April 23, 2013

The Boston Lockdown; or, Don’t Judge a Cop by His Tactical Gear

Filed under: Greater Boston, Newton, Politics — marcstober @ 9:39 pm

I got upset on Twitter at a couple points during the great “Boston Lockdown,” mostly because I was just anxious about everything going on and and easy to upset. But, specifically, I got upset at posts I thought were implying that the scale of the police operation was some sort of misuse of police power.

Here are some things I observed on Friday:

Traffic continued all day on Route 9, a major but not limited-access highway at the end of my street.

I heard on the police scanner feeds that I found on the Internet officers escorting someone back to their home in Watertown to get medicine, and trying to figure out how close they could get a bus to pick up a disabled resident. I heard a request for less-than-lethal shotguns, which was interesting both because they weren’t just using lethal weapons, but also because they’ve gotten rid of the term “non-lethal” since that’s not always the case (as Boston police know from an incident a few years ago). At the end of the day (and I was probably listening to State Police channel separate from the FBI who actually made the arrest) I heard the caution they were taking to get the suspect in custody without anyone else getting hurt.

We received a reverse 911 call advising us to “shelter in place.” It seemed like the prudent thing to do. But it was not a threat, and I don’t think anyone who really needed to get any place couldn’t, except for a specific neighborhood in Watertown.

And, the bottom line is that no one else was hurt after the initial shoot-outs. And no one was arrested (that I’ve heard of).

As far as the enormous deployment of assets including SWAT and military response, well, that’s just how they do things. On a smaller scale, if you call to report a fire, you can’t ask them to only send one guy with a fire extinguisher; they’re going to send the engine and the ladder truck and probably police and EMS, and send them back when they’re not needed. And I’ve noticed that’s generally how emergency response agencies respond: deploy whatever assets you can just in case you need them. The alternative, I think, is to expect Andy Griffith backed up by Opie as all Mayberry needs to stay safe. But I don’t think that if this situation was, say, left to only actual Watertown officers to respond in their cruisers with old fashioned six shooters it would have had as good an outcome.

I’m not an anarchist. One of the great things about living in a democracy is that the police are here to protect us. And, it is a bit scary that to do so, they need to be able to respond with enough force that, if they misuse it, could take away our rights. I can think of cases, like the pepper spray incident during Occupy Oakland, or the NYPD’s treatment of protesters during the RNC, where, as a citizen of a democracy, I have some concern. But this was not one of those cases, and we should judge the police by their actions, not by what gear they come prepared with. This was exactly the situation we need strong law enforcement for and they deserve credit for a job well done.

October 24, 2009

You are not required to finish the work…

Filed under: Greater Boston, Judaism, Personal Blog — marcstober @ 10:57 pm

I received the following e-mail about a program from CJP. Working out in the suburbs, it’s not something I can attend, but I’d like to, as it’s on my favorite bit of wisdom:

The Genesis Forum, a free noontime adult learning program, features Rabbi Seth Farber at our next session on October 28. Rabbi Farber is a dynamic speaker whom the New York Times describes as a “pragmatic idealist.” Formerly of Boston, Rabbi Farber now directs Itim: The Jewish Life Information Center in Israel. Together we’ll explore the modern day ramifications of Rabbi Tarfon’s ancient teaching, “You are not required to finish the work, nor are you free to desist from it.”

All sessions held from 12:00 – 1:15 p.m.
9th floor of CJP
126 High Street, Boston

I’ve pretty much adopted “you are not required to finish the work, nor are you free to desist from it” as my philosophy of life, in secular matters even more than religious ones. I see it meaning “leave the world a bit better than you found it.” Or more specifically, as I wrote in my Facebook profile, “Repairing the world, one byte at a time.” Not just fixing software bugs, but “repairing the world” in a Lurianic sense. Get it?

August 31, 2006

Human factors at the grocery store

Filed under: Greater Boston, Software Blog — marcstober @ 1:02 pm

Universal Hub points out some frustration about the credit-card devices at Shaws.

I remember that one day at the Allston store (I’m a software developer so I remember this stuff :)), everything was chaos because they weren’t taking debit cards, and taking credit cards required manual approval by swiping a special “magic” card after swiping your card (and they only had a couple such “magic” cards on the premises so managers were running from register to register to approve each transaction). Next time I shopped there, they had the new machines with the Yes/Enter button issues. I figure either their old vendor for some reason dropped them without notice, and they went with the first replacement they could find; or else this was a planned transition gone badly.

This issue, really, I think is not one of software but hardware (or the hardware/software relationship). Theoretically you can touch “Yes” on the touchscreen–I’ve actually gotten this to work before they started with the tape and notes–but the touchscreens are so flighty that it hardly ever reads your response (or reads it as “No”), so the only reliable way to complete the transaction is to use the Enter button.

Stop & Shop is hardly better; while at least the button labels match the prompts, their units have a row of “soft keys” below the display and the prompt is formatted as if it’s asking you to touch the soft key below “Yes” rather than the “Yes” button on the bottom row of the keypad.

July 21, 2006

Shalom, Shalom Beijing

Filed under: Greater Boston, Judaism, Newton — marcstober @ 5:18 pm

Now that Shalom Beijing is closing its (kosher) doors I feel really bad that I never went there when we lived in Brookline. We were big fans of Chef Chow’s House which was a little closer, a lot more inviting from the outside, but of course not kosher. We kept say we should try Shalom Beijing but with a two year old (who might be mildly allergic to peanuts) trying new places is never really appealing.
On the other hand, a new Kosher chinese restaurant just opened in Newton near our new neighborhood! So maybe it’s just evidence of some demographic trend. Of course I’d rather a kosher butcher follows this trend–not only because I personally do buy kosher for cooking at home but because for everyone, carrying grocery is bags from the Butcherie without a parking lot is a lot more of a schlep than carrying Chinese leftovers!
I do like jabbett’s comment that when they changed from Shalom Hunan to Shalom Beijing they changed the meaning of Shalom from “Hello” to “Goodbye.” 🙂

June 16, 2006

Brookline Parking: The Last Straw

Filed under: Greater Boston — marcstober @ 2:44 pm

Just when I was starting to miss being able to walk to Trader Joes, Brookline decided to remind me why I didn’t want to live there. Due to Beacon Street construction, they closed the 10 hour meters that were within walking distance to Hannah’s daycare. So, there is nowhere to park where I can drive Hannah in and Cheryl can pick her up. I called town hall, and all they could offer was that there are still some 10 hours meter in Washington Square. I might as well have called the David Spade “NO” character in the Capital One ads. (Not that I blame the people who answer the phones at town hall, but rather the not-very-democratically elected officials who didn’t get the memo that the Jetsons was fiction, and we can’t just fold up our cars into briefcases. Can you believe they actually put up a sign about “please patronize businesses during construction” as if it would compensate for the lack of parking?) Fortunately Hannah is starting at a new daycare in about a week.