True Dog Lovers

Today we had workers in the house, so this morning I dropped Kasey off at our local dog-sitting service.  We arrived right after it opened up at 7 a.m. and were one of the first drop-offs.  A friendly young woman greeted Kasey by name, took her by the leash, and marched her to the back area, and I went off to work.

barking-dogsWhen I came back tonight to pick Kasey up at the end of the day, it was a different story.  I could hear the dogs barking while I was still out on the street.  It’s obvious the dogs had been riled up by the sound of the doorbell and buzzer that allowed dog owners to enter the locked facility, and they knew that their owners were going to be stopping by to pick them up.  With that knowledge, any rational canine would bark their brains out to make sure that their owners knew they were there are ready to leave, right?  Why take a chance that you’d be overlooked?

It was loud.  In fact, loud really doesn’t begin to capture the force and volume of the noise level in that closed facility.  Next to baby cries and fingernails on a chalkboard, dog barks are probably the sound most calculated to get human beings to sit up, pay attention, and then do whatever they can to stop the damned barking.  So think of a dog barking vigorously, and then multiply that by a hundred — or perhaps a thousand — to approximate jet engine levels.  And even with that massive wall of sound, I could hear Kasey’s distinctive hoarse bark.

I was grateful to get Kasey and get the heck out of there to let my eardrums recover.  I commend the nice young women who work there.  They must be true dog lovers.


Orange Bicycle

IMG_0796Yesterday Kasey and I were out for a walk when we encountered an orange bicycle chained to a traffic sign.  And when I say “orange,” I mean this bike was totally orange, from the seat to the frame to the tires to the brake lines, chain, spokes and pedals.  The only non-orange item was the black foam handlebar grips.

What’s the significance of a completely orange bicycle chained to a traffic sign?  These days, who knows?  It could be that the bike’s owner and rider just really likes orange — or maybe it’s some kind of weird advertising campaign for a new start-up tech company called Orange Bicycle.  Or maybe Orange Bicycle is the name for a rock band or a new beer; nowadays new high-tech companies, rock bands, and beer brands seem to draw from the same reservoir of abstract and improbable names.

Now that I think of it, Orange Bicycle would be a pretty good name for a rock band.

The FBI Director And His Webcam

The FBI has taken a strong stance on the ability of law enforcement and anti-terrorism concerns to trump individual privacy interests.  Its position on requiring Apple to develop a back door through its iPhone encryption protection is just part of a larger concern about privacy advocates hampering the FBI’s ability to catch crooks and killers.

The FBI Director, James Comey, gave a speech this week at Kenyon College where he sounded many of those same themes.  But then he admitted that, on his personal laptop, he’s put a piece of black tape over the camera so no one can hack into his computer and watch him.  After all, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that somebody, somewhere, might want to watch you through your laptop camera — the FBI itself has developed surveillance software that apparently allows the agency to do just that.

hqdefaultThe notion that the director of the FBI is worried about surveillance on his laptop and put some black tape over his webcam has provoked a lot of reaction on social media, from privacy advocates gleefully saying “I told you so” to paranoid anti-government types seeing Comey’s admission as evidence that the FBI, the NSA, the CIA and the other members of the alphabet soup of American security agencies routinely spy on each other.  And it by  pretty ironic, when you think about it — and pretty funny that the anti-surveillance tool Comey decided to use is a simple strip of duct tape.

But Comey’s reaction also is instructive, and illustrates some apparent hypocrisy.  People who worry about their privacy and governmental overreach are chided for not helping to catch the bad guys and told that if they’ve done nothing wrong they’ve got nothing to worry about — but then even the FBI director takes a basic step to protect his own privacy against unwanted intrusion.  He thinks he hasn’t done anything wrong, and he doesn’t like the idea of somebody spying on him.  He might rationalize it as protection against hacking by a terrorist cell, or a rogue foreign government, rather than concern about surveillance by his own government, but the principle is the same.  If an unhackable iPhone might “hinder law enforcement” in certain circumstances, couldn’t a strip of black tape over a laptop webcam prove to be a hindrance at some point, too?

I’m with the privacy advocates on this one — and Comey’s own actions help to say why.