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Wednesday, January 31, 2007 
tax relief
when i got laid off last spring, my hr rep told me that my severance checks would be bigger than previous paychecks, because taxes and the like would not be withheld. (at least, that was the impression i got.) sure enough, the checks were bigger, which was pretty nice at the time, though i knew that sooner or later, the taxes would need to be paid.

consequently, i've been dreading the approach of tax time because
  1. the information about self-employment tax on is fairly confusing
  2. i figured, what with the taxes from my severance pay as well as what i've since earned freelancing, i would probably owe a couple grand or more. and while i am capable of paying that, the thought of doing so didn't exactly fill me with glee. (i don't know about you, but a thousand bucks is still a lot of money to me.)
furthermore, i knew that i faced penalties if i didn't pay my self-employment tax by february 2, but i kept waiting to receive a w-2 from my old employer that never arrived.

that w-2 still hasn't turned up, but i eventually gave in and tried to fudge it using the numbers from my last paystub. and now that i have, i've discovered that of course my severance checks had taxes withheld—they just stopped withholding money for health insurance and retirement benefits. meaning that i had already paid quite a bit more tax for 2006 than i thought.

so, to my extreme relief and surprise, it turns out that i will actually get a federal refund this year! granted, it's not as big as it would've been if i still had a full-time job, but it's enough to pay the mortgage for another month while we get the house ready to sell. and considering that i expected to owe at least one or two thousand, that's quite a load off my mind.

i'd been feeling miserly all month, bracing myself for the upcoming hit to my budget. suddenly i feel rich. i want to go record shopping and get a whole bunch of new music, just scads of records and cds. i also need some laptop accessories... i could use a performance-quality usb-based sound card (suggestions?) and some sort of carrying case/bag to make it portable. (or at least to make me less nervous about lugging the thing around.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 
armed & famous cancelled
armed & famous, the greatest police-themed reality show ever to be set in muncie indiana, has been cancelled. officially it's only on hiatus, which means there is still a chance the show could return to cbs, with a likelihood roughly equivalent to the chance that pigs will evolve the ability to fly. this is particularly bad news for the muncie star-press, which will now have to find something else to obsess over.

according to news reports, the show has been cancelled because it suffered poor ratings as a result of being up against american idol. and what show can compete with that juggernaut? (of course, the irony is that american idol is now down to one hour a night, so that if armed & famous were still on cbs's schedule tonight, it would not be up against american idol any longer. that's showbiz for you.

the good news for ponch fans is that armed & famous has been shunted to sister channel vh1. this saturday, vh1 will air five hours of a&f, including a new, never-before-aired episode. two more uncompleted episodes had been planned, and those might surface on vh1 as well. or maybe they won't.

i must say that having a dvr with dual tuners is the way to go. our comcast-issued dvr is inferior to tivo in most ways, but that's one feature i'm glad i have that i wouldn't with a standard tivo. i can record two programs at once, which means i can watch 24 and not have to miss my favorite new show of the year, heroes. i could watch both american idol and armed & famous. and having dual tuners sure makes things easier on sunday nights, when everybody is competing to have the hippest content (fox, hbo, showtime, adult swim, and now sci-fi has moved battlestar galactica to sunday to make the night even more cluttered). since many of these shows are on cable, they're repeated ad infinitum throughout the week, which cuts down on conflicts a bit (as does having some hit shows available for free on demand), but the ability to watch or record two shows that air at the same time is a major advantage.

a captcha for all seasons
for months now, i've been receiving more spam comments than real comments. maybe you've seen them: they typically show up as lists of links to porn sites or sites about prescription drugs. sometimes they even politely ask me not to delete them, but i pay no attention to that.

i've been diligently deleting these comments when i come across them, but enough is enough. the comment spam has forced me to start using captchas.

the geeky will likely know that captchas are a form of turing test (or reverse turing test if you want to get really geeky) used to differentiate humans from machines. the less-geeky might be more familiar with terms like word verification (the term blogger uses) or simply as those mangled letters you sometimes need to read and retype when posting comments or signing up for stuff.

this will inconvenience some of you slightly, but rest assured that i deliberated for months before giving in and doing this. if you're blind or visually impaired, there should still be a way for you to get through and authenticate yourself as human. but if for some reason you just can't prove your humanity to the captcha, feel free to email me your comment or complaint.

