February 2007 Archives

Pat Riley Bushite Artist

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One more reason on a long list of reasons why Pat Riley annoys me:

Our unathletic President ... After presenting the President with a honorary Heat jersey, Pat Riley baffled everyone by saying, “I voted for the man. If you don’t vote you don’t count.” That's funny. And the Pope said I don't get into heaven if I don't believe a magical old man in the clouds made me out of monkey bones. What did the Pope and Pat Riley do to warrant that kind of authority?

(about two minutes into this video).

I guess that quip especially true in Florida: if you didn't vote for Bush, your vote didn't count.

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Natarus lost


Natarus as a Witch

Strangely enough, my local Alderman lost after serving the developers in his district for 30 some years. People like us (non-developers) became increasingly disenchanted with Natarus and his autocratic manner, and his (perceived) lack of responsiveness to residents in the ward. Maybe some green space will finally be included in new developments; perhaps the long rumored bike path to the lakefront will become reality; maybe nothing substantive will change. Regardless, we congratulate Brendan Reilly, and look forward to meeting him and/or his staff in the near future.

Veteran Natarus swept out | Chicago Tribune

After 35 years and nine consecutive victories, Ald. Burton Natarus was defeated Tuesday by challenger Brendan Reilly in a contest that measured whether downtown's 42nd Ward had grown tired of the colorful antics of the City Council mainstay.

With 97 percent of the precincts counted, unofficial results showed Reilly with 55 percent of the vote to Natarus' 45 percent.

Natarus, 73, had the second-longest tenure on the council, behind only Ald. Edward Burke (14th), in a ward known as the public face of the city, encompassing the Loop, North Michigan Avenue, River North, Streeterville and the Gold Coast. As alderman, Natarus had a major say in the area's development. Developers also were major contributors to his campaign fund.

Though Natarus won re-election four years ago, it was with only 56 percent of the vote. Some residents have grown critical of his demeanor—he often billed himself as the City Council's resident comedian—and questioned whether he had lost touch with the neighborhood.

In July, during the convening of county Democratic slatemakers who chose Todd Stroger to replace his ill father, John, as the nominee for County Board president, Natarus blasted delivery problems at the U.S. Postal Service, taking care to note that many “Afro-Americans” had good jobs there.

Mike over at Chicago Carless has more, including this astute comment:

But perhaps Burt's greatest miscalculation: forgetting that the thousands of new residents who in the past few years have moved into the Ward's increasingly dense forest of condo towers--built by his developer buddies with scant public oversight--may not have any idea who he is. Or have links to him. Or believe they owe him an oath of fealty. Or, really, have any idea about his previous four decades of tenure at all.

In a Ward brimming with new residents, it's unbridled hubris to keep expecting yesterday's level of blind loyalty from today's electorate. So if it was Natarus who was instrumental in revitalizing downtown's 42nd Ward and turning it into a highly attractive residential success (and it was), in the end, maybe he was just a victim of his own success.


links for 2007-02-28

CAPTCHA you bitches

CAPTCHA based plugin installed today, courtesy of MT wizard (and employee?) Jay Allen.

It is so obvious

After deleting another 374 spam comments today (about 25% of which made it through the MT 3.34 spam filter), I decided I had to raise the ante against the spam-bots. The Comment Challenge plugin was easy to install and configure - the main downfall I see is that the plugin is built to issue only one response at a time, and every time you change the response phrase, you have to rebuild your entire MT blog. 3400 or so individual pages, plus daily archives, monthly archives, category archives: takes a little while for my little server to complete. I don't really like the CAPTCHA used by Blogger - I can't always tell what the letters are. Simple text is better, IMNSHO.

I notice a spam comment since installation already filled in the 'response' field, albeit incorrectly; more variation would extend the difficulty for spam-rats to automate the process.

Version 1.1 will probably add the multiple question capability, among other tweaks. I'm looking forward to its release.

I also noticed one of the first comments that was falsely junked because of not entering the challenge word. I noticed she tried a couple times without success. Would be nice to be able to tweak the scoring, like other MT plugins, but perhaps one could get too clever and frack up the whole system.

Of course, while installing and tweaking my templates, I goofed up something, and may have destroyed the right column again for Windows users. Damn div tags, damn Internet Exploder! Looks fine in Safari, Firefox, Camino, but my sis reported problems. My Intel XP virtual machine is malfunctioning already, so can't check for myself.

One should not make coding decisions late at night while drinking Vitiano Falesco 2004. Other wines might be ok, but not that one. Doh!

(previous worship of Jay Allen)

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Never have heard that nickname, but the media shite-storm generated by the Tennessee Centre (sic) for Policy Research (sic) was inevitable as Gore's Oscar.

An inconvenient truth: eco-warrior Al Gore's bloated gas and electricity bills | Energy | Guardian Unlimited Environment

Mr Gore, or the Goracle as he is now known, has so far kept out of the fray. He is flying high, his old image as Bill Clinton's wooden sidekick long since forgotten
By yesterday morning Mr Gore's team was pulled into the controversy. Kalee Kreider, his environmental adviser, told the Guardian that “you can attack the messenger but the message remains the same”. She said Mr Gore's fuel bills failed to tell the whole picture. All the energy used for the Nashville home came from a green power provider to the Tennessee Valley that draws its energy from solar, wind-powered and methane gas supplies, among other sources.

The Gores were installing solar panels on the roof of their home, Ms Kreider added, and making efforts to reduce their energy needs. Besides, Mr Gore had adopted a “carbon neutral” life whereby any emissions for which he was personally responsible were offset by buying green credits such as parcels of forests.

“The point about vice-president Gore is that he's devoted 30 years of his life to educating people about global warming. That says something about the man,” she said.

Laurie David, the producer of An Inconvenient Truth, said that the furore was only to be expected. A leading global warming campaigner, she is familiar with criticism of this kind having been called a “jetstream liberal” for using private planes. “What this lame attempt to discredit Al Gore tells me is that we are winning. This is comedy at its best - it's straight out of the David Letterman show.”

True Owners of Our House

Pipp and Pope

Pipp and Pope
yes, he has demon eyes that I'm too lazy to desaturate, but somehow seems appropriate. A rare moment of peace between the kitten and cat clans. Lasted about 30 minutes.

Pippen and the Helicopter
Pippen and the Helicopter

Pippen loved the Picoo Z, literally to its death. Here in mid-swat. I have some crappy video footage which perhaps will end up at Youtube if I find time to upload it.

Unfortunately, now difficult to purchase. RadioShack is backordered, and the company that makes the copter are 6-8 weeks behind, according to their website.

Helicopters that lose their stabilizing rear prop don't fly well, no wonder so many are being shot down in Iraq.

Pippen bangs the drum
Pippin bangs the drum His 9/15 time signature is amazing

click to embiggen photos

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Supreme Court Strips Al Gore of Oscar

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An Inconvenient Truth
“An Inconvenient Truth” (Davis Guggenheim)

In case you haven't heard about this already....

Supreme Court Strips Al Gore of Oscar; Declares George W. Bush Winner

Fresh off his Oscar victory last night for Best Documentary, Al Gore has been stripped of his title by the U.S. Supreme Court. George W. Bush was declared the new winner despite the fact that he had not received a single vote or even watched a movie in the last decade except for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

In the Court's opinion, new Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that he was proud to follow in the steps of his old boss and predecessor, the late William Rehnquist, who helped decide Bush v. Gore in 2000. “You've gotta love lifetime appointments,” Roberts said. “We aren't even trying anymore!”

Insiders say a disappointed Gore has already begun regrowing his beard, although a spokesperson claims it is only so he can save energy on heat now that climate change has made the winter months colder and more unpredictable.

Meanwhile, jubilation abounded in Crawford, Texas, where George W. Bush was leisurely enjoying a few weeks off from his normal vacation spot in Camp David. “I didn't even know you could win an Oscar for pretending to be something in real life,” Bush said. He also issued an executive order demanding that Martin Scorsese's long-awaited award for Best Director be given to Dick Cheney for his handling over the White House.

Plans to melt the statue down into gold coins bearing Bush's likeness were scrapped after Bush decided it had been involved in terrorist activities. The statue is expected to arrive in Guantanamo by tomorrow morning, where it will no longer be under the jurisdiction of Roberts and the Supreme Court.

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Infernal Affairs

The Infernal Affairs Trilogy (Infernal Affairs 1 / Infernal Affairs 2 / Infernal Affairs 3) (Special Collector's Edition Box Set)
"The Infernal Affairs Trilogy (Infernal Affairs 1 / Infernal Affairs 2 / Infernal Affairs 3) (Special Collector's Edition Box Set)" (Wai Keung Lau, Siu Fai Mak)

If you are curious, as I am, about the film(s) The Departed was based on, they are getting a little bit of attention:
Critic's Choice: New DVDs This week's DVDs include the new Criterion discs "When a Woman Ascends the Stairs" and "Green for Danger," as well as "The Infernal Affairs Trilogy." ... Now that "The Departed" has won four Oscars and proved to be one of Martin Scorsese's most successful films, another helping seems a strong possibility. Some clues to the direction a "Departed" franchise might take can be gleaned from "The Infernal Affairs Trilogy," a box set that brings together the 2002 Hong Kong film "Infernal Affairs," on which Mr. Scorsese's movie is based, along with the two follow-ups directed by the series's creators, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak.

The original film stars Andy Lau (not related to the director) as the crime syndicate mole who infiltrates the Hong Kong police department (the part played by Matt Damon in "The Departed"), and Tony Leung as his opposite number, the rookie cop who goes undercover in the mob (Leonardo DiCaprio in the remake). Part 2, released in Hong Kong in October 2003, is actually a prequel, following the two informers (here played by younger actors) as they infiltrate their respective institutions; Part 3, released in December 2003, employs a complicated flashback structure to reunite the charismatic Mr. Lau and Mr. Leung.

I have a great fondness for the over-amped school of Hong Kong thrillers.


links for 2007-02-27

Honeybees Vanish

As a kid, we have a couple of hives. Nothing better than eating fresh honey still in the comb.

This cannot be good news. Are honeybees the canaries of the 21st C.E.? Is this a side effect of our monocrop culture? Are the toxins in our environment finally reaching a tipping point?

Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Crops and Keepers in Peril

Bees have been disappearing at an alarming rate in 24 states, threatening the production of numerous crops.

In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers have gone through similar shocks as their bees have been disappearing inexplicably at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation’s most profitable.

this is the first national affliction.

Now, in a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.

As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis.

Some 15 worried beekeepers convened in Florida this month to brainstorm with researchers how to cope with the extensive bee losses. Investigators are exploring a range of theories, including viruses, a fungus and poor bee nutrition.

They are also studying a group of pesticides that were banned in some European countries to see if they are somehow affecting bees’ innate ability to find their way back home.

Mites have also damaged bee colonies, and the insecticides used to try to kill mites are harming the ability of queen bees to spawn as many worker bees. The queens are living half as long as they did just a few years ago.

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Pentangle Box Set

Not my most favorite British folk band (prefer Fairport Convention for instance), but Bert Jansch is an excellent, evocative acoustic guitarist.

Time Has Come 1967 - 1973
“Time Has Come 1967 - 1973” (Pentangle)

PlugInMusic.com : News : Pentangle 40th Anniversary Box Set To Be Released On Castle
Pentangle were a ‘60s British folk/jazz 'supergroup' that were simultaneously stars of the underground and darlings of the mainstream, gracing the Fillmore East one month and Carnegie Hall the next. The band was formed in 1966 by hip young guitar slingers Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, already leading lights of the folk scene at the time. With folk chanteuse Jacqui McShee on vocals and a rhythm section consisting of Danny Tompson on bass and Terry Cox on drums, the group mastered a breathtaking repertoire that encompassed the traditional ballads, blues, jazz, pop, and re-workings of rock oldies....

Spanning 1967-1973 they recorded six albums, toured and broadcasted extensively.

This lavish and definitive 40th anniversary box set covers the six year career of Pentangle. The Time Has Come features the best of the band’s album tracks, singles and B-sides – newly re-mastered, achieving the best sound to date – alongside no less than 20 previously unreleased tracks. Among the many rarities is a track from their very first recording session (1967); live concert and television performances; studio outtakes from The Pentangle (1968) and Reflection (1971); BBC radio session tracks newly in stereo and previously unheard film soundtrack work. This set features a 56 page booklet filled with extensive liner notes along with unseen photos and rare memorabilia.

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More on the weird U.S. attorneys being fired story that Josh Marshall and minions have been covering closely for a month or more.

Why Have So Many U.S. Attorneys Been Fired? It Looks a Lot Like Politics - New York Times

Carol Lam, the former United States attorney for San Diego, is smart and tireless and was very good at her job. Her investigation of Representative Randy Cunningham resulted in a guilty plea for taking more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors and a sentence of more than eight years. Two weeks ago, she indicted Kyle Dustin Foggo, the former No. 3 official in the C.I.A. The defense-contracting scandal she pursued so vigorously could yet drag in other politicians.

In many Justice Departments, her record would have won her awards, and perhaps a promotion to a top post in Washington. In the Bush Justice Department, it got her fired.

Ms. Lam is one of at least seven United States attorneys fired recently under questionable circumstances. The Justice Department is claiming that Ms. Lam and other well-regarded prosecutors like John McKay of Seattle, David Iglesias of New Mexico, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona — who all received strong job evaluations — performed inadequately.

Adam Cohen speculates as to motive:

Three theories are emerging for why these well-qualified U.S. attorney were fired — all political, and all disturbing.

1. Helping friends. Ms. Lam had already put one powerful Republican congressman in jail and was investigating other powerful politicians. The Justice Department, unpersuasively, claims that it was unhappy about Ms. Lam’s failure to bring more immigration cases. Meanwhile, Ms. Lam has been replaced with an interim prosecutor whose résumé shows almost no criminal law experience, but includes her membership in the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

2. Candidate recruitment. U.S. attorney is a position that can make headlines and launch political careers. Congressional Democrats suspect that the Bush administration has been pushing out long-serving U.S. attorneys to replace them with promising Republican lawyers who can then be run for Congress and top state offices.

3. Presidential politics. The Justice Department concedes that Mr. Cummins was doing a good job in Little Rock. An obvious question is whether the administration was more interested in his successor’s skills in opposition political research — let’s not forget that Arkansas has been lucrative fodder for Republicans in the past — in time for the 2008 elections.

Seems like a dangerous game the Bush-ites are playing - the legal community could really become a troublesome enemy.

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Don't You Call Me FAT

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Gap tells investors, Don't You Call Me FAT.

Gap Inc. Pulls Plug on Forth & Towne NEW YORK Time's run out on Gap's Forth & Towne. Gap Inc. is shuttering the concept after an 18-month pilot proved the store brand, which was aimed at women over age 35, wouldn't deliver “an acceptable long-term return on investment.”

We suspected this concept to be dead in the water from the get go, but hey, nobody asked.


Tombstone Blues


I wonder if there are any pieces of pita bread with the countenance of Jesus or the Virgin Mother within the tomb?

Monks in the Grass

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Jesus tomb found, says film-maker

Jesus had a son named Judah and was buried alongside Mary Magdalene, according to a new documentary by Hollywood film director James Cameron.
It examines a tomb found near Jerusalem in 1980 which the film-makers say belonged to Jesus and his family.

The Oscar-winning director of Titanic says statistical analysis and DNA back the claim.

Archaeologists say that the burial cave is probably that of a Jewish family with similar names to that of Jesus.

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From the Department of Headlines that make you click through...

Bush On The Bong

Bush taking a big hit of off the bong, filled with Dutch cleanser, no doubt (from my archives, don't know where the original came from).

Brandweek: Pfizer Taking Some Hits Over Billion-Dollar Bong :

Last year, Pfizer paid Sanofi-Aventis $1.4 billion for Exubera, a new inhaled insulin product for diabetics that Pfizer forecast would produce $2 billion in sales every year.

What Pfizer got for its cash was a device that looks a lot like a marijuana bong—and a brand that analysts, doctors, drug sales reps and some patients believe is a struggle to sell because it is so inconvenient to use.

And what was expected to be a dramatic blockbuster launch has turned into a bust, with repeated delays and negligible sales.

Now, few observers outside Pfizer believe that Exubera can reach $2 billion in sales, a forecast the company repeated to analysts in January.

“I think Pfizer is on drugs” if it believes it will get $2 billion a year from Exubera, said David Kliff, publisher of Diabetic Investor, a specialist investment data company. If Pfizer does reach its goal, “I’m going to run down Madison Avenue naked,” he says. Kliff believes Pfizer will be lucky if Exubera ultimately does half the business that Pfizer is predicting.

But in the absence of consumer advertising to drive interest in the Exubera, diabetics are talking about it themselves.

Amy Tenderich, who writes the Diabetes Mine blog, wrote recently that Exubera “is looking like a bomb.” The device’s “hospital-grade beige” color makes it “an aesthetic nightmare in an age of cool gadgetry,” she said.

And she’s noticed Pfizer instructional video on the Exubera Web site. It shows a man huffing on his Exubera tube at a restaurant table. The man “must live in a city as tolerant or as jaded as San Francisco or New York because not one patron even glanced over as he cocked and sucked on his medicinal bong,” she wrote. Exubera “really is as bad as it looks in the pictures.”

And what the hell does that mean? Cocked and sucked on his medicinal bong . Sounds pretty funky if you ask me.

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Oscar notes


9 great movies

Not going to take as much time as, for instance, Dori Smith did, but here are a few top of mind notes scribbled from the 79th Oscars.

I only saw three of the movies that were nominated: An Inconvenient Truth, The Prestige, and the Departed. Some years I manage to see more, not this time.

Glad Martin Scorsese finally got his Oscar, though, like I wrote a couple days ago, he didn't really deserve it this year. Doesn't matter, The Departed was a decent movie, and Scorsese should have gotten several Oscars before this year anyway.

Celine Dion is always annoying. Without exception. Uhhh.

Watched the telecast in HD, a new experience for me. For some reason, I was fascinated watching the beads of sweat glisten on Beyoncé Knowles' exposed chest as she performed. I'm still not a fan of ululation though.

Jennifer Lopez's dress made me laugh great peals of derisive laughter. I know that's shallow of me, but still, that was a Homer Simpson mumu dress...

The Queen looks interesting, especially after reading Helen Mirren's bio and quote re: Ian Richardson (star of the House of Cards BBC miniseries I just watched).

Forest Whitaker has a powerful presence, and am intrigued by his portrayal of Idi Amin, but what an odd acceptance speech. Looking at his career, there are a lot of duds, but a handful of movies I liked (Bird, Smoke, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai).

The one montage that spurred me to log on to Netflix and add a few more films to my queue was the Foreign Language Film of the Year. Too many of those looked unfamiliar. Netflix has a list already populated with prior winners (as well as in other categories). Oh boy, more movies!

Peter O'Toole was the other sentimental favorite to finally win, instead 0 for 8 now. I wonder what other roles he was nominated for but didn't win? Seems like there should be a list somewhere. Oh, here it is. Hmm, seems a bit inflated with mid-level movies, though to be fair, I've only seen a couple of them.

Ellen DeGeneres was ok as hostess, why did she have change her outfits so many times? What was the point? And who was the extremely lame dude they kept cutting too before commercial breaks?

That's all I can decipher at the moment.

links for 2007-02-26

  • "compelling screen grab of Dinah Shore’s attempt, in 1977, to imitate Iggy Pop’s pose on the cover of his album The Idiot, as an amused Mr. Pop looks on"

Iggy Pop and Dinah Shore


Classic television from the Dinah Shore Show, circa 1976-77.

interview discussing why Iggy Pop doesn't have any teeth left, among other topics.

Iggy Pop (and David Bowie) perform Funtime.

and Sister Midnight

Don't have a complete deep Iggy Pop/Stooges library, but of what I know, The Idiot is my favorite album. Mix of funky grooves, punk ethos, and David Bowie's Berlin-inspired beats.

The Idiot
“The Idiot” (Iggy Pop)

(youtube links courtesy of Snobsite.com)

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Where Were You That Summer of 2001?

Frank Rich doesn't want us to be sleeping on the resurgence of Al Qaeda, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

No Masturbation Jokes

Frank Rich: Where Were You That Summer of 2001?

Five years after 9/11, the terrorists would seem to have us just where they want us — asleep — even as the system is blinking red once again.

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Authors on TV

Very true, glancing at our bookshelves, there are several books we've purchased after first hearing about them or their authors on the Daily Show. What other contemporary (watch-able) television shows allow adult conversations about books, conducted by somebody who has obviously read the book before the segment?

Jon Stewart - Stephen Colbert - Serious Book to Peddle? Don’t Laugh, Try a Comedy Show - New York Times

But fewer still could have guessed until recently that their best pitchmen — and most engaged interviewers — would be the comedians of late-night cable. Take Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi “banker to the poor” who recently appeared on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” on Comedy Central after it was announced that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

...Mr. Stewart has also interviewed Ishmael Beah, the young Sierra Leonian who just published “A Long Way Gone,” a memoir about his wrenching experience as a child soldier; Jeffrey Rosen, the George Washington University law professor who wrote “The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America”; and Vali Nasr, the Middle East expert who was promoting “The Shia Revival,” an examination of ethnic conflict in Iraq.

Since when did microlending, global poverty, constitutional law and civil wars in Africa become topics for frank discussion on fake-news comedy shows?

