100mm f/2.8 macro

Thursday, December 24, 2009
I logged in to my Fidelity account the other day and was surprised to find that my stock options were actually worth some money! Since they expired in just a few months, I quickly cashed them out and (invested them in stable but high yielding mutual funds) (donated the proceeds to a charitable cause) pissed the money away on stuff that will support the Chinese economy.

I've wanted the 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for a while because I love taking pictures of bugs, and you need a good macro lens for pictures of bugs. Sadly I did not think of the fact that I'm ordering the lens in the middle of December when no bugs are out for the shooting.

I'll probably be uploading a bunch of photos over the next several days and weeks as I play with this. You'll be able to find them here.

Life, (Liberty?), and the Pursuit of Happiness

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
This post will make you wonder if I'm a tinfoil hat loon. I assure you I am not. Tinfoil doesn't have adequate reflection at the frequency the government is broadcasting subliminal messages into our brains.


In St. Louis a few months ago, we were driving home from a night of exploring the town, when we came upon a DUI checkpoint. The entire freeway was diverted down to two lanes, and officers would check out each driver - making sure their license and registration was in order, and doing a quick visual/sniff test to see if the driver had been drinking.

The person in front of us did not do so well. The officer appears to talk to him for about 20-30 seconds. The driver stepped out of the car, was patted down quickly, put into plastic handcuffs and led away. Another officer stepped into the car and drove it off to a waiting line of vehicles to be towed. Tow trucks were running back and forth, towing two cars at a time and still unable to keep up with the mass that were waiting. The entire process took maybe one minute, and seemed very efficient. TOO efficient.

I am all for removing drunk drivers off the road, and think in general the US' DUI laws are too lenient. However, DUI checkpoints aren't really targeting the offenders. Instead, it's law enforcement throwing out a net and seeing what they catch, while making law-abiding citizens go through a mandatory stop and questioning without any reasonable suspicion.

Stopped without reasonable suspicion? Isn't that against the Fourth Amendment? Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist doesn't think so, and the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of legalizing them. Rehnquist's majority opinion held that the end justifies the means, the clear and explicit words of the Fourth Amendment, that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, are swept aside because the ends justify obviating the Constitution. Can you image if the Supreme Court decided that guns posed such a danger that, well, despite the second amendment, guns needed to be outlawed?

Even worse, some of these "sobriety" checkpoints have become about revenue generation in addition to searching for DUI offenders. In Connecticut, cars with expired registrations are impounded immediately, which has left more than one parent with kids-in-tow stranded and searching for a way to get to their destination. Seatbelt and other safety tickets are handed out like candy.

Unfortunately our rights are slowly being stripped of us, and nobody seems to care. The ugly Patriot Act that was rushed through Congress with little opposition in the days after 9/11. In the following years, large portions of it were found unconstitutional, but unfortunately after innocent people were locked up because of it.

All of these things instill intimidation and fear in the population, which seems to be exactly what the government desires. I hope that some of us become aware of these slow but noticeable intrusions into our lives before we become a police state like the UK is rapidly becoming. Sadly though, I suspect we'll continue our decline.

I encourage all of you to remember your rights when stopped for any reason. One of the great things about this country is you don't have to answer any question the police ask you. If you are stopped, you can hand the officer your license and registration and sit silently while he peppers you with questions. You don't have to answer anything, no matter how harmless the question seems, and you can't be detained for not wanting to chit-chat with an officer. Specifically ask if you are being detained or if you are free to go, otherwise you are willingly sitting in the custody of the police. This video (for an immigration checkpoint) demonstrates your rights in action perfectly. If you have the time and confidence to do so, I encourage you to exercise these rights.