Sunday, December 29, 2013

Better Funding for the NSA:

You may not have realized it, but sequestration and the desire to cut back on federal spending have placed a lot of pressure on the NSA. The NSA’s self-appointed goal is to monitor every possible means of communication, everywhere, just in case those means are used by terrorists. Old methods of communication never die, but we are always creating new ones. Thus the NSA needs to increase its budget by leaps and bounds to keep up with new channels that might be subverted by terrorists. How can that be done on a fixed budget?

I am pleased to announce that help is on the way. In fact, the NSA may soon be self-supporting. Their best heads have cracked this walnut, and even now, just like other websites such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Snapchat and Twitter, the NSA is determining how to monetize the data they have.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I recommend the Dan Jerusalem Hotel:

My wife and I have stayed at a hotel near French Hill in Jerusalem, many times. From the hotel one has a marvelous view of the Old City, including the Golden Dome, and one can pray facing South (instead of the usual East).

The Dan company took over this hotel about three-plus years ago, and it is now the Dan Jerusalem.  Originally it was the Hyatt Regency, and then it became just the Regency hotel, but now it is operated, very nicely, by Dan.

The Dan company has improved the hotel in many ways. We stayed there for almost two weeks. We enjoyed the hotel's many perquisites, and we appreciated how well the hotel staff dealt with Jerusalem's record 18" snowstorm.

The hotel has over 500 rooms, and they cater to many tour groups. One of the pleasures of staying there is talking to visitors in these groups. The hotel make subtle adjustments to its immense breakfast smorgasbord to accompany the needs of some of its visitors. The hotel is within walking distance of a small shopping center that includes a supermarket. Altogether, the Dan Jerusalem is a fun place to stay.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hey! You called me!

I received a phone call this evening that I found quite offensive. I wonder if anyone will agree with me.

First, let me establish the ground rule: if I call, say, a bank, and want to do business with them, then they have the right to verify who I am. That makes perfect sense.

Tonight, I got a phone call from a person who said they were calling from CVS Corporate about a prescription of mine that was due for renewal. "Okay, I said, what is this about?"

"First," she said, "I have to ask you to identify yourself."

And that's where I ended the phone call. She called me. She called my home phone number.  If that's not enough identification information for her, then I think she should not call me at all.

By the way, let's not assume that this is a story about CVS, because I forgot to ask the caller to verify herself.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What is a "Public Place?"

You have probably all seen the video in which a policeman threatens to ticket a guy for washing a car in the driveway of his own home. In the course of the video, the policeman explains that the guy's violation is: washing a car in a "Public Place". But what is a public place?

You can find several legal definitions of  "public place" on the Web, and some of these definitions happen to agree with what the policeman said: A public place is any place visible to the public (I am paraphrasing). Most definitions of Public Place are more intuitive: they define a space in which public activities occur, because the public has direct access.

Obviously, what matters is how Garden City, NY defines "Public Place". (I understand that Garden City is where this video occurred.)  I found their legal definition on the internet! Here it is, and Garden City's definition implies that the policeman was wrong, because the car washing did not occur in a public place. Here's a copy of their definition:

Any public street, road or highway, alley, lane, sidewalk, crosswalk or other public way, or any publicresort, place of amusement, park, playground, public building or grounds appurtenant thereto, school building or school grounds, public parking lot or any vacant lot.

I wonder whether all this viral publicity will make Garden City change their definition of "public place" to make car-washing in a driveway illegal.

A terrific phone rental service for trips to Israel:

We have just returned from two weeks in Israel. We needed to be in contact with friends, and we needed a GPS for our rented car. UnlimitedIsrael rented us an iPhone 4 at a very reasonable price. The phone came loaded with software, including Waze, a mapping application that knows Israel's roads very well and gives good driving directions. The phone made our trip a lot more pleasant, and Tani at unlimitedIsrael was always there to answer our questions. (I'm an experienced iPad user, but this was my first exposure to a smart phone.)

There was no extra charge for calling people in Israel and the USA. There was no charge for using data with apps on the phone. Altogether, a very nice experience.

I traveled Zen Class, in Style!

I have a Zen class bag (by Nirvana). Here’s the Amazon page for it. On an airplane trip, the bag hooks over the folding-down tray on the seat in front of you, and its many pockets place a remarkable number of items at your finger-tips. (On the trip home, there was no seat right in front of me. Instead, I hooked the bag over my TV monitor, and that worked just as well.)

I usually try to put everything I might need in the Zen Class bag: magazine, book, deck of cards, earplanes, medicines, vitamins, pen, etc., etc. And I was lucky. On the plane trip out, as we were walking down the corridor to the actual plane door, we encountered a dragonlady who forced almost everyone, at this last moment, to check their carryon bag.

“Just let me take one thing on the plane,” I said. I took the Zen bag out of my rolling case, and also took out my iPad 2. I slipped the iPad into the Zen bag, and that was all I took on the plane. And for an 11 hour trip, it was more than enough.