December 2005 Archives

obligatory 2005 lists

I'm not always enamored of making 'year end', “best of” lists, but I may publish a perfunctory few. Last night at dinner, D and I tried to come up with a list of our top ten restaurants. A few former favorites have probably fallen off the list (like Opera) because of changes in their chef/menu, or other reasons. I insisted that only restaurants we've eaten at this year would qualify, and that frequency of visit had to be a factor, and not just deliciousness.

With Netflix, and a judicious amount of 'time-shifting', I've probably seen 200 movies this year, maybe more. Haven't yet found a good system to tally and annotate movies viewed earlier in the year.

This also was a year that I blew way too much money on music - a perfunctory glance shows something like 300 new albums added to my library in 2005. Yikes.

I've always found that year end lists inevitably skew towards the latter part of the year (which is why so many quality movies get released near the Oscar balloting), and I'll try not to fall in that trap, if possible.


Heck of a Job, Bushie

Paul Krugman makes his year end list....

Paul Krugman Heck of a Job, Bushie - New York Times:

A year ago, everyone expected President Bush to get his way on Social Security. Pundits warned Democrats that they were making a big political mistake by opposing plans to divert payroll taxes into private accounts.

Why does anyone listen to pundits anyway? What's their track record of actually being right? Less than half, no doubt.

A year ago, everyone thought Congress would make Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent, in spite of projections showing that doing so would lead to budget deficits as far as the eye can see. But Congress hasn't acted, and most of the cuts are still scheduled to expire by the end of 2010.

A year ago, Mr. Bush made many Americans feel safe, because they believed that he would be decisive and effective in an emergency. But Mr. Bush was apparently oblivious to the first major domestic emergency since 9/11. According to Newsweek, aides to Mr. Bush finally decided, days after Hurricane Katrina struck, that they had to show him a DVD of TV newscasts to get him to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

Amazing how such an uncurious man ever wanted to become President. I wonder how he convinced himself that this was a job he wanted to get.

A year ago, before “Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job” became a national punch line, the rising tide of cronyism in government agencies and the rapid replacement of competent professionals with unqualified political appointees attracted hardly any national attention.

A year ago, hardly anyone outside Washington had heard of Jack Abramoff, and Tom DeLay's position as House majority leader seemed unassailable.

A year ago, Dick Cheney, who repeatedly cited discredited evidence linking Saddam to 9/11, and promised that invading Americans would be welcomed as liberators - although he hadn't yet declared that the Iraq insurgency was in its “last throes” - was widely admired for his “gravitas.”

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Small Biz

Walt Mossberg makes a point that I (we) unconsciously knew, but never articulated. - Personal Technology

If you went to work this morning and sat down at your desk in front of a personal computer, your experience probably took one of two routes.

Lots of you found yourself logging in, probably multiple times, using passwords you could barely remember because you are forced to change them so often. Then, you entered a world of computing where much of the power and variety of the technology was closed off to you in the name of security or conformity by an information-technology department in your large corporation or organization. Various Web sites were off-limits, as were tools like instant messaging, even though they might have legitimate business purposes.

Others of you, lucky enough to work in a home-based business or in any business or organization too small to have an IT department, could get right to work, using the full range of changing resources and tools offered by software and Internet companies.

So, which of these worlds is the computer industry's favorite? If you guessed that the industry cares most about customers who use all it has to offer and are most willing to try new things, you guessed wrong. The computer industry cares little about consumers and very small businesses. It is focused on serving the IT departments of large corporations and organizations.

This is true even though, by some estimates, twice as many computers are in the hands of individuals and very small organizations than are in the control of corporate IT departments.

Sure, big computer makers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard make and sell “consumer” models with lots of whiz-bang features. But they really focus on corporate customers and jump to the tune of IT managers. Dell recently folded its separate consumer division in the U.S., conceding that only a relatively small slice of its U.S. business is from consumers.

In fact, the industry operates on a false model of the U.S. computer-using population. It imagines the world is divided between “consumers,” who lie around at home playing games and listening to music, with the occasional homework assignment or tax form thrown in; and “enterprises,” large corporations where computing is controlled by IT departments and only mission-critical tasks are performed.

If these models acknowledge small businesses at all, they get lumped into a category called SMB, for small and medium businesses, where the minimum size is something like 500 employees and an IT staff rules.

In fact, the most accurate way to divide the computer-using world is into two segments: the one controlled by an IT department and the one controlled by the people who actually use the computers, be they consumers or small-business folks. A vast amount of business crucial to the U.S. economy is conducted every day in the non-IT part of the computing world.

The computer industry loves, and caters to, the IT segment because it buys machines in large quantities and is run by a geeky priesthood that speaks the industry language. By contrast, the non-IT camp, even though it is larger in the aggregate, buys one, two or three machines at a time and tends to be nontechnical.
Only one major computer company focuses mainly on the non-IT part of the computing world: Apple Computer. This is partly because Apple failed to make inroads in corporations, but it's also because it prefers to aim its products at actual users, not intermediary buyers.

Some of you wonder why reviewers like me, writing for the non-IT part of the world, have consistently praised Apple products in recent years. One reason is that they are good. Another is that they have been unaffected (so far) by the plague of viruses and spyware that makes Windows users miserable. But an underlying reason is the focus on individual users.
In my view, the world would be better off if the biggest computer companies started catering more to the non-IT part of the market, where most computers live.

In a previous life, I worked for a mid-size law firm. Every day, I had to log my Dell Computer box (sans soundcard) in to several databases with various arcane procedures, was forbidden from installing software (though I did it anyway), and had to depend upon an IT department to fix many problems that were probably simple.

Now, I am the IT department for our small business of many many less than 500 employees. We do have several (7) networked computers on our mix of ethernet/WiFi, plus a few printers and various networked hard drives, but I don't restrict what anyone can do with their machines, probably because 6 of these machines are Macs. The one XP box is powered on most of the time, but doesn't get used much in a week. Like Mossberg says, we try all sorts of software, and are not afraid to experiment with new tools to make our lives easier. Every time I have to install something on the XP, I worry if I am going to screw something up. Not a concern with the computers that we use daily.


Vice Axes That 70's Show

I believe MoDo is still on vacation, but this is moderately funny nonetheless.

Vice Axes That 70's Show - New York Times:

We start the new year with the same old fear: Dick Cheney.

The vice president, who believes in unwarranted, unlimited snooping, is so pathologically secretive that if you use Google Earth's database to see his official residence, the view is scrambled and obscured. You can view satellite photos of the White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol - but not of the Lord of the Underworld's lair.

Vice is literally a shadow president. He's obsessive about privacy - but, unfortunately, only his own.

Google Earth users alerted The Times to this latest bit of Cheney concealment after a front-page story last week about the international fears inspired by free Google software that features detailed displays of things like government and military sites around the world.

“For a brief period,” they reported, “photos of the White House and adjacent buildings that the United States Geological Survey provided to Google Earth showed up with certain details obscured.” So Google replaced those images with unaltered photographs taken by a private company.

Even though the story did not mention the Cheney residence - and even though it's not near the White House - The Times ran a clarifying correction yesterday that said, “The view of the vice president's residence in Washington remains obscured.”

Fitting, since Vice has turned America into a camera obscura, a dark chamber with a lens that turns things upside down.

And a little factoid for future jokes:

Consider this: when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, supported by President Ford, pushed a plan to have the government help develop alternative sources of energy and reduce our dependence on oil and Saudi Arabia, guess who helped scotch it?

Dick Cheney. Then and now, the man is a menace.

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Democratic Revolution

William Grieder - Bring On the Rebels:
...With persistence and strong convictions, insurgents can change a political party. Witness the right's slow-motion crusade to conquer and transform the Republican Party. Thirty years ago right-wing activists regularly mounted hopeless challenges to the GOP establishment -- including Richard Nixon -- and usually lost. They were called “ankle biters” in those days. Today, they are running the party. The right continues to use this tactic to threaten and punish wayward incumbents. The Wall Street-financed Club for Growth ran a right-wing primary opponent against Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania in 2004, and it is doing the same thing to Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island in 2006. New York Times columnist David Brooks astutely observed: “When conservatism was a movement of ideas, it attracted oddballs; now that it's a movement with power, it attracts sleazeballs.

”The Democratic Party is never going to change substantively and again become a reform party with a serious agenda until some of its blood is spilled in the same fashion. For years, incumbent Dems have distanced themselves from fundamental convictions, confident the party's “base” wouldn't do anything about it beyond whimpering. Until now, the cynicism was well founded. Galvanized by the war, disgusted with weak-spined party leaders, the rank-and-file may at last be ready to bite back.The fuse was lit for Lieberman a few weeks ago, when let it be known that the web-savvy organization will support a challenger if that's what its Connecticut members decide to do. “Our first allegiance is to our members,” explains Tom Matzzie, MoveOn's Washington director, “and they are just as frustrated with the Democrats as anybody else. So they've given us the charge to change the Dems, and we're taking that very seriously.” Politicians and media learned to respect MoveOn in 2004, when it proved its ability to organize people and money.
Democratic leaders in Washington naturally discourage the talk of insurgency, warning it could endanger the party's chance of regaining a majority in the House or Senate. Some progressives doubtless agree. But this is the same logic -- follow the leaders and keep your mouth shut -- that has produced a long string of lame candidates with empty agendas, most recently John Kerry in 2004. The strategy of unity and weak substance led Democrats further to the right, further from their most loyal constituents. And they lost power across the board.

If progressives have the nerve and stamina: recall after the 2000 election, every Nader voter was excoriated for even considering this same strategy.

Obviously, this is political work for the long run. It requires patience and self-discipline and, since no one can claim proven results, it requires a generous respect for others trying to achieve the same thing in very different ways. It will need many more rump groups and freelance guerrillas, asserting convictions and educating citizens, disturbing the peace in moribund politics.

The antiwar fervor is likely to exert real impact in the electoral arena, but that would only be a beginning for an insurgency. To sustain the transformation, people will have to broaden the agenda to include the bedrock economic and social issues -- issues like deindustrialization, corporate power, decayed democracy and poverty -- that reluctant Democrats are unwilling to confront with a serious determination for change. Re-educating comfortable incumbents is difficult; sometimes it's easier to replace them. Long-term organizing is good. So is kamikaze assault. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

I really would like to say that the Democrats care about progressives, but after years of being willfully ignored (except when it is fundraising time), I'm a bit skeptical.

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No idea what this means

village voice > music > The Velvet Underground; Olivia Newton-John; The Rolling Stones by Dave Queen
Country-and-Western Pioneers of Many Stripes Reissued Again at LastThe Velvet Underground; Olivia Newton-John; The Rolling Stones

Two of a kind: The local Welsh/German band Velvet Underground founded alt-country. They had scratchy fiddles and a rootsy Emmylou-type singer. Olivia Newton-John's version of Nico founded “country” as heard on radio and television. She played the alien Sandy in The Guero Who Fell to Earth. Her most influential work is the “trilogy” (1978's Totally Hot, 1981's Physical, and 1985's Soul Kiss), recorded in Berlin with Brian Eno.

“White Light/White Heat,” a song about meth, sparked the rural alt-country explosion, also every California motel room fire not started by Brian Wilson. Hardcore tweakers look like '80s ONJ videos because those clothes have sufficiently “trickled down” the shit-stem to saturate the Salvation Army/dumpster demographic. Lou Reed was once a mental-hospital inmate, Newton-John a refugee from a former penal colony. The VU had a great guitar soloist (Lou Reed)—“I Heard Her Call My Name” 's only remote competition was Dr. Hook's “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” ONJ's guitarist John Farrar was like if Skunk Baxter were in Steely Dan.

If you buy gas station compilations then Sucking in the Seventies is your “banana album.” If “Hand of Fate” replaced “Fool to Cry,” it'd be your White Light/White Heat. Physical's title track posited a purely kinetic existence. Methamphetamine, by eliminating hunger and sleep, solves the problems of needing food and shelter, thus defeating capitalism. No depression.

I've read this Village Voice article four times now and can't tell if it is an attempt to be clever, or just incoherent. Guess I'll never understand record reviews....


Totally sounds like the premise to a sci-fi tale. The guy has some way of communicating directly with the birds: meets the King of the Flock, and bribes the birds to leave for a season. If the city/town doesn't renew the Bird Man's contract, next year the birds return.

Or something.

Man with a secret helps city say bye-bye to birdies
Every fall, the starlings descended on Decatur like a plague. Screeching and flapping, thousands of birds seized control of the park and dive-bombed residents, who fought back by lobbing firecrackers and blasting them with a propane cannon.

Nothing worked until town officials called in James Soules. As owner of the Decatur-based Bird Repellent Co., the quiet man said he could beat the birds, but there was a catch: He refused to tell anyone how he would do it. He demanded complete secrecy, warning officials not to spy on him.

Soules might have seemed like a swindler, but over the next few weeks something astounding happened. The starlings began to fly away. “I was amazed,” said Dan Mendenall, a city official in Decatur. “It was almost like he wished them away.”

The last of those birds flew out of Decatur in the 1990s, and in the years since, the 83-year-old Soules has driven off others using tactics that are a closely guarded secret. A modern-day pied piper, he has become a legend around Decatur, where people call him the “birdman,” “shaman” or even the “crow whisperer.”
“He doesn't get rid of half or a third. They're all gone,” said Paul Osborne, the mayor of Decatur. “I don't know what he does. He doesn't poison them. He doesn't use spray. You never see bird carcasses. They just fly away, and they don't come back.”

Over the years, Soules has made a steady living battling blackbirds, starlings, crows, pigeons and sparrows. These birds can be a big problem for cities and towns across the Midwest. Starlings and crows in particular can descend en masse in the autumn, mucking up parks and leaving sticky messes on sidewalks. A typical roost can draw a few hundred to 15,000 birds, and on rare occasions hundreds of thousands, so many the sky nearly turns black.

