Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Protocol with Police Car

Did you ever notice that whether a cop wants to pass you or stop you, your response in both situations is the same?
  1. Slow down,
  2. Pull over, and
  3. Stop.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Recent History and Near Future of Wikileaks

Wikileaks is a website that publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive governmental, corporate, organizational, or religious documents, while attempting to preserve the anonymity and untraceability of its contributors (Wikipedia: Wikileaks).

Recently, Wikileaks has announced that it needs money before it can continue publishing leaked content, so it is asking for donations. They have raised $130,000 but need $200,000 for operational costs and another $400,000 if the staff are going to get paid.

In the near future, Wikileaks could become more powerful than it already is. First, Iceland is considering passing a collection of laws which will make it an ideal location for Wikileaks to call their home. Second, the video in the previous link has someone from Wikileaks talking about an idea for them to generate their own revenue. Instead of publishing leaked content immediately on their website, Wikileaks will sell the "first rights" to a traditional news company. This company will get to see the leak content first in order to write the first story about it. When that story is published (or maybe shortly after), Wikileaks will make the leaked content available on their website.

I think that this sounds like a great idea. It provides news outlets with good content and stories, generates revenue for Wikileaks, and maintains the confidence of whistle blowers that their identities will remain anonymous.

I would like to wish the best of luck to Wikileaks as they start this next phase.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wells Fargo's Secret about Overdraft Protection

Now that I have bills to pay, two things have happened. First, I started using Wells Fargo's online banking's bill pay feature. Second, I wrote a check for more money than I had in my checking account. Oops. I had the money, it was just in my savings account. I forgot to check the amount of money in my checking account.

Anyway, let me show you what Wells Fargo has to say about "What is the fee for using Overdraft Protection" (and I use my credit card, so I will only show that portion):
When there are insufficient funds in your account to cover a check, withdrawal, or automatic payment that you have authorized, and you have Overdraft Protection, we pay the Item and charge you an overdraft protection transfer/advance fee.

One overdraft protection advance fee will be assessed each day your credit card provides Overdraft Protection, regardless of the number of items that post to the account. The fee is dependent on the total amount of the advance:
  • $10 if the total of Overdraft Protection advances for the day is less than $25.00.

  • $12.50 if the total of Overdraft Protection advances for the day is $25.01 - $100.00.

  • $15.00 if the total of Overdraft Protection advances for the day is $100.01 - $500.00.

  • $20.00 if the total of Overdraft Protection advances for the day is more than $500.00.
We will transfer the exact dollar amount to cover the overdraft, subject to a minimum Overdraft Protection advance amount of $25.00. If the amount of available credit on your Card is less than $25.00, we will transfer the amount of the available credit.
In my situation, I was short about $12 and had plenty of credit. How much should I have been charged?

Now guess how much I was actually charged?

Wells Fargo charged me $10.28. What Wells Fargo never told me about overdraft protection is that they charge me interest when they loan me my own credit and that interest starts accumulating immediately. What a scam! If I pay with my credit card directly, I do not have to pay interest for about 30 days. Since I did not pay off any of my credit card charges until the normal due date about 14 days later, I accumulated 28 cents interest on the $10 that I owed Wells Fargo.

No one at Wells Fargo never told me about this. All they ever say about overdraft protection is "it is a free service that will only cost you a once-a-day fee when you use it". Then, if you read this amazing story, you will start to think that the workings of overdraft protection are a secret even to Wells Fargo (or at least those that interact with customers).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

China's Deception

China: Chinese people fully enjoy the freedom of speech...

Tyson: Wait...excuse me, China...is that really true?

China: No, because you didn't let me finish my sentence.

Tyson: Oh, sorry. Please continue.

China: Chinese people fully enjoy the freedom of speech and have immediate access to adequate information in accordance with law.

Tyson: Are you finished? Is that the whole sentence?

China: Yes, basically.

Tyson: Oh, I see. So the Chinese people don't actually have any free speech then because you have a law that essentially says "no one can say anything unless we approve of it", correct?

China: Well, yes...but that does not sound as good as the way we stated it.

Tyson: Right...

(Source: ars technica on China, US vie for mantle of world's biggest hacking victim)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy is Almost a Dictator

While reading this ars technica story about Italy wanting to bring the effective banhammar on user generated content websites, I read the following paragraph:
As PBS show Wide Angle pointed out way back in 2003, "It is difficult to overstate the influence [Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi has on everyday Italian life. Besides running the country, he also enjoys direct and indirect control over 90 percent of national television, he has built up Italy's biggest publishing house, controls its biggest film distribution network, and has major interests in the financial services and real estate sectors."
This guy is everything but "The Dictator of Italy".

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Geek Speak

Philip Guo is a Ph.D. student in computer Science at Stanford University (which is one of the best CS graduate schools in the nation). Even though he is probably a geek, he was able to explain why geeks (of which I am one) have so much difficulty conversing with non-geeks.

Read his blog post called "Geek behaviors present during conversations" to understand why you don't like talking to me :(