Friday, April 29, 2005
Friday Random Ten: The Impermanence of Art Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Edvard Munch's 'Scream' destroyedA sad day in the art world: Norway's Aftenposten newspaper reports that according to the Dagblådet, the missing Edvard Munch painting, "The Scream," has been destroyed. The Canadian Globe and Mail and Bloomberg.com News also report that the famous painting has been burned by thieves.
  1. Brian Wilson - Our Prayer
  2. The Killers - Somebody Told Me
  3. TRS-80 - Phantom Power
  4. The Specials - A Message To You, Rudy
  5. Crowded House - Something So Strong
  6. Air - Radian
  7. Blur - Song 2 (Techno Remix)
  8. The Legendary Pink Dots - Remember Me This Way
  9. Curve - Chinese Burn
  10. Muslimgauze - Mosul

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Risky Chipping: the New US RFID-Equipped Passports 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I'm no fan of RFID technology in general, but I'm really steamed about the new series of U.S. passports issued beginning mid-year, which will contain them. So are a lot of other people - and not necessarily hard-core privacy-rights types. These chips contain a storehouse of sensitive private information about the passport's owner, and the information can be 'read' by electronic scanner devices from as far away as three feet even while the passport is safely tucked away in a purse, wallet, or coat pocket. Having this personal information vulnerable to silent "surfing" carries some profound risks.

Identity thieves, kidnappers, and terrorists could not only identify American citizens in public spaces, but obtain their name, home address, biometric information, personal identifier numbers, and so forth in a fraction of a second. Combine this identity data with any other information available on U.S. citizens - health records, corporate marketing information or financial records - and the malfeasance that could occur is mindboggling.

The frightening part is that the passport never even need leave your possession for this theft to happen. You'd never know if the stranger that walked past you at the hotel desk stole more than just a furtive glance.

A few of these identity-"surfing" tragedies - especially international ones - may need to occur before our government decides to revisit, recall or replace these passports. Unfortunately, no one seems to be able to provide a valid, non-civil-liberty-infringing reason (besides the volume of data that can be stored in the chips) why RFID technology is better than, say, magnetic strips or laser-scannable barcoding. Whether in the U.S. or abroad, American citizens will be at a marked disadvantage and increased personal safety risk any time their passport leaves home.

I've been searching to see if there are any easy ways to prevent unauthorized "surfing" of RFID chips (besides extracting the chip carefully with a razorblade, or popping the whole passport in the microwave - EMP pulse, anyone?), and apparently ordinary aluminum foil wrapped around the chip disrupts the scan signal to a certain extent. As a commenter on this thread notes, "Thanks - now those tinfoil hats have a use."
From Daily Kos: While traveling it is smart to keep your passport on you at all times, but with today's world-wide political climate, it is a very dangerous time to have a big red flag labeling you as an American anywhere you go.

Thugs could just scan a walk-way for Americans and use their detector to decide whom to mug, rape, kidnap, or murder. Once they have you, they will know exactly where your passports (and any valuables kept with it) are hidden. If your car or hotel gets broken into, thieves could find your passport right away without any trouble by simply running a scan. This would be much easier than even using a metal detector as the signal would be giving out the passports exact location.

I've had my things broken into while visiting many countries (France, Tunisia, Turkey, Israel -- and in the USA), passports are very popular among thieves as is the money they are often kept with.

Additionally, the information on these tags could easily be read by anyone with a scanner, without having to even come in contact with the actual passport to let you know your privacy was compromised. This opens a whole new world of security issues depending on how much information the government chooses to store on these chips.

Officials are saying that the information on these tags would be protected through encryption, but I don't think that's good enough. I would bet hard cash that once the passports start rolling out, it will be just a few weeks (if not days) before some tech students somewhere crack the code. Just look at how long it took for DVD encryption to get hacked!

Officials are also saying that the passport's "jacket" would include an aluminum-foil type material to block out the signals from your RFID tag so it couldn't be read unless the passport was open. While aluminum foil does a good job blocking RFID signals, this just isn't good enough. I don't know the specifics for what the government has in mind, but I don't imagine it being full proof especially once criminals are actively trying to find ways around it. And a passport has to be opened when used as ID (at a hotel, bar, or whatever), and can easily open a crack (or more) while in your pocket or backpack.
Caveat: from what I understand, the passport chips are "passive" - that is, they contain no internal power supply that powers a signal, but if a scanner sends a radio signal the chip responds with a packet of information generated by the chip, powered by electrical current induced in the chip's antenna coil by the scanning signal. Not that this makes these passports any safer, of course. The government now says it will equip the chips with an encryption algorithm, requiring a "key" generated by reading a barcode inside the passport itself before the RFID chip data can be accessed. Ahem...new challenge for hackers/crackers, anyone?