Impeachment preamble

Steve Chapman, the Libertarian on the Tribune editorial board, writes the following rough draft to the preamble of the upcoming GWB impeachment proceedings....

Chicago Tribune | Beyond the imperial presidency
President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.

He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government.

His conservative allies say Bush is acting to uphold the essential prerogatives of his office. Vice President Cheney says the administration's secret eavesdropping program is justified because “I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it.”

But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

There's more in this vein below the fold, if you haven't read it already elsewhere.

Pump up the bass

Bass Ale To Debut Updated Look
England's oldest trademark, Bass, gets a facelift starting in January.
The brew's red triangle logo will be edged in gold and be seen in advertising, packaging, POP, merchandise, wearables, glassware and online. Another change—perhaps showing Bass' affinity with the growing craft beer segment—is that InBev USA literature refers to the English import as Bass Pale Ale where previously it was simply called Bass. .. Bass was first brewed in 1777 and withstood many attempts at imitation. In 1875, brewers applied for and were granted England's first trademark. Bass' red triangle logo lays some claim to being the world's first registered trademark.

I've slurped a few dozen gallons of Bass over the years. The current bottle claims:

“...painted by Manet, loved by Napoleon, taken into the Wild West by Buffalo Bill and to the South Pole by Sir Ernest Shackleton. It was even a passenger on the Titanic's maiden, and only, cross-Atlantic trip.”

bass on the roof - afternoon delight
(click for larger version and superfluous Clash reference)


Ice, Ice Baby

All About Ice: Can't Live With It, Can't Live Without It - New York Times
Similarly, one approaches Mariana Gosnell's 560-page “Ice” with the queasy feeling that this book, subtitled “The Nature, the History and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance,” is less about reading than karmic retribution, perhaps for never having listened in eighth-grade science class. Yet this astonishingly boring-sounding book turns out instead to be an astonishment: an engaging, literate, mischievously written and only occasionally maddening voyage, far beyond everything most readers might possibly have wanted to know about hard water


Sounds interesting. I would hazard a guess that this sentence

Encyclopedic as it is, some may want to read “Ice” like an encyclopedia, using the index to guide them to the good parts.

means the reviewer didn't finish the book in time for deadline.


Holiday Toast

Raise a glass to the hard working people....
Breakfast drinks self-portrait

lets drink to the uncounted heads
Breakfast drinks stylized

Crooner in chief

Crooner in Chief
(click for larger version)

and yes, if I knew what I was doing in Illustrator, I would clean up some of the stuff on the right side.

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PG&E doesn't give up easily. The energy company, made famous in the Erin Brockovich movie, paid a consultant, ChemRisk, over $1.5 million dollars - some of that money 'somehow' ended up reversing the conclusions of a 2 decade long study on the cancer causing effects of Chromium-6.
Hmmm. - Study Tied Pollutant to Cancer; Then Consultants Got Hold of It

During China's Cultural Revolution 40 years ago, a city doctor named Zhang JianDong was banished to the countryside of northeastern China. He arrived to a public-health emergency.

A giant smelter was spilling large amounts of chromium waste into the groundwater. Well water was turning yellow. People were developing mouth sores, nausea and diarrhea. Dr. Zhang spent the next two decades treating and studying the residents of five villages with chromium-polluted water.

In 1987, he published a study saying they were dying of cancer at higher rates than people nearby. He earned a national award in China for his research. In America, federal scientists translated it into English, and regulatory agencies began citing it as evidence that a form of the metal called chromium-6 might cause cancer if ingested.

Then in 1997, Dr. Zhang, in retirement, appeared to retract his life's work. A “clarification and further analysis” published under his name in a U.S. medical journal said there was no cancer link to chromium in the villages after all. This new conclusion, like the earlier one, soon found its way into U.S. regulatory assessments, as evidence that ingested chromium wasn't really a cancer risk.

Yet Dr. Zhang didn't write the clarification, judging by voluminous testimony and exhibits in a lawsuit in a California state court. The court papers indicate that the second study was conceived, drafted, edited and submitted to medical journals by science consultants working for the lawsuit's defendant, a utility company being sued for alleged chromium pollution. The consultants paid Dr. Zhang about $2,000 for research assistance on the second study.

That study didn't deny that the polluted area had a higher rate of cancer deaths. But it said factors other than chromium were the likely cause. This was a statement that Dr. Zhang, now dead, had explicitly disputed in a letter to the consultants. Yet he and a Chinese colleague appeared, to anyone reading the report, to be its sole authors. The litigation consultants didn't disclose their role to the journal that published it.

Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich

The China story is part of a more familiar one, that of Erin Brockovich, the feisty paralegal (played by Julia Roberts in the movie named after her) who helped a California town's residents win $333 million from a utility that had leaked chromium into their water. In 1995, arbitrators hearing the Brockovich case asked the defendant, PG&E Corp., about the original Zhang study. Lawyers for PG&E then assigned a consulting firm to look into it, telling the firm, as a former lawyer for PG&E recalls, “to follow up, to see if they could make contact and get some of the underlying data.”

The consulting firm was ChemRisk. It was founded 18 years ago by a prominent toxicologist, Dennis Paustenbach, who has consulted for dozens of companies and serves as a Bush appointee on a board of scientific advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a tally in a textbook he edited, he helped save industry hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs for chromium pollution in New Jersey. His firm was paid more than $7 million for this help, Dr. Paustenbach has testified.

Santorum wants you to die in the water

Chicago Tribune | Boaters fear loss of guiding voice
many ... boaters across the country are concerned that they may lose these free radio [weather] reports. They fear the private sector will take them over and the broadcasts will no longer be free or as comprehensive. Specifically, they are afraid of what they know as the Santorum bill. Sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), the measure seeks to limit the National Weather Service's mission in a way that would help private weather-forecasting companies regain footing lost after a ruling a year ago.

Under the bill, the commerce secretary could stop the National Weather Service and its parent, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from providing any other “product or service” that private companies could handle.

Surprisingly, Santorum received plenty of campaign contributions from private weather-forecasting companies. Hmmm. One of the ironies of this bogus bill is that the private weather-forcasting companies get their data, for free, from the National Weather Service, then sell it.

Boaters even fired across Santorum's bow by noting that he has received campaign contributions from private weather firms in his state.

The senator received several thousand dollars from boating interests in his state, but he said that amount is only a drop in the bucket compared with what it will take for him to get re-elected next year. Sponsoring the legislation is also a big jobs issue for Pennsylvania, his office said, because AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm, is based there.

...boaters contend that under the Santorum bill they might have to buy new radios and pay to subscribe to private weather services, in effect, paying twice for government forecasts (once through taxes and again for the private service). Root denied that would be the case.

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Daley wants to spend money unavailable

What a crock. Mayor Daley is 'kicking around' (publicly) building a new domed stadium near the University of Illinois (Halsted and Roosevelt area).

Daley floats stadium plan

Mayor hopes to lure 2nd football team, Olympics to Chicago. Looking for ways to build a domed stadium to enhance a possible bid for the 2016 Olympics, Mayor Richard Daley has privately floated the idea of trying to lure a second NFL team to Chicago, sources close to the situation told the Tribune.
“This sounds like the ultimate trial balloon that turns into a lead zeppelin,” said Terry Lefton, editor-at-large for Sports Business Journal, when told of the local discussions.
“Stadiums are used too few hours a year to make it profitable,” said Allen Sanderson, a sports economist at the University of Chicago. “They only exist because municipalities prop them up financially.

”If Chicago had a second team, it would be utter stupidity if it weren't forced to play in the same facility.“

Sanderson, who considers the renovation of Soldier Field a ”huge mistake,“ said, ”It's too small for the city and for the Olympics.“

Preparing a city for an Olympics is a very expensive proposition, and cost overruns are the norm, Sanderson said. Athens, for example, ended up with costs of $14.6 billion for the 2004 Games, more than double the original estimate of $5.9 billion, he said. He added that overruns can lead to debt obligations for extended periods.

In the short run, Olympics ”almost uniformly end up costing more and producing less than a city thought,“ said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at LaSalle Bank.

”What a city is speculating on is that the Olympics will raise its profile to the point, through increased tourism and convention business, that it pays for itself,“ he said. ”Essentially, it's a major marketing investment a city hopes will pay off in the long run. And that's hard to measure.“

We would like to go on record as vehemently protesting this proposal, for a couple of reasons. Stadiums are a boondoggle, benefiting only the companies that own the land, companies that are involved in the construction, and owners of the teams that subsequently play there. Second, the City of Chicago is already in increasingly dire financial straits, and spending a billion dollars (or more) is not a good use of limited resources. Why not build those bike paths along Lower Wacker promised back in 2001 instead?

Monorail“ /Simpson's song.

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the EPA wants to kill you

or at least believes that 'what you don't know, will kill you, but then we won't get blamed'.

Group decries EPA plan to limit reports of toxins

Hundreds of communities in the U.S... would not learn as quickly about the extent of pollution from businesses in their locales if the Bush administration's proposed toxin reporting rules are adopted, according to a new report by an environmental advocacy group.
Under Environmental Protection Agency regulations, businesses can emit up to 500 pounds of chemicals annually before reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory exactly how much of each pollutant companies release into the air, water or disposal sites. The EPA has informed Congress that it wants to increase that threshold to 5,000 pounds annually.

But Tom Natan, research director for National Environmental Trust, said any lost information could have dangerous effects.

“This is monumentally ill-conceived,” he said. “After what we've seen in the gulf from Hurricane Katrina [where Toxics Release Inventory data helped identify toxins in the floodwaters], I don't think there's a good reason for justifying putting polluter interests ahead of public health and safety.”

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Fibbers fib, part the 3432

Whatever do you mean, the President and members of his party telling a fib? How could that be?/matronly voice

On Leaks, Relying on A Faulty Case Study The allegation that news organizations leaked information about Osama bin Laden's satellite phone, thus shutting down a valuable source of intelligence that might have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has long been a prime case study cited by government officials seeking to impose greater restrictions on the news media.

President Bush drew attention to the case Monday when he twice cited it as a dangerous example of the news media “revealing sources, methods and what we use the information for.” Bush was basing his remarks on a conclusion by the Sept. 11 commission, which had labeled it a “leak” that prompted the al Qaeda leader to turn off his phone.

Upon closer examination, the story turned out to be wrong. Bin Laden's use of a satellite phone had already been widely reported by August 1998, and he stopped using it within days of a cruise missile attack on his training camps in Afghanistan.

Yet in recent years, advocates of new laws that would restrict the ability of the news media to report on intelligence matters have repeatedly cited the case of bin Laden's satellite phone as an especially dangerous example of media malfeasance

Just because an allegation is provably not true doesn't mean Shrub and his cronies in the media and in his party cannot repeat said fact over and over and over and over until some people begin to believe it (see remarks by Big Dick Cheney on Atta, for instance).

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Healthy or insane

you make the call.

Healthy or insane shelf 1

Healthy or insane shelf 2

Healthy or insane shelf 3

These are the three main shelves of herbs, vitamins and tinctures, currently living with us in our kitchen. I have only an passing understanding of the benefits of perhaps a fifth of them: D is the house expert.

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No freakin idea, but still strangely addicting. A game in which the angle of the crash determines how far you throw your victim.


Probably more compelling if you have some Django Reinhardt playing in the background. Trust me.



added to my music library today.

Passion of the Spaghetti Monster

Passion of the Spaghetti Monster:
Bobby Henderson founded the Pastafarian movement as an answer to “intelligent design,” and is now crafting a sacred text for his satiric religion. It probably won't be taught in Kansas schools. A Wired News interview by Kathleen Craig.

I happen to be wearing a Flying Spaghetti Monster t-shirt at this very moment. What are the odds? Ahem.

and apparently, you can pre-order the gospel already. Cool.

Gospel FSM


Sand, Sky Sea

Photo taken 2003, Martha's Vineyard, visiting Sharlot and his new wife, K (not shown). Painted 2005. And since you asked, yes the wind was quite strong.

Oil Vineyard Seth Matt

(click for larger view)


New Bike trail

I doubt if I'll make it to the lecture, but the trail sounds cool. Is it summer yet?

Chicagoland Bicycle Federation
Jan 12, 2006 12:15 pm - 01:15 pm Spanning 37 bridges and reaching 20 feet in the air, Chicago's next great park will stretch three miles across Chicago's Northwest Side from the Chicago River to Logan Square. Learn firsthand how the proposed trail will transform an abandoned railroad viaduct into an oasis for walkers and bike riders. Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail will highlight community efforts to champion the trail, steps the city of Chicago is taking to make the park a reality, and examples of similar projects in New York and Paris. Presented by the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and Friends of the Parks. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Chicago Cultural Center
77 E. Randolph St.
Claudia Cassidy Theater
Bloomingdale Bike Trail

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Netflix vs the Chicago Mail


So, yesterday, I opened my mailbox to find this package from the USPS.


What the hell am I supposed to do with it? Put the shredded paper in my DVD player?


The actual DVD, of course, has been added to somebody's christmas stocking who works at the Post Office in Chicago (I'm guessing the movie was Suddenly, but I could be wrong).

“Frank Sinatra: Suddenly” (Lewis Allen)

This isn't the first time the Chicago Post office has intercepted my netflix movies. In fact, Netflix suspended my account a couple years ago because so many movies turned up missing.


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Kirsty MacColl memorial

Speaking of my favorite Christmas song (click here to listen to it), there was a re-release yesterday (I missed it, or would have posted this earlier. Doh!) for charity. Maybe it will be made available again.

iTunes offers exclusive Pogues Christmas track: A special version of classic Christmas track, 'The Fairytale of New York' will be released exclusively through iTunes tomorrow (Tuesday December 20). The download-only version features Shane McGowan and guest singer, Katie Melua, who takes the singing role originally filled by Kirsty MacColl, who was killed by a power boat while scuba diving with her sons in a restricted diving area off Cozumel, Mexico on December 18, 2000.