Publishers say that particularly for the last six months, “The Daily Show” and its spinoff, “The Colbert Report,” which has on similarly wonky authors, like the former White House official David Kuo, have become the most reliable venues for promoting weighty books whose authors would otherwise end up on “The Early Show” on CBS looking like they showed up at the wrong party.

and, to be honest, why would anyone think the Daily Show audience is a bunch of crotch-joke enthusiasts? Anyone who has watched the show more than a few times realizes the theme of the show is politics and media criticism. Makes perfect sense the audience is literate, and cognizant of current affairs.

Part of the surprise, publishers said, is that the Comedy Central audience is more serious than its reputation allows. The public may still think of the “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” audience as a group of sardonic slackers, Gen-Y college students who prefer YouTube to print. But publishers say it’s a much more diverse demographic — and more important, a book-buying audience.

“It’s the television equivalent of NPR,” Ms. Levin, of Free Press, said. “You have a very savvy, interested audience who are book buyers, people who do go into bookstores, people who are actually interested in books.”

According to Nielsen Media Research, the nightly audience for “The Daily Show” averages about 1.6 million, while “The Colbert Report” attracts an average of 1.2 million. ...Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said during his interview last year on “The Daily Show” to promote “The Case for Goliath,” Mr. Stewart drew out the most important themes of the book — points that were ignored by other interviewers.

“In my experience, it’s not just that serious books get a hearing on comedy shows,” Mr. Mandelbaum said. “But serious books get a serious hearing, as well as a funny one, on comedy shows.”

And if it is true that comedy thrives on opposites, then perhaps the combination of serious and slapstick makes perfect sense. “They can be themselves on the show,” said Mr. Fox of Comedy Central, describing the dynamic between authors and Mr. Stewart. “They can be the straight guy and he’s the funny guy.”

Not that Mr. Stewart injects comedy into every interview. He all but wept when he interviewed Mr. Beah, saying, “I’ve rarely read a book that makes my heart hurt — but this really does.”

Jeff Seroy, a spokesman for Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Mr. Beah’s publisher, said the Stewart appearance had a huge effect, doubling the online sales of the book the day after the show.

Mr. Seroy said that in meeting Mr. Beah before the show Mr. Stewart said, “I don’t know how I’m going to make this funny.”

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Green Shopping Center

We wrote about this previously, the Tribune has more details. Still haven't managed to take a good photo of the building, even though we pass it frequently.

Going green: Project envisions eco-friendly shopping center :

When David Baum decided last year to convert the old Cooper Lamp factory in Logan Square into a one-stop shopping center of green businesses, he knew it would be a risky and expensive proposition.

“Wind turbines don't necessarily make economic sense today, but we want to engage the imagination,” said Baum, who plans to spend more than $30 million renovating the sprawling yellow brick structure where craftsmen once turned out custom-made lamps. “We do still plan to make a profit, albeit a small one.”

Baum is aiming to tap into the growing consumer demand for eco-conscious merchandise and services. Dubbed the Green Exchange, he wants his project to become one of the first places in the nation to offer an entirely green space for entirely green work.

Baum envisions places like an organic restaurant, an environmentally friendly building supply store, green-friendly architects and eco-design firms. There could even be a sustainable clothing store, a bicycle shop and a car showroom, he said.

The project would be three times larger than The Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center in Portland, Ore., where roughly 20 tenants, including Patagonia, offer sustainable goods and services in a 70,000-square-foot facility.

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We've been following this story for a while, and are puzzled by it. What was the motivation to fire these attorneys? They were too competent?

Dismissed U.S. Attorneys Received Strong Evaluations

A review of internal reports shows that six of the eight attorneys dismissed in recent months were rated “well regarded,” “capable” or “very competent.”

Internal Justice Department performance reports for six of the eight United States attorneys who have been dismissed in recent months rated them “well regarded,” “capable” or “very competent,” a review of the evaluations shows.

The performance reviews, known as Evaluations and Review Staff Reports, show that the ousted prosecutors were routinely praised for playing a leadership role with other law enforcement agencies in their jurisdictions.

The reviews, each of them 6 to 12 pages long, were carried out by Justice Department officials from 2003 to 2006. Each report was based on extensive interviews, conducted over several days with judges, other federal law enforcement agencies and staff members in each office.

links for 2007-02-25

Template changes


yes, am changing the frack out of my site. I have some annoying bug in either my index template and/or my CSS file, and finally gave up trying to fix it. Starting from scratch. Please don't mind the mess.

I am not happy with this particular layout, needed somewhere to start. Whenever I make the main body box slightly larger, then the right column merges with the main body. Bleh.


CareerBuilder is retarded


There has to be more to the story. Who fires their agency because of a low-rank in a poll in the fracking U.S. Today? Especially a poll of only 238 people (located in Houston, Tx and McLean, VA). Come on, that's ridiculous.

Upon further review, ad chief drops CareerBuilder

The chief executive of Chicago's Cramer-Krasselt wasn't monkeying around.

CEO Peter Krivkovich didn't just drop the CareerBuilder.com advertising account in response to the job Web site putting the account up for review. Incensed at learning the review was spurred by the performance of CareerBuilder's Super Bowl commercials in USA Today's annual poll, Krivkovich took the unusual step of writing an internal memo that tore apart the client his agency had spent the last five years building up.

“In our entire history, hell in the history of this crazy thing called advertising, I'm not sure there has ever been any thing as baseless or as unbelievable as that,” Krivkovich wrote in the memo, which was obtained by the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. “It's so ludicrous and they are so serious about that poll it's almost funny.

”Being floored would be an understatement. We can proudly take credit for their success. ... Despite all the great work and making them famous, their sole reason is, at best, unsophisticated, unbusiness like and from the standpoint of how to run a business, unprofessional. They may not be the kind of people we should do business with. Therefore we can't justify any reason to participate in a review and have just notified them accordingly. ... We're moving on!“

With this year's Super Bowl showcase, where CBS charged $2.6 million per 30-second spot seen by an average of more than 90 million viewers, CareerBuilder turned its popular ”Office Monkeys“ campaign inside out. Rather than have a suffering office worker surrounded by monkeys, it placed office workers in the jungle. The company's ads finished 16th, 27th and 28th out of 57 spots tested by USA Today's Ad Meter real-time consumer focus group.

During the five years Cramer-Krasselt has had the CareerBuilder account, the job site has gone from third in its category to surpassing Monster.com for first place in jobs posted, site traffic and revenue. Krivkovich's memo says his firm helped drive up CareerBuilder traffic 43 percent and awareness by 64 percent even as Monster was outspending it.

Krivkovich also noted that, according to Nielsen, CareerBuilder enjoyed a 148 percent increase in site traffic after this year's Super Bowl, the most of any advertiser in the telecast.

”To our amazement, to our total astonishment, all that astounding business success was less important than one poll,“ Krivkovich wrote. ”They wanted us to make them famous; we did that in spades. ... But the TV ads did not make the top 10 in the USA Today poll--a poll that everyone knows doesn't mirror results (see the continuing Bud sales decline for one!)--they just told us they will do a creative review.

“Wait a minute we said, what about the incredible growth that is going on, the shares, the revenue, the awareness, the two best internet sites ever, the massive buzz, etc, etc. What about all of that? That's huge. `Yes,' they responded, `but [Cramer-Krasselt] didn't get the top ten in the USA Today poll.' Hold on ... we crushed every possible business metrics/barometer for success. Out of all the metrics and polls, it's all about this one? You have to be ... kidding, right!? `No, that's it. It's because of the poll.' That was about the extent of the conversation.”

AdAge retains the F word, sorta, but basically says the same thing:
Cramer-Krasselt Resigns as CareerBuilder's Agency

Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago, has resigned as CareerBuilder's agency of record after a five-year run that saw the online jobs site surpass rival Monster in total listings and online traffic.
In an internal memo issued today, the agency's president, Peter Krivkovich, said CareerBuilder put its account up for review after the agency's Super Bowl ads failed to rank in the top 10 in USA Today's viewer poll.

...Mr. Krivkovich's memo, summarizing his take on the split, reads, in part: “They wanted us to make them famous; we did that in spades (brand awareness up by 64% -- even Millward Brown, the venerable research firm, said their brand-building model couldn't explain such incredible growth). But the TV ads did not make the top 10 in the USA Today poll -- a poll that everyone knows doesn't mirror results (see the continuing Bud sales decline for one!) -- they just told us they will do a creative review.”

“'Wait a minute,' we said, 'what about the incredible growth that is going on, the shares, the revenue, the awareness, the two best internet sites ever, the massive buzz, etc, etc.? What about all of that? That's huge.'

”'Yes,' they responded, 'but you [C-K] didn't get the top 10 in the USA Today poll.' 'Hold on ... we crushed every possible business metrics/barometer for success. Out of all the metrics and polls, it's all about this one? You have to be F'ing kidding, right!?'“

”'No, that's it. It's because of the poll.' That was about the extent of the conversation.“

That is pretty ridiculous, unless there were some other unmentioned conflicts as well. Or else the executives at CareerBuilder are just ignorant. Kudos for Mr. Krivkovich for kicking CareerBuilder to the kurb.

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London traffic

I wish Mayor Daley would fall in love with London as much as he did with Paris; I would so love if the Loop was voided of automobiles so that all the Parisian wrought iron could be appreciated.

French Join U.S. Résistance Over London Traffic Charge

Diplomats from several countries are refusing to pay the congestion charge, calling it a tax from which they should be exempt.

Ever since the London authorities imposed a charge to drive into the city center in 2003, the United States Embassy has stood as a beacon of automotive defiance, refusing to pay what its diplomats call a tax from which they should be exempt.
The charge for entering the zone is roughly $15 a day during working hours Monday through Friday, and the London model, presented by officials as a way to relieve congestion, has inspired some other European capitals, notably Stockholm, to follow suit.

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Before Bush and his acolytes pissed all over the Bill of Rights, such decisions would hardly be front page news. Unfortunately, now it is. Canada is a nation that still believes in civil rights, civil liberties, while the US only uses these concepts as tools for torture.

Canadian Court Limits Detention in Terror Cases

Canada’s highest court on Friday unanimously struck down a law that allows the Canadian government to detain foreign-born terrorism suspects indefinitely using secret evidence and without charges while their deportations are being reviewed.

The detention measure, the security certificate system, has been described by government lawyers as an important tool for combating international terrorism and maintaining Canada’s domestic security. Six men are now under threat of deportation without an open hearing under the certificates.

“The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the ruling.

The decision reflected striking differences from the current legal climate in the United States. In the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress stripped the federal courts of authority to hear challenges, through petitions for writs of habeas corpus, to the open-ended confinement of foreign terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

A federal appeals court in Washington upheld the constitutionality of that law this week, dismissing 13 cases brought on behalf of 63 Guantánamo detainees. Their lawyers said they would file an appeal with the Supreme Court. In two earlier decisions, the justices ruled in favor of Guantánamo detainees on statutory grounds but did not address the deeper constitutional issues that this case appears to present.

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Florida Voter Fraud

Oh sure, blame it on the voters again. The NYT photographs of the ballot don't make the same point, in fact, the ballot looks fairly straightforward.

Panel Cites Voter Error, Not Software, in Loss of Votes Florida officials suggested that as many as 18,000 votes were lost in a disputed Congressional race due to voter confusion rather than malfunctioning software. ... While some voters in Sarasota bristled yesterday at the idea that they had done anything wrong in casting their votes, or that nearly 13 percent of all voters could have failed to spot the race on the ballot, members of the investigative team said that those remained the only plausible theories.

The report acknowledged that the huge undervote — in which voters cast a ballot in other races but not for the Congressional seat — was both “abnormal and unexpected.

Clare Ward-Jenkins, a Sarasota resident who had trouble registering her vote, said she felt insulted by the report’s implication that ”we’re too stupid to know how to vote.“

Ms. Ward-Jenkins and more than 100 other voters contacted The Sarasota Herald-Tribune shortly after the election to complain that even though an ”X“ appeared on the touchscreen when they pressed the box for Ms. Jennings, their votes had disappeared by the time they got to a final screen for reviewing their choices. Ms. Ward-Jenkins and most of the others said they had to go through the process at least one more time to make their votes stick, raising concerns in the Jennings camp that other voters might have failed to notice similar problems that voided their ballots.

But other voting experts said that because the machines used in the election have been sequestered by a court, only a portion of them have been examined closely.

The software experts said they also found several security vulnerabilities in the programming for the voting machines, made by Election Systems and Software in Omaha

I expect all problems to be ignored, and expect most news reports to focus on the view of 'experts' who support the election board, ignoring the minor yet nagging indications of fraud.

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The Departed

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The Departed (Widescreen Edition)
“The Departed (Widescreen Edition)” (Martin Scorsese)

Netflixed: The Departed
To take down South Boston's Irish Mafia, the police send in one of their own to infiltrate the underworld, not realizing the syndicate has done likewise in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated crime thriller, for which he won a Best Director Golden Globe. While an undercover cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) curries favor with the mob kingpin (Jack Nicholson), a career criminal (Matt Damon) rises through the police ranks. But both sides soon discover there's a mole among them.

Scorsese calls this his B movie, even though it isn't the first in his oeuvre that fits the category (Cape Fear, anyone?). I hope he gets an Oscar before he dies, but this movie doesn't really deserve it. But then did Dances With Kevin Costner deserve an Oscar over GoodFellas? (Apparently, I'm not alone in remembering that).

Anyway, The Departed was a decent little movie, moves rapidly along, nothing too deep, nothing metaphorical. DiCaprio surprisingly good, Nicholson plays the same role he's played for 20 years, Matt Damon was better than I remembered.

The scurrying rat was totally lifted from the BBC mini-series, House of Cards (if not from elsewhere).

Oh, and it really was Van Morrison singing Comfortably Numb

“Comfortably Numb”
Written by David Gilmour and Roger Waters
Performed by Roger Waters, Van Morrison, The Band featuring Rick DiFonzo and Snowy White

Worth seeing? Sure, rent it, enjoy it, forget it.

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The Prestige

The Prestige
“The Prestige” (Christopher Nolan)

Shipped: The Prestige
At the dawn of the 20th century, rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are desperate to reveal each other's secrets. Obsessed by the escalating competition, the two illusionists begin to perform increasingly risky tricks -- which soon turn deadly. Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and David Bowie also star in this taut psychological thriller from director Christopher Nolan.

Quite enjoyed this, despite Scarlett Johansson not being a great actress (though she's quite fetching and pouty), and despite the movie being about 20 minutes too long . Christopher Nolan does love his puzzle films.

Nikola Tesla should be the subject of many more movies: such a fascinating character. David Bowie's portrayal? Interesting, though his accent bothered me. Apparently Chris Nolan's one and only cast choice to play Tesla.

Great mood, costumes and sets. Helps to be fascinated by magicians, as I am, but not necessary, especially since the plot insists upon a bit of suspended rationality. Figured out the twist about 2/3 of the way through the film, probably as intentioned by the Nolan brothers.

Will it win an Oscar in “Achievement in art direction” or “Achievement in cinematography”? Don't know, haven't seen any of the other nominees.


Credit card not accepted here

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Red snow at night

I always wondered what would happen if I tried to use a credit card to pay a cabdriver. All cabs (in Chicago) have a sign saying, “Credit cards accepted”, but I suspect they are not really welcomed. I'm sure there is a tax reason to be 'cash only' (hey, I supported myself and went to school as a waitron at Mag South for 5 years, I know the loopholes), I luckily have never been in a situation where I needed to pay with credit card. Ms. Magaña was not so fortunate.

Reporter alleges assault by cabbie over fare Connie Magaña, a Telemundo Chicago reporter, was covering an assignment this week and became news herself when a taxi driver allegedly assaulted her.

Magaña said she took a Yellow Cab Tuesday morning from the NBC building where she works, at 454 N. Columbus Dr., to the Cook County Jail at 2700 S. California Ave. Magaña said she handed the driver a corporate Yellow Card, which he refused to accept, she said. “He threw it back at me and demanded cash,” Magaña said.

According to Magaña, the cab driver tried to snatch the purse off her shoulder, knocking her against the glass divider between the driver's and passenger's seats.

The guy got fired for his trouble.

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links for 2007-02-23

Crotchety Old Man

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I think I know this guy, or at least his brother and/or father. Sam the Quarter Man lived on Baldwin Street when I was a boy in Toronto, and had an obsession with collecting quarters. He apparently had thousands of dollars worth when he died, he jingled when he walked. If a Baldwin Street shopkeeper (we had a leather craft store at the time) didn't give him a quarter when he asked, he'd get visibly annoyed. Always smoked big, smelly, cheap cigars, and was altogether foul mouthed and snarly. I vividly remember he put cigar ash on the forearm of my friend, Alice Burdick, sending her home in tears.

Willoughb Tower

Anyway, pointless personal anecdote notwithstanding, Robert Smith sounds like a relative of Sam the Quarter Man. Summary: two blind or nearly blind folk meet on the sidewalk, and play a game of chicken, with a few cane smacks thrown in for good measure.

globeandmail.com: Woman, 76, attacked with a cane – but she was able

Walburga Schaller is 76 years old, blind in one eye, has an artificial hip and severe arthritis, and walks with a cane. But she isn't afraid of a scrap. Just ask Robert Smith.

Ms. Schaller and Mr. Smith had never met until a spring afternoon in June, 2005, when they both set off on errands on the same west Toronto street. Ms. Schaller was going to the bank near her home and she took her usual path on the right-hand side of the sidewalk.
First came an exchange of insults, then obscenities.

Cherie Coyle, who lived nearby and watched the altercation, testified in court that Mr. Smith and Ms. Schaller soon began hitting each other with their canes, both landing several blows.

Finally, Mr. Smith walked around Ms. Schaller. As he went by, Ms. Schaller said he pushed her shoulder and she called him a “bastard.”

Mr. Smith then whacked her one last time with his cane near her collar bone, according to court files. He hit her so hard his cane shattered into pieces and Ms. Schaller fell to the ground. A bystander helped her up and called the police. Mr. Smith was arrested and charged with assault.

In court, Mr. Smith acknowledged hitting Ms. Schaller but insisted he was acting in self defence. He testified that he'd bought the cane that day for $14 “and that it was cheap and possibly filled with termites.”

...“He looked me straight in the eye and said ‘You old bitch, fuck yourself,'” Ms. Schaller said, recalling her testimony in court.

“I couldn't believe it. I was stunned. I never knew the guy. I never saw him in my life and I told him, ‘No, you fuck yourself.'”

According to the court file, Mr. Smith folded his arms, rested his cane on one arm and said: “I have all day.”

I do so love Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird, I could probably poach tales from it on a daily basis.


Gotta pay for CDs somehow

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Still buried in work, with work, under work, whichever cliché you choose. So, feast on these photos in the meantime.

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links for 2007-02-22

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HTML image license


This is actually an interesting idea: adding copyright info and/or Creative Commons info to the HTML code of images, and adding it to the (X)HTML specs. For myself, I don't mind a thumbnail image of mine being used, as long as I'm credited. If you come to my office, you'll see those same images on an endless slideshow anyway, and nobody pays me for viewing those either.

Garfield Chihuly

WIRED Blogs: Monkey Bites :

I spend a fair bit of time perusing the web for images to go with these posts and I generally limit my searches to Flickr because Flickr makes it easy to find Creative Commons Attribution Licensed work. Sometimes I remember that there’s actually a dedicated search engine for CC-licensed work, but neither of these solutions is optimal.
Now for the purpose of thumbnails on this blog, legally speaking, there is a good set of precedents that say thumbnails qualify as Fair Use. However, not only could that be challenged if someone was angry that I used their image, it doesn’t cover me if I want to use a full size picture.

Even removing legal concerns, the truth is, I just prefer to use CC licensed images because, well, I like to support and draw attention to the CC and reward the people who use it with back links from this site. I like sharing.

Google displays license information in the Code Search results — why not images?

Well for one thing, there’s no simple way for Google to figure out what license applies to an individual image. I suppose it could try to guess it from meta tag information, but often the content of page is governed by a different license than the images. Consider a forum page for instance, each member might have his own license for the images he posts and that license might differ from the one listed in the meta tag.

Which led me to this idea: the (X)HTML specs should add an attribute to specify the license governing a photograph.

Currently there are eleven attributes for the img tag, two required and nine optional. Frankly the tag is already bloated enough that I don’t think one more attribute is going to matter. Something as simple as lic=“license-abbr” would do wonders for image rights on the web.

Not only would a license attribute help image search engines, it would help protect copyrighted works by drawing attention to the fact that they are copyrighted.

I probably am guilty of using copyrighted images of news events, though I always add a link to the original story, but perhaps I'm skirting copyright law by doing so.

parenthetical note: Wired has an extremely annoying floating banner ad that blocks text. How techno-savvy is that? Sheesh.

Stupid Wired Ad

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Orifice News from All Over


I can only speak directly of my cellphone orifice, Verizon, but their software is horrible, their website is horrible, and my phone has a crippled version of Bluetooth, which won't sync with my Mac or my built-in car phone. Steve Jobs may be a megalomanic, but he was correct in fighting with the Telecoms to make the iPhone an Apple product, and not some crappy half-ass version. Well, not based on any hands on experience, of course. Yet.

How Steve Jobs Played Hardball In iPhone Birth - WSJ.com :

During a visit to Las Vegas last December for a rodeo event, Cingular Wireless chief executive Stan Sigman received a welcome guest: Steve Jobs.

The Apple Inc. chief stopped by Mr. Sigman's Four Seasons hotel suite to show off the iPhone, a sleek cellphone designed to surf the Web and double as an iPod music player.

