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Friday, April 01, 2005
4:46 PM      

Milk Additive [OOPS! Fooled Again!]
The European Union has put laws into effect as of 2005-04-1, which prohibit any showing of nipples or pudenda on web sites which can be accessed by minors (meaning anybody under 22 in some countries in the union). The law was sneaked in as a sub-clause in a new law about labeling of dairy products.

Sounds much like the way our Congress works. It's been tried here before. Will the EU success be an inspiration for lawmakers here to take another stab at censoring US-based web sites, in this Post-Janet-Jackson era?

[4/2 update: Thinking better of it... This seems more like an April-fools' joke... Should have checked more sources before posting. I can be a bit gullible sometimes.]


Matt Beck


“A lot of corporate America could take a lesson from Frank Perdue, a man who started out selling chickens from an ice chest in the back of his truck. We didn't always agree, but he was a good business man, he was fair, and he was responsive to the needs of his growers.”
–John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, who sold chickens to Perdue for 13 years.

I liked Frank Perdue, one of the first CEOs to pitch his own product on TV. His on-screen persona was much more likeable and approachable than most of the other CEO/pitchmen who have tried to follow his example. I liked his chickens, too. His obit reads like a paean to the puritan work ethic.

Frank had a bit of a dark side, too: In attempts to suppress union building in his company, he approached a reputed NY crime family (that's another way of saying Mafia) twice – unsuccessfully – for help.


Keep this in mind the next time you watch the corporate news:

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.
– James Madison

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Thursday, March 31, 2005
2:46 PM      

The DeLay Case File
Democrats have put together a guide to the ‘ethics violations, abuses of power, and corruption’ of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The document gives capsule descriptions of several scandals: The Westar scandal, the House Medicare Vote Bribery scandal, the Texas redistricting scandal, the K Street [lobbying] scandal, the TRMPAC scandal, the Travel scandal, and the Ethics Committee scandal. Icons visually denote influence peddling, partisan attacks, and investigations. All of the scandals are being investigated. Five of the scandals involve partisan attacks, and five involve influence peddling, while the K Street and TRMPAC scandals involve both. It will be interesting to see whether any of these has any legs.

[ link | e-me ]

1:56 PM      

Giving peace a chance


Terri Schiavo December 3, 1963 – March 31, 2005

This morning, I heard bits and pieces about ‘islands of consciousness’ from the talking heads. The armchair medical experts were debating whether Terri was really in a vegetative state, as if that determination would justify another round of legal meddling and wishful thinking. Around 9 AM this morning, Terri finally died. Hopefully, the circus is over, though I doubt we've heard the last of this sad case.

A timeline, including some legal texts, is available on The marriage section of has another timeline of events in the case, along with details about wedding rings and what the bride wore. It seems odd that all of the medical/legal case information is in the marriage section.

If there are any lessons to be gleaned from this, it's that writing both a will and a living will (while you can) are very good ideas.


Re-Elevating Tables
I'm using a lot more CSS to build sites now. I'm finding that I have to re-learn an appreciation for tables. I had used tables to completely manage my layouts, and had thought that CSS positioning was a better way to go, now that most browsers support it well.

However, I'm realizing that tables are precisely the way to go in a number of situations. If your content looks tabular, tables are still the best way to go. There's no way that I've been able to find, to make a <div> tag behave exactly like a table cell.

So, as I edited an artist's resume yesterday, I quickly found myself inserting <td>s into the code, but with a difference — I assigned classes to the cells to manage all of the padding. That significantly simplified the process of tweaking the design. At one point, I had to add more vertical whitespace between the date and the entries, and horizontal whitespace (essentially leading) between the entries. It involved changes to two values in the stylesheet. Quickly and painlessly, I had the look I wanted.


Into Wine?
I got this tidbit in an e-mail from one of my local wine dealers.

Terroir plays no part in the production of great wines, say researchers at the University of Reims and Université Libre de Bruxelles. They collected data on environmental conditions and winemaking techniques across the vineyards of the Haut-Médoc in 1990, including several first-growths. The data was compared with the prices certain vintages fetched on the wine market and the scores they received from tasters including Michael Broadbent and Robert Parker. The study shows that winemaking techniques completely overshadow the effect of terroir. And, another researcher found that Robert Parker's scores can increase the price of Bordeaux by up to 15%.



Charles & Camilla will wed in a civil ceremony followed by a blessing from their pastor, the Archbishop of Canterbury next week.

A lot of people have an issue with that, especially because it puts both Charles and Camilla in line for the throne of England.

The conservative wing of the Anglican Church has a problem with Camilla, more than with Charles. While they wouldn't approve of Charles remarrying after his divorce from Diana, her death mitigates the issue. But Camilla's ex-husband is still very much alive, and the church doesn't believe in annulments. Further, the church frowns on marriages that ‘consummate infidelities.’

It's a bit ironic that the church now confronts these issues with Charles. After all, the Anglican church was started in the 16th century by King Henry VIII, in a break with the Vatican over his desire to leave his wife for his mistress.


Johnnie Cochran Oct 2, 1937 – Mar 29, 2005

Died of an inoperable brain tumor, diagnosed December '03. His book, A Lawyer's Life actually looks interesting. It's been said that he hoped the phrase “If it doesn't fit, you must acquit” would not be his epitaph. Every article I saw about him used the phrase, and many used it in the headline announcing his death. Some things are simply out of your control.

I read a comment describing how some people despised Cochran. I think it's largely because he was successful at what he did. Some of it had to do with tactics like ‘playing the race card,’ but I think it's because many people believe anyone accused of a crime is guilty (especially with the way TV news plays court cases); so the defense attorney is seen as scum for getting the guy off, usually on ‘technicalities.’ It reminds me of something an old school buddy of mine said: ‘If you're good at what you do, you're going to piss some people off.’

Johnnie was charismatic, and he was good at what he did.


Callous Disregard
“The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can't take time to speak is very telling.”
– David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota

In the hours after the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, President Bill Clinton publicly expressed his condolences and followed up a few days later with a radio address in which he proposed new gun control measures and school safety projects.
Washington Post article

Three days after the Red Lake tragedy, the best the White House had mustered was an informal comment from Scott McClellan: ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed.’

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, March 28, 2005
5:19 PM      

From: Warren
Subject: Yahoo! News Story - Chocolate Crosses Move Into Mainstream
Date: March 25, 2005 3:46:48 PM EST

Russell Stover representatives mentioned that with sales meeting and perhaps exceeding their expectations, next year they will be able to facilitate the manufacture of chocolate nails, to be bundled with the chocolate cross.

There is no plan to develop a crown of chocolate thorns.


Riding on the PATH train yesterday, I saw two striking posters for Ashes and Snow, an extraordinary exhibit of photographs by Gregory Colbert. I'm reminded again that I have to see the show.

The exceptional thing about the posters, was that the images, not the text, were what grabbed and held the attention. They are the kind of images that provoke the viewer to ask ‘what's going on here?,’ and to ask further whether the scene depicted can even be possible.

One photo showed a young woman draped in white cloth facing sideways among twin rows of columns, while an eagle seems to fly just over her head toward the camera, wings outstretched. The eagle's wings and the flowing cloth of the young woman's sleeves visually echo each other. The other image appears to be a girl crouched and perhaps dozing against the side of a cheetah. Both are perched atop a round boulder. All of the images have a sepia-like tone, and evoke a calm, reflective mood.

The show is housed in a set of storage containers on Pier 54, at West 13th Street.


Having discovered that iframes are now supported by all the major browsers, I've been experimenting with them. While I think that iframes have the same indexing issues that framesets had, the design possibilities of building pages with iframes makes them much more attractive than framesets.

So far, I've used them to implement a 'click to zoom' feature on a site that I'm building, and to rewrite a frame-based photo gallery generated by iView. The iView gallery turned out well enough, that I'm thinking I'll investigate whether I can create a template for iView's gallery generator. I suspect it's not documented, but it might be pretty easy to figure out.

There are some funky issues, like remembering that IE puts a 3-D border around iframes by default, when Safari does not. Fortunately, it's simple enough to declare no borders for iframes in CSS, to get IE onto the same page (presentation-wise) with Safari. At some point, the folks that are still running Mac IE will realize that MS no longer supports it, but Win IE still behaves that way, so the issue won't go away.


I'm happy to hear that support for the initiative to privatize Social Security is eroding. I'm also happy to see that some of the discussion of Social Security is actually starting to focus on clearly defining what long-term issues and problems with the Social Security system will need to be addressed.

A few days ago, I started seeing TV ads by the Bush-leaguers attempting to slam the 'National Democrats' for bashing the Social Security plan, but not offering a solution of their own. The implication is that the 'crisis' is real. It's a clever turn of phrase, but for once, it seems it's not enough.

The 'American Public' are proving themselves to be wise, once again.

... Over a year ago, US Army personnel dropped off the body of Mohammad Munim al-Izmerly at Baghdad's Al-Kharkh Hospital in February 2004. He'd been incarcerated for over 10 months, and dead 17 days. The Americans enclosed a death certificate saying he died of "brainstem compression," without saying what caused it. The US had not performed an autopsy, but his family had one done, and it was determined that he died from a blow to the head.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command lists al-Izmerly's death in an ‘undetermined cause’ category because the body was released before Army investigators learned of the case, and no U.S. autopsy was performed. After the body was turned-over, the case was closed, but now it has been reopened.

Al-Izmerly's case is interesting for a few reasons, the first being that it relates to a pattern of brutality that seems to be emerging: One-quarter of the detainee deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have been investigated as possible criminal homicides, according to U.S. government data reported by AP last week. There may also be a smear campaign afoot: U.S. weapons investigators now say al-Izmerly was an early leader of Iraq's effort to make chemical arms, and an assassination specialist who once devised a ‘poison pen.’

I suppose there are a number of people who would say that under the circumstances, beating the man to death was justifiable.

I was going to write something more extensive than this about the pathetic, grandstanding behavior of Congress and the Bush Administration with regard to the Schiavo case. Then, I thought better of it.

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