The track was originally released in 1987, when it reached number two in the UK Christmas charts. The original record is also being re-released in 7-inch, CD and DVD formats. The re-release date was chosen to coincide with the fifth anniversary of MacColl's death.

The royalties from this special version will be split between the Crisis at Christmas charity and the Justice for Kirsty campaign. Run by MacColl's mother, the Justice For Kirsty Campaign is attempting to force Mexican law enforcement authorities to bring the singer's killer to justice. Four years after the singer's death, Mexico has still not made the killer accountable to the satisfaction of her family and friends.

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DHL incompetence

DHL loses items even for large corporations. Why would anyone choose to ship via DHL? Boggles the mind.

Shipper locates missing tape with mortgage data:
A missing computer tape with personal information about 2 million ABN Amro residential mortgage customers... has been discovered at a DHL facility in Ohio and returned, via overnight shipping, to the lender.

The tape, which included the names and Social Security numbers of all residential customers of Chicago-based LaSalle Bank Corp.'s mortgage business, went missing Nov. 18 en route to Texas after being picked up by DHL at an ABN data processing center in Chicago.

So, shipped November 18th, and just now 'discovered', days after several news articles published. Hmmmmmmm.

If you have a few moments, read some of the comments on this thread about the incompetence of DHL.

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F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show

F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show
Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a “Vegan Community Project.” Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's “semi-communistic ideology.” A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Yes, PETA is really a threat to the nation. And so much for Ashcroft's alleged Christian values - the Catholic Workers group is an anti-poverty group. Maybe someone ought to send Ashcroft an annotated copy of the New Testament.

Impeachment now!


Junk faxes suck.

FCC delays rules aimed at curbing business `junk faxes' The Federal Communications Commission delayed implementing rules that would require businesses to get written consent from recipients before sending a fax.

The rule was supposed to take effect Jan. 9, but the FCC on Dec. 9 put the action on hold while seeking public comment on the proposal.

Under rules approved by Congress last year, businesses would be required to tell recipients of unwanted faxes how to opt out from getting more of them. Limits on “junk faxes” must be in place by April 5 under the law signed by President Bush in July.

What an utter crock. Junk faxes are a bane of a small business. We had to go so far as to change the fax number printed on our business cards (and our fax number) because so many business scum thought it perfectly acceptable to fax their crap to us. At least with direct mail, you can just throw the envelope out - you aren't forced to spend your own money on paper and ink/toner.


Doonesbury on creationism

The Republican War on Science

What a great system: the Rethuglicans have so spooked the media that everything must have 'two sides', even when one side is demonstrably false.

Book Review: 'The Republican War on Science,' by Chris Mooney - New York Times
Last spring, a magazine asked me to look into a whistleblower case involving a United States Fish and Wildlife Service biologist named Andy Eller. Eller, a veteran of 18 years with the service, was fired after he publicly charged it with failing to protect the Florida panther from voracious development. One of the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act, the panther haunts southwest Florida's forests, which builders are transforming into gated golf communities. After several weeks of interviews, I wrote an article that called the service's treatment of Eller “shameful” - and emblematic of the Bush administration's treatment of scientists who interfere with its probusiness agenda.

My editor complained that the piece was too “one-sided”; I needed to show more sympathy to Eller's superiors in the Wildlife Service and to the Bush administration. I knew what the editor meant: the story I had written could be dismissed as just another anti-Bush diatribe; it would be more persuasive if it appeared more balanced. On the other hand, the reality was one-sided, to a startling degree. An ardent conservationist, Eller had dreamed of working for the Wildlife Service since his youth; he collected first editions of environmental classics like Rachel Carson's “Silent Spring.” The officials who fired him based their denial that the panther is threatened in part on data provided by a former state wildlife scientist who had since become a consultant for developers seeking to bulldoze panther habitat. The officials were clearly acting in the spirit of their overseer, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, a property-rights advocate who has questioned the constitutionality of aspects of the Endangered Species Act.
This episode makes me more sympathetic than I might otherwise have been to “The Republican War on Science” by the journalist Chris Mooney. As the title indicates, Mooney's book is a diatribe, from start to finish.

Republican War on Science
Republican War on Science

Yeah, that's the problem. Sometimes facts are furious things. All the screaming about 'junk science' notwithstanding, mercury in fish IS NOT A GOOD THING, global warming is a real problem, and so forth. Of course, from the Republican's point of view, the false 'fair and balanced' debacle works, so why not continue pressuring reporters and editors to willfully print falsehoods, smears and unprovable allegations. As long as the 'gatekeepers' allow themselves to be manipulated, the strategy will continue.

And publishers wonder why newspaper circulation is down....

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My most favorite Holiday song


is still the Pogues tune, A Fairytale of New York, from their masterpiece If I Should Fall From Grace with God.

It was Christmas Eve babe In the drunk tank An old man said to me, won't see another one And then he sang a song The Rare Old Mountain Dew I turned my face away And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

Guitar chords here

Pogues If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Pogues If I Should Fall From Grace With God

Theoretically, the song is linked below the fold.

From your computer monitor to godz ears

Jason Leopold: Did Karl Rove Hide or Destroy Evidence in Plame Case? Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop: Did Karl Rove Hide or Destroy Evidence in Plame Case?

Or, in other words, please, please, please let me get what I want....

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Jack Anderson RIP

If the headline when a journalist is dies is “Who Angered the Powerful”, then the journalist's legacy is secure. I wonder how many of the current crop of sycophants and ring-kissers who masquerade as journalists will merit such praise?

Jack Anderson, Investigative Journalist Who Angered the Powerful, Dies at 83

Jack Anderson, whose investigative column once appeared in more than 1,000 newspapers with 40 million readers, won a Pulitzer Prize and prompted J. Edgar Hoover to call him “lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures,” died Saturday. He was 83.
Mr. Anderson was a flamboyant bridge between the muckrakers of the early decades of the 20th century and the battalions of investigative reporters unleashed by news organizations following Watergate. He relished being called “the Paul Revere of journalism” for his knack for uncovering major stories first almost as much as he enjoyed being at the top of Nixon's enemies list.

His journalistic reach extended to radio, television and magazines, and his scoops were legion. They included the United States' tilt away from India toward Pakistan during Bangladesh's war for independence, which won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972.

Another was his linking of the settlement of an antitrust suit against ITT by the Justice Department to a $400,000 pledge to underwrite the 1972 Republican convention. Still another was revealing the Reagan administration's efforts to illegally sell arms to Iran and funnel the proceeds to anti-Communist forces in Central America.

In what was the nation's most widely read, longest-running political column, Mr. Anderson broke stories that included the Central Intelligence Agency's enlisting of the Mafia to kill Castro, the savings and loan scandal, Senator Thomas J. Dodd's loose ethics, and the mystery surrounding Howard Hughes's death.

He liked to say that he and his staff of eager investigators daily did what Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did just once when they dug out the truth of the Watergate scandal.

Update - Murray Waas writes:

whatever already!

By way of disclosure, he was my first boss in journalism. He put me to work for him between my freshman and sophmore years in college. I was eighteen at the time. The power of his column was so great that I could get a Congressman or Deputy Secretary of Defense on the phone in ten minutes, the person I was calling always anxious as to why someone from Jack's office was phoning. The phone was always better than visiting in person: When I went out for interviews, the subjects often took one look at me and just laughed out loud. I may have been eighteen, but I was one of those kids who was eighteen looking like fifteen. The cherub, however, always got the last laugh in over 1,000 newspapers.

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Hot Monkey Love

MoDo cracks me up today. All hat and no cattle, indeed.

Maureen Dowd: Hot Monkey Love:
As President Bush tries to shake off his dazed look and regain his swagger, he will no doubt dust off his cowboy routine: his gunslinger pose, his squinty-eyed gaze, his dead-or-alive one-liners, his Crawford brush clearing.

But this time, he may want to think twice before strapping on a Texas-shaped belt buckle. W. might inadvertently conjure up images of Bushback Mountain.

The High Plains, one of the few remaining arenas where men were men, may now evoke something more ambiguous, like men with men. After “Brokeback Mountain,” pitching that pup tent on the prairie will never seem the same.

Brokeback Mountain


(graphic via uggabugga)

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business briefs/leads: - Cerberus Group Nears Albertson's Deal

An investment group of Cerberus Capital, Kimco Realty Corp., and grocery chain Supervalu Inc. is poised to win the auction for Albertson's Inc. for about $9.6 billion, or $26 a share, say people familiar with the matter.
An announcement of the deal could come some time after Albertson's board meets this weekend, say people familiar with the matter. The Boise, Idaho, company is still hashing out details with drugstore retailer CVS Corp., which is in the lead to purchase the company's well-regarded drug chain for up to $4 billion of the overall purchase price.

Cerberus hasn't commented about its plans for Albertson's 2,500 stores, but those familiar with the bid say it relies heavily on their real-estate value, and less on continuing operations.

The number of traditional grocery stores nationwide has dropped to 41,455 in 2004 from 118,920 in 1982 because thousands of small independent grocers have shut down, according to figures from Willard Bishop Consulting, a retail-marketing consulting firm in Barrington, Ill. But the total square feet of traditional grocery store selling space has grown as traditional grocers build larger stores and Wal-Mart blankets the country with supercenters that sell groceries.
Some analysts predict that pieces of the company will be broken off and that a significant number of its stores will be shuttered. Observers say that Supervalu probably isn't interested in running the entire operation but instead will take over one or more of Albertson's attractive divisions, most likely its Jewel stores in the Chicago area. Analysts also predict the buyers will jettison Albertson's roughly 470 stores in Texas, Florida, Colorado and Arizona, a weak group that has struggled to stay ahead of the competition.

So in other words, the plan is that several hundred Albertson's stores are going to be shut down, and the land sold off.

Not the best news for us, but roll with it we shall....


Frank Dobie, the folklorist from Central Texas who established the writers camp Paisano that I wasn't lucky enough to get a scholarship to, knew a few things about Universities....

J. Frank Dobie:
“The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another. ”

Sound stage

Hey, we could use a sound stage, studio near us, especially if the progress with our movie continues (D met a cousin in Montreal whose daughter is a writer for a major ABC dramedy).

Daley plans more borrowing for W. Side movie studio
The Daley administration has revised its assistance package yet again in hopes of turning a mountain of debris created by an FBI mole into a West Side movie studio complex.
The redevelopment agreement, quietly introduced by Mayor Daley at Wednesday's City Council meeting, would authorize the Illinois Finance Authority to issue up to $40 million in so-called “empowerment zone revenue bonds” for a project that now carries a $57 million price tag.
The city's initial plan called for $25 million in empowerment zone bonds. The 183,000-square-foot project at Roosevelt and Kostner is still in line to receive a $10.5 million city subsidy. ... Central Studios LLC is a partnership between California-based Raleigh Enterprises and Chicago attorney Stephen Allison and Lawndale-born Donald Jackson.

Buscemi stressed that Chicago taxpayers will not be on the hook if the project goes belly up. However, the $40 million in bonds would count against the $230 million cap of empowerment zone bonds that Chicago can have at any given time.

In exchange for bribes allegedly paid to the late Ald. William Henry (24th), FBI mole John Christopher and others used the parcel to illegally dump debris that took two years and $5 million to remove.

On the eve of his 1999 re-election, Daley unveiled plans to transform that urban wasteland into a production house that could recapture for Chicago movie and commercial work lost to the East and West coasts. The project has been stuck in the mud ever since.

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ZiYi Zhang and Geisha Girl

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Seems to be some nationalism growing in China, where the Japanese are still hated for their recent imperialist past, among other reasons.

China outraged over `Geisha'
With tensions from WW II atrocities flaring anew, nation calls casting of Beijing actress as Japanese geisha an insult

With Beijing's young homegrown star Ziyi Zhang appearing this month in the heavily promoted “Memoirs of a Geisha,” it might seem to be cause for China to celebrate.

On the contrary, many Chinese film fans are denouncing Zhang for accepting a risque Japanese role and blasting American filmmakers at a time of rising tension between Asia's dominant powers. The criticism reflects a volatile strain of nationalism growing in China, which has fueled bursts of anti-Japan riots and increasingly worries Asian neighbors.

“She is the most shameless Chinese woman in the world. I wonder whether she ever thought about the pain brought by the Sino-Japanese war,” wrote one of the gentlest critics on a Web forum crackling with attacks.

Even before the DVD has hit Beijing streets--pirated films sometimes arrive within 72 hours after their American premiere--online critics are attacking Zhang for appearing in love scenes with Japanese actor Ken Watanabe and for accepting such a controversial role at the behest of American filmmakers. The flap bubbled over from nationalist Web sites into mainstream forums, where angry patriots called Zhang a moral disgrace and “traitor to the Han people,” mainland China's dominant ethnicity, for her turn as Sayuri, the main character.

ZiYi Zhang
ZiYi Zhang
Based on this movie (2046), I've become a fan of Ms. Zhang.

“Memoirs of a Geisha” (Rob Marshall)
though, haven't read much about this movie. Probably wouldn't see it in a theatre, but it looks interesting enough so that I have already added it to my Netflix list.

and this is apparently not a matter to be taken lightly:

Zhang is not the first Chinese performer to run into the Japan problem. In 2001, actress-singer Zhao Wei posed in a New York fashion shoot in a dress emblazoned with a large Japanese military flag. After the image appeared in Chinese newspapers, furious patriots lobbed bottles and bricks at Zhao's house, and one patriot assaulted her on stage during a New Year's Eve show, knocking her to the ground.

Memoirs of a Geisha

(removed image due to bandwidth theft)

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Such law abiding folks reside in the White House. Really, can somebody draw up articles of impeachment yet, just so I can stop asking?

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say
Months after 9/11, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without court-approved warrants.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

“This is really a sea change,” said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. “It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches.”

Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

I know the mantra is 9-11 changed everything, but this seems a little more serious to me

Some officials familiar with [these outrageous practices] say they consider warrantless eavesdropping inside the United States to be unlawful and possibly unconstitutional, amounting to an improper search. One government official involved in the operation said he privately complained to a Congressional official about his doubts about the legality of the program. But nothing came of his inquiry. “People just looked the other way because they didn't want to know what was going on,” he said. A senior government official recalled that he was taken aback when he first learned of the operation. “My first reaction was, ‘We're doing what?' ” he said.
A complaint from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly [of the Microsoft anti-trust case], the federal judge who oversees the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, helped spur the suspension, officials said. The judge questioned whether information obtained under the N.S.A. program was being improperly used as the basis for F.I.S.A. wiretap warrant requests from the Justice Department, according to senior government officials. While not knowing all the details of the exchange, several government lawyers said there appeared to be concerns that the Justice Department, by trying to shield the existence of the N.S.A. program, was in danger of misleading the court about the origins of the information cited to justify the warrants. One official familiar with the episode said the judge insisted to Justice Department lawyers at one point that any material gathered under the special N.S.A. program not be used in seeking wiretap warrants from her court. Judge Kollar-Kotelly did not return calls for comment.



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Chicago at Night

Chicago at Night

Is it summer yet?

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Ralphs Is Indicted on Labor-Law Charges

Ralphs Is Indicted on Labor-Law Charges
A Kroger grocery chain was indicted on federal charges of hiring workers under false names and violating numerous other labor laws during a 2003 strike in Southern California.

The 106-page indictment, returned by a federal grand jury, accuses Ralphs of engaging in a “company-wide course of criminal conduct involving the hiring of locked-out employees under false names, Social Security numbers and documentation.”

The grocery chain issued thousands of paychecks to falsely identified employees and allowed the workers to cash the checks at its stores, the indictment alleged. The chain tried to conceal the practice from the workers' union by sending locked-out employees to work at stores far from the stores at which they regularly worked, the indictment charged.

I'm not sure exactly what this means, but something to pay attention to.


Pulsating cereal boxes

Oh boy. Can't wait.

Wired News: E-Paper's Killer App: Packaging
The cereal aisle at your local supermarket may soon resemble the Las Vegas strip. Electronics maker Siemens is readying a paper-thin electronic-display technology so cheap it could replace conventional labels on disposable packaging, from milk cartons to boxes of Cheerios.
In less than two years, Siemens says, the technology could transform consumer-goods packaging from the fixed, ink-printed images of today to a digital medium of flashing graphics and text that displays prices, special offers or alluring photos, all blinking on miniature flat screens.

Siemens' paper-thin display -- composed of a polymer-based photochromic material -- is capable of displaying digital text and images when prodded by an electrochemical reaction powered by a low-voltage charge. When the electric charge is no longer applied, the chemical reaction is reversed, and the electronic ink is no longer visible -- which is how a flashing effect is created. The power source is based on commercially available, ultra-thin batteries. Electronic memory strips store the images.

Over the years, we've encountered all sorts of 'new and innovative' in-store marketing mediums, from stickers on fruit, coupons in a carton of eggs, 2 foot high video holograms (now, that was a story - former military contractor looking for civilian use of patented technology), talking floor ads, urinal advertising, plasma screen bar advertising, etc. etc. plus all the things already in the store, video on the checkout monitors, in-store radio, yadda yadda. I hope for everyone's sake that the cereal boxes don't start undulating soon. There is enough visual stimulation in our environment, thank you very much.


The history of Photoshop

The history of Photoshop
While you won’t find it printed on any calendar, 2005 marks a quiet anniversary for the program that you, and many other graphic designers, probably use the most. It was 15 years ago in February that Adobe shipped version 1.0 of Photoshop – still its most popular (and lucrative) application, and possibly the only bit of software to have spawned its own verb form.

Besides GUI, and fonts/Postscript, and maybe html, has there been a more revolutionary computer-related item than Photoshop? I am of the generation that will always remember the smells of dark room chemicals, but I'm glad I don't have to shorten my life every time I want a photo printed anymore. !Viva la revolution!

Read more of the back story behind Photoshop here.


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Somehow, I think Neal Boortz doesn't care much for post-shot clock NBA players, and especially not the ones who aren't from Germany or Lithuania. In case that's obsfucated, let me be more clear - Neal Boortz is a fucking racist, and mentally deficient to boot. And I would hazard a guess that not many “NBA superstars” would need to obtain flat screen televisions via smash-and-grab sessions.

From Media Matters

Media Matters - Boortz predicted L.A. riots would follow Williams execution; forecasted looting by “aspiring rappers and NBA superstars”

In a December 12 weblog post, nationally syndicated radio host Neal Boortz predicted that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would commute the sentence of convicted murderer Stanley “Tookie” Williams to life imprisonment because “Schwarzenegger knows full well that as soon as Tookie's death is announced there will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere.” Boortz wrote that “[t]here are thugs just waiting for an excuse ... not a reason, an excuse” and explained that “[t]he rioting, of course, will lead to wide scale looting.” Boortz added: “There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now.” The weblog entry, titled, “They're just looking for an excuse, not a reason,” also contained a poll asking readers: “Is it worth it to commute Tookie's sentence to life in prison if it saves Los Angeles from rioting?”

If you want to set Mr. Boortz straight, here's his contact info
Neal Boortz
E-mail: E-mail form

The Neal Boortz Show
1601 W. Peachtree Street
Atlanta, Georgia 30309


Albertson's weighs offers

As a follow up to an earlier story, the 5 suitors for Albertson's seem to be: Kroger, Supervalu, Walgreens, CVS, and one other group (which I thought involved Safeway, but Safeway is not named in this article)

Chicago Tribune | Offers made by 5 suitors for Albertson's assets
Albertson's Inc., the Boise, Idaho-based grocer and drugstore operator that put itself up for sale three months ago, on Tuesday was weighing at least five bids for its operations, including its Chicago-area Jewel/Osco stores. Two bidders, Deerfield-based Walgreen Co. and CVS Corp. of Woonsocket, R.I., reportedly are competing for the nearly 800 free-standing drugstores operated by Albertson's. There are 74 free-standing Osco stores in the Midwest.

...Private hedge funds lead three groups bidding for both the drugstore and grocery store parts off the business, including the 188 Jewel/Osco stores and 14 free-standing Jewel stores in the Chicago area. Sources said two of the groups include grocery store operators: Kroger Co. of Cincinnati and Supervalu Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

The three groups are Cerberus Capital Management Inc. and Kimco Realty Corp., in combination with Supervalu; Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Apollo Advisors and Texas Pacific Group Inc.; and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, Bain Capital LLC and Warburg Pincus LLC. Kroger has been negotiating with the last group.

Again, this is going to roil a few in-store vendors.

Update: looks like SuperValu is going to win

update 12/23/05. Guess not!

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Corruption part the 65489

Pretty bad when the host country complains about sweetheart deals between the U.S. and PR, even when the US pays.

Chicago Tribune news: U.S. paid for media firm Afghans didn't want
When The Rendon Group was hired to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai with media relations in early 2004, few thought it was a bad idea. Though Rendon's $1.4million bill seemed high for Afghanistan, the U.S. government was paying.

Within seven months, however, Karzai was ready to get rid of Rendon. So was Zalmay Khalilzad, then the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and now the American envoy in Iraq, according to interviews, e-mails and memos obtained by the Tribune. The complaint: too much money for not enough work.

Despite such grumbling, The Rendon Group, based in Washington, managed to secure even more U.S.-funded work with Karzai's government, this time a $3.9 million contract funded by the Pentagon, to create a media team for Afghan anti-drug programs. Jeff Raleigh, who helped oversee Rendon in Kabul for the U.S. Embassy, and others in the U.S. government said they objected because of Karzai's and Khalilzad's opposition but were overruled by Defense Department superiors in Washington.

“It was a rip-off of the U.S taxpayer,” said Raleigh, who left the U.S. Embassy in September.

Rendon departed Afghanistan in early October when its $3.9 million contract expired. But diplomatic sources said it is in line for another multimillion-dollar Afghan contract: a three-year deal to work on counternarcotics public relations.

The company's work in Afghanistan is just a sliver of the more than $56 million the Pentagon has paid Rendon since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it became one of the leading media consultants in the Bush administration's war on terrorism. It also is doing work for the Pentagon in Iraq.

The company's fees also have been an issue. CIA staff members have complained about the group's work on other projects, such as a costly media campaign against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul estimated that the work the company was hired to do on its second contract in Afghanistan could have been performed for about $200,000 rather than $3.9million.

Especially since

The U.S. trade deficit broke yet another record in October, as rising purchases of foreign oil, natural gas and other goods from overseas offset increased exports. The deficit widened 4.4% to $68.89 billion from a slightly revised $66 billion in September, the Commerce Department said.

Of course, 4 million is chump change, but still, I thought this was going to be the MBA Presidency? Whatever happened to fiscal responsibility? If the City of Chicago suddenly decided to spend $30,000 planting ragweed and cactus all around my neighborhood, I wouldn't think that would be a good use of resources, especially since the City is having budget problems.

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Scottie Pippen has a few choice words


I forgot to post this on the day the Chicago Bulls retired the number of my favorite player of the Dynasty Bulls, Scottie Pippen's 33. Pippen always seemed more mortal than Jordan. Anyway, Pip had a few choice observations about current NBA players that I thought worth preserving:

Chicago Tribune | Scottie Pippen on:

Whom he would pay to watch: Kobe [Bryant]. San Antonio as a team. They play team basketball and beat you with consistency.

Cuttino Mobley. A hard worker who wants to win.

Dwyane Wade. He brings a lot to the game. I like guys who play hard and not just on one end. [Tracy] McGrady just scores; same with Ray Allen and Steve Francis. I can watch [Allen] Iverson. I'm not as big a fan. You get tired of seeing one guy shoot the ball all the time. I'd rather watch Steve Nash, even though sometimes he dribbles too much.

[Dirk] Nowitzki, I don't like his game. If I could still play, I'd guard him every time. He plays one end of the court. You have to hide him on defense. When McGrady guarded him, he was done.

I like [Ron] Artest, though I'm not sure he can keep it up, very exciting, fundamentally sound. He just doesn't bring it from a mental standpoint.

Carmelo Anthony? The NBA kills some of these guys. Here's a guy who wants a maximum contract. What have the Denver Nuggets ever done? Have they won a division? Where are they this year?“

...Kevin Garnett: ”He really set the tone for self-destruction. He's very productive but unproductive. He gets you all the stats you want, but at the end of the day his points don't have an impact on [winning] the game. He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, but in the last five minutes of the game he ain't the same player as in the first five.

...Portland: “It was cool, but [GM Bob] Whitsitt destroyed the team. We got to the [conference] finals and he brings in Shawn Kemp. He trades Jermaine O'Neal. The sad part is we weren't even together a year and he destroys the team. Then he got all the crazier players, athletes but dumb players. I'd have Rasheed [Wallace] on my team anytime. He's a smart player.”

Hmm, even though Pip contradicts himself about McGrady (McGrady only scores, but then shuts Dirk Nowitzki down? Oh well, I get what he means) , I totally agree about the Dallas Mavericks and Nowitzki. Perhaps because I grew up despising the Cowboys, but I cannot root for the Mavs, Mark Cuban notwithstanding.


Shaquille O'Neal: “I can respect Shaq. Everyone gets old in the game. He's on the downside. I went through that. I still like watching him play. He's an X-factor whenever he's on the court.

Who's like him: ”From an individual standpoint, Tayshaun Prince.“

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small error - due to my netflix que plugin not working (sidebar), posted same entry three times. Sorry.

Google Loves - A Demonstration

Henry Abbott of Gekko Blogs (and also of TrueHoop, my main source for quality NBA news) analyzes, in more detail, what we were hinting at earlier this month.

Gekko Blogs: Google Loves Blogs: A Demonstration It is not news that search engines and blogs are good friends. Even in this blog's young life, we have blogged about it before. There have been whole books and blogs written on the topic.

There is even the old joke that BLOG stands for "Better Listings On Google."

But it's interesting to see the dynamic in effect. To demonstrate it, let's take a look at the oldest and most popular Gekko Blog: TrueHoop.

Even if you create a perfect static website, because of the ever-changing search engine algorithms and competition, you might only come up meaningfully in search engine rankings for three or four terms.

You can see here, that coming up meaningfully for three or four terms would not do much for your traffic--unless those terms happen to be super popular ones--in which case you can guarantee it will be a full-time job (hustling for in-bound links etc.) to stay high in the rankings.

But TrueHoop is reasonably high in the listings of hundreds of different terms. That's not through any special effort on our part--other than making the most interesting posts we know how about whatever is most important in the NBA on any given day.

The main reason this dynamic is underway is because this is a busy blog that covers a lot of topics. If it's important to the NBA, we've probably blogged about it at some point since the blog was founded in May. And, because we have been timely and professional, people have built links to TrueHoop from other websites and blogs, which is a strong sign to the search engines that the site is valuable.

Once the interesting content on countless timely topics, and plentiful inbound links are in place, the search engines and the competition can monkey with their formulas all they want. The truth is, a busy blog like this drives content from so many different terms that little fluctuations around the web are unlikely to impede traffic.

In essence, you can't know what terms will drive traffic, so the big prize goes to sites that are optimized for lots and lots of terms. Some of them will work.

We discuss a large number of topics at B12, which in all honesty has really only been an active site for about 18 months. Prior to spring of 2004, we only really blogged once a month or so, starting with some poor attempts at birthday poetic solipsism involving copious amounts of various inebrients in April of 2002. Since spring of 2004, we've averaged at least 3 or 4 new pages a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. I'm not sure how many unique words are currently available at B12 (if I knew how to get the entire site, including archives, into a statistical analysis software, I would), but I'm sure the dictionary count would be quite a large number. There are almost 1500 movabletype entries since November 2004, an average of 3-4 a day. We don't have the mental discipline to discuss only one or two topics, so our 'net cast' of terms is really fairly diffused. Certain search terms, like "DHL Sucks", or "George Bush's Coke Jaw" or "tinsley mortimer husband" lead here. Can't say there was any plan to become a top google hit for Tinsley Mortimer admirers/detractors, or for hundreds of visitors to leave so many poignant complaints about DHL. Just happened that way.

We don't blog for money, which is obvious since our style is rather terse, though of course, the google ads and amazon referrals do bring in a small steady amount of income (especially if you happen to click on an interesting google ad!!) which nearly makes this endeavor a break even proposition. Well, excluding time spent actually creating these multiple pages.

some traffic stats below the fold, but boils down to that about 24% of the B12 traffic doesn't come directly from a search engine. Google is by far the top search engine, especially if you include,,, etc.


Apparently, some uptight Washington Post reporters don't like that Dan Froomkin (easily the one columnist at the Washington Post we read frequently) notices how closely certain Washington bureau reporters suck up to the White House, and are trying to stir up trouble.

One thought, Froomkin rocks. We subscribe to his blog, via our RSS reader, which is a sign that we don't want to miss anything important.

Tim Grieve of Salon agrees - News & Politics | War Room
Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell. In her column over the weekend, Howell lamented the fact that readers don't always make a distinction between what's in the printed version of the Washington Post and what appears on, a semi-separate entity owned by Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive.

And Exhibit A, Howell says, is Dan Froomkin's “White House Briefing” column at “Political reporters at the Post don't like” the “highly opinionated and liberal” column, Howell says, and they're “afraid some readers think that Froomkin is a Post White House reporter.” Howell quotes the Post's national political editor, John Harris, as worrying that the title of Froomkin's column “dilutes our only asset -- our credibility.”...

That's why the “readers” we know consider Froomkin's column an essential part of their day. But in an interview with Editor & Publisher today, Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. seems to suggest that the Post is concerned about what certain other “readers” think. “We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion,” Downie said. “And that readers of the Web site understand that, too.”

There's probably no harm in labeling Froomkin's column as “opinion,” even if it's only White House staffers who find themselves confused, but it's ridiculous to dismiss it as “liberal.” As Froomkin himself explains, his only agenda is accountability. “I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable,” he writes in a response to Howell's column posted at “The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so -- not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do.”

Howell's solution? She says that should change the name of Froomkin's column. The site's executive editor, Jim Brady, tells E&P that he's not going to do that, but he tells Howell that he's thinking about adding a conservative blogger for balance.

We've got a different idea. If reporters and editors at the Post are truly concerned that is undermining their credibility -- and really, given the recent revelations about Bob Woodward, isn't it the other way around? -- then perhaps it's time to change something other than the name of “White House Briefing.” Call us crazy, but if the owners of the Washington Post don't want people thinking that a Web site represents the work of the Washington Post, then maybe they shouldn't call that Web site

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Can I have a refund?

or at least an IOU?

Waveflux Iraq, a thousand days later: A sub-total for your convenience
One thousand days of war, and where do we stand? One way to measure the cost of George Bush's ill-considered war is look at what we've spent: 204.4 billion (yes, billion) dollars. That is an astonishing sum; that's a lot of zeroes. $204,400,000,000.

So far.

Another way to look at that figure: it's more than the gross national income of all but nineteen countries in the world as of this writing.

There are one hundred seventy-three nations on Earth, incidentally. Start with number twenty on the list - Austria - and scroll down. George Bush's war has them all beat.

Jesus Herbert, how come impeachment proceedings haven't been initiated yet?

More evidence of incompetence and fiscal mismanagement collected at Waveflux

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Memory Lane

about this time of year (early December), but 12 years ago, prior to moving to Chicago, I spent two months exploring London, Italy, and Amsterdam. I wish I could go again this year.

Barbershop, Tuscany
Your humble narrator, prior to having my locks shorn on a hillside farm in Tuscany (Castiglion Fiorentino a small town near Arezzo). Circa 1993. Scan of a really poor 35mm print. Where are my negatives!

Heathrow bound 1994 double exposure
(larger size)

Your humble narrator about to leave London, combined with an inadvertent double exposure of some gravel pit outside of Austin Tx. A scan of a 35mm print, circa 1994, when I was 24 going on 65.

John Major is a Twat
London, unknown location, circa 1994. I think most of the hash was gone by this time, but maybe not. Scan of 35mm print. I really need to locate my negatives from the pre-digital era! This print is so faded, you can barely make out the graffiti (says John Major Is A Twat, which was probably true at the time, and maybe even at the present)

Can almost make it out in large version
but the print is only 3x5, so some digital artifacts were introduced when I upsized the photo.

Ah, youth.

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Music Stash Recalls When Rock Was Young

Now, this is cool!

Dylan Greenwich Village - Music Stash Recalls When Rock Was Young
Music Stash Recalls When Rock Was Young Two and a half years ago, a Minneapolis entrepreneur named Bill Sagan spent more than $5 million to buy a treasure trove of rock 'n' roll memorabilia: millions of T-shirts, posters, handbills, photographs, concert tickets and other items from the archives of Bill Graham Presents, the legendary San Francisco rock promoter that virtually invented the modern concert business in the mid 1960s.

But what neither Mr. Sagan nor the seller, Clear Channel Communications Inc., realized at the time was that the archives contained an even more valuable bonus: more than 5,000 live audio and video recordings made between 1966 and 1999, featuring artists varying from the Doors to Nirvana. The recordings were made at rock concerts that the late Mr. Graham ran or promoted. They were uncataloged and collecting dust when Mr. Sagan acquired the archive

The performances, many of which are professionally recorded and extremely high quality, amount to a sweeping, unheard history of rock during its seminal years and beyond. The archives include performances by artists including Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, the Who, Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Emmylou Harris, Aretha Franklin and Tracy Chapman, all of whom played shows put on by Mr. Graham. The are videotapes of early performances by Crosby Stills Nash & Young and from 1978, the Sex Pistols' last show for nearly 20 years, before their reunion in 1996.

Though some of the recordings have leaked as bootlegs over the years, they contain some revealing moments that may surprise fans. For example, a recording taken from Led Zeppelin's first U.S. tour, in 1969 -- when the band was opening for Country Joe & the Fish -- finds lead singer Robert Plant displaying little of the rock-god swagger that would eventually become his trademark. Instead, he makes nervous small talk to the audience as guitarist Jimmy Page changes a broken string.

Hendrix Poster

Morrison Arrested

I wonder how long the negotiations between record labels, artists, and Wolfgangsvault are going to take?

When, or even if, the general public will ever hear or see many of these recordings is unclear, however.

The recordings were made legally; Mr. Sagan has a filing cabinet filled with documentation to prove it. But selling them will require various permissions and revenue-sharing deals -- not only with the artists themselves, but often, too, with whatever record label they were signed to at the time of the show, or its corporate successor. In the case of dead performers, permission is required from their families or other heirs.

Mr. Sagan's employees have already digitized more than 1,000 audio recordings and sent them to engineers to have the sound quality cleaned up. Now they are in the process of seeking clearances to release the music. Mr. Sagan says he is in active discussions with two major record labels, and believes he is close to a deal for at least some music with one of them, although he declines to name either.

“Is it easy?” he asks. “No. But in some cases they're excited as hell they might be able to make some money of old bands.”

and nobody really wants to hear 15 hours of Eddie Money, or Jefferson Starship for that matter...

Even with clearances, much of the material in the archives is simply not up to snuff for commercial release. “I don't think a large percentage of it will end up on CD, or in any monetized form,” says Gavin Haag, who oversees the company's music-licensing efforts. For instance, he adds, there may never be an appetite for dozens of separate concerts by acts like Eddie Money.

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Some U.S. Firms May Get Tax Boon

Nice to know, in an age of increasing deficits in the U.S. government, that such poor companies like Coca-cola and Pfizer are deserving of tax give-aways.

Some U.S. Firms May Get Tax Boon
Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer scored a quiet win on Capitol Hill with a provision that would save a few U.S. companies with operations in Puerto Rico a combined millions of dollars in taxes next year.

Company lobbyists won inclusion of the change in an obscure tax bill that passed the House last week. The measure, which affects a half dozen companies, is expected to win final approval as early as this week in the form of a stand-alone bill or as part of a broader, $70 billion tax bill under consideration in both chambers.

...When Congress approved tax incentives last year, Senate Republicans proposed offering the breaks to U.S. companies with facilities in Puerto Rico. But the proposal was rejected as too expensive by House Republicans.

This year, a loose coalition of companies led by Coca-Cola pressed lawmakers to amend that law to allow only U.S. businesses operating as branches in Puerto Rico to qualify for the domestic manufacturing deduction next year.

I guess this year the lobbyists did a better job of wining and dining.


Mercury and the Government


The second day of the mercury, fish, and U.S. government unholy trinity expose at the Trib...

Chicago Tribune news: U.S. safety net in tatters
Shipped from Singapore, the swordfish entered the U.S. this year without being tested for the toxic metal mercury.

When a fillet from that fish reached a display case at a supermarket in suburban Des Plaines, it carried no government warning labels, even though federal officials know swordfish often is so contaminated that young children and pregnant women should never eat it.

And when the Tribune bought and tested this particular piece of fish, the results showed not just high amounts of mercury, but levels three times the legal limit.

This repeated neglect by the U.S. government--the lack of mercury testing, the failure to adequately warn consumers, the unwillingness to enforce its own rules--has unnecessarily put Americans at risk for decades, a Tribune investigation shows.

Year after year, the federal government has failed to fully disclose the hazards of mercury in fish to the public.

In some cases, regulators have ignored the advice of their own scientists who concluded that mercury was far more dangerous than what consumers were being told.

In other instances, regulators have made decisions that benefited the fishing industry at the expense of public health.

Just disgusting. How do the policy makers at the EPA sleep at night?

more below

Toxic Teeth

The Tribune greenlighted several articles about mercury and health, including this one.

Are Your Teech Toxic?
The mercury in 'silver' fillings would be hazardous waste in a river----yet it's sitting in your mouth... A professional musician from Arlington Heights suffers from mysterious rashes and lip blisters. A dental hygienist in Hoffman Estates battles migraines. And a social worker in Prospect Heights is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

All three tried treating their ailments using a controversial method: by having dentists remove and replace their so-called “silver” amalgam tooth fillings, which contain about 50 percent mercury. And all three swear they experienced life-changing health improvements

Their personal testimonies are part of what makes dental amalgam, the silver lining for hundreds of millions of American mouths, one of the most divisive issues in dentistry. Though it's one of the oldest materials in oral health care--used by people of all ages for the last 150 years--anti-mercury groups are pushing the startling message that mercury residing in the mouth can leach into the body and cause illness.

anti-mercury groups are appalled by the notion that the toxic element, which is considered a hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency, is safe when it's packed inside a tooth. They argue that although it was once thought to be inert inside the mouth, studies now show that mercury can be emitted in minute amounts of vapor and absorbed by the patient through inhalation and ingestion.

At Doctor's Data, a Chicago lab that specializes in trace-metals analysis, clinicians have found that the amount of mercury in a person's stool is highly correlated to the number of amalgams in the mouth.

...Dawn Quast, a dental hygienist for Dr. John Rothchild in Hoffman Estates, decided to have four small fillings replaced after she witnessed both small and profound improvements in Rothchild's patients who had amalgams replaced.

“I had a migraine the night I had the last silver one removed and haven't had one since [in 12 years],” Quast said.

Rothchild, a mercury-free dentist, said he doesn't push people into having silver fillings removed.

“I never promise any medical cures because you can't,” he said. Instead, he presents both sides of the issue on his Web site and provides patient referrals. “If people come in asking about amalgams, I'll tell them,” he said. “If they're there for basic dentistry, I don't say anything.”

see Consumers for Dental Choice, for more info

D got the mercury removed from her fillings about a year ago, at John Rothchild's office. I had my teeth filled in Canada, so don't have mercury, as far as I know.

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Mercury and fish a killer combo


The Chicago Tribune has a series of expose articles about mercury, fish, and the willful ignorance of the U.S. government. Regular readers of this page know this is a topic frequently discussed here. We find it quite despicable that the FDA is unwilling to protect consumers, even going so far as to avoid testing shrimp, for example, so as to not be forced to issue warnings. From my perspective, the FDA is simply corrupt, more concerned with protecting profits of the fishing industry than with protecting citizens.

Chicago Tribune news: Toxic risk on your plate
Supermarkets throughout the Chicago area are routinely selling seafood highly contaminated with mercury, a toxic metal that can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults, a Tribune investigation has found.

In one of the nation's most comprehensive studies of mercury in commercial fish, testing by the newspaper showed that a variety of popular seafood was so tainted that federal regulators could confiscate the fish for violating food safety rules.

The testing also showed that mercury is more pervasive in fish than what the government has told the public, making it difficult for consumers to avoid the problem, no matter where they shop.

It is not by happenstance that contaminated fish can be found on shelves and at seafood counters throughout the region, from small neighborhood shops on the South Side to sprawling supermarket chain stores in the northwest suburbs.

The Tribune's investigation reveals a decades-long pattern of the U.S. government knowingly allowing millions of Americans to eat seafood with unsafe levels of mercury.

Regulators have repeatedly downplayed the hazards, failed to take basic steps to protect public health and misled consumers about the true dangers, documents and interviews show.

The government does not seize high-mercury fish that violate U.S. limits. Regulators do not even inspect seafood for mercury--not in ports, processing plants or supermarkets.

In fact, federal officials have tested so few fish that they have only a limited idea of how much mercury many species contain, government data show. For example, the government has tested just four walleye and 24 shrimp samples since 1978. The newspaper tested more samples of commercial walleye than the government has in the last quarter-century.

The fishing industry also has failed consumers. The newspaper's investigation found that U.S. tuna companies often package and sell a high-mercury tuna species as canned light tuna--a product the government specifically recommends as a low-mercury choice.

The consequence is that eating canned tuna--one of the nation's most popular foods--is far more hazardous than what the government and industry have led consumers to believe.

...The nation's overall food safety system has been repeatedly criticized for flawed inspections and limited enforcement. But several government studies have singled out the FDA for not doing enough to ensure fish is safe to eat.

The FDA, for instance, does not require exporting countries to maintain safety, sanitation and inspection programs comparable with the U.S. system, even though 80 percent of the seafood that Americans consume is imported. By contrast, the Department of Agriculture, which monitors meat and poultry, requires every exporter to meet such standards.

there is hope because mercury is not a permanent addition to one's body (unlike some other pollutants).

Mercury does not stay in the body forever, Hightower said. It takes six months to a year for the metal to leave a person's bloodstream.

more excerpts below (the Trib puts articles behind firewall rather quickly)

Also, there's a small flash movie interviewing one of the authors of this article here

It Takes a Potemkin Village

Ah Frank Rich, my little Sunday pleasure.

Frank Rich: It Takes a Potemkin Village
Since we don't get honest information from this White House, we must instead, as the Soviets once did, decode our rulers' fictions to discern what's really happening.

Department of no comment

voluptuary: Word of the Day
voluptuary: a person devoted to luxury and the gratification of sensual appetites.

Draw your own conclusions...


Snow tales

DaVinci Wine

Roof snow
In losing you my days
have turned black.
When I was with you
even my nights were white.
-Ibn Zaydun, Fragments from the Qasida In the Rhyme of Nun

or for a little biographic info about the life of Ibn Zaydun

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Team Loyalty

Bill the blowhard

| 1 Comment

Is there a bigger asshole in the U.S. media than Bill O'Reilly? I'd be hard pressed to find one.

Media Matters - O'Reilly promised to “bring horror” to alleged “anti-Christian forces” who oppose Christmas: On the December 2 broadcast of Fox News' The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, host Bill O'Reilly stated that he would “use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people” who “diminish and denigrate the [Christmas] holiday.” O'Reilly singled out “oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country” as those who seek to undermine Christmas, asserting that these “forces” are “on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it.” He later added: “There is no reason on this earth that all of us can not celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together,” cautioning that “anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.”

I really would like to read of this 'organized anti-Christmas' force, is there a webpage somewhere with a member list? What does O'Reilly plan on doing to these godless heathen anyway, burn them at the stake? Even in his own sick, twisted, repressed little pea brain, I wonder what O'Reilly means by bring horror into the world of people.

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Christian love means

Christian love apparently only applies to bank accounts of televangelists

Professor beaten; attackers cite KU creationism class
A professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he sent e-mails deriding Christian conservatives was hospitalized Monday after what appeared to be a roadside beating.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said that the two men who beat him made references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring.

Originally called “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies,” the course was canceled last week at Mirecki's request.

The class was added after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.

“I didn't know them,” Mirecki said of his assailants, “but I'm sure they knew me.”

One recent e-mail from Mirecki to members of a student organization referred to religious conservatives as “fundies,” and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a “nice slap in their big fat face.” Mirecki has apologized for those comments.

Lt. Kari Wempe, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, said a deputy was dispatched to Lawrence Memorial Hospital after receiving a call around 7 a.m. regarding a battery.

She said Mirecki reported he was attacked around 6:40 a.m. in rural Douglas County south of Lawrence. Mirecki told the Lawrence Journal-World that he was driving to breakfast when he noticed the men tailgating him in a pickup truck.

..He said the men beat him on the head, shoulders and back with their fists, and possibly a metal object.
Mirecki told the student newspaper, the University Daily Kansan, that he spent between three and four hours at the hospital. He said his injuries included a broken tooth.

If everyone converted to FSM, violence like this wouldn't have to happen.

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Good for Wells Fargo

Christian group pulls Wells Fargo accounts The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family has closed all its Wells Fargo accounts because the San Francisco bank contributed to a gay rights group that promised to use the funds to “fight ... the anti-gay industry. ...A Wells Fargo spokesman said the $50,000 donation to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation came from profits on accounts in the San Francisco area, not Colorado, where Focus on the Family has its headquarters.

”We absolutely made a $50,000 grant to GLAAD, and we're absolutely proud of our support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,“ said Chris Hammond, spokesman for the banking giant, which gives about $2 million a year to gay and lesbian organizations.

in obvious counterpoint to the weiners at Ford.

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday its luxury Jaguar and Land Rover brands will no longer advertise in gay publications
... [Ford spokesman Mike ] Moran refused to say how much Ford has spent advertising in gay publications such as The Advocate, a biweekly magazine. Mercedes-Benz, a division of DaimlerChrysler AG, was advertising on the Advocate's Web site Tuesday.

Ford's move came nearly a week after the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association canceled a boycott of Ford vehicles that began in May, when the group criticized Ford for being too gay-friendly.

''We are ending the boycott of Ford,'' association Chairman Donald Wildmon said in a Nov. 30 statement on the group's Web site

You have to laugh at this tidbit:

A Focus on the Family official would not disclose how much money the organization kept with Wells Fargo, its primary bank, but said the nonprofit group's income was $146 million last year.

so who knows if the Christian-Taliban even had any money in Wells Fargo accounts. Just attention-whores.


The Signs are watching you

you might glance at them, but they certainly track you

SPY CHIPS TO TRACK DISPLAYS IN 5,000 WALGREEN STORES In what appears to be the most sweeping marketing application yet of radio-frequency identification technology, Walgreens and 15 top package-goods marketers are rolling out a system to track promotional displays throughout the chain’s 5,000-plus stores. The system, touted by one retail expert as potentially the biggest advance in store promotion in decades, uses RFID to electronically track when, how long and where displays are placed in stores. That allows marketers to track results of promotions by store or demographic cluster. It also lets participating manufacturers time local, regional or national advertising according to when displays are in place and send representatives to stores that haven’t put up displays, said Robert Michelson, CEO of privately held Goliath Solutions, the system’s creator. Mr. Michelson declined to identify the marketers involved, but they’re believed by industry executives to include the heaviest hitters, including Procter & Gamble Co. and Altria Group’s Kraft Foods.
RFID holds the promise of making in-store marketing not only a measurable medium, but one that can be measured more reliably and precisely than such mass media as TV and radio, Mr. Michelson said. Adding to its potential is Walgreens’ adoption earlier this year of a new, more sophisticated point-of-sale tracking system from Information Resources Inc. that promises real-time, store-by-store data capability on par with Wal-Mart’s vaunted Retail Link. Being able to get data store-by-store in real time puts package-goods marketing on a similar footing with the customer-relationship-management processes used by direct marketers, Mr. Michelson said. “You find out on a store-by-store basis what displays and promotions work best and on an ongoing basis send the right displays to the right stores.” Getting and tracking compliance of individual stores with national promotions long has been the biggest challenge for in-store marketing. Up to now, marketers have relied on field forces making store audits to monitor compliance, but data was rarely complete, took days or weeks to gather and wasn’t precise enough to match broadly with scanner data for analysis, Mr. Michelson said.
This is bound to complicate certain relationships with in-store advertising vendors, especially those who don't have a good track record of installing what they've contracted to install. The standard compliance for in-store advertising is 90%.

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Ideas percolate slowly

John Cage:
“I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.”

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Color laserjet 4550n repair


part 4 (or 5).
As I mentioned earlier, suddenly our HP Color Laserjet 4550n printer would not print, and displayed only the cryptic error message, 53.10.03. Apparently, there was something wrong with the memory chip, or the card that held it.
After much time spent at HP's website looking for a manual, I gave up, and started removing screws in likely locations.

don't take this off
This was the first thing I took off, with much toil and trouble. Wrong. All I got for my labor was a slice in the skin of my finger from the sharp plastic edge.

4550n card location
This was the right thing to take out. Surprisingly easy, once all the screws were removed, the card just popped right out. Contains the ethernet port, which I took out first (but needn't have), plus the parallel port, etc.

4550n card

4550n DIMM slot open

When I first inspected the DIMM slots, I noticed that one of the tabs holding the memory in place was open. Aha, I exclaimed. Maybe it just came loose! I closed, replaced the card. Nope, same error message.

Next I thought to move the DIMM from one slot to another, maybe the slot itself was faulty.


64meg dimm
I took the chip out, and looked closer. Hmmm, looks very familiar. Standard in fact.

G3 case open
D's last computer, a G3 blue and white Powermac, still sits on a shelf waiting for a reason to be used (was thinking to make it a backup server, or fax machine or something simple), and I remembered installing new memory in it a few years ago. I cracked it open, and lo! behold! there were two 64 meg chips. Perfect. I didn't need a manual for this machine, as the side of the case opened with the lifting of one lever. Took about 1 second, including lifting the computer off the shelf. That's good design, baby.

Installed the 64 meg DIMMs into the 4550n, and voila! Don't know what exactly doubling the memory in the printer will do, but at least it prints again.

Yay! Hooray for interchangeable parts! Eli Whitney, if my memory serves.

(for all photos, click for larger view, duh)

comments closed due to comment spam

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First snowfall of the season

Actually, a couple days ago, but still, winter is officially here now.

Went Down to the Crossroad
click for larger versions, unless you're a punk. Ahem.

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Netflixed: F for Fake

For some reason, I thought I'd seen every Orson Welles movie. Guess not.

Shipped: F for Fake In this free-form documentary from the one and only Orson Welles, the famed storyteller zigzags through a sardonic, fanciful tale of how art manages to amaze and fool us, often simultaneously. With faux determination, Welles examines the charismatic artist Elmyr de Hory, who makes pretty good money creating bogus Picassos and Matisses. Also fascinating is Welles's own deception and a peek into the life of the very private man.

“F for Fake - Criterion Collection” (Criterion)

Parenthetical note: could somebody just buy me all of the Criterion Collection movies at once? Thanks! There are some movies in the Criterion Collection I probably would never watch, but not many. It's a film students dream collection, plus with interviews, restored prints, yadda yadda. plus
Shipped: The Killers: Criterion Collection (1964): Disc 2 This disc contains the 1964 Don Siegel version starring Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager as a pair of gunmen scouring a seedy underworld. The 1964 remake (of sorts) by Don Siegel builds another whole world around Hemingway's narrow, if intense, premise. The two assassins of Siegel's film (Clu Gulager, Lee Marvin) go in search of their intended victim--a teacher (John Cassavetes) at a school for the blind--and find that he not only recognizes his fate when they show up, but seems entirely resigned to it. Curiosity leads the killers to seek out the party who hired them and discover why Cassavetes's character didn't run or fight. Soon the facts tumble into place--the dead man had once been a top-drawer racer who fell for a glamorous woman (Angie Dickinson), the latter gradually pulling him into the orbit of a criminal villain (a convincingly evil Ronald Reagan)--and the film becomes increasingly dark and dangerous. Originally shot for television but rejected for its violence, Siegel's film is a blistering experience of swimming against the currents of fate for one's survival--and losing.
Film noir, baby. Two versions of the same movie, the 1964 version shipped first.

The Killers
The Killers


Study Suggests Caffeine Can Help Liver

Study Suggests Caffeine Can Help Liver
Coffee and tea may reduce the risk of serious liver damage in people who drink too much alcohol, are overweight or have too much iron in the blood, researchers reported yesterday.

The study of nearly 10,000 people showed that those who drank more than two cups of coffee or tea per day developed chronic liver disease at half the rate of those who drank less than one cup each day.

The study, conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and Social & Scientific Systems Inc., found that coffee provided no protection to people at risk of liver disease from other causes, such as viral infections.

Writing in the American Gastroenterological Association journal Gastroenterology, Ruhl and colleagues said caffeine seemed to hold the key.

They analyzed the records of 9,849 participants in a government survey whose coffee and tea intake was evaluated and who were followed for about 19 years.

Hot damn. I think I'm mixing up an Irish coffee to celebrate! I don't know if it fits into Irish trad or not (my Irish roots are fairly generic, and added via choice. Other than the fact that several of my ancestors were from Cork, Ireland, and parts nearby, by the time I was born, everyone was just 'American'), but I also enjoy adding a splash of Jameson's to a cup of tea.

Anyway, good news.

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Everyone should switch to opium

or salvia. The smoke doesn't linger as long, doesn't smell as horrible, and is in general, just better for you anyway. Sativa would be a second choice. - Westin to Ban Smoking At Its Hotels Nationwide
Westin Hotels & Resorts is banning smoking indoors and poolside at all 77 of its properties in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, said senior Vice President Sue Brush. Smokers will have to go to a designated outdoor area, she said....

Ms. Brush said customers will be advised about the policy at check-in. If a guest violates the rule -- “when we can observe it by smelling it or whatever” -- a $200 fee will be added to the bill.

“It's really a cleaning fee,” she said. The 2,400 smoking rooms in the chain are undergoing deep cleaning and air purifying before the Jan. 1 changeover, “and once you smoke in there you've violated that entire environment and we have to clean it all over again.”

The smoking ban will apply to hallways, lobbies, and restaurants, except for the eight restaurants that are run by outside companies and not under Westin's control, Ms. Brush said. “They will be invited to participate,” she added.

Smokers rights
Even a blizzard won't cure the need for the killer weed (tobacco, not salvia, btw), some smokers brave the elements to have a puff.

(click for larger version)


100,000 visit solipsism

B12 received its one-hundred thousand visitor sometime last night.

B12 Partners -

Search Words
stickers for laptops
Visit Entry Page
Visitor's Time Dec 5 2005 1:10:47 am
Visit Number 100,000

Whoo hoo. There was some piece on Tinsley Mortimer in the weekend NYT, which generated over 400 hits here over the last couple days.

