Friday, April 29, 2005

Me and Verlyn

Verlyn Klinkenborg has a nice op-ed piece today. Like me, he's ordered "Tiger" for his Mac, and here muses on the historically unique notion of improving a piece of machinery, while being able to just return to what you had.
The only way to upgrade the refrigerator or the vacuum cleaner is to buy a new one. I can think of nothing I owned at the time that was capable of taking in new instructions and using them to improve its operation substantially. The only thing that could do so was not a machine at all. It was a human being.

There have been some profoundly ungratifying upgrades, of course. That's why computer experts recommend backing up your hard drive before you upgrade, so you can return to a prior state if you have to. There's nothing quite like that in the hardware world either. There's something especially winning about the idea of taking a snapshot of the present so you can return to it if the future doesn't work out the way you want it to.
You can play my waiting game too, as I wait for Fed Ex package 753369658120.

Gross Transparency

Bill Frist came up with his own generous compromise on judicial fillibusters:
allow(ing) the minority party to block lower-court appointees if Democrats agreed to give up the power to block nominees for appeals courts and the Supreme Court.
Oh, suuuurrreeee! Thanks for playing your hand: smooth confirmations for Renquist's replacement... we're going to pass on that offer.

Those who wonder how our most conservative Justice Scalia slid right into his seat when Clarence Thomas' or Robert Bork's hearings remain legend, this is how. After a long and contentious debate on the elevation of Renquist, committee members were just to tired to do it all over again with Scalia.

In a very perverse way, conservatives are far more effective on "keeping their eyes on prize." But anyone who understand this stand off knows that both parties are thinking about the same prize: the Supreme Court. Once the blocked judges rise from to circuit and appeals court, they become potential Supreme Court nominees.

Go back to why Senate Democrats are resisting their nominations:
* Priscilla Owen, an ultraconservative activist, ruling against consumers, working people and minors who want abortions.

* William H. Pryor Jr. Democratic senators have objected to his comments and writings on abortion and homosexuality, which included a Supreme Court brief in a Texas sodomy case that likened homosexual acts to "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia."

* Janice Rogers Brown, Democrats say the California Supreme Court justice is a conservative judicial activist who ignores the law in favor of her own political views. They cite here support for limits on abortion rights and corporate liability and her opposition to affirmative action.

* William G. Myers III, Democrats say the former Interior Department solicitor has an anti-environment agenda and opposed environmental protections while at Interior and as a private lawyer and lobbyist for cattle and mining interests.
No, the whole stream leading the Supreme Court is important. In resonable terms, judicial appointments should resemble the normal curve of ideology... 90-95% should pass, which means I'll disagree with many, but these four are deep conservative outliers and should not be elevated.

It is insulting that they continue to nominated, let alone precipatate this showdown. But if the real goal of the nuclear option is to make Supreme appointments a breeze, then I say shut down the Senate.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Mugabe, proof that hell exists on earth

I've been following the antics of Robert Mugabe for several years. The former Zimbabwean freedom fighter turned despot continues his path of destruction on Zimbabwe's resources. His newest campaign is to allow the slaughter of wildlife to feed his starving people.
Because of the general abundance of certain species of wildlife in southern Zimbabwe and the establishment of the transfrontier park, which allows animals from Mozambique and South Africa's world-famous Kruger National Park to move freely into and out of Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou (home of the elephants) National Park, there have been high hopes among conservationists that Zimbabwe's wildlife sector could be restored to its former glory.

This now appears highly unlikely as Zimbabwe's department of national parks and wildlife management, the custodian of this embattled country's wild animals, has been given the green light to work with rural district councils to kill animals to feed more than four-million hungry rural Zimbabweans. National Parks officials said the recent shootings of 10 elephants for barbecue meat at festivities to mark Zimbabwe's 25 years of independence around the country had been carried out in the broad context of the directive to kill animals to feed the hungry, particularly those living within the vicinity of national parks.
Once Africa's breadbasket this is an outrageous shame, with Mugabe's land reform cronysm as a cheif culprit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A different broken windows theory

Bill Gates, you gotta love hating him... or at least his software company. After weather criticism on the less than impressive beta for the next generation of Windows, and on Microsoft's retreat from support of LGBT rights in Washington state (with Ralph Reed's services), there's finally some good news from him.

CNET reports on Gates' opposition to H-1B visas. It sounds cryptic, but it's another knee jerk reaction to 9/11 that we have yet to shake off.
Federal quotas on H-1B visas, capped at 65,000 last year, have long been a sore spot for Microsoft and other technology companies. But, Gates said, the increased caliber of research institutions in China and India means that curbs on immigration and guest-workers will pose a greater threat to America's competitiveness than ever before.
Good job Bill! And by the way, your foundation does good work too.

