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Thursday, May 31, 2007 
puerto alegre
perhaps the most interesting of the google street view glitches i've found so far... check out the whole set so far.

(but right now it's after 3am, so i really gotta get to bed...)


google street glitch
after reading about it on boingboing, i started checking out google street view. i was looking at the shot of the woman's cat in her window and zoomed out to browse through the neighborhood... but what really drew my attention was these glitched-out buildings and trees on the horizon.


Monday, May 28, 2007 
rip charles nelson reilly
tony-winning television icon charles nelson reilly has passed on.

Charles Nelson Reilly, the Tony Award winner who later became known for his ribald appearances on the "Tonight Show" and various game shows, has died. He was 76.

Reilly died Friday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, his partner, Patrick Hughes, told the New York Times.

He gained fame by becoming what he described as a "game show fixture" in the 1970s and 80s. He was a regular on programs like "Match Game" and "Hollywood Squares," often wearing giant glasses and colorful suits with ascots.

His larger-than-life persona and affinity for double-entendres also landed him on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson more than 95 times.

Reilly ruefully admitted his wild game show appearances adversely affected his acting career. "You can't do anything else once you do game shows," he told The Advocate, the national gay magazine, in 2001. "You have no career."

Reilly's openly gay television persona was ahead of its time, and sometimes stood in his way. He recalled a network executive telling him "they don't let queers on television."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 
as it turns out, the revolution will be televised after all
and the company that'll bring it to you will be funded by US tax dollars!

Al Hurra television, the U.S. government's $63 million-a-year effort at public diplomacy broadcasting in the Middle East, is run by executives and officials who cannot speak Arabic, according to a senior official who oversees the program.

That might explain why critics say the service has recently been caught broadcasting terrorist messages, including an hour-long tirade on the importance of anti-Jewish violence, among other questionable pieces.

Facing tough questions before a congressional panel last week, Broadcasting Board of Governors member Joaquin Blaya admitted none of the senior news managers at the network spoke Arabic when the terrorist messages made it onto the air courtesy of U.S. taxpayer funds. Nor did Blaya himself or any of the other officials at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the network.

The station's gaffes have included broadcasting in December 2006 a 68-minute call to arms against Israelis by a senior figure of the terrorist group Hezbollah; deferential coverage of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial conference; and a factually flawed piece on a splinter group of Orthodox Jews who oppose the state of Israel, according to the Wall Street Journal, which has reported the network's travails for months.

Friday, May 18, 2007 
obstruction of right away
from the indy star (by morning time there might be a new, improved version of this story up, but i'm stuck working with this one):

Several pastors calling themselves the Indianapolis Clergy Committee said they would get themselves arrested if necessary today in a protest over low pay to janitors working at Downtown office buildings.

"We just feel compelled to use our last resorts in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King and provide a creative tension," said the Rev. C.J. Hawking, national organizer for Interfaith Worker Justice, which is helping organize the protest.

king, in case you missed the connection, was assassinated while in memphis to offer his support for striking afscme workers.

In March, the Service Employees International Union held a Downtown rally to call attention to contract negotiations in Cincinnati.

SEIU has sought to work out a "model" contract with cleaning companies employing several thousand office janitors in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.

those clergy members got arrested after all, as seen in this star photo of catholic priest rev. tom fox getting frisked.

Six clergy members engaging in what they described as civil disobedience were arrested today at a Downtown office building where they were protesting what they said were the "poverty wages" being paid to janitors who clean the building.

The clergy blocked the main entrance to the Market Tower, 10 W. Market St., by sitting in front of its revolving doors and crowding an area in front of escalators. About 40 protesters who followed them in a march from Christ Church Cathedral dispersed after police issued a warning.

The clergy gave police advance notice of the protest. They will likely be charged with a misdemeanor obstruction of right away, said Lt. Joe Finch of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

while i couldn't resist pointing out the amusing typo (which seems par for the course on today's; you can really see all the staff reductions in the increasingly poor quality of news copy), the main reason i wanted to link to the story is to draw attention to the protest, and the janitors' poor pay and working conditions:

Inside glitzy buildings occupied by law firms, plastic surgeons and insurance companies, janitors are being forced to work for poverty wages and no benefits and do double shifts under alias names without overtime, claims the union, which organized the Justice for Janitors campaign.

