Thursday, March 31, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 76 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, March 30, 2005
NO DRM: The Graphic 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Just say NO to DRM: This invention will self destruct in 10 seconds...Never mind the Grokster SCOTUS decision (although if the Supremes side with the entertainment industry on this one, I dare say it'll have a far-reaching chill) - the truly scary invention these days is DRM, or Digital Rights Management (see DRM Watch blog for good info).

Now, I can certainly understand why the ability to control content - who uses your material, when they use it, and where and how long they can use it - appeals to business interests, but I don't think a world where printer toner cartridges "die" on a given date, whether you've used up the ink or not, is a better world. DRM may be good for dairy products; not so good for innovation, consumers' rights, and future of our economy.

The "killer cartridge" is just one example of DRM: so are (after a fashion) Monsanto's "terminator seeds" designed to grow only non-reproductive plants. The concept of DRM isn't new, or unique to information technology. Blade Runner's replicants were DRM'ed, designed to expire after four years of service. For that matter, we could even consider our built-in lifespan limits of about 120 years as a form of "DRM" in the genes. The 1976 sci-fi feature Logan's Run took place in a future society where all people were required to commit suicide at the age of 30 - or be "recycled" by bounty-hunting "sandmen."

More on the "Logan's Run" printer cartridges from InfoWorld's Ed Foster:
I’ve heard from several other readers about similar problems they’ve had due to the chips in the ink supply cartridges for HP’s business-oriented printer models, so I pretty much knew what I’d hear when I asked HP about it. “In some of our printer models with separate print heads and ink cartridges, the ink cartridges expire after a certain period of time to prevent degradation of the printer components and print quality due to changes in ink properties, cartridge properties, and interactions between the ink and the cartridge,” an HP spokesman said. “For quality assurance reasons, we have set a maximum lifetime for the ink supply. The time allowed is adequate for product distribution and in-printer life for even our low-volume users.”

The readers who have suffered various difficulties with expiring cartridges suspect the chips are there not so much to protect them against degraded ink as to protect HP from red ink. Why, they wonder, does HP only do this in business printer models? If consumers can decide for themselves when ink is becoming too degraded, shouldn’t business users also get to do so? The lack of a patentable print head to block producers of generic cartridges may have been HP’s real motivation for inserting a chip. Then, by giving the chip a time bomb function, it also effectively prevents reuse of the cartridges for refilling or remanufacturing. [read full article]
As if you couldn't tell, there's a post in the works on the topic...just thought I'd give you a taste of the little graphic I cooked up first. Maybe I'll have it printed on a coffee mug. Every time I think about DRM (Digital Rights Management), an image of those Mission Impossible self-destructing tape reels pops into my head.

farkleberries Links du Jour 75 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, March 28, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 74 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

8.2 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Sumatra 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Not again...
(CNN) -- An earthquake measuring a preliminary magnitude of 8.2 struck off the coast of Indonesia Monday -- on the same fault line that originated a December 26 earthquake that launched a deadly tsunami. The director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said scientists there feared another tsunami might hit the area. Charles McCreary said he could not be certain that the quake, which was 30 km deep and 203 kilometer (126 miles) from Sibolga on Sumatra Island, would cause a tsunami. "There is a potential for some wave activity," said Julie Martinez, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center, in Golden, Colo.

The quake occurred at 1109 ET (1609 GMT), and is considered a "great" earthquake, the largest of seven grades. The grades are very minor, minor, light, moderate, strong, major and great.
Latest on "Sumatra Quake" on Google News

Friday, March 25, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 73 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, March 24, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 72: The Butter Woman Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Lithwick on Schiavo 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
No, I haven't weighed in recently (at least not since 2003) on the hot topic-of-the-moment, the Terry Schiavo affair; but there is an article worth reading on Slate by Dahlia Lithwick that an interesting twist on the usual left-right debate:
Of all the ironies at the heart of the Terri Schiavo case—alleged federalists who scoff at federalism; the fact that Schiavo, who's in a persistent vegetative state, has lived off the winnings in the same kind of medical malpractice suit that Republicans in Congress seek to limit—the most astonishing is this: Congressional Republicans who have staked their careers and the last election on the "sanctity of marriage" have turned this case into a mockery of that very institution.
There was and is one principal issue to be decided in this case and that is, what would Terri Schiavo have wanted for herself had she foreseen an irreversible 15-year vegetative condition in her future? Courts have been deciding these issues for decades now, and they have done so by triangulating back not from the federal Constitution but from the implicit respect we have always had for the compact between people who marry.
This is not a matter of national policy, and the legislation passed on Monday doesn't even attempt to craft new federal right-to-die policies. This case is about a reluctant state court making its best effort to unearth an individual's most private wishes and using the intimate relationship with her spouse in order to do so. Yet Schiavo's family—the Schindlers—her governor, and Congress have totally disregarded these presumptions about the sanctity of marriage. To them, the marriage is immaterial.