Monday, January 29, 2007 
dungy to speak at anti-gay dinner?
yesterday, bilerico's don sherflick noticed something that alarmed him. apparently indianapolis colts head coach tony dungy is scheduled to appear as the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by the indiana family institute. (steph has reposted the invitation on flickr here.) the word "family" in the organization's name should tell you that IFI is a right-wing organization that preaches non-tolerance. don explains:

The IFI is one of the leading proponents of SJR7, the proposed Indiana Constitutional amendment on marriage rights, and other legislative efforts to deny equal rights to LGBT folks. Under the guise of protecting traditional family values, it helps spread misinformation that fosters bigitory toward our community and our own families. Tony is undoubtedly a very fine father and devoted family man, and for that he deserves high praise. His refusal to resort to shouting, cursing and other demeaning tactics many other NFL coaches use is extremely commendable. And I think most in our community take pride in the fact that either he or his colleague Lovie Smith, coach of the Bears, will become the first African American coach in NFL history to win a Superbowl.

But Tony's prominent appearance before this group, as a representative of a major sports institution in Indianapolis, sends a chilling message. All of us shared the grief that Tony and his family experienced a year ago when his son took his own life. I understand that stories about a connection to sexual orientation were unfounded, and I would defend Tony's right to consider that a private matter. Still, there is an irony many of us in the LGBT community know well: The number of LGBT youth who have taken their lives because of self-hatred and homophobia is much above the national average. Organizations of the IFI variety cannot escape the fruits of their helping to foster the myths and resulting bigotry which contribute to those grim statistics. Surely Tony doesn't in any way support that; so why is he lending his celebrity and role model status to such a group?

as don goes on to explain, the fact that dungy is supposed to appear at this dinner does not in itself prove that dungy supports the IFI's gay-bashing agenda—dungy could have accepted without truly realizing who the IFI were or the message such a dinner would send, if he's officially accepted at all—but it's quite troubling nonetheless.

by 9am this morning, don's post had been picked up by aol sports blog, which in turn got picked up by atrios. so this story probably isn't going to be going away. it will be interesting to see if and how dungy and the colts organization respond.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 
shorter rishawn biddle
i don't have time to get into the whole long story right now (check bilerico for more), so in accordance with mineart's law i bring you...

shorter rishawn biddle: i'm not a homophobe or anything, but gay sex is nasty. also, i suspect being gay makes people crazy, in the same way that being deaf does.

Friday, January 26, 2007 
databending fun
so i read that google had changed its algorithms so that old-school google bombs like "miserable failure" would no longer work. so i thought i should check my page rank for "databending", which used to be pretty high. (the algorithm change isn't supposed to change your rank if you want to be linked with a search term, but it never hurts to check.)

turns out the number one result is my bent image gallery, which is pretty good. but here's some other fun stuff i turned up in my search:finally, while i haven't blogged much about it, over the past few months i've discovered a bunch of new tricks for databending images, many of which involve using the magical "photoshop RAW" file format. the RAW format is probably the most bendable image format out there, and produces some very fun results... but as far as i know, you need photoshop to use it. (the gimp doesn't seem to support raw files.) as always, my latest glitch art can be found on my flickr photostream (though if you want to avoid seeing the occasional non-bent image, you might want to just browse my photos that are tagged "databending"; search for photos tagged "glitch" if you also want to see screenshots from glitched-out cable/satellite tv).


Thursday, January 25, 2007 
can't stop the colts-rock
since i posted about local group trillogy's prescient "colts anthem", which predicted that this year the colts would go to the super bowl, i might as well delurk to mention another new choon for all the colts heads. local favorites the mudkids have released a new remix of their track "rock n' roll" with all-new colts-inspired lyrics. like trillogy's colts tribute, the remix—called "go blue"—is available for download from myspace.

in fact, as i type this, the mudkids are currently downtown at the circle filming a video for the new mix, so if you work downtown and your drive home was impaired by a bunch of crazy hip-hop fans, now you know why.

mudkids mc choc soreel is not only one of the city's most talented mcs, but is also a talented dj, earning the wednesday night mikki fikki mix slot on "hot" 96.3, where he spins under the name dj rusty. rusty began last night's mix with "go blue"; as we were listening, i commented to virago that i thought it was better than trillogy's track "in almost every way", but she was reluctant to agree. (while she couldn't condone the twisted sister samples in trillogy's track, which might be ballsy but simply do not work, she commented that the "colts anthem" chorus was catchy, which i suppose it is in a gary glitter sort of way. at any rate, it's still better than the super bowl shuffle.)

so if you need some music to pump up your colts enthusiasm, i suggest you stream or download both these tracks, which will probably not stay up forever.