More: WIRED News April 26, 2005 - Feds Rethinking the RFID Passport
EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Deep Links on RFID Passports
Engadget: U.S. Changes Mind About RFID Passports...Sort Of.
AIM Global Network: RFID-Tagged Passport - Deterrent or Threat
Tech News World

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
You Know You're From Chicago When 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

You Know You're From Chicago When...

You say "Wanna go with?" when you mean "Do you want to come with me?"

You know what Kennedy, Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, Edens, and Bishop Ford, have in common and curse one of them daily.

You know what "the Hillside strangler is."

You can name three or four extra taxes nobody else pays.

You know the difference between Richard J Daley and Richard M Daley.

You can use two or three Daleyisms in context.

You can imitate the Mayor's whine.

You say Chicawgo and not Chicaago.

You think going to a Bears game in single digit temperatures with a wind off the lake (and freezing rain) is fun.

Da is a proper definite article.

You expect corruption in local politics.

You go to the Dells in the summer to get away from the other 20 thousand that followed you.

You've been caught speeding in Wisconsin because you had Illinois plates.

You guard your shoveled parking space with an old chair and unusable broom.

You know why they call it "the Windy City."

You know dead people who voted.

You understand the Democratic machine and don't fight against it.

You've never ever considered the idea of hiring non-union laborers.

You've never been to Springfield.

You know a good gyros joint.

You know what Giordanos, Lou Malnati's, and Gino's have in common.

You know when the last time the Cubs won a pennant.

You know exactly how many cars are "legally" allowed to turn left after the light turns red.

You don't know which ethnic "fest" to choose on any given Summer weekend.

Your idea of relaxing and getting away from it all is Ravinia (with 10,000 others who have the same idea).

You can recite many of "The Blues Brothers" lines and know where they filmed certain scenes.

You consider paying someone to watch your car at a sporting event as just another "city tax."

The "Living Room" is called the "front room"

You don't pronounce the "s" at the end of Illinois. You become irate at people who do

You measure distance in minutes (especially "from the city"). And you swear everything is pretty much 15 minutes away

You refer to anything South of I-80 as "Southern Illinois"

You refer to Lake Michigan as "The Lake"

You refer to Chicago as "The City"

"The Super Bowl" refers to one specific game in a series of 35 played in January of 1986

You have two favorite football teams: The Bears, and anyone who beats the Packers!

You buy "The Trib"

You think 35 degrees is great weather to wash your car!

You know what goes on a Chicago Style Hot Dog

You know what Chicago Style Pizza REALLY is

You understand what "lake-effect" means

You know the difference between Amtrak and Metra, and know which station they end up at. You have ridden the "L"

You can distinguish between the following area codes: 847,630,773,708, 312, & 815

You respond to the question "Where are you from" with a side" example:"WEST SIDE", "SOUTH SIDE" or "NORTHSIDE."

You know what the phone number is to Empire Carpet!

You wear gym shoes, not sneakers.

Your favorite melody to hum is "Bang,Bang,Bang-Skeet,Skeet,Skeet!!!!"

You faithfully attended Lil Louis parties at The Bismarck.

You GOT to have spaghetti at your barbecue.

You are STILL a Bulls fan........

You think kicking it outside of White Castles parking lot, (79th and Stony Island) is the "Freak Nik"

You go to Harold`s and order 4 pc wing, mild sauce, salt and pepper.

You have a picture of Harold Washington in your kitchen, living room, family room or basement.

You have ever waited in line at Home of the Hoagy on 111th for 30-45 minutes for a steak samich wit cheese

You have ever been to the Tiki Room lounge in Hyde Park

You have Y made a special trip downtown because you had a craving for Garrett's caramel and cheese popcorn.

What!!! We don`t get a Fifty? Oh yeah....

You drink at bars called "Bud on Tap" or "Milwaukee's Best" -- no names, just beer signs out front.

It's January and you see someone's kitchen chair in the street, and you know that if you're a responsible citizen and bring it back to the sidewalk you will be shot on sight

You live two miles from work and it takes you two hours to drive there

You don't flinch when you pay the fifth toll of your 45-minute car ride on the highway

When you read a big story in the paper about mob ties in the city government, your first reaction is "So, tell me something I don't know."

You know Lincoln Towing is Satan incarnate.

You've paid $105 for towing, $30 for more than one "street cleaning" ticket, $58 for a city vehicle sticker, and $70 for a license plate sticker -- and chalk it all up to "neighborhood taxes."

