January 2007 Archives

Molly Ivins RIP

Truly one of my favorite columnists and political writers, Molly Ivins will be missed by many. I only met her once, in Austin, and didn't really have much to say, other than thanks.

Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush
“Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush” (Molly Ivins, Lou Dubose)

Her long time employer, The Texas Observer has an obit, which includes this:

Tax-deductible contributions in her honor may be made to The Texas Observer, 307 West Seventh Street, Austin,TX 78701 or the American Civil Liberties Union,127 Broad Street,18th floor, New York, NY 10004, www.aclu.org.
John Nichols: Remembering Molly IvinsThe warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen with the purpose of calling the rabble to the battlements, Ivins understood that change came only when some citizen in some off-the-map town passed a petition, called a Congressman or cast an angry vote to throw the bums out. The nation's mostly widely syndicated progressive columnist, who died January 31 at age 62 after a long battle with what she referred to as a “scorching case of cancer,” adored the activists she celebrated from the time in the late 1960s when she created her own “Movements for Social Change” beat at the old Minneapolis Tribune and started making heroes of “militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers.” ... Molly Ivins could have played in the league of the big boys. They invited her in, giving her a bureau chief job with the New York Times--which she wrote her way out of when she referred to a “community chicken-killing festival” in a small town as a “gang-pluck.” Leaving the Times in 1982 was the best thing that ever happened to Molly. She settled back in her home state of Texas, where her friend Jim Hightower was about to get elected as agricultural commissioner and another friend named Ann Richards was striding toward the governorship. As a newspaper columnist for the old Dallas Times Herald--and, after that paper's demise, for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram--Molly began writing a political column drenched in the good humor and fighting spirit of that populist moment. It appealed beyond Texas, and within a decade she was writing for 400 papers nationwide.

As it happened, the populist fires faded in Texas, and the state started spewing out the byproducts of an uglier political tradition--the oil-money plutocracy--in the form of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

...When Washington pundits started counseling bipartisanship after voters routed the Republicans in the 2006 elections, Molly wrote, “The sheer pleasure of getting lessons in etiquette from Karl Rove and the right-wing media passeth all understanding. Ever since 1994, the Republican Party has gone after Democrats with the frenzy of a foaming mad dog. There was the impeachment of Bill Clinton, not to mention the trashing of both Clinton and his wife--accused of everything from selling drugs to murder--all orchestrated by that paragon of manners, Tom DeLay.... So after 12 years of tolerating lying, cheating and corruption, the press is prepared to lecture Democrats on how to behave with bipartisan manners.

The WaPo adds:

In an Austin speech last year, former President Clinton described Ivins as someone who was ”good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me.“


Ivins counted as her highest honors the Minneapolis police force's decision to name its mascot pig after her and her getting banned from the campus of Texas A&M University, according to a biography on the Creators Syndicate Web site.

In the late 1960s, according to the syndicate, she was assigned to a beat called ”Movements for Social Change“ and wrote about ”angry blacks, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers.“

Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer, a liberal Austin-based biweekly publication of politics and literature.

She joined The New York Times in 1976, working first as a political reporter in New York and later as Rocky Mountain bureau chief.

But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of going barefoot in the office were too much for the Times, said longtime friend Ben Sargent, editorial cartoonist with the Austin American-Statesman.

”She was just like a force of nature,“ Sargent said. ”She was just always on and sharp and witty and funny and was one of a kind.“

the NYT writes:

Molly Ivins, Columnist, Dies at 62

The liberal writer derided those who she thought acted too big for their britches.

In 1976, her writing, which she said was often fueled by ”truly impressive amounts of beer,“ landed her a job at The New York Times. She cut an unusual figure in The Times newsroom, wearing blue jeans, going barefoot and bringing in her dog, whose name was an expletive. [shithead?]

While she drew important writing assignments, like covering the Son of Sam killings and Elvis Presley’s death, she sensed she did not fit in and complained that Times editors drained the life from her prose. ”Naturally, I was miserable, at five times my previous salary,“ she later wrote. ”The New York Times is a great newspaper: it is also No Fun.“

After a stint in Albany, she was transferred to Denver to cover the Rocky Mountain States, where she continued to challenge her editors’ tolerance for prankish writing.

Covering an annual chicken slaughter in New Mexico in 1980, she used a sexually suggestive phrase, which her editors deleted from the final article [gang-pluck]. But her effort to use it angered the executive editor, A. M. Rosenthal, who ordered her back to New York and assigned her to City Hall, where she covered routine matters with little flair.

She quit The Times in 1982 after The Dallas Times Herald offered to make her a columnist. She took the job even though she loathed Dallas, once describing it as the kind of town ”that would have rooted for Goliath to beat David.“


TNT is Dynamite!!

Colorizing films was bad enough, but terrorist threat? Perhaps finally a marketing campaign that went too far. Or security theater that went too far.

Turner Promotion Mistaken for Terrorist Threat
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The alien-like Mooninites of Cartoon Network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" invaded the country rather quietly earlier this month, until one touched down at a Boston intersection Tuesday morning.

The Turner network launched a 10-city outdoor marketing campaign for its film “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres” involving small circuit boxes labeled with the characters scattered across the streets of Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia. The boxes had been in place for two to three weeks, but Boston officials perceived them to be potential bomb threats, temporarily shutting the city's Interstate 93, a key inbound roadway, a bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge, and a portion of the Charles River.

...But at least one person found no humor in the outdoor ad campaign gone haywire. U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's telecom panel, said in a statement, “Scaring an entire region, tying up the T and major roadways, and forcing first responders to spend 12 hours chasing down trinkets instead of terrorists is marketing run amok. It would be hard to dream up a more appalling publicity stunt. Whoever thought this up needs to find another job.”

Funny how only Boston out of these ten cities found the machines scary.

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Be My Wife

am nearly finished with Hugo Wilcken's fun and informative book, Low, which mentions this (intentionally) desultory video. Cocaine and explorations of Aleister Crowley took their toll, I suppose. Amazing that Bowie survived, though I don't think he made an interesting album after sobriety (circa 1981 and after)

David Bowie's Low (33 1/3) (33 1/3)
“David Bowie's Low (33 1/3) (33 1/3)” (Hugo Wilcken)

“Low” (David Bowie)

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Warming data manipulated

The White House manipulating data for political and financial gain? Say it ain't so, Jo-jo.

The Republican War on Science
“The Republican War on Science” (Chris Mooney)

William Neikirk - Warming data allegedly manipulated As a United Nations panel readied an update on global warming this week, charges erupted in Congress on Tuesday over alleged White House political manipulation of scientific climate-change research.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said at a hearing that evidence indicated Bush administration officials had tried to “mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming.”

Two advocacy groups released a survey to the panel in which a number of government climate scientists said either that their research had been edited to change the meaning or that they were told to delete references to “global warming” or “climate change” from reports.

White House officials did not appear before the committee, but President Bush in his State of the Union Address last week referred to “global climate change” and said technology should be used to address the problem. The White House has conceded in the past that changes had been made in some reports to achieve “balance” in the debate.

To many observers, Bush's mere mention of the subject indicated that the White House has softened its stance on the climate-change issue, although the president remains opposed to capping carbon dioxide emissions, a step many scientists believe is necessary.

yeah, if these (un-named) observers are idiots. Bush doesn't want to tackle an issue so closely monitored by his oil-industry cronies - he just wants to mouth words to enable his administration to run out the clock till 2008 while avoiding doing anything to alter energy company profits.

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Miracle Drug

The only way cannabis will ever be legalized is if a pharmaceutical giant discovers how to make it a appetite suppressant drug.

Police Training Grounds - Keep Dogs off Grass

WIRED Blogs: Bodyhack : Researchers are tinkering with the myriad chemicals inside cannabis in search of a treatment for obesity:

Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals Plc said Tuesday it plans to start human trials of an experimental treatment for obesity derived from cannabis.

Cannabis is commonly associated with stimulating hunger. Several other companies, including Sanofi-Aventis with Acomplia, are working on new drugs that try to switch off the brain circuits that make people hungry when they smoke it...

“The cannabis plant has 70 different cannabinoids in it, and each has a different effect on the body,” GW Managing Director Justin Gover told Reuters. “Some can stimulate your appetite, and some in the same plant can suppress your appetite. It is amazing both scientifically and commercially...”


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Waste of money

Pasta fazul, so much money is squandered in our fine country. Wouldn't our nation be better served if: elections were held weeks after announcement (like in England, for instance); if politicians could do whatever it is they do without having to become marketing machines, constantly raising money? The election is two (!!) years away, yet candidates are already jostling for television time.

Advertising Age - TV Stations Prepare for $1 Billion Presidential Ad Onslaught

The 2008 presidential race is shaping up to be an embarrassment of riches -- and possibly headaches -- for TV markets across the country.

Amid mouthwatering visions of more than $1 billion in spending on the most wide-open race since the TV era began, stations will have to devise some way to handle the rush when close to two dozen candidates come knocking at the same time. And some local TV stations will look to the web for help.
Even though it's only January 2007 and basics such as the once-set-in-stone primary and caucus schedule have yet to be resolved, Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNSMI/Campaign Media, said advertising could well start in force this summer, with candidates trying to introduce or establish themselves early.
The financial stakes are obviously high. Mr. Tracey estimated spending on the presidential race alone over the next two years could reach $1 billion. In 2004, $659 million was spent, with $314 million spent before the party conventions.

Mr. Tracey predicts that any ad-allocation problems at local broadcast affiliates will be a boon for cable providers, cable channels and newspapers.


links for 2007-01-31

iConcertCal is cool

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Very cool freeware -iConcertCal


scours one's iTunes library, and makes a calendar of when these bands are playing in the city where you live.

Amazingly, cross-platform too, just need to use iTunes!

(Only U.S. at the moment)

Who the heck is Joanna Connor? Oh, I have one track of hers from a Blind Pig comp disc.

I was also pleasantly surprised how quickly the calendar was filled. Often I find interesting-sounding freeware/shareware programs, but my iTunes library is too big (42,454 tracks/203 GB at the moment) for them, and the software chokes before functioning properly. If anyone wants to give me a new Quad Core Intel Mac Pro, I'm ready to upgrade!


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Terror free gas

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I had to laugh. They should sell hemp-derived gasoline instead.

Industry and Commerce Black and White

‘Terror-Free’ Gasoline to Debut Next Month A new gas station named Terror-Free Oil will open here on Feb. 1, with a grand opening of Feb. 12, according to local media reports, yesterday. The gas station is associated with the Terror-Free Oil Initiative, Coral Springs, Fla. The group’s aim is to encourage Americans to buy gasoline that originated from countries that do not export or finance terrorism, according to its website. A gas station representative told local news reporters that Omaha’s will be the first of several terror-free oil gas stations to open across the country. The station uses bold red, white and blue signage. The top five countries to supply U.S. oil in October were Canada (16.17%), Saudi Arabia (11.7%), Mexico (11.4%) and Venezuela (11.1%), according to statistics posted on the website of the American Petroleum Institute, Washington. The Terror-Free Oil station will stock fuel from oil companies that do not do business in the Middle East.

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Helvetica Economy

Speaking of movies (aren't we always?), Khoi Vinh saw previews of the new Helvetica movie, and liked it. Am I weird for fetishizing a font? Wait, don't answer.

Helvetica 292

Subtraction: The Helvetica Hegemony
It’s very hard to judge an entire movie on the basis of a handful of snippets, but let me just say that I’m really excited for its release after this little taste. To see graphic design writ large on the silver screen (well, it was projected on a big wall last night, but that’s close enough) was really invigorating, and the interviews he showed, especially with Michael Bierut and Wim Crouwel, were riotous. Fingers crossed, the final product is going to be a film we’ll all treasure for a long time.

Looking for an Amazonian link to the DVD (isn't one, yet), found this book. Maybe later - I'm fairly bogged down with mundane tasks this month.

Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface
“Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface” (Lars Muller)

The funny part is, I liked Helvetica long before I discovered there is a whole quasi-religious movement who worships the font.

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links for 2007-01-30

Clinton's Ad Team Comes Into Focus

Oh, goody.

Clinton's Ad Team Comes Into Focus :

Sen. Hillary Clinton, who last week kicked off her 2008 presidential bid, has begun tapping into Madison Avenue to build her marketing team.
The ad executives involved include Roy Spence, longtime Clinton friend and CEO of Omnicom Group's GSD&M; Andy Berlin, CEO of WPP Group's Voluntary United Group of Creative Agencies; and Jimmy Siegel, a former BBDO senior executive creative director who is now cd at a-political, an issues advocacy marketing firm. A-political is a partnership between Siegel and production house Moxie Pictures.

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Reminder to self: when in Sicily, don't use the word cornuto (wiki).
There are times and places where language is weaponized, and Sicily is one such locale.
Netflix still doesn't have this film available yet, unfortunately, nor does Amazon, but I will see it eventually, probably before I make to southern Italy.

Revisiting Italian Traditions - January 17, 2007 - The New York Sun : One of several flavorful morsels of Sicilian dialect that go untranslated in the re-release of Alberto Lattuada's 1962 film “Mafioso” is picciotto. It means child, or little man, and is also a term for a mafia foot soldier. Another indigenous word that pops up in the subtitles is cornuto, or cuckold. It means the same thing all over Italy, but in the proudly patriarchal southern region in which most of “Mafioso” takes place, it's an especially loaded word. “Never, ever call a Sicilian cornuto,” warns the brief (and cleverly conceived) vocabulary lesson that precedes the opening credits. “Never.”

Thus begins a humorous sojourn to this part of Italy, as famous for its scenery as its fierce grip on tradition. An intelligent and entertaining — and, ultimately, not so lighthearted — skewering of Sicilian so-called manners, “Mafioso,” which made a successful run at this year's New York Film Festival and opens theatrically in New York on Friday, is filled with many by-now familiar gags of the ethnic comedy. The women have mustaches; old men affect dignified airs on donkeyback. During a heated argument over some property, one of them calls his neighbor a cornuto and the two toothless octogenarians wind up locked in combat, rolling around ridiculously on the ground.

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links for 2007-01-29

Microsofts PR Team are idiots

David Pogue has this to say about Microsoft's clumsy PR

A Wake-Up Call to Microsofts PR Team - Pogue’s Posts - Technology - New York Times Blog
Clearly, they’re exploiting the lawless, Brave New World of the blogsophere, where, since they’re Not Quite Journalists, they don’t feel constrained by any of those pesky journalistic ethics guidelines. Like the one that says, “You don’t keep $2,200 gifts from the subject of your review. You might think you can still write an impartial review, but it’s highly unlikely-and either way, nobody will believe it.”
But Microsoft gets much of the blame, too. It deliberately exploited a weak spot in today’s court of public opinion: how bloggers influence consumers, but generally don’t have conflict-of-interest policies.
Now, I realize that this isn’t exactly breaking news; in fact, it’s three weeks old. I wasn’t even going to bring it up, but yesterday I remembered something: this isn’t the first time.
In fact, Microsoft has tried to buy public opinion in secret over and over again in the last few years. Here are a few examples-mainly, the ones where Microsoft was caught:

You'd think a company as wealthy as Microsloth would be able to afford better, but perhaps they always wanted to get caught.


Speaking of Georgia

Speaking of that lovely police state of Georgia, Mark Cuban had this:

Genarlow Wilson

For those who don't know. Genarlow Wilson was sentenced to 10 years in jail for doing something every 17 year old I knew, including me, tried to do. He is two years into this nightmare that only makes the State of Georgia a posterchild for mistrust in government.

Rather than go into detail I will refer everyone to some wonderful articles written in support of Genarlow and to his lawyers reference site, WilsonAppeal.com

which says, in part:

Genarlow Wilson sits in prison despite being a good son, a good athlete and high school student with a 3.2 GPA. He never had any criminal trouble. On the day he was to sit for the SAT, at seventeen years old, his life changed forever. He was arrested. In Douglas County he was accused of inappropriate sexual acts at a News Year’s Eve party. A jury acquitted him of the allegation of Rape but convicted him of Aggravated Child Molestation for a voluntary act of oral sex with another teenager. He was 17, and she was 15.

Along with the label “child molester” which will require him throughout his life to be on a sexual offender registry, Genarlow received a sentence of eleven years — a mandatory 10 years in prison and 1 year on probation.

Amazing, how repressed this country is, especially so called Christian areas. Consensual sex - how dare kids allow their hormones free expression!

from Atlanta Magazine:

Genarlow, the only teen with no prior run-ins with the law, and Frankie [Henry] decided to stand trial and fight the charges. Surely, they and their families believed, jurors would see that this was just a case of teenagers being teenagers. There was no ill will, no malice, no intent to commit a crime. After all, Michelle had arrived at the party tipsy; she’d been drinking Hennessy cognac that afternoon even before the party began. She voluntarily continued to drink and smoke with them. She had packed a bag, obviously with the intention of spending the night. She had also reportedly flirted relentlessly with the guys, including her old high school track buddy Genarlow. And more importantly, even Michelle’s own girlfriend, Natasha*, who’d also been at the party, told investigators that she had never heard Michelle say “no” to the guys.

As for Tracy, she did not drink or smoke that night, but willingly performed oral sex on several of the guys, practically one after the other, as the telltale videotape showed. Tracy had not wanted to press charges and was as surprised as the boys that police showed up at the hotel that New Year’s morning. At no point did anyone at the party discuss their ages. They were all peers.
Genarlow: . . . Aggravated child molestation is when like a 60-year—some old man like messing with 10-year-old girls. I’m 17, the girl was 15, sir. You call that child molestation, two years apart?
Barker: I didn’t write the law.
Genarlow: I didn’t write the law, either.
Barker: That’s what the law states is aggravated child molestation, Mr. Wilson, not me.
Genarlow: Well, sir, I understand you’re just doing your job. I don’t blame you. . . . But do you think it’s fair? . . . Would you want your son on trial for something like this?

But the courtroom showdowns were no match for the fallout that followed the reading of the verdict. Genarlow’s mother, who had been awaiting word from home, raced into the courtroom with her young daughter in tow just in time for the announcement. It was standing room only, with people even lining the walls, as jury forewoman Marie Manigault stood up in the jury stand and read, “We, the jury, find the defendant, Genarlow Raevion Wilson, not guilty of rape. . . . We, the jury, find the defendant, Genarlow Raevion Wilson, guilty of aggravated child molestation this 25th day of February 2005.”

The room erupted into a collective gasp and Genarlow, dressed in a plaid button-down and khakis, sunk his face into his hands and began sobbing uncontrollably. His mother clutched her young daughter and cried as two armed guards handcuffed her son and led him out of the courtroom.

The jury filed into the back room where they had deliberated for about five hours earlier that day. It was not until then, says Manigault, that attorney Michael Mann told them that their verdict meant a mandatory 10-year sentence for Genarlow. The room exploded. “People were screaming, crying, beating against the walls,” she recalls. “I just went limp. They had to help me to a chair.”

Manigault says she feels that prosecutors gave the jury instructions that left them no choice but to convict Genarlow on the aggravated child molestation charge. She says that she and her fellow jurors believed that their verdict had to be unanimous. She says that other options—such as a hung jury—were not thoroughly explained to them.

“It all boils down to the fact that there’s the letter of the law and there’s the spirit of the law,” says Manigault, who claims that she still struggles to make peace with her role in the case and that she could not sleep for months after the verdict. “Under the letter of the law these young men were guilty, but under the spirit of the law they were not guilty,” she says. “Because we were ignorant we sent this child to jail.”

keep me away from Georgia, please. For all of the positive press Atlanta gets, from time to time, too many incidents follow this pattern:

...Statistics provided by the Campaign for Juvenile Justice, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Atlanta, suggest.... African-American and Latino youth are 45 percent of Georgia’s youth population, but comprise 77 percent of the youth arrested under SB 440, a controversial measure that was passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 1994. SB 440 gives superior courts the power to charge children aged 13–17 as adults for committing the so called “seven deadly sins”: murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, and armed robbery if committed with a firearm. Furthermore, the organization also found that 46 percent of criminal cases involving white youth were transferred back to juvenile court versus 25 percent of cases involving African-American youth.

...Political pundits like Vincent Fort disagree. “Some whites and Jews were victims of lynchings in the old South, but that does not negate the fact that the overwhelming majority of those lynched were black. Just because something also happens to a white person does not necessarily mean that it is not racially motivated,” he argues. Fort, who continues to raise money for Genarlow’s defense fund, insists that race and class are inextricably tied to the heart of the matter. “If these six young men were not African-American, they would not be facing these kind of sentences. The fact of the matter is that if what they did is a crime, millions of teenagers are committing crimes every day.”

Fort’s sentiments are echoed by civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, who calls the case a “throwback to the lynching period” in America. “Clearly the time and the crime do not correspond,” says Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, during a visit to Atlanta. “Yet another example of excessive sentencing for black and brown youth. The prison system is quick to profile them, arrest them and process them.”

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links for 2007-01-28

Friday Night Feast

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A friend was given $250 worth of coupons to spend at Marché, and she kindly invited us to help spend her money.

Food photography is difficult, especially with someone else's camera, but here are a few snapshots that didn't suck. Not pictured, a couple of different salads, a pan-seared sirloin medallion dish, a couple of other deserts, beverages, and our laughter. Food was quite tasty, though D did send back her halibut to be re-cooked (first edition was a bit dried out). We watched the waitress explain to the chef that our halibut was dry, and his look was priceless. Too bad I didn't have my telephoto lens.

Marché Kitchen

Stuffed Chicken w Rasberries
Stuffed Chicken w Rasberries leg and breast, served over roasted carrots and onions, with a potato casserole thingy. Very rich, I couldn't finish it. The skin was satisfyingly chewy.

Petite Cassagne
Petite Cassagne 2004

our wine, and I drank more than my share. I don't think the open container law ever passed (theoretically would have been able to take our half-empty bottle home), so I felt obligated not to let any go to waste. D drank scotch instead of wine, our friend doesn't drink much. Sort of a strong wine, didn't really love it, but was ok.


Beautiful Soup
Beautiful Soup My favorite course, I think. Roasted artichoke, wild mushroom, wood-smoked bacon, etc.

Creme Brulee
Creme Brulée banana, I think

Profiteroles which was warm cream puffs, vanilla bean ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.

with tax and tip, I paid $100 for three people. Well worth it. Would have it been worth $350? Hmmm, maybe not quite, but then I wouldn't have ordered desert either.

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links for 2007-01-27

Ronnie Von

For some reason, I had let my Aquarius Record email subscription lapse (maybe misdirected into junk mail, or maybe the staff at Aquarius were slacking). Anyway, happily received note of the current list.

Over the years I've found a lot of great, great music from the friendly folk at Aquarius, including the Conet Project and nearly the entire Ethiopiques series. Here is another few I'm ordering today.

