opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, March 23, 2002
send a comment to the senate committee on the judiciary
The Committee has set up a special page where you can submit a comment on the subject of Protecting Creative Works in a Digital Age or the
I was glad to see that someone had posted the www.digitalconsumer.org Bill of Rights:
1. Users have the right to "time-shift" content that they have legally acquired.I've read enough to believe completely that the Act is the wrong approach. (But has the Judiciary Committee?)
legal notices and email
Attorneys from a Las Vegas Casino wanted to pursue a trademark infringment case against an off shore casino. They only had one problem. How do they serve the offshore casino when they had a valid email address, but all of their other address information was wrong? A federal appeals court ok'ed the use of email to send legal notices in this instance:
This week, an appeals panel affirmed a lower court's decision to allow the Las Vegas casino to serve the offshore casino electronically after attempts to reach it via traditional methods failed.While this ruling probably won't have law offices filing service of process electronically on a regular basis, it's interesting to see a court recognize that email can fulfill such a role in certain circumstances.
the persistence of paper
I've been looking at imaging and document management software a lot. So much of technology seems geared towards ridding offices of paper. Easy access to information at the fingertips is the promise of technology. No more need for scrambling through stacks of pages on desktops.
But, it's possible that paper will continue to hold a place in the workspaces of many of us. It simply can fill a role at times that a computer monitor can't. A look of its role in the work of an air traffic controller:
This is, of course, a difficult conclusion for us to accept. Like the managers of the office-technology lab, we have in our heads the notion that an air-traffic-control center ought to be a pristine and gleaming place, full of the latest electronic gadgetry. We think of all those flight strips as cluttering and confusing the work of the office, and we fret about where all that paper will go. But, as Sellen and Harper point out, we needn't worry. It is only if paper's usefulness is in the information written directly on it that it must be stored. If its usefulness lies in the promotion of ongoing creative thinking, then, once that thinking is finished, the paper becomes superfluous. The solution to our paper problem, they write, is not to use less paper but to keep less paper.So, maybe it's not the paper that I need to be worried about getting rid of, but rather the filing cabinets.
- William Slawski
lessons learned from lobstermen
An excellent article from the Atlantic Monthly, on ecologists learning about lobsters from Maine Lobstermen, called Stalking the American Lobster
Government scientists say that lobsters are being dangerously overfished. Lobstermen insist that stocks are plentiful. It's a familiar kind of standoff?except that now a new breed of ecologist has taken to the waters, using scuba gear, underwater robots, and even nuclear submarines, in order to figure out what's going on. It turns out that the lore and lessons of the lobsterman are worth paying attention to.
no fun at the sxsw
The Austin American-Statesman has a nice story about the SXSW from the Fire Marshall's perspective.
Friday, March 22, 2002
One of my thoughts when looking at pictures from September 11th in Manhattan has to do with all of the dust. Dust and debris everywhere, covering the streets, and coating people fortunate enough to survive.
I've heard mumbled statements from the media about the possible effects of people breathing in particles of the crumbled twin towers. Nothing too loud. Nothing that causes any positive feelings.
I don't know that I want to think about it too much.
A friend forwarded a link tonight to a story published in April, 2000, by the Philadelphia Inquirer. It's about people who responded to a fire in Chester, Pennsylvania, which is a short distance across the state line from Delaware.
The fire was in 1978. So, why a story 22 years later?
It's because those who responded to what they thought was a tire fire were really confronting a chemical nightmare run wild.
More than 200 firefighters, police and paramedics had answered the alarm, assuming a tire fire had erupted. Instead, they waded unwarned into one of the worst illegal chemical dumps in the nation - a witches' brew so poisonous that the federal Superfund was born, in part, from it.At least one in five of those running towards harm, to put out the fire have come down with serious illnesses, and a number of those have died.
The clean-up at ground zero continues. But what about the many contaminated grounds like the one in Chester, described in the Inquirer article?
How many traps are out there just waiting to be sprung on the unsuspecting?
The article mentions that the Superfund was created to identify places that are hazardous to people's health. And to find a way to clean those up. The Chester story illustrates why it's important that they be dealt with as quickly as possible.
It looks like there's a problem with funding the Superfund.
