January 2005 Archives

What do you mean! Legislators don't have the answer to problems they don't even understand? How could this be?

Law Barring Junk E-Mail Allows a Flood Instead:

A year after a sweeping federal antispam law went into effect, there is more junk e-mail on the Internet than ever.

Since the Can Spam Act went into effect in January 2004, unsolicited junk e-mail on the Internet has come to total perhaps 80 percent or more of all e-mail sent, according to most measures. That is up from 50 percent to 60 percent of all e-mail before the law went into effect.

To some antispam crusaders, the surge comes as no surprise. They had long argued that the law would make the spam problem worse by effectively giving bulk advertisers permission to send junk e-mail as long as they followed certain rules.

“Can Spam legalized spamming itself,” said Steve Linford, the founder of the Spamhaus Project, a London organization that is one of the leading groups intent on eliminating junk e-mail. And in making spam legal, he said, the new rules also invited flouting by those intent on being outlaws.

Here's my suggestion: all bills passed by legislative fiat have an expiration date built in. I think the less that any particular Congress does, the better. Let them debate which bills to reinstate, and which to let lapse. I realize some bills already have an end date, but most don't. I should probably go to sleep now, and avoid more 'thinking' on an empty brain.....

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Apple Computer as Toyota

Amusing little article in Salon. It is most certainly true that more people are voicing their frustrations with the morass that is the Windows world - spyware, adware, a virus every other second, clunky design choices. Some people are 'swearing off' computers, etc. Will this ever translate to market share increases for Apple? Who knows. Would us Mac users even benefit from being the 800 gorilla? Does Michael Dell have any indie cred? I personally have given up trying to convince people that Macs are better, it is ultimately a futile argument. I just won't help Windows peoples with their computers. I don't hate my XP machine, it's a useful tool sometimes, with different software options, but if I have a choice, I'm always buying an Apple machine. But if you don't care about elegance in your operating systems, that's fine too.
Salon.com Technology | Hallelujah, the Mac is back:
The landscape of the personal computer market has altered. In recent years, the home computer has increasingly become a digital entertainment center; people use it for the Web, they use it for e-mail, and they use it for photos, movies and music.

The Mac is not just good at these few tasks: It's the best there is. There's simply no arguing that Apple's built-in software and operating system make for the single most powerful photo, music and movie system you can buy.

But the things that the Mac is good at make up just one part of the story. There's a flip side -- the increasingly obvious failings of PCs running Microsoft Windows. Among Windows users, there's a rising feeling -- accounted for mostly by anecdotes and not all that well-measured, but nevertheless important -- that the system is becoming too hard to maintain. Talk to experts at computer security firms and they'll give you some pretty scary straight talk about how spyware, adware and viruses are just killing the user experience on an ordinary Windows PC.

It's not unusual for people to throw out their year-old Windows computers because they've become just too clogged with bad junk, says Richard Stiennon, vice president of threat research at the anti-spyware firm Webroot. The Mac, in contrast, simply doesn't suffer such afflictions.

David Gelernter, a computer scientist and tech visionary at Yale, likens today's PC market to the American automobile market of the early 1970s. At the time, Americans were buying American-made junk -- and because they didn't know any better, they were putting up with the junk. “So what happened?” Gelernter asks. “What happened was that Japan started exporting huge numbers of Hondas and Toyotas, and people saw that for a reasonable price they could buy a car that didn't fall apart in two weeks. When you picked it up at the dealer all the parts were in it, the whole thing worked. Until that happened, people were satisfied with the garbage they were getting from Detroit.”
But the main reason that the Mac Mini may find more success in the Windows world than the iMac did is that these days, the Windows world isn't doing too well. There are about 100,000 known pieces of “malware” -- viruses, worms and Trojan horses -- targeted at the Windows operating system, says Vincent Weafer, a computer security expert at Symantec. In addition, there are between 40,000 and 100,000 individual bits of spyware (defined broadly) aimed at the OS. Weafer says that by all accounts, the spyware problem reached a fever pitch during the past year. “Judging by submissions and support calls, it was getting a lot worse,” he says. “We are also seeing a trend where a subset of the programs are becoming a lot more viruslike -- to hide themselves on your machine, they're using methods like viruses to try to become more persistent.” Some people calling Symantec looking for answers to their spyware and virus problems are just beyond help, Weafer says. “They've tried many different things and it doesn't help. They'll end up reinstalling or cleaning it out or buying a new one -- a lot of this stuff is just so deeply embedded, it becomes more and more difficult to get rid of the gunk, the sludge at the bottom of your machine.” Compared to Windows, the Mac is a Fort Knox of security. There are only about 200 pieces of malware known to attack the Mac platform, and security analysts could not identify a single instance -- not one -- of spyware aimed at the Mac. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the Macintosh operating system is inherently more secure than the Windows platform. As a technical matter, the Mac operating system, which is based on Unix, has a much smaller “surface area” for attackers to target, Stiennon says. Windows, by contrast, “is a really dirty OS that requires thousands of system calls to do simple functions -- and every single system call is an opportunity” for an attacker to get at the system, Stiennon explains.
There's more, get a day pass to read it yourself.

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Corruption continues unabated

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Sounds like the Gov-ajobavich got caught with a hand in the proverbial cookie tub. Not that anyone would be surprised. A Tribune analysis of state records shows

that more than one quarter of individuals and businesses that have contributed at least $50,000 to Blagojevich have also received state business during his first term in office.

Many, though not all, of those contractors did state business before Blagojevich. Still, there was no letup in their campaign giving when the new governor took office, despite his pledge to change “business as usual” in a state government.

Nevertheless, Blagojevich has been prolific when it comes to tapping not just state vendors but a wide variety of sources for campaign cash. In just four years, he raised $36.4 million. That amount is expected to shoot up dramatically on Monday when his campaign is required by law to release new data showing how much he raised in the last six months of 2004.

As part of its examination, the Tribune also looked at a subset of state contracts known as “professional and artistic” that are not always subjected to the bidding process.

During the 12-month period that ended June 30, at least 38 of the 51 businesses awarded professional and artistic contracts worth $3 million from agencies closely linked to the governor's office had also donated.

The professional and artistic contracts reviewed were with the governor's office, Bureau of the Budget, Capital Development Board, Office of the Inspector General and the Departments of Central Management Services, Commerce and Economic Opportunity, State Lottery and Transportation.

Political connections have long been part of government contracting, but Illinois is especially fertile ground for manipulation because there are virtually no limits on campaign donations.

“The appearance is just as corrosive as the reality,” said Kent Redfield, a professor of political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “The more times the public sees linkages, whatever the reason for linkages, that increases their cynicism.”

Yowsa, you know that's right. Color me cynical.

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For some reason, I cannot remember the exact wording of this phrase, even though it should be a clause in every contract/term of agreement I work on...

Survival of Certain Provisions: The payment, indemnification and confidentiality obligations set forth in the Agreement shall survive the termination of the Agreement by either party for any reason. This agreement shall be binding on and shall inure to the benefit of the successors, assigns and representatives of xxx and yyy.

I am so looking forward to Tiger, since finding text contained in some document on some hard drive should become much easier, per the Apple marketing hype anyway.

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SBC still sucks

Seeing all the news about SBC buying up whatever parts of the phone world it doesn't already own reminds me how much I despised SBC when I was unfortunate enough to be a customer.

I'm guessing that some of the 'savings' that the business press is prattling about will be in customer service reps and in technicians (fire the old timers, and replace with young guys who have no experience)

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Rasheed for DNC Chair!

Screw Howard Dean, how about Rasheed Wallace?

From the FreePress:

What will Rasheed Wallace and President George W. Bush talk about when the Pistons visit the White House at 3 p.m. today? Foreign policy? Defense strategy? Try nothing.

When asked what he would say to the president, Wallace said: “I don't have shit to say to him. I didn't vote for him. It's just something we have to do.”

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Kerry blames defeat on Bin Laden

Somehow, I don't think this really was why a sleep-inducing middle-of-the road corporate Democrat couldn't beat the worst President in recent memory. Perhaps Bin Laden is really a Karl Rove construct? or was captured years ago, and is in some hypnotic state. Who knows.

Kerry blames defeat on Bin Laden:
US Democratic Senator John Kerry says Osama Bin Laden's video aided his defeat in the 2004 presidential race.


Note to IE windows users

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Briefly, if you use Internet Explorer to visit this site, there seems to be some problems with the main index page displaying properly, particularly the left sidebar. Our crack staff is hard at work trying to figure out how to convince all of you to start using a more modern browser like Safari or Firefox attempting to fix this issue.


update, thanks to kind help from Bruce21, this might be fixed. I did have an extra div tag after all! Doh!

A World's Fair Mystery

I just finished reading Erik Larson's great book, Devil in the White City and have been planning a summer excursion to the various sites still extant in Chicago (see this list), and now there's a video game set in the same locale. Strange thing, synchronicity.

The Goods: A Game With a Low Body Count:

Peter Nepstad, a former technology trainer at Arthur Andersen, the firm most recently known as Enron's auditor. Like many other professionals who had nothing to do with the Enron mess, Mr. Nepstad was let go when Andersen collapsed in 2002.

But buoyed by his severance pay, Mr. Nepstad spent eight jobless months completing “1893: A World's Fair Mystery,” a “text adventure” game set at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Like some of the earliest hits of the personal-computer era, including “Zork” and “Planetfall,” his game is devoid of animated graphics. That means the main character's actions are controlled by typed commands like “go north” or “examine glass,” not by a joystick or a mouse....
Mr. Nepstad, an amateur historian and a longtime Chicago resident, was inspired to create “1893” after hearing of a text adventure set in turn-of-the-century New York. He started designing his game in 1999. Sketching out the story line - a diamond theft at the Chicago fair, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage - was the easy part. Much harder was the research into the fairgrounds' layout. Mr. Nepstad spent many hours squinting into a microfiche reader at the Chicago Public Library, reviewing old articles from Scientific American.

“Out of the hundreds and hundreds of exhibits in each building, I had to pick the 10 or 20 that a player would be most interested in exploring,” Mr. Nepstad said. “In the agricultural building, there were 100 different kinds of plows. That wasn't very interesting.” Instead, he wrapped the plot around oddities like the knight on horseback that was the star attraction of the California agricultural exhibit (and was made entirely from prunes). Or the machine-gun exhibit from Germany that foreshadowed the mayhem of World War I
What Mr. Nepstad initially didn't understand was how to market the game, which retails for $19.95. When it was released two years ago, he envisioned at least marginal interest from video game retailers. “That turned out to be, uh, not so much,” he said. And he couldn't convert positive reviews from game magazines into many online sales at his Web site, illuminatedlantern.com/1893.

So Mr. Nepstad turned to Plan B: selling the game in museum shops, where it could be displayed as a quasi-educational tool about Chicago history. He also engaged in a bit of guerrilla marketing, printing a bevy of “1893” bookmarks and distributing them to bookstores carrying “The Devil in the White City,” a National Book Award nominee by Erik Larson; its story also takes place at the Chicago fair. Mr. Nepstad said he slipped bookmarks into hundreds of copies of the novel.

MORE than 2,000 copies of “1893” have been sold. That is just 0.084 percent of the sales that “Halo 2,” a smash Xbox game, rang up in its first 24 hours on the market. But “1893” is still a hit by text-adventure standards, and Mr. Nepstad, who now works at Kirkland & Ellis, the law firm, says he has already broken even.

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Sarah and Sean's Wedding site

My cuz's upcoming wedding has a web site. Check it, especially if you plan to be in Austin around Passover this year.....


Get a Mac, part 3432

How much ink was used to promote SP2? How many journalists were feted? Crazy, crazy amounts. And yet, here we are, less than 6 months later, and there is another major security flaw. So, when's Longhorn coming out again?

Report: Major Windows security update foiled | CNET News.com:
A Russian security company claims it found a way to beat a security measure in Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2, a major update aimed at securing customers' PCs.

The SP2 measure, known as Data Execution Protection, is intended to prevent would-be attackers from inserting rogue code into a PC's memory and tricking Windows into running the program. However, in a paper published Friday, Moscow-based Positive Technologies said two minor mistakes in the implementation of the technology allow a knowledgeable programmer to sidestep the protection.

The company notified Microsoft of the problem Dec. 22, but it apparently decided not to wait for the software giant to patch the flaws.

Marley as we've never seen him before

RAS herb mon!

Guardian Unlimited | Arts news | Bob Marley as we've never seen him before: Still silent and watching, the photograph is the private Bob Marley, glimpsed for a stolen moment before he takes the stage in full cry. The picture, shot by photographer Dan Asher during rehearsals for a concert in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1976, was thought to have been destroyed in a house fire until it was rediscovered 20 years later in an attic.

It is among 102 rarely or never before seen images taken by Asher, Jeff Cathrow and Kate Simon which will go on display from Friday at the Sony Ericsson Proud Camden Gallery in north London, marking this year's 60th anniversary of the birth of the king of reggae.

Speaking from New York, Asher recalled taking the picture of Marley in a quiet moment, standing with his back to a mirror. 'I don't think he's exactly pissed off, but he's not that happy about it either,' he recalled. 'He was very photogenic and had an aura about him.'

After Marley's death aged 36 from cancer in 1981Asher donated his negatives for a book, Bob Marley - Reggae King of the World, only for them to disappear. Then last year one of the authors was going through old files and found the negatives in an envelope. 'I got most of the black-and-white photos back, but not the colour. Some where he's practising kung fu are still missing.'

The exhibition's title, Tek a Picture a' Dis, derives from a meeting between the marijuana-smoking Marley and Cathrow, who photographed and interviewed him regularly. In 1978 he presented the star with a gift of home-grown sinsemilla buds, to which Marley replied: 'Ya grow some RAS herb, mon! Here, tek a picture a' dis, mon! Tek a picture a' dis!' Few of Cathrow's intimate images have ever been seen before.

what the heck is RAS herb? I thought it made you mad!

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Speech, brotha, Speech!

I don't know how long this has been an option, but in System Preference, Speech, there is a preference to 'speak highlighted text' when a keyboard shortcut of your choice is pressed. I foresee minutes of hilarity to ensue, especially when I'm composing entries for public consumption.

David Wevill,
a poetry professor I studied with for two semesters, always encouraged students to read aloud while composing. The internal rhythm of the line benefits with proper cadence.

Fred may help me.
(click for larger version)

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Ahh, yes. Reefer Madness. I've heard of this affliction. One puff of the evil herb, and one becomes a serial killer, rapist, and worse.

Charity calls for cannabis study:
A mental health charity is calling for a government inquiry into the link between cannabis and mental illness.
... Campaigner Terry Hammond says his son, Steve, developed schizophrenia after taking cannabis resin.

“I have got absolutely no doubt at all, and neither has Steve - Steve is absolutely clear about it - that it was the cannabis that triggered it.

”It may not have been the absolute cause of it, but it was the trigger.

“It is Russian roulette,” he said. “For some people it can ease pain, but for others it can be an absolute disaster.”

And, a voice of reason...

Steve Barker, of the Campaign to Legalise Cannabis Association, said that by prohibiting cannabis it was preventing information about its use being readily available, while cannabis could in fact aid those with medical problems.

“There is a larger proportion of people with mental health problems who claim cannabis reduces their symptoms than those for whom it is a problem,” he said.

“To criminalise people and to put them though the criminal justice system rather than give them the medical support they need is completely wrong.”

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CTA brown line closures

Yikes, I bet I'll forget about which one is closed, and plan to go somewhere, and then end up walking extra blocks, and missing my appointment. I'm glad I don't have to use the Brown line as much as I used to.

Yikes The Chicago Transit Authority said Friday that higher-than-expected construction costs will require the temporary closing of 15 Brown Line stations when the century-old rail route is overhauled over the next five years. ... The Brown Line station closings, which will range from six weekends at several stations to up to a year at others, would begin after September, said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney. She said the exact staging of the station closings hasn't yet been coordinated...

Under the CTA plan, the Armitage, Sedgwick and Chicago Avenue stations will remain open on weekdays, but they will close concurrently for up to six weekends.

Brown Line stations at Damen, Montrose, Irving Park, Addison, Paulina, Southport, Wellington and Diversey will be closed temporarily on weekdays and weekends, although no adjacent stations will be closed at the same time, the CTA said.

Two types of closings will go into effect at the Kimball, Kedzie, Francisco and Rockwell stations. The stations will have temporary closings on weekdays and weekends, with no adjacent stations closed simultaneously. In addition, CTA officials said it will be necessary to concurrently close all four stations for up to 10 weekends.

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A poor man's Slacker, but amusing nonetheless.

Shipped: Clerks:

Shipped on 01/28/05.

It's one wild day in the life of two overworked counter jockeys whose razor-sharp wit and on-the-job antics give a whole new meaning to customer service! Even while braving a nonstop parade of unpredictable shoppers, the clerks manage to play hockey on the roof, visit a funeral home and straighten out their offbeat love lives. With the boss nowhere in sight, you can bet anything can -- and will -- happen when these guys are left to run the store!


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SCLM mantra

Ambrose Bierce:
“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.”

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Rocket 88

News you can't use....

“Rocket 88”, a Rhythm_and_blues song from 1951 claimed by Sun_Records owner and pioneer Rock_and_roll Record_producer Sam_Phillips as “First_rock_and_roll_record”.

The record was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, but the band did not actually exist. The song was written by Ike_Turner and recorded by him with his band, the Kings_of_Rhythm. Brenston (1930-1979) was a saxophonist with Turner and also sang the vocal on “Rocket 88”, a hymn of praise to the joys of the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 automobile (see: Oldsmobile_88), which had just been introduced in 1949. Brenston also was given author credit not Turner; it is now agreed that Brenston's contribution was overstated for obscure, non-musical reasons.

Working from the raw material of Jump_blues and swing music, Turner made it even rawer, starting with a strongly stated Back_beat and superimposing Brenston's enthusiastic vocals and tenor saxophone solos by “Raymond” and Brenston. The song also features one of the first examples of distorted, or Fuzz_(electric_guitar) ever recorded. Reportedly, a speaker was damaged on Highway_61 when the band was driving from Mississippi to Memphis,_Tennessee but Phillips liked the sound and used it.

Great song. Lots of covers over the years, but Ike Turner is/was a guitar virtuoso.

“Roots of Rock N Roll: 1946-1954” (Various Artists)


Colette also was born today, Jan 28th.

She published around fifty novels in total, many have autobiographical elements and her themes can be roughly divided into idyllic natural tales or dark struggles in relationships and love. All her novels were marked by clever observation and dialogue with an intimate, explicit style.

If I could write dialogue as naturalistic as Colette, I'd be happy.


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Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollack, Jan 28

born today, Jan 28th. [Deleted long, rambling solipsistic anecdote, involving illicit substances and art museums]

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Tampopo hunts snow

Tampopo (yes, named after the movie, one of our faves), also known as The Pope, or the Schmope, loves snow storms. She hunts individual flakes for hours and hours through the comfort of the window (she isn't interested in actually going outside on the patio, too cold).


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More Chicago corruption, this time involving police and thieves (and drugs, natch). But as is so often the case, the ones that get caught are not very bright, or have bad luck....


A ring of corrupt police officers paired with drug dealers on the South Side allegedly staged traffic stops and tried to break into the homes of rival dealers to rob them of drugs, guns and cash, federal prosecutors alleged Thursday.

Only one of their four attempts worked, but the investigation into what authorities described as their often inept schemes led to nine arrests that include four veteran cops.

... Two of the officers involved--accused ringleader Broderick C. Jones and his frequent alleged accomplice Corey A. Flagg...The plans of the Chicago police officers and accomplices accused in this week's drug-conspiracy arrests began unraveling on July 21, when they allegedly tried to rob a quartet of drug dealers who--unbeknownst to the officers--were already under surveillance by undercover Chicago cops on another case, prosecutors said.

The drug cops called the internal affairs division, who in turn brought in the FBI, prosecutors said.

Jones had drawn the attention of undercover officers when they saw a Fraternal Order of Police sticker on his beige Cadillac Escalade before the attempted robbery of drug dealers under their surveillance, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said.

Jones' presence on the street that July struck them because Jones, 34, had been on desk duty and stripped of police powers, accused of helping a shooting suspect escape arrest in 2003, according to prosecutors' 111-page corruption complaint filed in U.S. District Court Wednesday.