[ Aquarius Records ] : 2006 was a banner year for amazing Tropicalia reissues. Records by the likes of Som Imaginario, Alceu Valenca & Gerardo Azevedo, Marconi Notaro, Luis Eca, Rubinho e Mauro Assumpcao and Paulo Bagunca kept us feeling warm and fuzzy all year long. Discos Mariposa has become the label to turn to for amazing long lost Tropicalia as as they were the ones responsible for many of our favorite Brazilian reissues from the last year. It looks like 2007 may offer another exciting slew of Tropicalia rediscoveries for us as we began the year getting to know the music of Ronnie Von. A star of song and the small screen in Brazil for the last four decades, Von made his first television appearance in 1965 on the TV show the Brazilian Beatles Club. Von would perform live on various variety shows and cut records that sold quite well. His show The Small World Of Ronnie Von helped give a wider audience and launch careers for folks like Os Mutantes, Martinha and Gal Costa. But beyond just having such good taste, his own music is so so delightful. His vocals are so effortless and breezy. You can't help but wish you were soaking in the sun and daydreaming the afternoon away when you hear the songs on this collection. He's been backed by members of Os Mutantes and even collaborated with Caetano Veloso. Even after being struck by polio he's fought off illness and continues to be a staple of Brazilian television, the big screen and now more of us finally get to hear his great sounds!


BUNALIM s/t (Shadoks) cd 15.98
Oh yeah. '70s Turkish FUZZ rock in effect here, big time!! Knowing how much AQ customers LOVE the psychedelic Turkish tunes of decades past, this is a no-brainer. Buy it. Now. That is, if you like Edip Akbayram and Erkin Koray and all the others we've gone gaga over as the stack of such reissues gradually grows... These guys actually have membership links to all sorts of Istanbul rock stars, from Koray to Mogollar to Cem Karaca (whose early band Kardaslar we'd love to get a reissue of...). They were a pretty important band in the scene, on an underground level anyway.
The name Bunalim apparently means either Depression or Frustration in Turkish, fitting for a band hailing from a city, Istanbul, who defining mood is melancholy (according to Nobel Prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk). You can hear both the energy of frustration and the sadness of depression in their music, which consists of blistering, Iron-Butterfly-heavy hard rockers mixed up with the style of traditional Anatolian folk dances and songs. Ballsy bombast and beautiful balladry both. And we're not kidding about Iron Butterfly -- one of the tracks here is a Turkish language cover of “Get Out Of My Life, Woman”, a song (originally by Allen Toussaint, actually) that appeared on Iron Butterfly's first album, Heavy. Definitely it's the IB version that inspired Bunalim's rendition! Why so much “Bunalim” with these guys? Well it wasn't easy being a long-haired, underground rocker in that conservative society in those days! Plus even in the West there was much to make the youth feel worried and oppressed.
This disc collects their rare singles tracks (they never made an album) from 1970-'72, and captures them at their most raw and garagey, loud guitar rockin'. They definitely showcase a distinct, kick-ass Middle Eastern take on the acid rock sound of the day, and really what could sound better than that??
This cd reissue includes well-informed liner notes and lots of cool vintage photos in the cd booklet. Shadoks, keep 'em coming!

V/A Pop A Paris: Rock N' Roll And Mini Skirts(Sunnyside Communications) cd 16.98 Ohh La La! This is pretty undeniably AMAZING! A snapshot of 60's French-pop perfection. We dare you to put this on and not start feeling a little more stylish, a little more classy, a little more sassy, and a whole lot more happy! This is hands down one of the best collections of dance-party inducing French pop to grace our ears in ages. While we loved the Swinging Mademoiselles comp covering the same era, this collection almost makes that record pale in comparison. Pop A Paris is pretty much a who's who of French pop during this golden-era. Serge Gainsbourg, France Gall, Brigitte Bardot, Michel Polnareff, Delphine, Marie Laforet, etc etc! But what makes this comp so incredible are the songs! Not one snoozer in the bunch, every single one bursting with color, spunk and f-u-n-! Cover versions of “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, “My Generation”, “Paint it Black”, and “Happy Together” all somehow manage to make us only want to hear these versions from now on and NEVER the originals. And the non-covers are just as spot-on-perfect. This has been out for a few years now and had been a kind of secret weapon in DJ sets by Irwin. Can't count the times that putting one of these songs on during a show has resulted in a dancefloor packed with wide smiles and shaking booties. So totally recommended!

plus maybe:

DANE, BARBARA The Tradition Years - Anthology Of American Folk Songs (Empire Musicwerks) cd 13.98
Sometimes one person's tragedy is another's good fortune. Don't know if any of you scored any good deals from Tower Records sad going out of business sale, but we were surprised at some of the finds still available on the second to last day. Of course the Rock and the Hip Hop sections were long plundered, but if you ventured into the Folk, World, and 20th century composer section, you could still find a $35 import for just 4 bucks of some obscure koto avant-jazz or take a chance on an old folkie that we had never heard of which is the case with this gem. Who is Barbara Dane? Well we thought she would be some songbird like Carolyn Hester or Texas Gladden, but Dane's voice is truly a force to be reckoned with, not a collegiate howler, like Judy Henske or Dorris Henderson but husky, low and tainted with regret. Here on her first recording on the Tradition label (home of John Jacob Niles) she delivers some of the loneliest sounding interpretations of songs from the folk cannon including the Carter Family's “Single Girl”, “Girl of Constant Sorrow”, and Woody Gutherie's “Ramblin'”. Moonshinin', the painful bedevilment of men and standing tall on one's own are consistent themes in these songs, accompanied by guitar and banjo. Dane, who is still alive and still singing is now known for being more of a Blues singer, but she entered that particular world through these amazing folk interpretations. What a nice discovery! Fans of John Jacob Niles, Cat Power, and Karen Dalton will find lots to love here. Since not everybody was as lucky as one of us happened to be to find this at the Tower sale, we thought we'd order 'em in -- even at full price, it's well worth it!!

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He'll always be a miserable failure

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No matter what Google says, Bush will always be a miserable failure to me.

Boing Boing: Bush no longer “miserable failure”: Google tackles googlebombs
Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan says,

After just over two years, Google has finally defused the “Google Bomb” that has returned US President George W. Bush at the top of its results in a search on miserable failure.

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Canada compensates Maher Arar

Not enough, not even close to enough. The U.S., of course, admits nothing, doesn't bother to apologize, nor offers any financial compensation. Well, Cheney volunteered to go to Mr. Arar's house and invite Mr. Arar to go quail hunting.

Canada compensates deportee The Canadian PM apologises to a man tortured in Syria after being detained in the US as a terror suspect.

Maher Arar was detained in the US while returning to Canada from Tunisia. He has dual Syrian-Canadian citizenship.

A Canadian government inquiry cleared him of any involvement in terrorism. Syria denies that he was tortured.

PM Stephen Harper said Mr Arar would receive $10.5m (US$8.9m, £4.54m) compensation, and urged the US to drop him from its list of terror suspects.

“On behalf of the government of Canada I would like to apologise to you... and your family for any role the government may have played in the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced in 2002 and 2003,” Mr Harper said.

Mr Arar had sought $37m (US$31.3m, £16m) in a civil suit.

The Canadian inquiry that exonerated Mr Arar said it was probable that US authorities were acting on information provided by Canadian authorities.

It also supported Mr Arar's claims to have been tortured during his time in Syria.

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Cheny, The Wolf and SOTU

Who knew Comedy Central made show bits available as embedded flash video ala YouTube? They haven't quite mastered the streaming part, at least on my browser, but still, cool. Also, note that the videos are set to expire in about a month. Oh well.

State of the Union, Jon Stewart style

Cheney - first guy in history with 2400 vision hind sight indeed.

(stolen from Geoff)

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links for 2007-01-26

Nobody is behind the curtain


What am I doing still at work? Pasta only knows. At least I got outside to take a FedEx package before the deadline.

What is really going on behind the scene between Cheney and Rove? Well, Scooter Libby might know, as Dan Froomkin reports:

Dan Froomkin - A Lurid Look Behind the Curtain - washingtonpost.com There's plenty of exciting White House news today -- not from President Bush's predictable State of the Union speech last night at the Capitol, however, but from the opening arguments at the Scooter Libby trial at the federal courthouse down the street.

....How that scapegoating might mitigate Libby's alleged crime of perjuring himself to investigators isn't exactly clear -- but it sure gives us a rare and troubling view of the viper pit that apparently lurks beneath the West Wing's placid veneer.

Was Libby a scapegoat or a liar? Was he a victim of White House backstabbing, or a puppet in Cheney's obsessive war against those who dared question the highly questionable case for war in Iraq? Neither would reflect well on the White House. And they're not mutually exclusive.

If nothing else, the Libby defense hints at an answer to what I have long considered one of the great mysteries of this administration: How do Bush's two Svengalis -- Cheney and Rove -- get along? Apparently, not so great.

I say - duck pit match, 'till the death!

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Ramen Noodle news from all over

And as a bonus, yet another pun-a-riffic headline.

Upstart Hopes to Soup Up Ramen Noodles' Appeal - WSJ.com Instant ramen noodles, long hawked as a cheap, quick food for college kids and others with lean budgets, are going gourmet.

Last fall, Union Foods Newcorp. of Irvine, Calif., launched several ramen-noodle products, including Gourmet Snack Noodles Soup and Mamma Mia microwaveable noodles, that are low in sodium, have no monosodium glutamate and no trans fats. The company also is pushing new noodle lines infused with vegetables, as well as ones with spices and sauces that appeal to different ethnic tastes.

In addition to taking the unhealthy ingredients out of its noodles, Union Foods is putting good stuff into a more diversified line of products. For instance, it's injecting noodles with vegetables like spinach and beets. It offers a line of “picante,” or spicy, noodles called Enchilosa, and came out in October with a higher-end product called Fiesta that comes in a biodegradable container, not the traditional Styrofoam. Both target Hispanic consumers.

Union Foods also launched in December an Asian-market product called Dae Jang Gum, which uses a spice based on kimchi, a traditional Korean dish of spicy pickled vegetables such as napa cabbage. And its new Mamma Mia Spinach Noodles with Alfredo Sauce is packaged in a biodegradable cornstarch and paper container.

All this new goodness is going to cost consumers, though: $2.50 to $2.99 each, compared with 10 to 50 cents for its original ramen noodles, which the company still sells.

Mr. Sim says his ultimate goal is to attract interest from high-end food retailers like Whole Foods of Austin, Texas, and Trader Joe's Co., Monrovia, Calif. He says the company is in the early stages of sending them samples.

Union Foods ought to put a little obit/honorarium for Mr. Noodle himself (Momofuku Ando) on each cup.


Gum disease and pancreatic cancer

Tara Parker-Pope writes of a study linking gum disease and pancreatic cancer. I wish I didn't hate dentists and dentist offices so much.

Health Journal - WSJ.com The link between oral health and overall health has been discussed in medical and dental journals for years, but the issue has yet to resonate with most doctors and patients. A report from Harvard researchers earlier this month may finally be a wake-up call. A new study found a surprising but powerful link between poor gum health and one of the deadliest diseases, pancreatic cancer.
In a study of more than 51,000 male doctors, the men with a history of gum disease were at 64% higher risk for pancreatic cancer, compared with those with healthy mouths. Although pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, the gum-disease risk translates into an additional 36 cases of pancreatic cancer per 100,000 people.

Scientists are still unclear why the connection, of course, so don't get too exuberant.

Nobody knows why gum disease may be linked with pancreatic cancer. It may be that chronic infection in the gums triggers inflammation throughout the body, which can fuel the growth of cancer. Or it may be that oral bacteria trigger a chemical process in the body that results in high levels of nitrosamines, cancer-causing compounds that also are in tobacco smoke.


Another Shade of Green

A very strange side effect of the continued over-development of real estate: the Pentagon wants to preserve some areas of rural America, and is willing to ally with environmentalists to do so.

Another Shade of Green: Military Aids Nature Lovers - WSJ.com The military can acquire additional land it wants only through an act of Congress. Under the program, the military can't own the buffers; land titles instead have to be in the name of an environmental group or other partner that preserves the land in its undeveloped form. ... When the Pentagon carved Fort Carson out of juniper-covered ranchland during World War II, the Army training camp was miles away from the town of Colorado Springs on the Front Range of the Rockies.

...So the Army has called in an unlikely ally: environmentalists. Through a little-known act of Congress, Army officials are tapping into a fund to help provide the Nature Conservancy and Colorado state agencies with money to buy remaining undeveloped land around Fort Carson. The goal: to set up a buffer zone against future sprawl. The Army has contributed $9 million to keep development off about 10,000 acres around Fort Carson, or about a third of its total goal.

Army soldiers practice maneuvers on rangeland at Fort Carson in Colorado.
The project is part of a Pentagon program known as the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative, which was established in 2003. Under the program, the Pentagon works with environmentalists and other local groups to achieve land conservation deals around military bases across the country. Deals are in the works for more than 45,000 acres adjoining 30 U.S. bases. In all, Congress has budgeted $40 million in the current fiscal year for the program, up more than threefold from 2005.

The beneficiaries are located across the U.S. In the Florida Panhandle, the Pentagon gave $1 million in 2004 to the state of Florida to help create a 100-mile conservation buffer for military flights and Florida black bear habitat. In Virginia, the Pentagon last year bankrolled the majority of a $3.3 million acquisition of 1,320 acres of wild lands around Fort A.P. Hill, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and Conservation Fund. And in Hawaii, an Army donation of $3 million to a local coalition of conservationists last year helped the group buy 1,875 acres overlooking Oahu's North Shore that had been planned for development.
The unusual alliance does offer mutual benefits, both sides say. The program gives funds to environmentalists to help conserve lands that provide habitat to endangered animals such as tiger salamanders, arroyo toads and fairy shrimp. Pentagon officials say the program helps them preserve the roughly 30 million acres of military training grounds that they say are needed for the nation's defense. These lands have been threatened by development because some homeowners complain about noise and traffic when they move nearby, Pentagon officials say. In addition, development can cause such safety issues as planes potentially crashing into homes and concerns among commanders that nocturnal training might be impeded by city lights.

In all, Defense Department officials estimate the majority of the nation's more than 400 major military installations either are impinged upon by development or soon will be.

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Pardons anyone?

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Interesting gambit.

Rings of fire

Libby Asserts He Was the Fall Guy - WSJ.com Lawyers for Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff on trial for allegedly lying to federal investigators, moved to muddy the prosecution's case by alleging a White House effort to protect Karl Rove and make Mr. Libby the fall guy

The defense strategy shows that Mr. Libby is willing to part ways with his former colleagues at the White House. In opening arguments in federal court yesterday, Mr. Libby's attorney alleged that White House officials singled out the former aide to Vice President Cheney to take the blame for leaking the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative in an attempt to take the heat off Mr. Rove, President Bush's top political adviser.

As both sides laid out their strategies yesterday in federal court, it became clear that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's attempt to simplify a case that ended up far afield from its beginnings as a CIA leak investigation could be hampered by the defense's strategy to put the case in the context of the sharp-elbowed politics of the White House and the Iraq war. The trial is expected to provide a glimpse into the inner workings -- and infighting -- of a White House known for being cohesive and tightly managed. In addition, the strategizing behind the run-up to the Iraq war may get a public airing at the same time as a Democratic-controlled Congress is stepping up its scrutiny of the Bush administration's war policy.

Mr. Fitzgerald displayed to the jury a detailed timeline listing dates when Mr. Libby talked to reporters and to others in the White House about Ms. Plame. He suggested that Mr. Libby's misstatements to investigators about when he discussed Ms. Plame's identity and with whom weren't about “bad memory” but an effort to mislead investigators because he was afraid he would lose his job. In court yesterday, Mr. Fitzgerald played excerpts of tape recordings of Mr. Libby's testimony before the grand jury. In one segment, Mr. Libby told investigators he was surprised to learn that Ms. Plame worked for the CIA during a conversation believed to have taken place around July 10, 2003, with Tim Russert, host of NBC's “Meet the Press.” But, Mr. Fitzgerald said yesterday, Mr. Libby knew of Ms. Plame's status, as he had learned it from others in the administration, including the vice president, and had passed along the information on July 7 to then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and on July 8 to Judith Miller, then a New York Times reporter.

Mr. Wells showed jurors his own timeline, emphasizing how Mr. Libby was asked by investigators about conversations with reporters many months after they occurred. He quoted from a handwritten note by Mr. Cheney, made after a conversation with Mr. Libby about the leak investigation, that read in part: “not going to protect one staffer & sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others.”

The person being sacrificed was Mr. Libby and the incompetence was on the part of the CIA, Mr. Wells told jurors.

I wish I had more time to parse nuances of the trial, but I assume Murray Waas, TalkLeft, Firedoglake, David Corn and others are on the case.

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Religion is nutty


I can't even come up with a joke in response to this: perhaps I should have more coffee. A cynic might think religion is just snake-oil, adept mostly at separating rubes from their rubles.

The God Delusion
“The God Delusion” (Richard Dawkins)

Cloudless Religions 93-12-08

Web Site to Holy Site: Israeli Firm Broadcasts Prayers for a Fee - WSJ.com On a recent wintry afternoon in the Old City here, Orthodox Jews in black coats and hats huddled at the Western Wall, bobbing their heads as they prayed at one of the world's holiest sites. Some wedged prayers on crumpled pieces of paper in the crevices of the ancient wall, a practice stretching back centuries.

Behind them on the ledge of a nearby building, a small Webcam carried the scene live on the Internet. Speakers inside the camera played the sound of prayers, mostly from people thousands of miles away in the U.S.

The camera is owned by a start-up in Tel Aviv called Pray Over IP (the IP stands for “Internet protocol”). It sells phone cards that allow customers to record their prayers, which are then transmitted to a holy site of their choice via Internet phone and Webcams.

“It's just $5 or $10, and you get eternal life,” says Hanan Achsaf, chairman of POIP. “With the lottery, you pay that amount, and what do you get? A piece of paper. This is much better value.”

The start-up is part of an explosion of technology being used for religious purposes in recent years. Churches in Brazil offer audio clips of services through cellphones. Ringtones using religious music are gaining popularity. A survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30% of adults online use the Internet for their religious pursuits.

Betamax redux

Sony may be shooting itself in the face again. Say what you want about the adult-entermainment industry, they are early adopters of new technology with many customers. I never owned a Betamax player, but they were supposedly better quality than VHS, but Sony resisted allowing adult-entertainment firms to release Betamax tapes. Ironic, since porn is so much more main-stream in Japan.

Philips BDP9000 Blu-Ray Disc Player
“Philips BDP9000 Blu-Ray Disc Player” (Philips)


Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player

“Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player” (Toshiba)

The XXX Factor: Blu-ray or HD DVD? - WSJ.com Back in the days of videotape, adult-entertainment titles were credited with helping nudge the VHS standard into the lead over Betamax. With two formats now vying to rule the new generation of high-definition DVDs, the adult-entertainment industry's preference could give one camp an edge over the other.
But the competition between the two high-def formats -- known as Blu-ray and HD DVD -- is muddled by a number of factors, including accusations by adult-entertainment companies that the Blu-ray camp is discouraging DVD manufacturers from accepting their business because it doesn't want to be associated with adult content. That forces the adult-entertainment companies to go to the HD DVD camp. Blu-ray is backed by a consortium led by Sony Corp., while HD DVD is backed by a group led by Toshiba Corp.

Complicating the situation, some adult-entertainment companies say they are having trouble getting their movies made in the Blu-ray format. The controversy began to swirl after comments made earlier this month to a German magazine by Ali Davoudian, who goes by the name Joone, the co-founder of adult-entertainment company Digital Playground Inc. He told the magazine Blu-ray disc manufacturers told him they couldn't accept his business because Sony was against it. That, he said, forced him to manufacture his movies in HD DVD.

Sony denies that, saying it doesn't tell manufacturers how to run their businesses. (Sony's own replicating unit, Sony DADC, doesn't accept adult content.) Nonetheless, Digital Playground charges that DVD replicators it has worked with in the past have Blu-ray equipment that sometimes is sitting idle, and yet they won't take its business.

I'm not interested in purchasing porn titles at this stage of my life, but I am intrigued by newer, better resolutions for films in general. We almost bought a HD machine last December, but decided to wait another year or so, and see what happens. Netflix has started to offer HD and/or Blu-ray discs for rental.

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Philip Morris and the FDA

An interesting development. Should cigarettes be regulated by the FDA? Sounds somewhat logical to me, but I'm not a smoker. So many state economies depend upon cigarette tax dollars to stay solvent, what happens if tobacco sales decrease by 10%?

Capitol Hill Power Shift Could Aid Philip Morris - WSJ.com ... Representative Henry A. Waxman (D., Calif.) -- long the industry's chief Capitol Hill scourge -- just became an important committee chairman. Loyal Republican allies of big tobacco are now in the minority, including John Boehner (R., Ohio), a smoker who in 1995 famously handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor (he later apologized), and Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), whose wife is a lobbyist for Altria Group Inc., the parent of Philip Morris USA. (Mr. Blunt's office notes that his wife doesn't lobby the House.) Because of the changes on Capitol Hill, the public could be seeing all sorts of ideas floated that had sunk quickly before -- from a federal excise tax increase to photos of diseased lungs on cigarette packs.

rris, the shift in power could be a blessing in disguise. That's because it could help ease the way for legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration new powers to control how cigarettes are made and marketed. That, ironically, could help Philip Morris maintain its current market domination.

The FDA doesn't regulate cigarettes. Under former commissioner David Kessler it tried years ago to claim jurisdiction over cigarettes as drug delivery devices -- the drug being nicotine -- but that effort was challenged by tobacco companies and rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seems like a risky gamble for Philip Morris:

Philip Morris, however, has embraced the idea that the FDA should have broad powers over tobacco. “Legislation that reduces the serious harm caused by smoking would be a very good development, and it is not about giving a competitive advantage to any one company,” says Steven C. Parrish, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Altria.

The company's rivals contend that new restrictions would hurt them more because their brands are much less known than the famous Philip Morris Marlboro brand. With marketing potentially dramatically curtailed by FDA regulation, they would have fewer ways to promote themselves. The result, they say, would be that Marlboro would keep its market share. Philip Morris USA's share of the retail cigarette market was 50.4% as of the third quarter of 2006. Competitors such as Reynolds American Inc.'s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which markets Camel and Kool cigarettes, gripe that FDA regulation is the “Marlboro Monopoly Act.”

Oversight by the FDA also would help Philip Morris develop a legal way to market its cigarette products that are meant to be less hazardous, such as Marlboro Ultra Smooth, which already have been selling in limited test markets but without any explicit health-related marketing claims. A bill in the works includes sections that define reduced-risk products, laying out how they can be marketed.

In coming weeks, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, and Rep. Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, are expected to formally introduce FDA tobacco legislation. Sen. Kennedy's plan is for hearings in February and a vote in his committee on the bill in March. Phillip Morris USA Chief Executive Officer Michael Szymanczyk, and other cigarette company chiefs, are expected to be asked to testify before Congress.

They could face tough questions about some new findings from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health alleging that tobacco companies increased the level of addictive nicotine in their cigarettes. Philip Morris disputes the findings.

Another hot topic might be whether legislation should give the FDA power to demand that all cigarette makers reduce nicotine levels all the way to zero. In the past, Philip Morris has argued against that on the grounds that doing so would make cigarettes unacceptable to consumers.

Let's deregulate marijuana too, or let Philip Morris sell dime bags.

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Natarus faces a tag-team challenge

Natarus is our alderman, and we have mixed feelings about his job performance. The kooky part is fine, I appreciate the theater, but there are several issues we've brought up to the 42nd ward office that have not been responded to. I doubt he'll lose however, too many developers depend upon Natarus, and have paid handsomely for the privilege.

Council original faces a tag-team challenge | Chicago Tribune Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd) was on a roll at a City Council meeting a few months ago where he philosophized about dogs and their owners.