And a note on stem cells

Many of you know that I work for a foundation that support bioethics research, as well as arts adn humanities. On today's NYTimes print edition, was news from one of our projects regarding guidelines for stem cell research. It leads:
Citing a lack of leadership by the federal government, the National Academy of Sciences proposed ethical guidelines yesterday for research with human embryonic stem cells.
It's very interesting reading and appropriately balanced I feel.

Two ways to Reid the same story

John Nichols begins his article in the Nation with " Never underestimate the determination of Washington Democrats to try and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was seeking a compromise on what ought to be a matter of principle. The compromise that Reid was advancing would have seen Republicans back off their push for a "nuclear option" to shut down filibusters in return for Democratic acquiescence to the GOP's demand that some of the White House's most objectionable judicial nominations be allowed to advance.

...Reid succumbed to fears that the American people might not be with him on the question of whether the rule of law ought to prevail in America.
But the Daily Kos has another take, and I think more assuring if not astute:
But in order to avoid looking like obstructionists, Democrats had to make efforts to "find a compromise", lest the chattering class get the vapors from such Democratic intransigence.

...Frist painted himself into a corner, having whipped up the forces of wingnuttery into a froth, he could not back down without damaging his White House aspirations for 2008. He's banking on the crazies to get him the nomination.

So Reid got the Democrats to look conciliatory, forcing Frist and his Republicans to look even more inflexible than before.

Both articles note how American's overwhelmingly dissaprove (66% to 26%) of the GOP's "nuclear option" as do enough Republicans to keep the nuclear option sketchy.

Relatedly, Bob Dole gives an underwhelming, dare I pun "impotent", plea of "Gee whiz guys, just let them vote up or down, I did" He doesn't so much endorse the nuclear option so much as warn "well heck, Frist warned you." It's as if the blocked nominees are only as conservative as Clinton's were liberal. Where oh where can one learn about these judges? The last three are admittedly just stuck in the crossfire, but the show down is definately worth keeping the first four out.

Critical Mass Transportation

Last night Whitney asked me the best way to get from Brooklyn Heights to LGA. She was thinking train wise, but the truth is that a car is best way. So to with JFK, and moderately less so with Newark.

For that we have Robert Moses to thank. Great builder of parks, he assumed the best way to get around a city would be by automobile, hence direct rail connections between airports and the train stations weren't so interesting. Though JFK now has the airtrain, you still have to schlep out to the end of the A, E or J/Z lines, which alone can take over an hour as the trains go local.

Furthermore, Moses believed that trucks got in the way of cars and thus made traffic difficult. His solution: Parkways for cars, expressways for all. The result is the gridlock we find in all major urban centers. It is now recognized that the trucks happen to be the efficient and necessary axels on the road (especially for Mahattan businesses) and cars are the bad cholesterol.

Which is a long way of introducing the topic at hand: Critical Mass.
Critical Mass is a monthly celebration of bicycles and other nonpolluting means of transportation, exercising our right to the road. Critical Mass is a movement, not an organization; no two riders participate for exactly the same reason. New York City's first Critical Mass was in 1993.
Critical Mass is turning 12 this year, with Friday as the first ride of the year. Though I haven't participated, I've been jonesing for a two-wheeler lately.

Unfortunately, New York City sued Critical Mass on March 23, 2005:
New York City filed a lawsuit this week, seeking to prevent TIME'S UP! from promoting or advertising events that the city alleges to be illegal. The lawsuit also states that TIME'S UP! and the general public cannot participate in riding or gathering at the Critical Mass bike ride. It claims that any event whatsoever with 20 or more persons requires a permit.
So while folks become anxious of higher gas prices, they still hold on to driving there SUV's for short trips ( I'm talking to you Ma!) NYC takes another step backwards and refuses to acknowledge that bicycles are traffic and far more desirable for this narrow island and that cars just jam up its fair canyons.

I highly recommend reading Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses for a great insight of why our cities and highways are made the way they are. Or check out Les Freres Corbusier's Boozy for a more theatrical take.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The future is now

917Press has admittedly become blogged down in political anxiety, so I thought it'd be good to report on the powers of good.

Earlier today I attended the NYU Presidential Service Awards, where SNEAC, student network exploring arts and culture were accepting an award for programing after their first year in existence. SNEAC was founded by friends Whitney, Sarah, Jude, David and Carol. Among other fun stuff, they hosted a screening of Chisholm '72, and send out a bi-weekly "Sneac recommends" listing.