You pluralize grocery stores and retail chains: "I'm going to Jewels"; "I bought it at Targets"; "I couldn't find parking at Wal-Marts"

You've taken the Red Line past the point where all white people get off and all black people get on -- or vice versa.

You've cursed at a cyclist, pedestrian, or in-line skater on the lakefront path.

You know the significance of State and Madison.

You wonder if the fries will taste the same at Sammy Sosa's Restaurant.

You don't miss Planet Hollywood.

You're not ashamed of wearing a big fur Russian hat, or a headsock with one hole in it, in public from November through March.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Chicago.

Get Your Own "You Know You're From" Meme Here
More cool things for your blog at
[via Lauren at Feministe]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Chernobyl + 19 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Chernobyl reactor burning at night, shortly after the explosion on April 16th, 1986Nineteen years ago today the fire began...and years later, there's more bad news. From Ukraine online newspaper ForUm:
25 April: Sarcophagus of Chernobyl nuclear power plant is being ruined

Collapse of sarcophagus of Chernobyl nuclear power plant threatens to become a new ecological catastrophe. Lately the technical state of the fourth reactor’s sarcophagus has deteriorated – the walls are cracked, general building’s geometry became deformed, the ceiling has settled. The [20 year] period of guaranteed operation of "Shelter" is going to expire in 2006. Experts warn that collapse of protective contracture can cause more grave consequences than the accident of the year 1986 itself. Meanwhile, it is impossible to give a real estimation now. A new sarcophagus, "Shelter – 2" was projected to neutralize the reactor. The period of sarcophagus operation is meant for hundred years.

Costs for the project was supposed to make 750 million USD, 50 million of which will be given by the Ukrainian government, and coalition of 28 countries will give the rest. Now it is a question of one milliard [billion] USD.
Above, a rare image of Chernobyl's reactor 4 burning, from nighttime aerial video shot in 1986, courtesy of Progetto Humus [Italia: Humus Project statement in English here [PDF]].

Actually, there was a major international consortium set up several years ago to finance building a second, more permanent shelter over the "Sarcophagus" - or 'Ukritye,' literally "shelter" - but the project seems unconscionably delayed, if not stalled altogether. How unfortunately shortsighted. Once again money seems to be the problem. However, if the Sarcophagus does collapse, even partially, there will be another messy (and horrendously expensive) release of toxic radioactive debris for the international community to deal with.
by Mario Petrucci

Even the robots refuse. Down tools. Jerk up
their blocked heads, shiver in invisible hail. Helicopters
spin feet from disaster, caught in that upward cone
of technicide - then ditch elsewhere, spill black running guts.
Not the Firemen. In black rubber gloves and leather boots
they walk upright, silent as brides. Uppers begin
to melt. Soles grow too hot for blood. Still they shovel
the graphite that is erasing marrow, spine, balls-
that kick-starts their DNA to black and purple liquid life.
Then the Soldiers. Nervous as children. They re-make it -
Erect slabs with the wide stare of the innocent, crosshatch
the wreck roughly with steel, fill it in with that grey
crayon of state Concrete. In soiled beds, in the dreams
of their mothers, they liquefy. Yet Spring still chooses
this forest, where no deer graze and roots strike upwards.
Fissures open in the cement - rain finds them. They grow
puff spores of poison. Concrete and lead can only take
so much. What remains must be done by flesh.
Ukrainian Prosecutors Reveal Huge Embezzlement of Chernobyl Funds [April 22, 2005]

Chernobyl Requiem, Part 1 [2004]

Engineer Witnessed Chernobyl from Within - And Lived to Tell
Anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster
Chernobyl Explorer Alexander Borovoi
Hyperphysics® links to Chernobyl information

Monday, April 25, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 83 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Boekenshoutskloof Chocolate Block wine

With a review that reads like this, I don't know whether I'd enjoy it or feel violated afterwards.