The phone had been in development by Apple and Cingular for two years and was weeks away from being revealed to the world. And yet this was the first time Mr. Sigman got to see it. For three hours, Mr. Jobs played with the device, with its touch-screen that allows users to view contacts, dial numbers and flip through photos with the swipe of a finger. Mr. Sigman looked on in awe, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

Behind the scenes in the making of the iPhone, Apple bucked the rules of the cellphone industry by wresting control away from the normally powerful wireless carriers. These service providers usually hold enormous sway over how phones are developed and marketed -- controlling every detail from processing power to the various features that come with the phone.

Not so with Apple and Cingular. Only three executives at the carrier, which is now the wireless unit of AT&T Inc., got to see the iPhone before it was announced. Cingular agreed to leave its brand off the body of the phone. Upsetting some Cingular insiders, it also abandoned its usual insistence that phone makers carry its software for Web surfing, ringtones and other services. The deal also calls for Cingular to share with Apple a portion of the monthly revenues from subscribers, a person familiar with the matter says.

In another break with standard practice, the iPhone will have an exclusive retail network: The partners are making it available only through Cingular and Apple stores, as well as both companies' Web sites.

Mr. Jobs once referred to telecom operators as “orifices” that other companies, including phone makers, must go through to reach consumers. While meeting with Cingular and other wireless operators he often reminded them of his view.
Mr. Jobs flirted with other titans of the wireless industry but not everyone wanted to play ball. Talks with Verizon Wireless fell through. Mr. Sigman and other top Cingular executives were willing to cede control to Mr. Jobs and tolerate his digs at cellphone carriers, all for the privilege of being the exclusive U.S. provider of one of the most highly anticipated consumer electronics devices in years -- and to deny rivals a chance to do the same, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
While Mr. Jobs considered Cingular a logical choice as a partner to carry the device -- its GSM technology is the prevailing standard in much of the world -- Apple continued to shop its ideas to other carriers. Mr. Jobs reached out to Verizon Wireless chief executive Denny Strigl in the middle of 2005 and proposed a partnership with the carrier, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC. The companies held a few discussions over the next year, but the talks eventually soured.

There were a few sticking points. Verizon balked at the notion of cutting out its big retail partners, like Circuit City, who would not be allowed to sell the phone. And the company's chief marketing officer, John Stratton, was firm that Verizon wouldn't give up its ability to sell content like music and videos through its proprietary V Cast service, people familiar with the discussions say.

Stupid Verizon. VCast is just a ridiculous concept. D has already decided to drop Verizon and switch to Cingular when the iPhone launches.

Usually, carriers catch more than a glimpse of the products their handset partners are working on. They get to provide input on what applications or features might make the device more marketable.

Not this time. Several small teams within Cingular worked on the project, but each handled its own specific task without knowing what the other teams were up to. Employees had code-names for the project to avoid mentioning Apple by name, says a person familiar with the matter.

Cingular sent a team of technical personnel to Apple's offices to test the device, making it sure it would work on the carrier's network. That rigorous process is normal for the release of any phone. But this time, technicians weren't allowed to handle or see the actual phone. Instead, they were given access to a dummy version that would only allow them to do the necessary network tests.

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Whole Foods to Acquire Wild Oats

Wondered when this was going to happen. Suspect they've been in talks for quite some time. We used to shop at Sun Harvest in the 80's, and I've been a few times to the Wild Oats store in Evanston. Also, Peapod sells Wild Oats private label goods, I wonder what will happen to these?


Whole Foods to Acquire Wild Oats Whole Foods agreed to acquire Wild Oats Markets for about $565 million, greatly expanding the organic-grocery chain's footprint amid stiffer competition.

Wild Oats Markets has annual sales of about $1.2 billion. The company was founded in Boulder, Colo., in 1987 and currently operates 110 stores in 24 states and British Columbia. Its four store brands are Wild Oats Marketplace, Henry's Farmers Market in Southern California, Sun Harvest in Texas and Capers Community Market in British Columbia.

Whole Foods had sales of $5.6 billion in fiscal 2006 and currently has 191 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

John Mackey, chairman and chief executive of Whole Foods Market, said the acquisition “is a great geographical fit as all of our 11 operating regions will gain stores and three of our smallest regions -- our Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain and Florida regions -- will gain critical mass.” He said the company “will also gain immediate access into a significant number of new markets.”

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Brazilian Crooner

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If I ever label some singer/song-writer as the _insert cliché Dylan or the next Dylan, please shoot me with formaldehyde bullets. Or take away my internet-tube access, or fart in my general direction. Or something drastic. I don't know about you, but whenever I read an opening paragraph that uses that particular snowclone, I grit my teeth, and often stop reading. Human DNA is complex enough that nobody is like anybody else. We are all similar, some more than others, but no more than that.

Rant aside, Caetano Veloso has made some spectacular music, and some absolute crap. Always an interesting man though. This album sounds fun:

“Cê” (Caetano Veloso)

Caetano Veloso's Cê: Brazilian Crooner Ain't Suitable for Framing Just Yet “Brazil's Dylan” is the hack's tag for Caetano Veloso. Sure, he was the voice of his generation and weathered the attendant rhetorical junk, but while Dylan played at myth, Caetano became the golden boy incarnate for his country's most influential avant-garde movement, Tropicália. Dylan never held a gun to his own head on television and didn't go to jail for his art. Revolutionaries, though, are easier to love when pried from history and cramped . . . read more (By Mike Powell)

(hmm, Voice link seems to be broken. I'll check later)

Don McLeese writes:

The adventurous veteran rarely fails to surprise, as Caetano Veloso continues to confound the easy-listening expectations that surround Brazilian music. Co-produced by Veloso's son, Moreno, and featuring the crisp, edgy backing of a band of three musicians a generation younger than Caetano, this is his version of a rock album. The freshness of the arrangements appeals throughout, from the propulsive “Rocks” with its frenetic guitar break through the tom-tom throb and call-and-response vocals of “Waly Salomão” and the spoken word, soaring harmonies, and art-house atmospherics of the closing “O Herói” (“The Hero”). Yet the supple vocals, languid balladry, and seductive sensuality (at times so lyrically explicit in translation it might make Prince blush) render this very much a Veloso album above all else.



Wild Flowers 2

Our company's shared work-related network drive (7.5 gigs of data) currently has 107 files and folders at its root level, though yesterday it had 149 before I spent some time consolidating redundancies and filing things. We try to label each folder by either company name or by category (consulting, contracts, invoices), with one folder marked 'Inactive clients“. Folders that get opened frequently live in the finder bar, and when I think about it, I give them custom icons to aid recall. Within each folder, we have several sub-categories (by year, by project), if merited. Since we still use an older version of Micro$oft Office (vX), our file names are limited to a certain number of characters, so usually only include Client_Project_Date. Files created in Pages, or PDF articles saved from the web can have more useful, longer titles.

Our network drive has existed (on various computers) since System 7.1, so we built it before Spotlight keyword searching was a possibility. Still, makes it easier to search for specific items if the file structure hierarchy is consistent, as only occasionally do we take the time to add additional metadata.

Joe Kissell (of Tidbits) has some additional thoughts about the topic:

Macworld: Feature: Finesse your files

The first step in reducing clutter is to devise a system for managing the files you create and download. How extensive this system needs to be will depend on your organizational strategy. Some people prefer to set aside specific places for everything in an elaborate system of nested folders, while others create broader filing systems and rely instead on search tools to locate what they want. Whichever approach you take, consider the following tips.

(blog title from Taxi Driver, of course)

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links for 2007-02-21

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Minnesota hates Wine


Historically anyway. I was under the (mistaken) assumption that Minnesota was a liberal place.

DaVinci Wine (or Whine, depending)

Minnesota Wine Sale Proposal Gains Steam :

State Sen. Linda Scheid, D-Brooklyn Park, and Rep. Phyllis Kahn, D-Minneapolis, introduced the “Wine With Dinner” bill in the State Capitol here that, if passed, would allow consumers to buy wine at grocery stores in Minnesota. “Consumers don’t understand why they can buy a bottle of wine with their other dinner items at supermarkets in 33 states, including Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota, yet they can’t do it here,” Scheid said. “Wine With Dinner will give Minnesotans the convenience, choice and lower prices that consumers in other states have enjoyed for years.” The bill would allow only grocery stores with at least 8,000 square feet of retail space to sell wine. An independent, scientific study conducted by Decision Resources, Minneapolis, showed that Minnesotans support Wine With Dinner by a margin of 68% to 31%, according to the Minnesota Grocers Association. “It’s time to change our 70-year-old liquor laws so they protect consumers, not higher liquor profits,” Kahn said.

I assume a hold-over from the dour, religious Minnesota that drove Bob Dylan (and others) away. Wine should be an intrinsic part of meal planning, not a speciality item only available at liquor stores, and controlled by an obsessive government.

Al Franken ought to make this reform part of his platform.

update: Minnesota hates mushrooms too, apparently.

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Orange You Glad

Orange you glad you read about this story?

Orange Crush

In Italian town, civics lesson from annual orange battles - International Herald Tribune :

IVREA, Italy: For the uninitiated, the annual orange battles of Ivrea in northern Italy are a lesson in both physics — the impact of the thrown fruit as it hits the flesh — and the history of this medieval town and its need to act out a legendary tale of civic rebellion in such a bruising fashion.

(Slideshow of the 2007 festival, plus some older photos of the festival, and some Flickr photos)

“It's a bit masochistic,” admitted Elisabetta Dottelli, 20, an Ivrea native and a member of one of the participating teams, during a short lull in fighting at Piazza P. Ottinetti, one of five major battlegrounds. She was referring to the Historic Carnival of Ivrea, the three-day orange-throwing festival set here to mark the celebration before Lent.

Within moments, fighting would resume and the sky above would be filled, yet again, with a hailstorm of oranges.

The carnival is a bizarre and messy affair and, like most everything in Italy, has a long story behind it. One version has it that feudal lords gave pots of beans to the poor, who began throwing the beans back into the streets out of disrespect for such meager charity.

But a far more interesting account tells of a population incited to rebellion by the violent act of a woman who, as the yarn goes, was only protecting her honor. That woman was Violetta, a young commoner who presented the head of the local tyrant — Marquis Raineri de Biandrate — to her fellow citizens from the castle balcony after he tried to steal her virginity on the eve of her wedding.

This practice of noblemen claiming a right to enjoy a betrothed woman before her husband did was certainly not exclusive to this place. But it is said to have been exercised quite regularly by that marquis, much to the chagrin of the women and their families. The citizens, empowered by Violetta's defiance, stormed the castle and burned it to the ground.

The carnival is rich in costumes, music and symbolism. The oranges of the Ivrea battles represent the head of the marquis. The pulp and juice are his blood.

“It's a festival that represents the people against any type of oppressive power,” said Roberto Vola, 43, as he tried to speak over the roll of kettle-drums and the blare of techno music.

Indeed, hundreds of women defied the Italian stereotype of the image-conscious beauty and showed their willingness to mix it up at an event that seemed more akin to pledging a fraternity.

“Our mothers were a bit more closed, like all the rest of the women in the world,” Dottelli said. “But slowly we realized we could do all the things boys could do. The boys are better” at attacking, she said, “but they are also a bit foolish.”

The orange battle structure breaks down like this: representing the rebellious citizenry, there are thousands of “throwers,” who are divided into teams and who patrol their designated turfs — one of the five battleground piazzas. They are armed with endless crates of Sicilian and Calabrian oranges, and their aim is to wage repeated battles with any of the horse-drawn carts that pull into their respective piazzas.

Inside each cart, there are six people designated as castle defenders, outfitted in helmets and pads. The defenders volunteer for the role and sometimes serve on one side one year and the other side another. The horses are not supposed to be targets, but they are hardly safe.

“If you are born here it's in your heart, and I will do it for as long as my body allows it,” said Mario Bianchi, 55, a defender with the Ace of Spades team.

Bianchi's appearance suggested that his state of being was already precarious: his forehead had been sliced open and blood dripped down his face, mixing with the pulp of a blood orange.

Three years ago, Bianchi said, he was forced to have eye surgery after receiving a direct hit.

At the end of the carnival, awards are handed out to the top performing teams by judges who patrol the piazzas and the defenders themselves. But as many participants said during the day, while there is pride in winning, what this is really about is the celebration.

At dusk, as the fighting slowly ebbed, and visitors and participants alike trudged away through the pulpy mass that covered the streets, to eat or rest up for the next day.

As Bianchi, the defender, explained it: “It's not violent, but it is a way to release your own inner violence. You come out here and you get it all out, and for next three months you're fine.”

(link via the proto-blogger, Chuck Shepherd, on his fancy-schmancy new daily email digest.)

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IMDb Redesign

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IMDb has looked the same for nearly a decade, this morning I noticed massive changes of their template and website. Is the redesign worth it?
Gotta pay those web designers for something!

Hmmm, I think the font is a little small, but that's easily corrected. There could be more advertising, but can't really argue: the majority of content is still free.

For instance, Coppola's wife (ex-wife?), wonderful documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, unfortunately not available on DVD.

the FAQ has more -
Name and Title Page Redesign FAQ

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links for 2007-02-20

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The Dauphin's experience as a cheerleader and frat boy at Harvard/Yale has shaped his personality in peculiar ways.

Rush Hour blues
This Modern World » Blog Archive » George Bush is exactly who you think he is

A few months ago a book called Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait came out. It’s by the late Uri Dan, who was Sharon’s longtime confidant/bootlicker. ...

From a new review in Ha’aretz:

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon’s delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: “I will screw him in the ass!”

I guess Bush and bin Laden do know each other...

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so fracking annoying

Trash Can Montrose

This morning, over 300 spam comments to this blog greeted me over morning coffee. There's got to be a better way to screen comments without me having to manually approve each one.

Most of this batch of spam comments don't even have a common element (well, a bunch have a toyota Rav4 link in the URL) that I can block using keyword anti-spam tools. Such a freaking waste of everyone's time, and even momentarily crashes my server deleting them all.


I've got to find some additional anti-spam plugin or reconfigure my comments, or something.

752 by 10 pm. That's a lot of frackin' spam. Sort of sucks the joy out of getting comments, right?

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Bush wants to kill your kids

Oh, what's a little lead in your sandwich anyway? You'd think the Bush Administration only appoints industry insiders to high level governmental posts like the CPSC. Errr, well.

Data on lead levels not used in report

In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunch boxes, they found that 1 in 5 contained amounts of lead that medical specialists consider unsafe -- and several had more than 10 times the hazardous levels.

But that's not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that it found “no instances of hazardous levels.” And it refused to release its test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.

That data were not made public until the Associated Press received a box of about 1,500 pages of laboratory reports, in-house e-mails, and other records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed a year ago.

The documents describe two types of tests. One involves cutting a chunk of vinyl off the bag, dissolving it, and then analyzing how much lead is in the solution; the second test involves swiping the surface of a bag and then determining how much lead has rubbed off.

The results of the first type of test, looking for the lead content of the vinyl, showed that 20 percent of the bags had more than 600 parts per million of lead -- the federal safe level for paint and other products. The highest level was 9,600 parts per million , more than 16 times the federal standard. But the safety commission did not use those results.

...the safety commission focused exclusively on how much lead came off the surface of a lunch box when lab workers swiped them.

For the swipe tests, the results were lower, especially after the researchers changed their testing protocol.
After a handful of tests, they increased the number of times they swiped each bag, again and again on the same spot, resulting in lower average results.

“We thought more wipes was closer to reflecting how you would interact with your lunch box. It was more realistic,” Vallese said.

The test results also show that many lunch boxes were tested only on the outside, which is unlikely to be in contact with food. Vallese said this was because children handle their lunch boxes from the outside.

Of course, when outside scientists examined the results, they were not so sanguine.

“They found levels that we consider very high,” said Alexa Engelman, a researcher at the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., which has filed legal complaints about lead in lunchboxes

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links for 2007-02-19

Bill Maher

Frequently Bill Maher irks me with his clichéd, cruelty-based jokes, on the other hand, he can be an astute political commentator, parsing situations in an amusing manner. We do watch his show (eventually, via the time-shifting machine), and are happy he's back on the air. Plus, he suggested we get a volcano.

Anyway, in an interview with Joan Walsh of Salon, Maher says of HRC, and Bill:
Salon.com Arts & Entertainment | Real talk with Bill Maher

I think [Hillary Clinton would] make a fine president. I've never been convinced that she could win a general election. I think, in many ways, she would be the worst of both worlds for the Democrats, because she is basically a centrist. So she's going to constantly be tacking to the right. She's going to constantly be trying to fish in that pond of votes that I don't think ever bears fruit for the Democrats ... You remember John Kerry in the duck-hunting outfit, Harold Ford with the Ten Commandments?

Joan Walsh: And on Election Day he was standing there with an Elmer Fudd camouflage hunting cap, and I was like, “It's over, Harold. It's not just the [GOP commercial about] white women; it's the pandering.”

Right, the pandering. So I think she's going to wind up pissing off her base, and of course she will never, ever win over that red state crowd that I guess she's going after. I can't see those people ever voting for Mrs. Blow Job.

Do you think she's evolved at all? When you look at her, do you think she's developed or matured as a candidate?

I think she's who she always was; I think people are getting to know her more. I think the more people get to know her, if she would stick to some principles, they'd really like her. Because I think she's a very effective administrator. The Clintons have a reputation for a number of things that baffles me. Yes, he's got a wandering eye, and yes, he's oversexed or whatever. But really, Bill Clinton is a policy wonk. He's the kind of guy who gets into the details of it, and so is she.


Government -- they used to teach it in college. It's actually something you should study and learn and know how to do. The Republicans always run on the idea that government isn't very effective. Well, not the way you do it. But it can be effective.

Does anyone doubt that if Bill Clinton was president during the Katrina storm that he would have been on top of that? He would have been all over that situation ... He would have had the right people. He would not have slept for a week. That's the kind of guy he was.

He would have been out in a boat, getting people off the roofs.

I'm not saying there wouldn't have been problems -- it was a storm -- but as well as it could have been handled, he'd handle it. These people know how to do government; that is their passion. And it is something that can actually be done effectively.

What we're seeing with the Bush administration is that when you outsource government jobs to private contractors, both here and in Iraq, that's where the trouble is -- those are the people who are greedy and unchecked and corrupt and inefficient.

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links for 2007-02-18

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links for 2007-02-17

CIA kidnap trial

Right-wingers have watched too many hours of Fox's 24, have internalized torture-porn, and for some reason think information gleaned via torture will be worth the cost to America's international prestige. Sickening. The agents involved, and their bosses who greenlighted this travesty, should face life in prison, in Egypt and/or Syria, or worse.

CIA agents face kidnap trial in Italy over alleged rendition flight Italian judge orders 26 Americans to stand trial on charges of flying a man to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

The Milan judge set a trial date for June 8. Prosecutors allege that five Italian intelligence officials worked with the Americans to abduct Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street in February 2003.

The Americans will almost certainly be tried in absentia.

The US intelligence agency may also have operated secret jails for terrorism suspects at US military bases around Europe, according to the report. Several member states were criticised for a “lack of cooperation” and the committee accused Britain, Austria, Italy, Poland and Portugal of showing an obstructive attitude.
The Bush administration acknowledges the secret transfer of suspects to foreign countries, but denies torturing them or handing them to countries that did.

A Munich court last month issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA agents accused of kidnapping Khaled el-Masri, a German national of Lebanese descent.

Mr Masri, who spent five months in an Afghan jail where he said he was tortured, wants to sue the CIA.

Last year, the German parliament set up a special committee to investigate the alleged “renditions” of Mr Masri and of Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turk. Mr Kurnaz spent nearly five years in Guantánamo Bay where he said he was tortured and abused.

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Scottie Pippen comeback!

As I've mentioned before Pippen was my favorite player of the championship era Bulls, and second only to Arvydas Slowbonis on a good Portland Trailblazer Team. What is it with athletes who think they can play forever?

Actually though, if what Sam Smith says is true, Pippen sounds like he actually could play a few minutes a game. Just, please Scottie, don't play for an Eastern Conference team (like the fracking Miami Heat, or the boring Cleveland Lebrons)! I wouldn't mind if you played for Phoenix, or even the Lakers with Zen Maestro Jackson to burnish up your coaching creditionals. But don't play for Pat Riley, that thug!

Alien Hoopsters 6 on 6

Pippen comeback? Great Scottie!

He's back. Almost.
It's not quite the impact of Michael Jordan's famous two-word return to basketball in 1995, but Scottie Pippen is seriously considering a comeback and hopes to play for a contending team in this season's playoffs.

Pippen, who turned 41 on Sept. 25, says he's in better condition and health than at any time in the last five years. And in the Eastern Conference, his veteran presence could change the balance of power and be a major influence in the playoffs. Or he might be the long-sought backup to relieve the pressure on the Suns' Steve Nash. The possibilities are intriguing.
“I'm thinking of trying to come back for the playoffs,” Pippen said. “Something like the last two months of the season, somewhere I can come back and play limited minutes to start, play point forward for someone and build toward the playoffs. It's something I've been thinking about for the last three months.”

“Being out of the game, my body feels great,” Pippen said, adding that his body fat is at an all-time low 5 percent and he's at his top playing weight of about 220 pounds.

“Taking this break, it feels amazing. I'm looking at somewhere I could play maybe 15 minutes. I'm not trying to be a big-money guy or anything, [just trying to] get with a team I can help in the playoffs.

”My knee is good,“ Pippen said. ”I've been working out regularly, doing drills. I see my body like guys like Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar, who played till he was 42) and Robert Parish (who played until just short of 44). My body is lanky and flexible like theirs. That gives me some hope I can do it.

“I'm moving good. I feel pretty fast and you don't forget the game. I watch and see so many young guys who don't know how to run a team and I feel I could help someone.”