Why? Because they don't like her husband? Because they don't like that he has a girlfriend? Or because they don't like the decision he made? "I don't know what transpired between Terri and her husband. All I know is Terri is alive. ... Unless she has specifically written instructions in her hand, with her signature, I don't care what her husband says," snarled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay the other day. Can this be true? In DeLay's worldview, is my grocery list more binding than promises made to and by my husband about our deepest wishes? Can Bill Frist and Tom DeLay and George W. Bush really be attempting to shred up the very institution they most want to protect? [continue reading]

Guest-blogging at Feministe 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Hooray! Feministe has taken a big leap of faith into the blogosphere today, declaring Wednesday Open Blog Day. I took advantage of this neat opportunity to post about last night's "gang night at Loyola", and the recent crime wave in my Chi-town 'hood.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 71 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, March 17, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 70 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Meet Your New Friend, Blendie! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Blendie, the blender with a mind of its own!It's a blender. It's sensitive and intelligent. It's a psychotherapist. It's MIT researcher Kelly Dobson's Blendie!
Blendie is an interactive, sensitive, intelligent, voice controlled blender with a mind of its own. Materials are a 1950’s Osterizer blender altered with custom made hardware and software for sound analysis and motor control.

People induce the blender to spin by sounding the sounds of its motor in action. A person may growl low pitch blender-like sounds to get it to spin slow (Blendie 2000 pitch and power matches the person) and the person can growl blender-style at higher pitches to speed up Blendie 2000. The experience for the participant is to speak the language of the machine and thus to more deeply understand and connect with the machine. The action may also bring about personal revelations in the participant, because in sounding with the blender one is likely to perform gesture and sound expressions not previously accessed which may open up hidden emotions or thoughts or feelings. The participant empathizes with Blendie 2000 and in this new approach to a domestic appliance fosters a more conscious and personally meaningful and responsible relationship with machines. And it is fun.

Machines influence self-conception, expression, social perception, and perception of responsibility or action. By accessing and vitalizing the interplay of people and machines through custom interaction design and psychotherapeutic techniques, a social awareness is brought out and individuals are invited to reinvent their own existence.
Some of Dobson's other inventions include Machine Therapy, and the Screambody, a "wearable body organ" that lets you scream into it at will, without incurring odd stares from passersby or risking a trip to the padded room:
ScreamBody is the first of the series of Wearable Body Organs. ScreamBody is a portable space for screaming. When a user needs to scream but is in anynumber of situations where it is just not permitted, ScreamBody silences the user’s screams so they may feel free to vocalize without fear of environmental retaliation, and at the same time records the scream for later release where, when, and how the user chooses.
I find all three creations quite amusing, because I myself used to hum along with the vacuum cleaner and washing machines when I was a kid...and see how I turned out. [via my friend James!]

The Blendie schematic diagram
A Blendie QuickTime movie

farkleberries Links du Jour 69 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Elephant Dung Paper 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Now, here's a product with a purpose; one that should tickle both the animal lover and inner child in everyone - elephant dung paper. The Thai National Elephant Institute Forest Industry Organization's Thai Elephant Conservation Center funds elephant aid efforts in that nation through the sale of handcrafted paper items manufactured from the copious amounts of insoluble vegetable fiber found in pachyderm poo. From the Elephant Dung Paper website, a graphic showing the cycle of conservation (wouldn't that center logo make a great T-shirt?):

Elephant dung paper and the cycle of conservation

There, you can read about the eco-friendly [no chlorine used] process and products, as well as [no joking]...Hot Dung News! On the Hot Dung News! page, a photo of an elephant next to a large wheeled tub of...well, you know...is captioned, "Paper is served. Thank you Mr. Elephant!" In addition, you can learn some fascinating elephant dung facts:
  1. On average an elephant will eat 200-250kg of food a day….. from that we get 50kg of dung
  2. One elephant makes about 115 sheets of paper a day er... correction one elephant provides us enough dung to make 115 sheets of paper. Please let it be known to all :- our staff neither resemble elephants nor provide us with enough dung to make 115 sheets of paper... sorry ladies.
  3. Elephant dung does not smell that bad...honest please believe me. If it does smell that bad then maybe the elephant is ill.
  4. You can take the temperature of an elephant by its dung just minus 1 degree centigrade from a freshly fallen ball!!
  5. An elephant’s dung is just fiber. Elephants are poor digesters of their food over 50% of what they eat comes straight out the other end. The elephants are kindly doing the first stage of any paper making process – getting the fibers.
  6. Elephant Dung Paper does not smell at all.
If that wasn't astounding enough, these Thai elephants are also artistes: you can also purchase paintings made by elephants ["Each painting comes with a picture of the artist in action and is packed in an elephant dung tube"]. My favorite is one that looks rather different from the others in the collection, called "Half of Hearts," (Still available, at US $80) limned by a rather talented 8-year old elephant named Add.

MORE: Elephant painting school and gallery
MSNBC: "Recycling's next frontier: Poop as paper"

farkleberries Links du Jour 68 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
One of many scary ass fish found after the Asian tsunami

Monday, March 14, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 67 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Friday, March 11, 2005
Neil Gaiman to Speak at University of Chicago April 19th 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From Neil Gaiman.com:
I said I'd put up info about the University of Chicago "Evening With Neil Gaiman" talk when I got it. It's going to be on Tuesday the 19th of April 2005, at the Court Theatre, South Ellis Av University of Chicago, and tickets ($15 general, $5 for students) go on sale on March the 28th. All the info, including phone numbers and e-mail to get tickets with is up at http://arts.uchicago.edu/gaiman.html.

I'll be interviewed by Gretchen Helfrich, host of Chicago Public Radio's Odyssey, and will probably do some readings as well...
...and I have class that exact night, dammit, unless more people in my class sign up for a field trip to the Cook County juvenile correctional facility to hobnob with bangers. Gaiman and Gretchen Helfrich on the same stage. The universe seems to be conspiring to keep me from hearing Neil talk - I've missed no less than four chances over the past ten years or so, all because of scheduling conflicts or unexpected events. It's deucedly odd, I tell you.

On a lighter note, I just learned a dangerous new computer trick: how to properly record digital audio streams into Audacity, and save them as good-quality .mp3's. Ooo, ooo, ooo. (or is that 0001, 10010, 100?)

Requiem for the Gobbler Motel to be Written Up In Madison, WI Capital Times 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

UPDATE: The article, "The Gobbler was one of a kind," appeared in today's Capital Times, and Duog Moe included a few paragraphs from our conversation:
"I had heard about it before I moved to the Chicago area," Reznicek told me when I reached her Thursday. "A friend of mine who appreciates anything offbeat told me about it. Then when I moved here I realized it was just a couple of hours away."

Reznicek drove up with friends in October 2001. Neither the restaurant nor the motel was operational by then, but she was able to take dozens of interior and exterior photos that are up on her site (and supplemented by promotional material from the Gobbler's heyday).

The timing of Reznicek's visit was important because when she came back again, in February 2002, she found to her dismay that the motel was gone, replaced by a bit of rubble and a hole in the ground. "The fire department torched it for a practice burn," Reznicek said. "I was glad I had taken those photos."
Well, it turns out that the Gobbler Restaurant's latest planned re-incarnation was just too spicy for the town:
The most recent owners exhibited quite an imagination as well, when in September 2003 they went to the Johnson Creek Plan Commission with the idea of turning the restaurant into "The Gobbler A-Go-Go." According to a newspaper account at the time, the plan "would have the restaurant and bar feature go-go dancers wearing bikinis and dancing in cages, plus waitresses in Playboy bunny outfits."

The Plan Commission voted it down 7-0.

For now, the Gobbler lives only on the Internet and in memory, ever pink, plush - and revolving.
Thanks for the interview, Doug!

[3/10/2005] A few minutes ago, I just got off the phone with Doug Moe, a reporter for the Madison, WI, Capital Times, who's doing a piece on the old Gobbler Motel and Restaurant. He said he'd been talking with a group of people the other day who had never heard of the Gobbler. Well, Mr. Moe happened to my website Requiem for the Gobbler Motel (which I haven't added freshend up in some time, as I haven't been back to Johnson Creek since 2003), and he mentioned that the site will be noted in his article tomorrow or over the weekend so I should "see a few more hits over the next few days." Looks like it's time for a site update and dusting-off. Nothing like having unexpected guests coming to the 'ol supper club - and yes, I admit it - I do the same thing at the house. I'll post the Cap Times article link here when it's published.

