February 26, 2004

Living Spaces

Basement Apartments

This interesting article on basement apartments in New York started me thinking. I'm getting older, and moving is less fun than it was when I was 24 and it was a party. So, I've been looking at permanent and not-so-permanent places to live: houses, condos, lofts. And what's struck me -- aside from the shock of OUTRAGEOUS prices -- is the almost complete lack of creativity in building a house. Nothing's different, nothing's odd. I've found one condo which had a shower that wasn't the standard "tub with shower" or "shower stall with sliding door". Almost none have had any open space, interesting windows, or anything that might be considered beautiful. They're boxy. They're cookie-cutter.

And then, there's a few ideas that just sound neat. Both in St. Louis, while I was living there, and in Atlanta, there are condos being made out of old school houses. I found a neighborhood of houses which grew there naturally, and not one of them matches any of their neighbors in style, shape, or attitude. And then there's things like planned communities, which almost seem like plans to make something that should occur spontaneously.

And so, I'm asking: What interesting places have you seen people live? Where are some cool places people you've known have moved into? What floats your boat in living spaces?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2004

Flash Mob Super Computing

FlashMobComputing.org via Slashdot

Fun thing to do for the first weekend in April: get together in SF to build a temporary supercomputer. Registration does seem to be required (does that mean it's not really a flash mob? Flash Mobs often meant signing up for a mail list, but not necessarily saying you were going to be there...) and it looks to be well organized. Could be a lot of fun...

Posted by Ted Stevko at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004

Not That I Can Do It...

CNN.com - Music students learn the art of the scratch - Feb. 18, 2004

I was interested in this article, simply because I'm interested in the skill. It's a fascinating art form, physical movement to combine songs or sounds together. It's also just plain fun to hear the music.

The one thing not mentioned is his book -- which doesn't appear to be popular with the kids on Amazon... but may be worth a read in a slightly less expensive edition.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 06:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Note For Web Cartoonists

Salon.com Comics | Tom the Dancing Bug (Sorry, free but access limited link)

Note to all you web cartoonists out there: if your premise depends on being able to turn the cartoon upside down, keep it VERY simple, provide an upside down copy or forget it. Turning monitors over isn't practical while CRTs are still the norm, and turning your head upside down to read is awkward.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 06:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flag Issues

Flag literacy at half-staff

When this started back in 2002, I thought the Georiga flag controversy wasn't really on anyone's mind... and now, it seems like I'm right.

Short article on how, despite Georgia's governor being elected on this issue (or not, depending on how you view electronic voting), few if any Georgians really even know what their state flag is right now, or the designs being voted on.

Of course, this goes to show me -- I didn't even know until last night that there was a vote going on during the primary about the state flag. And I'm considered politically aware, for pete's sake.

Most telling was this quote:

"Is that our flag, Daddy?" asked Johnson's 5-year-old son, Will, pointing to the new Georgia flag. Will's father replied, "It is this week."

Posted by Ted Stevko at 06:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

213 Things Skippy is No Longer Allowed to Do in the U.S. Army

kewlstuff : The 213 Things Skippy is No Longer Allowed to Do in the U.S. Army via Metafilter

Simply put, one of the funniest things I've read in months. Also, I can imagine myself getting a similar list from my co-workers for about 70% of the items on the list.

Some highlights:

  • If the thought of something makes me giggle for longer than 15 seconds, I am to assume that I am not allowed to do it.

  • Not allowed to chew gum at formation, unless I brought enough for everybody.

  • (Next day) Not allowed to chew gum at formation even if I *did* bring enough for everybody.

  • Not allowed to let sock puppets take responsibility for any of my actions.

  • I may not call block my chain of command.


Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2004

Love, American Style

vitanuova.loyalty.org: February 15, 2004 and SF Gate via boingboing

Some days, you see rays of hope. Valentine's Day is supposed to be one of them, but it rarely happens... and then, you get to see hundreds of couples getting married on Valentine's Day in San Francisco. After 18 years of being together, some couples finally get to be married in the eyes of the law.

Happiness occurs so infrequently; any bits of it that we get to give to one another should be given as freely as we can make them, not begrudged as if they were gold for a rainy day.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2004

Literary Guns

Amazon Glitch Unmasks War of Reviewers

Nice story about how Amazon had their Canadian site broken for a week, during which anonymous reviewers suddenly became known... and the number of people reviewing their own books, or having friends do so came to light.