Pippen wants to move into coaching and said his ideal situation would be to serve as a player-coach. He believes his experience running Phil Jackson's Bulls offense and as the leader of good Trail Blazers teams in the late 1990s gives him a step up in coaching.

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Afghan Battle unfinished

Iraq may be fucked up, but the original site of the Bush Administration's War on Terror, Afghanistan, is still a war zone, 5 (6?) years later. Good thing we withdrew troops from Afghanistan to find WMD in Iraq.

Pressing Allies, President Warns of Afghan Battle :

President Bush on Thursday pressed NATO allies to provide a bigger and more aggressive force to protect the fragile Afghan state.

President Bush warned on Thursday that he expected “fierce fighting” to flare in Afghanistan this spring, and he pressed NATO allies to provide a bigger and more ag.gressive force to guard against a resurgence by the Taliban and Al Qaeda that could threaten the fragile Afghan state.
The remarks, to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization here, amounted to an unusually high-profile acknowledgment from Mr. Bush of the precarious state of the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a country the administration long held up as a foreign policy success story.

Incompetent, much?

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links for 2007-02-16

Akira Kurosawa - Rashomon

If you've never seen this movie, you should watch this Google video stream, or better yet, download the public domain version available at Archive.com (or purchase the Criterion Collection HD digital transfer, like I have). Such a spectacular movie, one of those rare films that can withstand multiple viewings.

Rashomon - Criterion Collection
“Rashomon - Criterion Collection” (Criterion)

Akira Kurosawa - Rashomon License: Public Domain (note: In July 2006, a Japanese court ruled that all movies produced prior to 1953 were to be made available into the public domain)

The film depicts a rape and murder through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses, including the perpetrator and, through a medium, the murder victim. The story unfolds in flashback as the four characters—the bandit Tajōmaru (Toshiro Mifune), the murdered samurai Kanazawa-no-Takehiro (Masayuki Mori), his wife Masago (Machiko Kyō), and the nameless Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura)—recount the events of one afternoon in a grove. But it is also a flashback within a flashback, because the accounts of the witnesses are being retold by a woodcutter and a priest to a ribald commoner. Each story is mutually contradictory, leaving the viewer unable to determine the truth of the events.

The film has an unusual narrative structure that reflects the impossibility of obtaining the truth about an event when there are conflicting witness accounts. In English and other languages, ‘Rashomon’ has become a byword for any situation in which the truth of an event is difficult to verify due to the conflicting accounts of different witnesses.
The film won a Golden Lion Award at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, and is widely credited to have introduced both Kurosawa and Japanese cinema to Western audiences. The film pioneered several cinematographic techniques, such as shooting directly into the sun and using mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the actor’s faces. The film is also notable as an instance in which the camera “acts” or plays an active and important role in the story or its symbolism.

In the film Inside the Edges, German filmmaker Werner Herzog said that Rashomon is the closest to “perfect” a film can get.

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Hightower MPP video

Zoo grass

shamelessly pilfered from the brainiacs is this Jim Hightower narrated flash anti-drug-war video


Image of HIV

I hate these sort of breathless yet terse news releases. I want to know more, please.

Image of HIV Could Lead to Vaccine - WSJ.com : Scientists have captured an image of the AIDS virus in a biological handshake with the immune cells it attacks. They said they hope this can help lead to a better vaccine against the incurable disease.

They pinpointed a place on the outside of the human immunodeficiency virus that could be vulnerable to antibodies that could block it from infecting human cells.

National Institutes of Health researcher Peter Kwong said the study, published in the journal Nature, may reveal HIV's long-sought “site of vulnerability” that can be targeted with a vaccine aimed at preventing initial infection.

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Frogmarch trial

Sid Blumenthal has been paying close attention to the Libby trial that, for some reason, hasn't played out on the front pages of the nations newspapers and news magazines. Well, Anna Nichole Smith did die....

Libby's cynical defense | Salon.com :

Throughout the anxious months before the trial of United States v. I. Lewis Libby, one of Scooter Libby's old mentors, a prominent Washington attorney and Republican with experience going back to the Watergate scandal and with intimate ties to neoconservatives, implored him repeatedly to stop covering up for Vice President Cheney and to cut a deal with the special prosecutor. Yet another distinguished Washington lawyer and personal friend of Libby's, privy to the mentor's counsel, reinforced his urgent advice and offered to provide Libby with introductions to former prosecutors who might help guide him. But Libby rebuffed them. He refused to listen. He insisted on the trial.

This Tuesday, Theodore Wells, Libby's chief defense lawyer, abruptly announced that neither Cheney nor Libby would testify on his behalf. In effect, the defense was resting. Did his own lawyers mistrust Libby on the stand? Would he lie and prompt another count of indictment? Would Cheney, indisputably the director of the campaign against former ambassador Joseph Wilson, be stepping into a perjury trap or open the door to conspiracy charges implicit from the beginning? Those questions, along with their testimony, remain moot.

According to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby's case amounts to an attempt at “jury nullification.” Libby is charged with five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about where he learned the identity of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame (Wilson's wife) and to whom he spread that information. Fitzgerald presented two government officials, former CIA officer Robert Grenier and State Department official Marc Grossman, who swore they were the first to inform Libby. Libby was in pursuit of that information, Fitzgerald further revealed through testimony from past and present Bush administration officials, because the vice president had tasked him to find and spread it. And Libby also passed on the information to Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, to get him to pass it on to the press. Three reporters, Matt Cooper (then at Time magazine), Judith Miller (then at the New York Times) and NBC's Tim Russert, testified that Libby had conveyed to them the information about Plame. Fitzgerald's prosecution was well honed, unadorned and a straight arrow.

Libby's defense was the legal equivalent of the fog of war. He sought to obfuscate the clarity of the prosecution's case by raising irrelevant issues, turning the jury's attention away from the charges themselves and creating doubt by getting witnesses to admit small lapses of memory, thereby underlining Libby's memory defense. So Libby's lawyers highlighted Cooper's incomplete note taking, whether Miller raised the issue of writing a piece based on Libby's information, and whether Russert followed strict journalistic protocol when he spoke freely to the FBI. Libby's team also summoned a parade of reporters to relate that Libby had not dropped Plame's name with them. By demonstrating a negative, Libby sought to dispute a positive. The intent to sow confusion among the jurors in order to raise a shadow of a doubt and produce an acquittal partly depended on their ignorance of Washington anthropology.

The next day, instead of calling Cheney, Libby's team put John Hannah, a neoconservative Middle East policy analyst on the vice president's staff, on the stand. For two hours, Hannah held forth on Libby's forgetfulness and the overwhelming crush of his job. Hannah was Cheney's stand-in, but without Cheney's enormous potential liabilities that might be explored through cross-examination. Hannah's role was to be the first-person witness to buttress Libby's memory defense.

Yet, under cross-examination by Fitzgerald, Hannah was cracked apart in a matter of minutes. Fitzgerald asked him whether defending Cheney in the media was an important part of Libby's job. “It would be important to push back on those issues, yes,” Hannah said. Fitzgerald then got Hannah to acknowledge that getting Libby to give up an hour's worth of his time, given his heavy load of work, would be difficult. Fitzgerald zeroed in on Libby's two long meetings in the St. Regis Hotel's dining room on June 23 and July 8, 2003. “So, during the time of all these threats if he gave someone an hour or two of his time ... it was something Mr. Libby would think was important, correct?” Fitzgerald asked. Hannah answered that it was. “Is it fair to say that what was important to the vice president was important to Mr. Libby?” Fitzgerald asked. “Yes, that's correct,” Hannah replied.

But the demolition of Hannah was not done. A juror had a question, posed to the witness by the judge: Aside from Libby's difficulty with memory, did it lead him to have concerns about his effectiveness? “Never,” said Hannah. The barbed question was a sharp indication of at least one juror's cynicism about Libby's defense.

On Wednesday, the next day, Judge Walton ruled that Libby's lawyers had misled the court into believing that Libby would testify in his own behalf. Walton, therefore, disallowed admission into court of questioning of Libby's CIA briefers, who would supposedly show how busy Libby was, another element of his effort to confuse the jury. Undoubtedly, Walton's displeasure at Libby's refusal to testify will shape the instructions he gives to the jurors.

more here (daypass required)

Pardons anyone?

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links for 2007-02-15

Depressing Mediocrity

Ms. WIlliams' newest album has consistently been getting poor reviews. Even Rolling TeenybopperStone ripped it, although inexplicably still rating it four stars. Her first three albums were all spectacular, but of all releases since Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the only one I've consistently liked after repeated listens is Live at Fillmore

Live @ The Fillmore

“Live @ The Fillmore” (Lucinda Williams)

“West” (Lucinda Williams)

Lucinda Williams's 100 West: Lucinda Williams Tries Her Hand at Depressing Mediocrity
No Depression goddess tries her hand at depressing mediocrity.

The most powerful introduction to Lucinda Williams's new record comes not from the languid, repetitive opener “Are You Alright?” but from the liner-note inscription by her poet father, Miller Williams: “You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” As one of the past decade's most esteemed songwriters, Lucinda's strong suit has always been finding such ulterior junctures, whether we catch a glimpse of them through her kitchen window while “Loretta's singin' on the radio” or in her bedroom as she lies on her back to “moan at the ceiling.”

What's disappointing about the majority of West—most its songs addressing the loss of a lover and the passing of Lucinda's mother—is the scarcity of such confidential details.


The Wire is bad-ass

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Containing nothing you probably didn't already know, but still interesting to read an American's explanation of The Wire to a (mostly) British audience.

The Wire - The Complete Third Season
“The Wire - The Complete Third Season” (HBO Home Video)

I feel like I know Baltimore better than I do. I especially dig the big city political corruption themes of seasons 3 and 4 (not yet available on DVD), they seem so familiar....

A show of honesty

Kevin Carey: In an age of trashy entertainment, The Wire stands out as the greatest programme ever produced for American television.

We Americans like to believe that we live in the land of opportunity, that capitalism serves as a solvent to class barriers, and that we have finally begun to atone for the nation's historic racial crimes.

There is truth in each of these beliefs, but there are also terrible lies, and the truth of our dishonesty has never been made so clear as in The Wire, the greatest programme ever produced for American television.

Set in the drug-ravaged ruins of Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire attempts to tell nothing less than the central story of the modern age: the struggle of individuals to maintain their identity and integrity in the face of relentlessly dehumanising institutions.

The first season, broadcast in 2002, focused on workers and leaders in the flourishing West Baltimore drug trade and the beleaguered city police department. Subsequent seasons expanded the cast to include unionised dockworkers threatened by deindustrialisation and politicians driven by ambition and corruption in equal measure.

The fourth and probably finest season, which recently concluded in the US, added four black boys on the brink of adolescence to the mix. Ill-served by a broken school system, each struggles in his own way to hold on to friendship and a future while resisting the lures of the only truly functional, rational institutions in their lives: drug gangs. The result is bracing, shattering drama.

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Climate Change


As we said last week, we think global warming should be renamed to the less specific term, global climate change. The next faux quipster who makes a joke about the recent cold snap and Al Gore might get an elbow to the mandible.

Eric Zorn seems to agree with me, albeit with less violent intent.

Chicago Tribune | Eric Zorn

Yet in these last few chilly, snowy days and weeks I've heard and read dozens of people making wry comments and jokes to the effect of, “Where's Al Gore and his global warming now? Guess this tosses his chicken little theories into a cocked hat, doesn't it?”

As if this makes any sense at all. As if global climate change -- the overall warming trend that virtually no serious climatologist disputes -- has anything at all to do with episodic cold snaps and snow storms.

You don't even have to believe in global warming and you certainly don't have to believe that it's exacerbated by humans to know that climate change is a gradual and comparatively subtle phenomenon.

The jokes might be funny if they were pure jokes -- hey, this is what a complete moron would say during a cold snap, ha ha ha!

But they're not.

Didn't anyone see Day After Tomorrow?

The Day After Tomorrow (Widescreen Edition)
“The Day After Tomorrow (Widescreen Edition)” (Roland Emmerich)

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Phil Jackson is cool


Even if he does coach the Lakers, Phil Jackson is the sort of cerebral quirky boss that makes the NBA entertaining. Especially when contrasted to the wreck of the Dolan-ettes.

Unlike the Knicks’ Censors, Jackson Likes Being Frank - New York Times

[Phil] Jackson has a penchant for brutal honesty and a zest for tweaking his players through the news media. This season, he has derided Lakers center Kwame Brown for having “butterfingers,” dubbed forward Vladimir Radmanovic “a space cadet” and generally bemoaned his players’ lack of interest in reading by suggesting they would rather “play video games and watch porn movies.”
“I think the best policy is honesty,” Jackson said in an interview Tuesday morning, hours before the Lakers played the Knicks at Staples Center.

It is an interesting policy to consider, given that two years ago Jackson interviewed with the Knicks, who forbid their coaches to speak freely and discourage them from uttering a controversial word.

In general, Knicks players and coaches are ordered not to make negative comments about one another, or the organization. They are strongly discouraged from even granting interviews without a public-relations person present.

Whenever the coach and team president Isiah Thomas speaks, a staff member is perched nearby, typing his comments into a mobile device — with the comments to be sent later to officials at Madison Square Garden.

“I feel like I’m relatively persuasive, even though I’m not a good politicker,” said Jackson, who spoke in a quiet room with one reporter and no public-relations person within 200 feet. “But I’m relatively persuasive. I think when you explain an open, honest policy, I think that it always works better than a closed, narrow one. But that’s corporate jargon right now, and the Knicks are corporate.”

Jackson said the Garden’s rules on dealing with reporters never came up during his lengthy interview with Thomas in April 2005. But he was told that Knicks coaches — the head coach and the assistants — were expected to dress alike, even at practice.

“I said, ‘Well, my coaching staff likes to wear their sweats and I like to wear jeans when I coach a practice,’ ” Jackson recalled. “He said, ‘Well, then, everybody would be wearing jeans and what you wear.’ I said, ‘I kind of like individuality at some level.’ But that’s the only thing that gave me pause.”

There is no telling how Dolan and his army of public-relations staff members would have reacted to Jackson’s daily press briefings if Jackson had agreed to coach the Knicks. But given Dolan’s reputation for heavy-handedness, it seems reasonable to assume that the staffers would be hiding under their desks after every interview. Consider some of Jackson’s comments this season.

¶After Kwame Brown had three turnovers down the stretch of a triple-overtime loss to Charlotte, Jackson said, “We’re going to feed him Butterfingers on the flight home just so he can feel the effects of it.”

¶In addressing the struggles of Radmanovic, who signed a $30.2 million deal with the Lakers last summer, Jackson said: “He’s a space cadet. He could be on Mars. I know it’s not on Venus, but he could be on Mars.”

This has come in a season in which the Lakers (30-22) are again one of the elite teams in the league. Contrast that with the Knicks (22-29), whose policy seems to be taken from “Home on the Range” — never is heard a discouraging word.
Jackson said there was a method to his verbal madness, and he referred to his “space cadet” remark as an example. Jackson expressed affection for Radmanovic, but said that “sometimes he plays a game in which some of his shots don’t make any sense.”

“And to use the little ‘space cadet’ term, which caught on, kind of gave him some liberty with our fans — O.K., this guy is a little out there sometimes, but we’re trying to work at him to come back in,” he said. “I think it buys players actual grace or liberties, so that we know their fallibility, they’re dealing with their fallibility, and we’re trying to help them get through.”

“When you’re not honest, I think you run into Bush-itis,” Jackson added, veering into the sort of political commentary that would also make Garden officials shudder.

Yes, James Dolan's crew and George Bush's crew, are from the same mold - a slime mold.

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Gun Crazy

Gun Crazy
“Gun Crazy” (Joseph H. Lewis)

aka Deadly is the Female. Nothing sexist there.
Netflix: Gun Crazy Shockingly dark and brutal for its time, this drama was directed by Joseph H. Lewis and stars Peggy Cummins and John Dall. A searing forerunner to Bonnie and Clyde, the film tells the story of a gun-obsessed twosome who meet at a carnival, run off to get married and then commit a string of daring robberies across the country. The screenplay was adapted by Dalton Trumbo from novelist MacKinlay Kantor's magazine article.

3 stars.

Mid-level noir, somewhat predictable. Interesting cinematography, quite rich B&W. As I've lamented before, such a shame that contemporary film doesn't ever look like this.

Women daring to wear slacks as a plot point, twice! Pasta-fazul, 1949 America seems like it is another universe. Lead actor (John Dall) from Hitchcock's Rope (Brandon Shaw), basically a reprise of the same mannerisms.


The bank heist sequence was done entirely in one take, with no one outside the principal actors and people inside the bank aware that a movie was being filmed. When John Dall as Bart Tare says, “I hope we find a parking space,” he really meant it, as there was no guarantee that there would be one. In addition, at the end of the sequence someone in the background screams that there's been a bank robbery - this was actually a bystander who saw the filming and assumed the worst.

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Not Altman's best


Dr. T & the Women
“Dr. T & the Women” (Robert Altman)

Dr. T & the Women Wealthy, successful gynecologist Sullivan Travis (Richard Gere) loves his seemingly perfect life. Unfortunately, his wife has a sudden mental breakdown, his lesbian daughter prepares to tie the knot with a man, daughter No. 2 obsesses over conspiracies, and his sister-in-law imbibes a gallon or two of champagne daily. Luckily, Travis discovers a woman (Helen Hunt) who may hold the answers to his problems.

1.5 stars.

Meh. Altman and his cast of dozens, mostly women. The characters flail about in a banal, Dallas life, talking too much, dressed like over-dressed sparrow-farts ( borrowing Vonnegut's phrase from somewhere). A 42 minute made-for-network-television dramedy, stretched out to tedious lengths. The last 20 minutes was ok, but the majority of the previous scenes of cacophony were entirely unnecessary.

I've dated 3 women from Dallas, so perhaps I'm biased, but if there is a more depressing major metropolitan city in America, I don't know of it. Dallas sucks.

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Habeas Corpus might return


Public Housing For The Birds

Could our nation's descent into banana Republic status be stemmed? Or is it just a feeble last gasp of our constitutional democracy?

TPMmuckraker February 12, 2007 06:07 PM Word comes down that tomorrow Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are going to introduce a bill to radically reform the constitutionally-challenged system of terrorism detainee prosecutions. Known as the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, the bill, according to Dodd, would reintroduce habeas corpus protections to Guantanamo Bay detainees; create an independent court review to military commission rulings; and bar information obtained through “coercion” (read: torture); among other provisions.

Whether Dodd and Menendez's legal fix will pass is unclear. It essentially reverses the Bush administration's favored Military Commissions Act of last year, which stripped habeas rights from terrorism detainees -- and passed the Senate with 65 votes.

The bill would almost certainly face a veto from the White House. But with civil liberties lawyers gearing up for a litany of legal challenges to the MCA's constitutionality, Dodd and Menendez might have an opening.

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links for 2007-02-14

True Hoop bought by ESPN

Speaking of selling out (kidding), Henry Abbott's labor of love, TrueHoop, has been purchased by ESPN.

True Hoop :

But here's the important part: I just signed a contract with ESPN. They now own the name TrueHoop, and I am a full-time ESPN employee.
The various executives and editors at ESPN have been nice enough to make clear, even in writing, that they aren't interested in monkeying in any profound way with the way things happen here. (The changes are along the lines of not swearing, and not linking to porn. Not big concessions for me.) It will continue to look more or less like what you are looking at right now. I'll be sitting at the same desk, doing the same work.

For me personally, there will be some change. For the first time in nearly a decade, I'll have a regular paycheck, benefits someone else pays for, and paid vacation.

I sincerely hope TrueHoop doesn't catch the ESPN suckitude, as TrueHoop has been a daily visit for years now.

Congratulations to Mr. Abbott for getting paid to do something he loves (and does well).

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Definition of Conflict of Interest


Jazz club

As an occasional smoker, yet one who never was 'addicted', smoking cessation has always been a curiosity to me.

Behind Antismoking Policy, Influence of Drug Industry - WSJ.com

Michael Fiore is in charge of revising federal guidelines on how to get smokers to quit. He also runs an academic research center funded in part by drug companies that make quit-smoking aids, and he personally has received tens of thousands of dollars in speaking and consulting fees from those companies.

Conflict of interest? No, says Dr. Fiore

Really? Seems like the definition of a conflict of interest changes depending upon whether one gets paid or not. From where I sit (slouch), Dr. Fiore is full of shite, and pharmaceutical industry cash, which is nearly the same thing.

Now debate is growing about that evidence, and about who should be entrusted to interpret it. Some public-health officials say industry-funded doctors are ignoring other studies that suggest cold turkey is just as effective or even superior to nicotine patches and other pharmaceuticals over the long run, not to mention cheaper.

At stake is one of the most important issues in the nation's public-health policy. Cigarettes kill an estimated 440,000 Americans a year. Helping America's 45 million smokers kick the addiction could save untold numbers of people.

The Public Health Service, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued guidelines in 2000 calling for smokers to use nicotine patches, gums and other pharmaceutical aids to quit, with a few exceptions such as pregnant women. Dr. Fiore, a University of Wisconsin professor of medicine, headed the 18-member panel that created those guidelines. He and at least eight others on it had ties to the makers of stop-smoking products.

Those opposed to urging medication on most quitters note that cold turkey is the method used by the vast majority of former smokers. They fear the federal government's campaign could discourage potential quitters who don't want to spend money on quitting aids or don't like the idea of treating their nicotine addiction with more nicotine.

