Archive for April, 2009
As I worked tonight, this little beetle landed on my pad of paper. Hello, Cousin! You fit so easily between the lines of my pad of paper. You make my pen strokes look quick thick!
[For this shot, I was using a Canon SD1100IS (which only costs about $150 now), using the digital macro feature. This bug let me park my camera lens less than an inch away for this photo.]
Paul Kinsella is a fascinating fellow. Though he is not with any branch of law enforcement, he has taken it on himself to delve into the tactics of the Nigerian scammers. You know, they might as well be called Nigerian spammers. And, believe it or not, though most of us simply delete those emails, over the course of a year many people fall for the scam and they lose substantial money in the process.
Kinsella is featured in “Master Baiter,” a detailed and entertaining article written by Nicolas Phillips and published in this week’s Riverfront Times. Kinsella, a 37-year old Illinois native as well as a father of two, scams the scammers with gusto. And he loves to tell them that they’ve been scammed by him. Kinsella has often tried (and sometimes succeeded) in convincing the scammers that he wants to work with them to rip off victims. Check out Kinsella’s website (419hell.com)to see many of the flavors of the scams, along with the people running them. Quite impressive. He must spend incredible numbers of hours running his operation. The payoff? He has learned of the identities of 26 potential victims and prevented 14 of them from actually paying the money. To see the FTC’s warnings about the Nigerian scams, go here.
Kinsella is multifaceted. He intentionally dropped 100 fake-lost-wallets to see how honest people were (74 were returned), resulting in a lot of publicity. He’s also a cartoonist and . . . oh yeah, consider this other service he offers:
He also created AfterLifeTelegrams.com, which works like this: For $5 a word, you write a telegram to a deceased loved one. Kinsella then arranges for a terminally ill person to memorize the message and pass it along.
As I learned from my days working as an Assistant Attorney General, it takes a scammer to catch a scammer.
Check out the article in the RFT. It’s full of facts, figures and entertaining vignettes about Kinsella, the Nigerian scams and much more.
On 24 March, 2009 Lawrence Lessig delivered the keynote speech, Getting the Network the World Needs, at the OFC Conference in San Diego, CA. This is a revision of a REMIX talk, distinguishing between parts of the 20th Century that were Read-Only and parts that were Read-Write.
His brilliantly delivered thesis discusses how culture prior to the 20th century was essentially read-write, everyone consumed and created the culture interactively. During the 20th century centralization and control of media and distribution transformed our culture to a read only – where creation was almost exclusively the province of professionals and professional distribution channels (tv, movies, music).
He then suggests that the 21st century brings the promise and the demand for building a read-write culture once more, and for moving far beyond the mash-up of the past decade. He also discusses the necessary legal and infrastructural changes needed to accommodate this changed reality.
Warner Music has tried to serve a DCMA takedown, based on his inclusion of some music and media clips – despite the obvious and clear “fair use”.
A few weeks ago, I visited the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. I didn’t expect that I’d like the exhibition that much- my eyes tend to glaze over at the discussion of military specs. However, some of the museum, which is on a functioning Air Force Base, really surprised and impressed me. I liked that the museum had seven different Air Force Ones available, four of which could be explored inside and out.
I also really liked looking at the ways in which different air force jets and planes of different eras were decorated. I took many pictures of the cheesecake-style pinup gals, critters and skeletons that adorned these big flying weapons. The gals are not surprising I suppose- they echo the centuries-old tradition of masthead mermaids on ships. What really struck me was the use of contemporary cartoon characters as happy icons of war.
I decided to string together my photos of airplane cheesecake and cartoon characters in another simplistic Youtube slideshow. Check it out, and look out for the Seven Dwarves, Donald Duck, Goofy, The Jolly Green Giant, Dennis the Menace and Dumbo, all emblazoned proudly on the face of military jets.
“Have you driven a Ford, lately?” As a charity stunt, Ford had specially trained drivers drive an unmodified stock 2010 Ford Fusion (mid-size sedan) to beat 1,000 miles in a single tank of gas. They reached 1,445.7 miles in 69 hours of driving around the D.C. area on surface streets and highways.
“Your mileage may vary.” Ford readily admits that this was a stunt, and the details of how it was done are available in many places, like here. Oh, and details about why are here. The car is normally expected to get about 40 miles per gallon under everyday conditions.