Of interesting note, relative to the issue's treatment in mainstream news, students doing work with LGBT issues were strongly represented, perhaps this trend will carry out it and illuminate the troglodites that run public opinion now.

Lastly, Whitney brought home the Russian Futurists' "Our Thickness." I found the Russian Futurists (aka Matthew Adam Hart) on a couple blogs (see 4/6/05), as I did with Andrew Bird. The music is catchy, the lyrics subversively dark, good stuff all around.

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A great reminder of the peculiarities of the Senate

Back when we were all counting electoral votes, I got very interested the topic of how the Senate a) skews the electoral college to favor small states; and b) skew business in that chamber to further benefit small states as cleverly laid out in Harper's by Richard Rosenfeld. There is a well timed reminder in today's NYTimes letters section by William Kenney.

Here is an interesting tid bit from the Richard Rosenfeld piece:
A majority of the people in our country are represented by just 18 senators, or 18% of the body . . . while the 52 Senators from the 26 least populous states represent just 18% of the U.S. population.Big surprise, he notes, that “the less populous states have extracted benefits from the nation out of proportion to their populations.”
So, to Joseph Pisano of Strong Island who wrote: "We the people elected George W. Bush president. The Democratic Party lost and now wants to rule and change laws through activist judges and liberal nominees. This is not what the majority of the people want, as reflected in the presidential race."

George W got the most votes, and yes, more than half of the votes cast in 04, (though appointed by activist judges in 2000) but that does not mean we should dismantle decades of jurisprudence in a matter of months to much of the country does not interpret Nov 04 as a mandate, only as close election in a sharply divided country. I though most of us want to live under a constitution that provides the longevity and continuity of the Judicial branch, though checked and balanced out by Legistlative and Executive branches. Furthermore, look no further than
Antonin Scalia if you're looking for an activist judge.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Anti-Christians for Filibusters?

This weekend was Bill Frist's prime time show to celebrate with Christians everywhere their religious opposition to the judicial filibuster. I don't know why it's such a big news item; everyone knows that Christians hate judicial filibusters.

I believe the first such celebration was 1133 when Cardinal Bertucci Prego gathered his bishops to declare the importance of ramming through ideologues as judges to inflict great miseries against the godless masses who refuse to accept the blessing of God's grace.

Later in the new world, Cotton Mather is said to successfully eliminate filibusters in Salem to help expedited the trial and executions of the huge backlog of witches, who were annoying everyone and lower property values by their independence from men and keeping of cats.

And of course, there was all the talk in the 90's to eliminate judicial filibusters during Clinton's presidency, so much so Senate republicans choose other procedural tactics to block 19% of nominees. And while GWBush has had 95% of his nominees approved, Senate Republicans, with a mandate from God, tirelessly work to abolish this parliamentary evil. I think Deuteronomy 18:20 says it best:
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
This is why we are on missions in Iraq and Afganistan to limit extreme religious influence on their new democratic governments. Extreme religious influence: good; Wrong religion: bad.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Judges 1, Tyrants 0

Last Saturday I was musing on power play between Ecuador's Judicial and Executive branches. Well yesterday, Lucio Gutiérrez was ousted from the Presidency, the third since 1996. He's been given amnesty in Brazil. I hope this is a lesson about shamelessly trying to stack the court. That goes for the Senate Judiciary Committee as they again try to fit a square Pricilla Owen into a round Federal Circuit seat.

Doonesbury is illustrating the Tom DeLay political death watch... I hope DeLay follows Gutiérrez, then Frist can have his turn. Hey, Bill why didn't you diagnose Gutierrez' political life from video tape... because it was obviously dead.

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Pulling Back the Curtain on the Wizard of Fed

Who is Alan Greenspan kidding? Today, (as part of President Bush's Social Security Abolishment Campaign... I mean who are we really kidding) the Fed Chairman again testified that deficits were unsustainable... you don't have to be an economist to figure that one out.... again mouthing out that really the problem is spending.... Medicare and Social Security (we know who's controlling the puppet).

That's because there is no possibility of increasing revenue. Recklessly cutting taxes during a trumped up war, creating a new prescription drug entitlement program (based on false cost estimates) and creating a neutered Department of Homeland Security (thanks for all the cyber security briefs guys!) couldn't have anything to do with creating record deficits. As a new member of tax-itemizing citizens, I fail to believe that a modest tax hike will hurt our economy, especially in light of huge kick backs like the recently passed bankruptcy bill.