Monday, January 22, 2007 
obligatory colts post
apparently i wouldn't be doing by duty as an indiana blogger if i didn't mention the colts' victory against the new england patriots last night, catapulting the colts to their first super bowl since moving to indianapolis lo those years ago.

last night's game was so big, even i watched part of it... when i first flipped by, the colts were down 21-3 and i figured that was it. but an hour or so later, i flipped back over and suddenly the score was tied 28-28, and i ended up watching most of the monumental fourth quarter. and browsing through doug's "news of interest" sidebar, it looks like every blog in indiana has a colts post (or two). far be it for me to buck the trend.

i don't actually have anything to say about the colts' win, though, so i'll just link to local hip-hop group trillogy's myspace page, where you can hear their prescient "colts anthem", which, out of all the bands in the world that could be sampled in a hip-hop track, ridiculously samples twisted sister. this one has been getting some airplay on 96.3, and will likely get a lot more in the next two weeks.

update: i almost forgot to mention: no team with a black head coach has ever played the super bowl. this year, both teams have black coaches. smell the progress.

Friday, January 19, 2007 
putting out the hits
before last november's election, i posted an exposé on right-wing blogger sir hailstone, detailing some of the libelous, ridiculous trash he was posting, and along the way discovering that he was in fact a volunteer for eric dickerson's congressional campaign.

a few days after the election, he deleted his blog, and i just figured he would vanish into the ether after that, perhaps even disappearing from the net for awhile so that his connection to dickerson would be more difficult to trace.

but i was wrong. hailstone continued commenting over at advance indiana, and within a few weeks, hailstone started his blog back up. of course, he never reinstated any of his pre-election posts, which could be considered suspicious. (is there something in those old posts he's trying to hide?)

anyway, fast-forward to today, when i see on tdw what hailstone has been up to lately: posting a reward for "verifiable dirt" on "the tdw bitch" (because "that broad needs to go down and go down hard"... sexual connotation most likely unintentional, possibly freudian).

now that's a class act. misogynistic, threatening, and downright absurd (he posts a pic of a hammer and sickle, because you know all liberals are commie pinkos). it's unsurprising that he has received no tips, because if there is any dirt out there worth having on jen wagner (the woman behind tdw, which is easily the state's biggest and most important blog), i imagine the state GOP has already had it for some time now. it's hard to tell whether he thought he could actually accomplish something or whether it was just the sort of revenge fantasy that typifies much of the right-wing blogosphere. (after all, just a couple days earlier, he had posted a "$250 reward" for a "viable GOP candidate that has a good chance of knocking off Mayor Bart", and it's pretty clear that ain't gonna happen, either.

Thursday, January 18, 2007 

atlas, originally uploaded by stallio.

after sitting vacant for a couple years, historic atlas supermarket (where dave letterman worked as a bagboy) is being torn down.

wall collage

wall collage, originally uploaded by stallio.

a few years ago, before moving into the house i'm now moving out of, i put together this huge collage on two of the slanted walls in the finished attic. i assembled it using scotch tape, knowing full well that someday i'd probably have to take it down, which would probably mean destroying it.

now that time has come, but before i have to destroy it, i wanted to thoroughly document it in photographs. view the set here.

INtake takes on blogs
this week's cover story at INtake, indy's "other" newsweekly, is about blogs! INtake compiles "15 refreshingly smart and entertaining blogs", all but one supposedly written by indianapolis natives. (doug masson of masson's blog, who lives in lafayette, earns the honor of the only non-nap dweller to be listed.) and the coverage is... well, about what i would expect from INtake, which means that some of it's good and some of it is a little puzzling.

the first hint of trouble comes in paragraphs 5 and 6:

Why? To put it bluntly, many bloggers lack the talent, time and resources required to produce useful and entertaining content. As Joseph Rago astutely wrote last month in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal:

"(B)logs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the (mainstream media) like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps."

ah yes, the standard blather about how bloggers suck. this is author matt gonzalez's way of pointing out that he is an Actual Journalist who gets Paid For It and therefore clearly superior to Those Lowly Bloggers. so with that reminder that matt and his free-because-it's-ad-supported employer are better than all 15 of these free-because-they-suck blogs, it's time to start listing some blogs. (many have already responded to joseph rago's blog-hate, so i won't bother here.)

some of the selections are a bit peculiar, and reads as though they wanted to make sure that they listed at least one blog from every category (which is probably the case). so there are four political, four food/drink blogs, an art blog, an indie rock blog, a sports blog, a couple irreverent silly blogs, and even a seinfeldian "blog about nothing". (though if i were scot sedley, whose blog is also described as a "blogg" in his photo caption, i'm not sure i'd like being described in that fashion.)

a couple of them i'd never heard of. one of these is called "huh, no shit", which i admit i was surprised to see, as i thought one of INtake's major selling points is that it isn't filthy and full of escort ads like the nuvo is, and thus even one profanity was more than i was expecting.

many of the other listed blogs are less suprising: naturally, tdw is there, and advance indiana too. indy undercover is listed, but not exactly described in glowing terms ("A combination of muckraking journalism, lowbrow clowning and hostile insult-hurling," "it's impossible to know how the author(s) manages to obtain the information he or she claims as facts.")