Kroger buying Albertson's (151 searches out of the last 1000)
The old standby, with some really funny comments DHL Sucks (130 searches out of the last 1000)
and the Gap sucks (73 searches out of the last 1000)
The Aristocrats
Roxio's Popcorn DVD copying software
the origin of the word, c*nt

Other fun recent search terms
“fraud's many helper points”
correcting washed out photos (from an Airforce domain - one wonders)
the origin of the word, crinite
cork wine bad “look at the cork”
how would I look with a shaved head (not sure they found what they wanted, but hey, if it worked for MJ)

“email contact of big man deaf people in business or company 2005”, which led here for some reason
projected demand for fluoxetine hydrochloride
yojimbo essay (the student looking to copy my 'essay' on Yojimbo must have been sorely disappointed. My essays are rather brief these days, unless I'm being paid for word-count, which I'm not.
Kobe takes too many shots (still true this season, but then who else is going to take them? Must be the worst Laker team in recent memory.)
The Meat Packing Industry in 2005 (yeah, I'm a real expert on that field /sarcastic tone)
Learn Curse words (I had forgotten about this site - worth a visit)
Fuck OReilly truer words never typed!

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Coach Leach Goes Deep, Very Deep

This article nails exactly why football in general bores me: too methodical, plodding, and mired in tradition. Mike Leach threw out all the rules, and seems to be successful, but is a pariah to other coaches. Screw that. I am pleased that my alma mater (UT) beat Texas Tech anyway, but also am glad to hear of Texas Tech's success this year. Maybe football will get more interesting in the future, if other coaches don't get Leach lynched.

Coach Leach Goes Deep, Very Deep:

By changing the geometry of the game, and pushing the limits of space and time on the gridiron, Mike Leach of Texas Tech is taking football to some far-out places.

...The first play Leach called against Texas A.&M. was the first play on Cody Hodges's wrist. That wrist held a mere 23 ordinary plays, 9 red-zone plays (for situations inside an opponent's 20-yard line), 6 goal-line plays, 2 2-point-conversion plays and 5 trick plays. “There's two ways to make it more complex for the defense,” Leach says. “One is to have a whole bunch of different plays, but that's no good because then the offense experiences as much complexity as the defense. Another is a small number of plays and run it out of lots of different formations.” Leach prefers new formations. “That way, you don't have to teach a guy a new thing to do,” he says. “You just have to teach him new places to stand.” Texas Tech's offense has no playbook; Cody Hodges's wrist and Mike Leach's back pocket hold the only formal written records of what is widely regarded as one of the most intricate offenses ever to take a football field. The plays change too often, in response to the defense and the talents of the players on hand, to bother recording them.....
Leach is unusual in giving his quarterback the authority to change every play, wherever the line of scrimmage. “He can see more than I'll ever see,” Leach says. “If I call a stupid play, his job is to get me out of it. If he doesn't get me out of it, I might holler at him. But if you let him react to what he sees, there's a ton of touchdowns to be had.”

The chances of that happening can't be great, though. Leach remains on the outside; like all innovators in sports, he finds himself in an uncertain social position. He has committed a faux pas: he has suggested by his methods that there is more going on out there on the (unlevel) field of play than his competitors realize, which reflects badly on them. He steals some glory from the guy who is born with advantages and uses them to become a champion. Gary O'Hagan, Leach's agent, says that he hears a great deal more from other coaches about Mike Leach than about any of his other clients. “He makes them nervous,” O'Hagan says. “They don't like coaching against him; they'd rather coach against another version of themselves. It's not that they don't like him. But privately they haven't accepted him. You know how you can tell? Because when you're talking to them Monday morning, and you say, Did you see the play Leach ran on third and 26, they dismiss it immediately. Dismissive is the word. They dismiss him out of hand. And you know why? Because he's not doing things because that's the way they've always been done. It's like he's been given this chessboard, and all the pieces but none of the rules, and he's trying to figure out where all the chess pieces should go. From scratch!”

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Beer vs. Booze

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Afternoon Tea, Holiday edition

Beer vs. Booze, with wine as an interested observer. Apparently, it is illegal to have nutritional information on labels of alcoholic beverages, for some reason. Previously, the beer, spirit, and wine industries all agreed this was a good thing. Now, they aren't so sure

Chicago Tribune | Beer, liquor labeling coming to a head:

For more than 30 years beer brewers, vintners and distillers have worked together to fight consumer lobbying groups that wanted to require the labels on alcoholic beverages. But changing consumer tastes, from beer to liquor, have strained the relationship. Since 1999, beer sales have fallen 3.1 percent, while hard liquor sales grew 3 percent in the same period. That costs beermakers hundreds of millions in the more than $50 billion U.S. alcoholic beverage market. Distillers see a competitive advantage and now want to share their stats with drinkers in hopes of continuing their momentum. It may help liquor sales, especially among some dieters, if consumers knew that a 1.5-ounce shot of Jim Beam bourbon has 100 calories and no carbohydrates. Comparatively, a 12-ounce Budweiser contains 146 calories and 11 grams of carbs.

TNT Lounge

Spirit companies want to change the law

Early last year, Diageo, whose brands include Guinness beer and Tanqueray gin, asked the government to change its rules to permit but not require distillers to place fact labels on their products.

Diageo and the consumer groups filed their petition not to food regulators, but to the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the Treasury Department, which is empowered to approve or deny virtually every change to labels on alcohol products.

Beer companies, on the other hand

Pete Marino, a spokesman for Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co., said there is a difference between a 12-ounce glass of 5 percent beer and a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor.

"A liquid gallon of beers comes out to 10 beers. A liquid gallon of liquor comes out to 895 drinks. Clearly they are not the same," he said.

Miller said that the information proposed for the labels would be misleading and that consumers had not indicated an interest in seeing the labels altered. The Washington, D.C.-based Beer Institute said consumers "are adequately informed by existing labels."

mmmm, a gallon of beer.....

However, winemakers...are sitting on the fence trying to determine how they should respond to the proposed rules. The board of the Wine Institute, which represents 1,500 California winemakers, is to meet this week to consider the rule.

oh, and the local, delicious beer, Goose Island, is all for new rules

John Hall, owner of Chicago's Goose Island Brewery, said he doesn't have a problem with labeling.

"We put the alcohol on some beers and we would have no problem with something like that," he said. "Quite frankly I don't know if we would have any problem with putting carbs and calories on our beers.

"An informed consumer is a better consumer," Hall said.

I don't understand the big hubbub, what's a label anyway.

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Printer problems

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Printing a document gives me this error -

HP Color LaserJet 4500 and 4550 Series Printers

53.10.03 error

With one of the following:

A row of 16 asterisks (*).

The formatter contains no onboard memory. The 4550 requires at least one 64 MB DIMM to function. If there is no memory DIMM in slot one (labeled J11 on the formatter board) or two (labeled J13 on the formatter board), or if the memory is not being recognized, the control panel will display “53.10.03”.

Turn off the printer to clear the error. Remove the formatter board. Verify that the DIMM is correctly installed on the formatter by removing and reinstalling the DIMM. If the DIMM is correctly installed, it should be tested and may need to be replaced. The HP Color LaserJet 4550 needs PC100, 168 pin, non-parity, unbuffered, 8ns, 3.3 volt, synchronous SDRAM DIMMs, with a SDRAM timings of CL=2, in either 64 MB or 128 MB pieces. Ensure that it is an HP memory module, or that it meets the specifications for third party memory. Although 64 or 128 MB DIMMs can be used in any combination, the printer will only recognize and use a maximum of 192 MB. EDO DIMMs are not supported. HP’s part number for the HP Color LaserJet 4550 memory is C7848A for 64 MB and C7850A for 128 MB. Use the instructions from the User's Guide or those provided in the “Installing DIMMs and verifying installation” section later in this document

Doh! Of course, this printer is paid for, and was working up until yesterday afternoon. Nobody has been near it -it is networked into a room by itself (with fax machine and photocopier), how does a DIMM suddenly get loose? I hope that's all it is.

Update: solution described here (with photos)

comments closed due to comment spam

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All the President's Flacks

Frank Rich: All the President's Flacks
The Bob Woodward affair offers a window onto the White House flimflams and the press's role in enabling them. WHEN “all of the facts come out in this case,” Bob Woodward told Terry Gross on NPR in July, “it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great.”

Who's laughing now?

Why Mr. Woodward took more than two years to tell his editor that he had his own personal Deep Throat in the Wilson affair is a mystery best tackled by combatants in the Washington Post newsroom. (Been there, done that here at The Times.) Mr. Woodward says he wanted to avoid a subpoena, but he first learned that Joseph Wilson's wife was in the C.I.A. in mid-June 2003, more than six months before Patrick Fitzgerald or subpoenas entered the picture. Never mind. Far more disturbing is Mr. Woodward's utter failure to recognize the import of the story that fell into his lap so long ago.

The reporter who with Carl Bernstein turned a “third-rate burglary” into a key for unlocking the true character of the Nixon White House still can't quite believe that a Washington leak story unworthy of his attention has somehow become the drip-drip-drip exposing the debacle of Iraq. “I don't know how this is about the buildup to the war, the Valerie Plame Wilson issue,” he said on “Larry King Live” on the eve of the Scooter Libby indictment. Everyone else does. Largely because of the revelations prompted by the marathon Fitzgerald investigation, a majority of Americans now believe that the Bush administration deliberately misled the country into war. The case's consequences for journalism have been nearly as traumatic, and not just because of the subpoenas. The Wilson story has ruthlessly exposed the credulousness with which most (though not all) of the press bought and disseminated the White House line that any delay in invading Iraq would bring nuclear Armageddon.

W.'s Head in the Sand

MoDo joins in on the ridicule of the powerpoint presidency.

Maureen Dowd: W.'s Head in the Sand - New York Times:

In the Christmas spirit, the time has come for the reality-based community to reach out to the White House.

The Bush warriors are so deluded, they're even faking their fakery.

This week, the president presented a plan-like plan for “victory” in Iraq, which Scott McClellan rather pompously called the unclassified version of their supersecret master plan. But there would be no way to achieve victory from this plan even if it were a real plan. If this is what they're telling themselves in the Sit Room, we're in bigger trouble than we thought.

The National Strategy for Victory must have come from the same P.R. genius who gave President Top Gun the “Mission Accomplished” banner about 48 hours before the first counterinsurgency war of the 21st century broke out in Iraq.

It's not a military strategy - classified or unclassified. It's political talking points - and not even good ones. Are we really supposed to believe that anybody, even the most deeply delusional Bush sycophant, believes the phrase “Our strategy is working”?

well, other than Commander Cod-piece that is.

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Blogosphere triumphant

Looks like the blogosphere* triumphs over sleazy company in the Thomas Hawk vs. war.

MediaPost Publications - Consumer-Generated Justice: Blogger Sidelines E-Commerce Site - 12/02/2005
Howard Baker, a manager with, said the business had suffered “millions of dollars” worth of damages in the last two days, apparently at the hands of consumer vigilantes who had read the Digital Connection post.

“In the last couple of days there was one disgruntled customer that posted a blog that caused thousands of people to come out of the woodwork and jam our Web site,” said Baker--citing viruses, denial-of-service attacks, and thousands of prank calls. “We're talking to our attorneys this afternoon, and will probably be taking legal action.”

“They're basically trying to destroy our business in our busiest month, and they have,” Baker said. “No hard-working small business owner should ever experience something like this.”

Wednesday, shortly after the original Digital Connection post, popular tech news site Slashdot picked up the story. Joe Lazarus, director of marketing for Yahoo! Shopping, eventually weighed in with a comment to the Digital Connection blog, which asked users to keep a sharp eye out for reviews that seem questionable. “We rely on our community of consumers to share feedback with each other through ratings and reviews on our site. That system works well, but it's not perfect. So, we encourage people like you to contact us if they see reviews that are suspect, abusive, off-topic, or otherwise objectionable,” he wrote.

Despite hundreds of negative, one-star reviews posted on and Yahoo! Shopping, managed to maintain a high rating--four stars out of five on both sites--in part due to hundreds of equally positive, five-star reviews. The vast majority of the reviews posted on the shopping aggregator sites were either one star or five stars; few reviews told of a middling experience with the company. Yahoo! declined to speculate how the merchant maintained a four-star rating with a legion of one-star comments; a company spokesperson confirmed that Yahoo! Shopping removed from its listings after an investigation.

.... [Thomas Hawk] said he had not expected the magnitude of the response to his story. “Obviously I felt slighted, I felt that I'd been abused and offended, and I planned on posting this article. I have a blog with moderate traffic,” he said. “I submitted this story to Digg and I wasn't necessarily expecting it to take off per se, but certainly it did.”

The reason for the response, he figures, is that other readers could identify with his situation. “It resonated very, very strongly with people. At one point or another we've all be bullied or ripped off or defrauded,” he said. “In the past, there was nothing we could do about it--we just have taken this abuse.”

These days, things are a bit different: Caveat venditor--let the seller beware.

*phrase probably invented by skippy

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US executes 1,000th prisoner

What percentage of these prisoners were innocent? If even one, then the U.S. is just a murderer. Is the benefit of killing criminals worth the risk of killing an innocent person? Not to us, not after reading of all the innocent people freed moments before execution.

US executes 1,000th prisoner
The US executes its 1,000th prisoner since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. ...The US supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 after a 10-year ban. The first person to be subsequently executed was Gary Gilmore, who died in front of a firing squad in Utah in 1977.

Thirty-eight states and the federal government permit capital punishment. Texas has the highest rate of executions since 1976 at 355. Amnesty International says only China, Iran and Vietnam held more executions in 2004 than the US.

We aren't in good company here, nor is this a statistic to be proud of.

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Bullet Points Over Baghdad

Krugman points out the ubiquity of both the governing-by-Powerpoint mentality, and the futility of our current overlord's plans for Pax Americana, Bushy-style. Aren't the Bushites supposed to be holy-rollers who eschew lies? I don't recall Christ ever encouraging his followers to tell fibs.

