Thursday, 21 May 2009 15:401. Let me get this straight. Lehman Brothers is gone, Chrysler is bankrupt, some of our largest banks are propped up only through massive infusions of national treasure. But somehow, all of Long Island’s special taxing districts and various layers of local government are surviving intact. All of them. Only federal bailout money has headed off statewide budget meltdowns, but the web-like political infrastructure has outlived Pontiac. At the end of the world, emerging from the radioactive cinders, we will have atomic cockroaches, and special districts.
2. Grizzled and curmudgeonly as I may be, I am not all bent out of shape over Pluto losing its status as an official planet. The decision to reclassify Pluto in 2006 as a “dwarf planet” and again last year as a “plutoid” drives some of us positively mental, and this year state legislators in both New Mexico and Illinois declared Pluto to be a planet, at least in their states, on certain days. The thing is, if Pluto is a planet, then its plutoid friends Eris, Makemake and Haumea are probably planets, and even the asteroid Ceres. We now know of 70,000 TNOs (Trans-Neptune Objects), big rocks out past the eighth planet, and many of the largest ones even have their own moons, just like Pluto. Some scientists can make reasonable cases that 19 and even 37 bodies in our solar system should be called planets. 37 planets? I just don’t think most of us bargained for that. We gotta draw a line. Pluto has not been shamed; it has been more accurately described.
3. In the future, according to one new film, everyone in the galaxy will speak in flawless English, including Romulans, except for Chekhov and Scott, who will speak with heavy, over-the-top accents.
4. I don’t understand why hospital emergency rooms can’t have one person who just goes around and makes sure patients have what they need and what they were promised (tests, food, medication, a pillow). One additional orderly would reduce patient stress and sometimes save lives.
5. You would think the hairballs behind those phony auto warranty calls would lie low after Senator Schumer called for a Federal Trade Commission crackdown. His May 10 press conference on the subject received widespread media attention, but on the next two days I received the calls on both my landline and my cell phone, both of which are in the Do Not Call Registry. Actually, the one that’s really been putting violent ideas in my head is the one that says, “We’ve tried several times to contact you about your credit card account” and it’s just a solicitation. If you speak to a representative and complain, they yell at you.
6. When you receive unsolicited junk e-mail, and it says something like “Click here to unsubscribe,” never, ever do that. All it does is confirm that your e-mail address is live and increases its resale value. Use your mail program to block their messages as junk.
7. Senator Gillibrand’s political operation, to its credit, did it the right way when it sent out a recent mass e-mail that asked permission to continue to send messages. Long Island politicians who decided unilaterally to send me and thousands of others their propaganda may think they’re impressing people as technological hipsters, but that’s not the message they’re actually sending.
8. In 2008, both the Obama and the McCain campaigns used “behavioral targeting” to tailor online advertising to individual interests. This means companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo helped the campaigns target potential supporters, donors and volunteers based on individual profiles. The profiles are created by matching your personal web surfing and searching habits, against age, gender and other data they’ve compiled. AOL now claims 4,000 partner sites through which it collects about 70 data points each month on 82 percent of Americans using the web.
9. The ixquick.com search engine is gaining a cult following by emphasizing that they will not track your activities or sell your data.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org