“To imply that medications are the only way is inappropriate,” says Lois Biener, a senior research fellow at the University of Massachusetts at Boston who has surveyed former smokers in her state. “Most people don't want them. Most of the people who do quit successfully do so without them.”

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Roundys is coming

As follow up to Dominick's closing a dozen or so stores, Roundy's Supermarkets might spring in. Roundy’s to Open 10-12 Chicago Stores in Next 3 Years

Roundy's Supermarkets here said yesterday it plans to enter the Chicago marketplace during the next three years with between 10 and 12 stores that will focus on fresh foods. In an interview with SN, Robert A. Mariano, chairman and chief executive officer of the 153-store chain, said the Chicago stores will carry a new name that does not now appear on any of the chain's stores (Pick 'n Save, Copps and Rainbow Foods). Although the store will be similar to the Metro Market that Roundy's opened in the downtown area here, it will not carry that name either, Mariano said. "That [Metro] store was a learning experience for us in terms of product offerings and services. The Chicago stores will go beyond those learnings." The first store Roundy's plans to open in Chicago -- scheduled for 2008 -- will be in a diverse area on the city's North Side, on the site of the New City YMCA on North Halstead Street. Mariano knows the Chicago market well, having spent 26 years with locally based Dominick's, including a term as president and CEO from 1995 until it was sold to Safeway in 1998. Noting that Dominick's is closing some locations, Mariano said Roundy's "might be interested in [acquiring] some of them."

and from the Trib:
Roundy's joins Chicago grocery fray

Milwaukee chain plans rapid expansion here. Declaring there aren't enough grocery stores in the Chicago region, a Milwaukee-based supermarket chain says it plans to plant its flag with a new west Lincoln Park store and follow it with a rapid expansion in 2008.

Roundy's Supermarkets Inc., which tried to enter Chicago market four years ago through an unsuccessful acquisition of the Dominick's supermarket chain, announced Monday that it would come to Chicago on its own by opening its first store in the Clybourn Avenue-North Avenue retail corridor.

The company did not give a time frame on the first store. But, during the next three years, the chain said it would open as many as a dozen stores here and offer employment to about 2,000 people. It currently operates 153 stores, mainly in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

"We see Chicago as an additional market for us to grow into," said Robert Mariano, chairman and chief executive of Roundy's, which operates stores under three banners--Pick 'n Save, Copps and Rainbow.

"We see the [Chicago] market as underserved and have the distribution capacity, as well as the management team, knowledge and experience, to grow rapidly," he said, declining to reveal under what name the Chicago stores will operate.

While Mariano now runs the Milwaukee chain, he is intimately familiar with the Chicago market.

He served as president and chief executive officer of Dominick's in the late 1990s, a time the chain was rolling out its "Fresh Store" concept. That concept was canceled when California-based Safeway Inc. acquired Dominick's in 1999 for $1.85 billion.

Since that acquisition, however, Dominick's has suffered. It lost customers and market share after it stumbled with the introduction of the Safeway private-label program. It has closed 30 stores, leaving it with 83 when it completes the latest round of closings in April. It now has a market share of about 15 percent.
Roundy's first Chicago store is to be an 80,000-square-foot, two-level store, to be built at the site of the New City YMCA, 1515 N. Halsted St. The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago sold the 8.5-acre site last year to a real estate partnership planning a mixed-use facility. The site is less than eight blocks from one of Dominick's higher-grossing stores, at Division Street and Clybourn Avenue.

also a test of my site upgrade to MT 3.34. If you see this, everything worked out fine.

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links for 2007-02-13

Nina Simone sings

Stem Cell referendum

The upcoming 42nd Ward's election ballot has this question (proposed by Burt Natarus, PDF here):

“Shall the Government of the United States fully fund research for medical technologies that utilize stem cells solely for regenerative cures?”

At first glance, fully funding stem cell research seems like a no-brainer, but what exactly does the weasel phrase at the end mean? “Solely for regenerative cures?”. What else could stem cells be used for? Sounds limiting, and fundamentalist-friendly. Who paid Alderman Natarus for including this resolution? Am I misreading the intent? Not like the 42nd Ward could force the Federal Government to do anything anyway, but isn't it odd?

like for instance:

Stem cells for bigger breasts :

Japanese scientists are apparently using stem cells and fat to boost cup sizes in a new breast enlargement procedure. According to Tokyo University surgeon Kotaro Yoshimura, more than 40 women have been treated using the procedure. The result is apparently “more natural” looking that traditional saline or silicone implants. As my IFTF colleague Mike Love says, “It's interesting that in the US we can't use stem cells to treat diseases but other nations are already moving on to stem cell-based breast implants.”

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Slightly ambivalent, not sure movie theatre seats and movie theater atmosphere would be appropriate venues, especially since most theaters don't sell beer or wine, or spliffs. What about photography? Would the notoriously anti-consumer theater industry allow amateur photography at the game (rhetorical question, of course)? If one's options were to watch in a theater on 3D/HD, or in a crowded bar, sure, but if the options also include going to the game itself, or watching a HD broadcast at someone's house, umm, no thanks.

Coming Attractions: NBA's Hoop Dreams in 3-D - WSJ.com

During this weekend's all-star game in Las Vegas, the National Basketball Association will hold an invitation-only screening party at the Mandalay Bay Hotel to unveil the first broadcast of league games in 3-D high definition.

But more than the technological feat, what is notable about this is that it allows the NBA to find a fresh way to bring its sport to fans -- in movie theaters. A few decades ago, certain sports events not available on TV would appear in movie theaters, such as World Cup soccer matches and closed-circuit boxing matches. But now, with hundreds of sports channels and high-definition flat-screen TV sets, getting fans to buy theater tickets requires something extra.

Now the NBA wants next. It aims to have games filmed with new 3-D technology -- developed by Vince Pace, a longtime collaborator with “Titanic” director James Cameron -- available in markets hosting June's NBA Finals. The idea is to snag fans wanting a more communal experience but unable to get to the game because it is sold out or in another city. Instead, they can head to the local cineplex equipped with a satellite dish and digital projector and watch a 3D-HD feed among fellow fanatics. Empty arenas might also handle large crowds.

Twelve NBA teams (out of 30) were playing at or above 95% capacity through late last week. A hoops-hungry market like San Antonio, where 19 of 24 Spurs home games have sold out so far this season, seems like a natural fit for these presentations. Moreover, the games hurt the local movie business.

“Any day of the week the Spurs are playing, our attendance drops 60%,” says Richard Cieplechowicz, director of operations for San Antonio-based Santikos Theatres Ltd. He expects to see a presentation of the technology today. “This is a natural thing for us to do for our business.”

Many of the details, including potential ticket costs, have yet to be worked out. Theaters that showed the Met's operas charged $18 for adults and $15 for kids. National Amusements Inc. charged as much $10 for the 14 Boston Red Sox regular-season baseball games it showed in New England theaters in 2006. The rival New York Yankees always brought the highest price.

Though the technology does elicit a depth of field not seen in the game on a flat screen before, especially from low camera angles, no one watching will mistakenly think LeBron James is about to land in their laps after a dunk. If 3-D broadcasts catch on, however, the league hopes to enhance its boast that fans of their sport get closer to the action than any others.

Pathetic FBI

Let us speculate: if any Fortune 1000 company allowed their employees to lose a few laptops a month, I would be shocked. The corporation would enact harsh measures to ensure greater laptop safety, would fire employees, fire the CIO, do whatever it took to stem the loss.

Remember when the phrase Our First MBA President was all the rage? or the (now laughable) Adults in Charge?


Take Your Stand

What's worse is these laptops probably contain top secret data, compromising photos of John Kerry and/or Al Gore, and who knows what else, but the FBI doesn't remember.

Wired: AP Missing FBI Laptops Still a Problem

Three or four FBI laptop computers are lost or stolen each month and the agency is unable to say in many instances whether information on the machines is sensitive or classified, the Justice Department's inspector general said Monday. ... “Perhaps most troubling, the FBI could not determine in many cases whether the lost or stolen laptop computers contained sensitive or classified information,” said the Justice Department IG's stated. “Such information may include case information, personal identifying information or classified information on FBI operations.”

Of the 160 laptops lost or stolen over a 44-month period, 10 contained sensitive or classified information. The bureau did not have records on whether 51 others contained such data.

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Gary Tyler should be free

GARY TYLER, at one time the youngest person on death row, turned forty-eight years old this July. He has spent thirty-two of those years in jail for a crime he did not commit. The case of Gary Tyler is one of the great miscarriages of justice in the modern history of the United States, in a country where the miscarriage of justice is part of the daily routine of government business. “This case is just permeated with racism all the way through it,” declared Mary Howell, Gary’s longtime attorney, “from the initial event all the way up to the pardon process.” Yet, far too few people are aware of Gary Tyler’s case, which in the mid-1970s mobilized thousands across the country for his freedom and led Amnesty International to declare him a political prisoner. Over the last twenty years, hundreds of death row inmates and scores of others have been exonerated for the crimes they were falsely convicted of by racist and corrupt prosecutors. It’s long past time that Gary Tyler should have gone free.

read more Free Gary Tyler! and sign the petition.

Bob Herbert wrote about it too.

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I've dabbled


but never had as much fun as this dude.

Reno News and Review March 17, 2005

...Dried poppy pods, available to “flower arrangers” in eBay's virtual “crafting” aisle, were the raw ingredient of the putrid concoction, at first barely consumable, later all-consuming....Some, called gigantheums, were as big as tennis balls. A special of “600 XXL-sized gigantheums” were selling for $399. Fortunately, for crafting projects requiring so many poppy plants, financing was available for $17 per month. For all of us hardcore flower-arrangers, of course.

The recipe was simple enough. Hot water and crushed poppies. A blender and a strainer or an old T-shirt to squeeze out the pulp. I ordered a few dozen dried flowers from a seller with more than 3,000 positives and a clever handle that was a clear double-entendre on horticulture and getting high.

for a good 'how-to', check out:

Opium for the Masses: A Practical Guide to Growing Poppies and Making Opium

“Opium for the Masses: A Practical Guide to Growing Poppies and Making Opium” (Jim Hogshire)

update on the topic, see Michael Pollan's 1997 Harper's Magazine article about the quasi-legality of growing poppies, and also John Wilcock's account of Jim Hogshire's problems with the DEA.


links for 2007-02-12

links for 2007-02-11

Vieux Farka Touré

Cool! I've been a fan of Ali Farka Touré since the days of vinyl records, which probably is a factoid best left unsaid, but this is a solipsistic blog after all, right? If that isn't a tautology. and a run-on sentence. Pass me that bottle over yonder, will ya?

Vieux Farka Toure
“Vieux Farka Toure” (Vieux Farka Toure)

Music Review | Vieux Farka Touré: Young Guitarist Shows Some Things He Learned From His Famous Father
Vieux Farka Touré, playing in the same seamless style as his late father, Ali Farka Touré, brought a modern take on traditional Malian melodies to Joe’s Pub on Thursday.

One of the ways the Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré impressed Western listeners was that he never made you think much about technique. Of course it was there — in his control over the curled, stammering phrasing of his lines; in his slow, easy-moving confidence while implying more than one meter. But hearing him work within a single scale, you received a perfect lesson in how much more there is to music than what notation or academic pedagogy can impart.

Vieux Farka Touré’s touring band is a simple cross between ancient and modern, with the American musicians Eric Herman on electric bass and Tim Keiper on drums, and three Malians: Mana Cissoko on second guitar and the lutelike ngoni, Baye Kouyaté on talking drums and Seckou Touré on the overturned calabash, making a thud like a second bass drum.

Playing with his fingers and a bit of echo, Vieux Farka Touré used two different guitars, a plugged-in steel-string acoustic and a black electric, the same guitar that his father held on the cover of “Savane,” his final album before his death last year. But it was the electrified acoustic that produced the greater mysteries. Its sound had some tooth to it, a hard, glinting high frequency.

The son’s music is based in the same traditional Malian languages, melodies and minor pentatonic scales as his father’s. But even in “Dia,” a beautiful slow song about traveling to Niafunke, his hometown, he didn’t yet have the undefinable hot-weather grace of the elder Touré, and his arrangements tend to be more modern.

One of his slow songs, “Ana,” written for his sister, used a plain reggae rhythm, and toward the end of the set, he played a song in a style he called “Koroboro rock” (Koroboro being one of the languages spoken around the Niger River in Mali). It was chugging, up-tempo, two-beat music, like hard-driving Chicago blues without the blues chord changes.

Here he played dueling leads with Mr. Cissoko; their long, entwined phrases, logical and nearly symmetrical, sounded like scrambled fugues.

have to look out for Mr. Touré playing live in the future, and I'll tell you what I think of this album in about a month.


Grocery store over stimulation



As a customer, I'd much rather shop in a store that didn't pimp out every available space for a couple of bucks. Some chains must be scraping by with bare bones profit margins, and can only survive by selling advertising space anywhere to anybody. There is a chain in Chicago that feels like Las Vegas there is so much advertising assault. I don't shop there.

To me, this sounds like hell-on-earth, even though I usually block out the store muzak with my iPod:
Advertising Age - A Shopping-Cart-Ad Plan That Might Actually Work

MediaCart, a shopping cart with video-, voice- and radio-frequency identification, are hoping. MediaCart quietly rolled into a three-store pilot in the Northeast on Feb. 1, said company executives, who noted that the system has drawn interest -- if not commitments so far -- from the nation's top 10 retailers. The company plans two more regional tests by summer and a national rollout by year-end.

MediaCart is at least the third entry into the computer-aided-shopping-cart space, and neither of the other two have rolled out nationally yet. The oldest, Cuesol's Shopping Buddy, is in 20 New England Stop & Shop stores.

But MediaCart executives feel they've cracked the code by putting their video screens atop the back of the cart, where it's almost impossible not to see during a shopping trip. The carts have cellphone-style navigation buttons on the handle and a self-scanning feature that can be used for nearly instant checkouts.

They also use voice-recognition technology to help shoppers find products, mobile-phone capability to connect users with customer-service personnel, and RFID to allow direct marketing and market research.

At MediaCart's Plano, Texas, test store, Procter & Gamble Co., General Mills, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo are among major marketers running ads and promotions on the video screens.
MediaCart Chief Marketing Oficer Jon Kramer discourages marketers from using video longer than a couple of seconds- -- bout the longest he believes shoppers pay attention to most in-store messages. The exception is at checkout, where the carts can be programmed to play clips of Disney DVDs to induce impulse purchases by moms with kids in tow.

Several hundred consumers have made research trips through Me

and what's a little privacy when you can get a 40¢ coupon for your Depends purchase?

About 80% of MediaCart features will work without using individual consumer data, Mr. Carpenter said. That could overcome a sticking point not only for privacy advocates, with whom he said MediaCart has been in contact, but also for such retail giants as Wal-Mart Stores, Target and Walgreens, which don't have loyalty programs.

But the company concedes that at retailers with loyalty programs, shoppers will probably have to swipe their ID cards to benefit from promotional offers or special features such as downloading shopping lists from their computers or uploading recipes from the carts to their computers.

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Playboy Archives Go Digital

Even the WSJ manages to work in a reference to the supremely uninteresting death of Anna Nicole Smith. Yeesh.

Playboy - The Best of Anna Nicole Smith
“Playboy - The Best of Anna Nicole Smith”

Playboy Archives Go Digital; That Means Its Articles, Too - WSJ.com
In 1953, Hugh Hefner bought a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe from a local Chicago calendar company and published the first issue of Playboy. The magazine took erotica out of the back alleys and placed it in a stylized package, helping to usher in the sexual revolution -- which quickly left the publication behind.
Today, Playboy, in an attempt to get back in step with the present, is unveiling plans to make its entire text and photo archive available digitally.

The new venture will allow consumers to peruse Playboy's articles and photos on DVD. All 636 issues of the monthly will be rendered page-by-page on six discs -- one for each decade. The first two discs will hit stores in October. Each disc will retail for $100, is meant to be viewed on a computer screen and will be accompanied by a 200-page book.
The magazine has also featured nude pictorials of a number of women who were either famous at the time or went on to become so, including Sharon Stone, Jane Fonda and Anna Nicole Smith, who died yesterday, jamming some of Playboy's email system with requests for reprints of her image.

also utilizing an interesting loophole to avoid having to pay a dime to the writers/photographers/cartoonists who made the magazine worth archiving in the first place:

Converting the magazine requires painstakingly scanning 115,880 pages of Playboy magazines and then doing a “text-conversion process,” which involves manually typing all the text on the page. Bondi is using two typists per page to copy the text into a database to improve accuracy. Then, Bondi will break each page down into its elements: cartoons, editorial content, advertising, photos and captions.

Playboy feels that by duplicating the magazine exactly as it existed, complete with ads and in the same format as they appeared on the pages of the magazine, that they don't need to seek additional rights from writers or artists featured in its pages. It's a loophole the New Yorker exploited as well for its project.

The tactic has drawn scrutiny from some writers' groups. “In this case, I'd have to take a very hard look to see where this goes in the context of commercial advantage,” says Gerard Colby, president of the National Writers Union, the nation's only trade union dedicated to freelance writers. “Even if this does fall within the Supreme Court's parameters of allowed reproduction, we'd still want to take a look at this whole issue of remuneration for writers if the publisher is taking commercial advantage.”

Climate Pessimists

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Strangely, the WSJ suggests that climate change is a problem, and worries about our planet's future. I don't think Sharon Begley is going to be invited to the Exxon-Mobile annual Climate Change Is Bogus retreat in the Bahamas this year.

Sharon Begley: Science Journal - WSJ.com

...20 years after scientists first warned that greenhouse gases would alter the planet's climate in dangerous ways, it is possible to assess who is being more realistic. Starting with the first report of the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1990, critics have called its projections foolishly apocalyptic. Some earlier reports did miss the mark on a few counts, but not in the way the “realists” contend. In some cases, the reality of climate change has been even worse than the alarming forecasts.

A number of greenhouse projections were spot-on, while others underestimated how radically gases such as carbon dioxide, emitted when fossil fuels burn, would alter climate by trapping heat in the atmosphere. The world's surface temperature has increased one-third of a degree Celsius since 1990 -- the upper end of projections, according to scientists led by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, in Germany. Their analysis appeared last week in the online issue of the journal Science.

With sea level, climate change has outpaced the projections. Satellite measurements show that the waters around the world rose 3.3 millimeters per year, averaged from 1993 to 2006. The IPCC foresaw 2 millimeters per year. “The main message of our [analysis] is to those who have claimed that IPCC is exaggerating climate change or is painting unduly grim future scenarios,” says Dr. Rahmstorf. “Unfortunately, this is not true; the real climate system is changing as fast as, or in some components even faster than, expected by IPCC.”

Ice in arctic seas also is melting faster than expected. (Though that doesn't raise sea levels; melting ice on land does.) It now covers 11% less area than it did in 1978, and 20% less in the late summer. “That's about double the mean model projection,” notes physicist Joseph Romm, author of a new book on global warming, “Hell or High Water.

...The IPCC got it right when it projected more downpours and droughts. Already, precipitation falls less often, but when it rains it pours. The basic idea that global average temperatures would rise has also been spot-on, with 11 of the past 12 years among the 12 warmest since instruments began recording temperatures in 1850. Because climate models can't zero in on extreme weather events, though, except to say they will occur more often, they failed to foresee disasters like the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed some 26,000 people.

In focusing on global averages, climate projections make the coming changes sound gradual, slow, sedate. That's how ozone loss was originally portrayed, too; no one foresaw the sudden ”ozone hole“ over Antarctica. It remains to be seen if climate reality, too, can suddenly tip into an extreme.

Part of the problem is so many idiots insisting on making stupid jokes about global warming every time the temperature drops, as if proving that global warming is a myth. No, you idiots, cold weather is part of the model too!

Glenn Mccoy Idiot 070205

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Rodrigo y Gabriela

I take exception of this description, sorta. I think a more accurate reason for the success of first two albums mentioned (don't have the Norah Jones, so won't include it) is that they contained good music and word of mouth suggestions often have the greatest weight. Not that boomer and Gen X peer pressure forced sales. What exactly is “the Barnes and Noble set” anyway? I suppose somebody who doesn't depend upon getting music from the hit factory of over-engineered pop warblers. I think it speaks more for the utter lack of respect the music industry has for its customers than anything else. Britney Spears vs. Ibrahim Ferrar? no contest.

Anyway, Rodrigo y Gabriela sounds interesting.

Rodrigo y Gabriela (with Bonus DVD)

“Rodrigo y Gabriela (with Bonus DVD)” (Rodrigo y Gabriela)

Hollywood Report - WSJ.com

Every few years, an album emerges as a must-have release among adult consumers for whom music is rarely an essential purchase. The Cuban-import “Buena Vista Social Club,” the old-time Americana soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and Norah Jones's jazzy debut, “Come Away With Me,” all vaulted into the multiplatinum stratosphere after being embraced by the Barnes & Noble set.

The latest act aiming for this elusive demographic target is Rodrigo y Gabriela, an acoustic-guitar duo from Mexico by way of Dublin. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero use their two instruments to conjure a frenetic blend of international influences that includes Spanish flamenco, Anglo-American heavy metal, Portuguese fado and traditional Irish music beats. The shtick includes instrumental renditions of songs by Metallica and Led Zeppelin, plus intricate percussive thumping on the guitar body by Ms. Quintero, and has drawn an improbably strong following.