Not that I'm picky or anything, but the truth is -- Amazon reviews are about as relevant as any review: not very, and rarely do they come without baggage and ulterior motives. I'm not saying I don't read Amazon reviews, but I've stopped trusting them because they greatly vary in quality. People have different tastes. People want to appear important. Good reviews, bad reviews, by the time you're finished, it's all a wash; you're not going to get an honest opinion.

If you think about reviews on a book site in general, the strategy is pretty good; let the masses say their say about a book. Publication of those reviews is cheap and likely to balance out.

But how to structure your reviews is a bit of a quandry: you can do it a lot of ways. Let people post anonymously, and then ask why someone would review a book anonymously. Remove the anonymous feature, which may discourage honest opinions coming from people who know the author, didn't like this one, but don't wish to be rude. Maybe have no reviews at all, and save the bother. Or have one person/a group of persons review books, and let that person/that group become the single arbiter of taste on the site.

Any one of these ways leads to bias of some sort; you're basically up to luck and friends in any of these cases. The best thing you can do is ignore the reviews, and judge for yourself.

Or, go one step further: use the library, and then you don't have to depend on a review to find out where you're money's well spent.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Little Geek Fun

C Compiler Errors (For Real). [rec.humor.funny]

Someone was pointing out a particularly useless error message on a Windows program he was working with, and that brought up the following memory: Apple's MPW C Compiler creators didn't
stick with the ordinary error messages. Some of the best:

  • "...And the lord said, 'lo, there shall only be case or default labels inside a switch statement'"
  • "You can't modify a constant, float upstream, win an argument with the IRS, or satisfy this compiler"
  • "This label is the target of a goto from outside of the block containing this label AND this block has an automatic variable with an initializer AND your window wasn't wide enough to read this whole error message"

Just a little fun for the weekend.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gay Parent Speaks Out

Gay parents know that love matters more than gender

Usually the AJC sparks my contempt more than my admiration; but today, I'll call it my local paper proudly. Definitely a good article to read.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Georgia Passes New Bullying Law

Tougher law on bullying gets nod

Woof -- this one's a weird one. On one hand, I really, really hate bullies (like most people don't). But this is one of those I'm willing to say that legislation won't stop it.

Bullying happens when the hand of force imposed by adults is weakened by inattention. Bigger kids dominate weaker kids without some guiding force.

The problem is, this law will never, ever stop bullying. It also won't stop victims from getting guns and attempting to end the problem. It might curtail the situation -- but it's also going to hit some kids who just act tough to protect themselves, but would never commit a crime. Kids who draw violent pictures don't necessarily behave violently, but this law acts as if they do.

The only solution for bullying is to reformat childhood education, and to allow for teachers who build relationships with kids & with groups of kids over a number of years. (Along with elevating the status of teaching to a professional level akin with that of doctors & lawyers; expensive, but ultimately the only solution).

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Colin Powell Geting Testy

Calpundit: The Bushies Get Testy

I'm not surprised that Rumsfeld's "forgetting" stuff. He's in a bad spot, and switching blame is nothing new. But I am surprised at Colin Powell's getting snippy over a Congressional staffer's reaction. Granted, he's had a bad week, what with his credibility now shot to hell, and with Iraq falling apart, and Powell (at best) getting caught in the middle.

Ok, maybe he's got a reason to be snippy.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Woman Uses Phone-Cam To Capture Flasher.

Cellphone snapshot points to school leader

Interesting little tidbit about phone cams: a principal was caught flashing, and a woman caught the man with her camera.

I'd say it only happens in Georgia, but I'm pretty sure it happens other places too. Just in Georgia first.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

MP3s of O'Reilly's E-Tech Conference

IT Conversations: O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference

If you haven't been keeping track of E-Tech, well first, you're not trying: there's an IRC channel, CU-SeeMee conferences, Wikis and weblogs going on -- it's nearly impossible to not be there. But even better, you can listen into the conferences via MP3 -- and I have to say, I'm nearly awed at how much time and energy that O'Reilly spends on their conferences and bringing together the right people. Listen to these MP3s; they will certainly be better than anything else that's on the tube tonight.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

HCI Rap: "We Got It"

OK/Cancel: World's First HCI Rap

Nothing says lovin' like when someone does a rap involving their passion; and this is one doozy. Their rhymes are the bomb, if I do say so myself.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 10:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2004

Feds Want List Of War Protest Atendees?

Feds win right to war protesters' records via Metafilter

This is downright scary.

In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.

...Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.

...The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link them to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell College librarian was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer; she has pleaded innocent, saying she simply went limp and resisted arrest.

At best, this is an overly broad and far-reaching ruling for a minor offense. If it's about resisting arrest, well, let's face it, that's not hard to prosecute without getting a list of anyone who was gathered at earlier meetings. If nothing else, it's not what you'd call a reason for subpoenaing the entire crowd's names.

At worst, this is a slight reason for making a dangerous precedence for the curtailing of meetings. Not exactly what you'd want for a free society (if you can't gather because you'll be labeled, you can't get organized), not to mention against the First Amendment (right of people to peaceably assemble, which has since the founding been extended to more or less peaceably assemble without being watched.)

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Big Feeds" for Georgia's Legislature

Way to a lawmaker's heart

This is kind of... well, frankly, it's a little sick.

First, there's the big feeds themselves. They're not exactly "heath conscious".

But let's ignore that for a little bit, and then dive into what big feeds are really about: members of the state Lege getting fed by lobbyists. All of them.

Let's take a little quote:

"If you haven't gained 15 pounds during the session, you're not doing your job," said House Speaker Pro Tem Dubose Porter (D-Dublin), carrying a chili cheese dog and a plate of fries. "You're not getting out and talking to people." "If you're not careful, you could gain 50 pounds," interjected Bibb Distributing Co. representative Deidra Stewart.

I'm going to skip the pigs in the trough metaphor for a simple reason: it's too easy to dismiss the implications. Anyone with enough money and cash to feed our politicians is getting attention, and groups who do not, don't. Proof?

"The problem is, it's available only to people who can afford to put on events, and there's an implication that if you want legislative attention, a certain amount of putting on the dog is expected," said Neill Herring, a Sierra Club lobbyist. "It's an unfortunate expectation." Every year Herring's group holds a dinner at Southface Energy Institute, several miles from downtown Atlanta, to honor legislators who have supported the environmental group. The event, Herring said, is far less posh than many of the breakfast, lunch and dinner receptions held for lawmakers.

This is in a state with a huge set of educational, infrastructural and corruption problems. Now it seems that we're watching the legislation being bought by cheese fries.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Denial Of Public Records In Florida

staugustine.com: Local News: Public records audit: Some records requests met with suspicion and threats 02/07/04 via Boingboing

Frightening: people getting threatened and harrassed over asking for public records.

Here's a quote:

Roger Desjarlais, the Broward County administrator, threatened a volunteer by saying, "I can make your life very difficult."

After insisting that the volunteer give his name, Desjarlais used the Internet to identify the volunteer, find his cell phone number and call him after work hours.

In an interview after the audit, Desjarlais denied that he threatened or tried to intimidate the volunteer, who is a reporter with SNN-Channel 6 in Sarasota.

Desjarlais defended his actions, saying that the volunteer raised suspicion when he declined to explain who he was. Officials across the state had similar misgivings about volunteers who came into their offices.

They cited a number of arbitrary reasons for their suspicions, including the volunteers' hair length, casual dress and, in one case, "the look in his eyes."

I have to say, this is a little scary. If nothing else, it seems a little like the '60s, where anything that didn't fit the mold was considered "scary". Frightening that some people still believe dress, haircut and "eyes", I guess, allow you to deny someone their rights.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let's Let Nothing Get Mixed Up About This

CNN.com - Bush defends Iraq war in TV interview - Feb. 8, 2004

OK, once again Bush is attempting to use the Reality Denial technique...

"Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I'm not just going to leave him in power and trust a madman," Bush said in a taped interview that aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "He's a dangerous man. He had the ability to make weapons at the very minimum."

He did not.

Let me repeat that: Saddam did not have the capabilities to make him "dangerous".

David Kay has expicitly said that we were wrong, that intelligence has shown that the primary rationale for going to war was faulty.

If there were other reason -- they should have been emphasized. Instead, WMD was used as the primary -- if not only -- reason.

Besides, we have this quote from George during the 2000 debates:

The other day, I was honored to be flanked by Colin Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf, who stood by my side and agreed with me.

They said we could, even though we're the strongest military, that if we don't do something quickly, we don't have a clearer vision of the military, if we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that. I'm going to rebuild our military power. It's one of the major priorities of my administration.

Please, get this guy outta here. He doesn't even know what he's saying.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 07, 2004

Hubble Abandoned For Political Reasons... Stealth Disco Bush

Engineer’s Papers Dispute Hubble Decision

Evidentally, an engineer has shown that the decision to abandon the Hubble Telescope is a political, not a safety decision.