Police and federal prosecutors allege that Jones had acted as the drug conspiracy's main organizer since at least last summer, recruiting police officers to help rob drug dealers singled out by Jones' co-conspirator, alleged drug dealer Joseph E. Wilson.

Besides Wilson, 57, of Matteson, also charged were Jones' fellow officers Flagg, 34, an eight-year veteran; Eural J. Black, 41, who spent 13 years on the force; and Darek A. Haynes, 35, a Chicago police officer for nine years.

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Sibel Edwards

briefly, from

Air America Radio :

Sibel Edwards, a former F.B.I. translator who was hired shortly after September 11th to translate intelligence gathered over the previous years related to the 9/11 attacks gives hosts Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher inside information about the bureau.


LastFM/Audioscrobbler solipsism

As a last resort before doing some actual work, after reading all the NBA news of the day, and all the various news feeds in my news aggregator, I browse people's profiles on LastFM and/or AudioScrobbler. Sometimes I'll find new things to listen to, but really I'm just being nosy. Pop psychology or something. Conversely, I browse my own profile, which is usually generated in a most random tra-la-la way, such as (currently) by playing my library sorted by date added and then by album title (smart playlists in iTunes natch).

Music is such a pillar of my every day existence, I'm now glad I couldn't find a copy of Sonic Youth's Experimental Jet Set album on vinyl - forcing me to buy a CD player, and leading me down the MP3 path.

Most people have their own dictionary of what 'sounds good' and what is trash. I have a rather extensive tome, generously inclusive rather than harshly exclusive, and existing in parallel with my love of history and precedent, but I am in a distinct minority no doubt. I suppose people who go to the trouble to install the plugins necessary to upload to Last FM and AudioScrobbler are probably a smaller subset of the actual listening public, but nonetheless, seems like the majority of members tastes only go back as far as 1998, with a few classic rock and classic blues performers sprinkled like condiments, but not as the main course. Maybe I'm just cranky because I didn't get my nap today.

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Deanna Miesch

Speaking of Deanna Miesch, we found this object she made that I subsequently scanned. I'm not sure how the copyright works, but irregardless


I think it was part of her mural, Flatland, which was still unfinished in 1995 when I last saw her.

(definition of irregardless behind jump)

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Movable Type recently updated

Seems like theMovable Type Recently Updated blogroll is stuck for the last 24 hours or so, but stuck with B12 as an entry. Never gotten so many referrals from movabletype.org before. Ha.


Thousands Of Vioxx Lawsuits Possible

Gotta love that FDA....

Thousands Of Vioxx Lawsuits Possible:

The makers of Vioxx could eventually face lawsuits involving tens of thousands of people saying they were harmed by the now-defunct arthritis drug, lawyers said Thursday as a panel of federal judges met to consider consolidating the cases.

Lawyers who filed some of the hundreds of lawsuits against New Jersey-based Merck & Co. gathered here to ask a panel of seven federal judges to consolidate the cases for litigation in a single city.

The company said it has counted at least 1,400 plaintiff groups and at least 575 lawsuits alleging the drug for arthritis and acute pain caused medical problems such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney damage and gastrointestinal bleeding. Research by the Associated Press, however, identified at least 700 lawsuits.

Whatever the number, attorneys who have formed a well-organized group to attack Merck say it’s just the beginning.

“Right now we’re not seeing a huge number of filings because we’re still evaluating cases,” said Christopher Seeger. His New York-based firm, Seeger Weiss, has filed more than 100 Vioxx lawsuits in federal court and state court in New Jersey.

and you gotta love trial lawyers. Synergy, no doubt.

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Glove to Sac?

The Boston Globe speculates:

As far the NBA's worst kept trade secret, point guard Gary Payton figures he'll be on the move to another team in the next few weeks. He thinks the potential suitors are Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves.

I hope not. Gary Payton was exposed last year as being close to retirement, due to being beat off the dribble nearly every possession. Add that to a reputation as “locker room cancer”, and please Mr. Petrie, don't pull the trigger on a Payton trade. The Glove was a spectacular player in Seattle for many years, but those times are long gone.


Netflix RSS

Cool. Netflix offers a ton of RSS feeds, including several public lists


Netflix offers RSS feeds as a convenient way to pass information about your Netflix account or that is publicly available on the Netflix site to your RSS reader or an RSS-associated website of your choice.

like New Releases
Anime & Animation
Documentary, etc. and your own Queue and ship/received list.

Seems like an enterprising soul could work this into a script to place in a webpage sidebar....




can it be summertime already, by executive fiat?

From the Chicago Mag rag

Ricky Moore,... to head The Parrot Cage, a promising concept in the South Shore Cultural Center (7059 South Shore Dr.). When the restaurant opens early this summer, you can expect an “unpretentious” seasonal American menu with global influences—and outdoor dining with a panoramic view of the lake. “We are going to have herb gardens that I will personally tend with my staff,” says Moore, who, along with his partner, Bill Reynolds (provost of the Washburne Culinary Institute), is also planning a farmers’ market on location.

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From the Guardian UK, we read of Elvis Costello's latest venture

Elvis Costello to write opera about Hans Christian Andersen:
Elvis Costello has made a career out of confounding his fans. Now he looks likely to baffle audiences again - by writing an opera.
... Costello is preparing to write a piece of lyric theatre based on the life of Hans Christian Andersen. It will premiere at the Royal Danish Opera in October.

According to Henrik Engelbrecht, head of dramaturgy at the Royal Danish Opera: “We looked around the serious end of the rock scene for a person we thought could contribute to our art form. We very quickly came up with Elvis.

”We went to see him in Dublin with the idea of doing something about Hans Christian Andersen. We thought we would be teaching him about Andersen but he knew all about him.

“He already had a very operatic idea: that of a staged song cycle connected with the life of Andersen and actually about the writer's obsession with Jenny Lind [the Swedish soprano].

”There is an element of fiction: in Costello's version, Andersen has written Lind a number of secret arias (he was also something of an actor and composer) and the scenario is that he presents his pieces to her for the first time to sing.“

and the killer quote: words to live by:

The 50-year-old singer-songwriter has consistently expressed his unwillingness to be remembered for ”a handful of songs I wrote 25 years ago“. Or, more tersely: ”I don't give a fuck about being a rock'n'roll star. I just want to do the things that interest me.“

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From the WSJ's Walt Mossberg, we read of the revised GuruNet site, Answers.com

But now there is an entire search service devoted to providing direct answers to search queries. It is called Answers.com, and it is available at www.answers.com. Using a variety of reference sources, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, it generates a thoughtfully organized page of relevant information about your search query without requiring you to click on any further Web links.

Answers.com comes from GuruNet, an Israeli company that developed a little-known, but slick, reference utility called GuruNet a few years back. With GuruNet, when you held down the Alt key and clicked on any word on any screen on your computer, the program produced a tabbed window with definitions, encyclopedia articles, and other information related to the word. GuruNet also powers the reference section of the A9 search service.

Now, with Answers.com, the company has expanded its reference sources, added many more topics, and morphed GuruNet into a full-blown search service you can call up from any major Web browser. You can still get the old GuruNet functionality, which works without requiring you to start in a Web browser.

Answers, not links

seems interesting enough to give a whirl. Any web service that is accessible via keyboard shortcut is worth trying.

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Paul Valery

Amen, brotha.

Paul Valery:

“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”

“Paul Valery: An Anthology” (Paul Valery)

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Hey Hey EPA

How many kids have you killed today?

Report: Chlorine plants polluting fish with mercury:
Nine chlorine plants in the South and East pour at least eight tons of mercury into the environment each year -- a situation that demands federal action to force companies to convert to cleaner technology, activists said Wednesday. Environmentalists think the amount of mercury emitted by the plants may be even greater; the industry acknowledges that tons of the toxic metal are unaccounted for each year, though it does not believe that mercury is dumped into the environment.

Chlorine at the plants is made by pumping electrically charged salty water through a vat of mercury, a process devised more than 100 years ago. Environmentalists say these plants are a largely ignored and unchecked source of mercury pollution.

Mercury settles in waterways and accumulates in fish. In humans who eat those fish, the metal can cause neurological and developmental problems, particularly in fetuses and children.
For example, the companies said a plant in Muscle Shoals, Ala., emitted 1,757 pounds of mercury that year; another, in New Castle, Del., released 2,863 pounds.

But the environmentalists say these calculations may be wrong, because while the companies monitor the amount of mercury that goes out of their smokestacks, they merely estimate the amount that evaporates and leaves the factories through vents.

In addition, industry officials acknowledge that they cannot acount for an additional 30 tons a year. They say that it could be stuck in factory pipes, and they are trying to find it.

The environmentalists are skeptical. They think even more mercury is missing, pointing out that more mercury is delivered to the plants each year than is going out -- 65 tons more in 2000 alone, said Oceana's Jacqueline Savitz, co-author of the report.

and surprisingly (not), the EPA claims that all is hunky dory...

EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said the question of where all this mercury went is very important to her agency, but that the EPA's “best information indicates that the mercury is not being emitted into the air.”

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For some reason, I never noticed that NetNewsWire (I'm using 2.0b10 currently) has an option to change the custom style sheet (and 30 samples are included) for the individual article panel. Pretty neat, and enhances readability, but seems like the other panels should be integrated into the style sheet (either optionally, or always) too.


click for larger version


Sy Hersh's Pulitizer work continues

Can Mr. Hersh just get a Pulitzer already?

The New Yorker: THE COMING WARS by SEYMOUR M. HERSH What the Pentagon can now do in secret.
The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and cover operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way...
Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld’s responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books—free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) “The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the former high-level intelligence official said. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs”—the regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)

In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. “Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’” the former intelligence official told me. “But they say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there.”

Read more


Div tag

K notices that my left sidebar is FooBar. She uses MS IE at her job; apparently IE has a problem with hanging div tags. I may have fixed the problem, but cannot tell because IE might not be updating its cache. Or else, I still have a misplaced div tag somewhere. Doh!


Yet another example (here, and here, for instance) of a federal agency whose primary concern is the welfare of the industry it purportedly regulates....

Meat Packing Industry Criticized on Human Rights Grounds:
The nation's meat packing industry has such bad working conditions that it violates basic human and worker rights, said Human Rights Watch in a report issued Tuesday.
... In a report issued today, Human Rights Watch, often echoing Upton Sinclair's “The Jungle,” found that jobs in many beef, pork and poultry plants were so dangerous that the industry violated international agreements promising a safe workplace.

Noting that the industry's injury rate was three times that of private industry over all, the report describes plants where exhausted employees slice into carcasses at a frenzied pace hour after hour, often suffering injuries from a slip of the knife or from repeating the same motion more than 10,000 times a day. The report describes workers being asphyxiated by fumes and having their legs cut off and hands crushed.

“Meat packing is the most dangerous factory job in America,” said Lance Compa, the report's author. “Dangerous conditions are cheaper for companies - and the government does next to nothing.”
In his research, Mr. Compa, who is a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, focused on three companies: Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and Nebraska Beef. He spent more than a year preparing the report and based it on interviews with workers, company responses, regulatory reports, judicial rulings and court testimony.

“Nearly every worker interviewed for this report bore physical signs of a serious injury suffered from working in a meat or poultry plant,” the report said. “Meat and poultry industry employers set up the workplaces and practices that create these dangers, but they treat the resulting mayhem as a normal, natural part of the production process, not as what it is - repeated violations of international human rights standards.”

The report said that many companies pressured injured workers not to file worker compensation when they are injured as a way to save the companies money on medical bills and worker compensation payments.

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No on Gonzales

Personally, I don't see how any U.S. Senator, with any sense of obligation to the American principles of democracy (which eliminates a few of the man-on-dog quasi-humans right away), could support an Attorney General who believes that a Commander in Chief is above the law of the land.

Torture is also not a “right”, to be inflicted upon captives willy-nilly by their captors. Torture is a crime against humanity, and should never be allowed, under any circumstances.

Daily Kos :: No on Gonzales:

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.

As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Conventions, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions “quaint.”

I'm assuming that my two Senators, both liberals (Durbin/Obama), are voting against Gonzales. I'll confirm in writing however, as soon as the USPS can deliver my polemic.

Update: there are a lot of sites that agree Alberto Gonzales should never be Attorney General.

Sam's Wine Blog

Interesting addition to the ole' blogroll, via Gapersblock

Sam's Wine Blog:
Sam's Wine & Spirits has jumped on the blogging bandwagon. Case by Case is a new, twice-weekly blog by in-house writer and journalist Bill St. John, who also writes a column for Wine & Spirits Magazine (not affiliated with Sam's)....

Case by Case

Perhaps the most awesome name for a red wine grape, though, is Sangiovese. It comes from sanguis jovis, Latin for “the blood of Jove”—Zeus, Jupiter—so godliest of all the gods. Every other red grapevine must just wilt with chagrin.
Sangiovese is the building block for nearly all the red wine of Tuscany (right, and who besides an Italian would come up with such a mellifluous and operatic name like Sangiovese?). As with most grapes, however, good wine may come of it—or bad. A river of thin, overly acidic Sangiovese flows right out of Rome every year.

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MSNBC - When Mice Attack

Yikes! How does Google (and others) respond to these attacks? If continued unabated, this whole mode of advertising will collapse (and there will go my $.24 per diem!)

MSNBC - When Mice Attack :
Nehoray found that his site was getting lots of new visitors but unusually few paying customers. Nehoray (who prefers we don't name his company) analyzed his Internet logs and made an unsettling discovery. Someone—perhaps a competitor—had written a simple software program that relentlessly clicked on his ads, burning up his ad budget and pushing his links off the search sites by lunchtime each day. After spending weeks complaining to Google about the problem and getting a partial refund, he finally yanked the ads. “It was really bad,” he says, estimating that he lost $50,000 in potential business. “Nobody knows how to solve this problem.”
... Last month Google CFO George Reyes conceded that click fraud was a significant threat to his firm's burgeoning bottom line. “I think something has to be done about this really, really quickly, because I think, potentially, it threatens our business model,” he told an investors' conference.

hat tip to David Pogue for the link

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Study: Merck pressured Vioxx researcher

The bad press for Merck continues. And include the FDA in the controversy, because like so many federal agencies, consumer protection takes a back seat to 'helping' the very industries supposed to be supervised. I'm too lazy to google the statistics at the moment, but a large number of employees of federal agencies, upper management mostly, are hired from the ranks of corporate america (such as EPA hiring former chemical industry executives, etc.) Pathetic, yet a long standing practice.


Further fueling the controversy surrounding drug safety in the U.S., the American journal Archives of Internal Medicine joined a growing chorus of experts calling for a major overhaul of the way the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves and monitors new drugs.

“The FDA has become a little bit too beholden to the drug companies and is either unwilling, afraid or unable to get them to do the safety studies that need to get done once there's a signal that there may be a problem,” said Dr. Jerry Avorn of Harvard, who co-authored an editorial in Tuesday's issue of Archives.
Since the withdrawal of Vioxx, debate over the FDA's effectiveness in monitoring drug safety has continued unabated, leading many critics to call for significant reforms.

“The FDA had responsibility for regulating this drug, and they didn't do what they should have,” Graham said Monday in a telephone interview. “I believe the FDA ... views industry as its client and not the public, and that what happened with Vioxx is an example of that.”


Merck & Co. forced one of its researchers to remove her name from a study linking Vioxx to heart attacks, then criticized the findings before ultimately pulling the arthritis drug from the market last fall, two of the scientist's colleagues say.

“Even after funding and agreeing with the design of the study, Merck publicly discredited our findings,” Drs. Daniel Solomon and Jerry Avorn of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital wrote in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Merck spokeswoman Anita Larsen confirmed the company's action, saying Merck believed the study's conclusions “were not supported by the data.” The name removal came about six months before another study prompted the drugmaker to withdraw Vioxx, though the company began criticizing the findings in 2003, Solomon said.

The journal contains several studies about Vioxx and Celebrex, the once popular and heavily promoted painkillers advertised as stomach-friendly alternatives to aspirin. They are under congressional and regulatory scrutiny....

Meanwhile, the British medical journal [Lancet] is releasing a study on the heart dangers of Vioxx after withholding the report because the researcher said he had been threatened by his superiors at the FDA.

The study links Vioxx to between 88,000 and 140,000 excess cases of heart disease in the United States — a conclusion that has previously been disclosed.

Dr. David Graham, who works in the FDA's office of drug safety, claimed he was threatened with dismissal and said he asked the Lancet to withdraw the paper from publication in November. Earlier this month, the FDA agreed the study could be published.

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This might be a small obstacle to overcome for our bag advertising business.

City Ponders Ecology Tax for Grocery Bags (Reuters):
Reuters - San Francisco, which has long
prided itself on environmentally friendly policies, is debating
whether it should become the first U.S. city to tax grocery
bags to encourage recycling.


Final frontier

No comment necessary.

SnoreStop to Advertise on Neb. Man's Forehead (AP):

AP - A Web-page designer who auctioned off the use of his forehead for advertising space is cashing in. Andrew Fischer, who put his forehead advertising space for sale on e-Bay, received $37,375 to advertise the snoring remedy, SnoreStop.

Fischer will display the SnoreStop logo on his forehead for one month.

“I look forward to an enjoyable association with Andrew — a man who clearly has a head for business in every sense of the word,” SnoreStop CEO Christian de Rivel said.


10,000 visitors

Who woulda thunk it?


NBA columnists

Mark Cuban has an interesting take on my local NBA columnist, Sam Smith. I don't really pay attention to what Sam Smith writes about the Mavericks, but since quite a lot of Smith's columns deal with trade possibilities for the Bulls, I assume much of it is speculation, nothing more, nothing less.

David Aldridge still is one of the best NBA reporters, and ESPN.com was foolish to let him go.

Chad Ford on the other hand, just seems like a bit of dofus. I'm not a paid subscriber to ESPN, and have no intention of becoming one, especially if Ford and Bill Walton are the main 'draw'.

There is a new idiot on the sports scene - Blog Maverick - www.blogmaverick.com:

Sam Smith is still clueless. I got to speak to him face to face when we played in Chicago and told him so. It was a pleasure to do so. He didnt really argue when I suggested that he misleads people  into believing that what he writes is fact rather than his opinion. I guess I shouldnt be surprised. ...
There is another writer that I dont correspond with , or talk to, that has taken upon himself to write what he thinks Im thinking. The new moron in town is Chad Ford of ESPN.com

To think that ESPN let David Aldridge go for this. David Aldridge checked his facts. David Aldridge would email me in the middle of the night asking one last time if he had his facts correct, or if it was something that couldnt be commented on, to let you know what he was going with to make sure he got it right.

I remember one time David and I got into a disagreement about what fans thought about the game,its players and costs. I told him that I thought fans loved the game, and all he had to do was talk to them to find out. He did. He went and sat in the stands and talked to the customers of the NBA and asked them what they thought. When they told him they thought the game was fun and affordable, he wrote just that. With quotes from the fans.

So instead of a Aldridge, a reporter with great relationships around the NBA and access to information, they go with a guy, who at least in my case doesnt take the time to email me and ask. Its not like he cant find my email.

Its not a suprise. Like Sam Smith, he is just one of the guys who would rather not let facts get in the way.

The irony of it all, is that he writes for the ESPN Insider section of the website.The sad part is that ESPN.com charges for access to what he writes.  This guy is so far from the inside of whats going on, that ESPN should be embarrased to take subscription money from its members.

Oh, and Peter Vescey is fun to read. He does write for the NYPost, so gossip is part and parcel of their corporate mandate.

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The Gov

Blagojevich seems a little too-self serving, in that smarmy, born to be either a politician or a used-car salesman way. I did vote for him as a Congressman, but I cannot recall anything of substance he said or did. Richard Mell, on the other hand, is the kind of politician who gives Chicago a bad name. So I say lock them up in grain silo somewhere, and see who emerges.

Illinois Political Family Scratches Its Back, With Claws:

A statewide political feud has the public aghast, even as it slurps up every detail of a dynasty in dysfunction.