consuming indy and feed me/drink me are there to tell you where to eat, as my vintage kitchen is there to tell you what to cook at home. stampede blue is there for colts action (particularly timely considering the afc championships are in town this weekened). my old kentucky home and hoosier beer geek are both pretty big-name blogs, if you happen to like indie rock or beer (i'm not really into either).

the story also includes super-short Q&As with three bloggers: consuming indy's michelle, chris from hoosier beer geek, and scot from 64th and broadway. while the profiles aren't long enough to really learn anything about these bloggers, each one does include links to that blogger's "required reading", which brings the overall total of local blogs listed in the article to 22.

in general, it's good that INtake is acknowledging the power of blogs and bringing attention to noteworthy local blogs. but i could have done without the patronizing blog-hate at the beginning of the piece. (a quote from the wall street journal's op-ed page? come on, now.) and even if not in its prime, i can't shake the feeling that nuvo would've done a better job.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 
big-name djs arrested for mixtapes
two of the country's hottest hip-hop djs, atlanta's dj drama and don cannon, were arrested yesterday in a raid on their mixtape business. has some good info, but their website is downright obnoxious (seriously, click at your own peril), so in order to spare you the agony of going to that site, i'll quote heavily:

Drama (real name Tyree Simmons) and Aphilliate partner Donald "Don" Cannon were taken into custody along with 17 other individuals Tuesday. Police seized over 50,000 mixtapes in the raid, according to reports from Atlanta's Fox affiliate, WAGA.

In addition to housing the day-to-day operations of the Aphilliate Music Group — the collective, which also includes DJ Sense, recently inked a distribution deal through Asylum Records, while Drama also has a solo record deal through Grand Hustle/ Atlantic — the downtown Atlanta offices also served as a studio.

Arrests and raids due to the distribution of what authorities consider bootleg CDs is nothing new. A sprinkling of mom-and-pop stores throughout the country have been shut down in recent years, but this is the first time that the crackdown has hit a name as big as Drama, arguably the current top mixtape DJ. His Gangsta Grillz series has become a street staple and a promotional tool for emerging artists.

one of those mom-and-pop stores that got raided and eventually had to shut down was indy's own berry's music, which got raided in 2003 and was forced to close.

And while authorities have come down on Drama — who is also T.I.'s main DJ — the Philadelphia-born industry hustler does not generally put out mixtapes with just a smattering of exclusive songs from different artists on each disc. Drama actually works closely with several artists and will put a Gangsta Grillz CD with music specifically recorded by one artist for the particular disc. His releases may be best described as street albums, rather than mixtapes.

Some mixtape DJs do get complaints from labels and artists about their material hitting the streets, but Drama has not previously encountered that problem. When music from T.I.'s King album leaked online last year, Tip and Drama collected the tracks to release as a mixtape, which featured early versions of songs including "Live in the Sky." And artists such as Young Jeezy — who launched his career with the help of Gangsta Grillz: Trap or Die — Styles P, Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne and Nelly have all made music specifically for Drama to put on Gangsta Grillz.

Although he is best known for his mixtapes, Don Cannon has been getting props lately for his production. He was the mastermind behind one of the biggest club bangers of 2005, Young Jeezy's "Go Crazy." Last year, he popped up again on Jeezy's The Inspiration LP with the track "Mr. 17.5."

in other words, far from being "counterfeiters" as the police naively allege, drama and his crew are more like starmakers, generating millions of sales for the record industry. these mixtapes weren't illegal bootlegs; they were about as legit as a cd can be.

this raid promises to have major ramifications in the hip-hop community. the main question is "whose bright idea was this?" did the RIAA plan these raids (as they did the raid at berry's), or did the police come up with it on their own, thinking they were about to bust a major counterfeiting ring?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 
bad taste is back!
i've been "dark" for the past few days because i've been putting the final touches on the "new" bad taste website!

back in the day, bad taste was a net label that released music on cassette and cdr. someone would occasionally place an order, and we'd burn cds to fill that order (or before that, dubbed tapes). but burning all those cds is time-consuming, and nobody was ordering anyway. so in 2003 bad taste went on hiatus... tragically, with three pending cds as yet unreleased.

now it's 2007, and the kids get all their music online and download it onto their ipods or cellphones. so now bad taste has returned, retooled as a true online label (meaning "free mp3 downloads"). and to celebrate, we bring you tons of new mp3s!

finally, the world can hear the much-delayed releases by dr. butcher m.d., murkbox, and humdrum. and my maura's milk chocolate bath—which was released on cdr, but did better online anyway—is now finally available as an "official" downloadable release.

but that's not all... in anticipation of the upcoming release of animals within animals' third full-length release parts is parts (due out as a free download this spring), we'll be making the AWIA back catalog available for free download as well! AWIA's debut release yard ape is available now. mono a mono will go online probably next month.

for more information, get thy browser to!

Thursday, January 11, 2007 
last night's armed & famous premiere
the armed & famous premiere was moderately entertaining (as far as trash tv goes), though i'd had the most entertaining moments spoiled by reading too many reviews. at this point, it's too early to tell whether i'll keep watching or give up out of boredom before the season is over.

as i mentioned yesterday, if you're looking for a&f coverage, the muncie star-press is the place to go. the star-press has so much a&f material, you'd think nothing else was happening in muncie (and sadly, in a sense, that might be true). the website is overflowing with stories like this (actual headline):

Armed & Famous gives police dept. Hummers

ah, so that's why the police dept agreed to such a bad idea: their minds were cluttered from all that oral sex. oh, wait, they're actually talking about h3 hummers. and apparently those humvees were the only compensation the city received for doing the show. (in contrast, arrestees who signed waivers and posed for photos with their celebrity arresters got paid cash money.)

update: oh, i almost forgot. i guess there were a couple other television events last night: there was the IU/purdue game that nobody was able to watch, and also bush made a speech about why he's in favor of escalating the war in iraq (despite the fact that the vast majority of americans want to get the hell out of there). unsurprisingly, the indy star ed board is happy to follow bush wherever his war plan leads, but the new democrat-led congress won't play along.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 
big bird and buster win the long game
last year, ken tomlinson, former chair of the CPB, who went on a crusade to "eliminate liberal bias" at PBS, hiring right-wingers as ombudsmen, hired a mysterious hoosier to monitor bill moyers, and tried to cut funding for children's programming (like sesame street), resigned from the CPB board. he resigned presumably to protect his other job (which also has oversight over PBS) as head of the broadcasting board of governors.

now, tomlinson is leaving the board of governors, asking president bush to withdraw his nomination. but does this mean PBS is finally safe? could tomlinson's replacement possibly be worse?

armed & ridiculous
if you live in indiana and follow entertainment news, you surely know that tonight is the premiere of armed & famous on cbs (particularly if you read the muncie star-press). this is the show where obscure celebrities like mini-me and ponch run around muncie, indiana, acting like they're cops. (if you didn't realize the premiere was tonight, and want to run to set your dvr now and thanks me later, i'll understand.)

well, the reviews are in, and surprise surprise, they are uniformly bad. according to tv critics, the show is somewhere in between mediocre and a plague upon humanity.

apparently, at some point, muncie mayor dan canan became convinced that this show wouldn't portray his city in a negative light. so let's hope for his sake that he doesn't read any reviews like this one in the buffalo news, where the reviewer whines that the show "may be as boring as life in Muncie, Ind., the area of 67,000 people that apparently considers this show good publicity", and declares that he'd "rather spend a month in Muncie or be tasered than watch another episode." (when people from buffalo, new york, think they can make fun of your city, you know your city has image problems.)

on the other hand, matt tully thinks the city merely comes off as "a bit sleepy". then again, tully apparently thinks indianapolis is terrifyingly dangerous these days, so maybe his perspective is a bit off.

at any rate, as someone who's spent a bit of time in muncie, enough to feel at least a minor connection to the town, my dvr is set and i'll definitely be watching tonight's premiere. how about you?

Monday, January 08, 2007 
miss ann writes a letter
from the bottom of the latest blog post by indy star columnist matt tully:

EMAIL OF THE WEEK, PART 2: "Greetings," it reads, "One of my friends linked me to your recent editorial criticizing the mayor's performance. It seems like you might be catching on, which is why I am specificially writing to you. I'm the former dominatrix in Meridian Kessler witch hunted by the mayor in an attempt to divert public attention away from his failing IndyWorks proposals back in 2005."

She goes on, but let's just say I'm very popular with the dominatrix crowd.

while he doesn't include her name, he is quite clearly referring to miss ann, who i've blogged about before (see greatest hits, in the right column), but not in the past several months. miss ann wrote to tully in the hopes of finding a kindred spirit in the media, someone who could relate the story of her struggle against the city, and instead tully mocked her for being a dominatrix. classy. (though i must say her line about tully "catching on" does sound a little conspiracy-minded. i can only imagine what was in the rest of that email, but it probably doesn't look too different from the content of her blog.)

so what has miss ann been up to since we last checked in? judging from her blog, not much: she doesn't post very often. last we checked in, she was hinting that she would release the audio of her "session" with the undercover cop once she got a copy of it. later, she announced that the tape was too boring to waste time on, claiming that mysteriously the audio stopped right before she got to the juicy stuff (where she allegedly tied up the cop, dressed him in lingerie, and harrassed him, calling him a slut for repeatedly asking her for sex).