Thursday, March 10, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 66 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 65 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Bodyworlds at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yesterday, I was haunted, challenged, and educated; and had my eyes opened to a genuinely new vision of the human physical body.

But first, let's step back about two years ago, to when I'd first read of Gunther von Hagens' Bodyworlds [also known as Körperwelten in its original incarnation in Germany] exhibition of human cadavers preserved by his revolutionary "plastination" process, which allows them to be displayed and posed in varying states of dissection. There was (and still is) considerable controversy surrounding this scientific and artistic exhibit; and I must admit that I once found myself thoroughly repulsed by the concept, on both visceral and ethical levels.

Somewhere in my primal deeply-held fears the idea of having people donate their bodies for the purpose of having their flayed, exposed, expanded, modified - not to mention creatively arranged - corpses seen by thousands millions of gawking strangers struck me as...well, unthinkable. After considering my prejudices, I realized that my initial negative reactions were the result of decades of horror-film cliches, congealed with the basic human fears of what can happen to one's mortal remains after death. A few weeks ago, I learned that Bodyworlds was coming to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry - a literal hop and skip away from the University of Chicago - and I decided to take the plunge. However, I must admit: I'd managed to shed much of my previous cadaverophobia in the intervening months before walking into the grand hall for our afternoon tour, and what little remained was dispelled by a sense of admiration for the people who had chosen to give their bodies - so that now so many may see and learn from what was previously reserved for a select few.

As visitors caught their first up-close views of von Hagens' plastinates, many betrayed signs of the their instinctive reactions of disbelief, discomfort, bewilderment - but also wonder and delight. The crowd was strikingly diverse. Groups of African-American teens, bestudded college-age Goths, and elderly foreign couples rubbed shoulders with small Asian boys in matching oversized Illini football jerseys. Even small children, whose attention spans one would expect to barely encompass a 30-minute TV show, remained raptly hushed and intrigued for the approximately two hours it takes to see all 200 plastinations.

Overheard: "I have to keep reminding myself these are real bodies..." "You know, these [translucent slices of human brain in square resin casings] would make the most twisted kitchen tiles!" Strangely, even toddlers seem intrigued by the bodies. As a very pregnant mother holding her small daughter in her arms stood in front of a pregnant female plastinate with its abdomen dissected, the little girl exclaimed while pointing at the fetus, "Look! A baby!" Bodyworlds is the ultimate in "anatomical correctness": double takes abound as even the most jaded-looking viewer first contemplates the frankness of skinned, expanded dissections of male and female bodies.

Then I get it. Much of the discomfort comes from the jarring, unexpected intimacy we are afforded when looking at a piece such "The Teacher," where a skinless male plastinate "smiles" toothily in a chalk-in-hand pose (a German version of the Bodyworlds tourguide cheekily placed as an "inside joke" in his left hand), writing on an unseen blackboard as his spine, arteries and veins, genitalia, muscles, grinning teeth and lidless eyeballs greet the onlooker without the slightest hint of embarrassment or false modesty. When you look straight-on at the eye-level square white chalk in the body's hand, and stare at the "Teacher"'s dissected face, the effect is mesmerizing; you really have to remind yourself continually that these were once living, breathing people prior to their transformation - and each time you remember, you feel a brief inevitable pang of emotion.

Remember, the majority of the plastinations are mounted open-air, not behind glass; one mingles in closer proximity with the dead here than one would with the living at a cocktail party, and they don't mind if you stare. Though viewers are warned by numerous signs, "do not touch" - one obviously could.

The bodies are mounted in very functional, minimal surroundings, with low-key brick, stone and metal display areas lit by small focused halogen lamps. The effect is both coldly clinical and esthetically pleasing. Separating the various areas are hanging maroon banners containing philosophers' pointed historical quotations on life and death:
"Get used to the idea that Death should not matter to us, for good and evil are based on sensation. Death, however, is the cessation for all sensation. Hence, Death, ostensibly the most terrifying of all evils, has no meaning for us, for as long as we exist, Death will not be present. When Death comes, then we will no longer be in existence." --- Epicurus

"Death is neither good nor evil, for good and evil can only be something that actually exists. However, whatever is of itself nothing and which transforms everything else into nothing will not at all be able to put us at the mercy of fate."
--- Seneca
Perhaps one of the most enlightening aspects of Bodyworlds are its full-body and partial plastinates of disease processes. While no obvious traumatic or violent injuries are shown, the plastination process shows with stark wordless clarity the blackened smoker's lung, the plaque-ridden artery, and the blood-filled brains and hearts of stroke and cardiac victims. Translucent plastinates of virtually every organ system illuminate and demystify the realities of cancer and degenerative disease like no other educational aid I've seen.