When such an oddball act takes shape, it's often unplanned. Rodrigo y Gabriela's path to their unorthodox mix begins in Mexico City metal bands, continues through lounge gigs for tequila-soaked tourists at the beach and gets its finishing touches on the streets of Dublin.
Rodrigo y Gabriela got their start playing in heavy metal bands in Mexico City. After years of fruitless struggle, the pair packed it in and moved to Ixtapa, where they got gigs playing for tourists in restaurants, and busking on street corners. “For the first time we found we could make money,” Mr. Sanchez says by telephone from Ixtapa, where he was home taking a break from U.S. promotional activities.

The pair also discovered that their new gigs didn't always mean abandoning the music they loved. “Although we had some jazz standards, we were able to play all our metal repertoire without being annoying to people,” Mr. Sanchez adds. “The tourists were just eating, and they didn't recognize if we were playing Metallica or whatever.” The group's cover of “Stairway to Heaven,” a favorite on the new album, was first trotted out under these circumstances.

After decamping to Dublin to visit friends, including a group of traditional Celtic musicians, Rodrigo y Gabriela refined their act, inspired by a kind of local drum called a bodhrán. Seeking to emulate the instrument's rapid-fire beat, Ms. Quintero began thumping on her guitar's body. Likewise seeking to give his new musician friends a taste of his roots, Mr. Sanchez for the first time began writing songs with Latin and flamenco flavors.

Busking on the streets of Dublin one day, the pair played “Diablo Rojo,” their first composition incorporating all these musical elements. “When we finished, people gave us a lot of money,” Mr. Sanchez recalls. A career path spread out before their eyes. “It wasn't like we wanted to have a project. We just said we're going to write another tune and we're going to make more money. It's kind of an honest approach.”


Armory Finds New Life in Porn

I have no problem with preservation of interesting, older buildings. Better than a strip mall, right? I'd even like to take a tour of the interior. Ahem.

Venetian Night

No Condos, Please: Old Armory Finds New Life in Porn - WSJ.com

When the National Guard left this city's historic State Armory and Arsenal building in 1975, the big Moorish castle fell into disrepair. Today, it has a controversial new lease on life.

Over the years, developers suggested turning the 1914 building, which is a mile from City Hall on the edge of the Mission District, into a church, storage space or an apartment complex. But proposals kept getting shot down, many of them falling victim to the city's powerful Planning Department and a thicket of zoning rules. Developers joked that the 200,000-square-foot Armory, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was cursed.

It turns out there was an easy way to preserve the Armory that doesn't run afoul of San Francisco's planners: make pornography there. In December, Peter Acworth, chief executive of the Internet porn company Kink.com, bought the landmark building for $14.5 million. Last week, Kink began shooting bondage films at the site, and the Planning Department doesn't have a problem with that.

Mr. Acworth says city officials were especially pleased that he planned to use the Armory as is, without making big changes to its interior. That way, he didn't have to go before San Francisco's Landmarks Board for approval. In fact, the building's very details -- the dungeon-like boiler room, shadowy rifle range and wet basement -- appealed to Mr. Acworth.

“It's an authentic castle, whereas we had been building fake castles all this time” for our films, Mr. Acworth says.

and the planning office is right: they shouldn't be concerned with moral impropriety. Not their role. Let Bile-Bill Donohue worry about it, or some other moral scold with their head up their sphincter.

Former suitors took it all in and saw a massive renovation project. Mr. Acworth saw the perfect backdrop for Kink's hardcore videos. The 36-year-old Englishman says he had been studying for a graduate degree in finance in 1997 when he decided to drop out, move to San Francisco and start filming risqué videos in his apartment. In 1999, he launched CyberNet Entertainment LLC, which later became Kink. By last year, the company had $20 million in annual revenue, Mr. Acworth says, and nearly 70 employees, and it needed new digs.

Mr. Acworth, who was introduced to the Armory by a movie location scout in 2005, was immediately inspired by the building's size, winding stone staircases and marble columns. He kept in touch with the building's owner, a company run by businessman Kelly Ng. He had tried to sell the Armory several times but to no avail, and his own two-year effort to convert it to condominium apartments kept hitting roadblocks. In November, Mr. Acworth entered talks to buy the Armory. His lawyer sent a letter to a city planning official named Larry Badiner, stating that Kink intended to use the Armory to make “independent films and NC-17 rated films.” NC-17 is the designation given to X-rated movies, denying admission to anyone under the age of 17.

In January, Mr. Badiner responded, saying the proposed use seemed just fine. The zoning official says he didn't notice the wording about NC-17 films. “Frankly, I kind of missed that,” he says.

Still, Mr. Badiner and other officials who signed off on the plan say it's hard to imagine a better proposal than this one. Amit Ghosh, director of the city's Planning Department, has publicly said, “The planning code...is not really worried with moral propriety.”

Mr. Acworth says he was surprised things went so smoothly for Kink at the Planning Department. “It's kind of funny that it's porn that has got everyone thinking” about how the planning rules should change, he adds.

Mr. Acworth says he plans to rent some space in the Armory to mainstream film producers, and that he will use the building to shoot his own features. Among the film ideas floated by his employees: shooting a naked-paintball scene, suspending women from the 65-foot-ceiling of the building's onetime drill court and using the dark, underground hallways to make zombie movies.

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links for 2007-02-10

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Attack of the Christofascists

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Pasta-fazul the right-wingers sure know how to manipulate the Mainstream media. If I wasn't lazy, I'd expand this discussion to book-length form. Ahem.

What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News
“What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News” (Eric Alterman)

On the topic, Eric Alterman writes, in part:

Comment is free: Attack of the Christofascists :

But the MSM coverage has completely ignored the elephant in the middle of the room, an elephant which has - appropriately in my view - been the focus of blogosphere coverage: that is, the identity of the accusers. The truth is that the reporters covering the story really have absolutely no idea whether Catholics care at all about what a couple of Edwards bloggers said on their personal blogs before they were hired and which clearly, Edwards would never have approved. As a lazy substitute, they have instead allowed the rightwing huckster William Donohue of something called “the Catholic League” to speak for all Catholics.

This is not only lazy; it is journalistically irresponsible. There's no evidence anywhere that Mr. Donohue speaks for Catholics other than himself - which is a good thing, because the man is a raving anti-Semitic lunatic. Don't take my word for it. Here (as posted on my own blog earlier this week) is Donohue, making one of his 23 appearances on cable TV in 2004, and explaining to Scarborough Country guest host Patrick J. Buchanan, that “ Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions.” When a rabbi asked Donohue to please “stop the anti-Semitic garbage, OK?” He replied “Who's making the movies? The Irishmen?... So the Catholics are running Hollywood, huh? ... They're not Rastafarians. They're Jews....You're going to tell me that the Chinese don't live in Chinatown, right?” My sponsors at Media Matters have compiled a list - by no means exhaustive - not only of Donohue's various offenses against common decency but also of uncovered offensive remarks by McCain bloggers that have gone all but unreported in the MSM. You can find that here.

What's the upshot? Well, the Edwards campaign made lemonade: it won the allegiance of many bloggers by, ultimately, doing the right thing. But the extremist rightwing pressure groups demonstrated, once again, that they can play the MSM like a violin - getting it to play a story exactly as they would like, context and inconvenient truths be dammed. And the left has little ability to demand equal or even remotely fair treatement.

Any news item which depends upon a quote from Bile-Bill Donohue to make a right-wing slanted point can be discarded as not worth reading.

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Diamond Burt Natarus

Mike is pretty spot on with his analysis of the two-man race in the 42nd Ward. Natarus is a clown, sure, which can be enjoyable on occasion, but honestly, is a media-whore-clown who you really want to represent your interests in City Hall?

I'm not entirely sold on Brendan Reilly, but Natarus needs to go.

CHICAGO CARLESS: Endorsing Brendan Reilly, or Why I Won't Vote for Burt Natarus : Because I think he's a liar. Probably my top reason why I will not vote for Chicago's incumbent 42nd Ward alderman, Burt Natarus, in the municipal election on February 27.

Having presided over the Ward at the heart of downtown Chicago for more than three decades, through the years much has been made of Natarus' cozy financial relationship with construction development interests

Read more here

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Washington's moonie Times

Candorville - Darrin Bell:


No wonder the Chicago Tribune dropped Candorville: he makes fun of newspapers! The horror!

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Horizontal Diffusion

and dreams of actions past

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links for 2007-02-09

Lord Jim

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George Bush the lesser and James Dolan the lesser seem quite similar. I'd hate to work for either man.

SI.com - Writers - Lord Jim - Tuesday February 6, 2007 11:09PM

Alcoholics Anonymous members use a phrase, dry drunk, to describe “somebody who is not drinking but hasn't changed who they are,” Dolan says, raising two fists into the air. “Part and parcel of a dry drunk is white-knuckling: No, I'm not going to have that drink -- even though I really want that drink. They're hanging onto their sobriety. My sobriety is who I am now. I don't think every day about being sober.” But at his worst Dolan can exhibit every trait commonly attributed to dry drunks: exaggerated self-importance, rigidly judgmental outlook, impatience, childishness, irresponsible behavior, irrational rationalization, projection and overreaction. “If you have most of these, call your doctor,” says one former Garden executive. “He's got every one.”

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Fat pill

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I would guess we will all be hearing quite a lot about this fat pill soon, especially if it will be sold over the counter. I mean, come on, how many millions of American have bought into the “thin is in” paradigm but don't want to exercise or (perish the thought) change their diets?

Glaxo Weight-Loss Drug Alli Wins Nonprescription Usage - WSJ.com

GlaxoSmithKline PLC's Alli won approval from federal regulators to become the first weight-loss drug available without a prescription in the U.S., though the product's sometimes-unpleasant side effects may limit widespread use.
The Food and Drug Administration said it will allow over-the-counter use of the drug only for overweight adults when combined with a program that includes a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet and an exercise program. Alli, known generically as orlistat, is sold at a higher dose as the prescription drug Xenical by Roche Holding AG.
GlaxoSmithKline said it will price Alli at about $2 for three capsules, which is a typical day's dose of the drug, and will sell it widely in drugstores, grocery stores and other outlets where nonprescription drugs are sold.

but perhaps the news/PR will focus on:

The new drug will also have to overcome consumers' concerns about unpleasant digestive side effects that can include incontinence and oily stools.

which doesn't really interest me much.


Nikon 18-200 VR

David Pogue was lucky enough to at least use and play with this lens, even if he hasn't been able to buy one. Me? Still on the lookout for the lens to be widely available. I cannot justify paying a premium for the lens, especially since I already own a 70-300 lens, albeit not a VR model. I can dream, can't I? Maybe by this summer, demand will meet up with supply.

Nikon Zoom-Nikkor - Zoom lens - 18 mm - 200 mm - f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S DX VR - Nikon F
“Nikon Zoom-Nikkor - Zoom lens - 18 mm - 200 mm - f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S DX VR - Nikon F” (Nikon)

The Magic Behind the ‘Superzoom’ Lens - Pogue’s Posts - Technology - New York Times Blog

...But I’ve been working with Nikon’s 18-200 millimeter “superzoom” VR lens, which fits any of its digitals: the D40, D50, D70, D80, D200, and so on. And I can’t stop babbling about it.

First of all, that “18-200″ business means that this single lens can capture everything from wide-angle scenery photos to 11X zoomed-in telephoto shots. And that means that a lot of people can leave it on the camera all the time, greatly reducing the amount of gear you have to haul around and virtually eliminating the chance of getting dust on the camera’s sensor when you change lenses. (That finally happened to me on a recent trip to Europe, and the resulting shadowy dot, in the same spot on every photo, became a thorn in my side.).

But the bigger news is the ”VR“ part. It stands for vibration reduction, also known as image stabilization or anti-shake. What it means is a huge reduction in blurry shots.

Ordinarily, when you take a photo in dim conditions, the shutter has to remain open longer to absorb enough light. During that time, the tiniest movement of your hands gets translated into image blur.

Blur is a problem when you’re zoomed in, too, because zooming in magnifies the effect of every little jitter.

Nikon says that the VR on this lens lets people take sharp pictures ”at shutter speeds as many as 4 stops slower than they ordinarily could shoot.“ But I’d put it more bluntly. I’d say that this VR is—what’s the technical term?—magic.

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A popular Resident?

Even getting kicked in the balls more popular than Shrub, at least in some circles.

LJ's Blogorific: Progressive Political Online Magazine, News, Rants, and Political Analysis :
Things With A Higher Approval Rating than “W”

free Gary Tyler!

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Steel Can Cry Too

Lest anyone forget, integrating neighborhoods was still dangerous as late as 1974 (and later, probably to this day). Bob Herbert relates a disgusting tale of police malfeasance and brutality, and a story which should get a wider audience.

Bob Herbert ‘They Beat Gary So Bad’ - New York Times

[Juanita Tyler]...is 74 now and unfailingly gracious, but she admits to being tired from a lifetime of hard work and trouble. I went to see her to talk about her son, Gary.

The Tylers are black. In 1974, when Gary was 16, he was accused of murdering a 13-year-old white boy outside the high school that they attended in nearby Destrehan. The boy was shot to death in the midst of turmoil over school integration, which the local whites were resisting violently.

The case against young Tyler — who was on a bus with other black students that was attacked by about 200 whites — was built on bogus evidence and coerced testimony. But that was enough to get him convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to die in the electric chair. His life was spared when the Louisiana death penalty was ruled unconstitutional, but he is serving out a life sentence with no chance of parole in the state penitentiary at Angola.

Ms. Tyler’s sharpest memory of the day Gary was arrested was of sitting in a room at a sheriff’s station, listening to deputies in the next room savagely beating her son.

“They beat Gary so bad,” she said. “My poor child. I couldn’t do nothing. They wouldn’t let me in there. I saw who went in there. They were like older men. They didn’t care that I was there. They didn’t care who was there. They beat Gary something awful, and I could hear him hollering and moaning. All I could say was, ‘Oh Jesus, have mercy.’

”One of the deputies had a strap and they whipped him with that. It was terrible. Finally, when they let me go in there, Gary was just trembling. He was frightened to death. He was trembling and rocking back and forth. They had kicked him all in his privates. He said, ‘Mama, they kicked me. One kicked me in the front and one kicked in the back.’ He said that over and over.

“I couldn’t believe what they had done to my baby.”

The deputies had tried to get Gary to confess, but he wouldn’t. Ms. Tyler (like so many people who have looked closely at this case) was scornful of the evidence the authorities came up with.

“It was ridiculous,” she said. “Where was he gonna get that big ol’ police gun they said he used? It was a great big ol’ gun. And he had on those tight-fitting clothes and nobody saw it?”

The gun that investigators produced as the murder weapon was indeed a large, heavy weapon — a government-issued Colt .45 that had been stolen from a firing range used by the sheriff’s department. Deputies who saw Gary before the shooting and those who searched him (and the rest of the black students on the bus) immediately afterward did not see any gun.
“That was a terrible time. I remember it clear, like it was yesterday. But what happened was wrong. The white people, they didn’t want no black children in that school. So there was a lot of tension. And my son has paid a terrible price for that.

”They didn’t have no kind of proof against him, but they beat him bad anyway, and then they sentenced him to the electric chair.“

Ms. Tyler visits Gary at Angola regularly, the last time a few weeks ago. ”He’s doing well,“ she said. ”And I’m glad that he’s able to cope. He tries to help the young ones out when they come in there. He always tells me, ‘My dear, you have to stay strong so I can stay strong.’ So then I just try to hold my head up and keep on going.“

She looked for a moment as if she was going to cry, but she didn’t.

”It’s just sad,“ she said. ”I wonder if he’ll ever be able to come out. I wonder will I live long enough to see him out.“

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links for 2007-02-08


General Tso Chicken

Never been a big fan of this dish myself, and apparently neither are the Chinese. Food history is a fascinating subject, I have devoured (?! sorry, nearly inadvertent pun) books such as Clifford Wright's Mediterranean Feast

A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

“A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes” (Clifford A. Wright)

or Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

“The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” (Michael Pollan)

with gusto.

The Way We Eat - Hunan Resources - Fuchsia Dunlop - New York Times :

General Tso’s (or Zuo’s) chicken is the most famous Hunanese dish in the world. A delectable concoction of lightly battered chicken in a chili-laced sweet-sour sauce, it appears on restaurant menus across the globe, but especially in the Eastern United States, where it seems to have become the epitome of Hunanese cuisine. Despite its international reputation, however, the dish is virtually unknown in the Chinese province of Hunan itself. When I went to live there four years ago, I scoured restaurant menus for it in vain, and no one I met had ever heard of it. And as I deepened my understanding of Hunanese food, I began to realize that General Tso’s chicken was somewhat alien to the local palate because Hunanese people have little interest in dishes that combine sweet and savory tastes. So how on earth did this strange, foreign concoction come to be recognized abroad as the culinary classic of Hunan?

General Tso’s chicken is named for Tso Tsung-t’ang (now usually transliterated as Zuo Zongtang), a formidable 19th-century general who is said to have enjoyed eating it. The Hunanese have a strong military tradition, and Tso is one of their best-known historical figures. But although many Chinese dishes are named after famous personages, there is no record of any dish named after Tso.

The real roots of the recipe lie in the chaotic aftermath of the Chinese civil war, when the leadership of the defeated Nationalist Party fled to the island of Taiwan. They took with them many talented people, including a number of notable chefs, and foremost among them was Peng Chang-kuei. Born in 1919 into a poverty-stricken household in the Hunanese capital, Changsha, Peng was the apprentice to Cao Jingchen, one of the most outstanding cooks of his generation. By the end of World War II, Peng was in charge of Nationalist government banquets, and when the party met its humiliating defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong’s Communists in 1949, he fled with them to Taiwan. There, he continued to cater for official functions, inventing many new dishes.

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sure sure buddy

For a long time, my blog was worth zero (I suppose it wasn't in whatever database the results were culled from), and now I've made a windfall of $33,872. How does that translate to an hourly wage? 50¢ an hour? Or perhaps a cost per entry of around $6.57? Buy low and sell high, right? so pass me that cheeba....

My blog is worth $33,872.40.
How much is your blog worth?

Tis all smoke, mirrors and razors anyway, right?
Fiji Over Lake Michigan

Peter Welch

Sure it is a PR stunt, but an effective one because Congressman Welch is the first to actually do something positive.

Vt. lawmaker brings some green to D.C. - The Boston Globe :

Representative Peter Welch, a freshman Democrat from Vermont, wanted to do something personal as well: reduce his office's greenhouse gas emissions to effectively nothing.

So yesterday Welch announced that he was installing low-energy fluorescent bulbs, turning down the office temperature, and spending $672 of his own money to buy “carbon credits” from two Vermont renewable energy projects that are part of an emerging business practice called carbon trading. In essence, the two Vermont projects will save the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions that Welch's offices will produce, making his offices “carbon neutral,” the congressman said.

Welch, a 59-year-old lawyer and liberal activist, is believed to be the first member of Congress to take such action -- but he is calling on his colleagues on Capitol Hill and throughout government to follow suit.

“It has a significant impact in offsetting 56 tons of carbon by that modest expenditure” of $672, Welch told reporters in his office. “Add to it the possibility for 534 other congressional offices, both House and Senate, 15 federal executive departments, and 132 federal agencies. . . . It can add up to a different way of doing business.”

President Bush has opposed any plans to cap carbon dioxide emissions, saying that such a move would hurt the economy. Instead, he has proposed to increase use of alternative fuels, such as ethanol, and raise fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

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Lewis Lapham awarded

I've long admired the prose stylings of Lewis Lapham, and was saddened he retired from Harpers.

Advertising Age - MediaWorks - The Gourmand and the Intellectual : The magazine business delivered its highest honors this afternoon to Lewis Lapham, who led Harper's as editor in two stretches totaling nearly three decades ... For his part, Mr. Lapham acted his expected, restrained self as he was inducted into the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame. He recounted the first advice he got upon being first named editor of Harper's in 1976, which he was told boiled down to one word: “Steal.”

“Stand on the back of talent,” he added. “Ride the surfboard of genius.” Before telling the crowd that he had done just that, acknowledging the many young editors he has worked with through the years.

Although he is “retired,” Mr. Lapham is now developing a history quarterly, Lapham's Quarterly. “I look forward to the continued exploration,” he said.

Iraq in Microcosm

The acronym SNAFU was created for situations like this. Mr. Reppenhagen will probably get flak from some quarters for daring to speak on the record.

Mission deflated | Salon News :

[Garett] Reppenhagen, now 31, has certainly seen his share of crappy missions. During his 2004 duty in the Sunni Triangle, he was sent on countless raids. On nighttime patrols, when a muzzle flash appeared from a darkened building, he and his platoon would respond with the full force of .50-caliber machine guns mounted atop Humvees until the ammunition was spent -- even if that meant leveling a nearby building. If an insurgent was thought to be hiding in a house, they'd call in a tank to blow it up rather than do a risky search on foot.
As a member of a six-man sniper team, Reppenhagen was ordered to track down and kill insurgents in extremely dangerous areas. At other times, he and his battalion would cordon off streets, kick in doors on squat cement houses, and detain men 18 and over for minor offenses like being in a house other than their own or failing to show proper ID. “Half of the time, we got the wrong damn house,” Reppenhagen said. At least handing out soccer balls, he thought, was one thing the Army could do right.

At Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Reppenhagen and his fellow soldiers encountered a five-ton truck stacked with large cardboard boxes. They began to unload the truck and open the boxes. There were maybe 50 soccer balls in each box. But the balls had not been inflated. They were all flat. Reppenhagen scoured the boxes. No pumps. What was worse, nobody had bothered to pack the needles to inflate the balls.