For this, I declare that George Bush deserves to be stealth discoed.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 02, 2004

A Little Overlooked Point

BBC NEWS | Campaign against Gibson's Passion

Frankly, this has me a little stymied; I'm no biblical expert, but seems to me the Romans actually did the killing, and Jesus was Jewish -- so 'blaming the Jews' for anything is a little far fetched. Passion plays, though, were put forth to incite people, and this is one, so I'm not surprised... but I think there's one little thing everyone's forgotten in all the hubbub...

The film has also caused debate because all of the dialogue is in Latin and Aramaic, without English subtitles.

Most people don't know Latin or Aramaic.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Plasticn Noodle is a Learning Noodle

Wired News: A Word for Brainy People: Plastic

A plastic brain is a learning brain.

'nuff said.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Electronica Primer

The Electronica Primer

Despite being someone who likes electronica, I was deprived of the knowledge behind the basics of what each was called. Truth be told, I really didn't care. But on occasion, on those cold morning where I didn't want to get in gear and move, a little electronica can get my rear out of bed.

Found this little, but not bad, primer on what various electronica types are called. Biggest surprise: some of it was going on in Detroit while I was there, and I didn't know. Man, between that and the number of comic book things that were going on, I feel like I missed out on a Detroit I didn't even know existed.

Pays to get out on occasion.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2004

Illustration and Politics

WSJ.com - Just Where Does An Illustrator Draw the Line?

This posits -- and sadly comes to a poor and un-well-thought-out conclusion -- an interesting dilemna that I've had to deal with as an illustrator from time to time. It's a basic question: what do you do when you encounter an offern to illustrate something that you don't believe in?

The conclusion the Wall Street Journal editor comes up with is both a little harsh, and a little soft. His point is that, as an illustrator, you don't really get the choice. You take it and like it, or your a jerk.

My point is this: I shouldn't have to say to the Wall Street Journal that an illustrator is an independent business person, and flat out has the right to make independent decisions about his business -- whether you agree with the decision or not.

Sometimes you do have to swallow your pride, and take jobs you don't like. Sometimes it doesn't matter, you have no opinion about an issue. On some issues, heck, I could care less.

On a few issues, though, I care deeply and don't particularly want to do business with companies that take positions directly opposite of mine. And it's not just because of the position they're taking -- it's for sound business reasons.

First, in theory, my illustration could be both helping convince and putting forth the idea that I agree with the position. Most people tend not to distinguish that doing business with and supporting a business are two seperate things: this is especially true with creative endeavors. So if I do business with a group I find particularly despicable, I might injure my image with other clients. Generally, it's rare -- most of the time people recognize that an artist is a gun-for-hire, not a loyal retainer. But I do know of it happening.

Next, I've encountered a few times when, dammit, I *can't* draw for something I don't believe in. Skip the ability to draw for a second: really what illustrators sell is the ability to create interesting ideas. Ideas have to come if you want to make money, and on occasion, especially when I'm passionate about an issue, I can't come up with ideas as good. That's not fair to a client.

Third, and I really want to emphasize this: illustration holds many perils, and with those perils come a few, dearly held rewards. One of those is, as an independent business person, I own my own fate. Simple, really, and one of the most appealing things to capitalism. You own the business, you end up with the responsibility. Granted, people goof it up; but that's his right and choice, not the editors. And he should be left alone with his choice, not ridiculed in a paper for it.

Having said all of this, I do agree with the editor that this gentleman was not within his rights to withold agreement until reading: that's not always possible, and is worse when you're doing a daily paper. But his demand was unreasonable; not his position.

One quote really drew my attention, though:

: "People sometimes ask me if I'm an 'artist.' I tell them I'm an 'illustrator.' The difference defines your prickly encounter with the person who makes his living as an illustrator but somehow thinks of himself as an artist."

This was from another illustrator, who was asked by the editor to comment on the whole debacle. I agree to a point: an artist is someone who creates what he feels, while an illustrator creates what others ask him to. But an illustrator is, and can be, an artist; it's not an absolute line.

If nothing else, I pity both of the WSJ workers; they've drawn an absolute where none existed, and took a petty sqabble onto the pages of a paper out of spite. All of them should be ashamed; it brings the illustrious history of newspapers down just one more notch when such nattering appears in a nationally seen paper.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 07:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack