 'Undignified Ways to Die,' because I'm fairly certain that Edwards was minding his own business when the cosmic dice threw snake-eyes.
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The Race To Zero Has Been Called On Account Of Skunks

First there was Budweiser. Then Miller Lite. Then Bud Light. Then Michelob Ultra. Then Bud Select (which happens to be my weak-ass mass-market American piss-water of choice, when I'm in the mood to drink weak-ass mass-market American piss-water). I'm sure my chronology is wrong, but you get the idea - the mass-market low-cal beers are going lower and lower.

Then Miller upped the ante, so to speak, by cutting 30-some calories below Select with its MGD64. Bud, not to be outdone, said "Oh, yeah? We'll see your 30-some and raise, err, lower you 9" and introduced Select 55.

I wondered how it was possible to have anything resembling a flavor in a 55-calorie beer (and here's where the crunchy beer snobs interject that 'there isn't any flavor at all in Bud et. al., and all the light variants actually have negative flavor'), especially since alcohol is 7-calories per gram and that leaves you almost no calories available for flavor. I finally got around to trying Select 55, and here's my conclusion as to how they did it:

  1. It's a 3.2 beer (yeah, really), rather than the 4.5-5 that even regular light beers have. More headroom for flavor components. I think that's the minor contributor.
  2. The major contributor? After they brew it, they let it sit around until it's good and spoiled, THEN slap a Born-On Date on it and send it out.

Maybe I'm overreacting based on a small sample size, but when you buy a six-pack that claims to be less than 60 days old, and you're fairly certain that it's been stored cold since it got to the store, and every single one tastes like you sucked on the business end of a skunk, that's the easiest conclusion to draw.

I'll try Select 55 again from a different store just to make sure it wasn't an aberration, but if it tastes the same (and yeah, I'll remember. There's no un-ringing THAT bell), I'll recategorize this entry under Corporate Stupidity.


I saw a billboard today for a car museum in Shipshewana.

If you asked me which towns in Indiana would be least likely to have a car museum, Shipshe would be near the top of the list (for those of you not from Indiana, here's a hint as to why).


And I Didn't Think I Even *Had* A Fan Club

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[H/T Daily Telegraph Sign Language, where there is a good-sized collection of funny signs and examples of Engrish]


For a while now, Comcast has been advertising how much better their high-speed Internet is than DSL; for example, they used a pair of low-speed turtles (but I repeat myself) named the Slowskys to contrast the old and busted DSL with teh new hotness of cable modemity. Since I've been workin' teh newer hotness of FiOS for about two years now, I would mock those ads; Comcast was picking on DSL because it knew it would get its clock cleaned if it went head-to-head against FiOS.

But now I understand why: according to Wired, DSL still comprises 40% of the broadband customer base in the US (cable leads with 53%; fiber trails badly with 4%, and 'other' takes the remaining 3%). Since DSL customers have to be within two-ish miles of a phone substation, that means most of them are already in cities or towns, where, presumably, cable already exists. THERE'S your target demographic. Going after FiOS customers wouldn't even be worth the effort.

And I was so hoping to get out of this week without learning anything.


Make Sure You Poke Air Holes In The Box

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Seen on a local church marquee last night:

Every life is sacred and a gift from God

So if you put your baby up for adoption, would that be considered regifting?

How Does One Say "Hindsight Is 20/20" In Mandarin?

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Our financial sector is in near-meltdown. Meanwhile, China successfully completes a manned space mission.

Twenty years from now, will we look back on this week as the beginning of the changing of the guard?

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