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diaryland: entry for 2001-06-28 (02:13:00)
In which our plucky young hero adds an interactive element.

Heard from someone in response to my last entry... Since the email I wrote back turned out to be a good entry, here it is.

On Thu, 28 Jun 2001, The Artful Dodger wrote:

See, the problem with cell phones is that you multiply distractions. There's the physical aspect, which is the phone. There is the concentration aspect, which is trying to pay attention to a conversation and the road. (Which makes hands-free not that much safer, but I digress).

Just one of the many reasons that a ban is misplaced, at best. Let's assume that hands-free phones are just as Bad(tm) as hands-on phones. So everyone switches to headsets and meanwhile the torrents of blood that drown everyone on New York's highways continue unabated. Will the answer be to treat people like adults instead of sweet, helpess, slightly retarded children? Will the police shift to arresting reckless drivers who pose a real danger instead of cell phone users who pose no danger whatsoever?

No, of course not. If laws treated adults like adults, Canada wouldn't have a statute that means both of us are felons if I say "Once upon a time, 18-year-old John made sweet love to 17-year-old Jane. Boy, he sure had fun, and I bet you would too! The End." (Sorry about putting you in possession of child pornography, old bean, but I'm sure you'll get nowhere near the five-year maximum sentence for being in possession of that sentence.)

No, if New York's Rivers Of Blood(tm) continue unabated, there'll be monitoring devices and jamming devices to detect the devil cell being used anywhere on the roads, and block it when it is. (Sure hope that call wasn't to AAA because your car broke down during a blizzard! Get ready for that eight-mile walk in -20 weather to the gas station's pay phone.) The Constitutional implications are just plain horrifying. Hell, most drivers won't even let their governments put a camera on a pole - they're going to sit back and smile when their phone transmissions are being monitored every time they drive?

(Sadly, probably yes, if it will mean we don't have to Think! For! Ourselves! and Accept! Some! Responsibility!)

Then there's (what I like to think of as) the emotional factor, which is that if said conversation PISSES YOU OFF you're quite likely tag a few pedestrians while you're composing a suitably witty/cruel response.

And you could be pissed off at the current caller on talk radio, or the kid in the back seat who just. Won't. Stop. Kicking. This isn't a cell phone problem, unless you want to blame whiny children on cell phones. (Whiny children were around first.) Reckless drivers kill people, not cell phones. And reckless people will find ways to kill people even if you take away their phones.

Yes, you could be having a conversation, eating a burger, etc. etc. as well. Hell, I'm sure that there are those that will argue that all that other stuff can mess up your driving as much as the "few beers" they drank before they hit the road.

One of the few studies I've seen that focused on comparing cell use to other activities (instead of merely saying "Cell phones bad! Bad cell phones! Phone bad = cell!") described dialing a phone as being about as distracting as tuning the radio, and I'll personally attest that the one time I nearly drove off the road it was because I was trying to get rid of the goddamn Hank Williams Jr. on the local country station. Somehow I doubt we'll hear people calling for a ban on car radios, though, because they've been around so long that they're an entitlement.

And ideally, you shouldn't be doing any of that shit and I'd be very happy to see cops pulling over and charging people for pulling that sort of shit. "Impaired" means more than liquored up.

The Toronto police tried it. I'd like to see how that turned out, and if it's still going on. However, while I'm willing to point out they did ticket quite a few cell phone users, I'd rather be around any of them than the man who was reading the newspaper(!!) while he was driving. One hand on the wheel and two eyes on the road beat zero and zero anytime.

Still, right now all you're losing is a convenience device that you could never use in the car before 1985, and sure as hell can get along with in 2001.

I'd rather not base decisions about my constitutional rights on whether or not I can "do without them". If I never leave the house, I can "do without" the right to peacable assembly, and if I never get arrested, what do I care that if Stockwell Day wins the next election, he can make it a perfectly legal requirement to pour acid in the eyes of anyone who's put in a RCMP holding cell?

More seriously, you "got along" without the Internet in 1985. Does that mean you wouldn't mind letting the government read all of your email on demand, and sending all your web traffic through a government-run proxy server so they can compile a detailed database of your potential criminal activity, and while we're at it what are you doing putting ideas on the Internet without a license from the CRTC? All these things might save someone's life, somewhere, somehow! (And hey, you can perfectly well do without the Internet if you think that Anne McLellan doesn't deserve to read all your email.)

They can't ban food, they can't ban conversations, but they can ban cell phones, and that will likely save more than a few lives

Will it? These accidents are still so rare and amazing that every single one is an amazing story that thrills and astounds a salivating public. That doesn't seem like an epidemic that needs to be nipped in the bud - it seems like an oddity that's barely statistically significant. In fact, Canada's highways are the safest they've been in the past 20 years, at a time when cell phone use has risen from zero to nine million people. If these things are supposed to cause Rivers Of Blood(tm), they've been slacking at their job.

It's like the old story about air travel: no newspaper will ever list all the scheduled flights that didn't crash that day, because the ink alone would be too expensive. There won't be stories about the millions of road miles each year driven by people who have a cell in their hand that result in no splattered lungs, cracked windshields, or smashed-in engine blocks. And while we'll never hear in the national press about the reckless drivers who were putting on lipstick or air guitaring to Van Halen, you can bet that the one guy with a cell will get airtime all over the country.

If you think this is bad, wait until the cell jammers really start hitting the market. Movie theatres are absolutely salivating at the prospect.

Apparently more than they're salivating over my money. I can only assume that if someone were to strip themselves naked in the middle of "Scary Movie 2", start cursing out the Virgin Mary at the top of their lungs while pouring flaming napalm on their chair, the theater employees would be paralyzed and helpless to take action because there's no device to jam blasphemy and napalm.

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