Friday, April 22, 2005
Freakonomics: Phone Home 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner I just noticed that one of Blogger's recent "Blogs of Note" is the Freakonomics blog by Stephen J. Dubner, New York Times columnist and co-author (with Steven Levitt) of the bestselling book. Prof. Levitt's old-school ("RRIING RRIING") phone has been jingling off the hook for the past week or so, since Freakonomics' release...and it's a bit annoying. How would I know that? Let's just say...that I do have firsthand knowledge of that darned phone. Several times, I have plotted to unscrew the bottom of that phone to tape some cotton batting around the bell to muffle its ungodly clangor; the only thing that's stopped me is the knowledge I would soon be discovered as the Phantom Phone Muffler of the Economics Department.* ;)

Freakonomics is engrossing, tasty, and easy to digest, even for non-economists; as Dubner writes on the back cover, readers will have "ammunition for a thousand cocktail parties." If the mere thought of poring through an economics text for fun makes your eyes glaze over, fear not. This moderately sized tome reads like an intriguing cocktail party conversation itself - the kinds where stories morph seamlessly from cheating teachers and sumo wrestlers, to how the Ku Klux Klan was stymied by the Superman radio show - to information asymmetries in online dating. It's the sort of magical armchair lecture where you completely lose track of the day, marveling at not only the orator's bottomless store of knowledge, but at the conceptual connections they conjure between seemingly disparate topics. If nothing else, Freakonomics reveals a host of strikingly fresh tethers between "apples" and "oranges," and shows us that our outwardly incomprehensible world moves in non-so-mysterious ways, after all.

* Not so strange as it may seem at first glance, and clever readers will put Google to good use. "You will not be saved by Ron Popeil, Dick Cheney, or the iPod. You will not be saved by speedreading and Botox. In fact, you WILL NOT BE SAVED."

Friday Random Ten - The Mystery Hymn Version 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Before we get to this week's Random Ten, allow me to direct you to a German Ultravox fan's webpage, which contains a link to one of the most unusual versions of Hymn I've heard. It's from a 1986 concert (unknown venue) described as a "audience member's tape recording" in the German caption. I'm not sure this could even be an Ultravox concert per se, since I think the band dissolved in late 1985. I could be wrong, but perhaps the date's an error, or it's really a solo Midge Ure concert? I stand corrected: the final Ultravox album, "U-VOX" (a.k.a. "The Pink Thing") was released in 1986, so this might explain the folksier, soulful feel of this tune. Give it a listen (Winamp or other mp3 player needed) and tell me what you think? (Look for the link labeled "Auszug aus "Hymn" Live 1986 (ULTRAVOX, Tonbandaufnahme eines Zuschauers)")

The segment contains only the last 1:56 of the song, and the sound quality is poor-to-fair at best. Midge sounds passionate-but-weary, his voice missing a few beats as though he's sung it a million times before; but what's striking is the instrumentation. Instead of the traditional four-man synth-pop arrangement, the song and Ure's guitar lead are backed by what appears to be a synthesized women's gospel chorus - and the shouts of front-row fans. The recording is imperfect, but it's warm and revelatory as the orginal was ethereally chill - and I can't help but wonder to think of what a fresh new gospelized version of the song would sound like under the old Midge vocal. Now that would be stupendous.
  1. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - Dropout Boogie
  2. RX - My Name is RX
  3. The Beatles - Come Together
  4. From Bubblegum to Sky - Some Kind of Fantastic
  5. The Clash - Hateful
  6. The Blue in Green Quartet - Interplay
  7. Tindersticks and Isabella Rossellini - A Marriage Made in Heaven
  8. Spillsbury - Schlagzeile
  9. Dry and Heavy - Heavy Special
  10. Barenaked Ladies - Grim Grinning Ghosts

Thursday, April 21, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 82 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Where The Wild Things Are 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sometimes, when the news is filled with stories of miraculous salt stains on highway underpasses and "God's Rottweiler" being elected the new Pope - all you can do is find the momentary beastly humour in life.And yes, Our Lady of the Underpass is still drawing visitors from far and wide; but as Australia's Sydney Morning Herald points out, sacred images often seem to appear in the most unusual of places:
In November 2004, a piece of popcorn shaped like the Virgin Mary was auctioned on eBay. A Canadian woman also said she saw the Blessed Mother and baby Jesus on a Lay's Smokey Bacon Chip.

Monday, April 18, 2005
Virgin Mary of the Kennedy Expressway, Our Lady of the Underpass? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Onlookers examine markings resembling the Virgin Mary on the Kennedy Expressway I-90 Fullerton overpass in ChicagoIf you're heading toward the Loop from O'Hare, watch out for some unusual foot and auto traffic near the Fullerton exit...from CBS2.com Chicago:
CHICAGO (CBS 2) Talk about causing a gaper's delay. The faithful have been flocking to a Kennedy Expressway overpass where an image of the Virgin Mary apparently appeared last week. IDOT crews have been called in to handle the crowds. Witnesses say the image appeared about a week ago on a wall on Fullerton Avenue under the Kennedy Expressway. The faithful say it resembles the Virgin Mary, and they have been flocking to it ever since.

