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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for November, 2011


What are your greatest privacy concerns?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

In case you haven’t heard…

Facebook FAQ: Privacy settlement reached with FTC

Facebook has settled with the Federal Trade Commission over complaints about its privacy policies. Here’s a look at the social network’s interaction with the agency on privacy and Tuesday’s settlement.Why was Facebook under investigation?: Many Facebook users were concerned about the way that the company changed its privacy policies, making some user information public without their express consent.

In December 2009, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other privacy advocates filed a complaint with FTC saying that Facebook’s changes to its privacy policies disclosed “personal information to third parties that was previously not available” and that those changes violated user expectations of the service.

The FTC settlement also lists several other instances where Facebook “allegedly made promises it did not keep” such as promising that it did not share personal information with advertisers, did not share unnecessary data with third-party app makers, did not verify the security of third-party applications, would not retain data that it told users had deleted on its servers and would comply with the U.S.-European Union Safe Harbor framework on privacy.

Facebook has already addressed some of these complaints ahead of the settlement, co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post Tuesday, saying that it had canceled its Verified Apps program and fixed a problem that gave advertisers access to users’ ID numbers.

What’s in the settlement?: The provisions in the settlement are very similar to what the agency worked out with Google over its Buzz social network. The network must put a “comprehensive privacy program” in place and obtain express user consent before “enacting changes that override” a user’s privacy preferences.

Facebook has also agreed that it will notify users when it changes the way it shares data and has consented to privacy audits for the next 20 years.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

This story got me thinking again about privacy, both on and off the Internet.

While a natural right to privacy is implied in both the Fourth and Ninth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Government has long operated as if it were an option to be ignored. Most businesses seem to have the same opinion.

As technology has expanded into our homes and now our pockets as we go about our daily lives, privacy seems to have become an afterthought, at best, with most folks.

Which made me wonder…

What are your greatest privacy concerns?

Do you think the very idea of personal privacy privacy has become, or is becoming obsolete?

What specific things, if any, do you do to protect your privacy online, at work, at home, and when you are out and about?

And are you one of the millions who feel compelled to “share” every detail of every day with the world via social media, and if so, why?


Only in Massachusetts: Boy sets new record in girl’s swimming. Also, Byebye Barney.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner, Woody.


No, the title of today’s post is not a joke.

Swimming in confusion over boys’ role on girls’ teams

What happens when a high school boy breaks a girls’ swimming record?

The governing body that regulates high school athletics in Massachusetts plans to grapple with that question, as more boys are competing on girls’ swim teams in the fall season than ever before. Earlier this month, a male student from Norwood High, Will Higgins, broke a meet record for the girls’ 50-yard freestyle, leaving athletic officials scratching their heads over what to do.

Anthony Rodriguez and Evelyn Metta during practice for Norwood High School's girls' swim team. Six boys compete on the girls' team.

Officials from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association are expected to review the issue in January, and discuss what – if anything – can be done to address the new record and other concerns raised by female swimmers and some swim coaches.

According to MIAA spokesman Paul Wetzel, one issue is not up for debate. There’s no stopping boys from competing on girls’ swim teams.

Under state laws requiring equal access to sports for both genders, if there is no boys’ swimming program at a male athlete’s high school, he can swim for the school’s girls’ team.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

This is what happens when well-meaning fools pass laws without considering the potential consequences and other well-meaning fools allow political correctness to trump logic and reason.

There are many areas of life where men and women can successfully compete. Sports is not one of them.

Like it or not, men and women are physiologically different. Yes, there are occasionally women who are able to compete at some level, in some sports, with men, but they are not even the one percent. They are some tiny fraction of one percent of all women and all women athletes.

Allowing boys with their generally vastly superior upper body strength to compete with women in swimming is akin to having an NFL team face off against a bunch of high school kids. It just ain’t fair.

Of course, when it comes to the left, fairness has nothing to do with anything, despite all the bleating to the contrary, and so we in Massachusetts again find ourselves laughingstocks.

Here’s a NY Times article from November 18th. Note Anthony Rodriguez’s comment in the fifth paragraph. Sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

Does this level of lunacy occur where you live?


Pompous, intellectually challenged a-hole and arguably the worst Representative in American history ever to have disgraced the halls of Congress Barney I didn’t know my boyfriend was running a male prostitution business from our house Frank yesterday announced that, after three decades of contributing to, and in some cases, being a primary cause of the many and varied problems facing our nation, he would not seek reelection next year.

The only thing I can think of that would be better for America would be his announcement he was quitting as of yesterday.