Of final amusement is:

Although Mr. Greenspan in 2001 approved the tax cuts that helped take the federal budget from a surplus to its current deficit, he called today for "a set of procedural restraints on the budget-making process.

"These could include limits on discretionary spending and requirements that additions to the budget be balanced by cutbacks elsewhere," he said. "Such guidelines were laid out in the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 but lapsed in 2002.

"The brief emergence of surpluses in the late 1990's eroded the will to adhere to these rules," he added.

No, having an appointed CEO-crony administration eroded the will to adhere to these rules.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Digital Sainthood for Norman Teigen

The Seattle Post Intelligencer cartoonist David Horsey reports the results of their burning question of what the new Pope should do. Honorable mention at the end is my dad's suggestion:

There were plenty of other suggestions for what a new pope should do ranging from less fancy clothes for the curia to a new gym for St. George School on Beacon Hill (all politics is local, even church politics). E-mailing all the way from Hopkins, Minn., Norman Teigen offered this very novel idea: sainthood for Martin Luther.

Read it.
[Update: 23.04.05: I didn't see this complation of responses]

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Papal Epiphany

I know today has been busy... but one last thought:

I've been thinking about all the interest in Pope speculation, especially among non practioners and unbelievers, and why it may be important for non-catholics to care about who the new Pope may be. With today's naming of Pope Benedict XVI, that importance came in sharp relief.

Besides International NGO's, Corporations, and elected officials in their native lands, Catholics in South America, Africa and Asia are also deeply impacted by the Pope, as that's where the church is growing. So if we're concerned about AIDs in Africa, we should be concerned about Pontiffs that refuse to encourage contraception, even as their new found congregations are dying of it....By "it" I mean AIDs, though the church isn't discouraging the myth that people are dying of contraception

PS. On a happier note we are totally digging Andrew Bird's "The Mysterious Production of Eggs" something we have recent experience pondering.

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The long ride home

Whitney and I were coming home from the Puck Building, where the Wagner school has its home. As usual we were waiting for the downtown R train at spring street which has one of our favorite MTA public art pieces. Along the platform, there are several silhouettes of New Yorkers walking about, done in stainless steal, black granite and some red flagstone. The silhouettes are done with such remarkable precision that Whitney remarked how one can easily imagine what the face and clothing could or should be. So tonight, we just missed the train and decided to walk down the other end of the platform to look at the other figures. As we returned to our usual place on the platform, a W train stalled.

Another passenger was checking out the figures too, and commented to us how one can easily imagine what the face and clothing could or should be! She said she lived down the street from the artist. We then learned that the project took about a year. The artist took thousands of pictures of people, chose a large sample, which had to be vetted by the MTA for appropriateness and representative diversity. Then she cut the figures and their accoutrements with water cuts, allowing for the incredibly detailed assembly between the three elements, which are then embedded into the tiles of the station. The MTA has a site of all its public artworks, but this piece doesn’t have its site yet.

The stalled train ended up forcing a reroute of trains around the station, so we walked to Spring, mistakenly took an uptown train to West 4th, and finally got on an A train to our beloved Brooklyn. The trip was long, but totally worth it to learn more about this artwork we enjoy so much.

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Goodbye Plunger

It's been a while since there's been something new in the toilet world to report on. But the NYTimes has a piece on American Standards' new Champion Series toilet. It creates a higher pressure flush with less water, thus doing away with a plunger, while being smaller than the compressed tanks you find in restaurants. But "Champion"? I like a good bowel movement too, but it's really not a competition.

Also of note is this great site: Toilets of the World, a much more dedicated site for all things toilet.

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Virtual Reality

I often play a game on my commute called ITO Ratio, or iPod-to-other ratio. Today's game was notable for two reasons. First the ratio was a crazy 15:7 (usually it's 1:4 or 5). Secondly, this one lady was totally in the zone... she was quietly, but audibly and I must add, quite earnestly belting out a ballad.

Which got me to thinking of some early articles on iPod phenomenology, and our hearing in general, and the notion that virtual reality has been more effectively captured through sound than through sight. Optical virtual reality has required filling up our peripheral vision, or wearing un-reality 3D glasses, but headphones, especially noise cancelling headphones much more effectively shuts out other senses. We don't really need a high-tech instrument to measure out the validity of this claim, we need only think of generations of fat headphones and hifi's that take us to bliss, or more viscerally, a great concert.

I remember George Lucas musing in the 90s or so that there was far more movies should do with sound given what they've done with graphics... and then created THX.