Around 20 people drove by or walked up to look at the wall just before midnight Sunday, said an Illinois State Police District Chicago trooper, who declined to be identified. Shakespeare District Lt. Perry Nigro said despite reports the image resembled the Virgin Mary, officers dispatched to the site did not agree.

Police say the image was probably caused by stains from road salt that dripped down form the expressway onto the wall. Still, the faithful used cameras or camera phones to capture their own pictures of it. [read full article]
If you ask me, the stain does look a lot like the traditional Virgen de Guadalupe image that adorns many a rear car window in Chicago. But, there is something pretty darned surreal about people standing under a busy highway viaduct taking cameraphone snaps of a Virgin Mary-shaped salt stain - a holy vision for the digital age? It's certainly in keeping with the theme of feminist nuns at the papal Conclave setting off pink smoke bombs.
Many are saying it is the Blessed Virgin Mary, her head slightly bowed, her hands together in prayer, holding what appears to be a rosary. The image becomes clearer when viewed through the lens of a digital camera.
More: NBC5 Chicago
"Our Lady of the Underpass?" Chicago Tribune, reg req.

Sunday, April 17, 2005
My Linguistic Profile: Whistling Dixie? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Your Linguistic Profile:

45% General American English

40% Yankee

10% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?
Well, I know that the "Yankee" component comes from my years in New Jersey and New York, and I recently discovered that my mysterious subtle accent is indeed "Jersey-Philly," since I still pronounce "water" waw-ter instead of wah-ter most of the time. The Upper Midwestern I can also see, since I've had a tendency to use terminal prepositions for some time - even before moving to Chicago.

However, I have absolutely no clue about the "5% Dixie." [Via Lauren at Feministe.]

Friday, April 15, 2005
farkleberries Links dur Jour 81 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
"Kitty Genovese, Where Are You?" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Everything, simply everything about this news story from Columbus, Ohio is an outrage. The New York Times today had a detailed report on the incident and events that have occurred since, including the firing of a school administrator. From NBC5 Chicago:
Witnesses Say Students Watched Girl's Sexual Assault At School: Officials Say Student Videotaped Abuse

UPDATED: 2:08 pm CDT April 13, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Police say several students witnessed the sexual abuse of a girl at a Columbus high school. A 16-year-old student with developmental delays said she was dragged into the auditorium of Mifflin High School, punched and forced to perform oral sex on at least two male students while more than a dozen other students were called in to watch. One student reportedly videotaped the sex acts, WCMH-TV in Columbus reported.

A student witness reported hearing an attacker warn, "If you scream, I'll have my boys punch you." The same witness said the girl then dropped to her knees after she was punched in the face. Students scattered when help was called, officials said.

During the attack, one witness looked for a school security guard but could not find anyone, he told investigators. "We went back to the auditorium; the victim was 'butt naked,"' the witness said, and someone "was on top of her." The attackers then ran from the scene, and witnesses helped the girl get dressed before taking her to a security employee, who is not a police officer.

Mifflin High School officials who found her bleeding from the mouth March 9 did not call police, and an assistant principal cautioned the girl's father against calling 911 because the media might get involved, according to statements from school officials obtained by The Columbus Dispatch. But the girl's father insisted on calling police and contacted them later that afternoon.

Special education teacher Julie Calvario said the girl told her about the incident. "(She said) she was scared and told him to stop, but he hit her in the head and told her to be quiet," Calvario said. Even after administrators were alerted to the alleged criminal act, they did not call police, or the victim's father, WCMH reported. More than an hour later, teacher Lisa Upshaw called the girl's father. Upshaw said that when the girl's father arrived, assistant principal Richard Watson would not call the police.
More on NBC4i Columbus
New York Times

Phill Kline, Kansas' "Reverend A.G." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Just picked up on this LA Times story via feministing, profiling Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. Reading some of Kline's words, I'd be hard-pressed to call him conservative: he's nothing less than a roll-back-the-clock reactionary. The first quote here is stunning; Kline basically gloats over Kansas' turnabout from being once considered a progressive state:
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline"Study Kansas history," he said the other day, words tumbling out in an eager rush. "We were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement, the women's suffrage movement, prohibition. Then we got conservatism and recognized the importance of faith." Kline beamed. "In many ways," he said, "Kansas leads the nation on social issues. And always will."

Endorsing a key element of Kline's vision, Kansas voters last week overwhelmingly approved a far-reaching ban on gay marriage. Kline had promoted the amendment as a way to rein in "activist judges" who would "deny you the right to define family."

