Monthly Archives: May 2008

Crime statistics a map, not a compass

This discussion has legs.

Personally, I think that gun ownership is stupid. Guns don’t stop crime and all it takes is looking at other countries with strict gun laws to see what the result is.

You not wish to own a gun. That’s fine. I am a gun owner. Calling gun ownership stupid is a personal affront to all gun owners. Luckily for you, dueling is out of fashion.

It is fashionable to rest an argument entirely on favorable statistical analysis. This trend signals bad times for individualism. To rely solely on aggregated data for governance is to settle on “the greatest good for the greatest number” with the added delusion that causes are known. If anything can be decided from crime statistics it is the question of where one can feel safe without firearms.

Both sides find studies to back up their case. Both sides fund studies to back up their case. In deciding whether to own a gun, I have as much interest in crime statistics as the founders did. They were ready to kill for their beliefs. They understood that when your time comes, statistics are no more vital than table manners.

I don’t care about gun statistics because I am not fundamentally invested in preserving every human life. I am interested in preserving some and I believe that I would use lethal force to do so. Lethal force comes in many varieties. A person who would take away my right to choose a gun is not sensible to me. Such a person is antagonistic to my instinct and to my reason.

We don’t only disagree about gun rights. Heavier things are moved beneath the surface. The underlying disagreement may be somewhere in these statements:

  • I do not value all lives equally.
  • Some things are worth killing for.
  • I would rather kill than be killed.
  • I would rather kill than let a loved one be killed.
  • Individuals are typically good judges of their own circumstances.
  • A collective of toothless individuals is worse than a toothless collective.

Pull out your own teeth but leave me mine. They might help you some day.

Hotels are funny

When Zoe heard that I’d be in San Francisco on business for a couple of days she wanted to join me. I decided to stay over the weekend so we could spend time here together. My flights and weeknights are a company expense but the weekend stay comes out of my pocket.

Automattic rides in style. Maya put me up at the Westin on Market. This is a four-star hotel, or “the bomb” in urban parlance, just one star short of “bling bling”. Thus they command six times the nightly rate of the hotels I usually book for myself. I learned this when I checked in.

I’m neither cheap nor, despite Mom’s best efforts, congenitally frugal, but like a boxer to a muffler I wasn’t going to pay a lot for a hotel room. I checked hotels.com for something closer to my range and found the same room in the same hotel available for about 45% less than the hotel’s quoted rate.

With several hours before the cancellation deadline for the weekend stay, I called the front desk to offer them the opportunity to take my money. I told them about the hotels.com quote and asked them to match it. The agent checked with her manager and then advised me to book it online and cancel the existing reservation.

That’s crazy, right? I offered to pay the hotel the full price quoted by hotels.com, saving them a commission and thus increasing their profit and they refused. Book it online, they said. So I went back to hotels.com.

Right about then, the hotel internet connection died. Perfect. Challenge me to book it online and cut my internet connection? Not really. The connection came back in a few minutes. I booked it and called the front desk to finally cancel the original weekend reservation and note that I’d keep the room for the new reservation.

Fifteen minutes of my time yielded a very big savings. It’s too bad the hotel will pay that commission. It’s a funny business. Use hotels.com.

Yahoo! I damn thee.

I don’t really damn Yahoo! (YHOO [disclosure: no position]) but I think I’ll go there less now.

Less is really none. I only ever used yahoo.com to test hotel internet connections. Sometimes if I used google.com and the hotel displayed a welcome page the DNS cache would get poisoned and google.com would become inaccessible. Thus I would check the connection with yahoo.com first because it didn’t matter if that domain became inaccessible.

Never mind the recent news about Microsoft (MSFT [no position]) and its spurned attempts to buy Yahoo! out. Never mind how strange it feels to use a word that ends with a punctuation mark, whether in the middle of a sentence or at the end of a non-exclaimed statement.

Yahoo! tricked me into reading part of an article that tells the sad, sad, sad story of a billionaire wife who was refused a divorce on lack of grounds. The assault on my masculinity can not be forgiven. In my defense, I just wanted to know the answer: “In some states, even if you want to divorce, the court won’t let you. Why?”

In some states, even if you want to divorce, the court won't let you. Why?

I clicked “Why?” and read half of the first page before I realized that the answer to my question was on another page and that I was reading Elle. I laughed out loud, took the screenshot and started blogging. Surely nobody will read about it on my blog. My masculinity is safe.

What domain should I use for testing hotel internet connections?