Resourceful soldiers that they were, the men carried some of the balls to mechanics in the motor pool. “They tried to pump them up with tire pumps,” Reppenhagen said. But the mechanics had the equipment to inflate Humvee tires, not soccer balls.

Frustrated, the soldiers asked their commanding officers what to do. None were sure. They kept calling their own superiors. Cassidy suggested that they order pumps and needles, which would arrive in about two weeks. The battalion colonel quickly tired of the whole discussion and said he wasn't about to requisition soccer ball pumps. “He decided this was a waste of time,” Cassidy said. “His thought was, 'Iraqis should be grateful.' Not, 'They will be grateful' -- 'They should be.'” Finally, the lieutenant commanded the troops to deliver the balls to the children. “He was pretty much like, 'Shut up and hand out these soccer balls,'” Reppenhagen said.

It seemed crazy. “We were so pissed,” said Reppenhagen. But orders are orders. When you are told to hand out flat soccer balls, you hand out flat soccer balls. So the soldiers who served in 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment piled the flat soccer balls into their Humvees. Driving through the Sunni Triangle's war-torn towns, they tossed the deflated balls to children, who crowded the sides of the roads, running beside the canals and lush greenery that lined the banks of the Diyala River. “Kids were swarming us,” Reppenhagen said. “We went to a couple of schools and delivered stacks of them. Everybody we saw got a flat soccer ball.”

Which, of course, the kids quickly figured out. Pretty soon, Reppenhagen recalled, “They were like, 'What are you doing? What are we supposed to do with this?” When the Humvees began to retrace their route back to the base, the futility of the operation was becoming painfully clear. “Kids were wearing these soccer balls as hats,” Reppenhagen said. “They were kicking them around. They were in trees. They were floating in canals. They were everywhere. There were so many soccer balls.”

Today, Reppenhagen still cringes when he recalls the soccer ball operation, which to him says so much about the entire U.S. occupation in Iraq. He recently left his job at Veterans for America, a veterans' advocacy group, and currently serves on the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War. A spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, Lt. Col. Christian T. Kubik, said Reppenhagen's battalion commander does not recall the soccer ball operation. In an e-mail, he took issue with the characterization of soldiers blindly following orders when they handed out the deflated balls.

Reppenhagen said he certainly knows what he and his platoon got when they drove to the base: The Iraqi kids were expressing their hearts and minds with rocks and stones. “On the way back, kids were throwing rocks at us,” he said. “I assumed it was because we gave them deflated soccer balls. Maybe if we had given them inflated soccer balls, they would have been out playing soccer.”

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Allerton Hotel

You'd think I'd have a photo of this building in my photo archives, and maybe I do, but I can't find one at the moment.

(don't ask me how I got to this website either, because I couldn't answer)

Hotel Industry News: The 443-room Allerton Crowne Plaza Chicago, the historical landmark-designated 1922-24 Chicago property that helped spur the redevelopment of North Michigan Avenue into the city's Magnificent Mile, has shed its Crowne Plaza affiliation to return to its status as one of Chicago's legendary independent hotels, the property's new owners announced today.

Rechristened today as The Allerton Hotel - The Landmark on Michigan Avenue, the 83-year-old property has been operated as an independent for all but the six years it was affiliated with Crowne Plaza. The hotel is widely regarded as one of Chicago's first high rises and is probably best known locally for its Tip-Top-Tap, the 23rd-floor club that served as the home of Don McNeil's 'Breakfast Club' radio show in the 1950s. ... The new owners are currently implementing a design change intended to update the hotel's public areas and guest rooms with contemporary features while maintaining its architecturally significant presence on North Michigan Avenue. Scheduled for completion later this year, the project includes relocation of the hotel lobby back to its original 2nd-floor setting, where it will be combined with the existing bar and restaurant, and conversion of the third floor into an elaborate ballroom and meeting space for weddings, banquets and formal events.

The meeting space enhancements will be combined with future retail and restaurant partnerships to leverage the hotel's status as one of only three hotels offering meeting and banquet space overlooking the Chicago Water Tower.
Chicago's first high-rise to be built with pronounced setbacks, towers and upper-story design elements encouraged by the new municipal zoning laws of the 1920s, the Allerton Hotel represents a rare Chicago example of North Italian Renaissance architecture, featuring decorative brickwork, carved stone details and a picturesque roofline evocative of Milan and Verona in the 14th and 15th centuries. Built over a span of three years by the Allerton House Company, a national chain of 'club hotels' combining the services of a hotel with the sociability of a private club, the 25-story hotel is credited with helping to turn Chicago's North Michigan Avenue into a chic boulevard of exclusive stores, restaurants and clubs that was later christened the Magnificent Mile.

The hotel's prime Michigan Avenue location between Huron and Superior streets puts it steps from the world-class shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and other attractions of the Magnificent Mile, including Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, Marshall Field, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Nike Town, Apple Store, Hard Rock Café, Mike Ditka's and ESPN Zone. Also within walking distance are the Chicago campus of Northwestern University, Water Tower Place, Chicago Children's Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Navy Pier, the John Hancock Building and Shedd Aquarium.

funny how they throw in the Shedd at the end. By a quick glance at a Google map, the Shedd is over 3 miles away. Not quite a casual walk, especially when the temperature is hovering around 9˚ F.

Allerton Hotel


Soft and Fuzzy

MoDo pens a most unusual soft and fuzzy Biden column. I don't believe I've read an equivalent, Dowd has made her whole career out of 'piling on', I wonder why the claw retraction for Diamond Joe?

Maureen Dowd: This One’s for You, Joe - New York Times ... I wanted to follow William Safire’s advice on writing about gaffes and graft: Only kick people when they’re up, not when they’re down.

So I decided to do something completely radical and not pile on.

Having played a role in derailing Joe Biden’s ’88 presidential bid with stories on his overreliance on the speeches of Neil Kinnock and Bobby Kennedy, I feel compelled, now that the guy has slipped on another presidential banana peel 20 years later, to lend him a hand.

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links for 2007-02-07

Bulls fine Thomas

Young Tyrus Thomas seemingly didn't know he was supposed to lie. Fake enthusiasm is all the rage. Smile as you mouth platitudes about how much the fans enjoy watching you jump really high in the air for some phony contest!

Thomas only dunking for dough | Chicago Tribune Perhaps Tyrus Thomas will display more energy and enthusiasm during the slam-dunk contest than he did Monday in discussing his participation.

Asked if he were excited about becoming the first Bull since Scottie Pippen in 1990 to participate in the event as part of All-Star weekend, Thomas barely looked up from untying his shoes.

“Not really,” Thomas said. “I'm just going to go out there, get my check and call it a day.”

Asked if an opportunity to rub elbows with some of the game's greats could be beneficial for a rookie, Thomas kept unlacing.

“I'm just into the free money,” he said. “That's it. I'll just do whatever when I get out there.”

which led to:

Bulls fine Thomas

The Bulls fined forward Tyrus Thomas $10,000 on Tuesday, one day after the rookie said he only was interested in the money for the NBA's slam dunk contest.

How does one get invited to these inane contests anyway - do the participants get chosen by the league, or do they have to petition to be included? Sounds like Mr. Thomas wasn't too enthused to participate in the lame-osity. Maybe he had a good Caribbean vacation planned already, instead of faux competition against these schmoes for these small stakes (yearly salary $3.26 million):

The winner gets $35,000. The runner-up receives $22,500. Third and fourth place are worth $16,125.

Thomas' competition is Orlando's Dwight Howard, Boston's Gerald Green and defending champion Nate Robinson of the Knicks.

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The Right Wing is insane

I barely ever read William Arkin's column, though I have subscribed to its RSS feed, so I must have liked something, once.

However, if you were ever interested in looking at evidence regarding the inherent insanity of the mouth breathers, look no further than here, and in today's response from Mr. Arkin.

Demonization and Responsibility - Early Warning ...Instead, I'm trying to make sense of the worldview of those who have responded. For the critics, I have become the enemy and have been demonized. In that process, I have ceased being a person, an individual, or a human being, all essential to justify the campaign to annihilate me. I'm not trying to offer myself up as victim here, nor do I expect the critics to change their view. I'm merely pointing out the process and the implications of the dehumanization.

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DRM go away

Steve Jobs writes an open letter to the music industry, and basically says, DRM is a waste of technological resources, but the major labels insisted upon DRM before licensing their music to the iTunes store.

Apple - Thoughts on Music

Steve Jobs February 6, 2007

With the stunning global success of Apple’s iPod music player and iTunes online music store, some have called for Apple to “open” the digital rights management (DRM) system that Apple uses to protect its music against theft, so that music purchased from iTunes can be played on digital devices purchased from other companies, and protected music purchased from other online music stores can play on iPods. Let’s examine the current situation and how we got here, then look at three possible alternatives for the future.

To begin, it is useful to remember that all iPods play music that is free of any DRM and encoded in “open” licensable formats such as MP3 and AAC. iPod users can and do acquire their music from many sources, including CDs they own. Music on CDs can be easily imported into the freely-downloadable iTunes jukebox software which runs on both Macs and Windows PCs, and is automatically encoded into the open AAC or MP3 formats without any DRM. This music can be played on iPods or any other music players that play these open formats.

he rub comes from the music Apple sells on its online iTunes Store. Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.

Apple was able to negotiate landmark usage rights at the time, which include allowing users to play their DRM protected music on up to 5 computers and on an unlimited number of iPods. Obtaining such rights from the music companies was unprecedented at the time, and even today is unmatched by most other digital music services. However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

I've said it before (and I'll probably write it again sometime in the future), the music industry is doing their best to ruin music. Bunch of parasites and lima bean counters.

Read more here, including this little experiment with numbers that I've also mentioned before:

Some have argued that once a consumer purchases a body of music from one of the proprietary music stores, they are forever locked into only using music players from that one company. Or, if they buy a specific player, they are locked into buying music only from that company’s music store. Is this true? Let’s look at the data for iPods and the iTunes store – they are the industry’s most popular products and we have accurate data for them. Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

[parenthetical note: currently have 162 tracks in my Purchased playlist - even though some/most of these were freebies, and currently have 42,620 tracks in my iTunes library. Don't know how many of these 162 are actually on my iPod, but as a percentage of my total library, 3% is a very high estimate. By a factor of 100!)

not to mention this bit of truth:

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

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TiVo knows if you've been sleeping

closed circuit

News? or not really. If there is data, somebody is going to collect it, slice it into sashimi, and repackage it to some other corporation.

TiVo sees if you skip those ads

TiVo sees if you skip those ads

TiVo revealed the other day that it's offering TV networks and ad agencies a chance to receive second-by- second data about which programs the company's 4.5 million subscribers are watching and, more importantly, which commercials people are skipping.

This raises a pair of troubling questions: Is TiVo, which revolutionized TV viewing with its digital video recording technology, now watching what people watch? And is it selling that sensitive info to advertisers and others?

The answers, apparently, are no and no.

“I promise with my hand on a Bible that your data is not being archived and sold,” said Todd Juenger, TiVo's vice president and general manager of audience research and measurement.

“We don't know what any particular person is watching,” he said. “We only know what a random, anonymous sampling of our user base is watching.”

“It's a constant struggle to maintain your privacy in the modern era,” said Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney at San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We have entered an era in which more and more information about you is being collected and maintained.”

He added: “In the past, you had a lot of privacy protection because information about you was too difficult to collect and sort. Now that protection is gone because computers can do it.”

and in case you've forgotten this hack (which I've published a couple of times previously, but my mom never seems to have hers set), here it is again:

Select Play Select 30 Select.

The trick is to do the hack while a recorded program is playing. Point your remote at the TiVo box and press, in sequence, the Select button, the Play button, the Select button again, the 3 button, the 0 button and then Select one last time.

If you do it correctly, you'll hear three dings from your box. Now the Advance button (the one with a Play arrow and a vertical line at the right edge) can be used to jump ahead by 30 seconds, thus zipping past commercials more easily than fast forwarding.

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Specter should resign in disgrace, or be run out of town on a rail-gun. Or impeached.

TPMmuckraker February 6, 2007 12:18 PM :

If Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is to be believed, no one in the Senate, not even himself, realized that the law had been changed governing the nomination of U.S. Attorneys -- a change that gave the administration the power to appoint federal prosecutors indefinitely without Senate confirmation.

In later remarks during this morning's hearing, Specter explained to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that he didn't know about the provision until she approached him on the floor and asked about it recently. He then asked his chief counsel, Michael O'Neill, who explained that the provision had been inserted into the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act at the request of the Department of Justice.

So Specter is angry at the insinuation that he “slipped in” the change... but not even he knew that his own staff member had made the change.


Specter explained that the request for the language's insertion came from a Justice Department representative, Brett Tolman, who is now the United States Attorney for Utah, and that the principal reason for the change was to resolve “separation of power issues.”

According to the original law, the Attorney General could appoint interim U.S. Attorneys, but if they were not nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate within 120 days of being appointed, the federal district court would appoint a replacement. Justice Department officials apparently didn't like that judges were able to appoint U.S. Attorneys, members of the executive branch, so the new language removed the court's involvement in the process. But in doing that, the change also allowed the administration to handpick replacements and keep them there in perpetuity
Update: Uh oh. In remarks later in the hearing, Sen. Feinstein addressed Specter's insertion of the measure, making a point of saying that the language had indeed been “slipped in,” adding that it had been slipped in “in a way that I don’t believe that anyone on this committee knew it was in the law... no Republican, no Democrat.”

Later Update: OK. In later remarks in response to Feinstein, Specter said that he actually didn't know about the added provision until Feinstein approached him recently about the issue. After Feinstein's inquiry, Specter says, he asked his chief counsel about the issue, who then explained what had happened. So according to him, Specter's staff was responsible for the provision, but Specter himself didn't know about it.

What? we live in a so-called banana Republic now?

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links for 2007-02-06

Cold, cold cold

Gapers Block used my photo entitled Blue Without Angst in their Rearview section. Notice the weather report in the upper right corner? I'm complying today.

Gapers Block 2-5-07
(click to embiggen)


More Bikes!

Do retailers have a point that stores need parking in order to thrive? Perhaps, in some parts of cities (and suburbs) that aren't so densely populated; however in areas where parking is nearly nonexistent, but public transit is efficient, and there is a lot of foot and bike traffic, I'd argue cars just cause pollution. Of course, I may be biased, since I went over 20 years without owning a car, but still....

Oh, and in the print edition of this article comes this trivial pursuit question: who invented the parking meter? (answer below)

No Parking

The Parking Fix - WSJ.com

...Since the parking meter was first introduced 70 years ago, in Oklahoma City, the field has been dominated by two simple maxims: Cities can never have too much parking, and it can never be cheap enough.

Now a small but vocal band of economists, city planners and entrepreneurs is shaking that up, promoting ideas like free-market pricing at meters and letting developers, rather than the cities, dictate the supply of off-street parking. Seattle is doing away with free street parking in a neighborhood just north of downtown. London has meters that go as high as $10 an hour, while San Francisco has been trying out a system that monitors usage in real time, allowing the city to price spots to match demand. (A recent tally there showed that one meter near AT&T Park brings in around $4,500 a year, while another meter about a mile away takes in less than $10.) Gainesville, Fla., has capped the number of parking spots that can be added to new buildings; Cambridge, Mass., works with companies to reduce off-street parking.

Economists have long made the case that the solution to the parking crunch many cities face lies not in more free or cheap parking but in higher prices. The idea is that higher prices result in a greater churn -- and get more people on buses and subways -- which leads to more open spaces. But this notion has often run up against city planners and retailers arguing that cheap and plentiful parking results in more commerce and, thus, higher sales taxes and a vibrant economy.
One of the most influential of the parking gurus is Donald Shoup, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who commutes on a bicycle. Since the publication in 2005 of Mr. Shoup's “The High Cost of Free Parking,” he has become something of a celebrity at academic gatherings and parking-industry meetings. Lines form at his book signings. “He's a parking rock star,” says Paul White, of Transportation Alternatives, a New York group that advocates for pedestrians and bicycles.

Mr. Shoup has popularized what might be called the “85% rule”: Cities, he says, should charge whatever rates lead to about 85% of the spots being filled up at any given time, moving rates up or down as demand fluctuates. The 85% target now serves as a policy guideline for cities including Portland, Ore., and Anchorage, Alaska.

In Portland, bus ridership to its Lloyd District, a shopping area and home to the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, has increased to 33% of traffic, from 10% a decade ago. One reason: Parking prices have been raised to about 75 cents an hour from free, nudging store and office employees onto the bus.



Super Bowl Losers Will Be Champs

Lions and Bears

Regular readers of this space know I don't pay much attention to football, but of course, I still wished the Chicago Bears would have stomped on the Republican Party Colts. I watched about 3 quarters of the game, but ended up grocery shopping around 8:30 pm, the store was eerily empty.

Do I disdain football because I grew up in Texas? Probably. There were obviously two classes in Texas, those who played football, and the rest of the dolts. Thinking back, even the football players who weren't stereotypical dumb jocks, such as those in my honors classes, for instance, were still asshole jocks. I played soccer in high school for 4 years, and there were Iranians, Argentineans, Brazilians, Koreans, and various Europeans. Football? Not so much. [self-censored a rambling and increasingly solipsistic anecdote about how much football players were idiots, because really who cares besides my therapist]

Anyway, I found this amusing. Seems like an excellent eBay opportunity, right?

Far Away, Super Bowl’s Losers Will Be Champs After the Super Bowl ends, shirts and caps made for the losing team will be donated to a developing nation. In some parts of the world, the Seattle Seahawks are the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Buffalo Bills are the last great football dynasty and Tom Brady is some frustrated quarterback from New England who can never win it all.

So say the T-shirts and the caps worn in Niger, Uganda and Sierra Leone.

The Super Bowl will end about 10 p.m. Sunday, and by 10:01 every player on the winning team — along with coaches, executives, family members and ball boys — could be outfitted in colorful T-shirts and caps proclaiming them champions.

The other set of championship gear — the 288 T-shirts and caps made for the team that did not win — will be hidden behind a locked door at Dolphin Stadium. By order of the National Football League, those items are never to appear on television or on eBay. They are never even to be seen on American soil.

They will be shipped Monday morning to a warehouse in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where they will become property of World Vision, a relief organization that will package the clothing in wooden boxes and send it to a developing nation, usually in Africa.

For the past 20 years, the shirts and caps have become as much a part of championship games as the coaches’ Gatorade showers. At the end of the World Series, the N.B.A. finals and the Final Four, all the winners get to celebrate in fresh threads.

The losers, meanwhile, trudge back to their locker room in sweaty jerseys. Major League Baseball destroys the clothing that was made for its runners-up. The N.B.A. donates it to an overseas charity. And the N.F.L. sends it to a place far away.

There, and only there, the losers get to be winners.

I'd love to get one of these. How much would Mark Cuban pay for a Dallas Maverick's world champion 2006 t-shirt? Well, maybe bad example, as the Mavs might go again this year.

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Libby Grand-Jury Tapes

Glad Judge Reggie Walton has ruled the Grand Jury tapes will be released to the public. Maybe less wiggle room for the inevitable pardon, circa late 2007.
Libby Grand-Jury Tapes To Be Released After Trial - WSJ.com

Prosecutors at the CIA leak trial on Monday started playing audiotapes of I. Lewis Libby's grand jury testimony, a key piece of evidence against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
The tapes, which will be publicly released and broadcast once the trial jury finishes hearing them, form the basis for three of the five criminal charges against Mr. Libby, who is accused of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI about how he learned of the CIA identity of the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson and what he told reporters about it. Portions of the obstruction charge as well as both perjury charges deal with the ex-White House aide's alleged lies to the grand jury concerning his conversations with NBC News reporter Tim Russert, New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper.

Prosecutors plan to play about eight hours of Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony for jurors. He made lengthy grand jury appearances on March 5 and March 24, 2004.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled Monday morning that those tapes must be made public. In a victory for the news media, the judge said he had little choice under the law as applied in the federal court system in Washington, D.C, even though Judge Walton also said he has concerns about releasing the recordings while the case is under way.

Mr. Fitzgerald successfully fought to enter the tapes into evidence. Although segments of Mr. Libby's testimony would be widely distributed by reporters who are monitoring the trial, Mr. Libby's lawyers had argued that the audio itself was too sensitive to be released until the trial ends.

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Verticality is undefined


Three photos of recent vintage, which all look better at full size.

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About time

Long been an asinine disagreement between trademark lawyers for the two distinct corporations, finally, apparently, solved.

Apple store

Apple Inc. and The Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd. Enter into New Agreement Apple® Inc. and The Beatles’ company Apple Corps Ltd. are pleased to announce the parties have entered into a new agreement concerning the use of the name “Apple” and apple logos which replaces their 1991 Agreement. Under this new agreement, Apple Inc. will own all of the trademarks related to “Apple” and will license certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use. In addition, the ongoing trademark lawsuit between the companies will end, with each party bearing its own legal costs, and Apple Inc. will continue using its name and logos on iTunes®. The terms of settlement are confidential.

Commenting on the settlement, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO said, “We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks. It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”

Commenting on the settlement on behalf of the shareholders of Apple Corps, Neil Aspinall, manager of Apple Corps said, “It is great to put this dispute behind us and move on. The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We wish Apple Inc. every success and look forward to many years of peaceful co-operation with them.”

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Aunt P? You want a copy of this CD? I know I'm ordering one today.