The charges are being made against Erlanger, Ky.-based Corporate Cleaning Systems, a janitorial contract company that cleans seven office parks in Carmel and on Indianapolis' Northeastside. Those include Castleton Office Park, Conseco Insurance's building and Meridian Plaza.

SEIU said that janitors working for CCS are paid $6 to $7 an hour, have no health insurance and most can get only part-time work. Some employees report unsafe working conditions and said they often must provide their own cleaning supplies.

but what really struck me the most about the story wasn't any detail in the story, nor its poor construction, but the overwhelming vitriol in the talkback section. i don't know what planet these commenters live on (not one i would recognize), but wherever it is, apparently high-paying jobs are quite easy to come by there, which is odd considering that said planet is in danger of being overrun by aliens.

Saturday, May 12, 2007 
busy weekend
virago's family is coming into town for graduation this weekend, so i'll be fairly busy over the next couple days entertaining and going to various and sundry graduation-related events.

Thursday, May 10, 2007 
ellsworth's turn
yesterday, congressman joe donnelly guest-blogged on bilerico to explain his "no" vote against the hate crimes bill. i posted my response here on my blog, and wilson posted one of the key passages to the comments at bilerico. disappointingly, donnelly did not participate in the comment section of his post, contrary to expectations, so there's no way to know whether he even read any of the comments or simply did a "hit and run" blog post.

today, representative brad ellsworth takes his turn guest-posting at bilerico, trying to explain his own "no" vote. his post is quite similar to donnelly's and employs many of the same arguments—"most violent crimes are based on hate", i'm obeying "the wishes of an overwhelming number of 8th District constituents". i already addressed these arguments in my previous post, so i won't go over them again here. i'll only hit the new stuff here:

This was a difficult decision for me because I did not want my opposition to the bill to be perceived as an endorsement of violence against the gay community.

of course, the easiest way to ensure this would have been to vote "yes"—that would have been a clear vote against violence in the gay community. as the american psychological association explains, "Most hate crimes are carried out by otherwise law-abiding young people who see little wrong with their actions." these perpetrators are so blinded by prejudice that they actually believe they're doing a good thing when they go out and harrass, beat, rape, or kill members of the LGBT community. voting "no" on the hate crimes bill sends them a coded message that they're right.

As I was making this decision, I contacted Sheriffs and county prosecutors in all 18 counties of the 8th District because I wanted to hear from the people who investigate and prosecute violent crimes every day. I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer. I believe their responses were sincere.

on first read, this seems to be saying that all ellsworth's sheriffs and deputies told him to vote no. but pay close attention to the way this sentence is phrased: "I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer."

"I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool": rep ellsworth doesn't ask whether passing the bill is the right thing to do, or whether it's a good law. he asked whether it would be a "helpful tool", or in other words, whether they would pursue and prosecute more hate crimes if the bill passes. (of course, the point of having a federal hate crimes bill is that is allows the FBI to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in those cases where local law enforcement is not interested in doing it.)

then, in response, "those i heard from" (meaning "the ones who actually called me back") told him that the bill wouldn't "make our communities safer". they didn't necessarily say it was a bad bill or that he should vote against it, only that it wouldn't make things safer (in the same way, i imagine, that we still have murders despite the laws against murder). in fact, every one of them could have said, "i think it's a good bill and you should vote for it, but it won't necessarily make our communities safer" and ellsworth's claim would still be technically true.

at any rate, this goes back to what i discussed last time: is it better for a representative to vote the will of his constituents, even if they are wrong? or should he vote the right way and risk angering the people who voted him into office? i tend to believe he should do the right thing regardless of what his constituents think, but rep ellsworth is explicitly arguing the opposite. (once again we'll ignore the evidence that suggests that a large proportion of ellsworth's constituents probably actually support the legislation.)