But back to virtual reality.... though music is transformative, there other forms of audio reality. One of my favorite artists is Janet Cardiff, who creates sound and video art, so arrestingly real that you lose yourself quite literally. Her work is so transformative that I make a point of it to take friends to experience her work whenever I can.

She often employs
binaural audio, " recorded using miniature microphones placed in the ears of a person or sometimes a dummy head. The result is an incredibly life-like 3-D reproduction of sound. Played back on a stereo headset it is almost as if the recorded events were taking place live". She's done several audio tours at SF MoMA, Carnegie Mellon, Central Park, and some great installation works: 40-Part Motet and her Venice Biennale prize winner The Paradise Institute. Bomb had a nice interview with her a few years ago.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Straight Out of Compton, the good parts version

Back in the day, when I was a softmore or freshman in high school, two albums were desirable more than all others. One was 2LiveCrew, the second was Straight out of Compton. But stupid parental advisary made it hard to score a tape. I think some friends and I paid some guy in the mall to buy it for us. Fortunately kids these days have the internet, and secondly, they can get NWA's Straight out of Compton: the good parts only!

Of special note is the "ECR" or explicit content ratio!

Remote Server for free: Gmail!

I got this tip from David Pogue's blog: the GMail Drive. It sets up your gmail account as a drive on your Wintel machine:
GMail Drive creates a virtual filesystem on top of your Google GMail account and enables you to save and retrieve files stored on your GMail account directly from inside Windows Explorer. GMail Drive literally adds a new drive to your computer under the My Computer folder, where you can create new folders, copy and drag'n'drop files to.
Sweet. I've been searching for cheap remote back up for important Foundation documents, this seems like a a dream come true! For those who don't know, GMail's storage limit is about 2.1 GB now and growing. It's still in beta, so you need an invitation. Anyone who hasn't tried Gmail should, and I'd be happy to toss you an invite.

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The First American

After years of waiting and some early demos, I am happy to report reciept of Pyramid's album "The First American." Pyramid includes my friend Bennett Kennedy who helped me get my feet on the ground here in NYC. He plays fiddle. You'll be able to purchase your own copy from, though I was unsucessful finding the link for you just now. You can sample some songs at their website.

As a side note, I recently read John McPhee's article "Out in the Sort: UPS and the art of moving everything", as I had my package rerouted from home to office, I could envision the journey of my padded envelope.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Ecuador & the USA: Majorities who hate their judges

I was reading about the unrest in Ecuador, having not followed it at all. Apparently, for the past year or so, President Lucio Gutierrez has been in conflict with his supreme court, having tried to fire them all last year. Recently huge demonstrations... 10,000 marching and banging pots and pans... have led to a state of emergency. Quoting the BBC:
The crisis began in December, when Mr Gutierrez first fired the Supreme Court, alleging that the magistrates were biased against him....

The UN and the US criticised his dismissal of the Supreme Court in December, and opposition politicians have accused him of behaving like dictator.
Hmmm.... it sounds vaguely familiar... oh yes...currently our House Majority leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority leader Bill Frist are both at war with our judiciary, who were only respectable branch of government during the Terri Schiavo sideshow.

The bright side is that "
Since 1997, two presidents of Ecuador have been forced out of office by street protests." The downside is that in the US public outcry just led to close election, interpreted as a mandate by extreme conservatives.

Congress needs about 10,000 angry pots and pans banging away at their dangerous crusade.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

My Comic Life

For all us zany mac users, you can now annotate your pictures comics style with Plasq's Comic Life. More than anything, it reminds me of the Italian soap opera magazines: real photographs, but dialogue in balloon's a la comics"

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Gays in Sports

Sports Illustrated has an interesting article and fascinating survey result regarding sports and homosexuality. Of note:
  • 22% feel "uncomfortable" when around homosexuals.
  • 27% say that greater acceptance of gays and lesbians would be a bad thing for the country
  • 40% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of gay men and 36% have an unfavorable opinion of lesbian women.
Also this piece of analysis:
Consider that of 979 people interviewed, 86% agreed that it is O.K. for male athletes to participate in sports, even if they are openly gay, yet nearly a quarter of the respondents agreed that having an openly gay player hurts the entire team. "It was like, I'm O.K. with this, but if you press me, I have some doubts," says Doug Schoen, whose firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, conducted the poll.
The article and survey lead up to the documentary on boxer Emile Griffith.