a bit later, she went on ebay and tried to sell the lingerie that she'd dressed the cop in, but apparently ebay shut down both auctions. in response, miss ann announced that she planned "to commission the artifact to a local artist to encase in lucite" and then try to auction off the lucite-encrusted item. no word on whether this has happened or ever will.

her most recent post (dated october 9) includes her detailed testimony of her encounters with the undercover policeman, which has a few new details.

update: looks like miss ann has taken to reading advance indiana. i could be off base here, but this comment sure sounds like her.

i've been a bit worried recently about paying my taxes: now that i'm freelance, taxes are no longer being withheld from my paychecks, which means that instead of the phat refunds i used to get, this year i'll owe money... and i could owe a few thousand. plus i need to get started making quarterly payments to the irs, and the information on can be hard to decipher. but now it looks like i have another financial problem to deal with.

i had a dentist appointment this afternoon, so i logged on to my bank account to verify that i had enough money to pay for my cleaning, and suddenly noticed i had hundreds of dollars less than i thought i should. when i took a closer look, i found these four debit charges, which i most certainly did not make.

i checked my wallet and my debit card was still there, so whoever made these charges didn't physically steal my card, but still i was concerned. i called the bank, and got through to an actual human reasonably quickly. but the person i spoke to wasn't that helpful. she said that they can't cancel the charges while they are still "pending"; once the payments have posted, she told me, i can dispute them, but until then, unless the retailers contact the bank and cancel the transactions from that end, i'll just have to wait until the charges post. i kept waiting for her to tell me something useful, to maybe suggest that we should close out my debit card and issue a new one with a new number, but she never did. (she did ask whether i still had the card itself, and when i said i did, i guess that was sufficient.)

eventually (after my dental cleaning—no cavities), i called back, and explicitly told the person i spoke to that i was concerned someone might have stolen my debit card number. this new teller quickly helped me out by cancelling my card and issuing a new one (though i'll have to wait a week or more to receive it, which will be a pain). so i think the worst is over, and i should be protected from liability, so i should be able to get most of my $700 back. still, the whole ordeal is rather unsettling.

Sunday, January 07, 2007 
worst INtouch post ever?
i've seen some pretty sketchy posts on INtouch, so i know what a bold statement it is to even suggest that any particular post there could be the "worst". but this abomination by mark shere just might be it.

Have you played the Opposites game? Take several common-sense notions and turn them into their opposites. Then string them together and, voilà, you have a set of progressive political views. For example:

ooh, this should be interesting.

It is a bad thing when chain stores sell quality products at a low price. Journalists, not soldiers, are the defenders of the First Amendment. The law should protect baby seals and wetlands, but not unborn children. Building more prisons encourages more crime. The poor would be better off if fewer people were rich. We would all be better off if drug companies made less profit. Teaching abstinence won't reduce sex among young teens. Killing terrorists creates more terrorists. There's nothing natural about the fact that so many men enjoy power tools and so many women enjoy shopping.

first off, has this guy ever even met a progressive? do you know anyone who really believes anything in this paragraph? talk about straw man arguments... maybe one or two of these points resemble actual things liberals believe (and even then, resemble is the operative word). the rest reads like one of those bad email forwards that your annoying in-law used to send you a few years ago.

second off, the opposite of these things supposedly are not just true, but common sense, according to shere. so... we'd all be better off if drug companies made more profit? the law shouldn't protect wetlands and baby seals? and the poor would be better off if more people were rich? or maybe it's that the rich would be better off if fewer people were poor? these positions are so common-sense that i can't even make sense of them!

so all that was bad enough... cloudy thinking, straw man arguments, ludicrous exaggeration, the works. here's the kicker:

The oddest part of the game is that the people who play it most often and most sincerely think they are smarter and nicer than the rest of us. My view is quite the opposite.

in other words, if you don't agree with me, you're f'n retarded!

shorter mark shere: i don't understand liberals.

Saturday, January 06, 2007 
we don't need another hero
as i said before, regardless of whether it was justified, the execution of saddam hussein was not justice because it was handled in such a rushed, bumbling manner. but little did i know at the time what would be on the video of the execution that soon made its way around the net: saddam's executioners, wearing black hoods and street clothes instead of uniforms, taunting and jeering at their prisoner, and even chanting their allegiance to moqtada al sadr.

just about everything that could have possibly gone wrong with that execution did, except that saddam actually did die and he did not suddenly come back as a zombie and kill everyone in the room. seriously, how bad do things have to get when saddam hussein of all people becomes a martyr? this new york times piece should be read in its entirety; it's hard to pick just one chunk to exerpt, but i think i'll go with this:

Just a month ago Mr. Hussein was widely dismissed as a criminal who deserved the death penalty, even if his trial was seen as flawed. Much of the Middle East reacted with a collective shrug when he was found guilty of crimes against humanity in November.