The idea behind Superfund is simple, fair and more effective than anything that came before it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and states cooperate on identifying and designating sites that are high priorities for cleanup. Montanans who?ve followed the recent designation of Libby as a Superfund site have some inkling of the process. The government encourages parties responsible for the pollution to clean up their messes. Alternatively, the government pays for the cleanup and recovers the cost from the responsible parties. As a last resort, in cases where no responsible party is identifiable, the government pays for the cleanup out of the trust fund. That fund has been financed by a tax on polluting industries.Tonight's 6:00 news ran the same story, but the only place I could find it online was from this newspaper in Montana.
It's a quiet crisis, like the dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Thoughts of the Chester Fire, the ground zero clean up, and the sad shape of the superfund made me wonder where the superfund sites are in Delaware.
The EPA does have a list of Superfund sites for Delaware. I don't know what incentives exist these days to go out and identify new sites, so that rescue workers can be aware of them. But I hope that the tragedy of the Chester fire doesn't get repeated for lack of money to identify and clean up hazardous sites.
We owe it to those brave enough to run towards danger on our behalf, like firefighters and paramedics and police officers, to not let that happen.
Thursday, March 21, 2002
cia agrees to stop giving out cookies
It was all a misunderstanding, say CIA spokespeople.
A memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget, dated June 22, 2000, gives instructions regarding federal government web sites and privacy policies. Among the instructions are the following:
Particular privacy concerns may be raised when uses of web technology can track the activities of users over time and across different web sites. These concerns are especially great where individuals who have come to government web sites do not have clear and conspicuous notice of any such tracking activities. "Cookies" -- small bits of software that are placed on a web user's hard drive -- are a principal example of current web technology that can be used in this way. The guidance issued on June 2, 1999, provided that agencies could only use "cookies" or other automatic means of collecting information if they gave clear notice of those activities.The memo also lists some other restrictions to the use of files placed upon a visitors computer:
"cookies" should not be used at Federal web sites, or by contractors when operating web sites on behalf of agencies, unless, in addition to clear and conspicuous notice, the following conditions are met: a compelling need to gather the data on the site; appropriate and publicly disclosed privacy safeguards for handling of information derived from "cookies"; and personal approval by the head of the agency. In addition, it is federal policy that all Federal web sites and contractors when operating on behalf of agencies shall comply with the standards set forth in the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 with respect to the collection of personal information online at web sites directed to children.The page from the CIA that was placing these "tracking files" upon visitor's computers was their Electronic Reading Room, where you can find out more about the Freedom of Information Act, and can look through de-classified documents.
Some other federal web sites that have been seen giving out cookies include the FirstGov.gov portal, the FBI's jobs site, as well as the main sites operated by the Small Business Administration, the Department of Education and the Selective Service.
Checking these, I see a section from the Selective Service that very reasonably explains what cookies are, and how they are used on the site.
The Department of Education makes no mention of cookies on their front page, but does have a registration process which allows you to personalize the site for your visits, and probably uses some type of file like a cookie.
I'd rather see a good reason for a "session variable's" use than an something that reads like a shortcut around the cookie/privacy tracking requirements.
Of concern to some people visiting the Electronic Reading Room was that you can view the most frequently requested documents that they are willing to disclose, from the page, or perform a keyword search. Keeping track of whom is performing which keyword searches is a little like spying upon your visitors.
A contractor who redesigned the CIA site had inadvertently added the cookie technology at the end of January.
more delaware judges
Four new judges in Delaware? That's what's being suggested, and recommended by the U.S. House and Senate, according to reports from U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle's congressional staff.
Bankruptcy Court in Delaware has been making due with two judges, and visiting judges from Delaware's District Court, and from other federal courts in the region. The Court is one of the busiest bankruptcy courts in the nation, but needs help. As a favorite place to file cases involving complex reorganizations of corporations under chapter 11, many say that Delaware's Bankruptcy Court is at it's full capacity.
Wednesday, March 20, 2002
of sewers and crime
The City of Wilmington has a big problem. With big problems often come big pricetags - 120 million dollars over the next 19 years or so.
The problem - raw sewage mixes with rainwater run-off from streets and is supposed to enter into the City's wastewater treatment facility. But there's too much. And the system can't handle it when it rains.
The overflow ends up going into the Christina and Brandywine rivers.
From the News Journal report, the City appears to be working to comply with federal requirements. But, it's difficult to tell.
There's a bit of a side story to the whole process, and it involves a citizen based environmentalist group named Green Delaware. Their leader was caught stenciling:
"WARNING RAW SEWAGE" on a Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) that spews raw sewage into the Brandywine River whenever it rains.He faces criminal charges for this "defacement" of government property. I don't know about you, but this is something that I would want to know if I was motoring past on a boat. And, according to him, the Clean Water Act requires such a warning to be in place. (I didn't dig through the text of the Act to confirm or deny his assertion.)
Subsequently, the group was asking the public to support them by joining in a protest in Wilmington on March 14th. I don't know how well their protest went, but I don't feel bad that they are trying to get someone to listen to them about this problem.
How serious is Wilmington's sewage problem? How serious is the problem with clean water in Delaware?
A 2000 report from the Sierra Club of Delaware (pdf) tells us that:
Many older cities were built with connected systems of storm water and sewage systems to handle runoff from major storm events. This situation persists in Wilmington, where even 0.1 inch of rain in a limited period can lead to raw sewage running into the Brandywine and Christina Rivers.Friends of the Earth gave Delaware's compliance with the Clean Water Act a failing grade in 2000, citing the City of Wilmington's Sewage system as one of the problems.
Somehow, I suspect that the grade hasn't changed much in the last couple of years. The cost of clean water is expensive. But, it's a bill that needs to be paid.
Tuesday, March 19, 2002
pictures of tibet
Rae forwarded the following email to me about a presentation being given at the University of Delaware by an award winning photojournalist:
The UD Chapter of Amnesty International will be hosting Steve Lehman, an expert on the Tibetan struggle for independence, on March 26.A review of The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive tells us that Steve Lehman went to Tibet to spend a year photographing a:
visual anthropology of an 'untouched culture' whilst at the same time 're-examining his own life experience'.What he captured on film were the stirrings of revolution.
CNN has an interview online with Lehman, and a description of some of his visions in Tibet during that time:
Just out of college, Lehman took his camera and documented the bloody Chinese National Day demonstrations on October 1, 1987. "To witness people being shot dead in the streets ... it had a very, very powerful impact on me."Davidson College had a visit from Steve Lehman last April, and seemed to have been entranced by his presentation:
In a refreshingly casual manner, Lehman presented slides and pages from his book The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive, which was recently named as "Best Book" in the prestigious "Pictures of the Year" photo competition. His photographs have also been featured in publications such as National Geographic and Time.Thank you Rae. This looks like it's worth setting an evening aside for. I'm looking forward to the author's reflections of the events he captured on film.
Visiting amazon.com, the reviews for the book are all overwhelmingly positive. An award from the National Press Photographer's Association is not something given lightly.
Here's a map of the campus if you are interested in attending, and don't know where Kirkbride Hall is located. Kirkbride is in the center of the map, closest to the intersection of West Delaware Avenue (W. Del. Av., as they label it) and South College Avenue.
not the brand, but the product
When George W. Bush hired an advertising executive to fight anti-americanism around the world, he may have misunderstood the problem. An article from Alternet looks at what can happen when government uses the business concept of branding as an approach to influencing world-wide opinion.
who is buggin' Joe Biden?
Why is it that I envision government office buildings in Washington being filled with the latest in anti-surveillance devices? It seems to make sense that they would be.
Maybe it was because I was haunted by the ability of Gene Hackman's character in the movie The Conversation, to listen in to almost any dialogue between people that he wanted to. Maybe it's because of sites like Spybusters.com
I mean, if private industry can tackle issues involving espionage, the FBI or the NSA should be pretty capable. Aren't those the types of agencies where surveillance experts get their training?
So with the news coming out in today's Delaware paper that Senator Joe Biden's office in Washington DC was bugged during 1987, when he made his failed run for the White House, it brought up a number of questions.
When the bug was discovered, it wasn't functioning. But it possibly was providing someone with some information that they shouldn't have been able to access.
Tim Ridley, who managed Biden's run for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, said there was an atmosphere of distrust in the campaign because it seemed as if other campaigns anticipated Biden's speeches and announcements, information he now suspects was obtained through the bug. "You can imagine that kind of suspicion is very debilitating for an organization," he said.
I also can imagine that there are some senators and representatives who might be directing people to conduct some sweeps of their offices in light of this story. But, who do you get to do that? Who do you trust? (Or should I say, who do you distrust?)
I wonder if the Spybusters' phone was ringing nonstop this morning?