It reminds of an exchange a few week ago with Gou Peng on homosexuality. To his knowledge, no one he knows is gay, though apparently his uncle is a fan of a gay caberet singer. He's young, so all he knows is what's said in school and on tv, which is mostly negative, but I guess it also goes for nearly 40% of America who don't personally know anyone gay.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

A "Man Date" is not a directive

Discussed all over the city yesterday was the NYTimes' article on "man dates." The idea is that straight men going on outings that would otherwise, or ideally be with a woman are on a man date, and thus have some social navigating to work out. Though the concept was new to Times readers, followers of Kick.Ball.Action got a primer on Friday.

So my pals Joe, Jason, and I went on a guy outing Sunday: we saw Frank Miller's Sin City. It was good old fashion adolescent male fantasy pulp action. We saw bloody action, naked chicks, and all sorts of proper delinquency to disqualify us from a "man date."

Despite the dudity of Sunday, on Mondays, the three of us are taking a men's session of Pilates... no escaping the man date label here. It's held a private gym, where at the same time--as if to purposely turn up the gender irony, some ladies are taking boxing lessons as we are pilating. Any one who thinks Pilates isn't as taxing hasn't tried it.

We're going to keep it up for a few more weeks at least. In the mean time, we'll try to balance this out with some mean time: hit a few in the cage, muse about the NBA playoffs, discuss power tools.... (in truth, none of us swing a bat too well, and Whitney's a bigger fan of hoops than Joe and more enthusiastic about power tools than Jason).

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Pension Fund For Artists

Wired has an interesting piece on the Artist Pension Trust. The concept:
Create a pension plan for artists by gathering a collection of their works and gradually selling them off to build a cash account. Over the course of their careers, some artists would succeed wildly; most would fail miserably. By spreading that risk of failure among a large pool of artists, Shniberg figured he could provide financial security to a group of workers unaccustomed to a safety net.

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Foggy Water

dyners in clean water
Originally uploaded by 917press.
Whitney and I have been nice then naughty to her turtle Dynamo lately. I brought her home some feeder fish a couple of weeks ago (nice) but then we put off cleaning her tank for another two weeks (naughty).

So yesterday morning we changed her tank. Afterwards, Dyner's eyes were irritated, which we learned was probably from the bacteria in the old bad water, plus that we should change her water a day or two after feeding her fish. Lesson learned.

The last night, her water, all 30-some gallons were milky foggy. It was almost as murky as the water we just changed, though in a milky way, not a greenish way. On her basking shelf we noticed a broken egg, and on the bottom of the tank was at least two eggs-worth of shell, if not more.

Dyanamo frequently lays eggs underwater and then eats them, but this was the first time she had laid one out for us to examine, even though it was broken. First off, the egg was very large relative to her size, about the size of her head. Much larger than a quail egg. Secondly, the egg white was very gelatinous. There leaves very little doubt to the relation between reptiles and birds.

So now, as penance for our laziness, we'll be changing her water twice in as many days.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Hidden Rooms

Whitney and I went out to some galleries today, mostly because I wanted to see the Damien Hirst show at Gagosian.

We returned on 22nd street and saw a neon sign
"The Boy From Mars" at Friedrich Petzel. Inside, besides the reception desk, there appeared to be very little besides a book case. To our great suprise, the shelf twisted away to reveal an entrance to a dark gallery where the video was shown in yet another room. We weren't as capitivated by the film as we were with the secret passage way, but they were giving copies away on oxidation protected disks. This means we have 48 hours to watch the DVD until it is no longer readable, so we can reconsider.

Then we got in trouble with some corn. Then we went home. If you want the details, ask, but let's just say I've had a lot of contact with corn this week.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

My Big Airplane Day

Today is my big airplane day, when my parents picked me up at the airport 28 years ago.

Last June I went back to
Korea. It was more an opportunity to visit, and stay with Steve and Laurie, not so much as an emotional motherland trip, but more to take advantage of a visit before S&L returned to north America.

From my travel email:
Prior to coming my mother contacted Holt (my adoption agency) to schedule a time for me to see my file. There was also a chance to meet my foster mother, but she passed away about 5 years ago from cancer. I wasn't sure quite what to expect, but the file didn't have too much different from what we knew before: that I was left at the police precinct or box and placed for adoption.

What was interesting was that I was admitted to Bethel Won, the orphanage on
June 2, 1976. Because there was no information about my birth parents, they essentially made a new birth certificate and estimated my age based on growth, and relative size of other children. Hence my birthday, August 1, 1974... give or take a few weeks... Interestingly, the post adoption services worker commented that my file was particularly verbose. Also of interest were two letters from my parents before and after the adoption.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Digital tapestries and Google Maps

This week's New Yorker has a fascinating article on how two mathmaticians helped the Metropolitan Museum of Art stitch some 200 cds worth of digital pictures of one of the Unicorn tapestries at the cloisters into a single composite digital image.