Sam Stein at Huffpo published this impressive list of Obama’s under-publicized accomplishments during his first 100 days. Some of these items are truly remarkable. As I reviewed the list of ten items, I kept thinking “it’s about time.”
Consider the new hospital records system, for example. The Bush Administration had 8 years to clean up this big mess but didn’t get anything done. Under Obama, a new system is already underway. And, of course, he has done wonderful work starting to repair the sullied image of the United States around the world. It’s a lot better to have good international relations than to taunt other nations and threaten wars.
I wandered around at this year’s St. Louis Earth Day celebration with a camcorder to capture some of the many images and sounds. I boiled my raw video down into two short videos, each of them lasting about five minutes.
The first one is the “fun” video–you’ll see what I mean. I’m assuming that some of the scenes at Forest Park will give you a smile or leave you shaking your head. Free hugs, anyone? Or how about some sound therapy? And do consider the computerized body analysis administered to me by a chiropractic group working really (really) hard to sell me their long-term services. BTW, I took their test assuming that any legit test would pick up on a rather serious condition I’m dealing with–half of my left hand has gone numb and my left arm is at 1/2 strength due to a pinched nerve; it’s so bad that I’m almost certain to have neck surgery in a few weeks. But the elaborate computerized scan didn’t pick up on that major issue. I did learn that my gall bladder is in great shape, however.
Editing down these videos, I was surprised at how much music one can hear at the festival. Musician Leslie Sanazaro, who has often promoted “green” issues, is featured at the end of this first video (a few months ago, I produced a three-part interview with Leslie). Enjoy!
Now for the “serious” interview. Among all the people attending the fair were a few contractors who sell products and services that can really make a dent in the amount of energy used by your home. The first half of this short video features a firm (Home Green Home) that does elaborate energy audits for about $400. According to Marc Bluestone, up-front cost would be a bargain based on the amount of energy you can save (more than 20% of your energy bills). The second firm, Missouri Solar Living, installs solar equipment for water heating and electricity. You’ll hear some compelling facts and figures, especially about solar hot water. Note: I don’t know any more about these two firms than you’ll see on this videotape, but I did enjoy meeting these guys at Earth Day and I appreciated hearing energy-saving information from two companies who are actually doing substantial work out in the field.
OK, I believe in God. I am a practicing Roman Catholic.
I’ve seen many comments, criticisms and conclusory statements here and elsewhere about Catholic doctrine on Salvation which my investigation shows may not only be wrong but, seriously wrong. I assert that as a Catholic Christian it is my call to pray and hope that all are reconciled with God (more on that later). Yes, Virginia, that means even my non-believing brothers and sisters. And, my non-believing brothers and sisters don’t have to do anything other than what they are already doing; being good, loving human animals and taking care of each other.
Father John Dietzen, in a St. Louis Review feature “Dear Father,” answered a relevant question in his April 17, 2009 column:
“Q: What does the Catholic Church teach about whether Jews, Muslims and others who don’t believe in Christ can be saved and go to heaven? Several friends claim only those who accept Christ and are baptized receive salvation.
A: Many Christians believe as your friends do. This is not, however, Catholic teaching, which is summarized concisely in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The catechism insists, as we would expect, on the essential place Jesus and Baptism have in God’s saving plan. It adds, however, a crucial sentence: ‘Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Jesus Christ, would either refuse to enter it or to remain in it.’ (No. 846, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 14).
If you read those words carefully, you can see that the restriction of salvation would not apply to billions of people on earth now and in the past, including most, if not all, people of the Hebrew tradition.
As mentioned before on this blog, boobies are Kind of A Big Deal. For some reason, individuals and Facebook alike have a strong negative reaction to the public display of nipples and the fatty tissue surrounding them. An unprovoked showing of a female breast especially leaves individuals a-titter. Usually, for the protection of children and society, women are expected to keep their goods locked up.
Ah, but I live in Ohio- such an enlightened state. Ok, ok, we are actually ranked dead last for gay rights protection, but when it comes to breast exposure protection, we are totally progressive. Except that women don’t stroll around Ohio topless very much. Barring the rare drugged-out music festival where a handful of women prance about with painted breasts, one can hardly tell that Ohio law protects bare female nipples at all.
The social taboo against bare-breast-baring holds a heavy weight over those women who might otherwise go topless, apparently. The only way to make this legal right truly exercisable is to strip female breasts of their social trappings, so to speak. This was the idea that birthed Tit-ical Mass, an impromptu breast walk that occurred in Columbus last Friday.