Thanks to redistricting due to the hoards fleeing Massachusetts, Barney was faced with actually having to campaign for reelection when his absurdly gerrymandered district, which included perhaps the highest concentration of the politically clueless lefties in the state, was reconfigured, resulting in a district which would have required him to actually go out and try to defend to voters thirty years of Congressional lunacy and misrepresentation.

Byebye, Barney. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.


Here is what true community self-reliance looks like

Monday, November 28th, 2011

For months now, the OWS crowd has filled the pages and screens of mainstream media nationwide with people crying about how unfair life is and demanding someone do something for them. Reporters have been falling all over themselves to tell the various stories of woe coming from the encampments.

Compare that to the coverage of  a community’s astounding self-reliant response to a local disaster just twelve days before the ‘official’ start of the OWS bleat-a-thon.

The story is a little long, but well worth the read.

One small Texas town’s remarkable volunteer wildfire relief effort

Texas resident Paula Bowman watched Hurricane Katrina pummel New Orleans in 2005 and wondered why the city’s residents did not take action for themselves.

“I remember telling [my husband] as we were watching the whole phenomenon on the news, ‘I just couldn’t sit there and wait for somebody.’ The federal government cannot be everywhere at every moment. You have to help yourself and do what you have to do,” Bowman told The Daily Caller.

So when her phone rang at 7:30 a.m. on Labor Day and a friend told her that local officials were evacuating people to a nearby high school, she got her chance to act. A wildfire had kicked up just outside of Magnolia, a small town of 1,326 about 45 miles northwest of Houston.

The evacuees needed pet carriers for the animals they had brought with them, so Bowman created a Facebook group to organize donations. Within three hours, she had 300 pet carriers on her hands.

For the next 10 days, she and more than a dozen other community residents — most of whom had never met each other — organized a remarkable volunteer relief effort for a fire that consumed 19,000 acres, 76 homes and 24 structures. Almost entirely without federal aid, Magnolia residents pulled together to provide 24-hour support to the volunteer firefighters and relief to evacuees.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I’d like to think that kind of community response could happen anywhere in the nation, at any time, but recent history belies that hope. People sometimes surprise you, but I can’t imagine anything like what happened in Magnolia happening anywhere here in The People’s Republic, where the official position of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is “…we really try and discourage people from self help.

How do you think your community would react in an emergency?


Truth in Toons: Business Edition

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Comments Welcome! Enjoy!!







Amnesty for illegals sneaks in through the back door

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Following is a local story, but I suspect it is being repeated nationwide.

Immigrants cautious as possible reprieves loom
Advocates see signs of prioritizing cases

Some 100 protesters came to Government Center this week, waving signs and chanting slogans for Denis Lemos and his friend Vinny Quirino, both 25-year-olds who had been fighting deportation to Brazil. The protesters wanted a reprieve.

But then Lemos stood before the crowd and delivered the news.

“I got my call,’’ he said as applause broke out. “I am no longer in removal proceedings. My case is going to be closed.’’

Denis Lemos, 25, who came to the United States from Brazil as a teenager, received a stay of deportation. Lemos is an engineering student at UMass Lowell.

Quirino’s stay of deportation followed soon afterward. Some immigrants and their advocatessay those decisions may be a sign that the Obama administration is finally acting on a federal directive issued five months ago to consider setting aside the deportations of students, the elderly, and other immigrants in order to more quickly deport convicted criminals and other high-priority cases.

The shift was heralded in June, when the director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a memo urging federal immigration officials to “regularly’’ use their discretion to keep low-priority cases from clogging up the immigration courts.

But advocates for immigrants complained that many federal agents were not following the memo, and that students such as Lemos, an engineering major at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, remained in deportation proceedings.

Then, last week, Homeland Security officials said that by Jan. 13, immigration agents and prosecutors nationwide would undergo training in prosecutorial discretion, a longstanding tool that lets them consider a variety of special circumstances when deciding whether to pursue deportation. Officials also said they would screen immigration court cases in stages to ensure that they match the department’s priorities.

Immigrant groups want the government to more consistently stay the cases of people who have not committed a crime. But federal officials warned that they cannot rush the decision of whether to grant a stay or deport someone. Each case is decided on its merits, and immigrants must be scrutinized for possible risks to public safety and national security.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

If I understand correctly, prosecutors are supposed to determine if illegal aliens are a risk to public safety and national security before shipping them home? And the lackeys who serve Our Dear Leader issued a directive five weeks ago telling Immigration officials to NOT pursue anyone but convicted criminals and “other high-priority cases” which one assumes means illegals who illegally vote for non-Democrats.