It begins with the common analogy that tapestry stitches are analogous to digital pixals, and therein lies the problem. The digital shoot happened while the tapestries were being restored in '98. After a bath in distilled water, and some time off the wall, the tapestry warped enough to make a composite picture difficult. (note: they were shooting at a resolution of 50 microns, or half the width of a hair). Even the process of shooting created inconsistancies, the ref. paper that slid on top as they captured each segment, the camera's sliding mechanism being off by millemetres and so on.

Without meaning to, this segways nicely into Google's news of the week: satellite imaging in maps. Again, we're talking about stitching many thousands of images together to create a compsite, a small fraction of which the searcher sees in their window. High in the blogdex is this man's annotation of Google Maps to indicate various sites from his childhood. Here are some instructions to do one yourself. I just did a brief tour from 409 Wilmers to Lincoln High School.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ..., in fact, in a different theater

Raise your hands if you wait in a long long line for any Star Wars (Return of Jedi anyone?) These cats maybe in the wrong line but seen adamant against leaving!

[mom, dad, what was the name of the theatre in Des Moines we waited at?]

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Bionic Eyes

The CNET/BBC reports on the development of a bionic eye. The New Yorker had an article a year a so ago on the issue. Both pieces tend to concentrate on the techonological aspects, which are pretty interesting, such as, how does the visual cortex code stimuli from our eyes to create the image in our head. But neither delve deep into the psychological or emotional impact of regaining a sense after adapting to life without.

Brian Friel's play Molly Sweeney, which is based on an Oliver Sacks' casestudy, does, and results in less enthusiasm for sight restoration. One element is vast amount of brain power it takes to translate the sight of ring, with the word "ring", and the circular motion touching it creates. In short, it is overwhelming. I know in this case, the images are very crude, but still, the bioethical dillema persists. To see, then becomes the basic, elemental component of vision; it is recognition and incorporation with the other senses that is the real trick.

There's a fair amount of musing and joking about becoming cybernetic, but science fiction is becoming science fact. Thinking of all the consumer goods that are so poorly designed and thoughlessly made, and all the issues that come up with user interface, perhaps technologists should think deeper into how to intergrate these machines into our bodies.

Unrelatedy, there was all the hubbub over the new powerbooks having sudden motion detection, thus allowing for hacks to control video games by tilt. Anyone who grew up with video games can relate to the tilt that psychically helps move your avatar. Moving from a legacy interface (joysticks & control paddles) to an intuitive interface. Likewise the segway, President Bush excepting.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A springy and lively BBBS lunch

On Tuesdays, I go down to Chinatown to MAT to have lunch with Gou Peng Zhao, my "little" as part of BigBrothersBigSister's school-based program. Today's walk from the City Hall 4/5/6, besides the beautiful weather, was notable for three interesting observations.

  • First , I saw a couple who had just married leaving city hall, their friends showered them with flowers, while a sanitation worker grumpily swept up those same flowers.
  • Secondly several super musty dusty archive-looking boxes were being brought up a freight elevator. I really wanted to check them out.
  • Thirdly, on my return, a US marshal's bus was about to enter the court holding building. This notable Blue Bird bus had columns of very narrow slits for windows, indeed, it was prisoner transfer.

Today Gou Peng and I talked about movies, how, in his 13/14 year old mind, King Kong (1933 & 1976) is so cheesy, because the special effects are so bad. It was unconvincing to him that it was state of the art then. I also had to explain what stop animation is.

He was also unswayed by the ideas 1) that story is more important than effects; and 2) that kids 15-30 years from now will be equally unimpressed with special effects of today. It was inconceivable that Donkey Kong, and thus the Mario Bros. franchise was derivative of King Kong. In his mind they are completely original.

It's interesting, telling, and humbling to have to defend your perspectives to a 13/14 year old who doesn't care about before, or back in the day. The present is now, and future is coming. It adds much to my musings on legacy features in terms of technological adoption. Of course, the flip side is ignorance of the past can lead to the same mistakes.

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Mashups + Search Engines = More efficient searches?


Relatedly, there is also the annotated NYTimes, all the news that's fit to link.

[update] if you didn't know, here is a description of a mashup.

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Brick Testament and Tiny Ninjas

I first saw Brick Testaments at a comic shop many months ago, but recently spotted them in some mainstream bookshop. They are a wee bit subversive, but not enough to upset grandma. I'm happy to learn that many lesser stories get a piece of the spotlight too.