all in all, i'm unimpressed by the two congressmen's justifications for their vote, but that's as i expected. at the least, they did agree to guest-post and face some stiff questioning from indiana's LGBT community... though i hope that rep ellsworth will stick around and participate in the comments thread under his post, as rep donnelly has not done.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007 
donnelly explains
last week, the US house passed a new federal hate crimes bill. the new bill augments the existing federal hate crimes law that has been on the books for decades to add new protections based on sexual orientation.

it was a good day for progressives... well, for most of them. 14 democrats voted against the bill, angering their progressive constituents. (of course, 166 republicans, including all four of indiana's, also voted against the bill, but that's hardly a surprise.) among those 14 were two freshman democrats from indiana, joe donnelly and brad ellsworth.

many progressive-minded hoosiers felt betrayed by donnelly and ellsworth, and demanded an explanation. that's where blogger bil browning of bilerico comes in. bil not only got in touch with the offices of donnelly and ellsworth, he got both congressmen to agree to guest blog their responses on bilerico. this is undoubtedly a brave move by the congressmen, who had to know that the audience at bilerico, probably the largest LGBT blog in the state, would be hostile (or at best unsympathetic).

rep. ellsworth will post tomorrow; rep. donnelly's post is up now. and while the commenters there are already tearing his opinions apart, i'll chime in here briefly.

I took many factors into consideration before ultimately deciding to vote against H.R. 1592. Not least of those factors was the input I received from my constituents. All told, I received nearly five times as many calls, emails and letters from opponents of the bill as I did from its supporters.

this is sort of an interesting point. let's ignore for a moment that many of those anti-1592 calls were almost certainly part of an organized campaign by groups such as the AFA, and that many of them probably originated from outside donnelly's district (if not out of state). we'll even ignore the polls that suggest that a sizable majority of hoosiers were in favor of this bill. and we'll assume for the sake of argument that donnelly's constituents truly were oppposed to this bill 5 to 1.

is it an elected official's job to represent the will of his constituents, even if they are on the wrong side of an issue? if your conscience tells you that the correct, moral way to vote is yes, but your constituents overwhelmingly want you to vote no, what should you do? i would think that "yes" would be the right vote, no matter what your constituents say. still, there is an argument to be made that you should vote "no" against your conscience, because you are supposedly there to represent your constituents.

But that was not the only factor: I also question whether a federal hate crimes law would truly be effective in ending the abhorrent acts of violence that are fueled by hate.

The sad reality is that all violent crimes are in some way born of hate. I am sickened at the thought of any human being acting out in violence against any other human being. Thankfully, our society decided hundreds of years ago that acts of violence perpetrated against innocent individuals should be forbidden. These acts are criminal and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

this is pure right-wing spin. there are a number of problems here:

1. there is already a federal hate crimes law on the books, and has been forever, protecting people against hate crimes based on their race, religion, or what have you. this new bill simply extends those protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, and makes them more enforceable. (and remember: you don't have to be gay to be a victim of gay-bashing; your attackers only need to think you are.)

2. it is simply not true that "all violent crimes... are born of hate". donnelly makes a point to say "violent crime", so this argument isn't as absurd as its more generalized form, "all crimes are hate crimes". (when i got carjacked at gunpoint several years ago, the guy didn't do it because he hated me; he did it because he wanted the car i was driving.)

some violent crimes are crimes of passion: you catch your lover in bed with someone else and you snap. some are committed because of mental illness. some are committed out of sheer economic desperation. and some are committed in the course of an otherwise non-violent crime that goes horribly wrong. there are lots of reasons why violent crimes get committed; "hate" is only one of them.

furthermore, a fundamental difference between a hate crime and a "normal" crime is not whether the perpetrator hates the victim, but how it affects others in the community. if i kill my neighbor because he's a jerk and i hate him, that's not a hate crime. but if i kill him because he's black and i hate blacks, that is a hate crime, because it could potentially terrorize any other blacks who live in the community. (and if i spray-paint the n-word on his house after i kill him, it will almost definitely terrorize any black neighbors.)

put simply: hate crimes are a form of terrorism. they send an unsubtle message to minority groups that "we don't like your kind 'round here. in fact, we beat up and kill your kind 'round these parts." this is why hate crimes are worse than non-hate crimes, and why they deserve harsher punishment.

