Driving while yakking bans make how much difference?

Today I feel a little vindicated. Now let me be a little freer tomorrow, please -- but I know better than to hold my breath. According to this article, cellphone bans reduce the use of cellphones while driving but they make no difference to the accident rate. Well-intentioned law, disappointing results.

I was discussing this with a co-worker in a hallway this week and s/he implied that the wholesale ban on cellphone use is an unavoidable expansion of a wish to ban reading and writing text (SMS or e-mail) while driving. While these things weren't on your phone, a ban was unlikely. Now that they are (not to mention music, games, streaming and stored video, etc.), they can't just ban some hand-held activities, they've gotta ban them all.

Is the law really as coarse-grained as all that? I've often said that laws will always get something wrong because they're unavoidably using a large brush: you can't paint the Sistine Chapel with a tool made for a "lick of paint". But a grain this coarse? I wouldn't have believed it. If anyone knows about this, I'd appreciate hearing from a horse's mouth.

This co-worker went so far as to say that police (in BC) will not be ticketing people who are talking on phones, only those they see holding them and staring into them. I don't plan to tempt that differentiation (and I suggest nobody else do so, either) but I am intrigued. And I still say the law is unjust so long as there isn't some kind of exemption for people travelling at less than some threshold (I'd suggest 40km/h, but I could live with a lower figure) in a traffic line-up.


Google facing censorship in China

When I read this blog entry from google about a change to their policy in China referred from the Register. I wondered aloud about how this would play out: how big is Google in China. Here's a Chinese guy's opinion: not too much.


Some programming links and Haiku 22

This morning on Hacker News, an item called Three blog posts I'd love to read (and one that I wouldn't) caught my eye. Of course, the article was more interesting than the posts about it. The three wanted blog posts were
  1. What I learned from Language X that makes me a better programmer when I use Language Y
  2. Something surprising that you probably wouldn't guess about Language X from reading blog posts
  3. My personal transformation about Idea X
The unwanted post was "Here's why such and such [is truly lame]."

But it wasn't the article that got my attention so much as the follow-on conversation. Don't get me wrong. The article mentioned a couple of books that I think I'm going to want to take a look at some time (The Little MLer and The Seasoned Schemer) but the follow-ons to point one were interesting:

What I Learned from Haskell that improved my C++ was of special interest. Recently, I watched a couple of videos about Haskell from Channel9 (you don't have to install Silverlight to watch them) by Erik Meijer and some of the functional aspects of Haskell and Erlang seem really interesting, especially immutability and how that enables parallel evaluation.

I've also used Python here and there -- even using it to teach programming to my sons, so "How learning Python made me a better C++ programmer" was also really interesting. His contribution was a change in orientation towards using templates and boost. There was a commenter who echoed the prejudice I've seen (and complied with, to the point of echoing) at my current job against using Boost, too. The very next comment was a good balance point. Some of these prejudices made sense once upon a time, but it seems to me that the compilers have gotten a lot better than they used to be.

Jamie Bullock's follow-on to this second article (although the link mentioned on ginstrom didn't work well) was also interesting: "What I learned from Python that makes me a better programmer when I use C". Both of his comments, on readability and on better algorithms, are things that are also worth remembering.

But a Blog post should be about more than pointing at other people's words. So let me finish off with yet another Haiku:

Others can teach you
More about your field than might
At first glimpse seem clear


Thanks for Speaking Up

(cc to my own MP: the Hon. Mark Warawa, MP for Langley
and to the responding cabinet minister: the Hon. Tony Clement)

Hello Mr. Angus,

I was reading one of my usual sources of news, this morning and I came across this piece which included a link to an exchange between yourself and the Hon. Tony Clement. I wish my own MP had the fortitude to stand up to his own party on this issue. Failing that, I wish some other candidate who had the courage to speak up thus had a ghost of a hope of unseating him. You may not be my MP but on the subject of Copyright Law and the insidious ACTA-inspired legislation that keeps trying to get through the Canadian parliament (in the face of a mix of strong opposition and apathy) you are representing me and my interests, along with the interests of younger Canadians everywhere, just fine. Keep up the good work.

The derisive and dismissive way in which Mr. Clement referred to Michael Geist's columns in response, not dealing substantively with any of the issues Mr. Geist raises, reflects badly on the competence of the minister and on the openness of whatever process he claims to have pursued with Canadians.

I have little hope, ultimately, that this bill will be prevented from passing. On issue after issue, at level after level (provincially, federally and even municipally) I feel less and less that our forms of government are "by the people", that they are devolving into more and more autocracy, are more and more controlled by not-even-Canadian moneyed interests. I am pretty sure that the big legislative battles on this issue have to be fought and won elsewhere, ultimately, but how I wish it were otherwise. I can see my liberties slipping away one after another and I am sad that my children and grandchildren will be less free than my parents were and they won't even know what they're missing.

Keep up the good fight and inspire some of your colleagues, regardless of party affiliation to do the same.


Arthur N. Klassen


Pulling over to place a call

Well... we have the latest Nanny-State law in place and I'll obey it. No more cellphone talking while driving. What a stupidly intrusive law.

I know. I know. I'm flying in the face of "best informed opinion". I agree with parts of BC's law, anyways: texting (even reading texts!) while driving actually is mad. And I'll agree that there are drivers who shouldn't drive while talking. Most of them shouldn't drive while breathing either, not to mention that I've seen them drive while applying makeup, while reading the newspaper, while drinking coffee and eating a hamburger -- and sometimes all at once, too! Apparently other things have been seen in the driver's seat, still more absorbing than that.

If you think I'm being a pig-headed fool, let me show you where the oinker-faces really are: when I'm stuck in a rush hour lineup, to tell me that I shouldn't talk on my cellphone even then, that's pig-headed. That's tyrannical. This law shouldn't even have been considered before the invention of Star Trek transporter technology or at least before the absolute banishment of rush hour lineups -- or at the very least, there should be a rider added that says if you're in a stop-and-go traffic area that doesn't exceed 40km/h or whatever... get my drift? I know I haven't a hope in asking for the outright repeal of this invasion of my freedoms, I'm only asking to be trusted to act responsibly in managing my otherwise less than manageable schedule in the use of a cellphone during unavoidable delays.

But today I feel a bit like I'm going to get a bit of my own back. I've hit on a small piece of civil disobedience to go along with my unwilling compliance to this restriction on my freedoms. If I need to stop to use my phone and there's a fire hydrant by the road, that's where I'll do it. I won't park in front of a fire hydrant -- no, that would represent a safety risk in case of a fire in the area, not to mention that it'll draw a ticket -- and my suggesting that you should do any such thing would be counseling to commit offenses, also something I don't want to do. I'll only stop there. If I'm not parking, only stopping for a brief chat on the phone, I don't see how that should be citable. Still, I'll keep my ear open for approaching fire trucks (and ticket writers) while I'm doing it.

So, if you have a stupid law like this in your jurisdiction, why not consider doing the same thing.