So perhaps it should have come as no surprise that a family dinner here could deteriorate into a statewide political feud - complete with a defiant governor, a father-in-law's emotional news conferences, criminal investigations by at least three agencies, and the public looking on aghast, but also slurping up every sorry detail of a political dynasty in dysfunction.

“What I've discovered since I've been governor is that there's a certain loneliness to this job,” Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich said in an interview. “There's a loneliness and a certain sadness because you have to isolate yourself to some extent. There are so many people who want so many different things from you.”

The trouble began at a family get-together over the Christmas weekend. There, Mr. Blagojevich (pronounced bloh-JOB-uh-vich) heard about a landfill operation that was said to be following dubious business practices. The landfill was run by a relative of the family of Richard Mell, a Chicago alderman who happens to be the governor's father-in-law.

Since then, a war has unfolded between Mr. Blagojevich, 48, who has worked to portray himself as a reformer of this state's sometimes corrupt political culture, and Mr. Mell, 66, a powerful ward boss from the city's Democratic establishment who guided Mr. Blagojevich into politics.

Mr. Mell, a colorful politician who is best remembered for climbing atop his city council desk to holler during a tumultuous 1987 debate over who should succeed the late Mayor Harold Washington, is hardly alone in finding himself entangled in a public clash with the governor.

Mr. Blagojevich's election in 2002 returned the governorship to the Democrats for the first time in 26 years, and with the party holding majorities in the state House and Senate some people assumed smooth times were ahead for Democrats all over the state.

But Mr. Blagojevich battled with Mr. Madigan, the speaker few people dare cross, over how to solve the state's budget crisis. And he opposed Mayor Daley's wish to bring a casino to Chicago.

The governor irritated some lawmakers downstate, who griped that he cared only for his big city and that he had not bothered to move from Chicago to the governor's mansion in Springfield. Some Chicago leaders were growing irritated, too, saying the governor left little room for compromise or even conversation.

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The most-excellent club (smoke-free) near my house, Rhythm suggests

“Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey”
January 14 -- March 10
Navy Pier IMAX Theatre
700 E. Grand Ave.

RHYTHM: Drumming, Live Music, Drinks
1108 W. Randolph St., Chicago * 312.492.6100

We might just do that....

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Web words

Ten years ago, or even in the late 90's, I would have never suspected that this would turn out to be the area of the internet that made the most money.

Interesting article from the Tribune Companies swarming to have their names and ads appear next to Internet search results have created a burgeoning marketplace for search words, phrases and brand names.

Progressive Insurance pays $8.08 each time somebody clicks on its ad after searching the phrase “car insurance.” “Laptop” sells for $2.02 per click, while “franchise” goes for $5 and “Internet service provider” for $6. “Financial help” fetches $5.76, although “financial advice” only brings in $2.72.

The prices for such words are set through auction-style bidding in which class-action attorneys have run up the word “Vioxx” to $16.50 per click, while “mesothelioma,” a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, goes for $39.08.

With Americans conducting more than 4 billion Internet searches monthly, often while shopping for airline tickets, credit cards and millions of other products, companies are battling for top advertising positions on Google, Yahoo and other search engines. The competition has become increasingly sophisticated as companies learn how much business they can generate through the ads.

Similar to stocks, the prices of particular words and phrases constantly fluctuate as businesses jockey for top positions.

“It's done wonders for our business,” said William Burr, owner of S&W Manufacturing Co. in Bensenville, which makes industrial parts. “We don't have any salespeople on the street because of that.”

Through an Internet advertising firm, S&W buys search terms like “leveling mount” and “spring plunger” to entice potential customers to its Web site.

Firms like S&W bid the maximum amount they are willing to pay per click for a particular word or phrase, although those bids are handled differently by the two dominant firms in Internet search advertising: Google and Overture, which is owned by Yahoo Inc.

... Still, small firms find ways to get noticed.

Bruce Benton's firm, Bearly Friends LLC in Highland Park, bids on more than 1,000 words associated with new babies, romance, birthdays and anniversaries.

While Benton spends hundreds of dollars a day on the ads, he works with Carpentersville online ad firm JumpFly Inc. to carefully choose terms.

A phrase like “birthday gift,” which recently had a high bid of $1.70, could result in a lot of visits to his site, he noted, but few sales.

“I can run up thousands of dollars in clicks in one day, and that's trouble,” Benton said. He expressed frustration with competitors who aggressively bid up the prices of popular terms. “It makes me want to go click it every time I can,” Benton said.

That has actually become an industry problem. Google warns in regulatory filings that “click-through fraud” could cause it to lose the confidence of advertisers and harm its business. Google and Overture say they regularly give refunds to advertisers when fraudulent clicks are identified.

While competitors use some other devious tactics, such as “jamming” competitors by bidding 1 cent below their offers so they have to pay the maximum price, advertisers have become more scientific in how they approach the market.

Fathom Online Corp., which tracks prices of the 500 most-often searched non-brand-name terms in eight industries, found in December that mortgage-related terms sold for an average of $4.79, while consumer retail terms went for 58 cents. Across all eight industries, the average price was $1.70.
Northbrook-based Lou Malnati's Pizzerias, which operates a mail-order business that ships pizza, Eli's Cheesecake and other Chicago fare, bids on terms like “Chicago pizza” and “mail order cheesecake.”

Dawn Schultz, Lou Malnati's marketing manager, said her company spends about $500 a month on Internet search ads, but doesn't try to compete with larger businesses by bidding on more general terms.

“We can't really be in that category,” Schultz said.

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In Suit, BlackBerry Maker Pleads Canadian

Hmmmmm, novel strategy. We might keep this in mind..... if we had any patent disputes

In Suit, BlackBerry Maker Pleads Canadian:

Having lost a recent patent case in Virginia, Research in Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry device, has turned to an unusual appeal strategy: We're not based in the United States, so you can't touch us.

More surprisingly, the Canadian government and the Internet service provider EarthLink are now formally supporting that argument.

R.I.M., which has its headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario, has become Canada's technology success story, with a soaring stock price and two million subscribers, most of them in the United States. But hovering over the company is a patent infringement suit brought in 2002 by NTP, a patent-holding company based in Annandale, Va.

Last year, a federal court in Virginia found that R.I.M. had violated about a dozen NTP patents and ordered the company to pay $53.7 million in damages. The court also issued an injunction, later put on hold, blocking BlackBerry sales in the United States. In December, an appeals court struck down the injunction and the verdict. But the appeals court decision also upheld most of the patent infringement counts against R.I.M., sending the dispute back to the lower court.

This month, R.I.M. made an unusual request - it wanted the appeals court to take another look at the company's argument that the limits of the border of the United States mean that NTP's patents simply do not apply to the BlackBerry system.

Unlike copyrights, patents are very territorial: a United States patent cannot be enforced outside the country's borders. R.I.M. is arguing that because its relay server, through which all BlackBerry e-mails pass, sits in R.I.M.'s Canadian hometown, the software is beyond the reach of American patents, despite the fact that over a million BlackBerrys are used in the United States.

“One of the fundamental things about patent laws is that there are territorial limitations to them,” said Henry C. Bunsow, a lawyer representing R.I.M. Since the BlackBerry hand-held units are effectively useless without the relay server in Canada, Mr. Bunsow contends that its entire system does not infringe on NTP's patents.

So far, the courts have shared the view of Donald E. Stout, a co-founder of NTP and the company's legal counsel.

“We don't care if one part of the system is run in Canada,” Mr. Stout said. “The beneficial use of the system is in the United States.”

Mr. Bunsow argued that the nature of the NTP patents makes them impossible to uphold. The NTP patents stem largely from work that Thomas J. Campana Jr. did for Telefind, a now defunct pager company that was able to send a crude form of e-mail to subscribers during the last 1980's and early 1990's. Mr. Campana, who died last year, held about 50 patents and long used Mr. Stout as his intellectual property lawyer.

In the case of the wireless e-mail patents, Mr. Bunsow said they cover the system as a whole rather than individual components.

“They could have parsed the applications,” Mr. Bunsow said. “But it's an entire system patent so that they could capture all the revenues in the system.” As a result, Mr. Bunsow said, if any key part of that system is outside of the United States, the NTP patent does not apply.

At R.I.M.'s request, the Canadian government filed a brief with the appeals court last week supporting the company's call for a hearing on the cross-border issues. Several Canadian officials said that this appeared to be the first time that the government had become involved in a private company's patent dispute.

But André Lemay, a spokesman for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, rejected suggestions that his government was acting as a favor to a prominent homegrown business. Mr. Lemay said the government was only concerned that the Virginia court might be extending United States law into Canada.

“We're not defending, endorsing or criticizing R.I.M.'s position in this case,” Mr. Lemay said. “We're simply acting to protect the interests of Canadian businesses.”

In a separate filing to the appeals court, EarthLink, one of several companies selling BlackBerry service in the United States, raised similar concerns that the ruling might take American law beyond where it was allowed to go. The company declined to comment on why it filed the brief. Mr. Stout, however, said that EarthLink was one of several BlackBerry vendors that NTP had asked to take out licenses for its patents.

The appeals court is not the only place where the two companies are battling. After a complaint from the Canadian company, the United States Patent and Trademark office is currently reviewing NTP's patents.

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Gmail and Washington Post

Amusingly, Gmail continues to classify the “political” newsletter from the Washington Post as spam. Would Katharine Graham be upset?

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Haven't had a chance to copyright any pictures other than this one: which isn't finished yet.

Haymarket Riot Memorial in the snow

I've taken nearly 50 photos of the new Haymarket memorial, and still haven't quite captured its essence. Oh well; often the best photos are unplanned, capturing the spontaneity of a discrete moment of time. Probably why I am not a professional photographer - you are expected to be able to create art on command.

I still like to copyright my photos however.

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Birth of an Industry

I've fielded several requests for iPod assistance as well. I never really understood the need; but then I already had a fairly large mp3 collection before the first iPod came out.

I suppose if I was trying to construct a yurt, for instance, I would request help.

We are still planning on building a yurt by the way.

Birth of an Industry: IPod Loading:
The rising popularity of Apple's sleek iPod has created a new niche service: the professional iPod loader.


We've been inside today, for the most part, as the air is filled with tiny frozen white blobs that really make your nose cold. A CTA bus jackknifed to a standstill outside our window, and blocked both lanes of traffic for an hour or so. This was quite amusing, but wouldn't have been if we had been riding it.

I also find amusing the steady stream of lithe, young, over-dressed women scurrying on their high heels through massive snow drifts, looking for taxi cabs. I suppose if you are going to eat at Blackbird, you cannot sacrifice your look just because there is a blizzard going on.

I have a few photos I took yesterday and today, and if I get around to copyrighting them, I'll add them later.

Flickr redux

Flickr Support responds again to my complaint, whining,

I'm sorry, but we go through thousands of new accounts each day, and mistakes can be made. I am *not* a drone. I *am* a human being.

Ok, glad we got that settled.

And the crux:

I went through your photostream and saw 2 photos that may have been copyrighted -- but I gave you one free month of a Pro Account to add on to your existing Pro Account.

This is the part that bothers me. I just looked through all 137 of my flickr photos, and I personally took 135 of them. No doubt. I may have added copyright info on some, but there is no question that the photos are 'owned' by me. The two others are: a fuzzy screenshot of the televised recent Presidential debate (somehow, I don't think this is even copyrightable); and a photo of Ragnarokr where I grew up in Toronto, Ontario. I'm not sure who took the photo, but I don't foresee anyone suing me to take it down.

Blah blah blah.

Flickr sucks


For some reason, my Flickr photos were not showing up in public tags. I emailed Flickr tech support, and got this snarky response...

Your account was set to "bad" for some reason. Maybe when you first uploaded photos to test out Flickr you had uploaded what appeared to be copyrighted images. Or maybe your photos just looked too good to be true.

I've since changed your status. You should be able to search on your tags now and see your photos show up in "Everyone's".

What a crock. Nobody communicated this 'bad' flag to me so I could tell them what a laughable accusation it was. Instead, my photos just entered some 'penal zone'.

So, can I expect to get any money back from Flickr? I'm actually sort of pissed; what's the point of using a 'photo sharing' site if your photos are kept isolated from the rest of the group? I even convinced several friends/family to sign up to flickr back when Flickr were just starting to get up and running. Bleh.

Actually, the tech support guy shouldn't have told me the entire truth; he should have just claimed 'database error', and fixed it.

This so-called 'policy' is in dire need of review.

My photos aren't that good, they often have goofy color correction or are otherwise imperfect. I know I've added copyright info to a few images, back in Photoshop 3.0 days, on scans of 35 mm shots, but Up=In Studios is only the 'formerly known as' name of B12 Partners. As D would say F-ing Ass Wh-res.

The Hunting of the President

Scary. Can I have my country back now? I wonder if Jeff Gannon aka Max Power or whatever was at all involved?

Shipped: The Hunting of the President:

Shipped on 01/21/05.

This documentary provides a sobering look inside the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton claimed was committed to driving her husband from the presidency. Bill Clinton confidant Harry Thomason entertainingly chronicles a particularly tumultuous period in American politics, showcasing a cast of characters that includes Clinton foes such as Gennifer Flowers and Kenneth Starr. Narrated by Morgan Freeman.

The Hunting of the President

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Instant addition to the B12 reading list

Review by John Updike in the current New Yorker begins,

Haruki Murakami’s new novel, “Kafka on the Shore” (translated, from the Japanese, by Philip Gabriel; Knopf; $25.95), is a real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender

"Kafka on the Shore" (Haruki Murakami)

Seeing as I've read all other Murakami books (translated), both good and not-as-good, I'll be reading this one soon as I finish Devil in the White City.

"The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America" (Erik Larson)

Hail Bushy


Posted without comment, because really what more could one say? The truth hurts sometimes....

(direct link to MP3 here)

Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute (AP): AP - President Bush's “Hook em, horns” salute got lost in translation in Norway, where shocked people interpreted his hand gesture during his inauguration as a salute to Satan.

That's what it means in the Nordics when you throw up the right hand with the index and pinky fingers raised, a gesture popular among heavy metal groups and their fans in the region.

Bush Satanic

updated to add Jenna hailing her dark lord as well...
Jenna Satan


Yesterday's photo excursion yielded this found sign remnant, at the Halsted, Grand and Milwaukee intersection. D drove, so theoretically, I could find signs to photograph. However, I forgot she drives like a maniacal truck driver, one hand (actually forearm) on the steering wheel, swerving around potholes, and cursing taxi drivers. Didn't get as many in-focus photos as planned. Have to try again, at a more leisurely pace, and not in a snow storm (so we could roll down the windows).

Alrboro, found sign remnant at Halsted, Grand and Milwaukee intersection, ChicagoSign Remnant


Thanks, Red-Staters. Now, taxpayers are going to be stuck with trillions of dollars of nuclear power plant construction bills. And of course, the profits of the nuclear plants will be shared alike as well? Right? Right? Of course the question is rhetorical. Sounds like a win-win, for the industry and the nuclear regulatory agencies, and a lose-lose for taxpayers.

From the Tribune Decades after it was written off as a costly failure, the nuclear power industry is being revived with plans for new reactors in Illinois and other states.

Utilities are considering building or restarting up to eight reactors in Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and Idaho, as well as in Illinois.

The renewed interest is an about-face for an industry that has not had an order for a new nuclear plant in 30 years. In recent years it was almost a given that nuclear plants were too expensive to build, too difficult to operate and their radioactive waste too hot to handle.

Nuclear industry advocates and critics agree on almost nothing, but both sides say that if nuclear power is to return, a major taxpayer subsidy will be necessary. In its so-far-unsuccessful efforts to pass an energy bill, the Bush administration has proposed subsidizing construction of new plants, and some in the industry are pressing for loan guarantees of up to 80 percent of the cost of construction
..llinois has more experience with nuclear power than any other state, though much of it was bad.

Commonwealth Edison's nuclear plants spent years on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission watch list because of their chronic safety problems. The plants were subject to frequent cost overruns and fines, and were often shut down for months at a time for repairs.

In 1998, for example, the utility permanently closed its two-reactor Zion plant on the shore of Lake Michigan north of Chicago. Executives concluded they simply would never be able to operate the plant properly. The plant potentially could have generated electricity until 2033.

Exelon's Rowe candidly agrees that the company's nuclear fleet suffered colossal cost overruns. He estimates the company lost between $5 billion and $10 billion building and operating its reactors.

David Kolata, director of policy for the Citizens Utility Board, said the cost of nuclear power in Illinois was spread across the state.

“The ratepayers ate some of it and ComEd ate some of it,” he said. “Certainly, consumers paid more than they should have.”

Nuclear power advocates make clear that the electric power industry will not pay for new plants. They say the government must subsidize construction costs.


From the Chicago Mag rag:

In late March, Chuck Hamburg and Brian Margulis are opening Flourchild’s (185 Milwaukee Ave., Lincolnshire; 847-478-9600) a 320-seat sixties-style pizza place (across the street from Flatlander’s Restaurant and Brewery). The décor will lean to tie-dyed ceilings and shag carpeting; pizzas will be hand-tossed Boston and New York–style (plus gourmet grilled offerings); Jell-O will be on the dessert list; egg cream will be on the fountain drink list. Flourchild’s is a resurrection of a restaurant concept that Hamburg ran in Boston in the late seventies. “We want to do for pizza what Ben & Jerry’s did for ice cream,” he says. “What Starbucks did for coffee. What Sam Adams did for beer. Bring pizza up a notch.”

Stinky cheeser

Proving the old adage that you can't lead a new horse to an old hole. Err, something like that....
Yahoo! News - When “Ahoy” wasn't enough A driver for the Dave Matthews Band has been charged with reckless conduct for dumping human waste from a tour bus over the side of a bridge onto passengers aboard a boat on the Chicago River. Stefan Wohl, 42, who turned himself in to authorities and was released pending a March hearing, drives a bus assigned to the band's violinist, Boyd Tinsley. Prosecutors said Wohl was alone on the bus at the time of the incident last August 8, in which up to 100 gallons (380 litres) of waste were dumped over the bridge and fell on scores of people aboard a boat passing underneath. Several of the passengers, who were on an architectural tour, retched and tore off their clothes. ...Wohl was also charged with polluting the river. He had earlier denied the charges, which each carry a penalty of up to a year in prison, authorities said. The bus was identified with the help of a surveillance camera at a nearby health club, prosecutors said. The band, a vocal champion for environmental causes
has been outed for being hypocrites, and polluting the musical atmosphere. Joking, just joking. Sort of. I'm sure the DMB is a fine, fine band; they just haven't recorded anything that truly captures their 'sound' yet. Ahem. But really, Boyd Tinsley gets his own bus? and the environmental reason for this extravagance is what again?

Mini Mac

Walt Mossberg on switching from Windows to Apple's Mac, yet again....

WSJ.com - Personal Technology

If my e-mail from readers is any indication, more Windows users are thinking of switching to Apple Computer's Macintosh models than at any time in a decade. A significant minority of Windows users are so fed up with battling viruses and spyware, or so impressed with Apple's iPod music players, that they are seriously tempted to jump to the Mac.

Before going into the details of my mini tests, let's talk about price. Even at $499, the mini isn't as cheap as the cheapest Windows PC. Dell is selling a model for $399, including a 17-inch monitor, keyboard and mouse.

The Dell has less usable memory than the mini, and it can't burn CDs. It also has only a 90-day warranty, instead of the mini's one-year warranty. But you can add CD burning, a one-year warranty and extra memory for $115, or a total of $514....
Overall, the Mac mini is a good choice for Windows users on a budget who are tempted to switch. It's not a technological breakthrough, but it may just be one of Apple's smartest business moves.

and no, he doesn't really say much revelatory. However, I would imagine that the WSJ readership is heavily invested in windows machines, except for B12 Partners, of course.....ahem.

Site traffic solipsism

We moved this site to movabletype from blogger somewhere around November, and got it in a passable shape by December. Somehow this has caused a drastic spike in B12's traffic, as noted in this chart. Whoo hoo! Of course, most are simple google searches looking for info on Tinsley Mortimer, the Artistocrats joke, Roxio's Popcorn, or on how DHL sucks, but hey, I'm happy to oblige.