That troubled state Rep. Jeff Jack, a fellow Republican, who said Kline seemed to go out of his way to bash the courts. "It seems to me," Jack said, "he's gotten into some areas that you just wouldn't expect the attorney general to get into."

Clearly, Kline, 45, is no ordinary attorney general.

He travels the state preaching from church pulpits, with a firebrand charisma that has earned him a reputation as the state's best orator. He declares that some of the laws he's sworn to enforce are repugnant to him — especially a woman's right to abortion. He says he will uphold that right, but he interprets it narrowly.

Kansas law permits abortions late in pregnancy only if the woman would otherwise face "a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." To Kline, this means her physical health must be gravely threatened.

That interpretation is at odds with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restrictions on abortion must include exceptions for the woman's mental as well as physical health. Nonetheless, Kline is weighing criminal charges against doctors who may have terminated advanced pregnancies out of concern for the mother's psychological state. Seeking evidence, he is demanding access to dozens of patient medical records; the abortion clinics are appealing.
Kline pushes against legal precedent in the schoolroom as well. A federal judge in Georgia recently ordered the removal of stickers in biology textbooks telling students that "evolution is a theory, not a fact."

Soon after, Kline told conservative members of the Kansas Board of Education that he would back them if they put similar stickers on textbooks — a move the board had not even considered when the attorney general brought it up.
Kline was also instrumental in reinforcing the state's discriminatory "Romeo and Juliet" laws that provides for harsh treatment of sexually active gay minors. Kline's stance on underage sex apparently includes a "pass" for straight teens, because they may get pregnant and "form families" - something the State wants to encourage:
In the fall of 2003, he issued an impassioned defense of a Kansas law that subjected sexually active teens to much steeper criminal penalties if they were gay.

In a legal brief, Kline argued that the state should punish a boy who had sex with an underage boy more harshly than a boy who had sex with an underage girl because the heterosexual couple might some day marry, and "marriage creates families" — a desirable outcome for the state.

Treating "same-sex or bestial contact" the same as Romeo and Juliet pairings "will begin a toppling of dominoes which is likely to end with the Kansas marriage law on the scrapheap," he wrote.
What a lovely sentiment. Key "red flag" sentence in the story: "[Kline] travels the state preaching from church pulpits..."

Any lawmaker who on one hand rails against "judicial activism" while simultaneously showing clear disdain for the separation of Church and State bears some pretty close watching. Remember: no reasonable law or social progress is ever safe from reversal, and no state is distant enough to ignore. And come midterms, folks, be extra careful who you vote for:
After all, Kline won the attorney general's race by a margin of less than 1%. And though he promised to find common ground with his opponents, he soon began making moves that alarmed them.

farkleberries Links du Jour 80 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

But If You Hum A Few Bars, I Can Fake It 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Wouldn't it be great if there were a search engine that allowed you to enter a sequence of musical notes, and then returned a list of possible song matches from a database? Ideally, you could enter the notes into a GUI that accepts both standard notation or chord tablature; maybe it could have an interactive on-screen "keyboard" that records note duration and rests. The copyright issues would likely be monstrous. Oh, well...I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 79 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, April 11, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 78 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Saturday, April 09, 2005
Hot Rock(s): The World's Oldest Thing, Ever. 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The world's oldest object, a speck of zircon found in Jack Hills,AustraliaFrom CNN.com:
To create buzz about an otherwise arcane subject, the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed off a tiny speck of zircon crystal believed to be the oldest known piece of Earth at about 4.4 billion years old.

Saturday's daylong celebration was to be capped with "The Rock Concert" by jazz musicians who composed music to try to answer the question: What does 4.4 billion years old sound like?

"This is it -- the oldest thing ever. One day only," said Joe Skulan, director of the UW-Madison Geology Museum, where the object was displayed under police guard. "The idea of having a big celebration of something that's so tiny -- we're playing with the obvious absurdity of it."

Jazz Passengers, a six-piece group from New York, was hired to compose music for the event. Composer Roy Nathanson said he mixed humor, jazz music, computer-generated beats and the occasional rocks being banged together to "follow the geological history of how this zircon came about."
University of Wisconsin-Madison's news service provided some details on the rare find:
Measuring little more than two human hairs in diameter, the tiny grain of zircon crystal was found in the Jack Hills region of Australia and is estimated at 4.4 billion years old. It was dated by Simon Wilde, a professor in the School of Applied Geology at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia. Wilde will deliver a free public lecture on the geology and zirconology of the Jack Hills region of Australia at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 8, in AB20 Weeks Hall, 1215 W. Dayton St.