And how is it that immigration hearings take more than two minutes each?

Judge to suspect: “Are you a US citizen?”

Suspect: “No.”

Judge: “Do you have a green card or some other proof you are in this country legally?”

Suspect: “No, but…”

Judge: “No buts allowed. Officer, escort the prisoner to the appropriate bus or plane. Next.”

Why is it any more complicated than that?

I do feel bad for those, like the guys in the story, who were probably brought here by their parents. But their parent’s bad decision does not make them any more legal and does not create any obligation on the part of the United States or any of its citizens. And since we likely know who the parents are, INS should have them and any other siblings standing next to the criminal so they can all go home together.

I’m sure Denis, the person in the photo, is a nice guy. But why is he taking a seat in school that should be occupied by an American citizen? Why did we have to commit tax dollars to educate him though high school?

I expect Denis is just the kind of studious and hard-working person we want in America except for one thing, he’s a criminal.

Here is the kind of amnesty I can support. Any illegal who, in the next six months, turns him- or herself in and has no criminal history other than their illegal status, will go to the top of the list of people qualified to emigrate from their country to ours as quotas and national needs permit.

And after six months, all federal, state, and local benefits and payments and whatevers to illegals end. Businesses caught with illegals on the payroll will be fined $10,000 per.

Harsh? Yes. Heartless? No. One can only be heartless with someone deserving of sympathy and criminals do not fall into that category.

I am the son of immigrants who waited their turn and became citizens. And I believe America should welcome all who are willing to do the same. But we should never tolerate criminals or countenance criminal behavior no matter how desperately certain political parties need new voters.

By the way, if you read the entire article, did you notice how many times the word ‘illegal’ was, or should I say wasn’t used in reference to immigration status? That’s what you get when your local paper is so far to the left they actually believe themselves when they deny bias.

What do you folks think about this issue?

Are you for or against amnesty?

What do you think of my off-the-cuff solution?

Do you have an alternate solution?

And is it really racist and heartless and mean and all the other pejoratives of us to expect everyone to follow the law in a nation of laws?


Malls track shoppers’ cell phones on Black Friday and other tech news

Friday, November 25th, 2011

I remember when folks said technology would make our lives better. Seems to me, it’s just made our lives different, with lot less time to smell the roses.

What do you think?


Interesting stuff from the tech world:

Yet another reason I hate shopping.

Malls track shoppers’ cell phones on Black Friday

I don’t know what Steve Jobs had in mind, but I suspect that whatever hits the market next year will change the TV landscape.

Apple television expected in mid-2012 as competition is ‘scrambling’

I rarely log onto my personal Facebook page, but, along with the office staff, I do update the Backwoods Home page and have been annoyed by this. I agree with the author, it’s a bad idea.

How Facebook is ruining sharing

As I’ve often said, whenever government sticks its collective nose into anything, they make it worse and/or more expensive.

SOPA is a threat to American Internet leadership

I won’t be buying the first generation, but when they’ve enhanced it a bit, it would work great for me as a backup computer I can carry in my pocket.

USB Stick Contains Dual-Core Computer, Turns Any Screen Into an Android Station

We’re all still waiting for the millions of jobs all those stimulus trillions were supposed to create. Maybe this will help. Or not.

FCC Says Broadband Expansion Will Add Jobs

I own  a DumbPhone. All it does is make phone calls and I like it that way. I spend enough time trying to keep the bad guys our of my computers and the websites I manage. I have no desire to add my phone to the list.

McAfee: Nearly All New Mobile Malware In Q3 Targeted At Android Phones




Truth in Toons: Thanksgiving Edition

Thursday, November 24th, 2011





Why have we stopped making Americans?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Those of you who’ve read this blog for awhile know Jeff Jacoby is one of my favorite columnists. He’s long been the token conservative at The Boston Globe (Democrat) and is often the lone voice of reason amid the rhetoric and spin usually featured on the editorial pages.

Normally, I’d quote a few paragraphs and post a continuation link to the column but I thought today’s column so good, his message so relevant and important to what is wrong with 21st-century America, that I’m shamelessly reprinting the whole thing, complete with all the  links and graphics, for those who normally don’t follow the continuation link.


Making Americans
By Jeff Jacoby

WITH OUR MUSIC TEACHER, Mrs. Feigenbaum, at the piano playing the melody – the Toreador’s Song from the opera Carmen – and the lyrics handed out to us on mimeographed pages, my 4th-grade classmates and I practiced one of the songs we were learning for our school’s Thanksgiving assembly:

Thanksgiving Day comes once each year
Our president proclaims it far and near.
Thankful for the bounty of our land,
The harvest that makes this nation grand,
Bestowed us from above,
God bless this land,
This precious land we love.

I was a student at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, a Jewish day school where half of the curriculum was devoted to religious studies and the school year conformed to the Jewish calendar. Most of the kids in my class came from Orthodox Jewish homes, and many of us were the children of Eastern European immigrants who spoke Yiddish more fluently than they spoke English.

Yet there we were, kids whose parents may have gotten off the boat only 10 or 15 years earlier and whose family life bore little resemblance to The Patty Duke Show, singing songs about the Mayflower and turkey dinners without a hint of irony. The inculcation of Jewish values and learning was the Hebrew Academy’s chief priority, but it was understood that raising kids to be good Jews went hand-in-hand with raising them to be good Americans. Parents and teachers alike took it for granted that the story and traditions of Thanksgiving (or Columbus Day or Washington’s Birthday) should be as familiar a part of our cultural identity as the Passover story and its traditions.

I didn’t know it at the time, but what my classmates and I were experiencing was the classic model of American assimilation: the process by which immigrants and ethnic minorities, and the children of those immigrants and minorities, had for decades been successfully turned into Americans. In a world filled with ethnic antagonism and religious violence, the United States had found a paradigm for unifying the most ethnically, racially, and religiously varied population on the planet into a relatively tolerant and unified culture.

We rarely reflect on what an astonishing achievement this was. But how many other societies have managed to maintain national cultural unity in the midst of ethnic diversity? Cyprus? Rwanda? Sri Lanka? The former Yugoslavia?

The key to what Peter Salins, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, calls “assimilation, American style” was a balancing act. On the one hand, newcomers streaming to the United States found out quickly that they were expected to become honest-to-God Americans. That meant learning English, getting a useful job, embracing America’s democratic values and institutions, and eventually taking the oath as new citizens.

On the other hand, immigrants weren’t obliged to shed their ethnic pride, or to drop the foods and customs and festivals they brought with them from their native land. They were free to be “as ethnic as they pleased,” writes Salins. The goal of assimilation was not to make all Americans alike; it was to get newcomers, however dissimilar their backgrounds and cultures, to believe that they were “irrevocably part of the same national family.”

There was one other key ingredient, which we too easily overlook. Immigrants understood that the country they had come to was in some indispensable way better than the one they had left. They might retain a soft spot for the scenery or clothing or rhythms of life in the old country, they might always prefer their mother tongue to English, they might even pay tuition at a private or parochial school so that the religious or linguistic values they had grown up with would be passed on to their kids.

But underlying everything would be the awareness that they had chosen to be Americans. America was better than their native land — perhaps because its rulers were corrupt, or because it was riven by war, or because economic opportunities were limited. Perhaps, as in my father’s case, because totalitarian tyrants – first Nazis, then Communists – had made life there a hell on earth. Perhaps because, like the Pilgrims, they sought a peaceable society where they could worship as they saw fit without being “hunted and persecuted on every side.”

As my fellow 4th-graders and I belted out the lyrics to another song — “P-I-L-grim fathers landed here on Plymouth Bay” — we probably assumed that Mrs. Feigenbaum was just getting us ready for the Thanksgiving assembly. She knew, of course, that she was doing something far more important. She was getting us ready to be Americans.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His website is


“She was getting us ready to be Americans.”

I had never before thought of school like that. But now it makes me wonder why we’ve stopped.

Can you imagine what our nation might be like today if, for the past thirty or forty years or so, our public and private schools actually had been preparing all the students, not just recent immigrants, to be Americans in addition to reading and writing and arithmetic; if, instead of preparing students to be good little worker bees loaded down with college tuition debt, they taught them how to think and reason and taught them about the American ideals of individualism and freedom, opportunity and entrepreneurship; if, instead of celebrating the myriad differences in the backgrounds of students, they focused on the similarities.

We sorely need to get over this misguided, insane idea that every culture, every country, is just as good as every other. It’s simply not true. For evidence, compare the numbers of people today who will sacrifice everything to come to America with the numbers of Americans who would sacrifice even a cup of coffee to go anywhere else. And if you think the humongously lopsided results are due to all the welfare we hand out, compare those same numbers fifty years ago and a century ago.

I’m not saying newcomers must leave their heritage behind. But I am saying that if they aspire to become Americans, they must be Americans first and whatever they used to be has to come second.