More than a day later, I'm still going over the images in my head and processing what I've encountered. While I would caution that those with genuinely delicate sensibilities might want to acquaint themselves from a distance first (perhaps through the Bodyworlds books or DVD), there is nothing in Bodyworlds I would call genuinely horrific or frightening.

That said, as I mentioned earlier, the dissections will likely stir up old images and associations, and the more you've seen in your life, the more preconceptions you will come across that require tending. Some of the "exploded" plastinates recall Gary Baseman's "popping skeletons," and one piece in particular, the Winged Man, looks uncannily like the Hannibal Lecter-gutted "spread-eagle" policeman's corpse in The Silence of the Lambs, complete with a Lecter-esque white Panama with black rim band jauntily propped on the cadaver's head. Bodyworlds is disturbing at times, yes; but I can also see that people who lived in the ages prior to commonplace human cadaveric dissection would find any sight of human inner working shocking.

More than almost any other exhibit I've ever seen, I think Bodyworlds has the unusual potential to engage our collective subconscious and fascinate all through its never-before-seen revelation of the uniting human substance we all share beneath our differing skins.

Friday, March 04, 2005
Meme! State Your Location 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I'll probably get this one wrong: bold the states you've visited, italicize the states you've lived in, underline the one where you currently reside.

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

[via Trish Wilson's Blog]

farkleberries Links du Jour 64 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

With Grandparents Like These, Who Needs Big Brother, Part II 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
An update on yesterday's post on the Kentucky grandparents who turned their grandson in to police after finding a "killer zombies" fiction story in his journal; first, thank you to Bidisha Banerjee at Slate who mentioned and linked the post in Abortion Roll Call last night!

A anonymous commenter at Life of Brian claims to know the Poole family, and states that the arrest was not William Poole's first. It's hard to judge the commenter's veracity, since he/she mentions no names or identifying information; "I know his sister" isn't much to go on. But, the story gets interesting. A Friday, February 25th piece from the AP reads:
WINCHESTER, Ky. - An 18-year-old high school student was in jail Friday, charged with threatening an armed takeover of his school. William Poole, a junior at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, was arrested Thursday at school on a terroristic threatening charge.

The arrest came after a tip from a family member that Pool was trying to "recruit a gang to take over the school," Detective Berl Perdue said. "He didn't have a gang, but he was attempting to organize one," Perdue said.

Police said writings in which Poole tried to persuade other students to take part in the takeover were found. "We don't know who's included in this," George Rogers Clark Principal John Atkins said. "That's what we're working on, to see if there were other individuals involved. ... We're not sure that there are."
This story says the writings talk about a gang of students Poole was allegedly recruiting to take over the school - no mention of killer zombies. What's the truth here? The inconsistency is more than a little strange.

Thursday, March 03, 2005
O Tempora, O Mores! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Surely, I can't be the only one that sees the utter, preposterous hypocrisy in the fact that coming out as gay or lesbian can get you kicked out of your church leadership position, but if you're a notorious serial killer, you can stay?

farkleberries Links du Jour 63 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

With Grandparents Like These, Who Needs Big Brother? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
killer scathe zombiesYour know the "War on Terror" has jumped the shark reached hysteria stage when grandparents turn their grandkids in to the police, after searching said kid's journal and finding short stories about killer zombies:
From WLEX-TV, Lexington, Kentucky: Winchester police say William Poole, 18, was taken into custody Tuesday morning. Investigators say they discovered materials at Poole's home that outline possible acts of violence aimed at students, teachers, and police.

Poole told LEX 18 that the whole incident is a big misunderstanding. He claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class. "My story is based on fiction," said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. "It's a fake story. I made it up. I've been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies."

Even so, police say the nature of the story makes it a felony. "Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it's a felony in the state of Kentucky," said Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill. Poole disputes that he was threatening anyone. "It didn't mention nobody who lives in Clark County, didn't mention (George Rogers Clark High School), didn't mention no principal or cops, nothing," said Poole. "Half the people at high school know me. They know I'm not that stupid, that crazy."

On Thursday, a judge raised Poole's bond from one to five thousand dollars after prosecutors requested it, citing the seriousness of the charge. Poole is being held at the Clark County Detention Center.
Were the grandparents so fearful of William Poole or out of touch with their family that they couldn't even approach him (or his parent(s)) with their concerns? Good luck re-establishing a speaking relationship, Grandma and Grandpa; way to go.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 62 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink]