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Saturday, October 26, 2002
10:13 AM      

The NYC Marathon is next Sunday (11/3). I love watching that race. It's over faster than I would imagine, considering that the runners go 26 miles. The early part of the race passes a very short distance from the apartment, so we can walk down and see the competitors go by.

The Marathon is part big-money competition part parade, and completely a celebration of the Human Spirit. I love getting there in time to see the Achilles athletes go by. There are those who zoom by in sleek competition racing chairs, others who cobble any old wheelchair together, and those who hobble by on canes, walkers, you name it.

For a few of the thousands who "run" the Marathon, the challenge is to win or place in the top echelon. Others want a personal best. For many, the point is simply to complete the course or even just to be there.

I hope the weather's favorable!

The pix you're seeing are from last year's Marathon.

[ link | e-me ]

Friday, October 25, 2002
8:31 AM      

I'm on a jag about the Criminal Justice System. Its inequities are looming large these days. When it goes wrong, the results are often catastrophic. I'm talking life and death. For example, anyone who believes that no one has been wrongfully put to death at the hands of this system is simply not looking at the facts.

Then there's the small matter of how loudly money talks. A prime argument against breaking up Microsoft has been that it would damage the economy and cause hardship for their workers. (Of course, nobody's looking at the bloodletting that's been going on in the technology sector anyway because of all the hype and BS. Nor is the argument of "punishment as deterrent" advanced as forcefully as it is in capital cases.)

I recently heard a similar argument advanced on why Martha Stewart won't go to jail: since she is the essence of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, jailing her would put people out of work. Never mind the laws she's broken. Never mind the fact that she was a stock broker, so she can't even pretend to be ignorant of the laws (which is not an acceptable defense).

The argument against punishing wrongdoers because their employees will suffer equates growing a business to hostage-taking. The bigger your business, the greater the immunity to prosecution. Right now, it looks as if Martha may only have to contend with civil litigation from the SEC. Maybe that was Lizzie's real problem: her PR agency wasn't big enough to keep her out of jail.

"The testimony speaks for itself... Most of the evidence in that case was exculpatory, if anything.

I didn't say it was a match, and I'm not going to say something is a match, because I know it's a misleading statement. That doesn't stop someone from using it in an opening statement, or a closing statement."

- Nicholas Petraco, a forensics expert who testified in the jogger case

In an Oklahoma death penalty case, a hair examiner misidentified 17 out of 17 hairs, putting one innocent man, Ronald Williamson, on death row and another, Dennis Fritz, in prison for life. At one point, Mr. Williamson came within five days of execution. DNA tests later proved both men were innocent. Speaking of the hair evidence, the prosecutor in that case told jurors, "It's a match." ...

"People don't want to understand what the limitations of the method are," he said. "The most you could ever say is it's consistent with, or similar to. Does that mean it's absolutely the same? No."

From Hair Evidence in Jogger Case Is Discredited
[NYT link - requires registration]

A couple of weeks ago, I started seening stories about the probability that 5 of the teen-agers arrested and tried for raping a female jogger and nearly beating her to death in Central Park were not guilty. An article in the New York Times pointed to how Donald Trump spent $85,000 to run full page ads demanding the reinstatement of the death penalty. The jogger did not die, and the ads significantly prejudiced the jury pool. The press had a field day and linked the attack to the song "Wild Thing" by Ton Loc. They cast it as a phenomenon: the suggestion was that roving bands of young black youths had made a "hobby" out of attacking helpless white women. For weeks, there were reports on TV and in the papers about "wilding."

The thing I wonder about most was what would bring these 5 to confess to a crime they didn't commit? What went on in those interrogation rooms? 13 years later, having spent nearly half their lives incarcerated, I doubt that our society will make any kind of restitution for the damage we've done.


Then, of course, there's the not so small matter of "The Elected One"...

...The C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism was blunter: "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements." USA Today reports that "pressure has been building on the intelligence agencies to deliberately slant estimates to fit a political agenda."...

Did you notice his recent declaration that allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power wouldn't mean backing down on "regime change," because if the Iraqi despot meets U.N. conditions, "that itself will signal that the regime has changed"?...

...The Economist endorsed him back in 2000 because it saw him as the candidate better able to transcend partisanship; now the magazine describes him as the "partisan-in-chief."...

...The big question is whether the press, which is beginning to find its voice, will lose it again in the face of one-party government.