Site Traffic Feb04 Jan05


Somehow, it doesn't seem like a positive sign when one of our vendors pays us $7250 in commission, 2 months late, and tells us not to cash the check yet because there isn't enough money in the bank to cover it. Especially since they owe us several more thousand in expenses and commission.

That is all

DHL Sucks

I find it endlessly amusing that a google search for "DHL Sucks" has my kvetch as the first entry. Ha ha. DHL are a bunch of pissants! I fart in your general direction!

Yes, I know, I should get out more: but it's really cold and I'm out of Bushmills!

Comics Legend Stan Lee Wins Round in Lawsuit

Good for Mr. Lee. He created the damn character in the first place - why shouldn't he get a cut of the stupendous cash payout?

WSJ.com - Comics Legend Stan Lee Wins Round in Lawsuit

A judge in Manhattan federal court has ruled that Mr. [Stan] Lee, chairman emeritus at the comic-book publisher, is entitled to 10% of the profits from movie and television productions involving Marvel characters, as well as movie-related toys manufactured and sold by the company itself.

It also determined that a claim to share profits from Marvel's ventures with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal Studios to produce Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk merchandise will have to be resolved by jury verdict.

“This is pretty much a sweeping victory for us,” said Mr. Lee's attorney, Howard Graff, of the firm Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky of New York.


JibJab continues to make moderately amusing flash animations....

JP Morgan Chase account

Adweek notes -

Publicis Groupe's Zenith Media has won the buying and planning chores on the $300 million JPMorgan Chase account following a review, sources said.

The New York agency prevailed over Aegis Group's Carat, also in New York, in the final round. The search was launched following the merger of Bank One and Chase

FBI Tosses Carnivore to the Dogs

thanks gods, but one would suspect that the FBI will continue to hone their electronic snooping skillz. In fact, this doesn't really make me feel as if my civil liberties are any more secure.

FBI Tosses Carnivore to the Dogs:
The FBI has effectively abandoned its custom-built internet surveillance technology, once known as Carnivore, designed to read e-mails and other online communications among suspected criminals, terrorists and spies, according to bureau oversight reports submitted to Congress.

Instead, the FBI said it has switched to unspecified commercial software to eavesdrop on computer traffic during such investigations and has increasingly asked internet providers to conduct wiretaps on targeted customers on the government's behalf, reimbursing companies for their costs.

I wondered why I always liked Nash, other than the fact of his nationality of course.....

"Soft" interview with the only player brave enough to wear an anti-gulf war Tshirt.

Nash Displays Polished Look: On the Court, of Course
In a league mired in isolation offenses and plodding defenses, the Suns frenetic fast break with point guard Steve Nash at the helm has been nothing short of revolutionary.
Steve Nash has been doing some light reading on the road, studying a playbook of sorts that outlines team concepts like discipline and sacrifice for the common good.

"I'm actually reading the Communist Manifesto," Nash said with a smile after a recent practice.

Nash's eclectic tastes range from Pat Conroy to Dickens to Kant. "I don't know if guys notice, which is good," he said. "I just want to be one of them."

So people won't think he is sympathetic to alternative causes, Nash explained that he picked up the manifesto, "only because I was reading the autobiography of Che Guevara and I wanted to get a better perspective."

"The Communist Manifesto" (Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels)

iCal to eudora

note to self. Nothing to see.


MT and Google, et al have come up with a strategy involving the rel=nofollow tag, we'll see what exactly it will do to the waves of comment spam. I still just want to send electric shocks to the spammers, via one of the internets....

Terrorist activity?

I would be really annoyed if I was harassed by police because I saw an interesting photo opportunity. I've taken several train photos and CTA photos over the years. What the hell is happening to this country? Can we spell "over-reaction"?

With a tripod in one man's hand and cameras slung around the other's neck, two Homewood men arrived at a Metra station in Morton Grove earlier this month to take pictures of a mothballed locomotive that had been called back into service.

But before Paul Burgess and Randy Olson could snap a picture, Morton Grove police detained them and searched Burgess' car, with his consent. Soon, Metra police arrived, and the two were held as their backgrounds were checked.

The Jan. 8 incident is the latest in a series of mix-ups with police who, rail fans say, may be trying to protect railroad security in a way that threatens their 1st Amendment rights.

"The general consensus is it's easier for a rail fan to take pictures in China than it is here," said Bill Molony, president of a National Railway Historical Society's Blackhawk Chapter, whose members mostly live in the south and southwest Chicago suburbs.

Viva la free speech! I'm happy to be a proud card carrying member of the ACLU....

In general, people have the right to express themselves, under the 1st Amendment, and may take pictures in a public space where others don't have an expectation of privacy. But security issues can limit what people may photograph, such as a defense facility, said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It's not an absolute," he said.

But he added, "I don't know of any federal law that makes it a crime to photograph any train, that covers that in such a blanket way as these officers who approached [Burgess] seem to have suggested."

If the New York City Transit branch of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has its way, that could become the case in New York City subway stations.

The NYC Transit wants to place a general ban on photography and videotaping on its system except for media with valid credentials and people with MTA authorization.

I like Burgess' reaction:

... Olson, 55, and Burgess, 43, said they understand the security concerns but believe it was obvious they were not terrorists. A potentially bigger threat, they said, were backpack-toting passengers waiting to board the train.

"You don't need to take a picture of the tracks to know where the strategic locations are," Olson said. "And you wouldn't be doing it in broad daylight. It's just ludicrous. You have to be able to discern what's a threat and what isn't."

...Burgess has not heard back from Metra's board, to whom he wrote a letter asking for an apology. Regardless, he intends to continue photographing trains.

"I've been doing this for 30 years," Burgess said. "And as I said in my letter, I'm a U.S. Navy veteran and I don't intend to allow this to change my habits."

Other kind of White out

For a few of my many, many years as a student at UT, I owned a car. There were certain areas on campus where parking was hazardous: you might come back to your car, and it would be gracklized. Eeeew.

And later, when I biked everywhere, there was areas where ones brakes might not work well, because of slick sidewalks. Blech.

WSJ.com - To Scare Off Grackles, Texans Pull Out Guns And Strobe Lights:
As dusk fell here one evening recently, an armed team spread out over the corporate campus of RadioShack Corp. and waited.

Suddenly, high above the downtown skyscrapers, the electric-blue evening sky darkened with a huge swirl of black dots. Soon, a screeching cloud of birds descended, settling on the trees around the building.

One of the armed men pointed his pistol and fired, sending a special noise-making cartridge into the trees, where it exploded with a loud boom. Then the rest of the team opened fire. For the next 45 minutes, this normally quiet place sounded like a war zone, echoing with explosions and screaming missiles as the birds boiled back into the sky in a graceful, fleeing mass.

It's grackle time in Texas. Millions of the fiendish-looking birds with yellow eyes descend on cities throughout Texas every evening at dusk like a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock horror movie "The Birds." They squawk and screech and coat sidewalks and parking lots with their copious droppings. The mess repulses tourists, ruins paint on cars and creates a health hazard, city officials say.

Cities and businesses spend tens of thousands of dollars each year cleaning up -- and trying to get rid of the pests. But the aggressive birds consistently outwit man's cleverest efforts to scare them away.

"They're ugly, but they're smart," says Lincoln St. George, who for 10 years has fought the grackle wars for the city of San Antonio. Grackles have proved unmoved by rubber snakes and plastic owls, recorded bird distress calls, brightly colored balloons, and an assortment of noise and light-makers. One year, Mr. St. George tried suspending a strobe light in the trees, but the grackles "sat there and had a party," he says.

The grackle epidemic peaks this time of year as common grackles migrate from the northern regions of the U.S. and Canada to the state's warmer climate. They join an already huge population of native great-tailed grackles, a large, noisy bird with a 25-inch wingspan, iridescent purplish-black plumage and a V-shaped rudder of a tail. After feeding all day in rural pastures and fields, the grackles gather by the thousand in colonies and head for their favorite roosting spots: cities.

Grackles love urban life. It's warmer among buildings, and there are few predators to bother them while they snooze. Litter and Dumpsters provide plenty of snacks. The flocking nature of grackles -- and their migratory patterns -- put Texas in the hot spot

Architecture Tour from hell, redux

Follow up to this gross story

Criminal charges are to be filed Wednesday in last summer's alleged dumping of human waste from the Dave Matthews Band tour bus onto a sightseeing boat on the Chicago River, sources close to the case said.

Authorities said the driver of the bus had arranged to turn himself in to Chicago police Wednesday. The man's attorney, Mark Rotert, confirmed that scenario late Tuesday.

Tourists on the river cruise apparently were showered with excrement as their boat, Chicago's Little Lady, passed under the Kinzie Street bridge Aug. 8. A security camera at the East Bank Club captured the bus passing over the bridge at the time of the dumping, police have said.

The bus driver is expected to face two criminal misdemeanor charges, sources with the Cook County state's attorney's office said. One is reckless conduct, and the other is the discharge of contaminated waste to cause water pollution.

The driver could face up to a year in prison and fines of up to $10,000, authorities said.

Authorities have estimated the bus dumped 800 pounds of waste through the bridge's grate and onto the passing boat, giving many of the 120 sightseers on board a putrid dousing.

It's bad enough when runoff from the bridges lands on your upturned face while on the architecture tour, but excrement would just be simply disgusting.

Snow snow snow

Our local FedEx office stays open till 9:45 pm; this means our work day often ends at 9:30.

If traffic co-operates, it takes about 9 minutes from our garage; if the traffic lights and belligerent taxi drives impede our route, it probably takes about 15 minutes. Tonight, around 9:15 a huge driving snow storm kicked in. I made the journey in 12 minutes, including shuffling my iPod.

Some snapshots from the trip....
a fellow travel in the snow; FedEx truck

Self portrait, waiting at a light

Haymarket Riot Memorial in the snow

click for larger versions

Nine Servings of Fruit and Vegetables?

I think I would be hard pressed to eat 3 servings of fruit and vegetables per meal; especially since breakfast usually consists of coffee.
And I wish I had enough time that I could spend 90 minutes every day doing vigorous exercise. Somedays, yes, I do more than that; but not even three times a week.

The New York Times > Health > Fitness & Nutrition > The Consumer: Nine Servings of Fruit and Vegetables?:

The newdietary guidelines for Americans released last week are more detailed than ever, distinguishing, for example, between whole and processed grains and between trans fats and healthy vegetable oils.

They are also more demanding. They raise the daily goal for fruit and vegetable consumption to nine servings from five, for instance, and challenge Americans who want to control their weight to get as much as 60 to 90 minutes of exercise on most days.

But many busy Americans may be stumped by how exactly to manage that.


Via Gaper's Block, we found this cool T-Shirt-

Chicago the city that became a font, then a shirt*

*Chicago also enjoyed a brief stint as a band.

Let's not talk about the band, and say we didn't. Thanks.

End of year best albums

A few of the albums that were played frequently at the B12 Partners headquarters in 2004, ie year end list, part the 2....

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NBA snippets from all over....

Artest and LA Gear

Peter Vescey notes

The reality is, [Ron] Artest [Indiana Pacers] already is a better person than many of us, exceedingly generous with his time, concern and money with family, friends and especially kids. He may not always be manageable, responsible or coherent, but he's always looking after their best interests and is unswervingly loyal to those who've helped him.

When Artest negotiated a shoe deal last summer with LA Gear, one of his principal priorities was to take care of his high school teams with equipment. Shortly after the brawl the company voided his contract.

Naturally, LaSalle's kids got stiffed in the process — without so much as a warning, or a regret, or a reply to a inquiry from the school's head coach just as their season was about to get underway.

Did LA Gear rupture its commitment to the kids? Under the circumstances, I suppose not. The deal, however, was in place for months, so weren't they owed a little something?

Was LA Gear obligated to come across with sneakers and uniforms? No, I guess not, not legally, anyway; but how about ethically? It wouldn't have broken the company, I suspect, to fork over the goods.

Here's a company that immediately invalidated an agreement with a player based on high moral grounds yet didn't have the decency to do what's right by a bunch of kids. LA Gear wanted to protect its "good name" by separating itself from Artest. In my book, the exact opposite happened.

Memo to LA Gear: Artest's actions will cost him roughly $5.4 million this season, give or take a deal with a discourteous shoe company. Nonetheless, his two college and one high school scholarships for LaSalle students were not withdrawn.

and the

key to Ben Gordon's winning shot


The secret to Ben Gordon's huge game, which included the game-winning shot? "I went home [Sunday] night and had some curry goat and rice and peas," said Gordon, who grew up in nearby Mt. Vernon, N.Y. "It's Caribbean food."

and in San Antonio:

"Bruce Bowen deserved a thank-you from the media Monday after he killed a wasp on the scorer's table. Bowen was on the way to check into the game in the second quarter when he noticed the wasp buzzing near Spurs TV analyst Sean Elliott. Bowen grabbed Elliott's media guide and flattened the insect with one swing."

Filling in the Blanks in the Hot-Spot Map

I've actually never been offered WiFi in a rental car; I could see positive and negative repurcussions. Depends upon the traffic patterns of wherever I am, I suppose.

Filling in the Blanks in the Hot-Spot Map:

Hotels, rental car companies and travel suppliers of all types have discovered that it costs relatively little to offer wireless Internet services to customers.

The latest to jump on the wireless bandwagon are Hertz and Avis, which have both initiated programs to let their customers surf in or near the rental car lobbies.

Starting this month, Hertz will offer wireless Internet service at Hertz Gold airport locations in the United States; by the end of March, about 50 should be in operation. As is the case at most Internet hot spots, laptop computer users with a wireless card or a built-in wireless chip simply turn on their computers, and an on-screen icon prompts them to log in to the network.

Hertz's connections are offered through Wayport, which also operates the wireless networks of McDonald's. Wayport subscribers pay no additional fee to log on, while nonsubscribers pay $4 to log on to the Hertz hot spots. Users can remain connected all day if they wish.

Hertz's wireless connections are offered via the so-called Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, standard, which operates at speeds that are on par with high-speed Internet connections.

Tivo problems

I swear I tivoed the Bulls v Knicks game this afternoon, and apparently I missed a good one. All evening I've been trying to avoid hearing the score, but then I didn't even tivo the damn thing. Bleh. The TiVo software still is not perfect.

that is all.


a friend, with a mad-scientist bent, and a strong interest in botanical lore, gave me a few drops of a home-made hemp-based tincture, made using Ketel One Vodka, in a freezer. You grind the material in a coffee grinder, in the ratio of 1 fluid pint per ounce, and then freeze, agitating frequently.

Went down quite easily. Such a strange sensation: to be inebriated without inhalation. I don't smoke reefer, because I don't like the burning acrid taste, but these drops are something I could become accustomed to. And contrary to expectations, the taste is also pleasantly earthy.

He's still the Fall guy

I came late to the Fall party (who knows why, but I didn't really listen to them until recently), but there is an ineffable quality to their best music. Maybe this documentary will show up as a bittorent file, or get shown on the BBCAmerica channel. I'll have to look for it.

He's still the Fall guy:

Pop: Notoriously punchy Mark E Smith has spent nearly three decades on the periphery of British culture with the Fall. So what does the most awkward man in Manchester think of the BBC's new film about him?

Mark E Smith shuffles into the unlikely surroundings of Manchester's designery Malmaison Hotel a good hour-and-a-half late. Squinting in the half-light, he is about to walk straight past my table when I hail him. He looks momentarily startled. His smart, black-woollen jacket and white shirt only accentuate his scarecrow-thin frame; his face is that of a man 20 years his senior. There are few people who, even on a bad day, can make Shane MacGowan look healthy, but Mark E Smith is one of them.

He apologises for being late, orders a pint of lager, sinks half of it, declares it 'piss poor', and replaces it with two bottles of cider. 'Four fuckin' quid a pint,' he mutters, adding, 'Mick Hucknall owns this place', as if that explains everything, which maybe it does. He asks me straightaway what I think of the BBC4 documentary on his group, the Fall, which will be broadcast this week. I say I liked it, but it made me feel uneasy and a bit sad. His life, I venture, has been lived at a considerable cost. 'I thought the whole programme were an advert for the BBC,' he asserts, lighting the first of several fags. 'There's more of Marc Riley [ex-Fall member, now BBC radio DJ] in there than anyone. He left in nineteen-fucking-eighty-two. It's people looking for John Peel's job, Sean, that's what it is.' Age may have withered him physically but it has not blunted his blunt Mancunian sarcasm.

The Fall were John Peel's favourite group, the lumpen-rock racket he loved more than all other lumpen-rock rackets. 'They are always different, they are always the same,' he once famously remarked of the group, though he could just as easily have been talking about himself. Constants both, but Peel is gone and Mark E does not look in the best of shape.

Evanston Northwestern Suit

something to pay attention to: Mergers in Non-profit organizations like hospitals

WSJ.com - FTC Targets Hospital Merger In Antitrust Case:

Next month, the Federal Trade Commission brings to trial an unusual case in which it is seeking to undo the January 2000 takeover of Highland Park Hospital, in suburban Chicago, by Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Corp. The FTC accuses Evanston Northwestern, which already ran two hospitals in the area, of antitrust violations, saying it used its postmerger “market power” to impose huge price increases -- of 40% to 60%, and in one case 190% -- on insurers and employers.

Evanston Northwestern, a nonprofit corporation, denies any impropriety. It says it rescued the once-struggling community hospital in Highland Park and improved the quality of care. The hospital system has said that a forced divestiture, as demanded by the FTC, would “disrupt the lives of patients, doctors, employees” and others.

To unscramble Evanston Northwestern's merger, the FTC is armed with reams of data it believes will prove that the company acted in an anticompetitive manner, by making price increases that ultimately hurt consumers. The government charges that price increases are “far beyond those achieved by comparable hospitals” during the same period of time. The case begins Feb. 10 before an FTC administrative law judge.

An important backdrop to the FTC case is the nonprofit status of Evanston Northwestern, because in some previous mergers, courts have pointed to hospitals' nonprofit status as a reason to let mergers go through. In the mid-1990s, for example, the FTC fought unsuccessfully to block a Grand Rapids, Mich., hospital merger. A federal court allowed it to proceed, based on economic analysis that nonprofit mergers tended to reduce costs and prices. The court also ruled that nonprofit hospital boards, as community leaders, had an incentive to restrain prices. A federal appeals court upheld that ruling in 1997.

Nonprofit hospitals, the FTC argues, do have an incentive to maintain a “surplus” of revenue over expenses, and while they don't distribute these “profits” to shareholders, they can use them for salaries, equipment or expansion.

Evanston Northwestern, affiliated with Northwestern University, is a major teaching facility and medical powerhouse in Chicago's northern suburbs, with 850 beds in three hospitals, about 7,600 employees and annual revenue of $1.8 billion. After merging 239-bed Highland Park into its system in early 2000, the FTC alleges, Evanston Northwestern moved to impose big price increases on insurers such as Aetna Inc., Humana Inc. Cigna Corp., United Healthcare and others who pay hospitals under contracts for medical care received by patients. Several of the insurance companies, unhappy with the price increases, are expected to be called as witnesses by the FTC at the trial.

In 2000, for example, the hospital system raised United Healthcare's health-maintenance-organization rates by 52% at its Evanston and Glenbrook hospitals and by 38% at Highland Park, the FTC alleges. The hospital raised its preferred-provider rates by 190% at Evanston and Glenbrook hospitals and by 20% at Highland Park.

Evanston Northwestern, responding to the allegations, has said that the hospital system “renegotiated its contract with United after the merger, and that such contract documents speak for themselves.”

The FTC also has accused Evanston Northwestern of price-fixing of physician fees, after combining two large groups of physicians following the merger. Evanston Northwestern has denied the price-fixing charges.

Is Apple Thinking About Mac TV?

Speculation, schmeckulation. Don't get yer' techno-panties all twisted up in a knot.

Is Apple Thinking About Mac TV?:

Why did Steve Jobs spend so much time talking about HDTV at this week's Apple announcement?

PBJ Gordon

ESPN.com: Page 2 - SGW Quote of the Day archive:
"I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before every game. Whoever invented that was smart. That's got to be one of the best sandwiches ever."
-- Bulls rookie Ben Gordon

Ali G

Golly, whee!

Entertainment News Article | Reuters.co.uk:
Comedian Sasha Baron Cohen has escaped a near-riot at an American rodeo while filming his satirical "Da Ali G Show."