But shortly after his execution last Saturday, a video emerged that showed Shiite guards taunting Mr. Hussein, who responded calmly but firmly to them. From then on, many across the region began looking at him as a martyr.

"The Arab world has been devoid of pride for a long time," said Ahmad Mazin al-Shugairi, who hosts a television show at the Middle East Broadcasting Center that promotes a moderate version of Islam in Saudi Arabia. "The way Saddam acted in court and just before he was executed, with dignity and no fear, struck a chord with Arabs who are desperate for their own leaders to have pride too."

Ayman Safadi, editor in chief of the independent Jordanian daily Al Ghad, said, "The last image for many was of Saddam taken out of a hole. That has all changed now."

it's "new coke" all over again: shoppers are not warming up to the new macy's.

in 2003, federated department stores decided to do away with its older brands, and convert department stores such as lazarus into macy's stores. (or at least into co-branded "lazarus/macy's" stores, which eventually morphed into pure "macy's".) then in 2005, federated bought out may department stores, and promptly decided to eliminate all the old may brands and change all those stores into macy's as well. this second round of rebranding hasn't gone over so well.

Loyalists to regional chains such as L.S. Ayres, Lazarus, Marshall Field's, Filene's and Kaufmann's remain cool to the rebranded Macy's stores, some analysts say. Cincinnati-based Federated changed nameplates of 400 former May Department Stores locations to Macy's in September, along with product selection.

Britt Beemer, a retail analyst and chairman of America's Research Group, estimates that former May locations may have lost 10 percent to 20 percent of their shopper base from a year ago.

"Clearly, Macy's stores have not won over the May customers to the degree that I thought they would," he said. "They need to rethink how they can attract customers."

hoosiers just don't like macy's as much as they liked ayres and lazarus. they don't seem to be as pissed off about the loss of ayres as chicago was about the loss of marshall field's, but they're just not hyped about macy's.

according to the article, federated remains convinced that this strategy is sound. and of course they'd say that: the damage is done, so they might as well carry on. trying to reverse things and un-rebrand the stores wouldn't help, and macy's knows this. but these days, with the increasing ease and popularity of online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers need brand loyalty more than ever to draw shoppers in. the old may brands like ayres and marshall field's had that brand loyalty, and federated threw it away.

Friday, January 05, 2007 
yesterday, nancy pelosi shattered the congressional glass ceiling by being the first woman speaker of the house. she's now only two heartbeats away from the presidency: if bush and cheney were to both meet some tragic fate, we'd have president pelosi.

now the house, newly led by democrats, is hard at work enacting its "first 100 hours" package of reforms. one of the first bills to be passed was a bill proposing restrictions on house members accepting privately funded travel. the bill soared through the house, 430-1. and who was the lone dissenter, bravely standing up for his right to go on expensive junkets with lobbyists? as we learn from gary welsh, who links to this indy star piece (and who was calmed down a bit since the elections, though his comments section hasn't improved much), it was indiana's own dan burton! way to go, dan!

the star article is a little confusing, because it compares indiana's congresspeople to each other, but not to congressfolks from other states. i.e., it has passages like this:

Burton, who could not be reached by phone after the evening vote, took the single most expensive trip by the delegation last year. Burton and his wife traveled to Taiwan on a $15,520 trip paid for by the ROC-USA Business Council.

Burton, a member of the House International Relations Committee, has accepted more than a dozen trips to Taiwan for himself or his aides over the past decade.

that "of the delegation" means that, compared only to the 11 people who represent indiana in the US congress, burton took the most expensive trip. now that's informative, but it would be even more helpful if he were compared to representatives from other states. a $15k junket sounds like a lot to those of us who only earn $20k–$30k a year, but is that expensive by congressional standards, or has indiana's delegation simply been reluctant (or unable) to cash in on all that free travel? is his 12 trips to taiwan a lot, or is it just a lot for indiana?

that's the kind of perspective we need, and the star gives it to us when it discusses dick lugar:

The biggest traveler was U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who usually lands on lists of most-traveled lawmakers because of the frequent trips to conferences around the world put on by the Aspen Institute, a think tank. Although the conferences are typically in desirable locales, and spouses are invited, the conferences are weeklong policy seminars that do not involve lobbyists.