A 2001 analysis of Wilde's zircon by geochemist John Valley provided evidence that the early Earth was much cooler than previously believed, and that water and oceans, key preconditions for life, formed much earlier than scientists had previously imagined. Subsequent analysis by graduate student Aaron Cavosie has supported these conclusions.

Valley's analysis of the Jack Hills zircon was conducted, in part, with the aid of a device known as an ion microprobe, a machine capable of extracting chemical and isotope ratios from very small samples. In the case of the Jack Hills zircon crystal, Valley's work showed that the mineral could only have formed as the result of a low temperature environment on Earth's surface.

At the time, Valley and his students needed to travel to Scotland to use one of the few ion microprobes available. UW-Madison now is installing its own ion microprobe, and the $3 million device will be available for public viewing concurrent with the zircon display...
More: BBC World News on the Jack Hills crystal
Ancient crystal question's Earth's history
San Diego.com: "For One Day Only, The World's Oldest Object on Display"

Friday, April 08, 2005
This Friday's Random Ten... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

...is guest-posted over at feministe.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 77: The Morel Values Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Climb the Sears Tower: Spidermen and -Women Needed 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Chicago's Sears TowerFellow Chicagoans! Interested in raising funds for charity (primarily Asian tsunami relief) while achieving semi-superhero status? Of course, you'll be inside the Sears Tower; sorry to disappoint you. Mark your calendars for April 16th, and climb the Sears Tower!
Up to 500 students, faculty, and staff of the largest Chicago-area universities--Northwestern University, Loyola University, the University of Chicago, the UIC, and more--are invited to join hundreds of other Chicago students at the Sears Tower on April 16th. Each climber will be asked to raise at least seventy dollars ($70), and a target average of $100 for charity before engaging in a record-breaking stair-climb at the tallest tower in North America, the Sears Tower. The event will begin at 8:15 PM, and end before midnight.

We'll get to make the Sears Tower our own for an evening, and we plan to work like hell to get the attention of Chicago newspapers, television stations, radio broadcasters, and elected officials. We won't stop at the Chicago Tribune--we're going for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, the Washington Post.
I received word of this event from my boss, so it has to be true. ;)

Here's the skinny on the tall.
More: "How not to be afraid after 9/11: go to the top of the towers"

Ukraine's First Lady Visits Her Hometown, Chicago 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From CBS2 Chicago:
CHICAGO (AP) When Chicago-born Kathy Chumachenko left for Europe 14 years ago, she was a young American pursuing a career and adventure overseas. She is returning as the first lady of Europe's sixth largest country, the wife of Ukraine's new president who survived an apparent assassination attempt by poisoning.

Yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flags fluttered along streets in Chicago's Ukrainian enclave in the days before she and her husband, President Viktor Yushchenko, were expected to land in Washington Sunday to start a four-day tour with stops in Chicago and Boston.

U.S. leaders and Chumachenko say the trip is a celebration of the recent election victory of the pro-West Yushchenko in Ukraine, an ex-Soviet republic of nearly 50 million people between Russia and Poland known in recent years for rampant corruption.

But those in the Chicago-area's 100,000-strong Ukrainian-American community also see the visit as a homecoming for Chumachenko, who was raised by Ukrainian-American parents here and only last month became a Ukrainian citizen.

"For me, this is obviously a very sentimental visit because I will be coming back with a new status, as a first lady, and I will be coming back after a very moving period in our lives," Chumachenko told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday from Ukraine. "We went through very, very difficult times. But this will be a time to enjoy the outcome." [continue reading]

Friday, April 01, 2005
Something Different About the Dogs 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Cindy Potts at EclecticEveryday has noticed a change in the canines since she moved up north...
All of the dogs up here look like wolves. Their chests are broader, their hips narrower. Smooth canine fur has been replaced with tufts of lupine gray, ruffling around predatory faces and fringing exuberant curling tails. Is this a function of environment? Has this twenty mile move north moved us into a harsher plain, one where animals live that much closer to their basic nature -- where the difference between dinner and non-dinner is not "Is it in my dish?" but "Is it in a fence?" The one straying lab-type I've seen may prove the rule by being the exception, although he does play out elaborate pack-behavior type games with the neighbor's huge black fuzzball of a dog. How much is said simply by waggling one's hindquarters.

That last bit is actually true for people, too, BTW.