According to a report in the Roanoke (North Carolina) Times, a man who was introduced as Boraq Sagdiyev from Kazakhstan -- in reality a Cohen character named Borat -- appeared at the rodeo over the weekend after organisers agreed to have him sing the national anthem.

After telling the crowd he supported America's war on terrorism, he said, "I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards ... And may George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq." He then sang a garbled version of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The Roanoke Times reported that the crowd turned "downright nasty." One observer said "If he had been out there a minute longer, I think somebody would have shot him."

Cohen and his film crew were escorted out of the Salem Civic Center and told to leave the premises.

"Had we not gotten them out of there, there would have been a riot," rodeo producer Bobby Rowe told the paper. "They loaded up the van and they screeched out of there."

It is not the first time Cohen has wooed controversy with his show, which airs on Channel 4 in the UK and on HBO in the United States. In one episode last year, Borat sang an anti-Semitic song called "Throw the Jew Down the Well" at a U.S. country music bar, prompting protests from the U.S-based Anti-Defamation League.

The Czar

Funny story about the Czar, Mike Fratello, from the Memphis Commerical Appeal (or whatever the heck that paper is called). They were a good broadcast team.

When [Marv] Albert talks about Fratello, there's a lot of laughing and verbal jabbing. It's safe to say that Albert has never had a broadcast partner that he has poked more fun of than Fratello, who Albert nicknamed "The Czar."

"It just came out," Albert said of the nickname. "We just got the telestrator for our broadcasts, and Mike was very adept on it. I just called him the Czar of the Telestrator.

"It stuck. There may have been Czar T-shirts and hats at one time. I think he makes his family call him that."

Albert said he and Fratello have stayed in contact.

"He called me last (Thursday) night after I'd done the Lakers-Cavs game," Albert said. "He left me a message saying he still wanted to be included in the welcome to the telecast. Welcome to Staples Center with Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager and the Czar.

"I call him and tell him when I watch Grizzlies' games that it's very annoying when he's up off the bench and on the floor. It's very distracting, particularly when it's in HDTV."

It's tough to get a straight answer from Albert about Fratello, like asking him about Fratello's desire to get back into coaching.

"The last couple of years, we'd sent out resumes everywhere trying to get rid of ... I mean get him a job," Albert said. "We got a couple of bites overseas and the CBA was a possibility. I think when we finally sent out out the color photos of the Czar, that really clinched it with Memphis."

Seriously, Albert says he misses Fratello ("I'll never tell him that," Albert said) for several reasons.

"Aside from his obvious knowledge of the game, Czar was like a walking punchline," Albert said. "He was really good at taking the kidding. Of course, he thinks we were kidding. We were actually serious."

And by the way, whenever I happen to watch a Knicks game, I keep expecting to hear Marv Albert pipe in with one-liner responses to Clyde Frazier's verbal acrobatics. Screw you James Dolan, dorkweed.

Career Opportunities

The ones that never knock

This story is being carried by every media organization; it must have struck some sort of nerve to editors everywhere. Perhaps enough of them have daughters of their own. We, on the other hand, don't really see why this is such an important story. Granted, the majority of 'adult dancers' have a crappy life (see the movie Design, for instance), but is his message really so bad? Follow your dreams regardless of societal approval? Though, if one wishes to quibble, societal approval has some impact upon a strippers financial remuneration.
Speaker Touts Stripping to 8th Graders (AP):
AP - The principal of a Palo Alto middle school may not invite a popular speaker back to an annual career day after he told girls they could earn a good living as strippers. Management consultant William Fried told eighth-graders at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School on Tuesday that stripping and exotic dancing can pay $250,000 or more per year, depending on their bust size.

"It's sick, but it's true," Fried said in an interview later. "The truth of the matter is you can earn a tremendous amount of money as an exotic dancer, if that's your desire."

Fried has given a popular 55-minute presentation, "The Secret of a Happy Life," at the school's career day the past three years. He counsels students to experiment with a variety of interests until they discover something they love and excel in.

Fried spent about a minute answering questions, defining strippers and exotic dancers synonymously. According to Jason Garcia, 14, he told students: "For every 2 inches up there, you should get another $50,000 on your salary."

...That stripping advice wasn't the only thing that riled parents. Di Salvo said one mother said she was outraged when her son announced that he was forgoing college for a field he loves: fishing.

"He really focused on finding what you really love to do," said Mariah Cannon, 13.

Fried, 64, said he does not think he offended any of the students: "Eighth-grade kids are not dumb," he said. "They are pretty worldly."


uhhh, I might just watch movies tonight...

7-Day Forecast for Latitude 41.81N and Longitude -87.68W:

A chance of flurries after 8pm. Partly cloudy, with a low near 4. Wind chill values between -9 and zero. North northwest wind around 10 mph.

The Bulls game being good enough to while away the afternoon ....

Small victories

Small victories are just as sweet....

Judge Rejects School Board Evolution Stand:

ATLANTA (Reuters) -
A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered a Georgia school district to remove stickers challenging the theory of evolution from its textbooks on the grounds that they violated the U.S. Constitution.

In a ruling issued in Atlanta, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said Cobb County's school board had violated the constitutional ban on the separation of church and state when it put the disclaimers on biology books in 2002.

The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

"We are pleased. The law was pretty clear," said Maggie Garrett, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the board on behalf of a group of parents who were opposed to the disclaimers.

The ACLU argued that the school board had demonstrated a clear bias about the material, effectively pushing the teaching of creationism and discriminating against non-Christians and followers of a number of other religions.

Notorious Taxis Take Mayor for a Ride


Yes, but did his taxi smell like sour feet?

Notorious Taxis Take Mayor for a Ride:
PRAGUE (Reuters) - Prague Mayor Pavel Bem got a close-up look at how the city's notorious taxi drivers operate this week when he went undercover for a ride and was overcharged by some 500 percent. ... Prague taxis have regulated meters but drivers are said to install devices that speed them up at the push of a button.


Watched a movie called Design (on Sundance) yesterday, which we tivoed because it was 'set in chicago'. Sort of a slight reason to choose, but we are movie people, and don't need much encouragement.

Anyway, although Chicago wasn't actually a part of the mise en scene, and the lighting was very poor (I'm sure the budget was low: perhaps the blue tone was intentional, perhaps not), we enjoyed it enough to suggest watching it if you happen to run across it. Fairly dark, and occasionally clumsy, with echoes of David Lynch. The lead actor/director/writer, Davidson Cole, obviously has watched a fair number of Nicholas Cage movies quite closely.

Appeared at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival In a dramatic debut feature as arresting as it is audacious, filmmaker Davidson Cole delivers a stinging comic jab to the concept of free will. Overlapping narratives follow an alcoholic salesman (Daniel J. Travanti) whose teenage daughter (Jennifer Morrison) acts as his caretaker; a voyeuristic photographer (Edward Cunningham) with a fear of women; and a mismatched couple (Cole and Mary Kay Cook) on the eve of their wedding. As the lines of these individual lives mysteriously intertwine, the universe reveals its very dark and twisted design.


Ya know, another tivoed NBA game on ESPN (Wolves v. Nuggets), with punches thrown and head buts and elbows to the neck, its almost become a ritual Friday night now. Mike Breen announced, as he did in the Palace in Auburn Hills rumble, but at least Mr. Pontificator, Bill Walton, wasn't around to ramble on, on, on and on.

Advantage Nene: Olawokandi was throwing open fist slaps at Nene while ducking away. I rewound a few possessions back, and saw several hard body blows and neck punches exchanged in the previous minutes, building up to the fight.

And the Camby v. Sprewell sideshow (both are great buddies, joking and talking trash after the dustup) landed Camby a suspension, but not Latrell Sprewell. Doh!

Uhh get a Mac

Come on people, this isn't much of a story. If anything, Apple Computer ought to write a letter to the editor and offer to send the new 'headless' mac to these shmoes. Ask Mossberg. (from the Trib/LaTimes)

No More Internet for Them
Fed up over problems stemming from viruses and spyware, some computer users are giving up or curbing their use of the Web.
Now the 50-year-old Seemayer is once again on the cutting edge: Sick of spam clogging his in-box and spyware and viruses crashing his system, Seemayer yanked out his high-speed connection.

"I'm not going to pay for something that I can't use," he said.

A small but growing number of frustrated computer owners are coming to the same conclusion. They're giving up or cutting back their use of the Internet, especially at home, where no corporate tech support team will ride to their rescue.

Instead of making life easier — the essential promise of technologies since the steam engine — the home PC of late has made some users feel stupid, endangered or just hassled beyond reason.



The Aristocrats
“The Aristocrats” (Velocity / Thinkfilm)

Hmmm, would this movie even be struggling to find distribution if the faux Christian Red Staters hadn't won the election?

WSJ.com - The Aristocrats:

One of the most unusual movies at this month's Sundance Film Festival seems like it should be a sure thing: It features some of Hollywood's most beloved comedians, from Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Phyllis Diller to Jon Stewart and Chris Rock. Its filmmakers include Penn Jillette, half of the magician-comedian team of Penn & Teller. It is already getting buzz, thanks to a short clip starring characters from “South Park” that's going around the Internet. Still, the movie has yet to find a distributor.
The problem? The film includes a joke that's so extremely off-color it is rarely told in public. Another problem: It's a documentary that consists of nothing but the telling, retelling and discussion of the same joke.

“The Aristocrats” is named after an anecdote that has existed since the days of vaudeville and involves extensive improvisation -- the raunchier the better. Comedians have passed the joke on over the years, mostly in private, with comic Gilbert Gottfried causing a stir in 2001 by telling it at a roast for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. The documentary, which Mr. Jillette produced with stand-up comedian Paul Provenza over a four-year period, includes interviews and footage of some 100 comedians. It is, according to its makers, a deconstruction of the joke, as well as a meditation on stand-up comedy and censorship.

So, what's the joke? Not having ever attended a vaudeville show, nor even vacationed in the Catskills, I've never heard it. Here's the Southpark version....

A site called the Agitator writes

Turns out, “The Aristocrats” is a joke nearly as old as comedy itself. It's well known among those who make a living in comedy, and even presents itself in public from time to time -- Gilbert Gottfried apparently unleashed his own version of the joke at a Friars Club roast a while back, stunning the audience, but sending his fellow comedians on the dais into a fit of tear-soaked, howling-with-laughter hysteria, partly I guess because even at the bawdy Friars Club, no one had ever thought (or had the guts -- or gall) to go there before.

The joke always begins with a family walking into the office of a talent agency, and ends with the punchline “the Aristocrats!” The aim apparently is for the joke teller to fill in the middle by putting various members of the family into the most offensive sex acts and images the mind can conjure. Each joke-teller brands the joke with his own filth. The more tasteless, the better.


Before the storm

D, B & myself went for a brief walk last night, just before the deluge broke.

Here a couple (3) photos I took. There might be more later, if I figure out how to compensate for the 'noise' inherent in digital low light situations.

Before the Rain blues
Before the Rain Blues, Chicago, probably Lake Street and Wacker Drive, possibly LaSalle St. and Wacker.

Marina Tower
Marina Tower

River City
River City

click for larger versions


If I was making a documentary about the Bush White House and their use of paid informants in the media (SCLM), I would use Thomas Mapfumo's great song, Corruption in the opening titles.

The New York Times-Frank Rich: All the President's Newsmen
...But the Jan. 7 edition of CNN's signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

On this particular "Crossfire," the featured guest was Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, talk-show host and newspaper columnist (for papers like The Washington Times and The Detroit Free Press, among many others, according to his Web site). Thanks to investigative reporting by USA Today, he had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers' money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private p.r. firm so that he would "regularly comment" upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year. Given that "Crossfire" was initially conceived as a program for tough interrogation and debate, you'd think that the co-hosts still on duty after Mr. Carlson's departure might try to get some answers about this scandal, whose full contours, I suspect, we are only just beginning to discern.

But there is nothing if not honor among bloviators. "On the left," as they say at "Crossfire," Paul Begala, a Democratic political consultant, offered condemnations of the Bush administration but had only soft questions and plaudits for Mr. Williams. Three times in scarcely as many minutes Mr. Begala congratulated his guest for being "a stand-up guy" simply for appearing in the show's purportedly hostile but entirely friendly confines. When Mr. Williams apologized for having crossed "some ethical lines," that was enough to earn Mr. Begala's benediction: "God bless you for that."

"On the right" was the columnist Robert Novak, who "in the interests of full disclosure" told the audience he is a "personal friend" of Mr. Williams, whom he "greatly" admires as "one of the foremost voices for conservatism in America." Needless to say, Mr. Novak didn't have any tough questions, either, but we should pause a moment to analyze this "Crossfire" co-host's disingenuous use of the term "full disclosure."

Last year Mr. Novak had failed to fully disclose - until others in the press called him on it - that his son is the director of marketing for Regnery, the company that published "Unfit for Command," the Swift boat veterans' anti-Kerry screed that Mr. Novak flogged relentlessly on CNN and elsewhere throughout the campaign. Nor had he fully disclosed, as Mary Jacoby of Salon reported, that Regnery's owner also publishes his subscription newsletter ($297 a year). Nor has Mr. Novak fully disclosed why he has so far eluded any censure in the federal investigation of his outing of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Plame, while two other reporters, Judith Miller of The Times and Matt Cooper of Time, are facing possible prison terms in the same case. In this context, Mr. Novak's "full disclosure" of his friendship with Mr. Williams is so anomalous that it raised many more questions than it answers.

That he and Mr. Begala would be allowed to lob softballs at a man who may have been a cog in illegal government wrongdoing, on a show produced by television's self-proclaimed "most trusted" news network, is bad enough. That almost no one would notice, let alone protest, is a snapshot of our cultural moment, in which hidden agendas in the presentation of "news" metastasize daily into a Kafkaesque hall of mirrors that could drive even the most earnest American into abject cynicism. But the ugly bigger picture reaches well beyond "Crossfire" and CNN.
Read more

Quake Lifted Earth's Surface Around Globe

Quake Lifted Earth's Surface Around Globe:
The earthquake's shock waves ricocheted around the globe and lifted the earth's surface nearly an inch, a new study showed.
Dr. Aster said that even in Ecuador, the shock wave displaced the earth's surface more than two centimeters, or nearly an inch, but the movement was too slow to be perceptible to humans. The jolt was much sharper in Pallekele, Sri Lanka, and shook the ground over a range of nearly four inches, he said.

Waves from the quake weakened as they bounced around the globe but were still discernible after making a complete loop. The seismogram from Tristan da Cunha, a group of British islands in the South Atlantic, shows the main wave arriving after a little more than an hour, then two smaller ones that circled the earth in two directions arriving after about 120 minutes and 230 minutes.

Verizon V710

I have this phone, and while I was disappointed that it wouldn't sync with my macs via bluetooth, I didn't think of suing. Perhaps I should have, but I just am not that litigious. I'll have to check to see if there are any good hacks at this siteI still like the phone....
Cell phone-iphile

WSJ.com - Cellphone Users Sue, Saying Carrier Cut Phone's Features

A group of cellphone users has filed an unusual lawsuit in a California court against Verizon Wireless, charging the nation's second-largest cellular carrier with deceit for disabling certain features of a new high-end Motorola Inc. phone called the V710.

The main charge: Verizon Wireless removed much of the phone's Bluetooth technology -- a short-range wireless system -- so subscribers would have to pay to use the company's network to send things such as e-mail, photos and calendar entries to other devices. The lawsuit, recently filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks class-action status.

Verizon Wireless says it ordered the phone from Motorola without all the Bluetooth capabilities, though it left intact the technology that allows callers to talk using wireless headsets. That is little comfort, though, to customers who say they bought the phone based on Motorola's splashy ad campaign for the highly anticipated model.

“It's like buying an SUV that can't go in the mud,” said Jonathan Zdziarski, a software engineer who lives in Milledgeville, Ga., and who bought the Motorola phone from Verizon Wireless for $519. He was so upset when he discovered the restrictions Verizon Wireless placed on his V710 that he set up an online “hacker fund” to challenge computer experts to hack the V710 and re-enable the most important Bluetooth functions on the phone.

The lawsuit cuts to the heart of an emerging and thorny issue in the burgeoning global cellphone industry: the fight for control among phone makers, carriers and consumers as these handsets become more like computers and not just calling devices. At stake is billions of dollars of revenue companies hope to generate as cellphones become capable of a growing array of tasks, from sending e-mail and photos to showing videos and displaying lists of nearby restaurants and stores. Consumers and tech enthusiasts fear these capabilities could become increasingly fee-based....

“The problem is that manufacturers make the phones with certain capabilities and advertise them,” said Michael Kelly, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the California lawsuit. But then, buyers purchase them from another company, the wireless carrier, which can change the features to maximize revenue, he said. “When those functions aren't there or come at a price, the buyers get very upset.”

Motorola launched the V710 last August through Verizon Wireless as the carrier's first cellphone with Bluetooth. The short-range technology is designed to enable users to zap data, including MP3 music files, between their cellphones and computers or personal digital assistants. It also can link a phone with a wireless headset. But the Verizon model doesn't do all these things. Motorola, which was not named in the lawsuit, declined to comment... The lawsuit contends that the term Bluetooth represents certain features, so to say that a cellphone has Bluetooth but then deliver only some of its features is misleading. Verizon Wireless's Web site touts the Bluetooth functions on the V710 model by saying “you can make hands-free, eyes-free calls, and connect to your PC or PDA whenever and wherever you want.”

--update 5/15/05, per MacOSXHints, in Tiger, you should be able to use bluetooth on this phone....

1. Make sure your phone has the latest firmware (go to the menu, select Phone Info, select Other Information, select S/W Version). Synchronization was added in version 8700_01.40.0R. If you don't have the latest firmware, go to a Verizon store and have them upgrade it.

2. Change the existing V710 entry in /Applications: iSync.app: Contents: PlugIns: ApplePhoneConduit.syncdevice: Contents: PlugIns: PhoneModelsSync.phoneplugin: Contents: Resources: MetaClasses.plist to use the USB-BT driver. When you're done, the entry should look like this:

Hoops the Gym

You'd think such a famous gym, used by commoners and NBA players, like His Airness, and His Air-apparent, among other luminaries, and former players, would have a few dollars to re-paint their facade.

Hoops the Gym, W. Washington, Chicago - down the street from me a few blocks

And apparently this story is not true:

The Chicago Tribune wrote that Jordan had been trash-talking with Antoine Walker and Ron Artest, and that the Bulls' Artest “grabbed him and slammed him to the floor.” That's supposedly when the ribs were broken.

Artest is also said to have thrown a punch at Jordan afterward. Word is the participants were sworn to secrecy or wouldn't be allowed back in the private gym.

unless it is, and Jordan was just embarrassed to admit it. However, Jordan had only good things to say about Artest following this incident.

update: cheap way to repaint a building - just overlay a billboard!
Hoops facade


I think our Alderman, Burt Natarus is a bit of a grandstanding putz, but in this instance, he deserves praise. The Ryan Harris murder case was a travesty, and the young boy wrongly accused is still dealing with all sorts of psychological problems.

From the Trib

Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd) sought to quintuple the city's payment to a boy wrongfully arrested in the Ryan Harris murder case but was thwarted by City Council colleagues who defeated his proposal to pay the troubled youngster $10 million.

Instead, the council voted to provide the $2 million that had been negotiated by lawyers for the boy and attorneys for the city.

After hearing colleagues talk about the child's continuing problems, malfeasance by police in his case and assertions that a jury could have awarded $30 million to $50 million and that the $2 million figure was "a gift to the taxpayers of Chicago," Natarus made his highly unusual proposal.

"This is such a bad settlement [for the boy], let's send it back," he declared. "Let's get the child more money. ... Two million dollars for a case like this? It's horrible. This is a $30 million case."

Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the council's Finance Committee, moved to table Natarus' proposal.

Aldermen then voted 42-1 to seal the $2 million settlement, Natarus casting the nay.

The boy, then 7, was arrested along with an 8-year-old companion in 1998 and charged with murdering the 11-year-old Harris girl. The charges were dropped and an adult man subsequently charged, but the younger boy continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome and other problems.


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The Chicago Park District is expected to accept 100 cast-iron sculptures Wednesday by prominent Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz.

The 9-foot-tall sculptures are being donated by Abakanowicz, artists who work for her, a Polish private foundation and the Polish Ministry of Culture, which is honoring the Sister City relationship between Chicago and Warsaw.

The large sculptures, considered one art work, blend human and natural form, said Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Advisory Council. The project will be called "Agora," a Greek work that means "meeting ground." O'Neill predicted it will be the most talked-about Chicago sculpture installation since the Picasso in Daley Plaza.

The sculptures would be placed in Grant Park northeast of Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road in 2006. District Gen. Supt. Timothy Mitchell said the installation would bring more traffic to the south end of Grant Park.

"The Figurative Sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz : Bodies, Environments, and Myths" (Joanna Inglot)

Hey, vinyl sounds better than CD, so it makes sense that reel-to-reel is more organic-sounding as well. Seems like a good opportunity for a niche manufacturer. I held out against buying a CD player as long as I could, but eventually gave in. And, I couldn't imagine a world without iPods and iTunes....

WSJ.com - Tale of the Tape: Audiophiles Bemoan The End of the Reel:
Jeff Tweedy, leader of the rock group Wilco, prefers to record music on reel-to-reel tape rather than on the digital equipment that has overtaken the music industry. Purists like him think it confers a warmth and richness to recordings that a computer cannot.

But last Friday, Mr. Tweedy hit a snag as he prepared for a session in Wilco's Chicago studio space: Nobody could find any of the professional-grade audio tape the band is accustomed to using. "I was under the impression that there was a shortage of tape in Chicago," Mr. Tweedy says.

What he didn't yet realize was that the shortage is global. Quantegy Inc., which may be the last company in the world still manufacturing the high-quality tape, abruptly shut down its Opelika, Ala., plant on Dec. 31, leaving audiophiles in the lurch.

Quantegy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday and hopes a restructuring will eventually revive its operations. But its future is uncertain, inasmuch as demand also is dwindling for its videotape.

The news has set off a frantic scramble in the music industry as producers and studios seek to secure as much Quantegy tape as possible. By the middle of last week, most suppliers around the country had sold out their entire stocks of reel-to-reel audio tape.

The supply that remained came at prices rapidly escalating above the usual $140-per-reel wholesale price of Quantegy 2-inch tape. Walter Sear, a prominent New York studio owner, quickly snapped up 60 or 70 reels, some at prices that had ballooned by as much as 40%. "We'll have to change our approach to life without tape," Mr. Sear says.
... The crunch reaches far beyond the recording industry. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses Quantegy tape on its space shuttles to record information ranging from pressure to temperature. This week NASA has been trying to buy 20 reels from Quantegy.

Even Hollywood is affected. Some die-hard moviemakers believe voices sound better recorded on analog tape. In making "Spider-Man 2" and the Harry Potter movies, digital recording technology has taken the front seat, but backups of dialogue were recorded on reels of Quantegy tape.

[non-WSJ subscribers use this link for complete article]

Greg Palast on CBS

Greg Palast weighs in on the firing of the employees involved in the Bush/Rove/aWol CBS conspiracy (I still think Rove set the whole thing up, but as in all great conspiracy theories, I have neither the ability to prove nor disprove the allegations)

CBS' cowardly purge of five journalists who exposed George Bush's dodging of the Vietnam War draft was done under cover of what the network laughably called an "Independent Review Panel."

The "panel" was just two guys as qualified for the job as they are for landing the space shuttle: Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi.

Remember Dickie Thornburgh? He was on the Bush 41 Administration's payroll. His grand accomplishment as Bush's Attorney General was to whitewash the investigation of the Exxon Valdez Oil spill, letting the oil giant off the hook on big damages. Thornburgh's fat pay as counsel to Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, the Washington law-and-lobbying outfit, is substantially due to his job as a Bush retainer. This is the kind of stinky conflict of interest that hardly suggests "independent." Why not just appoint Karl Rove as CBS' grand inquisitor and be done with it?

Then there's Boccardi, not exactly a prince of journalism. This is the gent who, as CEO of the Associated Press, spiked his own wire service's exposure of Oliver North and his traitorous dealings with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Legendary AP investigative reporters Robert Parry and Brian Barger found their stories outing the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 stopped by their bosses. They did not know that Boccardi was on those very days deep in the midst of talks with North, participating in the conspiracy.

read more, more excerpts archived here

So now I have to get an Alfa Romeo too! Jeez.

Apple & Leading Car Companies Team Up to Deliver iPod Integration in 2005:
Apple® today announced it has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz USA, Volvo, Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari to deliver iPod® integration with their car stereo systems in 2005. The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz will debut this April in the US with the newly redesigned 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and Volvo will offer two iPod connectivity options for their entire 2005 US model line. Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari will announce details of their iPod integration solutions later this year, allowing customers to enjoy high-quality sound through their car’s stereo system, easily access their entire music library and control their iPod using their car’s standard controls. These companies join BMW and MINI Cooper who began providing integrated iPod solutions in 2004.

“Almost every car company in the world is working to integrate iPod into their cars in 2005,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “iPod customers want to take their entire music collection with them everywhere they go, including their car, so we’re excited to be able to work with so many leading automotive companies to provide customers with integrated solutions.”

The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz will debut this April in the US with the newly redesigned 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and for most other 2005 and 2006 models later this year. Mercedes-Benz is the first automaker to provide full iPod music navigation for drivers to listen to their entire iPod music collection through the Mercedes-Benz audio system, as well as select their music using artist, album or playlist with the multifunction controls on the steering wheel and the integrated multifunction display on their instrument cluster.

Volvo’s two iPod connectivity options for their entire 2005 US model line allow iPod users to listen to their entire music collection through their Volvo audio system. The Volvo iPod Adapter will be available for S60, S80 and V70/XC70 models and will connect by simply plugging the iPod into a cable located in the car’s glove compartment, while S40, V50 and XC90 owners can use a dashboard mounted FM transmitter. The Volvo iPod Adapter allows users to control their music through their Volvo sound system and steering wheel controls, and both options charge the iPod when plugged in.


Seems like a useful addition to one's Mac tool kit - a replacement for the venerable BBEdit Lite.

Bare Bones Software : PRODUCTS : TEXTWRANGLER:
TextWrangler vs. BBEdit vs. BBEdit Lite

TextWrangler is a very capable text editor. What sets BBEdit apart is its extensive professional feature set including Web authoring capabilities and software development tools. BBEdit's additional features for professionals

TextWrangler is considerably more modern and capable than BBEdit Lite. Among other things, it can open files from (and save them) to remote FTP servers, offers a significantly more powerful grep engine, supports multi-byte and non-Roman text files, can perform Find Differences on pairs of files, and can be invoked from the Unix command line.
TextWrangler is a... • General Purpose Text Editor • Programmer's Text Editor • Unix And Server Administrator's ToolPowerful Text Transformer And Manipulator • Good Mac OS Citizen • Powerfully Useful Tool • product developed in the best traditions of Bare Bones Software, with high performance, ease of use, a rich feature set, and the ability to read its own release notes ...

Download TextWrangler here. It's free! TextWrangler is only available as an electronic download.

Earful, no doubt

Ha, we often engage in banter while waiting on hold, usually about how crappy whichever the particular company we are trying to communicate with is.

NYT; Your Call (and Rants on Hold) Will Be Monitored:
It is the opening line on so many phone conversations these days: This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes.

The taped message is so common that many callers might assume that no one is ever listening, let alone taking notes. But they would be wrong.


Monitoring is intended to track the performance of call center operators, but the professional snoops are inadvertently monitoring callers, too. Most callers do not realize that they may be taped even while they are on hold.

It is at these times that monitors hear husbands arguing with their wives, mothers yelling at their children, and dog owners throwing fits at disobedient pets, all when they think no one is listening. Most times, the only way a customer can avoid being recorded is to hang up.

"You could have a show on Broadway just playing the calls," said Mike Schrider, president of J.Lodge, a call monitoring service based in Hammonton, N.J.

drutil commands

New (to me) unix utility: drutil

from terminal

Usage: drutil command [command-options-and-arguments] -drive [drive-arguments]
drutil commands are:
bulkerase Bulk erases -RW media in either quick or full mode.
drutil bulkerase (quick | full)
cdtext Displays CD-Text present on an audio CD.
discinfo Displays disc related info when media is present.
dumpiso Parses ISO-9660 directory structures.
eject Ejects media from the drive (if any).
erase Erases -RW media in either quick or full mode.
drutil erase (quick | full)
filename Translates filenames for different filesystems.
drutil filename "name"
getconfig Displays current and supported device features and profiles.
drutil getconfig (current | supported)
info Displays detailed information about connected drives.
list Lists all connected burning devices.
poll Constantly polls and displays device notifications.
status Displays detailed information about inserted media.
subchannel Displays subchannel (MCN, ISRC) info when CD media is present.
trackinfo Displays track related info when media is present.
tray Opens and closes drive tray, and ejects media.
drutil tray (open | close | eject)
version Display the OS and DiscRecording version numbers.

Doug Christie

NBA notes

I never understood why so many 'armchair pundits' got off on Doug Christie's devotion to his wife. Never bothered me much, he seemed like he was able to focus on the game at hand, regardless of all those goofy hand signals. I've watched perhaps half of the Sacramento Kings games this year, and I think Christie will be missed. Hardly any plays were run for him, and in fact, Christie was often the 'on-ball' guard instead of Bibby.

In any event, I will have fond memories of Christie's tenure with the Kings for one reason: the uppercut to Rick Fox's jaw in the Kings v. Lakers pre-season game a couple of years ago.

Cat Mobley is a lesser defensive presence, and slightly turnover prone, but a better scoring guard. I actually expect Mobley only to play this season with the Kings

Mobley could become a free agent next summer when he has a player option in his contract, possibly clearing room on the Kings' payroll for an extension for Peja Stojakovic or other needs.
... Maurice Evans, a journeyman who played in Italy last season, has become a standout defender and utility player, while rookie Kevin Martin also brought excitement to a club that has relied mostly on proficient passing and accurate shooting in recent years. At 29, Mobley also is five years younger than Christie.

``They play like they enjoy playing the game,'' Mobley said of the Kings. ``They look like a fun team. That's what basketball is about, having fun.''

Doug Christie Pass

Doug Christie &Wife

No smoking in Italy


Horror, the horror!

Smoking Ban Clears the Air, but It Befogs Italians' Mood:
Smokers and restaurant owners in Italy were fuming in a rather different way after a tough new law that bans smoking in public places - one of the strictest in Europe - went into effect.

As undercover health inspectors and police officers began patrolling cafes and bars, smokers huddled resignedly on sidewalks outside restaurants at lunchtime, while those inside enjoyed what would be for many their first smoke-free meal.

"It's a disaster - my clients all complained," said Concetta Gaggiano, owner of the Nico Bar, a usually bustling cafe in central Milan. "People just ate their sandwiches and left. They didn't even have coffee. You could tell that they couldn't wait to light up a cigarette."

Andrea Pinketts, a Milan-based crime writer and smoking advocate, vowed to continue to smoke cigars in public or "move to Cuba, where you can smoke even in airports." He condemned the law as what he called a Calvinist move aimed at creating a new sort of apartheid.

"Looking at human history, intolerance has caused more damage, even death, than smoking ever did," Mr. Pinketts said.

Getting people not to smoke in a country where around a quarter of the population does has been a major headache for the Health Ministry, which pushed the law through more than a year ago, giving restaurants and bars 12 months to create sealed-off smoking areas.

The new law bans smoking in indoor spaces, including offices, unless they have a separate smoking area with continuous floor-to-ceiling walls and a ventilation system. Many bars and cafes in Italy are simply too small to accommodate such a space and still turn a profit.

"We're worried that this is the first step toward a society where everything is banned," said Marino Pessina, who founded the "Io Fumo" (I Smoke) association on Monday and began collecting signatures for a referendum to repeal the no-smoking law.

Fixed Airport Drop Outs

From the Apple discussion groups comes this fix, courtesy of Ben Harrison

Apple - Discussions - Fixed Airport Drop Outs:

My G4 tower streamed music with no drop outs my g4 laptop would drop out all the time both using original b airport card. To fix it I went to SystemPrefs>Quicktime>Connection and put it on 112kb/s instead of the 1mb/s (that is my work internet connection speed). No drop outs - none I even sent a 12mb file across the network to another a mac whilst streaming - still no drop outs.

"Apple AirPort Express with Air Tunes (M9470LL/A)" ()

Dylan v. Penn?

Sean Penn says he came to be the voice on the audio version of Bob Dylan's "Chronicles" because Dylan asked him and "you don't say no to Bob." How did Dylan get his number? Penn says the two are "friendly acquaintances. I've never known him very well. There was a period of time when we used to box together. I had a ring at my house ... The interest was serious, but it was just for enjoyment ... No broken bones. No trips to the emergency room."

You don't want to be the guy who put Bob Dylan in the hospital.

A: No. Or have it be the other way around.

Q: You say you'd never do another one of these audiobooks, but, you know, Dylan says he has two more volumes coming.

A: Yeah, I know. (Laughs) I've changed my number. (Laughs) I think you should only read books aloud for people who are shorter than you.

"Chronicles, Vol. 1" (Bob Dylan)

Electric Miles

Interesting film subject, will have to look for it when it makes the festival rounds.....

Miles electric period:

Within a few years of Bob Dylan's controversial adoption of electric instrumentation in 1965, the artistic legitimacy of that move was universally accepted among critics and the buying public. In the late 1960s, jazz giant Miles Davis made a similar transformation in his work, and in some corners he's still viewed as a traitor and a sell-out.

"The electric Miles," as the trumpeter's post-1968 period is colloquially known, is the subject of "Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue," a 2004 documentary by Murray Lerner that opens the Northwest Film Center's 22nd annual Reel Music Festival tonight.

"Miles Electric - A Different Kind of Blue"

Drinking during the Rose Bowl

reposted the culprit for the foggy-site syndrome meltdown (had a hanging /div in this entry).
Austex and Rose Bowl (with Shiner Bock)

Drinking during the Rose Bowl, originally uploaded by katiecook.

Borrowing from my sis this very funny photo of my nephew E and my cousin-in-law S. (sic?) celebrating UT's victory over the evil Michigan (where D went to school) in the 2005 Rose Bowl.

Hung over

I should be banned from making changes to my site while suffering from sangria related 'foggy brain' syndrome. I goofed up my site css template, and now everything looks goofy. Doh! I thought I had a backup somewhere, but apparently someone moved it while I wasn't paying attention. So later, I'll have to try to remember how I altered it for the betterment of mankind and ease of reading. Until then, sorry!

The sangria was delicious however.

Miracle cure

and who woulda thunk that a 'cold milled' seed, grown in Manitoba, would be so nutritious, and delicious. Viva la Hemp revolution! screw William Randolph Hearst!

Toxic Breast Milk?

Ad this to the list of things you Red Staters voted for: because perchlorate, mercury, dioxin, etc. are in the category of 'Needs more study' for the Bush Whitehouse. Not to mention that, according to Bill Moyers study on the chemical industry, there is serious lag time between releasing toxic chemical to be used by industry and the public and the EPA actually studying what the effects are/might be.

The New York Times > Magazine > First Person: Toxic Breast Milk?:
If human breast milk came stamped with an ingredients label, it might read something like this: 4 percent fat, vitamins A, C, E and K, lactose, essential minerals, growth hormones, proteins, enzymes and antibodies. In a healthy woman, it contains 100 percent of virtually everything a baby needs to survive, plus a solid hedge of extras to help ward off a lifetime of diseases like diabetes and cancer. Breast milk helps disarm salmonella and E. coli. Its unique recipe of fatty acids boosts brain growth and results in babies with higher I.Q.'s than their formula-slurping counterparts. Nursing babies suffer from fewer infections, hospitalizations and cases of sudden infant death syndrome. For the mother, too, breast-feeding and its delicate plumbing of hormones afford protection against breast and ovarian cancers and stress. Despite exhaustion, the in-laws and dirty laundry, every time we nurse our babies, the love hormone oxytocin courses out of our pituitaries like a warm bath. Human milk is like ice cream, Valium and Ecstasy all wrapped up in two pretty packages.

But read down the label, and the fine print, at least for some women, sounds considerably less appetizing: DDT (the banned but stubbornly persistent pesticide famous for nearly wiping out the bald eagle), PCB's, dioxin, trichloroethylene, perchlorate, mercury, lead, benzene, arsenic. When we nurse our babies, we feed them not only the fats, sugars and proteins that fire their immune systems, metabolisms and cerebral synapses. We also feed them, albeit in minuscule amounts, paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline byproducts, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides and flame retardants.

Chicago Famous Buildings

There's a book of architectural marvels that I'm buying to take my own walking tour of Chicago (in the spring, natch)

"Chicago's Famous Buildings" (Franz Schulze, Kevin Harrington)

as mentioned in Sunday's Trib (can't find link yet)

From the inside flap

One of the premier architectural cities of the United States--if not the world--Chicago boasts a breathtaking skyline, dozens of architectural monuments, and a historic legacy few other cities can equal. And it's still growing! Since its first appearance in 1965, Chicago's Famous Buildings has been the standard and bestselling guide to the city's architectural riches. Now thoroughly revised and updated, this fifth edition will remain the leading pocket guide to some of the world's greatest urban architecture.

Chicago's Famous Buildings, fifth edition, completely updated and revised by Franz Schulze and Kevin Harrington, covers more than a decade of extraordinary new architecture and takes a fresh look back at the city's classical legacy of Adler, Sullivan, Burnham, Root, Wright, and Mies van der Rohe. The authors have added many new descriptions and images of the most important projects in Chicago since the fourth edition, including the massive reconstruction of Grant Park around Frank Gehry's Music Pavilion, and they cover as well the current status of older buildings--some destroyed, others, such as Burnham's Reliance Building, marvelously restored and brought back to life. Chicago's Famous Buildings, fifth edition, also includes expanded sections on the city's future and the development of its diverse neighborhoods, presented with new maps to serve as an even more effective walking guide. A glossary of architectural terms, an extensive index, and more than sixty new photographs of both old and new buildings bring this guide completely up-to-date.

Authoritative, informative, and easier to use than ever before, this fifth edition of Chicago's Famous Buildings will serve tourists and residents alike as the leading architectural guide to the treasures of this marvelous city....

U.S. sponsors kidnapping and torture

This is as disturbing a story as that of Maher Arar

Our government should not be allowed to conduct illegal kidnappings and torture on anyone, innocent or guilty. There are better ways of getting information that don't put U.S. travelers at risk. I hope that no Republican-GWB supporter is ever abducted and interrogated by some Islamic fundamentalist organization, but if it does happen, this is the precedent.

German's Claim of Kidnapping Brings Investigation of U.S. Link:

A German citizen born in Lebanon alleges that he was shackled, abused and accused of having ties to Al Qaeda while he was held by Americans in a prison in Afghanistan.

It was the first day of what Mr. Masri said would become five months in captivity. In an interview, he said that after being kidnapped by the Macedonian authorities at the border, he was turned over to officials he believed were from the United States. He said they flew him to a prison in Afghanistan, where he said he was shackled, beaten repeatedly, photographed nude, injected with drugs and questioned by interrogators about what they insisted were his ties to Al Qaeda.

He was released without ever being charged with a crime. The German police and prosecutors have been investigating Mr. Masri's allegations since he reported the matter to them last June, two weeks after his return to Germany.

Martin Hofmann, a senior national prosecutor in Munich who handles terrorism cases and is in charge of the Masri investigation, and another official, a senior organized crime investigator in southern Germany, say they believe Mr. Masri's story. They said investigators interviewed him for 17 hours over two days, that his story was very detailed and that he recounted it consistently. In addition, the officials said they had verified specific elements of the case, including that Mr. Masri was forced off the bus at the border...

more horrific description if the nyt goes behind archive walls.....

Up Tempo NBA rulez

Can I get a witness! Testify, brotha!