With Mr. Lindstrom making his debut this summer (from brickbuster to blockbuster), I was reminded of my favorite version of the Scottish play, Tiny Ninja Theatre's Macbeth. "They" also do other Bard plays: Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet, as well as some original work. I say "they" because it's really my friend Dov doing all the voices while manipulating vending machine toys as characters. It's amazing though, more puppetry and dell'arte than child's play.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Stick Up, New York!

I like urban art, graffiti and such (though not so much the scratchiti in the subway) and I'm going through a grafedia phase as you know. But I'm also fascinated by stickiti. This is a great intro and gallery of NY Stickers. And Boing Boing had a blurb too.

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What a vanity search digs up

I'm perfectly aware of the vanity aspects of keeping a blog. This morning I googled "Sam Teigen" and "Teigen" to see if anything has changed. Happily <917> tops the "sam teigen" search and brought me back to this goodie, The Voice, posted online by Jose Nazario way back when Netscape was the hottest browser around. immer fragen warum!

I didn't fair so well in the "teigen" search, but turned up this gem. Plus this notice of BW, my grandfather's death came up prominently as is the Bethany College residence Hall named after him and my grandmother Elna. BW was the college's president from 1950 to 1970.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Legacies are an anchor, by which I mean: a drag

Last Wednesday, I breifly mused on on how legacy features in Corp. IT helps keep Mac integration out, thus making those shops more vulnerable to changing technological environments. In this week's Times Magazine, Tom Friedman considers the "flattening of the world" by globalization, in part aided by freedom from legacy features:
That is why there is nothing that guarantees that Americans or Western Europeans will continue leading the way. These new players are stepping onto the playing field legacy free, meaning that many of them were so far behind that they can leap right into the new technologies without having to worry about all the sunken costs of old systems. It means that they can move very fast to adopt new, state-of-the-art technologies, which is why there are already more cellphones in use in China today than there are people in America.
Over dependance on oil, microsoft, a strong dollar (dare I include social security?), these are some of our economic legacies, grown strong from maximizing profit yields in the short term, but perhaps a drag overall in the long term. The one thing we can count on is change, not the legacies that we try so desperately to hold on to.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

From Flickr, I'm learning about posting pictures

Sam- Loring Park: july o4
Originally uploaded by 917press.
This is from last summer in Minneapolis' Loring Park

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Toilets plus gmail equals

I have postings and comments sent to my gmail address. Lo and behold these are my contexual ads:

Sponsored Links
Toilet & Shower Trailers
AirConditioned 2-3 Station Trailers New Factory Direct. For sale & rent
urination device women
urinating standing up dirty toilets
Elegant Restroom for Rent
The nationwide leader in luxury mobile restrooms.
more sponsored links »

I particularly like the Urinelle product! You can buy it here.

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Dance Grows in Brooklyn

Before I filled my springs (and my falls) (puns really not intended) with Wagner classes, I often participated in dances by my friend Abby Bender, who is 1/5 of Triskelion Arts. The ladies are part of a feature today in the NYTimes on dance studios in Brooklyn.

About them:
If Fort Greene, with its central organization and government subsidies, is fast becoming a little Europe, then Williamsburg is California circa 1849. There is gold to be sure, but its rivers may well run to silt before you can say "Starbucks." In the late 1990's, Williamsburg looked like an oasis of affordable space. From 2000 to 2004, at least 10 spaces devoted to dance opened in Williamsburg and Bushwick. Some, like the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics, Soundance at the Stable, and Context Studios, once the East Village home of Movement Research, were Manhattan transplants. Others, like Triskelion Arts, a rehearsal space on North 11th Street founded by five friends from Bard College, were new arrivals.
Triskelion's lease is up in 2009. "I can't imagine we'd get a new lease anything close to what we have," said Cary Baker, 31, a founder. Moreover, the pitch of total commitment needed to run the studio was easier to maintain for a twentysomething than it is for a thirtysomething. "We're getting older," Ms. Baker said. "Some of us are getting married, some are thinking about moving. There's not the same driving force."
As a bonus, my previous employer, Theatre for a New Audience also get a mention.
Across town, in Fort Greene, Harvey Lichtenstein, the man who put the Brooklyn Academy of Music on the map and is now chairman of the BAM Local Development Corporation, plans to marshal some $650 million in a coordinated effort to help break that cycle by creating a subsidized arts district. Six new theaters are either open or planned, including the $35.8 million home for Theater for a New Audience, designed by Frank Gehry and Hugh Hardy and expected to open at the end of 2008.

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