Four of the seven privately funded trips Lugar took last year were put on by the Aspen Institute. That number was down from the 12 Lugar took in 2005.

so, out of the 11 people who represent indiana in the US congress, lugar has accepted the most privately funded trips. this is hardly surprising, considering that lugar is Mr. Serious Foreign Policy Expert. but he also accepts so much free travel that he often turns up on "most-travelled sentators" lists. and of course, the new house rules don't apply to senator lugar, but it's possible the senate might soon follow suit with its own new lobbying restrictions.

the rehnquist we hardly knew
now that former chief justice rehnquist has been dead for a while, his old secret papers are starting to come out. the most telling detail (so far?) in these newly released documents is that "during both of Rehnquist's confirmation battles — when he was first named to the court by President Nixon in 1971 and when President Reagan nominated him as chief justice in 1986 — the Justice Department enlisted the FBI to find out what witnesses lined up by Senate Democrats were prepared to say." if reagan and nixon were already abusing the fbi to stifle criticism of court appointees, one can only imagine the sorts of dirty tricks that the bush administration might have engaged in during its many contentious nominations.

and guess who personally approved the plan, and was prepared to personally take the heat in case democrats complained that the fbi had been spying on their witnesses? none other than everyone's favorite political moustache (and future ex-UN ambassador) john bolton!

but the juiciest, most salacious detail to come out of the papers (so far?) is that rehnquist was hooked on the pills throughout the '70s and into the early '80s (read: about the first third of his time in the supreme court):

During its 1986 investigation, the FBI concluded Rehnquist began taking the drug Placidyl for insomnia following back surgery in 1971, the year before he joined the court. By 1981 he apparently was taking 1,500 milligrams each night, three times the usual starting dose.

Placidyl is a sedative that is not usually prescribed for more than a week at a time. It is not an opiate and is not a painkiller, but it is addictive, and withdrawal can cause hallucinations and temporary memory loss.

The justice was weaned off Placidyl in early 1982 over the course of a month, according to the records. The hospital doctor who treated Rehnquist said the Capitol Hill physician who prescribed Placidyl for Rehnquist was practicing bad medicine, bordering on malpractice. Both doctors' names were redacted from the documents.

Doctors interviewed by the FBI told agents that when the associate justice stopped taking the drug, he suffered paranoid delusions. One doctor said Rehnquist thought he heard voices outside his hospital room plotting against him and had "bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts," including imagining "a CIA plot against him" and "seeming to see the design patterns on the hospital curtains change configuration."

At one point, a doctor told the investigators, Rehnquist went "to the lobby in his pajamas in order to try to escape." Ultimately, the doctors concluded that the withdrawal symptoms were so severe that they began giving Rehnquist the drug again and slowly lowered the dosage until he quit taking it entirely on Feb. 7, 1982.

By 1986, the files show, all the doctors interviewed by the FBI said the former drug dependence should not affect Rehnquist's work on the court.

so by the time he became chief justice, he was sobered up, but went through an apparently nasty addiction and delusional withdrawal while serving on the supreme court.

also, some parts of the documents are still blacked out:

In one previously secret memo from 1971, an FBI official wrote: "No persons interviewed during our current or 1969 investigation furnished information bearing adversely on Rehnquist's morals or professional integrity; however ..."

The next third of the page is blacked out, under the disclosure law's exception for matters of national security.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 
the year of the vonnegut
2007 is officially the "year of kurt vonnegut" in indianapolis, according to this week's nuvo cover story. this means there will be tons of vonnegut shiz going on all year: lectures, discussion groups, tours, maybe some kind of "performing arts dimension".

vonnegut is not only one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century (who frequently discussed indiana and indianapolis in his novels), but his family is closely tied to indianapolis history—his father and grandfather were architects who designed numerous local landmarks. as such, a citywide celebration of vonnegut's work is such a natural fit that one wonders why it didn't already happen years ago.

according to the nuvo article, which is worth a read for the local historical stuff, the year of vonnegut is largely the brainchild of mayor bart peterson. the mayor's history of arts support is mixed—the local electronic music scene never recovered after peterson's "rave crackdown" a few years back, and his crusade against violent video games is troubling—but he and the city have done a lot to support highbrow art over the course of his administration, at least, as well as sponsoring events like MMS for the common rock fan.

i won't include any quotes about all the year's vonnegut events; you can read up on that for yourself. but i couldn't resist this. at the end of the article is a short interview with vonnegut about the year's fesitivities, which includes this great quote from vonnegut about growing up as a german-american back in the day:

One thing you must acknowledge is that the Anglo-Americans hated the Germans. The Athenaeum used to be Das Deutsches Haus, the German House. Yellow paint was splashed over the front of it. The Germans had given the same offense that the Armenians had given in Turkey, and the Ebos had given in Nigeria, and the Jews had given in Germany: They were so successful, finally the Anglos were saying, "Who the hell's country is this?"

One thing that I regret is that my parents, who were fluent in German and could so easily have taught me, didn't. My father told me he got a letter saying, "Don't teach your kids that Dutch!" The hatred was really quite something — and painful in a business way, too.

sound familiar? same talk, different immigrants. 50–80 years from now, latinos will be fully assimilated into US culture (assuming it survives!) and those of us who're still around will have to put up with anti-robot hate speech.

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