Having a pet “makes people softer, a little bit nicer, a little bit more humane,” Natarus declared in a typical seat-of-the-pants soliloquy as the council passed a measure increasing fines for negligent masters. “Dog owners approach each other with their dogs and they go nicey, nicey--`I love you, you love me.' It makes people friendly.”
But his attempt to win a new term in the Feb. 27 election will not necessarily be easy as the alderman faces two opponents, including a well-funded former aide to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Brendan Reilly contends that Natarus has “lost touch with the priorities” of his constituents and needs to be replaced.

Fellow challenger Mike Libert, a former Near North Side club owner and restaurateur, is making a similar call for a fresh approach to neighborhood problems.

The 42nd is the highest profile ward in the city, encompassing the Loop, North Michigan Avenue and Streeterville, River North and the Gold Coast. It is where the biggest business deals are made and the biggest projects are constructed.

By council tradition, the local alderman has great influence over approval of larger developments, and Natarus has the campaign war chest to prove it. Developers, real estate lawyers and architects have contributed to his political fund, which had more than $580,000, according to the most recent report filed with the state.

and he is in love with the sound of his own voice, but so are most politicians.

To colleagues who sometimes roll their eyes as he cranks up, he is a City Council windbag who loves the spotlight.

Natarus himself has acknowledged that some view him as “a buffoon.”

But “I got to have a little fun,” he said in a recent interview. “You got to lighten up a little bit. Sometimes when you lighten up, you get clear thoughts.”

Even as he serves as referee on big projects such as a controversial design by architect Santiago Calatrava for a proposed Streeterville high-rise, Natarus prides himself on keeping the ward clean and handling the innumerable nitty-gritty complaints and concerns of residents.

“I am always available,” he said. “I don't know how many aldermen have their [home] phones listed. I have never had--to the chagrin of a former wife--an unlisted phone, and people call me. If I am not home, I pick up the message and I call them back.”

Hmmm, not sure about that. Perhaps because we've never given him a dime?

D also reminded me that Natarus opposed the anti-smoking ordinance, and acknowledged receiving cash from RJ Reynolds and other tobacco companies.


Julie Roehm vs Wal-Mart

part two. Seems obvious there is more to this sundry tale than either party is saying. What exactly did Ms. Roehm do to piss off the good ol' boys of Bentonville?

Advertising Age - Julie Roehm Files Suit Against Wal-Mart Julie Roehm, the former Wal-Mart marketing executive whose December ouster caused a media firestorm, has filed a lawsuit against the retailer, claiming Wal-Mart breached her contract and smeared her in the press.

...As part of breach-of-contract and fraud claims, Ms. Roehm alleges that Wal-Mart “made false and malicious statements to the media.” For its part, Wal-Mart hasn't given any reasons for the pair's dismissal. Its main statement was made when it decided to re-open the review, citing “new information” the company never detailed.

The seven-page complaint doesn't lay out exactly how much money Ms. Roehm is seeking to recover. It does say she was told she wouldn't receive any compensation since her Dec. 4, 2006, termination. According to the lawsuit, Ms. Roehm's employment agreement provides for “relocation benefits” including up to six mortgage payments and one year of base salary assuming she left the company “voluntarily.” Ms. Roehm moved her husband and children from Michigan to Arkansas upon taking the Wal-Mart job.

Ms. Roehm says she was notified of her termination by Wal-Mart's chief financial officer “ostensibly because [she] 'hasn't been fulfilling the expectations of an officer of the company.'” But she claims Wal-Mart “provided no specific examples of any conduct ... which did not fulfill the expectations of an officer of the company, because no such conduct exists.”

In addition to financial damages, Ms. Roehm is looking to retrieve items left in her office at the Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. She's demanding the return of her media exchange files, material from presentations and work she did prior to joining Wal-Mart, and copies of her Microsoft Outlook folders, including her personal contacts.

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links for 2007-01-25

Leo Kottke is a prodigy

on the 12 string guitar.

Leo Kottke performing Jack Fig. Filmed at the Bathurst St. Theatre, in Toronto, 1988.

Home & Away Revisited
Leo Kottke: Home & Away Revisited

And this is a song I won't even bother trying to learn, Vaseline Machine Gun.

More Kottke, an awe inspiring medley this time, including parts of Vaseline Machine Gun, San Antonio Rose, America the Beautiful, and something from Blind Willie McTell if I'm not mistaken.

Really good version on this CD

Standing in My Shoes

“Standing in My Shoes” (Leo Kottke)

and original release here

6- and 12-String Guitar

“6- and 12-String Guitar” (Leo Kottke)

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Don't mention the war

John Cleese makes a very noble effort not to mention the war....

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Microsoft oopsie

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I would be very surprised if Microsoft was not the first to come up with the concept of paying for positive Wikipedia entries (and positive news stories, yadda yadda). We all know Micro$oft's reputation for arriving late to the party, and purchasing themselves a good time with their large juicy mounds of cash.

Microsoft's payment plan on Wikipedia | News.blog | CNET News.com ... Microsoft apparently didn't feel this process was happening fast enough, and offered to pay a blogger to go in and “provide more balance on Wikipedia concerning ODF/OOXML.”

Whether the initial comments on the OOXML entry were wrong or not, the idea of Microsoft paying someone to edit the article enraged many Wikipedia fans. On the other hand, editing an article about yourself is also considered a big no-no in the Wikipedia world. So what's a software giant to do?

apparently, somebody else is thinking the same thought.

Wired AP News

When a blogger revealed this week that Microsoft Corp. wanted to pay him to fix purported inaccuracies in technical articles on Wikipedia, the software company endured online slams and a rebuke from the Web encyclopedia's founder for behaving unethically.

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deep-linking is copyright infringement


This is the reason I initially started using Flickr to post my photographs - at least when my photos get hijacked (without permission, which is stupid, since I've never told anyone “no” who bothered to ask), I don't have to pay bandwidth costs myself. Some netizens are unclear about the concept of deep linking, either through ignorance, or through lack of moral fiber. Regardless, there are two image thieves I planned on zapping, instead I think I'm going to post part of the ruling on top of the image.

Boing Boing: Texas court says deep-linking is copyright infringement Out-Law.com reports that the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas found a website owner guilty of copyright infringement for linking to an another website's audio file without permission.

[Robert Davis, who runs Supercrosslive.com] argued that he did not actually copy any material, he only provided a link to it which opened the material in a user's media player, but the court ruled that that link broke the law.
“The court finds that the unauthorized 'link' to the live webcasts that Davis provides on his website would likely qualify as a copied display or performance of SFX’s copyrightable material,” said Lindsay. “The court also finds that the link Davis provides on his website is not a 'fair use' of copyright material as Davis asserts through his Answer.”

Really, I have given permission for dozens of my images to be posted elsewhere, I post the majority of my work at Flickr with a Creative Commons license (attribution - ShareAlike), so why are you stealing my bandwidth? MoFos!

More details on the ruling here

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Genographic news from all over

Well, from Chicago, at least.

Tracing a common ancestry | Chicago Tribune : ...

When famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma heard of the Genographic Project, he immediately wanted to become involved. He called National Geographic and together they decided to donate kits to Chicago-area schools. A spokeswoman for National Geographic said they chose Chicago because of its ethnic diversity and its Sister Cities International program. Ma, who visited Prosser with Wells on Tuesday, said he liked the idea of students learning about common ancestry. “Besides being a musician, I'm also a human being,” said Ma. “I finally realized this past year what my real passion is: people. Why do people do what we do? Why do people think differently? How are our habits formed?” The cellist--who delighted students with a short performance--was eager to learn where his ancestors came from, so he, too, took a mouth swab. He learned that his relatives came from Africa through the Middle East and Asia.

He spoke about how classical music has many influences, specifically about how an African dance made its way through several countries before landing in a piece of music written by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Nothing comes from one place,” he said.

The Genographic Project has a mission similar to another Ma project, Silk Road Chicago, a yearlong celebration inspired by the art and culture of the historic Silk Road.

My results here

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Oh I understand the impulse


I'm not a great lover of pork, but I certainly understand the impulse to respond to complainers with the flip off.

Radical Chef David Chang and the Plight of the Asian Burrito -- New York Magazine David Chang has nothing against vegetarians. He just doesn’t like to cook for them.

That much is made clear on the menu of his East Village restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar, which offers exactly one vegetarian dish—ginger-scallion noodles. OUR ONLY VEGETARIAN OPTION, it reads in boldface type, as if to say, “Hey, you can take it or leave it.” A further examination of the menu, with its exuberance of pig tails, pork necks, Berkshire bellies, and boutique bacon, might lead you to speculate as to whether Chang was kidnapped by a gang of vegan hippies at a young age and then force-fed wheatgrass and raw parsnips and this is his revenge.
“It was a lady who said she was a vegetarian,” he says, “and that she got something to go, and there was broth on the side, and she drank it.”

“I said, ‘We don’t have any vegetarian broths,’ and she said, ‘Well, you should, and anyway, somebody said it was,’ and I said, ‘Well, that must have been a miscommunication.’”

“You can’t do this to the vegetarians!” the lady bellowed, before threatening to sue Chang and put Momofuku Noodle Bar out of business.

“I got so pissed off,” says Chang.

So pissed off, in fact, that the very next day, in a public-relations gambit that would give Danny Meyer night sweats, Chang and his co-chef, Joaquin Baca, removed every vegetarian dish from the menu (back then there were still a few) except the ginger-scallion noodles.

“We added pork to just about everything else,” says Chang, giggling like a schoolgirl.

“We said, ‘Fuck it, let’s just cook what we want.’”

I'm going there next time I'm in NYC.

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links for 2007-01-24

SOTU sucks


Get Some Action

Like a good li'l citizen, I gamely tried to watch the Imbecile in Chief stumble reading words someone wrote for him, but despite my best efforts, and even though I have plenty of inebrients in the house, I can't stomach the boring, sock puppet routine for more than five minutes without getting up. The constant jack-in-the-box applause reponse bullshit is just too annoying. I suppose it helps the Dauphin by creating long, long pauses between sentences.

At least I got to see Dikembe Mutumbo get the standing O he deserves - wiki adds:

Mutombo is attributed with coining the phrase, “Who wants to sex Mutombo?” while seated at the bar near the entrance to The Tombs, Georgetown's famous student bar, which he allegedly developed as a pick-up line during his Georgetown days.

Anyway, was there really a point to the thing? I missed it, if there was.
I should have played this game

The First Lady's SOTU guest list

The New Yorker known as the Subway Superman for risking his life to save another man who fell on the subway tracks and Houston Rocket All-Star center Dikembe Mutumbo are among Laura Bush's guests at tonight's State of the Union.

So is the woman who created the Baby Einstein videotapes familiar to many anxiety-ridden parents of the last decade who paid good dollars for kiddie videos with classical music soundtracks sold to parents who hoped the tapes would make their babies smarter. It certainly made tapes' creator richer.

Oh, and what's up with Pelosi chewing on pistachios, or whatever it was?


New flicks on DVD


Can't say I've ever seen a Ken Anger movie, though I'm now intrigued.

The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. 1
“The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. 1” (Fantoma)

Critic’s Choice: New DVDs: ‘Films of Kenneth Anger’ and ‘Samurai Classics’ Kenneth Anger’s experimental films get a makeover on DVD. Plus, two Akira Kurosawa samurai films are remastered.

Andy Warhol aside, Kenneth Anger may be the United States’ best-known maker of experimental and avant-garde films. Yet though many Americans own or have at least taken a guilty, surreptitious leaf through “Hollywood Babylon,” Mr. Anger’s famous if loosely researched compendium of film industry scandals, few have seen his movies: short works, shot on 16- and occasionally 35-millimeter film, that deal voluptuously in themes of sensual surrender, homoerotic desire and Devil worship.

Beginning with his first widely screened film, the black-and-white “Fireworks” (1947), Mr. Anger’s work has circulated through underground film societies and museum film departments, and briefly on VHS cassettes that did not do justice to his deeply saturated colors and seductively complex textures.

Now, with Mr. Anger’s 80th birthday coming up (Feb. 3), Fantoma Films has issued the first volume of Mr. Anger’s collected work. The contents include “Fireworks,” “Puce Moment” (a color fragment from an unfinished feature released in 1949), “Rabbit’s Moon” (1950), “Eaux d’Artifice” (1953) and the extended, ritualistic “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” (1954), which together cover about half of Mr. Anger’s career. It’s the friendlier half, with relatively little occult imagery (Mr. Anger is a disciple of the British mystic Aleister Crowley) and a great deal of pageantry.

and I have seen both of these Kurosawa films, but am adding them back to my Netflix queue:

Yojimbo & Sanjuro - Two Films By Akira Kurosawa - Criterion Collection
“Yojimbo & Sanjuro - Two Films By Akira Kurosawa - Criterion Collection” (Akira Kurosawa)

The Criterion Collection has redressed an old wrong with new editions of “Yojimbo” (1961) and “Sanjuro” (1962), two samurai classics by Akira Kurosawa previously released by Criterion in flawed versions. The new transfers are anamorphic widescreen rather than letterbox releases; both have been digitally manipulated to bring out detail previously lost in shadows. ... “Yojimbo,” the story of a rogue samurai (Toshiro Mifune) who pits two rival gangs in a small town against each other while pretending to work for both sides, is as much a blatant rip-off of Dashiell Hammett’s great noir novel “Red Harvest,” as Sergio Leone’s pioneering spaghetti western “For a Fistful of Dollars” was a blatant rip-off of “Yojimbo.” Yet it was Kurosawa who successfully sued Leone, winning a piece of the profits of “For a Fistful of Dollars” as it went on to reshape the western in the late 1960s.

“Sanjuro” was reportedly rewritten to incorporate the comic cynicism of the unexpectedly successful “Yojimbo,” and if it is not quite as shapely and pointed a movie, it too has its sly, subversive moments.

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50 Most Loathsome 2006

Ha! Some good zingers here.

A couple of excerpts to whet your snark:


50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2006
48. Gerald Ford

Charges: Precedent-setting cowardice; admitted to pardoning Nixon because they were friends. Enabled the sense of executive impunity that pervades the White House today. A bumbling doofus who inadvertently helped launch the diseased career of Chevy Chase. Strongly criticized the current administration on Iraq in a 2004 taped interview with Bob Woodward on the typically spineless stipulation it wouldn't be released until after his death. Has become a burlesque reminder of American fealty and inability to speak truth to power while it might have an actual impact. Posthumous media flip-flop on the pardon highlights how sad and weak the press has become.

Exhibit A: Praised by Dick Cheney at funeral.

Sentence: Refused a pardon by Saint Peter.
43. Bill Gates

Charges: Became the richest man in the world through intellectual thievery, stealing Windows and every other software package he ever made a billion on. Microsoft's internal slogan with regard to competitors is “embrace, extend, and exterminate.” As founder and co-chair of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he's fighting global poverty and disease by investing in corporations that are the source of global poverty and disease. According to the L.A. Times, The BMGF has over $9 billion invested in companies whose activities contradict the foundation's stated mission.

Exhibit A: So cheap he downloads pirated movies and still won't pay for a decent haircut.

Sentence: Spanked in the Mall of America food court by Steve Jobs and the guys from Netscape.
29. Jesus Christ

Charges: May not have existed, and if he did, probably wasn't even American, but more of a dark-hued Jewish dwarf. A hygienically challenged hairball who rarely bathed or brushed his teeth. If alive today, he'd appropriately be branded as schizophrenic and disregarded by society. Sermon on the Mount was the very definition of socialism, and subsequently an affront to the self-regulating benevolence of the free market. An appeasing, cheek-turning pussy like this would never cut the mustard in America today.

Exhibit A: Contrary to prevailing pop theology, absolutely everyone, including the sheepishly devout, will be “left behind” at the apocalypse and forced to endure what biblical scholars estimate to be from 3 to 7 years of “hell on earth” before scoring that golden bus ticket to the gated community in the sky. Kind of a dick move, no?

Sentence: Second coming completely ignored, as it happens to coincide with Brangelina's wedding.

25. Deepak Chopra

Charges: Widely regarded by new age simpletons to be a font of wisdom, Chopra peddles a chutney-flavored weak anthropic principle based on the usual dippy claptrap about “universal energy” and a profoundly erroneous extrapolation of quantum physics. An accused plagiarist and sexual harasser, Chopra entreats his readers to abandon their silly religious traditions—and adopt his. Pitching a watered-down Hinduism as some perfect union of science and spirituality while supporting Intelligent Design and purporting to “prove” the existence of an afterlife, Chopra's work proves only one thing: he's just another mystical moron providing a psychic security blanket to soft-skulled suckers.

Exhibit A: Suggested a Middle East Disney World and Iraqi Nickelodeon to mollify their rage.

Sentence: Five years shoveling actual bullshit.

Doomed Palais dances into rock history

Not all change is good, nor is all of the past worthy of preserving, yet I still can't help but feel a twinge of nostalgia upon reading that the infamous Hammersmith Palais will be no more. I've never even been inside!!

Doomed Palais dances into rock history | News | Guardian Unlimited Music Hammersmith, a bustling metropolis of roundabouts, coffee shops and Primark, has for several decades been able to boast not one but two major music venues. But after nearly 100 years at the forefront of entertainment history, the “world famous” Hammersmith Palais will soon be no more.

Often described as iconic, mainly due to The Clash song (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais - not to mention School Disco every Friday night - the Palais will be torn down to make way for office blocks and restaurant facilities (read characterless high rises and “authentic” Italian coffee chains).

espite a hearty campaign by fans to save the venue and get the building listed, councillors for Hammersmith and Fulham today confirmed that it will be demolished. Councillor Lucy Ibimy, clearly not a School Disco regular, said: “We recognise the contribution the Palais has made to the west London music scene, but the golden days of the club are long gone.”
The venue opened in 1919 as Hammersmith Palais de Danse and was primarily a jazz venue, though it continued to be popular after the second world war as more and more live bands began playing there. David Bowie, Motorhead and, of course, The Clash are amongst those who have performed.

Wiki entry on the Clash tune

The Clash
“The Clash” (The Clash)

(Clash, Live 1978)

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links for 2007-01-23

Wal-Mart Lies, Still

In news surprising to nobody, Wal-Mart is using the word, “organic” as a marketing tool, and not because the corporate DNA suddenly turned green.

New store inspections throughout Wisconsin have found that Wal-Mart stores are still selling nonorganic yogurt and sugar identified as organic, and designated organic produce sections continue displaying many nonorganic items, among other widespread abuses. The Cornucopia Institute again contacted the USDA about the ongoing problem but the agency could not confirm that any enforcement action was imminent on the federal level. Cornucopia then filed a consumer fraud complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection on January 13.

more here, and White Paper here

What remains to be seen is if the USDA will actually do anything about this false labeling. I'd say 10-1 against. What do you think?

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Reggie Bush


No class. Another USC alum. Surname Bush. Nuff said.

Bush leap: `I was wrong' | Chicago Tribune : ... Defensive lineman Adewale Ogunleye said Reggie Bush had “no class.” “I told Reggie that was unprofessional of him to do that.” Ogunleye said. “I think he's going to be a hell of a player in this league. But for him to point back and taunt, that was no class. . . . I swear, I was a second away from punching him.”


Maybe Reggie Bush's taunts fired up the Chicago Bears' defense.

One moment, the New Orleans rookie was taunting Brian Urlacher on the way to the end zone. Then, the Bears clamped down to advance to their first Super Bowl in 21 years, beating the New Orleans Saints 39-14 in Sunday's NFC championship game.

Post somersault, the Saints crossed midfield only once more, to miss a field goal, while the Bears scored 23 unanswered points.

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Pesticide for your sneeze


----update Jan 24
as Tom K notes in a comment, the alleged pesticide is only a blend of citric acid and sodium lauryl sulfate. Not quite DDT in other words. I wonder who at the WSJ was shorting Kimberly-Clark stock?

-----original post----------------

Pasta-damn, I certainly hope Kimberly-Clark doesn't market their new Kleenex™ with the byline, “Now With More Pesticide!!.” In fact, I would doubt very much if Kimberly-Clark is pleased with this article at all.


Can a Re-Engineered Kleenex Cure a Brand's Sniffles? - WSJ.com : Cheap generic tissue is tearing into its market share. Meanwhile, it faces mounting pressure in a consumer-products industry obsessed with infusing even humble paper products with innovation and high-tech ingredients. Olay's Total Effects cleansing wipes use a “Vitalipid system,” which delivers antiaging moisturizers with vitamins E, B-5 and lipids. Pledge Clean & Dust cloths contain “antistatic agents” that promise to remove dust and allergens as they clean furniture.
Where does that leave Kleenex, an 83-year-old brand so mundane it has become synonymous with tissue itself? Top executives at Kimberly-Clark Corp. are making a high-stakes bet they have an answer: Kleenex laced with a mild pesticide to fight cold and flu viruses.

in 2004, marketers gave Kleenex a new mission: kill germs. That “had the potential to grow the entire category and increase household consumption,” recalls [Steve Erb, Kleenex's associate marketing director]. “It could alter people's perceptions of what a Kleenex facial tissue could do.”

A germ-fighting tissue forced the company into unusual terrain. Because it uses a pesticide, for example, Kimberly-Clark needed to secure approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kleenex's traditional, soft-touch marketing tone would also require some tweaking. “There was discomfort over whether the power of the brand could overcome the 'killing' idea,” says Mr. Erb.

The company had stumbled along a similar path in 1984, when it also tried a germ-fighting tissue. Before the 1990s onslaught of antibacterial soaps, fabrics and hand wipes, the idea of a chemical-laced tissue was foreign to consumers. Kleenex's product cost 20% to 40% more than regular tissues. It had an intimidating name: Avert Virucidal. Consumers complained that the paper felt slimy and stung their eyes. Some even said it made them sneeze.

and I'm with Professor Stamatos, just wash your hands, please. I do have a box of Kleenex on my desk, but I'm not planning on ever (knowingly) purchasing any that contain pesticides or other toxic chemicals.

Some health experts remain skeptical of the tissue's health benefits. Cold viruses, as Kimberly-Clark points out, are expelled in the form of tiny droplets, can travel up to 320 miles per hour, land up to three feet away, and survive on surfaces for more than 24 hours. “Maybe this is an added level of protection,” says Nicholas Stamatos, assistant professor at the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “But what you're achieving with this, you'll achieve better by washing your hands.”

Some loyal Kleenex users doubt their tissues need more bells and whistles. Diane Brabender says she always has a box of tissues on hand, keeping them in both of her bathrooms, her car and her office. Ms. Brabender, a bank trust officer from Cincinnati, says she's willing to spend more for Kleenex tissues because they are softer than generic brands. Even so, she's not willing to splurge on an antiviral tissue. “I just don't believe it's really going to make a difference to my health or anyone else's,” she says. “I just need a tissue to catch my sneeze -- it doesn't have to do anything else.”

Kimberly-Clark didn't want to position Anti-Viral too aggressively as a preventive health product. “We knew it would hold the product back -- if it became the sick box,” says Gary Keider, Kleenex's marketing director. “We knew from a sales and volume perspective that the box had to be out often, otherwise consumers would use it sparingly, and at limited times.”

Hedging its bets, the company decided to trumpet the tissue's antiviral properties only on the box's plastic overlay, typically removed when the container is opened. As a reminder that the tissues are treated, a liner surrounding the box's opening says “anti-viral” in small type.