"The Rosa Parks of the Golden Arcs" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
That's what they're calling Catherine Smith, a student at Chicago's Kenwood Academy, these days. Last night on Chicago Public Radio's local news program, I heard about this deplorable incident that occurred Wednesday at a Hyde Park, Chicago McDonald's...so no, unfortunately, this story is not an April Fool's Day joke. I wish it were. From the University of Chicago American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Listserv:
Join Us to Protest Segregation at the Hyde Park McDonald's

On Wednesday afternoon the Chicago Police Department harassed, handcuffed and then tossed a fifteen-year-old honor student into a paddy wagon. What was her crime? She peacefully paid for and then ate a burger at her local McDonald's restaurant.

You see, the Hyde Park McDonald's on Lake Park and 52nd has an official policy of discrimination against the youth of our community. The schoolchildren of Kenwood Academy, whose school is two blocks from the fast-food restaurant and who spend thousands of dollars in lunch money there, are forced to eat in separate and unequal facilities in the restaurant. Although they pay full price for their meals they are not allowed the basic civil right of choosing to sit anywhere in the restaurant. Instead these young, mostly black, school kids are forced to sit in designated areas within McDonald's.

On Wednesday, Catherine Smith, a sophomore honor student at Kenwood Academy High School, decided that she would stand up for her basic civil rights. Catherine is a first chair soprano in her youth opera, she played the lead in her school play earlier this year, and she maintains a GPA over 3.5.

She also knows a discriminatory policy when she sees it. So on Wednesday, Catherine paid for her lunch and then sat down in the restaurant at a table not designated for students. She was asked repeatedly by the security guard to move. Without raising her voice or using profanity, Catherine calmly told the security guard that she would not move. In response the security guard called the Chicago Police Department.

The Chicago Police handcuffed this underage girl and loaded her into the back of a paddy wagon. A friend called Catherine's mother, who is an administrative assistant at the University of Chicago. When she arrived on the scene the police refused to release Catherine to her mother and forced Catherine to return to school in the paddy wagon.

Our community will not stand for McDonald's policy of segregation or the brutal enforcement of this discriminatory policy by the Chicago police. It has been more than 40 years since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which ended segregation in public accommodations. We will not go back to a time when patrons who pay full price for public services are refused equal treatment simply because they are a part of a group whom others deem undesirable.

Join us FRIDAY, APRIL 1, at 12:00 NOON as we demonstrate our outrage. We will meet at the Hyde Park McDonald's at 5220 S. Lake Park Avenue. Following the example set by Catherine Smith on Wednesday, and in the great tradition of Rosa Parks, this demonstration will be peaceful, nonviolent and conducted with the utmost dignity. This demonstration will show our young people that the community stands with them. We will not allow them to be discriminated against by those who profit from them. We will not allow them to be brutalized by the police.
This particular McDonald's restaurant, and the police officer who intervened, certainly picked the wrong 15-year old girl to mess with: Ms. Smith is the niece of University of Chicago political science professor - and reknowned researcher and race and gender issues advocate - Melissa Harris-Lacewell.

It's incredible to me that a corporation as visible as McDonald's would allow one of its restaurants to maintain this type of discriminatory policy. It's one thing to have security call police to remove a disruptive or violent individual from premises; it's an entirely different matter to invoke the law when a person peacefully refuses to sit in a certain area. Smith broke no law that I can think of - all she did was refuse to sit it a designed "kids" area.

One a side note: "but what about designated smoking areas?" some might say. I think that's a completely unrelated issue. Smoking presents a health risk (and often an annoyance) to non-smoking restaurant patrons, and is a specific behavior that affects surrounding people. A ban on smoking does not prohibit smokers from occupying a certain area; only the act of smoking is banned. That said, I don't agree with the policy that certain regions, like New York City, have adopted by making all restaurants and bars entirely smoke-free: if people want to smoke in a bar, or a physically separate area of a restaurant, they should be allowed to. Don't like smoky bars? Then it's a perfect opportunity to allow certain venues to promote themselves as "smoke-free." Let the customers and the market make the choice, not the government.

There may be a similar reasoning (but no excuse to use the tactics that were employed here) for seating families with young children in a remote area of upscale restaurants. Those wishing to dine in quiet, romantic surroundings may find kids' normal behavior something of a mood-killer; and to preserve their reputation and future business, a restaurant may wish to seat these customers in an out-of-the-way location. Judging from the way some restaurants treat families, certain restaurants soon get a "non-family-friendly" rep by word of mouth. Unfair, yes, but somewhat understandable - and McDonald's isn't exactly Charlie Trotter's.

However, segregating, harassing and punishing a patron the way this Hyde Park McDonald's did - because of a personal characteristic, whether age, race, what have you - is absolutely unacceptable. Period.

More about the story, and the protest on Melissa Harris-Lacewell's website
More on the story in today's Chicago Tribune [reg.req.]
Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell's website