Really, fast-moving basketball is why I love the sport, and get bored by all other (U.S.) team sports. That is why when the Bulls started to suck, post Jordan-Pippen, I adopted the Sacramento Kings. The Kings play (and still try, but without quite as much talent this year) motion offense, passing the ball around, taking quick shots, and trying to score more points than their opponents. In recent years, more teams have started to play this style as well, resulting in more watchable games. Pat Riley's Knicks were an abomination: the memory of those years ought to keep Riley out of the Hall of Fame. Thug-ball vs. UpTempo. No contest. And Steve Nash, the little Canadian who could, should be on the short list for MVP....

Anyway, some excerpts from Dennis Hans' article:

NYT: Phoenix Pays a Little Homage to Much Faster Times:

The Phoenix Suns are a much-needed breath of fresh air for an N.B.A. that remains far too bruising and boring. After 32 games, they were averaging a league-best 109.3 points, an astonishing 7.9 points more a game than the Dallas Mavericks, ranked No. 2 in that category.

But for those who become winded watching Steve Nash and his buddies run up and down the court, consider this: The Suns average 85 field-goal attempts a game. The 1960 N.B.A. champion Boston Celtics averaged 120.
Nothing would make me happier than Mike D'Antoni becoming a coaching role model. D'Antoni learned the game from his father, a legendary high school coach in West Virginia whose teams turned on the crowd by running the opposition right out of the gym. It was a style that kept the focus on the players on the floor, not on the “genius coach” on the sideline. Most important, it was a style that made kids want to play basketball.

The N.B.A.'s second-greatest dynasty, the Michael Jordan-era Bulls from 1991 to 1998, led the league in scoring in two title seasons and scored well above the league average in each of its six championship years. That team also served as a beacon in the dark days of the slow-paced Thug Era, first by dethroning the Bad Boy Pistons, then by serving as the worst nightmare for Pat Riley's Broadway Bullies....

To be fair to the Suns, a portion of their staggering field-goal-attempt deficit compared with the early 1960's Celtics is not their fault. Rather, it is a reflection of the walk-it-up, milk-the-clock, prevent-fast-breaks-at-all-costs philosophy of some opposing teams shackled by control-freak coaches. (Thankfully, their numbers are dwindling, and a few of the worst offenders have started to lighten their grip.)

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Sitemeter down


Sitemeter seems to be down. Apparently, not the first time, but first time I've noticed. Also, some people seem to think that sitemeter undercounts site traffic by 30-40%. Hmmmm. I haven't noticed that to be true, probably due to not counting myself as a 'visitor'

Though to be fair, they could be under a DoS attack by some script kiddies. Who knows.

PING www.sitemeter.com ( 56 data bytes

--- www.sitemeter.com ping statistics ---
10 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss

Non-authoritative answer:
Name: www.sitemeter.com

3 ge0-0-1.mar2.chicago13-il.us.xo.net ( 7.144 ms 6.842 ms 7.208 ms 4 p5-1-0.rar2.chicago-il.us.xo.net ( 6.691 ms 6.818 ms 7.3 ms 5 p1-0.ir1.chicago2-il.us.xo.net ( 6.765 ms 7.49 ms 6.874 ms 6 ( 7.422 ms 8.189 ms 7.752 ms 7 cer-core-03.inet.qwest.net ( 6.924 ms 8.533 ms 9.462 ms 8 dca-core-01.inet.qwest.net ( 91.156 ms 30.439 ms 30.527 ms 9 dca-core-02.inet.qwest.net ( 32.011 ms 32.438 ms 30.665 ms 10 tpa-core-01.inet.qwest.net ( 77.592 ms 56.088 ms 57.858 ms 11 tpa-core-02.inet.qwest.net ( 53.776 ms 53.985 ms 54.186 ms 12 fl1-edge-03.inet.qwest.net ( 59.079 ms 59.287 ms 61.322 ms 13 ( 56.655 ms 56.341 ms 58.953 ms 14 ( 55.669 ms 57.858 ms 55.578 ms 15 * * * 16 * * * 17 * * * 18 * * * 19 * * * 20 * * * 21 * * * 22 * * * 23 * * * 24 * * * 25 * * * 26 * * * 27 * * * 28 * * * 29 * * * 30 * * *

update D. Smith of Sitemeter had some hosting issues on this day, and subsequently has started the process of moving to another server. I should be more clear: I've been happy with sitemeter, just was frustrated to lose a day's worth of data.

Pay for play

Uhh, there's a lot that could be said about the Bush Administration's need to pay media whores directly to promote their policies, but I don't really have the mental energy. I'll borrow a little from Steve Gilliard, and leave it for now.

Pay for play:
Armstrong Williams believes in the No Child Left Behind Act so much, it took $240,000 from the Bush administration to get him to say so (over and over again, apparently) on his talk show.
TV Host Says U.S. Paid Him to Back Policy:
Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams said he was paid by the Department of Education to promote its initiatives in the news media.
Massa, I sure do likes No Child Left Behind:

Massa say, I do. Where are those shoes he needed shined

White House paid commentator to promote law

e-trade account

briefly -

E*Trade Financial said it has tapped Omnicom Group's BBDO to handle creative chores on its $60 million ad account.

The New York-based shop and its interactive arm, Atmosphere, had been given a fourth-quarter assignment in August after a review of undisclosed agencies [Adweek]

Snow photos

A few recent photos from Chicago's recent winter weather. Click for larger versions.
Red snow at night

Blackbird patrons hailing midnight cabs

I find amusing the steady stream of lithe, young, over-dressed women scurrying on their high heels through massive snow drifts, looking for taxi cabs. I suppose if you are going to eat at Blackbird, you cannot sacrifice your look just because there is a blizzard going on.


Hey, it's Mr. Plow!


Call Mr. Plow,
That's my name,
That name again
Is Mr. Plow.


Digital Imaging Resources, iced

snow oval

Dept of Doh!

From the Trib we read of more extensive foresight on the part of City of Chicago officials. What, did they forget that it snows in the winter?

But not every part of the $475 million downtown park was a winter wonderland Thursday. The shimmering, serpentine BP Bridge was closed to the public.

Whenever it snows, visitors to the park can only enjoy the form--but not the function--of the 925-foot bridge designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.

The deck of the $14.5 million span was built using 2,000 planks of Brazilian hardwood. Rock salt would damage the wood, and park officials also discounted using the only other obvious snow-removal technique.

“It's over Columbus [Drive], so it's not like we are going to go out there and shovel it and dump it on the cars,” said Helen Doria, executive director of Millennium Park.

Until it snowed heavily at the park, which opened in July, officials were not aware that wintry weather would force them to close the bridge, Doria said.

Barricades prevent pedestrians who want to cross Columbus between Millennium Park and Daley Bicentennial Park from stepping onto the widely acclaimed bridge.

Everybody, say it together, “DOH!”
and even
“Double Doh!”

Google earnings

We've had these little google ad strips on B12 for several months, and I finally took a look at what they mean in actual revenue. I threw out earlier months statistics, because my site traffic was in the 10-20 hits per day range, and now is in the 50-100 range.

Anyway, averaging approximately two months of data, the google ads brought in $.26 per day (calculated by number of times someone not me clicks). Big bucks, no doubt. I've been corresponding with Google Adsense, trying to figure out how exactly the ads are targeted (I don't think they correspond very well to my actual content), but they didn't really have any answers either.

I don't know if the ads contribute or subtract from the esthetics of B12, or even if B12 has an aesthetic. I don't expect to ever make money blogging, especially since I don't spend enough time actually writing original content. I just wish Google Ads paid for my hosting fees, so my obsession with hoarding information would not cost me actual cash. Actually, if I made $.50 a day, I'd probably be happy, as I am on the small side of the "Long Tail" meme.

That is all.

We figured we're a good test case for this new Microsoft spyware beta. We have a fairly recent HP/XP machine that doesn't get used much (like, hardly ever (sic)) because we have 5 macs (currently). Nothing 'mission-critical' resides on the PC; we just keep it for periodic use (like web-demos that aren't mac friendly, testing web sites, cursing at, etc.)

WSJ: Microsoft Unveils Virus, Spyware Tools:

Gates: Microsoft to offer anti-spyware | CNET News.com:

Gates said Microsoft will offer software to detect malicious applications and that the company will keep it up-to-date on an ongoing basis.

BBC: Microsoft debuts security tools:

Microsoft releases two free programs designed to help users keep PCs free of viruses and spyware.

However, actually downloading the software proved to be an effort in frustration. After about 5 minutes of clicking, downloading, and validating my Windows installation (probably to check my bank account to see if I stole my PC), I got frustrated with the whole process, and walked away. I guess "genuine Microsoft Windows" users like myself (yes, purchasing from HP should insure that my software isn't stolen, right?) can't expect to be treated to a machine without spyware. Blech. Odds are high that I don't have spyware altogether, because the machine is barely used, and has always had firewall protection.

How did this company become such a powerhouse anyway? How do people (or IT departments!) put up with it?

Oh, and I did finally sit through all the gobbledy-gook, and install the program. It found 5 spyware programs installed. Crappola.

More interesting commentary regarding the pending 'merger' between LJ and MT....

apophenia: The Cultural Divide Between LiveJournal and Six Apart:

Live Journal is a culture, not simply a product or commodity that can be bought. From an outsider's perspective, it might appear as though they are similar properties - they are both blogging tools, right? Wrong.

Jump inside LJ culture. People who use LJ talk about their LJs, not their blogs. They mock bloggers who want to be pundits, journalists, experts. In essence, they mock the culture of bloggers that use Six Apart's tools. During interviews with LJ/Xanga folks, i've been told that MovableType is for people with no friends, people who just talk to be heard, people who are trying too hard.

LJ folks don't see LJ as a tool, but a community. Bloggers may see the ethereal blogosphere as their community, but for LJers, it's all about LJ. Aside from the ubergeek LJers, LJers don't read non-LJs even though syndication is available. They post for their friends, comment excessively and constantly moderate who should have access to what.

Like I mentioned before, I use both tools, but am ambivalent about which is 'better'. LJ seems easier to set up and post to, and has access to 'built-in' community; MT gives a lot more control (css templates, etc.), and access to info-porn data (site traffic stats, etc.). We'll see if LJ turns into geocities (post-yahoo purchase), or maintains its identity.


As part of Six Apart, LiveJournal will continue to operate as a separate division and will continue to foster an active community around the globe. Brad Fitzpatrick, Danga's founder, president and lead developer, will join Six Apart as the company's chief architect, extending his proven skills in scaling large services to the rest of Six Apart's products. The Danga staff will remain dedicated to LiveJournal and Six Apart expects the staff to grow as it invests in the service. LiveJournal will continue to distribute a large portion of its software under various open source licenses. Six Apart intends to invest in the LiveJournal software, which will remain separate from Six Apart's Movable Type and TypePad products, with dedicated engineering and support teams for each product.

more here and here

Jerry Kleiner, redux

Follow up to this post on Jerry Kleiner projects reveals a few more details about my neighborhood mogul.....from Chicago Mag

The indefatigable Jerry Kleiner (Saiko, Gioco, Opera, et al.) has got his hands in so many new projects that we can barely keep them all straight. Here, a primer on what he has going and when:

Concept: Chicago Illuminating Company, a corporate party facility in a rehabbed power plant
Location: 19 E. 21st St.; 312-326-9500 (South Loop)
ETA: Opened in November 2004 for wedding parties, artists, corporations
Kleiner: “It’s an unbelievable, overwhelming space. You could seat 350, or have 1,000 milling around.”

Concept: Unnamed late-night restaurant with a “lounge environment” in an old meat storage building
Location: 311 N. Sangamon St. (Fulton Market area)
ETA: Early March
Kleiner: “It will be an interesting, modern structure in an old freezer building.”

Concept: Still unnamed Latino restaurant
Location: 702 W. Fulton St. (the old Drink space)
ETA: March (we’re not sure what happened to his original estimation of November 2004)
Kleiner: “It’s moving along beautifully. But we don’t have a name yet.”

Concept: Unnamed American-Asian restaurant/lounge
Location: 5201 S. Harper Ave. (Hyde Park)
ETA: Starting construction in mid-February, with plans to open in late summer. (With Kleiner, this usually means fall.)
Kleiner: “It’ll be a full restaurant with a nice bar with booths where people in the community can come for a cocktail and dinner. There’s not much of that going on in Hyde Park.”

Concept: Unnamed restaurant in a 6,000-square-foot warehouse where Al Capone reportedly used to produce beer. Adjacent is a giant piece of vacant land that Kleiner envisions with a full, year-round garden.
Location: 2110 S. Wabash Ave. (next door to Chicago Illuminating Company)
ETA: The garden will open in the summer, the restaurant in the fall (“Next week I will have a full game plan for this space”).
Kleiner: “All I know for now is that when you walk in through French doors, the place will overlook this beautiful urban garden. It’s a beautiful canvas waiting to be painted.”

Oatmeal and winter

Probably because the several inches of snow, but possibly because of a premonition of this article, I had a supreme craving for oatmeal (steel-cut, natch) today.
NYT: Eating Well: Oatmeal to Please the Palate and the Label-Obsessed:
What has changed is the form in which they eat it. Instead of cooking the old-fashioned steel-cut or more common rolled oatmeal, many Americans prefer instant mixes, which involve microwaving or stirring with boiling water. They don't know what they're missing.

What is so appealing about oatmeal, especially the kind made from steel-cut oats, is its nutty flavor and texture. I recently sampled almost 40 types of all of kinds of oatmeals, and the kindest thing I can say about the ones sold as instant is that they have the texture of baby cereal. The nutty flavor is nonexistent, and the instants generally contain sugar and artificial flavors.

Hey Y'all

I remember first moving to Texas from Toronto, when I was a pre-teen. I had to ask everybody at school to repeat everything twice, or more, because I could not understand what the heck they were saying.


If you ever find yourself in a group of Southerners and want to spot the Texan in the bunch, listen hard for the y'alls. Most of them will surely use the expression--a contraction of "you all"--to refer to a group of people ("Are y'all goin' to the store?"), but the Texan is more likely to employ it to refer to a single individual as well.

That's just one of the unusual discoveries made by two linguistics professors at the University of Texas-San Antonio who are studying Texas Twang, the distinctive dialect of English proudly spoken by natives of the Lone Star State--and sometimes ridiculed by the rest of the country.

The husband-wife team, Guy Bailey and Jan Tillery, are fixin' to complete the last of their research this summer. When they're done finished with their work, which is underwritten by the National Geographic Society, they might could write the definitive guide to what they lovingly call TXE, or Texas English.

"Texas is different--it's the only state that was its own country at one time and has its own creation story," said Bailey, a native of Alabama and provost and executive vice president of the university. "Out of that has come a sense of braggadocio and a strong desire to hold on to a unique way of speaking."

Y'all is a case in point. Use of the term is spreading beyond the South throughout the U.S., Tillery noted, largely because it fills a linguistic need: It's a clearer way to denote the second-person plural than the existing--and confusing--"you."


Most native Texans, for example, use a flat "i", saying "naht" for night and "rahd" for ride, and they don't make any audible distinction when pronouncing such words as "pool" and "pull" or "fool" and "full." Midwesterners, by contrast, exhibit their own characteristic linguistic quirks, such as something experts call a fronted "o" in words like "about."

The researchers have found that some distinctive Texas speech patterns, such as saying "warsh" instead of "wash" and "lard" instead of "lord," are beginning to disappear as younger generations abandon them.

Also vanishing is much of the traditional regional vocabulary, such as "light bread" for white bread and "snap beans" for green beans.

But in other ways, Texas English is expanding. Newcomers to the state soon begin sounding like Texans, Bailey noted, tossing around y'alls and saying "Ahma fixin' to" (generally defined as "I will do it if I get around to it").

The infamous double modal ("might could," "may can," "might would"), a hedging construction denoting less certainty than "might" alone, remains more elusive, however.

"It's very easy for people who move into Texas to pick up `y'all,'" Bailey said. "It's a little bit harder to pick up `fixin' to.' But `might could' is another matter. We have found that unless you're born and raised in Texas, you don't pick up the double modals."

Ha, the scourge of modern health fights back, with the secondary scourge of modern life, advertising....
Sugar Association To Counter-Attack 'Sugar Bashing':
The Sugar Association, a group comprised of many of the leading companies in the $8 billion dollar U.S. sugar industry, will launch a multimillion-dollar marketing effort in the first quarter of 2005 to help "reverse the impact of sugar bashing brought on by the low-carb craze" and manufacturers of artificial sweeteners.

The effort, via new AOR Marriner Marketing Communications, Columbia, Md., will include TV, radio and print as part of a "consumer education campaign that will focus on the natural benefits of sugar." The campaign will launch in test markets before going national.


"We are confident that our selection of Marriner will help us to reverse the impact of sugar bashing brought on by the low-carb craze and fueled by manufacturers of artificial sweeteners," Andy Briscoe, president and CEO of the Sugar Association, said in a statement. "In this review process, Marriner demonstrated their ability to quickly assess our market situation and develop strategic solutions that permeate their work."

Six Apart to buy Live Journal

I use both of these systems, more Movabletype than Livejournal these days, but interesting news nonetheless.

Six Apart to buy Live Journal:
we are starting the year with a bang. I have learnt exclusively that Six Apart, the parent company behind hosted blogging service TypePad, and Moveable Type is about to acquire Live Journal, for an undisclosed amount. The deal is a mix of stock and cash, and could be announced sometime later this month, according to those close to the two companies. If the deal goes through, then Six Apart will become one of the largest weblog companies in the world, with nearly 6.5 million users. It also gives the company a very fighting chance against Google’s Blogger and Microsoft’s MSN Spaces.
...Live Journal was started by Brad Fitzpatrick back in 1999, long before Six Apart existed and blogging was all the rage. Live Journal, which is based in Portland, Oregon has 5.5 million users, though only a miniscule number are paying customers. Live Journal is very popular with teenagers and is built on an open source platform, and arguably is one of the largest open source projects on the web. Live Journal has been in talks with several other possible acquirers, though Six Apart is more of a natural fit. My sources tell me that all Live Journal employees are going to be retained.

update: NYT: News Item

Six Apart, the maker of Movable Type, software for publishing Web logs, said that it had acquired Danga Interactive, which operates the popular blogging site LiveJournal.com.
New York Times: Business 1/5/05 11:00 PM David F. Gallagher (NYT)

Trackback spam

Oh, great. Now I get Trackback scatological spam. Cartoon rape sites seem to be heavily promoted. Who likes these? blech. Can some astute programmer write a script that destroys the computers of blog spammers?

Anyway, Six Apart has some tips that I'm about to implement....

Six Apart Guide to Combatting Comment Spam:
This document describes how malicious or unwanted comments ('comment spam') affect weblogs, the techniques spammers use to abuse weblogs, and the tactics that can be used to prevent and defend against these attacks.

More possibilities for our next car.....(lease is up mid-spring)

Audiovox announces iPod Mobile Interface Kit: Audiovox Corporation has announced a compatibility program that allows the device to play through your car stereo system. According to Tom Malone, Senior VP, Sales, "Unless you've been off the planet you know that iPod(R) has virtually taken over the portable listening habits of people from 16 to 65 and older. Our new iPod Mobile Interface Kit extends this capability to the mobile environment."
The Audiovox iPod Mobile Interface Kit allows for a direct connection of the iPod to most factory radios for playback through the cars audio system. In addition, it allows the radio controls to operate the iPod and even allows
the driver to use the steering wheel control* to the iPod. You can use Next Track, Previous Track, and Fast-Forward & Fast Rewind. The system will also charge the internal battery of the iPod.
The Audiovox iPod Mobile Interface Kit is easy to install with a plug in connection to the CD Changer port. Turn on the car radio and the radio buttons will activate Next Track, Previous Track, Fast Forward and Fast Rewind.
"Best of all," says Malone, "The iPod screen will display all the Song/Artist data, and browse, same as if it wasn't connected. Additionally, if the vehicle has factory-installed radio controls on the steering wheel, they will work with the iPod Mobile Interface Kit, allowing the driver to change tracks, Previous or Next as well as FF and Rewind."

Robert Matsui RIP

Some news from Sacramento that doesn't involve the NBA and my Kings (who squeaked by the Knicks, thanks to a Bobby Jackson impersonation from Maurice Evans), from a talk by the recently departed Robert Matsui.

