I finally had a chance to post some photos from our trip to Taiwan earlier this year. You may recall that we were in Taiwan just over a year ago, and had a wonderful trip then. Our friends there got engaged in the intervening time, and we were happy to take another trip over for the wedding. (As a side note, this is the first of eight weddings we’re invited to this year, four of which are international! Yikes!)

I went a few days before Dina for some bachelor party fun — a deep-sea fishing trip off the coast of Taiwan to a tiny little island in the Penghu Archipelago.

Dave, Abe and Brian

Back in Taipei after the wedding, Dina and I had a chance to see some dragon boat races on the river, and of course we ate tons of dumplings.

Dragon Boat Race Panorama

We also had a great time visiting our favorite hot springs resort in Beitou, which left us relaxed and happy:

Post-hot springs

The full set of photos, including a few from our trip through Seattle on our way home, is up here.

posted July 19, 2014 – 8:39 am

With more and more information surfacing every day about the breadth and depth of the NSA spying programs, it’s hard not to be a little depressed about it. The latest — a report about the Muslim-Americans targeted for surveillance — reminded me about the disparity between the approval rate for search warrants of the FISA court versus a regular court.

FISC has rejected only 12 out of 35,333 requests for surveillance over about 35 years (data from 1979 thru 2013). It’s actually a little hard to find data on how many applications for search warrants are rejected in general, but this book quotes a study that calculated the rejection rate for search warrants over several municipalities to be around 8%. Compare that to the 0.03% rejection rate of the FISC. Do we really think the NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. are 250 times better at crafting requests? Hardly likely, and these FISC warrants are extra hard to challenge in court, since the government claims our national security would be gravely damaged if the targets of such searches were allowed to know anything about them. Given this and everything else we’ve learned of late, any claims of real government oversight over these programs are laughable at best, and criminal at worst (but don’t hold your breath on the latter).

The latest from the Supreme Court sounds to me an awful lot like they’re condoning what amounts to a line-item-veto of laws and tax provisions based on “religious beliefs” — Hobby Lobby objected only to providing birth control (and a particular kind, at that), not health insurance in general. So perhaps we should all reduce our tax payments by about 1.6% this year because of our strongly held beliefs against illegal surveillance, immoral parallel construction, etc.? (Based on a reported 56 billion dollar budget for spying and a 3.45 trillion dollar budget overall.)

posted July 9, 2014 – 11:10 am
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