Lost Theremin Album
“Lost Theremin Album” (Kreisler, Schubert, Rockmore, Reisenberg)

Just for Theremaniacs - New York Times
IN 1927 The New York Times reported from Berlin about an astounding recent invention: a box with a brass rod and ring that, when the inventor moved his hands around them, produced a violinlike sound of ''extraordinary beauty and fullness of tone.'' ''He created music out of nothing but motions in the air,'' the article said. The inventor was Leon Theremin (born Lev Termen), a young Russian scientist whose fascinating life would later include spying for Soviet intelligence, serving time in a Siberian labor camp and inventing a host of things, including electronic bugs, an early television and an electronic security system at the Sing Sing prison in Ossining, N.Y. But his legacy lives on principally in the device named after him: the theremin, which introduced the age of electronic music.

Though it bombed as an instrument for the masses, partly because it is so difficult to play, Hollywood embraced it. The theremin, with its otherworldly, sliding woo-woo sound, was prominent in science fiction movies like ''The Day the Earth Stood Still'' and in other films, notably Alfred Hitchcock's ''Spellbound'' and Billy Wilder's ''Lost Weekend.''

It captivated Robert Moog, who began building theremins before inventing his pioneering synthesizer in 1954. A well-received 1994 documentary, ''Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey,'' revived interest, and the theremin has since had renewed popularity in pop and rock bands.

But early on, the theremin also had a life in concert halls, thanks mostly to the woman considered its greatest virtuoso, Clara Rockmore, who died in 1998 at 88. Ms. Rockmore, a former violin prodigy, created a whole technique of playing. She performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, played Town Hall, had works written for her, toured with Paul Robeson and gave recitals -- many with her sister, the noted pianist and teacher Nadia Reisenberg.

Mr. Moog persuaded Ms. Rockmore to put her artistry on record. A recording session in 1975 led to her first album, ''The Art of the Theremin,'' released on LP in 1977 and containing 12 numbers. Three decades later 13 previously unheard cuts from that session are available in a new release on the Bridge label

Lost Theremin Album

Clara Rockmore's Lost Theremin Album

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reflected directly back


from my archive (came up on my screensaver, and I laughed). Especially like the bemused look of the farmer watching the Segway slob whiz by.

At the Chicago Green Farmers Market 2 summers ago.

Pantone 292 Doorway
Pantone 292 Doorway Alley door, post-processed with Pantone 292 filter.

As a parenthetical, how come nobody suggested I buy the magnificent album

69 Love Songs

69 Love Songs

by The Magnetic Fields? Really enjoying it, but the album was released in 1999, and I just bought it last week. Shame on you, internet tubes!

Golden Drunken Buddha
Golden Drunken Buddha

Buddha enhanced/subtracted. Taken at our favorite restaurant in Elmhurst, Wok N Fire.

Still Life

Still Life
Not exactly what I had intended, but....

click photos to embiggen

nor did he ever come quite to understand why she should have accepted that residence with ostentations [sic: s/b ostentatious] resignation. Certainly Seth Anderson was not a person of delicate perceptions. He was practically rather indulgent...
(google books scan project could offer hours of randomized fun. This quote from Harriet Waters Preston's book, Is That All? published 1877)


links for 2007-02-04

| 1 Comment


Gee, you'd think Exxon had a lot of cash, or something.

Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work” and ask for essays that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs”.

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: “The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash.”

On Monday, another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report. Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist who believes human activity makes no contribution to global warming. Confirmed VIPs attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy, who believes there is no link between burning fossil fuels and global warming.

Any scientist who accepts a stipend from the AEI ought to have their credibility card revoked, and should become the pariah of the scientific community. Of course, some might not care, and just want the juicy check. Fuckers.


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Durbin - Rat Killer

Funny (ha-ha) story about Illinois' senior Senator, Dick Durbin and his fellow-residents in squalor. Brings back memories of being 19, doesn't it? Especially the refrigerator mostly full of beer (and probably left-over Chinese food).

AT HOME WITH GEORGE MILLER, RICHARD J. DURBIN, CHARLES E. SCHUMER AND BILL DELAHUNT; Taking Power, Sharing Cereal - New York Times : SOME of the most powerful Democrats in America are split over a most incendiary household issue: rodents.

''I once had to pick up a mouse by the tail that Durbin refused to pick up,'' complained Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, referring to his roommate Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.

This characterization is not fair to Mr. Durbin, interjected another tenant in the Capitol Hill row house, Representative Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts. For starters, it overlooks Mr. Durbin's gift for killing rats. ''He will kill them with his bare hands,'' Mr. Delahunt marveled.

''Oh, will you stop with the rats,'' said the annoyed fourth roommate, Representative George Miller of California. He owns the house and is sensitive to any suggestion that he harbors pestilence. It's dicey enough that he harbors politicians.

Think MTV's ''Real World'' with a slovenly cast of Democratic power brokers. While Washington may have more than its share of crash pads for policy-debating workaholics, few, if any, have sheltered a quorum as powerful as this one. About a quarter-mile southeast of the Capitol, the inelegantly decorated two-bedroom house has become an unlikely center of influence in Washington's changing power grid. It is home to the second- and third-ranking senators in the new Democratic majority (Mr. Durbin, the majority whip, and Mr. Schumer, the vice chairman of the Democratic caucus) and the chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee (Mr. Miller).

The four men were once host to a fund-raiser for Senator Barbara Boxer of California at their divey dwelling, raising $80,000. Given the prevailing attire in the place on many nights, guests were given pairs of custom-made ''Barbara Boxer shorts.''

As a general rule, the abode is hardly fit for entertaining, or even for a health inspector. It is used for convenience: sleeping, ditching stuff, and fast-food consumption -- the kinds of functions prized by vagabond politicians whose families are back in their home states and who generally spend only their working weekdays here.

''Everybody in the world says they're going to do a television series based on us,'' said Mr. Durbin, who was collapsed on the couch on a recent Monday night. Still in a tie, he sipped ice water from a massive Chicago Cubs cup while waiting for the Chinese food to arrive.

''But then they realize that the story of four middle-aged men, with no sex and violence, is not going to last two weeks,'' he said. The prevailing topics of their discussions are grandchildren and Metamucil, he added.

''Hey, speak for yourself, Durbin,'' Mr. Delahunt said, protesting the claim of no sex and violence.

''There is a lot of violence in here,'' Mr. Schumer said.

In fact, the roommates have never resorted to violence, at least with one another. (Crickets are another story.) Their weapons are verbal, and often aimed at Mr. Schumer, who admits to a serious dereliction of roommate duties, like grocery shopping. He is also prone to a blatant disregard for conserving a most precious household resource, cereal.

''I love cereal,'' Mr. Schumer said, digging into his second bowl of granola, going a long way toward depleting a box that Mr. Miller had just purchased.

The night of the national championship football game between the University of Florida and Ohio State, Jan. 8, was a rare instance of the four roommates being home and awake at the same time. It had not happened since the election in November, and the neighborhood has changed considerably since then. Several Republicans on the block lost their race or left Congress (the latter category includes the disgraced Representative Mark Foley, who lived down the street).

Mr. Miller charges rent of $750 a month, which Mr. Durbin pays by direct deposit and Mr. Schumer's wife pays by sending Mr. Miller six checks twice a year. Mr. Schumer says his wardrobe at the apartment consists of boxers and suits, nothing in between.

Women rarely set foot in the place, excluding the Haitian cleaning lady who comes every week and who everyone promises is a legal immigrant. The common bathroom upstairs is stocked with supersize bottles of Listerine, CVS cocoa butter, Suave shampoo (with dandruff control) and a hair dryer.

Little thought is given to entertainment besides the big-screen television that Mr. Durbin recently purchased against the wishes of Mr. Schumer and Mr. Delahunt, who liked the old one. The refrigerator is mostly empty save for apples, grapes and about two dozen bottles of beer.

Once, Mr. Miller's son shot a deer and presented the house with an abundant supply of venison. It remained in the freezer for 12 years, at which point it was deemed to have reached its term limit and was discarded.

''Whatever happened to that venison?'' Mr. Schumer wondered.

''I think it just got up and walked away,'' Mr. Delahunt said.

The roommates then repaired to couches to watch Florida-Ohio State and to stuff their faces with Sichuan beef and kung pao chicken. Mr. Durbin began talking about meetings he had last month with the presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador on a Congressional delegation to Latin America. Then he and Mr. Schumer started arguing about Mr. Schumer's refusal to make his bed.

(h/t - Gapers Block)

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Chicago Auto show

Hey, what's wrong with a little free speech? More bike-friendly cities please.

Bike the Drive 14

EFF: Breaking News : The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned the Chicago Auto Show today to back off attempts to muzzle protestors who posted a parody of the show's website.

The parody site, autoshowshutdown.org, is a clearinghouse for information about the “Auto Show SHUTDOWN Festival” -- an annual event where hundreds of cyclists parade through Chicago to raise awareness about global warming and to promote sustainable transportation. The ride culminates in a rally at the entrance to the show. But this week, a lawyer for the auto show sent a threatening letter to the protestors, claiming that the website amounted to trademark infringement and that it would seek damages if the parody was not taken down.

In a letter sent in response today, EFF reminded the auto show that trademark infringement must involve some commercial use, which is clearly not the case in this non-profit, community-organized protest.

“Auto show organizers can't stop thousands of citizens from attending the SHUTDOWN Festival. Instead, they have resorted to baseless trademark claims to silence critics and interfere with planning for an event that embarrasses them,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. “Both trademark law and the First Amendment won't allow for that.”

In addition, an EFF investigation found that the auto show does not actually own the trademark it is claiming was infringed. Records show that the Chicago Auto Show abandoned the mark by neglecting to respond to correspondence from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as required by law.

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Dominick's closing stores

Dominicks on Canal

for future reference

Dominick's to close 14 area stores by April | Chicago Tribune

Dominick's said Friday it will close 14 underperforming stores by spring while spending heavily to renovate remaining stores that will carry more organic and upscale food. “It is always tough to close stores,” said Dominick's spokeswoman Wynona Redmond.

She said she did not know the exact number of employees who will be affected by the closings, but estimated that because the stores were underperforming they would likely have 50 or fewer employees. That could mean approximately 600 workers, most of them part time, would be affected when the closings are completed by early April. Dominick's said many employees could find work at other company locations

Meanwhile, Dominick's said it is going to convert 20 more of its grocery stores this year to what it calls the “lifestyle” format, meaning that half of its remaining 83 stores will have been renovated.

An 84th lifestyle grocery store is under construction at Chicago and Damen Avenues and will open this year.....

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links for 2007-02-03

Bill Gates Lying

| 1 Comment

Homage to George L. Kelling

Ha ha, good one, Bill. Sounds like Mr. Gates has caught GWB's truthiness disease, you know, where if you make an assertion, the assertion suddenly becomes true, no matter how contrary to the reality based world the assertion is. I follow the Mac press pretty closely, and if there are security exploits of this magnitude discovered every day, they are pretty well hidden. Maybe Mr. Gates switched the words “Mac” and “Windows” as a sort of Freudian slip? That would be more believable than what he tells Steven Levy:

Bill Gates on Vista and Apple's 'Lying' Ads - Newsweek Technology - MSNBC.com

Bill Gates explains why you should buy his new operating system, what he’s doing next and why John Hodgeman bugs him.

Gates: Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine.


Old meet New

update 2/3/07
Of course, John Gruber has more on the topic. Such a laughable assertion by Gates, I'm sure 11,343 other bloggers have posted on the topic as well.

Gates’s claim about Mac OS X security is simply false. Flabbergastingly false. It’s irritating that Levy didn’t press him on this point, to ask for a few examples. Perhaps Gates’s “every single day” claim is a reference to the Month of Apple Bugs project, of which only one published exploit, the first, could allow something this serious to happen without action by the user (i.e. by double-clicking an unknown download you didn’t ask for) — and Apple released a security update to fix it on January 23.

I’m not aware of a single exploit in the wild that allows a stock Mac OS X 10.4 box to be “taken over”. Not one. (I’m also not aware of any for Vista, either.1)

It’s either an angry, slanderous lie, or Bill Gates is an uninformed jackass.

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Smog Veil Records

The label that Pere Ubu (and other bands) is on is making their headquarters on 1658 Milwaukee Ave eco-friendly. We should do this in our building.

Althea Legaspi -The greening of rock 'n' roll | Chicago Tribune

Chicago-based Smog Veil Records is revamping the way it conducts business to be more environmentally friendly. It is building a live/work space, which will use wind turbines and solar panels to create energy, and it's using geothermal cooling and heating systems.

“We have a responsibility to make sure our business doesn't negatively impact the environment, No. 1,” says co-owner Frank Mauceri. “No. 2, it's become obvious to us that we can be as profitable, or even more profitable by going green.”

He surmises incorporating reusable and recycled material on an ongoing basis will save money and make the label more profitable. Smog Veil's environmental initiative includes the elimination of jewel cases and the use of a waste-vegetable oil delivery vehicle in 2007.

Smog Veil says:
In business since 1991, Smog Veil Records focuses primarily on underground, challenging, unknown, and/or bombastic rock’n’roll.

Smog Veil's 70-plus releases have been positively reviewed, and it's touring acts have been featured in hundreds of publications around the world, including Billboard, Mojo, Wire, Magnet, Alternative Press, Doll, Ox, The Village Voice, L.A. Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine, and Spin. Smog Veil's Rocket From The Tombs release “The Day The Earth Met The...” was listed at Number 1 for the week of May 9, 2002 in Rolling Stone's On The Edge Chart. The title track from Smog Veil's Rubber City Rebels CD, “Pierce My Brain” was included in Activision's Tony Hawk Underground video game and television commercial. ‘Glitter’ from the Smog Veil release “Thor Against the World” by THOR was the feature track in the USA Productions film ‘Murder at the Presidio’ with Lou Diamond Phillips.

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Merge Surge

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I got the email that Kottke talks about here, but I don't understand the big fuss about it all. Didn't this merge surge already occur a long time ago? Perhaps it didn't effect me much because
a. I already possessed a Yahoo! id, and
b. my user id is unique (swanksalot).

Dear Old Skool Account-Holding Flickr Member,

On March 15th we'll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr

95% of your fellow Flickrites already use this system and their experience is just the same as yours is now, except they sign in on a different page. It's easy to switch: it takes about a minute if you already have a Yahoo! ID and about five minutes if you don't.

You can make the switch at any time in the next few months, from today till the 15th. (After that day, you'll be required to merge before you continue using your account.)

To switch, start at this page:


Nothing else on your account or experience of Flickr changes: you can continue to have your FlickrMail and
notifications sent to any email address at any domain and your screenname will remain the same.

Complete details and answers to most common questions are available here:


Thanks for your patience and understanding - and even bigger thanks for your continued support of Flickr: if
you're reading this, you've been around for a while and that means a lot to us!

Warmest regards,

- The Flickreenos

In fact, when following the link, I get this message:

Flickr: Merge a Flickr and Yahoo! account

Your swanksalot Flickr account is already merged your Swanksalot Yahoo! account.

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Missing Molly Ivins

Lovely Molly
(from the Texas Observer), more photos here

Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?
“Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?” (Molly Ivins)

Paul Krugman spent a little more time with Molly Ivins than I did, and writes:
Paul Krugman: Missing Molly Ivins The Texas columnist’s satire was only the means to an end: holding the powerful accountable.

Molly Ivins, the Texas columnist, died of breast cancer on Wednesday. I first met her more than three years ago, when our book tours crossed. She was, as she wrote, “a card-carrying member of The Great Liberal Backlash of 2003, one of the half-dozen or so writers now schlepping around the country promoting books that do not speak kindly of Our Leader’s record.”

I can’t claim to have known her well. But I spent enough time with her, and paid enough attention to her work, to know that obituaries that mostly stressed her satirical gifts missed the main point. Yes, she liked to poke fun at the powerful, and was very good at it. But her satire was only the means to an end: holding the powerful accountable.

She explained her philosophy in a stinging 1995 article in Mother Jones magazine about Rush Limbaugh. “Satire ... has historically been the weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful,” she wrote. “When you use satire against powerless people ... it is like kicking a cripple.”

Molly never lost sight of two eternal truths: rulers lie, and the times when people are most afraid to challenge authority are also the times when it’s most important to do just that. And the fact that she remembered these truths explains something I haven’t seen pointed out in any of the tributes: her extraordinary prescience on the central political issue of our time.

I’ve been going through Molly’s columns from 2002 and 2003, the period when most of the wise men of the press cheered as Our Leader took us to war on false pretenses, then dismissed as “Bush haters” anyone who complained about the absence of W.M.D. or warned that the victory celebrations were premature. Here are a few selections:

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links for 2007-02-02

Kinzie Station


Construction Season Rag

I knew vaguely of this project, directly north of me, but I did not realize it was so freaking massive. SoFu is popping!

6-tower project planned | Chicago Tribune

A Chicago-based developer intends to build a $750 million residential project near downtown that it said will have enough scope and variety to be a new neighborhood. Fifield Cos. is set Thursday to unveil finalized plans for a community called K Station that would link the West Loop and River North districts. It would include six residential towers with 2,451 luxury apartments, parking for 2,000 vehicles and 40,000 square feet of retail space, plus a Jewel/Osco supermarket.

The project would include a one-acre public park, walkways and five outdoor swimming pools, among other amenities. The company already is building the first two apartment buildings in the project. Over the next five to seven years it would complete work on all six towers, which will range in size from 30 to 43 stories. They will rise on the eight-acre site that long ago housed Kinzie Station, a commuter rail stop...

The location is bounded by Kinzie, Clinton, Halsted and Wayman Streets, Fifield said

and there still is not nearly enough green space in this neighborhood. One acre per 10,000 residents (or whatever it is now) is simply not enough. Not to mention, this development is directly south of the Blommer's Chocolate factory, which has been cited by the EPA for particulate contamination.


We are still waiting for the infrastructure of a neighborhood to fill in - simple things like good Thai food, interesting coffee shops and boutiques, etc., but I suppose if 20,000 people live in this zip code that used to house 2,000, eventually the retail sector will catch up.

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David Byrne at Carnegie Hall

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I wish I had a good reason to be in NYC this week.

Q&A With Indie-Rock Godfather David Byrne -- New York Magazine Like Lou Reed or David Bowie, David Byrne is a rock legend who’s long since diversified himself, cultivating a polymath’s persona as world-music advocate, sometime filmmaker, indie-rock godfather, and blogger extraordinaire. And starting February 1, Carnegie Hall will present four days of shows he’s curated, including two typically Byrnesian originals: “Here Lies Love,” his song cycle about Imelda Marcos, and a concert consisting of only one note. Byrne spoke with Rebecca Milzoff about why he’s a whole lot like Beyoncé.

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Exxon Sets Record on Annual Profits

Good thing Exxon is getting lots of tax breaks, right? Look, we are all capitalists, of some degree, but there should be a limit to how much profit a corporation should get while still sucking off the governmental money teat/spigot. Exxon should buy Ford Motor while they're at it.

Exxon Sets Record on Annual Profits

The $39.5 billion profit topped the previous record for a U.S. company, which Exxon set in 2005.

Exxon Mobil reported a record annual profit on Thursday but a modest decline in fourth-quarter earnings because of falling oil and gas prices. Meanwhile, its competitor Royal Dutch Shell reported an unexpected rise in quarterly earnings, a sign that the industry is still going strong.

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Good for Pathmark


There is a lot of corporate environmental waste that could be reduced, kudos for Pathmark for at least making an effort.

SuperMarketNews Pathmark Sells ‘Green’ Shopping Bags Pathmark Stores here has launched a reusable shopping bag program with Earthwise Bag Co., Commerce, Calif., the companies reported yesterday. Available at all 141 Pathmark stores, Earthwise’s reusable bags, which retail at 99 cents, offer an alternative to plastic and paper shopping bags. Pathmark’s reusable bag program is a companywide initiative to promote environmental awareness, the companies said. “There is an opportunity in the retail community at large to reduce the amount of plastic and paper waste,” said Rich Savner, director of public affairs at Pathmark.

disclaimer: we know folks who work at Pathmark Stores.

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Google Images

Doug Adams points out this useful hint:

macosxhints.com - Revert Google Images to its previous format
For those of you that haven't noticed, Google recently updated its image search to a flashy CSS site. However, as nice as it looks, a lot of fuctionality has been lost. I use Google Images to search for album art, and it's handy to be able to see the domain and image size of all the results without having to hover over each thumbnail.

The fix? With SafariStand (and other plugins like Saft may provide the same), go to SafariStand Settings » Site Alteration, and enable it for images.google.com. Next, check the Alter box for Javascript and leave Javascript disabled....Next time you do a google search, google will automatically redirect you to the javascript-free version, and all is good!

I had not previously heard of SafariStand, but I'm installing it now. Why must every high profile site 'improve' by making their site worse and less functional? I had almost stopped using Google Images since it annoyed me so much.

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Review shorthand

With a few variants and derivatives, we are stealing Present Imperfects review-writing math, as needed. If you cannot reduce emotion to formula, what possible hope do you have in America of the 21st C.E.? Look at Dylan and his 'mathematical formulas for playing guitar', for instance.

Present Imperfect: This entry x where it should have y.
The n was x but lacked y.
Where n = a menu item, x = a non-committal yet positive adjective, and y = a hyperbolic adjective not generally used to describe food.
i.e., “The pork loin was flavorful but lacked gravitas”

or, for the more advanced reviewer:

What the a lacked in x, the b made up for in y.
Where a = a menu item, x = a characteristic often used in conjunction with fast cars, b = a menu item, and y = an adjective generally used by Victorian novelists to describe a young woman.
i.e., “What the the vichyssoise lacked in punch, the crème brûlée made up for in delicacy.”

I'm only partially kidding, but am wholly amused.


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links for 2007-02-01

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