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An excuse or?

There has been a tad bit of controversy bubbling over the internet tubes - Apple claims the SEC requires this charge, the SEC denies it.

Apple store

Apple Gets a Bruise by Blaming A $1.99 Fee on Accounting Rules - WSJ.com Apple Inc. recently told some customers they would have to pay $1.99 to download a software enhancement that enables a wireless-networking technology already included on some of its computers.
Apple's reason: Accounting rules forced it to make customers foot the bill for the enhancement.
That's an excuse, counter accounting experts and officials at the body that sets accounting rules, known as generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, for public and private companies. Rather, Apple is choosing to make customers pay so that it receives a particular accounting treatment it considers most favorable to it, they say.

“GAAP doesn't require you to charge squat,” says Lynn Turner, managing director of research at Glass Lewis & Co. and a former chief accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “You charge whatever you want. GAAP doesn't even remotely address whether or not you charge for a significant functionality change. GAAP establishes what the proper accounting is, based on what you did or didn't charge for it.”

In a statement Friday night, Apple said that “the proper accounting” for shipping the enhancement was “to charge for this performance improvement in order to be in compliance with software revenue accounting requirements.” It added that Apple had recognized revenue related to the computers when they were sold.

The electronics maker recently said customers who bought some new Macs, including the MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops based on a microprocessor from Intel Corp. called Core 2 Duo, would now be able to use hardware that supports a faster new variant of a wireless technology commonly known as Wi-Fi. While Apple for several months has shipped computers with the wireless hardware, the final technical specifications for software for it weren't complete enough to include software to support the technology.

Hmmm. Seems like more of a headache for everybody, doesn't it? How many manhours does it take for Apple to collect $1.99?

Addressing the $1.99 charge in a statement issued late this past week, Apple said the fee was “required in order for Apple to comply with generally accepted accounting principles for revenue recognition.”

So why would Apple charge customers if it didn't have to? The company felt it had no choice, based on the accounting outcome that would have resulted had it given the product away, said a person familiar with the matter. In that sense, even if the accounting rules didn't explicitly say such a charge was necessary, that was the result, this person said. When Apple shipped the computers with the technology now being enhanced, it couldn't defer revenue related to that technology, because there was no market price for the enhancement, the person added.

If Apple had given the enhancement away free, Apple's auditors could have required it to restate revenue for that period and could possibly have required Apple to start in the future to defer all the revenue from computer sales until all such enhancements are shipped, this person said. That would have had a devastating impact on Apple.

I don't have an 802.11n WiFI network anywhere that I know of, so the question is moot at the moment.

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The Chicago Public Radio stable of websites used my photo of the highway on their home page today.

Chicago Public Radio 1-22-07

Photo was tinted in Photoshop, obviously. Taken right at dusk with a slow shutter speed, I took several as I walked west across the Randolph Street bridge. One of my favorite recent shots, I have an 8.5“ x 14” print, eventually will make a poster size version too.

(see here for original photo)


Don't talk to me yet

I need more coffee

Old Style self portrait
Old Style self portrait bonus stranger in the window

Respite from Life's Cruelty
Respite from Life's Cruelty in the Chicago River

Walking the Dog
Walking the Dog before the snow started to stick

Restrictions alley, West Loop.

click photo to embiggen


links for 2007-01-22

Note to National Media

Soldier Field

Please, please please refrain from making cutesy Shuffle related headlines when discussing the Chicago Bears trip to Super Bowl 41. Seems like you could find something else to riff on from George Halas' bio. That is all.

(1985's Super Bowl Shuffle, for reference)

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The Socialist Senator

Interesting profile, even though it seems slightly mocking in tone. Will Senator Sanders survive the House of the Lords?

The Socialist Senator How did a disheveled and awkward political outcast make it to the upper chamber of Congress? And what will he do now that he’s there?

When Bernie Sanders visits a high-school class, as he does regularly, students don’t hear a speech, a focus-grouped polemic, a campaign pitch or, heaven forbid, practiced one-liners. Nor, in all likelihood, do they hear Sanders tell stories about his family, childhood or some hardship he has endured. He makes no great effort to “connect” emotionally in the manner that politicians strive for these days, and he probably doesn’t “feel your pain” either, or at least make a point of saying so. It’s not that Sanders is against connecting, or feeling your pain, but the process seems needlessly passive and unproductive, and he prefers a more dynamic level of engagement.

“I urge you all to argue with your teachers, argue with your parents,” Sanders told a group of about 60 students at South Burlington High School — generally liberal, affluent and collegebound — one afternoon in mid-December.

The newly elected senator whipped his head forward with a force that shifted his free-for-all frizz of white hair over his forehead. (Journalistic convention in Vermont mandates that every Sanders story remark on his unruly hair as early on as possible. It also stipulates that every piece of his clothing be described as “rumpled.”)

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more re Ken Krayeske

Any way this is spun, still a fiasco for Gov Rell and her administration. If political speech is really so harmful to a politician, perhaps a new career might be rewarding.

courant.com: Police Printed Flier Warning Of Activist Hours before the controversial arrest of political blogger Kenneth Krayeske at Gov. M. Jodi Rell's Jan. 3 inaugural parade, state police distributed copies of a full-color, two-page document describing Krayeske as an activist who had invited people to join him in a protest outside Rell's inaugural ball that night.

The document, containing color prints of Krayeske's current and past driver's license photos, made it seem as if “Ken Krayeske was public enemy No. 1,” said Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, a state legislative leader whose committee now plans to investigate.

Although the slightly built Krayeske had engaged only in nonviolent protest and activism, he was “lumped in with people who were actual physical threats” - and that is why the General Assembly must consider passing new laws this year to curb police excesses in a post-9/11 era of intensified security, said Lawlor, a Democrat and co-chairman of the legislative judiciary committee.

The security flier, Lawlor said, apparently led to an “overreaction” by Hartford police, who received the document at a pre-parade security briefing for police. Recognizing Krayeske from the photos, a Hartford officer arrested him at 1:20 p.m. as he photographed Rell along the parade route, said Lawlor, who was shown the flier by a police official.

Both the state and Hartford police have refused requests by The Courant to see the two-page Krayeske profile and other documents concerning individuals identified as potential threats.

I wonder why?

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True Hoop in NYT

Blog pal Henry Abbott gets a little love in today's dead tree edition of the NYT, even though they spell his name wrong.

For a more cerebral look at the league, check out True Hoop, a Web site run by the sportswriter Henry Abbot [sic], who discovered basketball by listening to Bill Schonley calling Trail Blazers games in the 1980s. “I have been a sucker for it ever since,” he said in an e-mail message. A recent trip to True Hoop found a list of the best young European players and a peek at next season's possible first draft picks.

link later, if I can find one.

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Snow? in January!

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Early Morning Snow
Early Morning Snow woke early (for me), and snow had started to fall. I hope it snows all day.

the original R.E.M.

Highway Rhymes
Highway Rhymes snow falls over the interstate

click photo to embiggen

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Hillary is no liberal

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Lest anyone forget, HRC is a centrist and a corporate Democrat. No matter how vehemently the rabid-conservadogs claim Ms. Clinton is a liberal tree-hugger (as if that is even an insult), she isn't, and never will be.

Unfogged It isn't just video games and flag burning. She has defended the Defense of Marriage Act, supported building a wall along the Mexican border, supported the Israeli wall in the Palestinian territories, supported the PATRIOT Act, supports the death penalty, opposes single-payer healthcare, only Santorum got more money from the insurance industry last cycle, she voted for the godawful bankruptcy bill...and of course, she still can't bring herself to say the Iraq War was a mistake. What am I supposed to find appealing here? We do have *actual* Democrats we could run for president.

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Lying Like It’s 2003

Frank Rich: Lying Like It’s 2003 This White House gang is so practiced in lying with a straight face that it never thinks twice about recycling its greatest hits.

For personal use only.

Invisible Umbrella

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London Calling

Clash's London Calling (33 1/3)
“Clash's London Calling (33 1/3)” (David L. Ulin)

London Calling
“London Calling” (The Clash)

Still one of my favorite albums, however many years later.....

bonus performance of the hidden track on side 4 (Stand By Me)

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Feral Manliness

I just can't think of anything to add. I don't see Nancy Pelosi doing this before gaveling the new session.

Najaf At the December ceremony in Najaf, Iraq, in which U.S. commanders turned over control of the city, Iraqi commandos took the stage carrying frogs and a rabbit and soon were eating the animals raw in a show of feral manliness. As U.S. personnel looked on apprehensively, one Iraqi cut open the rabbit's belly, screamed, snatched its heart in his teeth, and passed the bloody carcass down the line, with each commando taking a bite. According to a Baltimore Sun dispatch, locals said that Saddam Hussein's special forces used to do similar things, but with snakes, dogs, cats and even wolves.

(more here)


Revealing the Monet of Pencil and Paper

Revealing the Monet of Pencil and Paper “The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings” shows that the Impressionist wasn’t the anti-draftsman he led the public to believe.

Whenever a journalist or collector asked him how he worked, he talked incessantly about the liberating possibilities of painting outdoors, forgoing any mention of the sketches, pastels and prints he quietly produced throughout his life.

“Monet wanted to present himself as the great painter of his day,” said Richard Kendall, curator at large at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. “It was a kind of PR exercise, a way of defining himself. But the big, teasing question has always been why didn’t he want people to know he drew?”

I've always had a soft spot in my brain for Monet, probably because my decision to (eventually) move to Chicago was predicated upon a college road trip to the city with a van full of friends. A few of us ingested a tab or three of something or other, and spent several lifetimes wandering the Art Institute of Chicago in slack-jawed wonder. The room full of Monet haystacks was especially moving, as were the Cubist paintings (which in my altered state I could reassemble in my mind, back and forth from the painting as displayed and the painting in 'normal' perspective). I'd go on, but you get the idea.

Monet Claude Haystacks At Giverny The Evening Sun 1888

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links for 2007-01-21

HRC running

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If my mother, dyed through and through as a Democrat, one of the few who voted for Mondale, Dukakis, et al, if my mother doesn't think Hillary stands a chance in 2008, for various reasons having nothing to do with HRC's fitness to lead, why is Ms. Clinton running? There are too many on the right who foam at the mouth when discussing Ms. Clinton, and there are too many on the left, like myself, who are disgusted by Ms. Clinton's long history of parsing political nuance and ending up as basically a Nixonian Democrat. Or a Nixonian Republican. Didn't Ms. Clinton work for the Nixon campaign in '72?

The Atlantic: Take Two ... One spring Wednesday, a few months into the term, Senator Sam Brownback’s turn came to lead the group, and he rose intending to talk about a recent cancer scare. But as he stood before his colleagues Brownback spotted Clinton, and was overcome with the impulse to change the subject of his testimony. “I came here today prepared to share about this experience in my life that has caused great suffering, the result of which has deepened my faith,” Brownback said, according to someone who watched the scene unfold. “But I’m overcome now with only one thought.” He confessed to having hated Clinton and having said derogatory things about her. Through God, he now recognized his sin. Then he turned to her and asked, “Mrs. Clinton, will you forgive me?” Clinton replied that she would, and that she appreciated the apology. ...

Clinton and Brownback went on to cosponsor one measure protecting refugees fleeing sexual abuse, and another to study the effects on children of violent video games and television shows. “That morning helped make our working relationship,” Brownback told me recently. “It brought me close to someone I did not ever imagine I would become close to.” Since then, Clinton has teamed up on legislation with many members of the prayer group.

Hillary Clinton’s proficiency in this innermost sanctum has unnerved some of the capital’s most exalted religious conservatives. “You’re not talking about some tree-hugging, Jesus-is-my-Buddha sort of stuff,” says David Kuo, a former Bush official in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, who worked with Clinton to promote joint legislation and who, like Brownback, has apologized to her for past misdeeds. “These are powerful evangelicals she’s meeting with.” Like many conservatives, they are caught between warring dictates of their faith: the religious one, which requires them to embrace a fellow Christian, and the political one, more powerful in some, which causes them to instinctively distrust the motives of a Clinton. Everyone in Washington experiences their dilemma at one time or another—the lack of an Archimedean point from which to judge Hillary Clinton.

The Atlantic has more, including:

But Clinton has adapted surprisingly well to the byways of the Senate, becoming what few could have foreseen: a wily manipulator of the Senate’s outsize egos, and a master of cloakroom politics. This has come at the cost of some of her most deeply held values. However flawed Clinton’s health-care plan was in execution, it was undergirded by an element of sincere idealism that is all but absent from her Senate record. Clinton has chosen systematic caution as the path to power.

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Saturday Morning Lines

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Haven't discovered the reason why, yet, but this morning, several hundred (thousand?) Chicagoans braved the morning chill to queue up in front of the Chicago Transit Authority Headquarters, and the line stretched at least 2 city blocks long, if not longer. They've been there, slowing moving, for at least 3 hours.

Saturday Morning Lines

Saturday Morning Lines continue

windows need to be washed, even on brand new buildings

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links for 2007-01-20

Jury Duty in DC

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If only getting out of jury duty was as easy as this. Though, personally I'd want to sneak onto the panel as a ringer, subtly convincing other jurors of Libby/Cheney's inner evil. Wait, wasn't that already used as a movie plot? With John Cusack maybe?

David Corn: Libby Trial, Day Three: A Tough Search for Jurors On the third day of the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the job of finding Washington jurors who do not hold negative views of the George W. Bush administration, its war in Iraq, and Vice President Dick Cheney became harder. Out of the first ten potential jurors screened by the judge and the lawyers, nine were dismissed--most because they said they believe Bush and Cheney are not to be believed.

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Corporate Media sucks

In case you had any doubt that the establishment media is (mostly) composed of conservatives and Republicans, the White House Correspondent's Association doesn't want to hurt poor lil' Georgie's feelings.

Tim Grieve writes

War Room - Salon.com :
White House correspondents: Don't knock Bush

Call it the belt-and-suspenders approach to presidential humor: The White House Correspondents' Association, already having taken pains to avoid another Stephen Colbert moment by choosing Rich Little for this year's annual dinner, has also made it clear to the 69-year-old “master impersonator” that he's to make nice with George W. Bush when he performs at the event.

“They don't want anyone knocking the president,” Little tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He's really over the coals right now, and he's worried about his legacy.”

We're sure that he is. We're just not sure why the White House Correspondents' Association should be.

No kidding. What ever happened to the independence of the Fourth Estate? Can we get it back please? Pretty please? No wonder newspaper circulation is declining.


Rich Little won't be mentioning Iraq or ratings when he addresses the White House Correspondents' Dinner April 21.

Little said organizers of the event made it clear they don't want a repeat of last year's controversial appearance by Stephen Colbert, whose searing satire of President Bush and the White House press corps fell flat and apparently touched too many nerves.

“They got a lot of letters,” Little said Tuesday. “I won't even mention the word 'Iraq.'”

Little, who hasn't been to the White House since he was a favorite of the Reagan administration, said he'll stick with his usual schtick -- the impersonations of the past six presidents.

Oh, boy! Can't wait to see how many YouTube views Rich Little's tired act will get in comparison to Colbert's bit. Fell flat, did it? Strange, my memory of Colbert's White House Correspondents Dinner is a little different: seems like it was the sensation of the internet tubes. In fact, this Google video version currently has 3,294,490 views, and that doesn't count all the other places you could have seen it (CSPAN, various YouTube posts, Crooks and Liars, quicktime downloads, yadda yadda yee).

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Unfortunately, not yet on DVD, or at least, not yet in the Netflix database, nor really in the IMDb database either. Pay attention to a screening in your town, sounds well worth the effort to track down.

“Mafioso” | Salon Arts & Entertainment : Sometimes the resurfacing of a lost movie is more than just a chance to get acquainted with a forgotten gem of filmmaking. Sometimes it feels more like the discovery of a lost world, as if a celluloid Atlantis were rising before our eyes. That's the feeling you get watching Alberto Lattuada's buoyantly melancholy dark comedy “Mafioso,” which was released in 1962 but has been rarely seen in the United States: It's now being rereleased by Rialto Pictures (whose role as excavators of the lost and forgotten seems more and more important in a world of too many throwaway contemporary movies), opening this week in New York and next in Los Angeles, with other cities to follow.

In the United States, Lattuada's name doesn't have the same currency as those of his compatriots Fellini, De Sica and Antonioni. In fact, he gave Fellini his first break as a filmmaker, sharing a directing credit with him on “Variety Lights” (1950). But “Mafioso” makes you want to see more of what Lattuada, who died in 2005, had to offer. Calling “Mafioso” a black comedy feels slightly incorrect: It's too subtle, its tone shifts too deft and prismatic, to be called anything so starkly definitive as “black” -- “charcoal” is more like it. And even though “Mafioso” is terrifically funny in places, it's likely to leave you feeling disquieted and unsettled. It's as if Lattuada had snuck in, while we were busy chuckling at both the broad jokes (involving female facial hair) and the sly ones (about the ridiculousness of macho posturing), and brushed the thing with a quiet glow of despair.

J Hoberman of the Voice writes
Alberto Lattuada's tricky-to-parse Mafioso dates from 1962 but, with its abrupt tonal shifts and disturbing existential premise, this nearly forgotten dark comedy could be the most modern (or at least modernist) movie in town.

Released by Rialto on the heels of its triumphantly rediscovered Army of Shadows, Lattuada's tale of a “modern Sicilian” who returns to his roots is a genre film and character drama that undermines notions of genre and character alike. Mafioso is bracketed by shots of Alberto Sordi's proud and foolish efficiency expert striding through a huge Milan Fiat factory. In between, Sordi—a gifted farceur with matinee idol looks—executes a prolonged psychological pratfall. Once Lattuada pulls the rug from beneath his character, Mafioso careens from comedy of manners (and neo-realist travelogue) to something far more hilariously shocking.

The sort of man who admonishes a worker for laboring too fast and shaves while polishing his shoes and talking non-stop, Sordi plays a wildly successful Southern transplant—complete with a chic Northern wife (Brazilian actress Norma Bengell) and two blond children. His world is momentarily complicated when he learns that his boss is a fellow Sicilian (by way of New Jersey) but modern times really turn feudal once he returns en famille to his home village for a vacation. Wife and kids are swept up in a series of screaming reunions and huge meals. The table goes silent when Bengell lights a post-lunch cigarette but the real culture shock is Sordi's. Always voluble, he becomes borderline hysterical, his “Northern” persona disintegrating as he abruptly bursts into song upon his return.

Mafioso exerts its own sort of time twist, reorienting one's sense of film history. This was seemingly the first Italian movie to portray the modern mafia (Eye of the Needle, also a comedy, was released around the same time) and it's a blueprint for The Godfather in sardonic, compressed, anecdotal form. (Also reversed: This is The Godfather looking out from Sicily rather than back at it.) Given the movie's virtual dictionary of mafia euphemisms, it's hard to believe that Mario Puzo hadn't seen Mafioso while writing his novel; it would be fascinating to know if Martin Scorsese (just 21 and still living at home?) caught the movie when it played 42nd Street during the summer of 1964. Like Mean Streets, Mafioso has characters who talk without ever saying anything and communicate all manner of things by not ever mentioning them.

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If Only

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If only wishing something would make it happen...

Mike Luckovich :

Mike Luckovich If Only

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Pilot's Life is not all glamour

Patrick Smith of Salon explains what items live in his black pilot bag, and the answer is more mundane than you think. Paper, reading material to alleviate long periods of boredom, calculator, etc. No mention of manga Cup of Noodle comics though.

Ask the pilot | Salon Technology On Saturday, Jan. 6, the aviation world was rocked by tragic news. Momofuku Ando died of a heart attack in Japan at age 96. Ando was the inventor of instant ramen noodles.
To understand why this is important, let's begin with a public inventory of a pilot's black leather flight case. Namely, my black leather flight case. I'm often asked what it is that pilots lug around in their mysterious bags, and this is your chance to find out

and according to Mr. Smith, the most important item: ramen noodles...

Finally, and most critically, five packets of Maruchan-brand instant ramen (assorted flavors).

If you fail to grasp why ramen noodles would be an imperative part of my repertoire, you've never been a very hungry and very broke pilot checking into a motel at midnight for an eight-hour layover. There are tastier things to eat, but ramen is cheap, it never goes bad, and its rapid cookability ensures you're rested in time for that 6:30 wakeup call.

The cellophane brick variety is preferable to the kind in Styrofoam cups because it's easier to pack and impervious to damage. Directions: 1) Rinse out the filter basket assembly of your hotel room coffee maker; 2) crush noodle brick into the carafe; 3) partially fill coffee maker with water, and switch on; 4) once carafe is full, wait three minutes; 5) drain carefully, add flavor packet, turn on Comedy Central and enjoy.

Don't overfill, and always be sure the filter basket is clean, as coffee-flavored ramen is even worse than “Creamy Chicken.” Remember to carry a plastic fork (to replace the metal one stolen by the TSA), or you'll be forced to eat with your hands, or by holding two pencils in the shape of chopsticks. (If need be, you will do it, because you're that hungry, and you will feel ashamed about it the next day, when you're exhausted again and wondering if maybe you should have joined a troupe of traveling mimes instead of giving your life to the airlines.)

For a touch of the exotic -- in other words, marginally less pathetic -- spice up your snack with the addition of Huy Fong Foods-brand chili garlic hot sauce, available at most grocery stores. It's the one with the rooster on the bottle. It's true that upscale supermarkets often stock an extensive selection of art ramen, but if you're a commuter pilot making 14 grand a year, it's strictly the five-for-a-dollar brands.

The late Momofuku Ando developed his noodles in the late 1940s during food shortages in postwar Japan. Two years ago, the company he founded, Nissin Food Products, introduced a vacuum-packed ramen for the benefit of Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi on board the U.S. space shuttle Discovery. No word if Nissin ever thought about targeting airline workers, but I can attest to the product's easy adaptability to a life aloft.

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Jeez, nothing like being woken by the insistent buzz of the UPS delivery guy ringing our phone. Really, we try to get up by 7 most mornings, but we both have winter colds, and a little bit of winter blues.

Ooka dooka dooka dee.

links for 2007-01-19

The Passion of Joan of Arc

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The Passion of Joan of Arc - Criterion Collection
“The Passion of Joan of Arc - Criterion Collection” (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

I've always wanted to see this film. Still haven't, but the wait time is apparently greatly reduced, if the USPS performs their role appropriately.
Shipped: The Passion of Joan of Arc Widely considered director Carl Theodor Dreyer's finest achievement and one of the greatest movies of all time, this stunning emotional drama recounts the events surrounding Joan of Arc's 1431 heresy trial, burning at the stake and subsequent martyrdom. Maria Falconetti turns in a haunting performance as the young French saint. The film's original version, thought to have been lost to fire, was miraculously found in perfect condition in 1981.

The film is accompanied by Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, an original orchestral work inspired by the film and performed by renowned choral ensemble Anonymous 4, the Nederlands Radio Choir and the Nederlands Radio Philharmonic

If memory serves, Digby's guest blogger, tristero, is responsible for writing the score that now accompanies the DVD.

Carl Theodor Dreyer originally intended The Passion of Joan of Arc to be shown without musical accompaniment, however a score by Richard Einhorn is on all versions of the film available today.

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Rob Reich is not easily impressed

And naturally, is pretty close to the truth when he writes:

Why the Dem's First Hundred Hours is Much Ado about Little Why do the Democrats fulminate against Bush’s surge but refuse to cut off funds for it? Why do they push a lobbying and ethics reform bill that doesn’t deal with the core scandal of campaign contributions for legislative favors? Why do they design a new Medicare drug benefit bill that will force Medicare to negotiate drug prices but not authorize Medicare to remove a non-discounted drug from coverage? Why do they push a minimum-wage increase that doesn’t index the minimum wage to inflation, and why are Senate Democrats so intent on tying the bill to tax favors for small business?

Because the voters who put the Dems in charge of Congress wanted change, but the Dems who took control of Congress know they (1) don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto, (2) still have lots of “blue-dog” conservative Democrats among them who don’t want change, (3) can’t do anything very dramatic without stirring up the business community – which has more lobbyists and more clout than ever before, and (4) want to show business they’re “responsible” in order to get corporate campaign contributions for 2008 and remain in power, and possibly even elect a Democrat president.

In other words, [the Democrats] want to create the impression of big change but not make big changes. They have to keep the Democratic base happy and fired up for 2008 and they have to keep a big distance from the failing administration of George W. Bush, but they can’t do anything that’s going to get too many corporate interests too riled up. It’s a tricky balance.

Sad, really, the state of politics in our fair nation. I vote for publicly financed elections, which might reduce the corporate power over the craven political class, maybe.

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David Brooks needs a new hobby


I usually don't bother reading Brooks' columns, life is too short, and his points are too inane, but I couldn't help but emit a snort of derision after reading the opening paragraph tease of his latest spun-ass-gold. As the phrase goes, his ass is so close to his mouth you can smell the shite on his breath.

David Brooks: The Elusive Altar
If all the world were south of 96th Street, what a happy place it would be! If all the world were south of 96th Street, then we could greet with unalloyed joy the news that after decades of social change, more American women are living without husbands than with them.

We could revel in the stories of women — from Riverside Drive all the way to TriBeCa! — liberated from constraining marriages and no longer smothered by self-absorbed spouses. We could celebrate with those — the ad executives as well as the law partners! — who now have the time and freedom to go back to school and travel abroad, and who are choosing not to get remarried.

But alas, there are people in this country who do not live within five miles of MoMA, and for them, the fact that many more people are getting divorced or never marrying at all is not such good news.

For voluminous research shows that further down the social scale there are millions of people who long to marry, but who are trapped just beyond the outskirts of matrimony. They have partners. They move in together. Often they have children with the people they love. But they never quite marry, or if they do, the marriage falls apart, with horrible consequences for their children. This is the real force behind the rise of women without men.

The research shows that far from rejecting traditional marriage, many people down the social scale revere it too highly. They put it on a pedestal, or as Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins puts it, they regard marriage not as the foundation of adult life, but as the capstone.

They don’t want to marry until they are financially secure and emotionally mature. They don’t want to marry until they can afford a big white-dress wedding and have the time to plan it. They don’t want to marry until they are absolutely sure they can trust the person they are with.

Oh, heavens-to-betsy! I think Brooks is suggesting that people who have yearly income of $25000 or less should receive financial incentives from the government to encourage them to marry. Or something. I've luckily never been married, and I've spent my time in sub-poverty economic status, and somehow, I don't think the two are related. Marriage is just a social construct, after all.


Alaska cruise

Murphy Royalty

My mother's parents, aka the King and Queen of Guam, are planning their 60th anniversary (!!) on an Alaskan cruise ship this summer.

Destination - Alaska Cruises - Holland America Line Inc. :

Seattle, Washington 4:00 pm Day 1 At Sea Day 2 Juneau, Alaska 11:00 am 10:30 pm Day 3 Scenic Cruising Frederick Sound 1 7:00 am 11:00 am Day 3 Tracy Arm, Alaska, Usa 1 1:00 pm 5:00 pm Day 4 Sitka, Alaska 2 8:00 am 5:00 pm Day 5 Ketchikan, Alaska 7:00 am 1:00 pm Day 6 Victoria, B.C. 6:00 pm Midnight Day 7 Seattle, Washington 7:00 am

About 25 of us are going. Whoo hooo!! Haven't decided yet all specifics, but soon.

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Democrats and Climate Change

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Just for Tina, who wonders where energy issues factor in.

The really sad part is that energy independence, climate change, and related topics don't have to be partisan issues. Nixon elevated the EPA to (near) cabinet level for pasta-sake

Nixon and the Environment
“Nixon and the Environment” (J. Brooks Flippen)

Anyway, good for Speaker Pelosi for at least bringing the subject up: lets see some real action too.

Democrats Push Climate Change To Front Burner - WSJ.com The new Democratic-led Congress is trying to put its mark on one of the most contentious environmental and economic problems within reach: climate change.

The initiative is one of the starkest signs of the transformation of Washington's agenda as a result of November's election. While the Senate has debated climate-change moves for several years, the House of Representatives, under Republican control for the past 12 years, has done relatively little.

Now, that is the art of understatement, children.

... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving to ramp up debates on energy and how to curb so-called greenhouse gases, which most scientists believe are accelerating global warming by trapping the sun's heat in the atmosphere. But the Californian already is discovering how controversial any effort will be -- even within her own party. Ms. Pelosi is expected to announce today that she is creating a select committee on climate change and energy independence that will be empowered to hold hearings.

Her strategy is to raise the profile of the issue and press for action by early summer. In an interview last evening, Ms. Pelosi said she saw energy independence and climate-change legislation as part of the next phase of the Democratic agenda after passing bills on issues such as the minimum wage and student loans.

“Tomorrow, we finish our 100 hours, and I will talk about what comes next, and included in that is energy independence. Climate change is part of energy independence,” she said. “We're asking our chairmen to have their hearings and submit their legislation...in time for us to introduce an energy independence package no later than the Fourth of July.”

and unfortunately, plenty of Democrats are just as beholden to corporate interests as Republicans.

...But her effort is angering committee chairmen less eager to move quickly, particularly powerful Michigan Rep. John Dingell. The Michigan lawmaker has expressed his ire at what he considers an intrusion into his House Energy and Commerce Committee's jurisdiction over energy and climate-change legislation.

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links for 2007-01-18

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Mossberg discusses Vista

I finally got around to purchasing and installing

Parallels Desktop for Mac (Intel Mac)

Parallels Desktop

so that I could install XP on my MacBook Pro. Hopefully, I won't need to mess around with Vista for a while. For a long, long while. Sounds like quite a lot of Vista is directly 'borrowed' from OS X.

Walt Mossberg: Personal Technology - WSJ.com ... There are some big downsides to this new version of Windows. To get the full benefits of Vista, especially the new look and user interface, which is called Aero, you will need a hefty new computer, or a hefty one that you purchased fairly recently. The vast majority of existing Windows PCs won't be able to use all of Vista's features without major hardware upgrades. They will be able to run only a stripped-down version, and even then may run very slowly.

In fact, in my tests, some elements of Vista could be maddeningly slow even on new, well-configured computers.

Also, despite Vista's claimed security improvements, you will still have to run, and keep updating, security programs, which can be annoying and burdensome. Microsoft has thrown in one such program free, but you will have to buy at least one more. That means that, while Vista has eased some of the burden on users imposed by the Windows security crisis, it will still force you to spend more time managing the computer than I believe people should have to devote.

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MLK Birthday

Stevie Wonder, sings for Martin Luther King's birthday, circa 1981. A couple days late, but yadda yiddo yo....

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Mail issues

Chicago is infamous for having the worst mail delivery service of the major urban areas in the U.S.

We only occasionally have problems, and I'm pretty sure these only happen when our normal postal carrier is on vacation, or ill. However, there are frequent glitches elsewhere in the city, no doubt.
USPS ate my Netflix

Our alderman, the infamous Burt Natarus, is apparently making improving mail service a platform in his re-election efforts. Good for him, but can't say I would waste time going to this meeting, not even to meet my Moony Congress-critter, Danny Davis.

As part of my continuing efforts to help resolve downtown mail delivery problems, I am hosting a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, January 25th. Representatives from the Post Office will be on hand to answer your questions and discuss the steps they are taking to improve mail delivery. I have also invited Congressman Danny Davis, Chairman of the United States House of Representatives Postal Caucus to help in the discussion.

Details on the meeting are as follows:

Town Hall Meeting

Thursday, January 25th

7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

The Latin School, Wrigley Auditorium

59 W. North Boulevard

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Legal rights

huh? Representation by competent counsel is so last century CE.

Ben Sargent Goons

washingtonpost.com :

(see here for more on the topic, or here )

We read recently the shocking remarks of Charles Stimson, a lawyer who serves as deputy assistant secretary of defense.
Stimson, speaking last week on Federal News Radio, a station in Washington, D.C., indirectly suggested that lawyers and firms that represent the Guantanamo detainees should be boycotted.

He said it is public knowledge that some major law firms in the United States have assisted the detainees, a fact he characterized as “shocking.”
“And I think, quite honestly,” Stimson said on the air, “when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms.”

The radio host then asked Stimson who might be paying lawyers for the detainees.

“It's not clear, is it?” Stimson responded. “Some will maintain that they're doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they're doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are. Others are receiving monies from who knows where, and I'd be curious to have them explain it.”

These are outlandish comments from a lawyer in the upper echelons of the Pentagon.

As Pima County chief deputy public defender Bob Hirsch put it, “It's disgusting to try and blackmail those firms into not doing what their professional responsibility calls for them to do.”

Referring to the Guantanamo detainees, he said, “These are the most vilified people in our society, and they have no one to speak for them other than those volunteer lawyers — God bless them.”

After a period of silence, the government decided to put some distance between itself and Stimson's remarks. The Pentagon issued a statement saying Stimson's views “do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the thinking of its leadership.”

But it is still a matter of concern that a lawyer with such a fundamentally flawed understanding of the American justice system could rise so high in the Pentagon's hierarchy.

The United States has already cleared some of the detainees of any involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and released them. Even so, Stimson appears unconvinced that these men deserved representation.

Stimson should be forced to resign from the Bar.

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Spider, man

like, a total spider-fest, dude.

Amazing what spiders can do, when properly motivated. The crack-head spider's ride is suitably pimped.


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links for 2007-01-17

Obama is no Green


Oh, we'll remember this Senator Obama, yes indeed, we will.

Coal reversal | Salon.com : ... On Jan. 4, ... Obama joined with Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning to introduce the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007. Coal-to-liquid (CTL) technology uses a highly energy-intensive process to convert coal into diesel fuel for cars or jet fuel for airplanes -- an appealing prospect to the coal industry in Obama's home state of Illinois, but not to enviros and others concerned about global warming. Obama, who got a 100 percent approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his environmental voting record in the Senate last year, is now getting grumbles from greens and thumpings from the press for backing the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

The Bunning-Obama bill, which would expand tax incentives for CTL and help jumpstart the industry with public-private partnerships, was first introduced by the senators in spring of last year. Back then, it didn't get traction in either the Senate or the media, but now that Obama is publicly toying with the idea of a presidential campaign, the proposal is getting real attention -- much of it unwanted.

Well, golly gee, Senator, realistically, what did you think if you supported such a crappy bill? That nobody would notice? Not likely. We do live in the age of increased scrutiny of politicians, especially of potential Presidential candidates.

Obama's office seems taken aback by the criticism from the environmental community. It's responding by stressing the national security advantages of using homegrown coal to power the nation's transportation sector and talking hopefully about the possibility of making CTL greener. Says Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor, “Sen. Obama believes investing in coal technologies is an important part of weaning the United States off foreign oil. He also believes that through investment and innovation, we can make these technologies cleaner.” Vietor pointed to ongoing research into sequestering the carbon released by coal gasification and suggested that similar strides could be made with the coal-liquefaction process.

Environmental advocates aren't so optimistic. David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, has supported coal gasification as a viable alternative to coal-burning power plants, but explains that CTL is not as promising an alternative to conventional gasoline or biofuels. “Coal to liquid is, in the best-case scenario, no worse for the climate than oil-derived gasoline -- and no better,” he says. The best-case scenario assumes that CTL producers find a way to capture their carbon emissions. Problem is, none of the current CTL projects actually involve carbon capture. Without that step, the climate impacts of CTL fuel are far worse than those of gasoline. According to an NRDC analysis, a 35-mpg car powered by the CTL fuel that's currently available would generate as much carbon dioxide pollution as a far less efficient 19-mpg car that runs on conventional gasoline.

Enviros have been nudging Obama in recent months to retract his support for CTL technology, to no avail.

the WaPo adds how the coal industry jes' loves the bill. Strange, that. You'd almost think their big donations helped encourage Obama to co-sponser the bill or something. Nothing like the whiff of corruption to bring even more attention to back room conferences.

So why then, environmentalists ask, is Obama backing a law supporting the expanded use of coal, whose emissions are cooking the globe? It seems the answer is twofold: his interest in energy independence -- and his interest in downstate Illinois, where the senator's green tinge makes the coal industry queasy.

The coal industry praises Obama's reintroduction, with Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), of the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007 last week, which would provide incentives for research and plant construction. The industry says the technology, which converts coal into diesel engine fuel, would reduce America's dependence on foreign oil through a new, home-mined fuel that burns as cleanly as gasoline.

Environmentalists say focusing on coal does nothing to arrest climate change. Instead, they say, lawmakers should back cleaner alternative fuels and stricter automobile and industrial emissions standards.

“The rationale is, 'We have a lot of coal in the ground, let's put it to some use,' ” said Frank O'Donnell, president of the D.C.-based nonprofit group Clean Air Watch. “It's not the best use of the coal and it's one that's almost certain to exacerbate the global warming problem.” Obama's advocacy of coal liquefaction, he said, might have to do with his getting “hammered” by Illinois coal interests.

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Adultery absurdity

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We have a friend in Detroit who is in the process of filing for divorce. She should use the threat of this to avoid paying him (!!) alimony.

And the real point, why is the government at all interested in marriage, sex, drugs, and similar topics? Can't legislatures find roads that need fixing or something?

Stroll on Halsted

Detroit Free Press - www.freep.com - Adultery could mean life, court finds In a ruling sure to make philandering spouses squirm, Michigan's second-highest court says that anyone involved in an extramarital fling can be prosecuted for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison.

“We cannot help but question whether the Legislature actually intended the result we reach here today,” Judge William Murphy wrote in November for a unanimous Court of Appeals panel, “but we are curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion.”

“Technically,” he added, “any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I,” the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan's criminal code.

The irony is this ruling is directly related to an over-zealous Attorney General Office trying to prosecute a drug case. Ooopsie!

Charlevoix prosecuting attorney John Jarema said he decided to appeal after police discovered evidence that Waltonen may have struck drugs-for-sex deals with several other women.

Cox's office, which handled the appeal on the prosecutor's behalf, insisted that the waitress' consent was irrelevant. All that mattered, the attorney general argued in a brief demanding that the charge be reinstated, was that the pair had sex “under circumstances involving the commission of another felony” -- the delivery of the Oxycontin pills.

The Attorney General's Office got a whole lot more than it bargained for. The Court of Appeals agreed that the prosecutor in Waltonen's case needed only to prove that the Oxycontin delivery and the consensual sex were related. But Murphy and his colleagues went further, ruling that a first-degree CSC charge could be justified when consensual sex occurred in conjunction with any felony, not just a drug sale.

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links for 2007-01-16

Martin Luther King on the Boondocks

For some reason, we imagine this segment was quite controversial.

Boondocks clip of Martin Luther King, waking up after 32 years in a coma and then delivering another speech, this time unexpected.


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Shut im down

I'd expand Krugman's suggestion to include shutting down the Decider too. Wouldn't the Resident have more fun running Major League Baseball instead of running our country into the river?

Lone Star Lame Duck

Paul Krugman: The Texas Strategy The lesson of the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s was that when a bank has failed, you should shut the thing down. We should do the same with President Bush's failed war.

Hundreds of news articles and opinion pieces have described President Bush’s decision to escalate the Iraq war as a “Hail Mary pass.”

But that’s the wrong metaphor.

Mr. Bush isn’t Roger Staubach, trying to pull out a win for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s Charles Keating, using other people’s money to keep Lincoln Savings going long after it should have been shut down — and squandering the life savings of thousands of investors, not to mention billions in taxpayer dollars, along the way.

The parallel is actually quite exact. During the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, people like Mr. Keating kept failed banks going by faking financial success. Mr. Bush has kept a failed war going by faking military success.

The “surge” is just another stalling tactic, designed to buy more time.

Oh, and one of the favorite techniques used by the owners of savings and loan associations to generate phony profits — it involved making high-interest loans to crooked or flaky real estate developers — came to be known as the “Texas strategy.”

What was the point of the Texas strategy? Bank owners were certainly gambling — with other people’s money, of course — in the hope of a miraculous recovery that would bail out their negative balance sheets.

But the real point of the racket was a form of looting: as long as they could keep reporting high paper profits, S.&L. owners could keep rewarding themselves with salaries, dividends and sweetheart business deals.

Mr. Keating paid himself a million dollars just weeks before his holding company collapsed.

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links for 2007-01-15

Lines Around my Lies

Swank Franks
Swank Franks on Milwaukee North Damen Corner

Millennium Park
Taken the evening before Millennium Park officially opened. This pond is about 2 cm deep, so you can walk right on top of the water if you have a heel on your shoe. Of course, plenty of people just take off their shoes altogether.

links for 2007-01-14

Phil Jackson in a Panama hat

Sounds like a Photoshop opportunity to me. Too bad I'm feeling lazy.

Sam Smith: Thanks to him, Grizzlies uncaged | Chicago Tribune Before he was Phil Jackson, he was kicking around the minor leagues of basketball, Albany and Puerto Rico, and he was an assistant on the Bulls' staff who blew his first chance at a job with the team when he showed up for the interview in a big Panama hat with a macaw feather sticking out.

and I've blathered for years about up-tempo basketball being so much more enjoyable to watch than sluggish, isolation basketball that was the style for several years. Seems like more and more teams are figuring out basketball is meant to involve constant motion, fast breaks, and firing up shots before the 24 second shot clock ticks down to 3. Kudos to Memphis' new coach for opening the throttle too.

...So why can't Tony Barone be the next great coach in the NBA? These guys have got to come from somewhere.

“It's a thrill, what an unbelievable dream come true,” says Barone, the Chicago guy, a former local high school coach who grew up near Buckingham and Broadway on the North Side and attended Mt. Carmel grammar school in the city and St. George High School in Evanston.

When Barone is here Saturday with the Grizzlies to play the Bulls, he brings with him, suddenly, one of the most surprising and entertaining teams in the NBA. After discarding Fratello's deliberate pace, the run-and-gun, high-scoring, quick-shooting Grizzlies are averaging 117.7 points per game and playing .500 ball since Barone took over.

“We have not had one shot at the end of the shot clock other than at the end of the quarter for a last shot,” Barone says proudly. “We push on made and missed shots and take the first available shot. It's a freedom-oriented approach.

”We have not taken bad shots, we've taken long shots,“ Barone explains. ”We've impressed on our guys, a good shot is not necessarily an open shot. It's a shot you're comfortable with. … We try to give these guys the opportunity to play basketball. It seems to me as you move up the ladder from high school to college to the NBA, the game becomes more a players' game.“

That was clear in Barone's first game, a 110-104 victory over Toronto in which the Raptors cut a 24-point deficit to one. At that point, the players stopped and looked to Barone for a timeout.

”I said, 'Don't look over at me. Play the game,'“ he recalls.

and Sam Smith is right: somebody should take a chance on this guy.

When the Grizzlies scored a 2006-07 regulation-game high 144 points under Barone, the players appeared tired late in the game.

”So I asked them, 'OK, would you like for me to start calling plays?'“ Barone says. ”They said, 'No.' So I said, 'OK, then start running again.' There's no magic in coaching.“

Someone hire this guy.

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Just wrong

Any way you look at this, it is just wrong. Especially since the banks voluntarily turn over the records, without as much as a peep, or without notifying their clients. One more step closer to the military coup. Who needs warrants anymore, right?

Military Expands Intelligence Role in U.S. The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the U.S. .. Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions receiving the letters usually have turned over documents voluntarily, allowing investigators to examine the financial assets and transactions of American military personnel and civilians, officials say. ... But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.

The military and the C.I.A. have long been restricted in their domestic intelligence operations, and both are barred from conducting traditional domestic law enforcement work. The C.I.A.’s role within the United States has been largely limited to recruiting people to spy on foreign countries.
“There’s a strong tradition of not using our military for domestic law enforcement,” said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, a former general counsel at both the National Security Agency and the C.I.A. who is the dean at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. “They’re moving into territory where historically they have not been authorized or presumed to be operating.”

Similarly, John Radsan, an assistant general counsel at the C.I.A. from 2002 to 2004 and now a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said, “The C.I.A. is not supposed to have any law enforcement powers, or internal security functions, so if they’ve been issuing their own national security letters, they better be able to explain how they don’t cross the line.”

The Pentagon’s expanded intelligence-gathering role, in particular, has created occasional conflicts with other federal agencies. Pentagon efforts to post American military officers at embassies overseas to gather intelligence for counterterrorism operations or future war plans has rankled some State Department and C.I.A. officials, who see the military teams as duplicating and potentially interfering with the intelligence agency.

Very disturbing.

Especially in light of:

The agency houses an antiterrorist database of intelligence tips and threat reports, known as TALON, which had been collecting information on antiwar planning meetings at churches, libraries and other locations. The Defense Department has since tightened its procedures for what kind of information is allowed into the Talon database, and the counterintelligence office also purged more than 250 incident reports from the database that officials determined should never have been included because they centered on lawful political protests by people opposed to the war in Iraq.

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Grand Canyon

Remember? Noah's Ark and the Grand Canyon? Mr. Trudeau does.

click Doonesbury for entire cartoon

Evolution and your tax dollar

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Robert Anton Wilson, RIP

He'll be missed.

Cosmic Trigger I : Final Secret of the Illuminati (Cosmic Trigger)

“Cosmic Trigger I : Final Secret of the Illuminati (Cosmic Trigger)” (Robert A. Wilson)

The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, Leviathan
“The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, Leviathan” (Robert Shea, Robert Anton Wilson)

Robert Anton Wilson, 74, Who Wrote Mind-Twisting Novels, Dies Robert Anton Wilson was an author of “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” — a mind-twisting science-fiction series about a secret global society that has been a cult classic for more than 30 years. ... After completing the trilogy, Mr. Wilson began writing nonfiction books. Perhaps his most famous is “Cosmic Trigger” (Pocket Books, 1977), a bizarre autobiography in which, among many other tales, he describes episodes when he believed he had communicated with extraterrestrials — while admitting that he was experimenting with peyote and mescaline.

Mr. Wilson contended that people should never rule out any possibility, including that lasagna might fly. On Jan. 6, in his last post on his personal blog, he wrote: “I don’t see how to take death seriously. I look forward without dogmatic optimism, but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.”

Haven't read any of his books in years, but I did donate to his rent fund recently, scoring a decent t-shirt in the process. There should be a pension for authors who don't make gazillions.


The Other Losing War

our old buddy, the War on Drugs-not-Sold-by-Big-Pharma.

The Other Losing War - New York Times : ...Nixon who, in 1971, first declared war on drugs. As with Iraq, the strategy is flawed in its conception and execution, made worse by a refusal to change course in the face of failure. It strongly emphasizes eradicating the source of drugs, interdiction of traffic and draconian punishment for offenders. It neglects what nearly every expert believes — and European experience has shown — to be the only successful strategy: a demand-side emphasis on preventive programs and rehabilitation of addicts. The present administration’s claims of a shift to preventive measures is belied by the budget of its drug control office, which allocates a 94 percent share to disrupting the supply, mainly through environmentally hazardous spraying in Latin America and the Caribbean that alienates local farmers.

The domestic results are tragic: an enormous increase in the incarceration of young, disproportionately minority Americans, resulting in the waste of human resources and the creation of a prison culture that converts nonviolent addicts into hardened criminals, without any impact on drug use.

America’s unwillingness to recognize the socioeconomic context of the drug crisis at home and abroad, to see that being surrounded by failing states threatens its security, to provide aid where it is most effective, and to acknowledge that the root cause of this hemispheric disaster is not supply but its own citizens’ insatiable demand for illicit drugs, is as incomprehensible as the quagmire in Iraq.

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Oil Companies demand satisfaction

I mean, they paid for their Congress-critters, fair and partially square. And now these Congress-critters want to take away energy companies money spigot? What?!! Screw the free market, corporate welfare is written into the Constitution, isn't it? Isn't it?!

Oil Companies Attack Legislation Aimed at Tax Incentives : The nation’s oil and gas companies, hoping to fend off an attack by Congress on their tax breaks and subsidies, angrily denounced an effort by House Democratic leaders Friday that would repeal billions of dollars worth of incentives and plow the money into renewable energy projects. ... The giant integrated oil companies, like Chevron and Exxon Mobil, have been more resigned about losing some of their tax breaks but are quietly resisting pressure to renegotiate leases that allow them to pump billions of dollars worth of oil and gas from publicly owned waters without paying royalties to the government.

House Democratic leaders unveiled a bill on Friday that could raise more than $10 billion by repealing half a dozen incentives created in the last several years by the Republican-led Congress or by the Bush administration.

One measure would pressure companies to give up a lucrative loophole that the government inadvertently included in offshore drilling leases for the Gulf of Mexico.

The leases, signed in 1998 and 1999, allow companies drilling in deepwater to escape royalty payments on as much as 87.5 million barrels of oil per lease. Because of an error that officials ignored for six years, the leases omitted a standard escape clause that eliminates the incentives if oil prices climb above $34 a barrel.

Government officials have estimated that the mistake could cost the Treasury $10 billion over the next five years. The Bush administration has asked companies to voluntarily renegotiate, but only five companies have signed new agreements.
The House bill would also repeal several other royalty incentives. It would prohibit “royalty relief” for natural gas produced from very deep wells in shallow waters. It would also repeal similar “relief” for companies drilling off the coast of Alaska.

On the tax front, the House bill would repeal a provision passed in 2004 that entitles oil companies to tax credits for “domestic manufacturing” and a $2 billion tax break for “geological and geophysical” expenses in exploration.

Don't forget how cash strapped the energy consortiums are, especially when compared to the U.S. government which operates at such a surplus every year. Oh wait, its the other way around. Oh well, hey, stem cell research, everybody!

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Exelon buys PR

Strange, how glowing this article is. No negative comments from any consumer group, actually no comments at all from anyone other than Exelon. Poor, poor Exelon, forced by a cruel and unfeeling legislature to have to provide power to Illinoisians without being able to gouge them. Hasn't seemed to hurt their stock much (still hovering around $60 a share, up from $50 earlier this year).

Exelon may seek to buy power firm : Exelon Corp. might attempt to acquire a utility or power producer once it resolves an electricity rate dispute in Illinois, Chief Executive John Rowe said Friday.

The debate's outcome, currently a stalemate between leaders of the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate, could determine the type of company Exelon targets, Rowe said.

In September Exelon abandoned the nation's largest utility takeover ever, the purchase of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. for $17.8 billion, citing excessive concessions demanded by New Jersey regulators.

The Illinois House has passed a rate freeze that Exelon has said would bankrupt its Chicago utility, Commonwealth Edison.

“We'd like to see a more stable, more widely accepted settlement in Illinois before we take on something major,” Rowe said.

The company might target a smaller power producer that does not own a regulated utility, because such deals do not need state approval and transaction costs are lower, he said.

“It really comes down to the two basics: economics and politics,” Rowe said. “We had a very economic transaction in New Jersey, but the politics of trying to do it were too expensive.”

He said Exelon might buy power plants to increase sales in Texas, New York and New England, and sell facilities to reduce its presence in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

ooh, and poor, poor Exelon, forced to own nuclear energy plants without knowing where spent fuel will go.

Rowe also said Exelon wants government assurance of a disposal site for spent fuel before it will proceed with the nuclear reactor it has proposed in Texas.

“The government may have fooled me on 17 reactors that I currently run, but I'm the one who's being foolish if I build a new plant without knowing what they're going to do with the spent fuel,” Rowe said.

I wonder how much money the Chicago Tribune collects for publishing such propaganda? Is it just the advertising for ComEd that runs in the business section? or a little extra on the side.

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links for 2007-01-13

Migrations without green cards

Ginger Mayerson reminded me of the supercool genographic study. My office is in such a disarray, I only can find what I blogged about at the time, and no additional info. Bleh.

Anyway, this is where my ancestors apparently lived, for a time.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Clues found for early Europeans An archaeological find in Russia has shed light on the migration of modern humans into Europe.

Artifacts (Artefacts in original BBC article, I'm changing to American standard spelling) uncovered at the Kostenki site, south of Moscow, suggest modern humans were at this spot about 45,000 years ago.

The first moderns may have entered Europe through a different route than was previously thought, the international team reports.

...The researchers examined tools, personal ornaments and carved ivory discovered under a layer of ancient volcanic ash at the site, which lies along the Don River.

The artifacts most likely belonged to modern humans and dated to about as early as 45,000 years ago, said Professor Hoffecker. However they were dissimilar to artifacts found at the other European sites, he added.

“This suggests we have a not very closely related group of people at Kostenki, suggesting at the very least that we have an alternate route for modern humans into Europe - perhaps this being the earliest one,” he told the BBC News website.

(my Haplogroup is R1b)

(oh wait, I found my login credentials, and they've updated their site. More later)

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Impeachment and cream

Is New Mexico about to become the heroic state, the state other states admire? Or at least become the object of admiration for the 60% of the electorate who would be happy to send the Dauphin back to his faux ranch in Crawford? The state that first passes an Impeachment resolution will be celebrated in history books (and reviled by the corrupt national media)

Land of Enchantment and Impeachment There is a decent chance that within the next month or two the New Mexico State Legislature will ask the U.S. House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And there is the definite possibility that a Congress Member from New Mexico will take up the matter when it gets to Washington. The Jefferson Manual, rules used by the U.S. House, allows for impeachment to be begun in this manner. It only takes one state legislature. No governor is needed. One Congress Member, from the same state or any other, is needed to essentially acknowledge receipt of the state's petition. Then impeachment begins.

Last year the state legislatures of California, Minnesota, Illinois, and Vermont introduced but did not pass resolutions to send impeachment to the U.S. House. The State Senator who introduced the bill in Minnesota is now a member of Congress, Keith Ellison. He is one of many Congress Members waiting for the right moment to impeach Bush and Cheney. The state of New Jersey has a strong activist movement working to introduce and pass impeachment this year. There's a race now to see which state can do it first, which state can redeem these United States in the eyes of the world. New Mexico is jumping into the contest in a big way, with a terrific leading sponsor of the bill, strong Democatic majorities in both houses, and a citizens' movement ready to hold its government to account.

Of course, it is cities, not states, that have really taken the lead on impeachment, as on ending the war. Dozens of cities have already passed resolutions for impeachment. Dozens more have introduced them, and they are pending. [ http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/resourcecenter ] A handful have introduced them and voted them down. On March 6th about 100 towns in Vermont will vote at public meetings for impeachment. But by March 6th, impeachment may already be underway.

Gene Schulter, 47th Ward, aka “Not a Ho” introduced the Chicago bill


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Welcome privacy news

if true. Probably cannot go back to the olden days, but Congressional oversight is a step in the right direction. I don't trust federal agencies that are allowed to act with impunity, especially in the name of national security.

crime plus 8 mailbox

Daylight Sought For Data Mining - washingtonpost.com Key senators introduced legislation yesterday that would require the government to disclose data-mining programs to Congress in an effort to protect Americans' privacy and prevent misuse of personal information.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) requires federal agencies to report the development and use of data-analysis technologies to “discover predictive or anomalous patterns indicating criminal or terrorist activity.”...

The new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), vowed that Congress would take a much more active role in the oversight of government surveillance and data-collection programs.
Leahy said at least 52 federal agencies use data-mining technologies and at least 199 data-mining programs are operating or planned throughout the government, including 14 within the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services. Those do not include programs run by the National Security Agency. According to Leahy's staff, the NSA has not disclosed to the committee what, if any, data-mining programs it is conducting. An NSA spokesman declined to comment.

Leahy said that the government's terrorist watch list includes names of more than 300,000 people -- including infants and members of Congress. “We also need to understand that a mistake in a government database could cost a person his or her job, sacrifice their liberty and wreak havoc on their life and reputation,” he said.

As I've probably mentioned before, in 2002, I suspected I was on some watch list, was pulled aside for special searching something like 9 straight times. Hasn't happened recently, but then I'm also not flying as much, for business or pleasure. The hassles outweigh the rewards in most instances.

I remain skeptical that federal agencies are clever in the usage of the “No Fly” list; from what I've read, the entire concept is mostly a joke. When Osama bin Laden flies into Virginia to meet Karl Rove, I'm sure he doesn't use his real name.

and the conflicted Libertarian, Bob Barr weighs in:

Robert L. Barr Jr., a former Republican member of the House from Georgia and also a former federal prosecutor, said the issue is not errors but an administration that he believes is thumbing “its nose at the Congress” and using data mining in a way that potentially “everybody is a suspect.”

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links for 2007-01-12

BSG Movie in the works

BSG - one show of the very short list of television shows that don't suck.

Chicago Tribune | The Watcher

Rumors abound that character will die in the second half of the Sci Fi drama’s third season, which kicks off Jan. 21. And much of the “who will it be” speculation centers on hotshot pilot Kara “Starbuck” Thrace.

In an exclusive interview, executive producers David Eick and Ron Moore say that a “profound” event involving Starbuck does occur a pivotal Season 3 episode called “Maelstrom” that is scheduled to air March 4. In fact, Moore says it “will be one of the most surprising things that’s happened in the history of the show so far.”

What happens to Thrace “will jump out and grab you,” Moore says.

The producers confirmed what the actress who plays Starbuck said in a recent interview -- that as of that March 4 episode, she had completed her work on the show’s third season, even though three more episodes air after “Maelstrom.”

So the actress finished her work on the season early and something major and surprising happens in the last episode that Sackhoff filmed. But Eick and Moore don’t want to use the word “death” when describing what happens to Starbuck in “Maelstrom.”

“I think people will have to watch that episode and judge for themselves what happens,” Moore says. “I can say that Galactica will suffer a shocking loss in that episode and Kara is a key member of the crew.”

Just to add fuel to the fire of “Galactica” bloggers, Moore adds that after the March 4 episode airs, the name of a major cast member will disappear from the show’s opening credits. They won’t say whether Sackhoff’s name is the one that goes missing. But they do make clear that what happens to Starbuck points the way to a major shift in the show’s direction.

“It’s a fundamental and permanent change in the makeup of the show’s cast and of the show itself and how the show operates and what the show is about. It’s a very dramatic change of direction,” Moore says.

“What we’re doing with Kara Thrace is profound and is major, and yet it doesn’t necessarily translate as simply as you might think,” Eick says.

Sounds like she's revealed to be a sleeper-cell Cylon.


Eick and Moore also confirmed that they are in the midst of developing a 2-hour standalone “Battlestar Galactica” film, which may be released between Seasons 3 and 4. If there is no Season 4, then the film, which would probably be released on DVD and air on Sci Fi, would not go forward.

In any case, the DVD movie would not be a conclusion of the show’s third-season cliffhanger finale, which they say will once again take the show in a shocking new direction.

“If you think about the end of Season 1 and the end of Season 2, both of those cliffhangers -- they weren’t just of the ‘Who shot J.R.’ ilk. They actually turned the storytelling in a new direction.” Eick says. “So what we’re doing at the end of this year, which involves Kara Thrace and others, is [taking the storytelling] in a different and unique direction from what’s come before.”

full interview here

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links for 2007-01-11

Dylan's baby

| 1 Comment

No wonder Dylan wants to stop this movie from being released.

Sedgwick's brother claims she was forced to abort Dylan's baby Edie Sedgwick's brother is sure to raise a storm in Bob Dylan's life, by claiming that the tragic Andy Warhol muse was forced by doctors to abort the rock star's baby

Jonathan Sedgwick revealed to British newspaper the Sunday Times that though Dylan has denied having an affair with the socialite, who committed suicide at the age of 28, the two were definitely involved, and that Edie had even been forced by doctors to abort a baby that she believed was Dylan's.

Sedgwick also insisted that Edie had later confided in him that the day she had lost her child had been the “saddest moment” of her life.

“She told me she had to be held down by four men because she fought them so hard to keep the child she claimed was Bob Dylan's. She did tell me later that this was the saddest moment of her life - losing Dylan's child,” the Sunday Times quoted him, as saying.

Jonathan's allegations are set to fuel the legal row between Dylan and the makers of Sienna Miller starrer 'Factory Girl', in which Edie is seen meeting a tall, dark-haired, harmonica-playing folk singer remarkably similar to Dylan.

Though the film makes no mention of a pregnancy, and has even changed the name of the singer, it has still managed to enrage Dylan, whose lawyer Orin Snyder has warned producers not to release the movie till the singer's legal eagles have taken a look at it, or face the threat of a defamation lawsuit.


I just don't buy it

| 1 Comment

ComEd's poverty claims don't make sense. Is their business so poorly run that from December until January suddenly they lose $4,000,000 a day? Doesn't Exelon generate power? Sounds fishy to me, but maybe I don't understand the nuance of power utility deregulation as well as an Enron executive would.

ComEd warns of fight in rate freeze | Chicago Tribune Commonwealth Edison executives said Monday that they would challenge Illinois' proposed electricity rate freeze in court, and, if necessary, would file for bankruptcy to protect it from financial ruin. No one is predicting the lights will go out, but ComEd said that if rates are frozen, the utility would lose $4 million a day, and its corporate parent, Exelon Corp., would not bail it out.

...Backers of the freeze, including Speaker Michael Madigan, want to shield ComEd customers from a 22 percent increase in electric charges, and as much as a 55 percent increase for consumers in other parts of the state served by Ameren Corp.

ComEd and Illinois political leaders are locked in a battle resulting from the surprise end to a decade-long march toward utility deregulation, in which new competition from power generators failed to materialize. As a result, when Illinois held its first auction to obtain electricity, the price for ComEd came in 22 percent higher than current rates.

Consumers will start to see that increase this month unless Illinois legislators pass the rate freeze or agree to a compromise, which some analysts believe is possible.

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Avoid Atlanta at all costs

Recent propaganda about what a great city Atlanta is might not be sufficient to mask the fact that their police officers are brutal thugs who don't believe in that quaint idea of civil liberties.

Reporter's Notebook: Highlights from the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association : one of the lifetime members of the AHA attending the annual convention had been arrested and tossed in jail for jaywalking.

On Thursday, just after noon, the Tufts historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto was arrested by Atlanta police as he crossed the middle of the street between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels. After being thrown on the ground and handcuffed, the former Oxford don was formally arrested, his hands cuffed behind his back. Several policemen pressed hard on his neck and chest, leaving the mild-mannered scholar, who's never gotten so much as a parking ticket, bruised and in pain. He was then taken to the city detention center along with other accused felons and thrown into a filthy jail cell filled with prisoners.

He remained incarcerated for eight hours. Officials demanded bail of over a thousand dollars. To come up up with the money Fernandez-Armesto, the author of nineteen books, had to make an arrangement with a bail bondsman.

In court even the prosecutors seemed embarrassed by the incident, which got out of hand when Fernandez-Armesto requested to see the policeman's identification (the policeman was wearing a bomber jacket; to Fernandez-Armesto, a foreigner unfamiliar with American culture, the officer did not look like an officer). The prosecutors asked the professor to plead nolo contendere. He refused, concerned that the stain on his record might put his green card status in jeopardy. Officials finally agreed to drop all charges. The judge expressed his approval. The professor says he has no plans to sue. But the AHA council is considering lodging a complaint with the city.

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Malkin is a slattern

| 1 Comment

Did she give herself a pseudonym? Michelle Malkin Is An Insane Harpy

A.Word.A.Day -- malkin : malkin (MO-kin, MAL-kin) noun 1. An untidy woman; a slattern.

2. A scarecrow or a grotesque effigy.

3. A mop made of a bundle or rags fastened to a stick.

Ummm, no comment.

links for 2007-01-10


| 1 Comment

I wonder if Cingular CEO Stan “snoozer” Sigman demanded an apology from Steve Jobs over this comment?

Great Expectations Juice Up Apple's Trade Show - WSJ.com : ... While the digital music player is still selling well, the business is growing at a significantly slower clip as it gets larger. Apple sold 39.4 million iPods that brought in $7.68 billion in revenue during its most recent fiscal year ended Sept. 30. The number of iPods sold was up 75% from the previous fiscal year, but down from 409% growth the year prior to that.
But there are big obstacles to Apple becoming a player in the wireless market. At a Wall Street Journal conference in 2005, Mr. Jobs described his reluctance to get into the cellphone business.

In particular, the Apple executive referred to wireless carriers as “orifices” because of the bottleneck they pose in selling products directly to consumers. Apple has long favored selling products like the iPod and Macintosh directly to users.
Certainly, consumers appear to be interested in seeing Apple apply some of the design know-how it demonstrated with the iPod into new areas.

Mike Vorhaus, a managing director at consulting and research firm Frank N. Magid Associates, said consumers have shown a willingness in surveys conducted by the firm to see the Apple and iPod brands attached to more than just pure music players. “Both have permission to be anything in entertainment,” Mr. Vorhaus says.

(previous coverage of the rumored iPhone here)

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Apple name change

I have a feeling this will be hard for me (and others) to remember.

Apple Name Change
(via Engadget)

Apple Unveils Long-Awaited iPhone - WSJ.com : In a sign of how drastically the 30-year-old company's fortunes have been changed by the recent success of its iPod player and the significance of its foray into telecommunications, Mr. Jobs announced that the company, long known for its Macintosh machines, was dropping the word “computer” from its corporate name. It will now be called Apple Inc.

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iPhone finally released

after years and years of rumors, speculation and stupid-ass pundits saying the iPhone was the next Big Thing, it finally was released. Too bad Cingular is not my carrier, I kinda want one already.

Engadget has lots of of photos and quotes, as does Gizmodo.

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Hmong wars

Seems like the Hmong wars continue in Wisconsin. Previous skirmishes.

Suspect detained in slaying of hunter Wisconsin authorities Monday ruled the death of a Hmong hunter a homicide but said they did not know if it was a hate crime.

Cha Vang, 30, a Green Bay father of five, was found dead Saturday in a water fowl area in northeast Wisconsin known as prime hunting grounds for small prey. His body was covered with leaves and timber. He was shot, family friends said.

Marinette County Sheriff James Kanikula said at a Monday news conference that the murder weapon was recovered and a suspect--James Nichols, 28, of Peshtigo, Wis.--was being held on a parole violation.

Charges could be filed this week, Kanikula said. Saying investigators had built “a compelling case,” he said the homicide came after “an accidental meeting” between the two men. Investigators would not say what may have happened.

“The person in custody we believe is the responsible person to be talking to at this time in Vang's death,” the sheriff said of Nichols, a convicted burglar. Asked if Nichols confessed, Kanikula said he “has been cooperative up to this point.”

“We are in possession of the weapon or weapons involved,” Kanikula said.

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Words about Birds

Hmm, wonder what's up with this? Have to ask my reporters on the spot....

Party Crashers

Bird Deaths Shut Down Downtown Austin | Chicago Tribune :
Texas health officials are trying to determine what killed dozens of birds whose remains prompted a temporary shutdown of 10 blocks of downtown Austin. Police closed a section of downtown for several hours Monday after 63 birds were found dead in the street, but officials said preliminary tests found no threat to people.

Workers in yellow hazardous-materials suits tested for contaminants in a cordoned-off area near the state Capitol and the governor's mansion before authorities finally gave the all-clear in the afternoon.

Dr. Adolfo Valadez, medical director for the Austin and Travis County Health and Human Services Division, said the dead grackles, sparrows and pigeons were to be tested for signs of poison or viral infections. Officials did not believe bird flu was involved.

Grackles are a crowlike bird regarded as a major pest in Texas, with Austin sidewalks sometimes covered in their droppings.

Some experts said the most likely cause of the die-off was a deliberate poisoning. “It happens quite frequently,” said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation at the National Audubon Society in Washington.

The dead birds were found overnight along Congress Avenue, a major downtown thoroughfare.

The Birds (Collector's Edition)
“The Birds (Collector's Edition)” (Universal Studios)

(Austinist has more, sorta)

my on-the-spot reporter adds:

Well, it was a weird morning to say the least. They shut down 10 blocks of Congress Avenue (2nd St. to 11th St.) and a block east and west (to Brazos on the east and Colorado on the west) all the way down. Because our building is on Congress [redacted] we weren't allowed into our building until almost 1 p.m. A few of my co-workers somehow snuck in and worked all day. I just sat at home in my bathrobe and watched the news develop until they opened the roads at about 12:40)

They sent the deceased birds off for testing so we won't know the cause for days. They keep saying they think it is poisonings, but I suspect a gas/chemical leak. Here is why:

--The news reported that two of the first police officers on the scene had odd symptoms such as dizziness.
--My co-worker watched the first broadcast of the story at 5:45 a.m. The reporter said that her and her cameraman had a metallic taste in their mouths. As soon as she said that on air, a police officer asked her to move to another corner to finish her story.
--They are reporting that the bird species they found were grackle, sparrow and pigeons. However, a maintenance man in my building told me today that he found a dead hawk outside our building. He turned it over to the City. I thought after hearing of the other birds dying that they could have eaten poisoned bird seed, but a hawk wouldn't eat that seed.

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City that Works

works for cash bribes that is. I suspect (without hard evidence) our building was one in which money changed hands to skip certain inspections.

FBI bribe sting snares alderman | Chicago Tribune : Chicago Ald. Arenda Troutman was charged Monday with taking bribes to grease a development in her ward in an undercover sting in which she was recorded brashly asking one informant: “What do I get out of it?”

Troutman, a minor player at City Hall despite her 16 years on the City Council, was arrested at her home early Monday by FBI agents who had to break a window to open a door. Authorities said she first spoke to agents from a third-floor window at 6:30 a.m. but had refused to come down.

The complaint alleged Troutman (20th) took $5,000 in cash and was promised $10,000 more to smooth licensing and zoning for a development at 57th and Halsted Streets, where she also had arranged to have a residence and commercial space. The development deal never existed; it was invented by the FBI as part of the sting.

After receiving the $5,000 on Nov. 29, Troutman allegedly went to work for the development immediately.

“Say no more, hand me that phone,” Troutman allegedly said after the cash was in hand, placing a call to the city's zoning administrator on the developer's behalf.
First Assistant U.S. Atty. Gary Shapiro described the complaint as another Chicago “civics lesson” in the history of corruption in the city.

“This time on how things get done in the 20th Ward of Chicago,” Shapiro said.

“You want to build something? You want to improve your property? You need permits from the city?” Shapiro said. “You need zoning? You need the alderman's support? You want the alderman's support? You pay the alderman--you pay Arenda Troutman.”

Troutman allegedly was taped by a cooperating witness who had fraudulently helped her refinance her mortgage in the past, prosecutors said. She allegedly lent money to the witness, taking it from a cash-filled box in her basement.

Ms. Troutman spoke the truth though, in one instance:

Troutman was allegedly caught on tape comparing politics with prostitution: “Most aldermen, most politicians are hos.”

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Momofuku Ando RIP

| 1 Comment

Can never think about ramen noodles without recalling my favorite spaghetti western, Tampopo (wiki here).

“Tampopo” (Juzo Itami)

I even named my cat after the movie (well, shortened to The Pope).
The Pope gets bagged

Lawrence Downes writes:

Mr. Noodle - New York Times

The news last Friday of the death of the ramen noodle guy surprised those of us who had never suspected that there was such an individual. It was easy to assume that instant noodle soup was a team invention, one of those depersonalized corporate miracles, like the Honda Civic, the Sony Walkman and Hello Kitty, that sprang from that ingenious consumer-product collective known as postwar Japan.

But no. Momofuku Ando, who died in Ikeda, near Osaka, at 96, was looking for cheap, decent food for the working class when he invented ramen noodles all by himself in 1958. His product — fried, dried and sold in little plastic-wrapped bricks or foam cups — turned the company he founded, Nissin Foods, into a global giant. According to the company’s Web site, instant ramen satisfies more than 100 million people a day. Aggregate servings of the company’s signature brand, Cup Noodles, reached 25 billion worldwide in 2006.

...Ramen noodles, by contrast, are a dish of effortless purity. Like the egg, or tea, they attain a state of grace through a marriage with nothing but hot water. After three minutes in a yellow bath, the noodles soften. The pebbly peas and carrot chips turn practically lifelike. A near-weightless assemblage of plastic and foam is transformed into something any college student will recognize as food, for as little as 20 cents a serving.

I always added some fresh vegetables to the mix, back in the days when money was more scarce than ramen noodles.

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links for 2007-01-09

Duck pit lovers unite

because as Ms. Ivins suggests, we should throw our Resident and his minions into the duck pit.

Molly Ivins -AN IRAQ EXIT IS UP TO US : The president of the United States does not have the sense God gave a duck -- so it's up to us. You and me, Bubba.

I don't know why Bush is just standing there like a frozen rabbit, but it's time we found out. The fact is WE have to do something about it. This country is being torn apart by an evil and unnecessary war, and it has to be stopped NOW.

This war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our will. Polls consistently show that less than 30 percent of the people want to maintain current troop levels. It is obscene and wrong for the president to go against the people in this fashion. And it's doubly wrong for him to send 20,0000 more soldiers into this hellhole, as he reportedly will announce next week.

What happened to the nation that never tortured? The nation that wasn't supposed to start wars of choice? The nation that respected human rights and life? A nation that from the beginning was against tyranny? Where have we gone? How did we let these people take us there? How did we let them fool us?

It's a monstrous idea to put people in prison and keep them there. Since 1215, civil authorities have been obligated to tell people with what they are charged if they're arrested. This administration has done away with rights first enshrined in the Magna Carta nearly 800 years ago, and we've let them do it.

This will be a regular feature of mine, like an old-fashioned newspaper campaign. Every column, I'll write about this war until we find some way to end it. STOP IT NOW. BAM! Every day, we will review some factor we should have gotten right.

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Quagmire of the Vanities

Krugman wonders about the sanity of the proponents of the 'Sergios'.

No Masturbation Jokes

Paul Krugman: Quagmire of the Vanities: The only real question about the planned “surge” in Iraq — which is better described as a Vietnam-style escalation — is whether its proponents are cynical or delusional.

Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thinks they’re cynical. He recently told The Washington Post that administration officials are simply running out the clock, so that the next president will be “the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.”

Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science for his research on irrationality in decision-making, thinks they’re delusional. Mr. Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon recently argued in Foreign Policy magazine that the administration’s unwillingness to face reality in Iraq reflects a basic human aversion to cutting one’s losses — the same instinct that makes gamblers stay at the table, hoping to break even.

Of course, such gambling is easier when the lives at stake are those of other people’s children.

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Jokes for schmopes

or something.

This joke came straight from the Comedy Hall of Shame National Headquarters
Comedy Hall of Fame National Headquarters

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. Well for example, the other day I went downtown and went into a store. I was only in there for about 5 minutes, when I came out there was a cop writing out a parking ticket.

I went up to him and said, “Come on man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?” He ignored me and continued writing the ticket.

I called him a turd. He glared at me and started writing another ticket on having worn tires. So I called him a Republican shithead. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first.

Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, I didn't care. I came downtown by bus. I try to have a little fun each day now that I'm retired. It's important at my age.


Metacritic: 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists

When my Netflix list looks too boring, or I want to add some more modern movies to my queue (as opposed to the emphasis on film history classics, as is my wont), I head over to Metacritc. Here's their list of lists for 2006.

Metacritic: 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists


Oh if I had more time

33 1/3: Time of the Season!

I'd love to write one of these books, but realistically, I don't imagine I'd really find enough free time. I do enjoy reading books from this series, even if they should be slightly cheaper since they are so short. Not all are great, but several are quite enjoyable, and good for burnishing one's Rock Snob credentials.

PS, I cannot believe someone wrote about Celine Dion - what a hack she is.

James Brown's Live at the Apollo (33 1/3)
“James Brown's Live at the Apollo (33 1/3)” (Douglas Wolk)

Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited (33 1/3)
“Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited (33 1/3)” (Mark Polizzotti)

33 1/3 Paul's Boutique
“33 1/3 Paul's Boutique” (Dan Leroy)

The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. (33 1/3)
“The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. (33 1/3)” (Bill Janovitz)

Clash's London Calling (33 1/3)
“Clash's London Calling (33 1/3)” (David L. Ulin)

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links for 2007-01-08

Mary Mapes on Rather-Gate

Everyone who remembers the Dan Rather and Mary Mapes story regarding the Dauphin's National Guard service, or lack thereof, should read Glenn Greenwald's discussion of the matter, including a long email from Ms. Mapes detailing her thoughts. Really, an interesting read. Why was there no real investigation by the White House into the alleged fraudulent documents?

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Clarification on the CBS/National Guard controversy ... Why do you think the Bush administration never pursued an investigation into what the rightwing blogosphere deemed “forgery”? Don't you find that odd? It would seem to me that if there was a forgery, that would be legally actionable. In fact, if someone forged documents, then President Bush is owed a full investigation and a chance to right a great wrong. I support that completely. You know, early on, there were cries from angry Republicans in Congress for a formal investigation, but the Bush administration demurred. That's too bad, but then I believe the Bush people don't want anyone examining the record or the memos too closely. They know what a legitimate investigation would find.

Read the entire post here, you owe it to yourself.

Oh, nearly forgot to point to Paul Lukasiak's AWOL project, which is the essential record of the entire travesty.

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Trying to Clear Absinthe’s Reputation

Green Fairies

A drink whose reputation is better than the drink itself, at least in my limited experience. Would I drink absinthe again? Sure. Will I travel over tor and dale to track it down? Probably not. Maybe I just didn't drink the right cocktail, as Harold McGee explains:

The Curious Cook : Trying to Clear Absinthe’s Reputation

While absinthe is still banned in this country, it is easy to buy over the Internet: Its reputation, however, remains as cloudy as the cocktails that are made with it.

READERS of Ernest Hemingway know “Death in the Afternoon” as a book about bullfighting. But to drinkers with a taste for obscure booze, it is also a cocktail that Hemingway contributed to a 1935 collection of celebrity recipes. His directions: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

When I heard about this concoction last week and wondered how Champagne bubbles would fare in the milkiness, I couldn’t just go to my local liquor store and buy absinthe. I had to substitute one of the anise-flavored alcohols that took absinthe’s place when it was banned in France and in the United States about a century ago.

Today absinthe is legal again throughout Europe, and while it is still banned in this country, it is easy to buy over the Internet. Its reputation, however, remains as cloudy as the cocktails that are made with it. Some welcome clarification has now arrived in the form of a new study by a team of German chemists and physicians.

Absinthe is a distilled spirit flavored with a variety of herbs and spices, primarily wormwood, an aromatic, bitter shrub. The key constituent of wormwood is a chemical called thujone, which gives it — and absinthe — a penetrating evergreen aroma. (Thujone is also a major component of the herb sage.) Thujone and the other aromatic compounds are what cause absinthe to become milky when it’s diluted. The aromatics are more soluble in alcohol than in water, so when the concentrated spirit is cut with wine or water, they cluster together in tiny droplets that reflect light from their surfaces. Instantly, what was a clear liquid clouds over.

Absinthe became tremendously popular throughout Europe in the 19th century. It was blamed for causing hallucinations, mental instability and criminal behavior, which medical authorities attributed to thujone. This belief helped get absinthe banned. But according to the new study, by Dirk W. Lachenmeier and colleagues, the modern medical consensus is that absinthism was either simple alcohol poisoning — some absinthes were 70 percent alcohol, nearly double the strength of most distilled drinks — or caused by methanol and other toxic adulterants found in some cheap absinthes.

Thujone is true to its reputation in one respect: it does turn out to have unusual pharmacological properties. It interacts with several neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including one that is also activated by the cannabinoids in marijuana. But while absinthe will get you drunk, it won’t make you stoned. In one experiment, a dose of thujone equivalent to a pint of absinthe lowered the subjects’ performance on attention tests and made them more anxiou

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golden traffic

We discovered a Cantonese restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown that is open late at night, and took some friends there after a jazz party. Whoo hoo! The place was actually hopping still, as we left at 4:30 am. No empty tables. 5 people ate more than possible, with leftovers, for $60 dollars. Yumm. Pan fried dry noodles for me, chewy and delicious.

Formal and solemn revocation

Formal and solemn revocation
All strung out on green mint tea. From the Lake St bridge

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links for 2007-01-07

Petty revenge

Our (unpublished) fax number has been discovered by the slimy junk fax industry, and thus we receive frequent junk faxes through our old G4 PowerPC which is now a dedicated (and expensive) fax machine and Now Contact Up To Date server, and backup iTunes server. All faxes received get saved as PDF files to our main networked drive, and automatically printed to a networked laserjet printer. Supposedly, the FCC will take action against junk fax companies, but they haven't been able to stop the scum from operation as far as we can tell. Junk email and junk snail mail I tolerate, slightly, since I don't have to pay for printing out the crap - junk faxes use my toner, my paper, and my time deleting them from my network. (Update, I actually have started saving them to use in a future lawsuit)

This morning, annoyed by something, on a whim, I decided I would fax something back to the number so kindly provided. Glancing through my saved documents, I found a 2965 page PDF which was saved from Billmon's Whiskey Bar (wiki entry here), April 7, 2004. Adobe Acrobat Pro has a feature that will capture a website, and also follow all the links included at the site, in this case to the NYT, WaPo, other blogs, IMDb, Google, and elsewhere. For some reason, I thought of capturing several news websites and blogs on my birthday that year, to save in a time capsule or something. Who knows, I might read it 10 years from now, if I still have the file, and we aren't living underwater with gills.

I faxed 150 copies of this document to the junk fax site with a polite note requesting my name be removed from their database. We'll see if I get more gifts from them in the future. I was going to just make a solid black page, and send that, but maybe next time. I could just photocopy my buttocks. Hmmmm.

Petty, yes. Strangely satisfying? yes, that too.

There is another possible option, but the required contract was a bit long, and I decided I didn't really want to give that much personal information to some legal organization discovered on the web. I may still follow some advice at the www.junkfax.org site, depending upon how annoyed I get. And apparently, I'm not the first to come up with the idea of faxing stuff back.

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Photography should always be legal

Remember when we citizens assumed our civil liberties would enable us to take photographs of public events? Thanks, Bush voters, for creating a climate of fear and intolerance.

ctnewsjunkie.com - Reporter Arrested for Political Activism (Updated with Police Report) A freelance journalist, who has worked on political campaigns, was arrested by Hartford Police Wednesday as he took photos of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s inaugural parade in downtown Hartford.

Ken Krayeske, who worked on Green Party candidate Cliff Thornton’s campaign for governor against Rell, was near the corner of Ford and Pearl Street photographing Rell’s inaugural parade when, according to the police report, he was identified as a “political activist” and a threat to the governor. Krayeske was arrested and charged with breach of peace and interfering with an officer.

Norman A. Pattis, one of the state’s best known criminal defense and civil rights attorney, called the charges “ridiculous.” Pattis entered an appearance on Krayeske’s behalf Friday in Hartford Community Court where Krayeske was arraigned and entered a “not guilty” plea.

According to the police report, plainclothes Hartford Police Officers recognized Krayeske from a photo they were given by the Connecticut Intelligence Center and the State Police Central Intelligence Unit that “briefed us on possible threats to Gov. Rell by a political activist.”

How does a political activist end up on the list? State Police Lt. Paul Vance said the intelligence division collects information from all over the world, but would not give specifics Friday morning on how a local political activist and journalist may end up on the list. Instead he suggested calling the Hartford Police Department.

Disgusting abuse of power. I have no idea about who Ms. Jodi Rell is, even what party she belongs too (her website doesn't say, so I'm assuming she's a liberal Republican), but she should personally apologize to Mr. Krayeske, or face the wrath of voters.

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UFO at O'Hare

| 1 Comment

Jon Hilkevitch has become famous for this column. Color me skeptical, but ya never know.

The Object

Jon Hilkevitch In the sky! A bird? A plane? A ... UFO? | Chicago Tribune It sounds like a tired joke--but a group of airline employees insist they are in earnest, and they are upset that neither their bosses nor the government will take them seriously.

A flying saucerlike object hovered low over O'Hare International Airport for several minutes before bolting through thick clouds with such intense energy that it left an eerie hole in overcast skies, said some United Airlines employees who observed the phenomenon.

Was it an alien spaceship? A weather balloon lost in the airspace over the world's second-busiest airport? A top-secret military craft? Or simply a reflection from lights that played a trick on the eyes?

Flying Saucers : A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies
“Flying Saucers : A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies” (Carl Gustav Jung, C. G. Jung)

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Parking Rage

Pasta-damn! I thought it was bad here in the Big Spud, but San Franciscans attack meter maids “in protest over lack of parking spots”. What do meter maids have to do with parking availability anyway?

San Fran Legs

San Franciscans Hurl Their Rage at Parking Patrol ...Burdened with one of the densest downtowns in the country and a Californian love for moving vehicles, San Franciscans have been shocked in recent months by crimes related to finding places to park, including an attack in September in which a young man was killed trying to defend a spot he had found.

More recently, the victims have been parking control officers — do not call them meter maids — who suffered four attacks in late November, and two officers went to a hospital.

Over all, 2006 was a dangerous year for those hardy souls handing out tickets here, with 28 attacks, up from 17 in 2005.

All of which has left officials in this otherwise civilized community scrambling to explain, and solve, “parking rage.”

“It’s hard for me to understand people reacting in such a hostile manner,” said Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., executive director of the Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees parking. “Clearly, this is a working person simply doing their job. I’ve gotten parking tickets, and I sort of slap myself on the wrist and pay the ticket.”

People in the field say abuse is common, often frightening and, occasionally, humiliating. In November, an officer was spat on, another was punched through the window of his Geo Metro, and an irate illegal parker smashed the windshield of another officer’s golf-cart-like vehicle.

“Just driving down the street, you get yelled at,” said Lawanna Preston, staff director for Local 790 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents parking control officers.

The officers are city employees but not in the Police Department.

“They can’t even eat lunch with that uniform on, because people approach them and curse at them,” Ms. Preston said.
That frustration extends all the way to people like George Anderson, president of the American Association of Anger Management Providers, a mental health group, who said the parking problems here were so notorious that he had stopped holding paid lectures here.

“They’d be angry when they walked in,” said Mr. Anderson, a clinical social worker who lives in Los Angeles. “I’d spend half my time defending why I couldn’t include parking in the fee.”

Mr. Anderson said that his anger management patients regularly complained about the road and that not finding parking could be the last straw.

“If you’re driving on a highway,” he said, “you’re already stressed to the max. So that by the time you get to the parking stall, you end up with an inappropriate expression of anger.”


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Earmark this biatch

Operative word, could. Just because a particular boondoggle has a legislator's name attached to it does not mean a miraculous end to corruption. Baby steps, baby steps.

House Tightens Disclosure Rules for Pet Projects The earmark measure could prevent the kind of corruption that led to several big scandals in recent years.

The House voted on Friday to pull the shadowy tradition of Congressional earmarking into the daylight, requiring lawmakers to attach their names to the pet items they slip into spending or tax bills and certify that they have no financial interest in the provisions.
In a meeting with reporters, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, promised that Democrats would cut the number of earmarks in half in the next budget, for the 2008 fiscal year. But several Democrats emphasized that the new rules would not alone reduce the amount of earmarks, but could result in more restraint.

Lawmakers already race to take credit for earmarked projects for their districts. But it has often been impossible for outsiders to learn who sponsored earmarks no one took credit for, and unclaimed earmarks were often the ones that played a role in corruption scandals. The new rules will require disclosure of all earmarks in a bill, as well as their sponsors, their purpose and their costs. The rules will also prohibit party leaders from trading earmarks for members’ votes.

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links for 2007-01-06

10 billion trillion trillion carats

Too bad this is so far away, would really shake up the diamond industry. Note, seventeen different pun headlines were discarded; I'm sure you'll see them all somewhere later.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Diamond star thrills astronomers Twinkling in the sky is a diamond star of 10 billion trillion trillion carats, astronomers have discovered.

The cosmic diamond is a chunk of crystallized carbon, 4,000 km (2,500 miles) across, some 50 light-years from the Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

It's the compressed heart of an old star that was once bright like our Sun but has since faded and shrunk.

Astronomers have decided to call the star “Lucy” after the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

“You would need a jeweller's loupe the size of the Sun to grade this diamond,” says astronomer Travis Metcalfe, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led the team of researchers that discovered it.

The diamond star completely outclasses the largest diamond on Earth, the 530-carat Star of Africa which resides in the British Crown Jewels.

The huge cosmic diamond - technically known as BPM 37093 - is actually a crystallised white dwarf. A white dwarf is the hot core of a star, left over after the star uses up its nuclear fuel and dies. It is made mostly of carbon.


Juicy Wine

I can't say I've ever heard of a butter and salt flight, but I'm hypnotizing D and taking her there. If the weather was little nicer, we could walk.

Blog - Time Out Chicago Juicy Wine Company (694 N Milwaukee Ave at Huron St, 312-492-6620) is the best wine bar in Chicago. Actually, it’s one of the best bars in Chicago in general. But it’s in the wine bar category that it really crushes the competition. ... Besides, does winebar have a butter-and-salt flight? Heck, does anybody have a butter-and-salt flight? Because Juicy does. And if you’ve never made a meal out of three fat slabs of butter (such as the Parmigiano-Reggiano butter, which was the selling point for me), each one piled with a crunchy mountain of salt…well, I know it sounds like a one-way ticket to cardiac arrest, but it’s actually one of the best meals I’ve had all week.

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Drug Wars are dumb wars


Matthew Yglesias (who I've heard of, and never read before today) wrote a stupid post about drug legalization, basically positing if drugs were legalized, social anarchy would result, and kids would be purchasing heroin from ice cream trucks. Yglesias thinks anti drug laws are similar to anti-mugging laws, or something equally ridiculous. Victimless crimes vs. victimless crimes, right. Oh, wait.

Anyway, Daniel Williams in a comment writes:

Drug Wars

I wrote a book titled The Naked Truth About Drugs, and I'll send a free copy to anyone reading this post - just email me a mailing address. Reading it, you will see why I believe repealing drug prohibition will be the most significant law and order legislation of the 21st century. Posted by: Daniel E. Williams

I'll have to take Daniel up on this offer.


and let us never mention illegal drugs without mentioning legal drugs:

Findings: Drug Ad Spending Up Significantly

Drug marketers are set to see another record year in advertising spending, with budgets up nearly 9% over last year.

At that rate, total spend on all prescription drug brands will come in at around $4.5 billion by the end of the year, according to TNS. Last year, drug companies spent about $4.1 billion on ads.

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Alley still life

Two treatments times two = one good photo, maybe. Playing around with CS3. Not absolutely happy with any of these, but my source photo was a little lacking. Operator error, I reckon.

Fruit Basket Still Life
Fruit Basket Still Life

alleys are life

Fruit Basket Still Life Red
Fruit Basket Still Life Red converted to high contrast black and white, but retained the reds.

Reflections upon a fragile life

Reflections upon a fragile life

alley in the West Loop

Reflections upon a fragile life unsatisfied
Reflections upon a fragile life unsatisfied

Same technique: stripped out all colors except for the reds

click photo to embiggen

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I hate vibrato


David Byrne's book report on Capturing Sound includes this observation:

1.2.07: Crappy Sound Forever! : ... He discusses vibrato in string players, which is a good example. Katz contends that in the pre-recording era vibrato added to a note was considered kitschy, tacky, and was universally frowned upon — unless one absolutely had to use it in the uppermost registers. As recording became more ubiquitous and common in the early part of the last century it was found that by using a bit more vibrato not only could the volume of the instrument be increased (very important when there is only one mic or a huge horn to capture an orchestra or ensemble) but the pitch, now painfully and permanently apparent on the recording, could be smudged by adding the wobble. The perceptible imprecise pitch of a string instrument with no frets could be compensated for with a little wobble. Soon enough, the conventional wisdom reversed itself, and now people find playing without vibrato to be painful, weird and unprofessional.

I suspect that the exact same thing happened with opera singers. I have some recordings made at the very beginning of the recording era and their use of vibrato is much much less that what is common nowadays. Their singing is somewhat closer to what we might call pop today — well, not exactly, but I find it more accessible and less weird that the fuzzy pitching of contemporary opera singers who sometimes exaggerate the wobble so much you hardly know what note they’re supposed to be singing unless you know the tune already.

I always blamed Whitney Houston for popularizing vibrato in vocalization, a trend I despise, but apparently I was wrong. Not that I can stop myself from bending strings when playing my Fender guitar - string bending is a form of vibrato I suppose. Maybe I should do what the Velvet Underground did, per Lou Reed: institute fines for playing blues riffs.

Anyway, Mr. Byrne continues:

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links for 2007-01-05

Irony in the Congress

Funny how so many of the world's events are cyclical, political control included. The Golden Rule, blah blah blah. Cracks me up.

Dana Milbank - In the House, Suddenly Righteous Republicans - washingtonpost.com : Thirty-one-year-old Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is not a large man, standing perhaps 5 feet 3 inches tall in thick soles. But he packed a whole lot of chutzpah when he walked into the House TV gallery yesterday to demand that the new Democratic majority give the new Republican minority all the rights that Republicans had denied Democrats for years. “The bill we offer today, the minority bill of rights, is crafted based on the exact text that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted in 2004 to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert,” declared McHenry, with 10 Republican colleagues arrayed around him. “We're submitting this minority bill of rights, which will ensure that all sides are protected, that fairness and openness is in fact granted by the new majority.”