The chief law enforcement officers in our communities-our prosecutors-do their level-best to punish violent criminals for their actions. For this service, we owe them a debt of gratitude. However, prosecutors, whether at the local, state or federal level, cannot eradicate hate from our society. It is up to us-in how we raise our children and how we treat one another-to limit the impact hate has on our communities. But as long as there are people who hate, envy or are jealous or angry, there will be violent crimes against innocent people, regardless of whether a federal hate crimes law like H.R. 1592 is on the books.

way to vanquish that straw man, congressman. of course, the point of hate crime legislation is not to "eradicate hate from our society". nobody thinks they will. hell, by that line of thinking, why do we have laws against violent crime at all? "there will still be violent crimes agains innocent people" no matter how strict our laws are, so what's the point, right? we should do away with all laws against violent crime and instead work on stamping out the real cause of all crime: human emotion.

of course, there are many real reasons to support hate crime legislation: to protect victims, to encourage victims to report hate crimes committed against them, and to ensure that perpetrators are adequately punished considering the severity of their crimes. and, perhaps most importantly, to send a symbolic message that we do not tolerate that crap here in america.

sir hailstone loses the primary?
the primaries are over, results are mostly in, and other than (or perhaps despite) the serious problems with polls not opening on time (if at all) in marion county, there are few surprises. greg ballard was won the right to lose november's mayoral election to bart peterson, but at least his candidacy will be a good excuse to slip the word "ballardian" into conversation. and elsewhere throughout the region, the two parties' favored candidates won their primary fights in most cases.

but not all. one notable exception is in the GOP nominations for city-county council. as various blogs reported in february, for some inexplicable reason, the local GOP chose michael jezierski, better known as wingnut blogger "sir hailstone", as one of its four preferred candidates for the at-large seats on the council. on more than one occasion i've put on my waders and trudged through the stream of crap on his blog, documenting all the childish name-calling and other unbecoming conduct, only to have him delete everything shortly thereafter, so i won't waste time pointing to all the silliness on his campaign blog... but here's a taste: "there is the inherent left wing media bias in effect concerning Gannett newspapers." (hailstone hates the indy star, but that didn't stop him from writing an LTE proposing some kind of fascist boot camp for truant students. it's your guess where we'd get the funding to basically imprison teenagers for cutting school too often.)

anyway, with 873 of the county's 914 precincts reporting in, jezierski is trailing barbara malone by 241 votes. it seems unlikely that there are enough uncounted votes out there for hailstone to turn that gap around, which means that hailstone's bid to be elected to city-county council is already over.

all three of the GOP's other chosen at-large candidates won easily. but not hailstone. i googled barbara malone but didn't learn much other than that she's a lawyer.

this leaves several questions: who is malone, and why was she able to get more votes than a party-slated candidate? why did the party pick a joke candidate like hailstone over malone or the other three republican candidates? and, perhaps most interestingly, did his past as a freeper and wingnut blogger kill his campaign?

i'm not aware of many other cases of bloggers running for office (not candidates who blog, but people who become known as bloggers first and then run for office later), so hailstone's defeat could be instructional not just locally, but nationally. primary elections, particularly in off-years like this one, are "elite" elections, where few other than die-hard political junkies show up at the polls—exactly the type of person most likely to read political blogs. and candidate jezierski's past as a right-wing troll, including his putting out a bounty for dirt on "that tdw bitch", was reported on two of the state's largest blogs, advance indiana and taking down words. and hailstone was in fact a regular commenter at AI, the largest republican blog in the state, leaving all sorts of inane comments before he got serious and tried to kill off the hailstone persona. so it's hard to imagine that there weren't at least a few GOP voters who got into the booth and thought "jezierski? i'm not going to vote for that hailstone creep..."

oh, a couple more questions: what's in the future for sir hailstone, now that his dreams of public service are dashed (for a couple years, at least)? will his old blog spring back to life once more? or perhaps he'll go on a tirade about how his loss was caused by the county's problem with unopened polling places? will he call for a recount or a "do-over" election? or will he accept his defeat with dignity, as his hero eric dickerson never did?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 
tastes like melamine
associated press reports that there could be melamine-spiked fish out there, just waiting to be eaten.

