Congratulations are in order to Sean and Susan, as we celebrate yesterday’s safe arrival of a new youngling. Welcome, Alexander Laurence. May you find joy, kindness, and much hope in this adventure known as the world. A speedy recovery to Mommy, of course, and some rest for an overwrought Daddy, as well. Good luck to both, best wishes to the growing family, and I’ll be raising a glass in your honor.

Is Principal Gregory Ellsworth a sex offender?

Editorial cartoonist John Cole comments, at his blog for The Times-Tribune:

I don’t know who’s dumber: Kids who shoot nudie pictures of themselves using their cell phones, or school officials who confiscate those phones for unrelated reasons and then rifle through them for said pictures.

John Cole, May 22, 2010While a quiet controversy continues about whether people should be haunted for life because of stupid decisions they made as a teenager, a more disturbing consideration arises out of an ACLU lawsuit filed against officials at Tunkahannock Area High School, where Principal Gregory Ellsworth is accused of confiscating student cellphones, and then searching through them in hopes of finding nude pictures of minors. David Singleton reports, for The Times-Tribune:

According to the lawsuit:

On Jan. 23, 2009, a teacher confiscated the high school student’s cell phone because she was using it on school grounds, in violation of school policy.

Later that day, she was called to Principal Gregory Ellsworth’s office. Mr. Ellsworth told her the phone had been turned over to law enforcement after he went through its contents and found “explicit” photos stored in its memory.

The photos, which were not visible on the phone’s screen and required multiple steps to locate, were never circulated to other students, the suit stated. In most of the images, the student appeared fully covered, although several showed her naked breasts and one indistinctly showed her pubic area.

The student was given and served a three day out-of-school suspension. According to the district’s student handbook, the first offense for cell phone misuse is a 90-minute Saturday detention and the confiscation of the phone for the rest of the day.

A few days later, the student and her mother met with David Ide, chief county detective in the district attorney’s office, who told them he had seen the photos and sent the phone to a crime lab in Delaware.

The suit alleges that when the mother stepped away, Detective Ide told the student it was a shame she had not waited until after her 18th birthday in April 2009 because, instead of getting into trouble, she could have submitted the photos to Playboy magazine. He suggested the student contact him, winking as he said, “I’ll get you your phone back,” according to the complaint.

Shortly after, the student and her mother received a letter from Mr. Skumanick threatening felony child pornography charges if the student did not complete a five-week re-education course on sexual violence and victimization. The student paid a fee of about $100 and took the course to avoid prosecution.

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Stupid science questions

Just a few random things I wonder about from time to time, but never seem to get around to solving:

  • Rain on the Windshield: Presuming the rate of rainfall to be constant, will there be a difference in how much rain strikes the windshield of any given car depending on whether it is stationary or moving?
  • Wet T-Shirt Contest: Why does a white cotton t-shirt become nearly transparent when it gets wet?
  • Kool-Aid: Why do different varieties of Kool-Aid juice mix dissolve at such different rates? I’m thinking here of why orange-flavored Kool-Aid appears grainy so much longer than fruit punch or grape.
  • Frozen Soda: Does the color of a liquid affect its freezing temperature? Or what properties contribute to orange soda freezing more easily than root beer or cola?

Minutiae, of course. But I think the T-shirt question would probably keep a high school student’s attention. Well, the guys, at least. The hetero boys, that is.

Never mind.

Labor Inaction

Mark Steel, a watermelon, a young boy, and a plastic fetishI mean, really ….

At last, someone’s come up with a clean, decisive system for holding elections. The way it works is everyone has a vote, and then the management of British Airways and a judge decide the result. They’ve tried this method with the ballot for a strike amongst cabin crews, who voted 7,482 to 1,789 in favour. So the courts ruled that this didn’t count because the Unite union didn’t mention, in some of its announcements, that 11 ballot papers had been spoilt.

There has been the odd critic of this ruling, such as the President of North Korea who said, “Oh that’s going TOO far”, but you can see BA’s point. Because there may have been many union members who were only prepared to support the strike as long as the number of spoilt ballot papers wasn’t a prime number. Imagine how cheated they’d have felt if they’d lost three days’ pay, assuming the number of spoilt papers was 12 or something divisible by seven and then they’d found out the shocking truth when it was too late.

So the courts decided the strike was illegal and the ballot has to start again. This time it could be 10,000 in favour and none against, and a judge will say, “It still doesn’t count, because the union didn’t announce the result in a Geordie accent.” So Unite will comply with that, and the judge will say, “No, that was Middlesborough. You’ll have to start all over again.” The next vote will be annulled because the union reps didn’t convey the result as a piece of contemporary dance, and the one after that won’t count because a writing expert will declare some ballot papers were marked by a voter’s left hand, which is the Devil’s hand and Satan isn’t registered as a paid-up Unite member. Then there’ll be a rule that as they’ll be thrown away in the event of a strike, each in-flight dinner should have a vote, which will be assumed to be “No” if they don’t bother.

This would make more sense than the statement by BA chief Willie Walsh, who said, “The vast majority of our staff have demonstrated they don’t support this strike.” He can say that because unlike the union, which is relying on the shady evidence of the number of votes cast, he’s going on the more dependable basis of what he sort of reckons.

Maybe you missed this during the brouhaha about the British general election. I did, sort of. I mean, I remember hearing talk of a BA strike. I remember hearing about the vote in favor of a strike. But the rest of it I somehow missed.

Not that any of that matters from the far side of a continent on the far side of an ocean from Britain, but there is something amiss when it’s the comedian‘s explanation of something that makes us say, “Oh, that makes sense. Why didn’t you say so before?”

Truth is stranger than fiction, and it is my understanding—gleaned from some dark recess of my past—that this is because sooner or later, fiction is obliged to make some manner of sense. But if one ever doubts this maxim, they need only look to the free world, and the devices by which we keep ourselves, more or less, free.

All the small things

Video games: What, exactly, makes these things so frustrating? That is, we already know they’re crooked, so why do we play the damn things? And, having chosen to play them, why do we invest any emotion in their outcome?

Actually, there are answers to those questions, but let us, instead, stick to the small things.

NHL 10: You know what? All I want is a button that lets me do the things I see the computer-operated opponent can do. Punch a goalie in the head in order to get him off a puck? Yeah, I want to do that. Hook a guy from six feet away, instantly pinning him against the wall to stop a breakaway? Yeah, I want that, too. A button to send an opponent to the penalty box for the high crime of being roughed? Yes, I would like a button for that. A world-class skater that responds to the puck, instead of deliberately turning the long way, allowing the opponent to win possession? Hey, it’s not just me. My CPU-controlled skaters do it, too. But you know who doesn’t? The CPU-controlled players on the other team. I must admit I adore the EA Sports fantasy that Henrik Sedin can’t skate. Jesus, if I traded for Dusty B’fugly, he would probably forget how to hit a guy.

Yes, I’ll have some cheese with that whine. Indeed, the one thing EA seems to have done well with NHL 10 is leave the fan feeling completely and utterly ripped off. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we just call that game day, no matter what the sport.

‘Nuff said. I’m sure if I put the damn controller down and actually thought about useful things, I might write a couple of them, as well.

I’m so excited

Well, no, not really. It just sounds good, doesn’t it? Or not. It might sound scary, too, but that’s your dirty mind. But for those who just can’t get enough of my ego, I am happy to announce the launch of This Is, a thoroughly useless blog that exploits an old, thin, worthless joke of mine.

Hopefully, it won’t be a complete disaster. Enjoy.