We forget sometimes, in our national arrogance, that the U.S. is not necessarily a benevolent nation; ask the Cherokee, ask the Nisei, ask the Nicaraguans. Events like the internment of Japanese citizens are scars upon our public flesh, and as liberals, we are still ashamed to discuss the lingering effects.

Matsui speech at the JFK Library ....

...But as I was in Sacramento and I went on to school to the University of California at Berkeley, I was a student there in 1959 and 1960, and graduated in 1963. I was inspired to become a lawyer by reading when I was a young person an autobiography written by Clarence Darrell (?). That was my goal in life, and I did become a lawyer.

I'd like, if I may, to take a moment to read something that I was able to get through the Freedom of Information Act in 1992. Individual number, 25261C. File number 405986. Your birth, '41, relocation center Tule (?) Lake, assembly center Pinedale. Home address, Sacramento, California.

Country of birth of father U.S. mainland, country of birth of mother, U.S. mainland. Birthplace, California. Year or arrival, American born, never in Japan. Marital status, single. Languages, not applicable.

Race, Japanese and no spouse. Highest grade, no schooling or kindergarten. Military service, no military nor naval service and no physical defects, and no public assistance or pension program.

Alien registration and Social Security number, none. Did not attend Japanese language school. Has neither alien registration number, nor the Social Security number.

Length of time in Japan, none. Age in Japan, never in Japan. Schooling in Japan, and number of years, none.

That happened to be my file that is still in the defense Department of the United States government. I was six months old at the time that I was taken, with my mother and father, from Sacramento, California, and placed in internment camps in the United States.

I was never given a trial. I never went before any magistrate, nor did my parents. To this day, I do not know what the charges that were lodged against me or my deceased parents at this time.

I spent approximately three and a half years of my life there, although I have no personal memory of it. I do know that many of my friends of Japanese ancestry suffered a great deal.

My mother and father refused to talk about it with me until they were nearing their death, separately, obviously. I remember when I was in the fourth grade at William Bland School in Sacramento, California, I was asked by a very well intentioned teacher, because we were studying American history and World War II. She said, "Bob, weren't you in one of those camps, those camps for Japanese during the war? And maybe you can describe this to the classmates."

I'll never forget it. I shuddered. I must have turned color and I said "I don't know what you're talking about." She says, "Are you sure? You were in one of those camps. I know your mother and father were." I said "I don't know what you mean."

Then we went out later in the playground and I remember one of my friends, a very good friend, going like this to me as if it were a gun or something, and saying, "Were you a spy? Was that why you were in jail?"

What our problem was was that there was this specter of disloyalty that hung over us as Americans of Japanese ancestry, those of us that were interned during World War II, 115,000, Americans, basically, of Japanese ancestry.

quotes continue here

RSS feed alteration

To try to reduce the traffic to my site, I've altered my RSS feeds (I think) to include only excerpts, utilizing the

code (per my understanding of reverse engineering these instructions....). If I mangle the template horribly, and it bothers you, let me know.

Museum Science Industry

C brought to my attention the photo I took of the Museum of Science and Industry a couple of summers ago.

from White City

Palace of Fine Arts/Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry represents the only major building remaining from the World's Fair of 1893. Unlike the other structures that were destroyed after the fair, the Palace of Fine Arts (as it was known), which was built to showcase artworks, remained. The backside of the museum (over-looking Jackson Park Lagoon) was actually the front of the palace during the fair, and the color of the exterior was changed during renovations. But the building looks almost exactly the way it did in 1893. Some of the light posts from the fair still illuminate the museum campus.

Lagoon in jackson park with bird

museum S_I_after
After I 'post-carded' a version of it it (some Photoshop magic, I don't even remember the exact steps)

Click for larger versions

Surf's Up

Haaretz - Israel News:
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - A British tourist in Sri Lanka claims that he actually surfed the weekend's tsunami.

Gary Wolf is one of a large group of British tourists that is currently sleeping on mattresses in the conference room of a Colombo hotel. He told Haaretz that he was out on a surfboard when the tsunami hit.

"Suddenly I saw that the rocks near the shore had simply disappeared," he recounted. "At first, I didn't understand what was happening and I concentrated on surfing. When I finished surfing, I discovered that I was on the highway, about half a mile from the beach where my room was. Fortunately, the waves pulled me and my surfboard into shore instead of out into the ocean."

Wolf is a professional surfer who regularly enters international competitions.

"Had I known what was going on, I might not have left the water," he said. "I might have tried to continue enjoying one of those moments that will never recur."

Amazon Republican?

Atrios, and others, have publicly de-linked to Amazon because of Amazon's contributions to Rethuglican coffers. As much as I admire Dr. Black, I cannot claim to have such a strong reaction to Amazon's political affiliations. Amazon has taken thousands of dollars of my money, so there is probably some cognitive dissonance going on, however, I just don't think that contributing to Democratic thieves is in any meaningful sense intrinsically better than contributing to Rethuglican thieves. I'd rather my politicians remain un-purchased. Of course, I'd have to live on another planet for that to happen, but still.....

Apparently, I'm not alone in my ambivalence


Might add this to the sidebar eventually. Or not.

or might this one. Not sure yet until I see how it works for a few days.

p.s. I don't know why they display the same thing - the code looks different to me.

{, }

Monty Python's Spamalot

Spamalot on Lake

As a follow up to this Dave Eggers interview, here is a brief history of Monty Python, found in the latest New Yorker (that I've received anyway, Chicago mail service being what it is), as a prelude to the Spamalot review....

When “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” first began taping in London, in the fall of 1969, studio audiences were totally unprepared for what the were about to see. People brought in off the street, expecting to watch one of the BBC’s comedies or variety shows—most of them broad and campy—were given, for example, a sketch about sheep who try to fly, and how flying sheep, with the right engineering, might be made to accommodat human passengers and used for economical mass transit. Older ladies, bused in and anticipating domestic comedy—or even an actual circus—wer given a play-by-play account of Pablo Picasso’s efforts to paint a masterpiece while riding a bicycle. That segment, filmed in the suburbs of Londo and shown to the studio audience, included references to Chagall, Miró, Brancusi, and Léger—and marked perhaps the first and only time that Kur Schwitters has been used as a punch line. Did the audience laugh? Not much

After the first handful of episodes aired in Britain—late on Sundays—few people knew what to make of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” BBC executives were concerned, the family members of the group were concerned, and, for the most part, the members of Python were concerned. “Do you realize,” John Cleese said to Michael Palin before the first taping, “this could be the first comedy show to go out with absolutely no laughs at all?” When the comedy was big and wet—sixteen-ton weights falling onto cast members, would-be soldiers killed while attacking each other with bananas and raspberries—the response was warm. Much of the time, though, the studio audiences were respectful but confused. BBC executives shuttled the show into ever-changing time slots, and hoped it would disappear.

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” was a sketch show written and performed by six men—Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin—all of whom (except for Gilliam, an American) had attended Cambridge or Oxford, writing and performing in college revues. After college, they enjoyed successful careers in TV, including stints on the droll news sendup “The Frost Report” and a children’s show called “Do Not Adjust Your Set.” When they joined forces, they created a program that combined startling erudition, theatrical precision, and utter madness. All the while, the Pythons employed a brazenness about what they considered funny that went unmatched until the early days of “Late Night with David Letterman.” In any given episode of “Monty Python,” there are usually only a few segments that would be considered ha-ha funny by a wide swath of people. These sketches, involving silly walks, nudges and winks, and songs about cross-dressing lumberjacks, share equal time with those segments which are disquieting—like the sketch wherein a son takes his dead mother to the undertaker and, after considering various burying and cremation options, decides to eat her. Some bits were just willfully odd. A man in full armor hitting a man with a rubber chicken, for example, may have been preceded by a sophisticated satire of the British judicial system, with a cameo, for no discernible reason, by Cardinal Richelieu.

“Monty Python” was always closer to Dada than to “Laugh-In,” and as the show matured the episodes became ever more conceptually advanced. In 2000, A&E reissued, on DVD, all forty-five episodes of the show in one boxed set, and watching them in order reveals a steady progression: at first, the group seems generally eager for the audience’s approval, even mugging occasionally; over the course of seasons two, three, and four, the writing becomes braver, angrier, stylistically restless, and more likely to go for long stretches without overt attempts at humor. Monty Python’s goal was not only to make audiences laugh but, just as important, to tear apart the medium of television with extreme prejudice. As a whole, the series, which ended in 1974, has no competition for being the most consistently bizarre program ever aired on TV.

Was it a British thing? That was the assumption by some, and it remains the explanation offered by those for whom Python’s humor does little. In the early days, there were various halfhearted attempts to bring the show over to the United States—Lorne Michaels reportedly sold “Saturday Night Live” as “‘Monty Python’ meets ‘60 Minutes’”—but the first major exposure American audiences had to Python was via Johnny Carson. After a highly successful Canadian stage tour in 1973, the group was invited to do a series of sketches on the “Tonight Show”—hosted by Joey Bishop on that particular night. The result was dropped-jaw silence. The curtain went up and Chapman and Idle performed a piece involving the burying of a cat. Idle: “I just spent four hours burying the cat.” Chapman: “Four hours to bury the cat?” Idle: “Yes, it wouldn’t keep still, wriggling about, howling its head off.” It was a while before network television came calling again. Did the Pythons care? Not much. Then and always, they cared if people laughed, but they didn’t care if everyone laughed.

In 1974, a group of PBS stations bought broadcast rights for the first three seasons, and soon enough the show was sluicing its way into the brains of, according to Palin, “insomniacs, intellectuals, and burglars” in North America. In addition to the expected audience of college students—who understood the show as a collision between a comedy-variety show and surrealism in its purest form—others just liked to laugh at the funny men dressed as middle-aged women. The show wasn’t always easy to find in the United States, but its following became central to any effective PBS pledge drive. The Pythons were heroes to the Second City contingent, and had made their way to Graceland. Elvis Presley, a big fan, was known to quote Idle’s “Nudge Nudge” skit to his friends.

read the rest here, or barring that, here...

Philip K. Dick

My guru, PKD, says....

Philip K. Dick:

"Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night."

"I Am Alive and You Are Dead: The Strange Life and Times of Philip K. Dick" (Emmanuel Carrere)

US Brands hurt

Yikes. Maybe some of the donations to the Repuglican party should have been re-directed to other organizations?

From PromoWorks:

(Direct Newsline) -- A new poll indicates 20% of European and Canadian consumers consciously avoid purchasing American brands because they disapprove of U.S. foreign policies, according to GMI Inc., a Seattle-based market research firm.

U.S. brands face continued erosion of market share abroad due to ongoing boycotts. A direct correlation exists between how closely Europeans and Canadians associate companies with the U.S. and the likelihood that they'll avoid purchasing those companies' brands.
Roughly half of Canadian and European consumers distrust U.S. companies, according to poll results.

More false spring


A couple more 'false spring' photos from December 31, 2004, Chicago to go along with these.


A 'natural light' photo of the Abn-Amro building, taken New Years Eve. Slightly funky result, but still cheerful.

harbor light
click for larger version

Another photo of the Belmont Harbor ice floes. I slightly upped the blue in Photoshop to draw attention to the painterly aspects of the winter light, but not by much.

End of year best songs

Year end list, part the 1

In no particular order, these songs stuck in my head this year, even though several I've owned for a while (Coltrane, Ciccone Youth, Tosh, etc.).....

White City repost


Sorry for the long re-post, but I'm excited about this list: I plan to take a tour of these spots (some I've already seen of course, but not in sequence like this). The book
Devil in the White City
is set amongst the 1893 worlds fair.....

Also the Trib's articles go behind firewall rather quickly. The dead trees edition includes photos, but I'll have to take my own I suppose.


Chi Tribune: Remnants of the White City
"the time is right to recall the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the predecessor to our logjam of city festivals.

In the course of its six-month run, that remarkable World's Fair drew 27 million visitors to Jackson Park. Attendees sampled new foods (including Cracker Jack and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer), marveled at new technologies (including the zipper), and listened to music transmitted live via telephone from New York all while surrounded by a "White City" of buildings envisioned by Chicago's architectural legend Daniel Burnham.

The 1893 fair has, of course, gained new prominence since the publication of "Devil in the White City," in which author Erik Larson examines the architecture of the World's Fair and profiles one of the nation's first serial killers, H.H. Holmes. For most readers, the book is an examination of a simultaneously grand and gory period of American history. For the local reader, the book doubles as a treasure map to remnants of a place in time when the eyes of the world widened at the fest on Chicago's South Side.

The World's Fair still exists. One need only know where to look.

Palace of Fine Arts/Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry represents the only major building remaining from the World's Fair of 1893. Unlike the other structures that were destroyed after the fair, the Palace of Fine Arts (as it was known), which was built to showcase artworks, remained. The backside of the museum (over-looking Jackson Park Lagoon) was actually the front of the palace during the fair, and the color of the exterior was changed during renovations. But the building looks almost exactly the way it did in 1893. Some of the light posts from the fair still illuminate the museum campus.

Ferris wheel

Visitors to the 1889 World's Fair in Paris marveled at the Eiffel Tower. When Burnham challenged American engineers to "out Eiffel Eiffel," a Galesburg, Ill., native presented his idea for a massive, riding wheel. Initially, fair organizers doubted whether George Washington Ferris' wheel was feasible (or safe). But the young engineer persisted, and the world's first Ferris wheel amazed fairgoers.

Ticket booth

While most of the grand buildings and monuments were destroyed, smaller elements of the World's Fair have withstood the past century. One in particular is a ticket booth from the fair now stands in the sideyard shadows of a famous Oak Park home.

The DeCaro House, 313 N. Forest Ave., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1906, draws most of the attention from historians, but the unusual shack in the yard is a treasure. In its retirement from the ticket business, the structure has been used as a garden toolshed, a rabbit hut and now a garden decoration.

Rebecca Hyman of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust: "It's a small shed, but it still looks like a ticket booth. The original window grills of the booth were found in the basement of the house."

The Rookery

With partner John Root, Daniel Burnham built The Rookery building in 1888 and situated their office on the 11th floor. As lead architect of the World's Fair, Burnham attracted the nation's top builders to The Rookery and drafted blueprints for the White City in the building that today stands at 209 S. LaSalle St. The Rookery is a Chicago landmark, hailed as much for its unique architecture as for its role in history.

Larson: "It's a gorgeous building. The library is still there and it's like you walk back in time. It was so tall when constructed that Burnham would have looked out and seen nothing at that level. It's a fantastic relic."


Statue of the Republic/Big Mary

Perhaps the most memorable image of the fair is that of Big Mary, the 111-foot tall Statue of the Republic that oversaw the Midway of the fair. Cast in gold leaf with arms uplifted, Big Mary welcomed the fairgoers and set a tone of classical wonder. The original statue was destroyed. Today, a replica welcomes golfers to the Jackson Park public course, which blankets in green what was once the White City. Perhaps better nicknamed Big Bertha, the replica statue's uplifted arms seem to inspire duffers to greatness.

Graceland graves

The grave sites of Burnham, former partner John Root, architect Louis Sullivan, Mayor Carter Henry Harrison and other Chicagoans central to the story of "Devil in the White City" can be found at Graceland Cemetery on the North Side. "On a crystalline day," wrote Larson, "you can almost hear the tinkle of fine crystal, the rustle of silk and wool, almost smell the expensive cigars." Serial killer H.H. Holmes is buried in a cement-filled grave (to thwart grave robbers) in Holy Cross Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Trees/gardens/lagoons in Jackson Park

The grounds of modern-day Jackson Park are remnants of the work of the fair's lead landscape architect, Frederick Olmsted. Built to awe the millions of 19th Century fairgoers, these grounds today welcome the crowds that congregate to sunbathe, barbecue or admire the natural beauty.

Larson: "The lagoons and hills can be considered remnants of Olmsted's work; with his team he essentially re-created that whole place. All the hills were manmade -- constructed of residue from digging the canals. The landscape has changed significantly since the World's Fair, so you have to be careful judging what is from that era and what is new. The contours of Jackson Park have changed; there's now a marina and a golf course.

Brian Williquette, district forester with Chicago Park District: "There are living trees in the park that were planted for the World's Fair, and there are trees that predate 1893, which Olmsted designed around. There is a burr oak just north of the rose garden with a spectacular 990-foot spread. And there is a fenced-in area that was a rose garden at the fair. The majority of the lagoons are Olmsted's work"

Wooded Island

Rising like a patch of wiry hair out of the Jackson Park Lagoon, the Wooded Island has an elegant history. Olmsted dug out portions of land to turn a peninsula into this island, on which sat a Japanese Garden amid a variety of plant life. The island may look unkempt to the weekend gardener, but this was the intent all along.

Larson: "The Wooded Isle was Olmsted's treasure. It's now overgrown and very much tangled -- probably how Olmsted would have loved to see it. I would bet divers would find artifacts in the lagoon surrounding the island."

Williquette: "Olmsted used native and non-native plants, which were eventually allowed to grow wild."

The Midway

The Midway, once the main grounds of the World's Fair that hosted belly dancers, side shows and oddities from around the world, is today a portion of Jackson Park. When construction crews recently broke ground to create an ice skating rink, they unearthed massive foundations supported the Ferris wheel.

Midway Plaisance (5950 south; the grassy median that cuts through the University of Chicago campus) snakes through what was the center of the Midway. With its ambling path, the street seems more suited for a fair than a thoroughfare. The area is beautiful in a sleepy way, yet it's hard to imagine that, for a period in history, citizens of the world were transfixed by this spot.

Holmes' Hotel

The White City dazzled the millions of attendees, but also blinded Chicagoans to atrocities such as murders, disappearances and muggings -- the most vicious at the hands of H.H. Holmes. Described at his trial as "the most dangerous man in the world" by district attorney George Graham, Holmes body count will never be known, but in Larson's estimate he was responsible for at least nine murders around the time of the World's Fair.

Holmes built a hotel/torture chamber near what is now the intersection of 63rd and Wallace Streets in the Englewood neighborhood, where he killed and disposed of his victims. Today, a post office sits on the lot that once hid ghastly secrets.

Larson: "It's a pretty tough neighborhood. But Chicago is a far safer city today that in the 1890s."

Troy Taylor, author of "Haunted Chicago" (Whitechapel Productions): "Holmes' hotel is a mysterious location; there are only a couple photos remaining. We still don't know how many he killed there. The building was destroyed right after his trial [Holmes was put to death for murder]. No one took credit for destroying it, but it could have been a group from the neighborhood; the hotel had been attracting curiosity seekers. The lot sat empty until 1938 when the post office was built. I've heard there are strange noises there, and animals won't go on that lot. I doubt that people in the neighborhood even know about what happened there."

Millennium Park

Burnham died in 1912, long before the city broke ground on Millennium Park. But his legacy is alive in the new park... "Millennium Park is similar to the World's Fair in a lot of ways," says Tim Samuelson, cultural historian with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. "They are both symbols of Chicago's achievement and progressive nature. They are huge public works projects built for as many people as possible to enjoy."

Both were overdue as well. Originally the World's Fair was scheduled for 1892 -- 400 years after Columbus -- but didn't open until 1893. And Millennium Park's name seems a bit dated in 2004. But big projects often have big delays -- the focus is the finished product.

Last day of the year

Yesterday was springlike, by our standards, mid 50s, sunny, balmy almost for December 31st in northern latitudes.

There still was ice in the Belmont Harbor though....
ice lands
People still took their dogs to swim in the harbor, even with ice floes. Not all dogs went in, but some braver canines did.

ice satellites of love
Empty docks

These empty docks look like satellites to me.

moon over boeing
Moon over Boeing, at the start of a new year

click for larger versions of all photos

Spam attack

I thought I was over this, but apparently not...

A visitor to your weblog B12 Partners Solipsism has automatically been banned by posting more than the allowed number of comments in the last 200 seconds. This has been done to prevent a malicious script from overwhelming your weblog with comments. The banned IP address is

If this was a mistake, you can unblock the IP address and allow the visitor
to post again by logging in to your Movable Type installation, going to
Weblog Config - IP Banning, and deleting the IP address from
the list of banned addresses.

Comment spam sucks. I received over 500 spam comments around 3 am this morning, mostly for scatologic video cites. There's got to be a better way.

over 1000 before I turned off unmoderated comments. Bleh!

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