Farmed fish have been fed meal spiked with the same chemical that has been linked to the pet food recall, but the contamination was probably too low to harm anyone who ate the fish, federal officials said Tuesday.

animal feed (especially livestock feed, but apparently fish food as well) is made of all kinds of weird stuff: rendered animal carcasses, gluten from assorted grains, and apparently leftover pet food, too.

After pigs and chickens, the farmed fish mark the third food animal given contaminated feed. The level of contamination is expected to be too low to pose any danger to human health, said Dr. David Acheson, the FDA's assistant commissioner for food protection.

It wasn't immediately clear if any of the farmed fish entered the food supply. However, Acheson said at least one firm's fish were still too young and small to be sold. Investigators were visiting other U.S. aquaculture farms that used the contaminated feed. Farmed fish typically are sold for direct consumption or for stocking lakes and streams.

Melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides and not approved for use in pet or human in the U.S., contaminated pet food that either sickened or killed an unknown number of dogs and cats. Since March 16, more than 100 brands of pet food have been recalled because they were contaminated with melamine.

those chickens that ate melamine-spiked feed were right here in indiana. some of those chickens did make it into the food supply, but the rest have been quarantined and will not.

U.S. investigators also have learned that the purported Chinese wheat gluten and a second ingredient, rice protein concentrate, were actually simple wheat flour. The flour was spiked with melamine and related, nitrogen-rich compounds to make it appear more protein rich than it was. In tests, nitrogen levels are measured to gauge the overall protein content of food ingredients.

"What we discovered is these are not wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate but in fact are wheat flour contaminated by melamine," Acheson said.

The FDA is considering enforcement options, he added. The ingredients came from two Chinese firms: Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. and Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd.

The supposed wheat gluten was exported directly from China to Canada in a deal brokered by a U.S. company, ChemNutra Inc., Acheson said. ChemNutra also supplied the ingredient to a Canadian dog and cat food company, Menu Foods, that's since recalled dozens of brands.

Steve Stern, a ChemNutra spokesman, said the Las Vegas company actually only cobrokered the deal to supply wheat gluten to the fish meal producer: "We never owned it, we never sold it."

When asked why the company didn't disclose previously that it had had a part in that deal, Stern said: "I really haven't got an answer to that right now."

Menu Foods has said it faces more than 50 lawsuits. It in turn has sued ChemNutra. And the FDA has searched facilities belonging to both companies.

officials insist that the amount of melamine one might ingest from eating a melamine-laced fish plank or chicken breast should not be harmful to humans. and logic dictates that they're probably right. the amount of melamine in any contaminated feed would naturally be much lower and more diluted than it would be in pet food (and pets tend to eat only one kind of food), and presumably an amount that could harm a person would be more than enough to kill a much smaller chicken or fish. so realistically, you probably don't have much to fear from this, though of course no more contaminated meat should be allowed to enter the food supply.

furthermore (or perhaps i should say "however"), it would seem as though melamine on its own is not enough to cause any real damage. after all, the chinese have been pulling this melamine scam for some time now, so if melamine were truly dangerous we would likely have seen far more death than we have. this suggests that melamine might be relatively innocuous on its own, but in combination with some other as-yet-unidentified compound that was present in the contaminated pet food, becomes deadly, like so much smilex. but what is that other compound? we can't truly be sure of our safety until we know exactly what killed all those animals.

primary colors
it's primary day in indiana, and you probably wouldn't even hear about it if things weren't going so horribly wrong.