From "Dead Parrot Society" by Paul Krugman [NYT link - requires registration]

Hey - did we go through a bloodless coup a couple of years ago? If the gun lobby and the religious right are really running this country, doesn't that sound a lot like Taliban Afghanistan? I'm exaggerating a bit, so you'll get my drift. Smell the Starbucks!


OK, enough already. I think I'll go play with Flash and make some art. I always feel better then.

[ link | e-me ]

5:23 PM      

My friend "Dr. Zik" Armstrong has created an image series called "The 13 days of Halloween." Each day, he sends another image. This is my favorite so far. They're done with Poser, Photoshop, and Bryce. Still waiting for today's installment...

[ link | e-me ]

Thursday, October 24, 2002
11:51 AM      

Looks like the DC police have arrested two suspects in the sniper case. Of course, they arrested somebody a week or so ago, and it just turned out to be another wife-beating agitated rifle owner. [Not exactly a poster child for the NRA]. The main suspect in the new arrests has military training, and there is supposedly some good evidence tying him to these shootings and a set of related shootings in another state. We'll see how it all plays out. Hopefully this chapter is closed. If they're charged, the trial(s) should be a 3-ring circus.

[ link | e-me ]

12:38 PM      

Oh - and let's not forget the case that wouldn't go away... Lizzie Grubman was sentenced to 60 days in jail yesterday.

[Don't know the story? In New York it's a big deal story that started before 9/11 last year, disappeared from the headlines for a long time, then came back in time to catch the finale. Lizzie's a PR person and daughter of a big-time lawyer. She backed her dad's Mercedes SUV into a bunch of people out in the Hamptons last year, then left the scene.]

Her lawyer begged the judge for leniency because of the trauma Lizzie's experienced at the hands of the press. The judge still gave her the max. The excerpts of the letter she wrote the judge sounded pitiful. The gist of it was "I didn't expect to be in Long Island that day... my mom is dying so I was distraught already... Then this awful thing happened. That day was the worst in my life." She may have worse days in the lock-up. Her lawyer says she's already a different person. She's not likely to serve more than about 40 days, which may change her even more profoundly. The test of her PR prowess will be what comes after her "hard" time and the numerous civil suits.

[ link | e-me ]

8:38 PM      

Here's one for the next edition of Amazing Blunders:

Ad Campaign Leaves Pie on Microsoft's Face
by David Pogue [NYT link - requires registration]

“...This week, though, Microsoft gave itself a big, goopy pie in the face. On October 9, the company posted a testimonial on its Web site called ‘Confessions of a Mac to PC Convert.’ It was a first-person account by a ‘freelance writer’ about how she had fallen in love with Windows XP, which she compared to a Lexus. ‘I was up and running in less than one day, Girl Scout’s honor,’ burbled the attractive, 20-something brunette in the photo.

There was only one problem: She doesn’t exist.

A with-it member of, the popular hangout for articulate nerds, happened to notice that the woman's picture actually came from, a stock-photo agency. ...

[Microsoft subsequently removed the article from its website. ]

To be sure, the online community is wasting no time in rubbing these gaffes in Microsoft's face. But nobody's mentioning the most disturbing part of all this: That it's part of a longer string of fraudulent Microsoft marketing efforts.” ...

[ link | e-me ]

Wednesday, October 23, 2002
7:01 PM      

Today's Flash stuff: more ActionScript. (The next couple of paragraphs are coder stuff, so if that turns you off, you can skip this part...) I finally figured out the object constructor. Works pretty much the same way in JavaScript, so now I finally have a handle on object constructors work in JavaScript, too. This is big stuff, because I was heavily into objects in my 4D days - it's a VERY powerful way to code. I've also always felt a bit squeamish about creating all those individual variables in Flash, when I knew they were really attributes of a particular object instance. Simply doing funky naming tricks left a little to be desired.

The key was in realizing that the new operator(?) creates a data structure to hold the pieces of the object. I can only overload properties when an object has been declared through that constructor. If I use the prototype method on such an object, every object of that class will inherit that attribute. That's very cool. The next part of the puzzle was in seeing that the initialization of the object is through a function that is "called" when the new operator is used. From there, I can "attach" more properties or even behaviors.

Here's a little sample code: (Yeah, I know, it's kinda goofy, but I think it gets the point across.)

// The default "person" object only has a gender attribute.

function person(gender){
this.gender = gender

/* Now, let's add a method...
Some frogs can spontaneously change gender...
maybe these are really frogs! */

// First, declare the function...
function sexChange(){
if (this.gender == "male"){
this.gender = "female"
} else {
this.gender = "male"
/* haven't figured out how to access the instance name,
so the message is generic.
Trace ("Gender changed to "+ this.gender + ".")

