Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Judging anomity

I am a big fan of freakonomics, both the book and the blog. However, I am having trouble following the point of Ian Aryes in the article he wrote today. Apparently in 2004 a bunch of newspapers adopted a rule that journalists had to explain the reason their sources were anonymous. He and others proceded to collect data based on this, and he felt the reasons for requesting anonymity were not good enough.

Nobody likes a snitch, but if someone snitches to me, its not my place to judge the feelings of the person being ratted out. That is reserved for those being snitched on. We have social conventions for dealing with this. As a reporter, if I am given information I shoujld report it unless I feel it is a matter of national security, uneccesserally destroying someones reputation, or something to that effect. However, I would use the same standards for reporting information that I revieced from sources I considered legitimate.

I'm really failing to see this as a case of taking the moral high ground. I really just failing to see this guys point.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thoughts on "The Wealth of Nations"

I was looking through drafts on my blog and came across this. It was last saved 2008-04-13. making it a little over 1.75 years old. I am going to present it mostly verbatim and follow it with an update. By mostly verbatim, I mean I will attempt to proof read it.

Draft begins:

I was in a bookstore the other day when I noticed a book entitled On The Wealth of Nations (Books That Changed the World) by P.J. O'Rourke. I've previously read another title by him called Peace Kills, so the author as well as the subject matter intrigued me.

The book is a 200 page commentary and summary of Adam Smith's classic work. I've personally tried to read Smith's 900 page manuscript on two occasions and got through less than 25% of it. For anyone else who has even begun to read the book, one knows that it is 900 pages of Smith belaboring his ideas about economics.

I'm debating adding PJ's commentary to my to read list. However, I felt the need to give the primary source another shot. I decided that maybe an audio book might be a better format for digesting he text.

I've never listened to audio books before, and I had no idea if their was a place to download audio books of public domain works. After consulting Google, I found a site called http://librivox.org/ where you can upload and download audio books.

The recording of The Wealth of Nations is still a work in progress at librivox. The first ten chapters are complete. Their works in progress are apparently available through their phpBB forum. I find that a little weird. However, the phpBB installation is customized so the first post of a "book in progress thread" has an iframe with a list of book chapters and their statuses. So if you just want to download the completed chapters, no need to read through an entire forum thread to make sure you have links to the right versions of each chapter.

After downloading them from the forum posting, I've listened to the first ten chapters once, and I plan on doing so a few more times, as well as listening to the rest as they are completed. I might have to listen when I have time to make notes so I can further research things he comments on.

Unpublished Draft Ends

So first an update on the audiobook. Books 1-3 of the work are complete, as is part of book 4. I have listened to some of the audiobook, but not all of it. I did read
P.J. O'Rourke's self described cliff notes of the book. It was a very educational commentary. At the very least if verified that one other person thought that Smith's writing style is long winded and a bit dull.

Personally, I recommend that people try all three works, the original, the audiobook, and Mr. O'Rourke's commentary. The book is a dry read. Listening to the audiobook while commuting is beneficial. And finally, the commentary contains information about Adam Smith's life as well as the work itself. It is quite well researched. Finally, the commentary is short and interesting so you will make it to the end.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Standing before the judge like a coward

This is the last of the three acts of dealing with a parking violation in the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream, NY. For context refer to Part 1 and Part 2.

I arrive at court slightly after it started. The judge is not in the court room, but their are lines, and various people in the employ of the court are in the area between the bench and the public seating area. I find the correct line to stand on and give my information.

The judge enters. All rise. Please be seated. He gives his opening spiel. He starts off with the housing and traffic violations. These are matters that were scheduled. Towards the end he starts on the parking tickets.

It became apparent that he's going to knock off all my late fines and reduce my debt to the county to the original $25 penalty if I plead guilty. It also became apparent that the woman that took my information should have asked me how I planned to plea, but assumed I wanted to plea guilty. Because this is convenient I do so, walk out the door, and wait in line for the extremely slow clerk staff to take my money and write me a receipt.

I had little legal ground for declaring myself not guilty. I have not to this date seen the parking regulation posted, except for a photocopy of a photograph of a street sign stating the village speed limit, and a village wide 4 hour parking limit and no parking between 03:30 and 05:30. I do support the concept of juries judging the law as well as the case, even though I have trouble reconciling this view with my strict constructionists view of the constitution. Regardless, I felt it necessary to make it a matter of public record both my disdain for the elitist concept of wanting to limit parking on the street for its own sake and the unintended consequence of enforcement of said ordinance encouraging drunk driving.

When the Boston tea party was held it was more a matter of principal than practicality. The price of tea had gone down with the monopoly. However, the concept of monopoly and taxation without representation was what bothered the colonies. Perhaps the problem is what I just wrote is utterly false, and this is one of many areas of American history that I need to brush up on. However, I still feel that keepi9ng silent over a matter of a hundred dollars was an act of cowardice. Such an act requires penance on my part.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Its hard to pay a parking ticket

This is part 2 of the saga of my Valley Stream parking ticket. Part 1 is here.

I tried to pay my parking ticket at the courthouse today. I show up at the clerks office at 08:00 and discovered they don't take credit cards. She looked up my info and saw most of the $125 I owed the village was due to fines for late payment. She suggested I go to traffic court on Wednesday at 7PM to get the judge to lower it. Apparently you just show up, wait your turn, and see the judge.

So a bit of an update on why I never paid this ticket. Basically, Valley Stream does not offer a web payment method and I rarely use the postal service. There is no principled reason behind this, I'm just to lazy to print an envelope, buy a stamp, etc. So collection letters started coming in. I called the number on one of them and offered to pay over the phone. They claimed that they only send the letters and I'd have to settle my debt with the town. They also verified that I'd have to mail a check or show up to the court house.

So I ignored the letters until I got one that claimed my vehicle registration was in jeopardy. This prompts me to show up to the courthouse in the morning and try to pay the ticket. I should have went to the ATM beforehand in anticipation of them lacking a credit card merchant account. However, I didn't.

So yes I am entirely guilty of the cardinal sin of sloth here. If a cop knocked at my door I'd walk to the ATM and come back with $125 in cash no questions asked. I did not deal with my issue in a timely manner, so I lost any legitimacy to my reasonable arguments to why the county giving me was ticket was wrong. So I am entirely at the judges mercy tomorrow. I will provide an update then.