Paul Krugman - Bullet Points Over Baghdad The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was supposed to provide the world with a demonstration of American power. It didn't work out that way. But the Bush administration has come up with the next best thing: a demonstration of American PowerPoint. Bullets haven't subdued the insurgents in Iraq, but the administration hopes that bullet points will subdue the critics at home.

The National Security Council document released this week under the grandiose title “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” is neither an analytical report nor a policy statement. It's simply the same old talking points - “victory in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest”; “failure is not an option” - repackaged in the style of a slide presentation for a business meeting.

It's an embarrassing piece of work. Yet it's also an important test for the news media. The Bush administration has lost none of its confidence that it can get away with fuzzy math and fuzzy facts - that it won't be called to account for obvious efforts to mislead the public. It's up to journalists to prove that confidence wrong.

Here's an example of how the White House attempts to mislead: the new document assures us that Iraq's economy is doing really well. “Oil production increased from an average of 1.58 million barrels per day in 2003, to an average of 2.25 million barrels per day in 2004.” The document goes on to concede a “slight decrease” in production since then.

We're not expected to realize that the daily average for 2003 includes the months just before, during and just after the invasion of Iraq, when its oil industry was basically shut down. As a result, we're not supposed to understand that the real story of Iraq's oil industry is one of unexpected failure: instead of achieving the surge predicted by some of the war's advocates, Iraqi production has rarely matched its prewar level, and has been on a downward trend for the past year.


What about the security situation? During much of 2004, the document tells us: “Fallujah, Najaf, and Samara were under enemy control. Today, these cities are under Iraqi government control.”

Najaf was never controlled by the “enemy,” if that means the people we're currently fighting. It was briefly controlled by Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. The United States once vowed to destroy that militia, but these days it's as strong as ever. And according to The New York Times, Mr. Sadr has now become a “kingmaker in Iraqi politics.” So what sort of victory did we win, exactly, in Najaf?

Moreover, in what sense is Najaf now under government control? According to The Christian Science Monitor, “Sadr supporters and many Najaf residents say an armed Badr Brigade” - the militia of a Shiite group that opposes Mr. Sadr and his supporters - “still exists as the Najaf police force.”

Meanwhile, this is the third time that coalition forces have driven the insurgents out of Samara. On the two previous occasions, the insurgents came back after the Americans left. And there, too, it's stretching things to say that the city is under Iraqi government control: according to The Associated Press, only 100 of the city's 700 policemen show up for work on most days.

Nikon recall

Note to self: requested this replacement battery for my Nikon D70 be sent to me today.

Nikon Inc.
Nikon Inc. is asking your cooperation in connection with a voluntary recall of certain lot numbers of its Nikon Model EN-EL3 rechargeable lithium ion battery packs. The battery pack can experience a short circuit causing it to overheat and possibly melt, posing a potential hazard to consumers. There have only been four confirmed reports of incidents of the problem worldwide, and while no injuries have taken place, Nikon Inc. has initiated this recall of the affected lot numbers as a reflection of its commitment to safety and product quality. We are asking that owners of the affected battery packs return them to Nikon Inc. for a free replacement.

If you have an EN-EL3 battery pack with one of the lot numbers listed above, you should immediately stop using it and remove the battery pack from the battery compartment.

To receive instructions and materials for the return of your EN-EL3 battery pack, postage prepaid, and your free replacement, click here or call toll free 1-800-645-6678. In both cases, we will send you a prepaid shipping label, packing materials and instructions to safely return your affected EN-EL3 battery pack. Your EN-EL3 battery pack will be replaced free of charge within approximately 7-10 days of our receipt with a new EN-EL3a or EN-EL3e battery pack. The EN-EL3a and the EN-EL3e may be freely substituted for the EN-EL3 in all cases.

To have a replacement battery EN-EL3a or EN-EL3e battery forwarded to you before returning your EN-EL3 battery please select the “Send replacement battery” button below and enter your credit card information. Nikon will send you a replacement battery, a free return label, and packaging for return of your battery. Nikon will hold your credit information for 30 days. If Nikon receives your return EN-EL3 battery before 30 days of return shipment of the replacement battery your credit card information will be deleted from our files. If Nikon does not receive your EN-EL3 battery with in 30 days your credit card will be charged $49.00 plus tax for the replacement battery.

Doh! I love this battery - I've recharged it maybe 5 times this year. Great, great battery life. I wish all my electronic devices had a battery as good as this one. And I may (hopefully) be going to Montreal next weekend for business/pleasure, I hope my replacement shows up before then.

Nikon D70
Nikon D70

“D70 Outfit with 18-70mm DX Lens” (Nikon)

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Front Page closing

Speaking of classic comedy, the newsroom that inspired the movie, Front Page (remade multiple times), is closing.

Chicago Tribune Fabled bureau to file final page at year's end The Front Page gave way to the Internet age Thursday as the New City News Service checked out. Dec. 31 will be the last day of operation for the 115-year-old news service where generations of reporters learned the abiding lesson of journalistic skepticism: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Born when buggy whips were still a boom business, the wire service is dying at a time when newspapers seem vulnerable to the latest big new thing: the blog-clogged Internet.

City News was a respected training ground for many of journalism's best-known bylines. They included Charles MacArthur, who went on to co-write “The Front Page,” a play that immortalized his experiences in the service's no-holds-barred heyday. Columnist Mike Royko, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and novelist Kurt Vonnegut all got their starts there. So did thousands of workaday journalists, including this one.

Founded in the midst of the city's most viciously competitive newspaper wars, City News was a peace treaty of sorts. To cut costs and stop the blood-and-guts hyping of minor overnight crime stories, the publishers of Chicago's five major newspapers agreed exclusively to “depend on the City Press Association for night police news.”

City News' mission expanded from there to cover stories from the major to the mundane.

Courts, city government, demonstrations, and press conferences all fell within its purview. So did “death watch” reporting such as a vice president's plane landing at O'Hare field's military strip: City News covered it in case the landing turned into a crash.
The irony in all this is that City News' chief mission--the training of young talent--will be all the more needed in this content-mad age. There are other places for wannabe reporters to learn their craft: journalism schools, small newspapers, internships at big newspapers. None can hold its own against the sink-or-swim training ground of City News, a place where hazing was the board of education as colleagues passed down the art of their trade.

Newbie reporters quickly learned to get the full name, middle initial, age and home address of everyone they interviewed. Hair and eye color were optional, but sometimes called for.

On my first day, my editor would not accept my report about a demonstration at Michigan and Randolph because I could not provide the street address of the open plot of land where the protesters were gathered. There was no building and no apparent address, but that seemed to make no difference.

In my first month, I was covering press conferences about a spree of murders caused by cyanide-laced Tylenol, a story my City News colleague John Rooney first broke. I rode in a limousine while interviewing a mayoral candidate the city's newspapers had barely yet noticed: An African-American congressman named Harold Washington.

I saw my first shot cop and my first dead perp. I also learned, in an era when race seemed to be a factor in news judgment, that certain South Side murders were declared “cheap,” and not worth a City News phone call. Virtually every North Side killing was worth a story.

Oh, there is one more important matter I quickly learned at City News.

When a story ends, you're supposed to put -30- at the bottom. It's a symbol to show editors that the story is complete, and occasion for the reporter to relax that the hardest work is done.

Now City News is finished. Writing -30- never hurt before


After this story has been bubbling around the world, the Senate deigns to learn what everyone already knows.

Senate Summons Pentagon to Explain Effort to Plant News Stories in Iraqi Media
Under the program, the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm working in Iraq, was hired to translate articles written by American troops into Arabic and then, in many cases, give them to advertising agencies for placement in the Iraqi news media.

At a time when the State Department is paying contractors millions of dollars to promote professional and independent media, the military campaign appeared to defy the basic tenets of Western journalism.
Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, said he had directed Pentagon aides to describe and justify the program on Friday in a closed briefing for senators and staff aides.

“I am concerned about any actions that may undermine the credibility of the United States as we help the Iraqi people stand up as a democracy,” Mr. Warner said in a statement.

“A free and independent press is critical to the functioning of a democracy, and I am concerned about any actions which may erode the independence of the Iraqi media,” the committee chairman's statement said.

Yes, a free independent press sure would be nice.


Record reviews, ruminations

This guy (Mike Allston) has ambitions: listen to his entire CD collection, in order, and review each one.

A-Z 2005: Here we go.
Here we go.
My New Year's resolution for 2005: to listen to my CD's, in alphabetical order.
The 'rules' are explained here

He's now on Stooges, as in Iggy Pop's album, Raw Power, which I coincidentally just bought recently.

CDs shelf one

Really, sounds like a fun idea, though I don't know if I could realistically devote so much time to it. I could eliminate every album that sucks, and everything that was loaned from Audiogalaxy or friends, etc. Still would take a long, long time, even if some just have a sentence long review. Maybe though, I'll start at the Z's, so as to end up with the A's when you click on the category Reviews? What happens if I get a new John Zorn album, do I add an update to my original post? Or make an addendum?

I did catalog all of my discs once, and boxed up quite a few into the attic so as to have a little breathing room in my main office area. I made an excel sheet out of what I found, which has 976 entries. Even though this list is slightly dated (March 2004), might be a jumping off point. Hmmm.

I suppose the question then becomes, how do I make a good iTunes list of albums I've converted? All bit rates will be in the 160kpbs VBR (VariableBitRate) range, I usually rip the entire album, at least initially. I don't think I'd listen to the whole album once through. Say If I listened to a minimum of three tracks, that would be somewhere around 3,600 songs (1,243 albums currently x 3 songs). If each song was approximately 4 minutes long on average, that would equal 80 hours. Yikes! Not a casual undertaking at all, but perhaps I'll give it a go. Of course, Mike Alston has an advantage, he's actually a record reviewer, so speaks the lingo already. Me, not my forte necessarily. Should I give star ratings in lieu of exposition? probably not, but if I actually get into this project, I assume some of the rules will change via necessity or boredom.

(and yes, this page keeps moving in time - I want it to appear at the top of the section)

Update, I suppose the Robert Christgau method sort of applies, albeit in the digitized realm. I don't have quite as many albums as Christgau, of course, but I have more than the average bear. I listen to everything at least twice, but often only as I'm doing other things.

That does not mean that I try to get into every one. Except with records I have been actively anticipating, I work chronologically and with dispatch, sometimes piling records on the changer ten at a time as I read, write, make phone calls, or fart around. If the record makes me want to listen more carefully, good. Usually it doesn't. Sometimes I can tell a record is a Forget It after one cut or one side. More often, it will play through and then find itself in one of the second-listen piles. Eventually, at least half of the rock records I receive are discarded altogether. Others are kept but never really apprehended, just singled out as having some good quality and forgotten. Others, of course, become part of my life. That's what it's all for.

Even though music is my greatest pleasure, the pleasure is often casual. I rarely listen carefully to lyrics or follow a solo note for note unless I'm reviewing something at length or I'm stoned. When I'm stoned, I rarely play records I don't already love...Newer acquisitions, naturally, get disproportionate attention.

...Although any rating system is absurd--always based on short-term judgments and incapable of implying ambivalence, although the comments can mitigate that--there is no reasonable alternative.


Screengrab for DVDs

I have wanted to take a screen grab of a DVD now and again, even though I usually don't watch movies on my desktop (an office chair just isn't as comfortable as a couch).

So, obviously, play the DVD, choose Video -> Maximum Size, or hit Command-3, then

Boing Boing: HOWTO defeat Apple's anti-DVD-screenshot DRM
Open the Terminal (Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal). Type this, or copy / paste it right in the Terminal:

screencapture -i ~/Desktop/dvd.jpg

Your mouse should turn into crosshairs. Now hit the space bar. Your mouse should now be a camera. Click the window the DVD is playing in. A file called “dvd.jpg” will appear on your desktop.

Teeth from Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour

Thomas Hawk vs. PriceRitePhotos

Thomas Hawk - PriceRitePhotos Supposed “Out of Stock” Camera on Flickr
Update #2: Well I just received a call back from Steve Phillips at PriceRitePhoto. He said that I should be expecting a call from the “FBI” shortly and that “my tactics” of flooding his store's phone lines was “illegal.” When I asked him to hold on as I wanted to turn on my recorder to record our conversation he hung up on me.

Of course I have not called his store at all but I'd imagine that the attention that his abuse has recieved from Digg and other places on the internet may have something to do with that.

Thomas Hawk has an update on the scam company, PriceRitePhoto, who now threatens to 'go to the FBI', and also some responses he received from Elliot Spitzer, and Yahoo. Read it here, and the original description here, or at Thomas Hawk's blog


Appeals Court Balks at Approving Padilla Plan
The military imprisoned Jose Padilla without charges or a trial for more than three years, accusing him of plotting to detonate a radiological “dirty bomb” and conspiring to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Padilla on terrorism charges without mentioning the bombing plots. Yesterday, a federal appeals court ordered the government to explain why.

The Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit declined to authorize Padilla's transfer from military to Justice Department custody until the government elaborates on “the different facts that were alleged by the President to warrant Padilla's military detention” as compared with “the alleged facts on which Padilla has now been indicted.”

In a brief order, the court indicated that it could seek to block the transfer entirely if a three-judge panel is not satisfied with the government's answers.

The court also said it might vacate its earlier decision that affirmed the president's power to detain Padilla as an “enemy combatant” in the first place, which would be a blow to the Bush administration as it continues looking for terrorists.

I hope the 4th Circuit does block the transfer. Regardless of allegations, no U.S. citizen should be held in prison for 3 years without being charged with any crime. If Mr. Padilla was a young, blonde college girl, the yammering heads on television would have discussed this case every day. Just because Mr. Padilla came from Logan's Square doesn't mean he is not entitled to all rights Americans supposedly enjoy.

Nobody should be above the law, even the Bush Justice Department, and as an obvious adjunct, nobody should stripped from the protection of the law, even alleged terrorists. I realize the Cold War is over, but I thought freedom and democracy won!

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Reviews, the letter S

After a brief break, we're back listening to our albums, in reverse order.

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