Omitted from McHenry's plea for fairness was the fact that the GOP had ignored Pelosi's 2004 request -- while routinely engaging in the procedural maneuvers that her plan would have corrected. Was the gentleman from North Carolina asking Democrats to do as he says, not as he did?

“Look, I'm a junior member,” young McHenry protested. “I'm not beholden to what former congresses did.”

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times asked McHenry if his complaint might come across as whining.

“I'm not whining,” he whined.

and the farce continues:

The day began when House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) led fellow House GOP leaders to a news conference in a Capitol basement hall. At 32, he is a year older than McHenry, and several inches taller, but no less outraged by Democrats' refusal to bestow on Republicans the rights that Republicans refused to bestow on Democrats.

“We are disappointed,” protested Putnam, whose fair skin was covered with a layer of makeup.

“We're clearly disappointed,” seconded Roy Blunt (Mo.).

“I'm disappointed, as are some others,” added Kay Granger (Tex.).

“I am very disappointed,” concurred David Dreier (Calif.).

It fell to CNN's Dana Bash to point out the awkward truth. “You can play back, almost verbatim, Democrats . . . saying almost exactly what you all just said,” she said. “So is there a little bit of hypocrisy in you saying that you want minority rights?”

“This is a missed opportunity to really change the way that the House does business,” Putnam offered, citing Democrats' campaign promises for “a new way of doing business.”

“What stopped you from taking that opportunity when you were still in the majority?” inquired Rick Klein of the Boston Globe.

“Well, I'll let Chairman Dreier speak to that,” Putnam ventured.

As the cliche goes: what a bunch of whiny babies.

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Deadwood final episodes

Look to be airing next fall. Why do (nearly) all the shows I like end quickly? A short list, but still. One could argue that the Simpson's is over too, but some bits remain funny.

Anyway, I'll miss Deadwood.

I wanna be a Cowboy

`Deadwood's' Milch is ready for a surfin' safari | Chicago Tribune : Deadwood,“ shooting is set to begin in June or July on two, two-hour HBO movies that will wrap up the series, according to Milch. After HBO had nixed another full ”Deadwood“ season, Milch was ”quite ambivalent“ about tying up myriad story lines in just four hours.

”But we live in the world of the possible. I'm happy with the compromise.“ To accommodate the show's compressed length, each episode will represent several years in the life of the lawless mining town instead of one day, Milch says.

Juggling two TV movies and a new series would be taxing for somebody with all his marbles, so we can only imagine how Milch is holding up. ”That sound you hear is broken crockery,“ he says. Locking in the cast will be tough, too.

Some players -- stars Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant, for starters -- are essential. ”We'll do what we have to do to reach a critical mass of availability,“ Milch says.

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Streets filled with ennui

Patterns of Behaviour
Patterns of Behaviour semi-abandoned building

Patterns of Behaviour tinted
Patterns of Behaviour tinted mild Photoshop coloration frenzy

Leaving Trunk already packed
Leaving Trunk already packed I'm sure the tinting is just a phase that I'll grow out of once I figure out how to do it right....

Can't be wrong
Can't be wrong somewhere near W. Jackson.

Snack Trees
Snack Trees

fast food and palm trees go together, don't they?

click to embiggen photos

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Mercury fulminations

There is probably something awful hidden in this decision, based on the usual performance of the Current Occupant, but on the surface anyway, yayyy. The less mercury floating around, the better for all of us.

U.S. won't sell huge stockpile of mercury | Chicago Tribune

One of the nation's largest stockpiles of toxic mercury will remain locked up instead of oozing into the world market.

After mulling a potential sale for several months, the U.S. Department of Energy confirmed Tuesday that it will keep nearly 1,300 tons of mercury in storage, increasing pressure on private companies to follow the same policy.

Environmental groups think the latest development could boost their efforts to phase out the use of mercury worldwide, similar to the way ozone-depleting chemicals have been gradually pulled from the market.

The European Union already has moved to prohibit mercury exports. Diplomats are scheduled to bring up the issue again next month when the governing council of the United Nations Environment Program meets in Nairobi, Kenya.

“This is a great chance to keep mercury from coming back on our dinner plates,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project, a U.S. advocacy group that has been involved in the negotiations.

Most American industries that once used mercury to make batteries, thermometers, electrical switches and chlorine have switched to less harmful technologies. Many states have taken steps to discourage mercury-laden garbage from being disposed of in landfills.

But there still is robust demand for the metal in other countries. Sellers can fetch more than $700 for a 76-pound flask of mercury, up from $150 six years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

UN officials have tracked most of the exported mercury to small-scale gold mining operations in Brazil, Mexico, Peru and other developing countries. Miners separate gold from ore by heating a mercury-laden amalgam, but they rarely use equipment to prevent mercury from being released into the air.

Gold mines churn about 1,000 tons of mercury into the atmosphere every year, second only to coal-fired power plants, which release 3,000 tons, according to the UN.

Despite the federal government's decision to store its surplus, American mercury may still flood the world market from another source. Two chemical plants that use large amounts of mercury to make chlorine are shutting down, and Obama is pushing another bill that would require six other chlorine plants to close or switch to mercury-free technology by 2012.

The industry had more than 2,600 tons of mercury on hand at the end of 2005. The Chlorine Institute, an industry trade group, has said it won't sell the mercury if the government is willing to store it. But so far, federal officials have agreed only to study the issue.

“We haven't seen a lot of progress on that front,” said Arlene O'Donnell, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and leader of a group of state regulators active on mercury-related issues.

The Trib makes a point of praising Barack Obama for this federal decision, not sure if there is merit to it, or just early PR machinations.

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Retards in Charge


part the too-many. If any scientist, or so-called intelligent person voted for Bush (ever, including back when Bush stole the election from Ann Richards) - you should immediately resign whatever job you have, and join the Taliban, or the National Association of Evangelicals.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: News Releases Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park. ... “In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,

I'd laugh, if it wasn't so unfunny. Is it 2008 yet?

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Get a haircut too

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The not-so-hidden secret about the Office of National Drug Control Policy's efforts to waste billions of tax dollars telling teens to “Just Say Yo” is that teens aren't even the prime users of drugs. Teens just don't vote, and can't pay for lobbyists, so they are an easy target. Suburban moms have more disposable income, and based on the suburban communities I've visited, I'd say they have a strong need to self-medicate to alleviate their boredom.

Mike Males: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

It’s time to end the obsession with hyping teenage drug use.

WHEN releasing last week’s Monitoring the Future survey on drug use, John P. Walters, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, boasted that “broad” declines in teenage drug use promise “enormous beneficial consequences not only for our children now, but for the rest of their lives.” Actually, anybody who has looked carefully at the report and other recent federal studies would see a dramatically different picture: skyrocketing illicit drug abuse and related deaths among teenagers and adults alike.
What the Monitoring the Future report does have right is that teenagers remain the least part of America’s burgeoning drug abuse crisis. Today, after 20 years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and millions of arrests and imprisonments in the war on drugs, America’s rate of drug-related deaths, hospital emergencies, crime and social ills stand at record highs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans dying from the abuse of illegal drugs has leaped by 400 percent in the last two decades, reaching a record 28,000 in 2004. The F.B.I. reported that drug arrests reached an all-time high of 1.8 million in 2005. The Drug Abuse Warning Network, a federal agency that compiles statistics on hospital emergency cases caused by illicit drug abuse, says that number rose to 940,000 in 2004 — a huge increase over the last quarter century.

Why are so few Americans aware of these troubling trends? One reason is that today’s drug abusers are simply the “wrong” group. As David Musto, a psychiatry professor at Yale and historian of drug abuse, points out, wars on drugs have traditionally depended on “linkage between a drug and a feared or rejected group within society.” Today, however, the fastest-growing population of drug abusers is white, middle-aged Americans. This is a powerful mainstream constituency, and unlike with teenagers or urban minorities, it is hard for the government or the news media to present these drug users as a grave threat to the nation.

By the way, what sort of drugs kill? Mike Males lumps all drugs in the same category for some (obvious) reason. Not marijuana, obviously, nor the psychedelics. I'm guessing heroin, amphetamine, and/or cocaine, and actually not even the drugs themselves, but street concoctions containing low percentages of active substance, and plenty of household chemical filler. Regulation of drugs now illegal would certainly reduce the number of deaths. Ed Brecher's classic book (apparently out of print): Licit and Illicit Drugs mentions the fact that one of the founders (Dr. William Halsted) of Johns Hopkins was a lifetime morphine/heroin addict who shot up before each surgery, and who lived to a ripe old age of 70.

Peter Guither has some additional points about this OpEd, including:

Another passage struck me not just as a repudiation of the ONDCP's reliance on MTF data, but surprising in its potential implications.
I compared teenage drug use trends reported annually by Monitoring the Future since the 1970s with trends for other behaviors and with federal crime, health and education statistics. In years in which a higher percentage of high school seniors told the survey takers they used illicit drugs, teenagers consistently reported and experienced lower rates of crime, murder, drug-related hospital emergencies and deaths, suicides, H.I.V. infection, school dropouts, delinquency, pregnancy, violence, theft in and outside of school, and fights with parents, employers and teachers.

It's an interesting, though somewhat disjointed OpEd -- a little too enamored with the significance of DAWN and other emergency room data, a little too accepting of the link between drugs and crime, and lacking any mention of the link between prohibition and crime.

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What are libraries for

We've been following this story about libraries competing with Barnes and Noble. The WSJ, somewhat predictably, wonders if government-run libraries are an institution worth saving.

Should Libraries' Target Audience Be Cheapskates With Mass-Market Tastes? - WSJ.com

For Whom the Bell Tolls” may be one of Ernest Hemingway's best-known books, but it isn't exactly flying off the shelves in northern Virginia these days. Precisely nobody has checked out a copy from the Fairfax County Public Library system in the past two years...

And now the bell may toll for Hemingway. A software program developed by SirsiDynix, an Alabama-based library-technology company, informs librarians of which books are circulating and which ones aren't. If titles remain untouched for two years, they may be discarded -- permanently. “We're being very ruthless,” boasts library director Sam Clay.

As it happens, the ruthlessness may not ultimately extend to Hemingway's classic. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” could win a special reprieve, and, in the future, copies might remain available at certain branches. Yet lots of other volumes may not fare as well. Books by Charlotte Brontë, William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust and Alexander Solzhenitsyn have recently been pulled.

Library officials explain, not unreasonably, that their shelf space is limited and that they want to satisfy the demands of the public. Every unpopular book that's removed from circulation, after all, creates room for a new page-turner by John Grisham, David Baldacci, or James Patterson -- the authors of the three most checked-out books in Fairfax County last month.

But this raises a fundamental question: What are libraries for? Are they cultural storehouses that contain the best that has been thought and said? Or are they more like actual stores, responding to whatever fickle taste or Mitch Albom tearjerker is all the rage at this very moment?

If the answer is the latter, then why must we have government-run libraries at all? There's a fine line between an institution that aims to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize the recreational habits of bookworms.

Full disclosure: I have plenty of nostalgic ideas about libraries, I used to spend hours a week browsing dusty stacks, and finding obscurities to read. However, my period of living on ramen noodles and butter is long past, and I haven't stepped into a library in years. Especially when used books have become easily available online. For instance, you can purchase For Whom the Bell Tolls for 1¢ (plus 2 bucks shipping) online, or $1 somewhere in Of course, not everyone owns a computer, nor has access to credit cards.

That said, what is the role of the government anyway? Just building interstate highways? Shouldn't tax dollars be spent on infrastructure of the brain too? Does the Archer Daniel Midland company really need ethanol subsidies? Why not spend money making literature available to all? Of course, I think public transit (Amtrak, subways, Chicago Transit Authority, BART, et al) should be subsidized too, but then some might consider me a socialist.

The bottom line is that it has never been easier or cheaper to read a book, and the costs of reading probably will do nothing but drop further.

If public libraries attempt to compete in this environment, they will increasingly be seen for what Fairfax County apparently envisions them to be: welfare programs for middle-class readers who would rather borrow Nelson DeMille's newest potboiler than spend a few dollars for it at their local Wal-Mart.

Instead of embracing this doomed model, libraries might seek to differentiate themselves among the many options readers now have, using a good dictionary as the model. Such a dictionary doesn't merely describe the words of a language -- it provides proper spelling, pronunciation and usage. New words come in and old ones go out, but a reliable lexicon becomes a foundation of linguistic stability and coherence. Likewise, libraries should seek to shore up the culture against the eroding force of trends.

The particulars of this task will fall upon the shoulders of individual librarians, who should welcome the opportunity to discriminate between the good and the bad, the timeless and the ephemeral, as librarians traditionally have done. They ought to regard themselves as not just experts in the arcane ways of the Dewey Decimal System, but as teachers, advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance.

The alternative is for them to morph into clerks who fill their shelves with whatever their “customers” want, much as stock boys at grocery stores do. Both libraries and the public, however, would be ill-served by such a Faustian bargain.

That's a reference, by the way, to one of literature's great antiheroes. Good luck finding Christopher Marlowe's play about him in a Fairfax County library: “Doctor Faustus” has survived for more than four centuries, but it apparently hasn't been checked out in the past 24 months.

More discussion here


links for 2007-01-03

Thought Bubbles and James Brown

MoDo has some catty fun, imagining what the courtiers present at Ford's funeral were thinking...

I like what someone else said: today was actually the National Day of Mourning for the Godfather of Soul. (direct video link here)

Stained Glass and Strained Egos - Maureen Dowd

It was a scene that Mary McCarthy could have written the devil out of: a funeral for a fine, bland fellow that filled everybody with unfine, unbland thoughts. The formal serenity of the service, disguised, but only barely, the virulent rivalries and envies and grudges and grievances that have roiled this group for many decades.

None of the eulogists noted the irony that the man who ushered out one long national nightmare had ushered in another, the one we’re living in now. It was Gerald Ford, after all, who gave America the gift of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — the gift that keeps on taking.

The two former Ford officials, who doomed Iraq to civil war and despoiled American values, were honorary pallbearers yesterday, as was that other slippery and solipsistic courtier, Henry Kissinger.

The Group was even more on edge because of a remarkable trellis of peppery opinions that had tumbled out of the man in the coffin, posthumously. The late president, hailed as the most understated and decent guy in the world, had given a series of interviews on the condition they be held until his death — a belated but bracing smackdown of many of his distinguished mourners.

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What's wrong with Chipotle

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What trend/meme did I miss? I ate a lot of food which contained Chipotle, but seem to be oblivious to the reason this chile should be banned from polite discourse. The rest of these words I can figure out, if not necessarily agree with their necessity to be banned.
NPR : Banned: Irresistible, Over-Used Words of 2006

It's that time of year again, when Lake Superior State University releases its annual List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. The school in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has compiled the list every year since 1976.
Out of more than 4,500 nominations, these words were chosen for banishment by the school's committee:
  • COMBINED CELEBRITY NAMES (c.f. Brangelina, TomKat)
  • PWN or PWNED


New Years Resolution 2007


I'm not a big believer in public declarations to do so and so better, more often, or less often. My brain is wired such that if I make a list like that, I'd soon rebel against each and every word contained therein (including adjectives and conjunctions). So why bother? Who knows, maybe I'm rebelling against not making resolutions.

To clarify, in no way do I consider myself resistant to change, I actually like trying different routes, different routines, different modes. I certainly have a running mental list of actions I'd like to do differently in the future; I just am hesitant to voice them. Fear of failure or some such bs, no doubt.

Whatever. So I'll treat this sort of like a “someday list” in the GTD terminology.

D & I really need to travel more this year. We let our busy life dictate what and where we spend out free time, and we would have fun elsewhere as well.

We both need new passports too. (Wired suggests smashing them with a hammer to remove the RFID chip now mandated by law). I've taken her photo (though she's never happy with it), she has to take mine now.

Build our roof deck and our yurt, and our yurt at Marfa East/Ragnaranch/South Pocket.

I've been keeping a Moleskin notebook with a few thoughts regarding recently watched movies. I'd like to continue this habit. Pre-blog days I was more obsessive about scribbling on paper, post-blog those thoughts, fragments of thoughts, poetry ideas, phrases I read, yadda yadda, don't get retained. Film notes are a compromise. I do watch a lot of movies in a year, and hardly ever get around to noting down what I thought at the time. I haven't bothered to post any of these here, but I will eventually. Not that I'm trying to be a deep thinker about film, just training my brain to retain more nuance. Hey, I'm a film school drop-out, give me a break.

Exercise more, drink (slightly) less. Can't hurt right? I'm healthy enough, am no couch potato, but I'm no longer the athlete I was at the age of 17. I don't want my face to look like Keith Richards' face either. Too bad I'm Irish, with a green liver. I can drink more than you, almost certainly, but doesn't mean I should.

Read more books. Again, pre-blog days, I read 5-10 books a week, every week. Now one or two a month only (with periodic spikes either direction) is my norm. I love reading, I should do it more. Will mean less posting here, but that's probably a good thing for everybody. Also, as a corollary, read less politics. More history, more comparative religion, more poetry, more classic fiction, more natural science even, but less about what a fracked up President we have, yadda yadda. Might as well cancel a few periodicals too.

Sell a photo or two. I haven't really taken any steps toward this, other than building up a body of work that I like. My ladybug cow photo is going to be published, as I mentioned, but there isn't a big cash reward for that. We almost purchased a street level commercial space in our same building which would have been perfect to double as a photo gallery, but our oral contract was reneged upon, and we were outbid by a restaurateur across the street. Still, the seed was planted in my mind, and I want to cultivate it.

That's enough yimmer-yammer for an evening.


Delight in Disorder

Vindication!! I'm buying this book and sending excerpts to every stupid boss I ever had who criticized my on-desk filing system.

Two monitors

A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place
“A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place” (Eric Abrahamson, David H. Freedman)

Why Clean Up Your Desk? Delight in Disorder Instead - WSJ.com

...an engaging polemic against the neat-police who hold so much sway over our lives. For all too many people, neatness is a virtue in and of itself. The CEOs who appear on the cover of business magazines inevitably gaze out at their conquered worlds from perfectly neat offices with perfectly tidy desks. Americans pay millions of dollars every year to neatness experts: The National Organization of Business Organizers boasts more than 3,000 members. General Motors and United Parcel Service are among many U.S. companies with formal “clean desk” policies. There is more than a touch of Calvinist severity about office managers everywhere, as they cast a cold eye of suspicion on the untidy workers in their charge.

Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman note in “A Perfect Mess” that the costs of being neat and well-organized frequently outweigh the benefits. If this is true for mundane things like tidy desks, it is even truer with big things like organizations. Businesses can become so focused on transforming their internal processes into studies in neatness -- setting crystal-clear objectives (strategic planning) or removing organizational clutter (re-engineering) -- that they forget to focus on their real business.

But Messrs. (as it is especially pleasing to call them) Abrahamson and Freedman go on to make a larger claim: that mess actually has its uses. Most messy desks conceal an underlying order: Messy-desk owners usually know how to lay their hands on important documents among the jumble. Mess can serve as an efficient filing system: The least pressing documents can be shoved to the bottom of the pile. And mess can also serve as a valuable time-saver: The sloppy desk liberates the desk owner to focus on more important things. All that time spent straightening piles of paper -- or working your way diligently through memos, messages and mailings -- could be better used to crunch numbers or to think of a shrewd way of marketing Widget 2.0.

...Mess can be a catalyst of creativity, they argue, and neatness can be a symptom of sterility. They observe that great creative thinkers like Albert Einstein reveled in mess. (“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,” the great man once said, “of what then, is an empty desk?”) They speculate that great cities like Los Angeles are exciting precisely because they avoid detailed planning. The authors praise messy organizations for their ability to satisfy quirky customers or adapt to a dynamic environment. The New England Mobile Book Fair, for instance -- a Boston-based bookshop -- has thrived despite not putting its books in any particular order: People like the deep discounts and the chance to browse randomly. The authors note that much modern art -- from James Joyce to Jasper Johns -- seems to celebrate disorder and confusion.

That said, there are times when cleaning up my desk (and office) is beneficial. Clutter does become distraction, eventually. And empty wine bottles serve no purpose.


I ususally stay away from Slate, but this was a good end-of-year list. Unfortunately, for all of us, there were some events that didn't even make the top ten, but were just a fracked up. Remember when civil liberties were respected? Wow, seems like a long, long time ago.

The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006. - By Dahlia Lithwick - Slate Magazine
the top 10 civil liberties nightmares of the year:



links for 2007-01-02

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Lovers and leavers

More tests of my new camera and Photoshop CS3.

Click to embiggen, natch.

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift lens-shake turned out ok, sorta.

Down the Street tooned-up
Down the Street tooned-up my 'hood, Photoshopped to within an inch of recognition

Cops on Bikes
Cops on Bikes I didn't know cell phone usage was acceptable on a bike.

One Thousand Stories Sin City version
One Thousand Stories Sin City

Sculpture of Light and Shadow
Sculpture of Light and Shadow I'm sure the piece has a better name, but I don't know what it is. The owner (of a photography studio on W. Randolph whose name I've forgotten) told me the sculptor's name, but my iPod headphones blocked it out.

I'd like to see what happens on a sunny day - does light become refracted through these lenses?

Feel a Song Arriving
Feel a Song Arriving N. Morgan, perhaps? Not quite sunset, but approaching soon.

Night Grooves
Night Grooves or something. In an abandoned partially built structure.

a quickr pickr post

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mushrooms for all!

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The mighty Cecil Adams answers a question about psilocybe semilanceata, specifically if drying the specimen has any effect (answer: no. Cecil's answer a little longer winded, but the same). Mr. Adams adds:

The Straight Dope: Is it dangerous to eat magic mushrooms before they have dried out? What mushrooms are safe to eat? ... Just about the only drawback of magic mushrooms, in fact, is that they're against the law.
Well, perhaps not all circumstances are equally as friendly to consumption of psilocybin. I wouldn't suggest eating a handful before corporate job interviews, for instance. Cecil goes on:
Psilocybin has a low level of toxicity and overdoses are rare. One 18-year-old male in Hawaii was thought to have died from a psilocybin OD in 1972, but later investigation has cast doubt on that belief. A 2000 study in the Netherlands found that (a) no physical or psychological dependency was associated with mushrooms, (b) adverse short-term effects consisted mainly of panic and anxiety attacks, and (c) long-term effects were limited to mild flashbacks. Even the U.S. Department of Justice admits that 'shrooms aren't physically addictive.....

... in the UK, where psychoactive fungi used to be legal provided they weren't prepared, preparation generally being interpreted to include drying, freezing, or making into tea. That changed when the Drugs Act of 2005 made it an offense to knowingly possess, grow, or trade magic mushrooms, fresh or otherwise. (Exceptions for accidental picking and growing remain.) Magic mushrooms aren't illegal by name under federal law in the U.S., but their active chemicals are, meaning as a practical matter that they're illegal to buy, sell, grow, or merely possess. Spore kits, which enable the purchaser to grow mushrooms at home, fall in a gray area — though spores don't actually contain the proscribed chemicals, some states have made possession and/or cultivation of them a crime too.

(more on new psychoactive research here and here)


links for 2007-01-01

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