// Now, attach it to the class as the "trans" method.
person.prototype.trans = sexChange;

/*OK, the object's been created.
Now, let's create a couple of people (i.e. instances of the class "person").*/

Bob = new person("male"); // Bob is born a boy.
trace ("Bob - " + bob.gender);

Robin = new person("male"); // Robin is born a boy.
trace ("Robin - " + robin.gender);

robin.trans(); // Robin has a sex change.
trace ("Robin - " + robin.gender);

// hmmm... let's add hair property and default all instances to black hair = "black"

trace ("Robin's hair: " +
trace ("Bob's hair: " +

// change Robin's hair color, but not Bob's. = "red"
trace ("Robin's hair: " +
trace ("Bob's hair: " +


The political ads and news coverage of the November elections are coming hot and heavy. I'm amazed that our culture relies so heavily on news coverage and (yecch!) TV spots to determine who we're going to vote for. Think about it: the average political spot is 30 seconds. Ever actually count the number of words that fit in a 30-second spot? Considering the complexity of the question "what makes someone a good candidate," doesn't it seem absurd that TV spots are effective at all? The entire political history of a politician is boiled down into phrases like "Bad for New Jersey." Yet the old saw still rings true: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the American Public."

When I was in Austin, I met a woman who explained that she carefully researches the candidates she's planning to vote for. She even calls their offices and talks to their staff. Sometimes, she actually reaches the candidate themself. It's impressive. I have a sense that there is a lot of good information to be had about candidates - voting records, past successes and scandals, background, etc. I'd bet a bunch of it is collected on websites or even blogs somewhere... the trick is finding it. I don't see the mainstream media cross-referencing other sources when they run their boiled-down (dehydrated?!) stories. No, if you want to know, you need to be a lot more industrious. I think many of the candidates (and the media) are counting on that.

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, October 22, 2002
2:14 PM      

I've seen the ad twice, and it amazes me: Rod Stewart is hawking a CD of American Standards on TV! The ad almost comes off like a SNL skit. All those years of cultivating the rocker character - there's simply no way this makes sense. The songs don't fit. Looks downright bizarre. The moves are all wrong. The hair is all wrong. The only thing more shocking, will be if the thing sells well.


There are even more ways to get to the city fast now. A water taxi has just opened near D.U.M.B.O., to whisk the Wall Streeters across the way even faster. On the Brooklyn side, it takes off from a slip near the River Cafe.


But the main event this weekend was the D.U.M.B.O. Arts Festival. If you go down to this area when there's no show on, you might think nothing's going on. Folks are inside working on their art. There aren't a lot of galleries, shops, restaurants, or anything down here, so it's normally quiet. But when the studios open up, people come in droves, and the denizens become visible.

Reminds me of Whistler's mother, only younger...

The festival has a little of everything. For example...

Two painters locked themselves into a small room and painted for 72 hours straight. As they finished pieces, they attached them to a big plywood box that they kept suspended from the ceiling.

This intriguing sculpture was featured at Gale Gates, one of the best exhibit spaces in D.U.M.B.O.

The festival is always a concoction of fine art, performance art, and outsider art. Someone placed a well-formed pile of approximately 10,000 bananas in the street as commentary on production and consumption - oh, and as a snack. It took a while for people to get that the bananas were there for the taking, but the pile was consumed within a day. The entertaining thing was watching people get into being photographed next to the pile.

When we returned the next day, we spotted bananas and peels all around the area.

A street theatre piece ran all weekend. It was part parade, part show, featuring stilt performers, dogs of war, Justice in a cage, and a character with a "W" on his hat.

One of the more bizarre/fun performance pieces was "Electric Chaircut." This guy would tape folks into the chair, maybe taping their eyes and mouths in the process, then he'd move scissors and clippers through their hair. I don't know how much actual cutting happened, but the tools were hooked up to some sound effects gear that the "barber" was wearing on his back. Sort of John Cale meets Bugs Bunny's Barber of Seville.

I think this installation falls under the category of amazing feats of strength. I think the attraction was the wonder of how the sculptor pulled this one off. The trucks really look piled there, not fastened together. Then, there's the small matter of how much the whole thing must weigh. I have no idea what it's supposed to mean.

Well, I said I was going to the festival for inspiration. It worked. There were a number of exhibits that struck me in numerous ways. I've already turned out a few new Photoshop collages. I'll be ready to show some of my stuff somewhere soon.

[ link | e-me ]
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