I’m proud of my Italian heritage but I am an American, first. My father, who was born in Italy and who legally immigrated with his parents at age seven, never again spoke Italian after his mother died when I was about ten.  Decades later, it occurred to me to ask him why, since I thought it would have been nice to grow up bi-lingual. He said, “Because I’m an American. And we speak English here.”

I’ve never forgotten that, even though so many millions of others apparently have in their quest to turn the American melting post into some kind of bizarre stew where each ingredient fights for supremacy.

United we stand, divided we fall.

Has that sentiment ever been more relevant, more important, than it is today?



The real problem isn’t the 1%, it’s the 2%

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

If you had asked me yesterday who was the largest employer in the United States, I’d have guessed WalMart. Others may have guessed McDonalds, or Microsoft, or Starbucks, but they, like me, would have been wrong.

The largest employer in the United States is, in fact, the United States.

While retail behemoth WalMart claims 2.1 million employees, they can’t hold a candle to the Feds which issues paychecks to 2.9 million Federal and Postal employees — 2 percent of the entire American workforce according to And the pay isn’t bad! Plus, they’re always hiring! Maybe someone should tell the OWS crowd.

According to the same site,

Average annual salary for full-time federal government jobs now exceeds $81,258.

The U.S. Government is the largest employer in the United States, hiring about 2.0 percent of the nation’s work force and the workforce is expanding significantly due to health care reform, in-sourcing, and many new regulatory programs. Federal government jobs can be found in every state and large metropolitan area, including overseas in over 200 countries. The average annual federal workers compensation, including pay plus benefits, now exceeds $123,049 compared to just $61,051 for the private sector according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis.

How’s that for fairness and justice OWS? We foolish private sector workers bust our humps every day for the privilege of paying our Federal overlords and their minions twice as much, on average, as we make.

What a great country, eh?

Now, I’m not saying all Federal workers are lazy or unneeded, so please don’t jump on me if you’re one of them. But the fact is that our government has grown so large, so unwieldy, and so intrusive, it has become an albatross around the neck of most citizens.

Perhaps the first step we need to take as a nation on the way to bankruptcy is to start trimming the overhead, like any good business would do. Do we really need a Federal Bureaucracy to tell us how to educate or kids, or that smoking cigarettes are bad for us, or handing over billions of our tax dollars to failing solar energy companies, and trillions to prop up mismanaged financial institutions?

The real problem in this nation is not the 1%. It’s the 2% who enable them.

If you were appointed to trim the government, where would you start?

What departments or jobs would you cut? And no, you can’t cut Congressmen and Senators and the President.

But maybe you could trim their perks and staff?

And if you are part of the 2%, I’m especially interested to know what you would do.


Teaching kids about self-reliance and preparedness

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Desiree.


Thirty-two years ago, when a pretty young woman,  who was by any measure much too good for the likes of me, inexplicably accepted my proposal and married me, I was clueless. Not about life in general, but about self-reliance and preparedness. Eighteen years later, when Dave Duffy asked me to take over management of the Backwoods Home website, I began to learn.

The first thing I learned was that we had been sort-of prepping for many years, at least when it came to food. We were not growing or canning anything, but we always had enough canned and dry food on hand to feed us for a month or so. It just seemed like a smart thing to do.

As I learned more, I tried to inculcate my then-teenagers with the necessity of being prepared for disasters and emergencies, but it was too late. They listened, and helped when told to, but it was clear the lessons were not making their way into their permanent memory. I fully expect that if something did happen that affected a wide area around here, my kids and their spouses, would pretty quickly be making their way back to our house when whatever groceries they do have on hand are gone.

I may have missed the boat with my son and daughter, but I’m very much looking forward to teaching the grandchildren who will be coming along in the next few years. My dear wife has encouraged the kids to consider our house babysitting central, but little do they know what lessons their offspring will be learning here in addition to the ABCs.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I envision getting our grandkids involved as soon as they are able to start “helping” to put away groceries or water plants or pull weeds, with explanations of whats and whys to follow as they are able to understand. But I know I’ll be winging it and hoping for the best.

I expect many of you embraced preparedness at a much younger age than we did, often before you had children, so I’m turning to you for some education.

I’m curious to know if you have been teaching your kids about self-reliance and preparedness and, if so, at what age you began?

How did you get them involved? How do you keep them interested?

At what ages did you introduce new responsibilities?

And those of you whose children are older, did the training stick? Are they still prepping now that they are on their own?




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