new marion county clerk beth white (D) is getting a lot of heat because of major problems getting polls open throughout the county. apparently, 150 or more polling place inspectors failed to pick up their materials yesterday, which meant their polling places were unable to open on time. several hours after polls were supposed to open at 6a.m., white was still unable to say how many polling places remained unopened.

if that many people are going to flake out and just not do the work they've agreed to do, i don't know what white is supposed to do to fix things at the last minute. such a development doesn't seem to be her fault per se, but nevertheless, dealing with it is her responsibility as the new clerk. and a pillar of white's campaign was that elections were so sloppy under her predecessor, doris anne sadler (R). white was right to complain about those earlier messed-up elections (indeed, the last election sadler oversaw was particularly screwed up), and white's critics are right to point out that things aren't going much better this year... though in both cases, critics might be exaggerating for political effect.

(puzzlingly, county GOP chairman tom john said earlier today that "the results of the entire 2007 Primary Election are now in question", but also says that the party "is inclined against" extending poll hours. if he truly thinks the results are in question, why wouldn't he want to extend poll hours... unless he thinks the party's chances are better going to court after all the results are in, to contest the results of whichever vote the GOP doesn't like? or maybe it's just a ploy: they know they won't like the election results, and now they can say "beth white screwed it all up, but we were good sports about it"?)

meanwhile, secretary of state todd rokita, oblivious to the growing national realization that republican claims of "voter fraud" are a scam, has been up to his old hijinx in lake county. rokita claims he has the authority to send "special deputies" to any polling place he likes in order to monitor elections for potential fraud. and naturally, he only wants to send them to predominantly black, overwhelmingly democratic lake county. this sounds like a horrible power to grant, as it isn't difficult to imagine a hypothetically corrupt SoS sending a bunch of brownshirts to intimidate minority voters. (and indeed, at first glance, this would appear to be what rokita is doing. rokita's defenders counter that lake county is "notorious" for voter fraud, which translates to "it happened there 40 years ago, so it must still be happening, evidence or no.")

lake county officials say that while rokita himself has the power to visit any polling place he chooses, he can't just grant that power willy-nilly to whoever he likes. polling place monitors must be approved by the county election board, they say, and must also be residents of the county in question. (otherwise that hypothetically corrupt SoS could easily fly in a bunch of jackboots from god knows where.) it remains to be seen whether rokita's deputies actually made it into the polls, and are currently intimidating lake county voters as i type this.

quote of the month for may
Happily, unlike Wired Magazine, they don't overuse the term "mash-ups" to describe what they're doing.

create digital music's peter kirn, discussing the evolution control committee (and specifically the thimbletron)

simply adding two things together does not a mashup make; otherwise peanut butter & jelly would be the ultimate mashup sandwich. and don't get me started on how remix culture is about a lot more than just adding A + B to create C (though C can sometimes be quite entertaining in its own right).

Thursday, May 03, 2007 
fun with numbers
so the powers that be want to suppress distribution of a particular 32-digit hexadecimal number. but there are lots of ways to distribute such numbers online, especially when people are committed to keeping the number in circulation.

for example, one could take a photograph, and then using a hex editor, one could surreptitiously hide the number in the image data. or one could go completely balls-out and just replace all of the pixel data in the image with the number, in order to see what sorts of patterns emerge. one could even do this multiple times with multiple images.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007 
im in ur wiki
i just got a tip that one of my lolcats currently appears as an illustration in the wikipedia entry on lolcats.

there are thousands of other lolcats and cat macros out there, and probably hundreds that are more popular and better known than my humble submissions, so it's an honor to be selected by whoever added my photo to the entry.

of course, it was probably selected in large part because all the photos on my flickr stream have creative commons licenses. as paul discovered, wikipedia authors strongly prefer to use CC-licensed images whenever possible, because they know they won't get any cease-and-desist letters for using them. so while there are thousands of lolcats to choose from overall, the pool of CC-licensed cats is considerably smaller.

still, it's nice to see my pic there... at least until it gets replaced or the whole entry gets deleted.

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