Sony has unveiled a new toy for those of us who were fascinated by the robotic dogs they released last year. I thought the best part of the movie AI was the robot Teddy. Sony's singing robots aren't too far away from reproducing Teddy in real life.
And they only cost as much as a luxury car.
Monday, March 18, 2002
st. patrick's snow
A record 28.6 inches of snow thumped down on Anchorage, Alaska yesterday, almost doubling the previous record from 1955.
Photo by Jim Lavrakas / Anchorage Daily News
Sunday, March 17, 2002
exploring delaware online
It's been a slightly overcast Sunday in Delaware today, so I spent some time online looking for museums, parks and gardens to visit on another day. Some of these look like trips that could last all day, and other look like mild diversions. There are a number of other interesting looking places to visit in Delaware that don't have web sites, but this seemed like a list that could keep me busy for a while. Some of these places aren't open on Sundays, and other require advance reservations. If anyone has suggestions for other places in (or around) Delaware to visit, please leave a comment or send an email. (thanks)
Air Mobility Command Museum
"The Air Mobility Command Museum, located in Hangar 1301 on Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, houses some of the most unique and distinguished military flying machines of the past 50+ years. Stand in the bomb bay of the B-17, gape at the gargantuan C-5 transport, examine the combat scars of the C-47. An online tour will introduce you to these and others, along with the many thousands of other artifacts on display that chronicle the history of the Dover base and Military Airlift."
Biggs Museum of American Art
Presently showing an exhibit of women artists from the early twentieth century in Delaware
Brandywine River Museum
"Exhibiting American art in a 19th-century grist mill, the Brandywine River Museum is internationally known for its unparalleled collection of works by three generations of Wyeths and its fine collection of American illustration, still life and landscape painting."
Christiana Fire Company Museum
Delaware Agricultural Museum
I've driven past this place a number of times, but had no idea what was actually going on inside. Seems like a lot more than a collection of tractors and plows from days gone by, as I envisioned from the name. An exhibit going through March 23 is The Vanishing Landscape: Farmland of Central Delaware -- Artist John McGiff?s one-man project to document the vanishing agricultural landscape of central Delaware. March also includes Women's History Month Programs such as: March 9: Laura Ingalls Wilder (children's program), March 16: Fashion Through Time, and March 23: Native American Women
Delaware Archaeology Museum
12,000 years worth of archaeological history in the State of Delaware
Delaware Art Museum
Delaware Center for Horticulture
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
Delaware History Museum
Delaware Museum of Natural History
Delaware Nature Society
Their web site includes information about the Ashland Nature Center and Abbott's Mill Nature Center
Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Currently under development at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, but I'm looking forward to its opening
Delaware State Parks
There are some very nice parks in Delaware. My favorite is White Clay Creek, where you can travel along one trail and find a Mason-Dixon marker that indicates a corner where Delaware and Pennsylvania meet. Here are the other parks: Bellevue State Park, Brandywine State Park, Brandywine Zoo, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park, Fenwick Island State Park, Fort Delaware State Park, Fox Point State Park, Holts Landing State Park, Killens Pond State Park, Lums Pond State Park, Trap Pond State Park, and Wilmington State Parks.
Delaware State Police Museum
Delaware Toy & Miniature Museum
DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum
Hagley Museum and Library
There is a lot to see here. A description from one of their pages of a couple of their attractions: "Blacksmith Hill focuses on the social and family history of the workers who operated the powder mills. Interpreters in period dress reflect life of the late nineteenth century in the Gibbons House, home to powder yard foremen and their families. In the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School, constructed in 1817, children of mill workers learned to read, write, and cipher before Delaware provided public education"
Historic New Castle, Delaware
One of my favorite places to visit to get a taste of long ago. Check their schedule to see when tours are available, or visit anyway, and look into places like the old courthouse. The iron rod on top of the courthouse was used as the center point for the arc that describes the top boundary of Delaware's state line.
John Dickinson Plantation
Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard
Delaware's tall ship. A reproduction of the ship that brought the first settlement to Delaware from Sweden. The ship travels around the world, and is not always in port in Wilmington. A number of programs take place at the shipyard even when the ship isn't in port, such as wood carving, sailing classes and blacksmithing.
A great place to bring a date for a romantic afternoon. From their website: "Longwood Gardens was created by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont (and is sometimes referred to as the DuPont Gardens) and offers 1,050 acres (425 hectares) of gardens, woodlands, and meadows; 20 outdoor gardens; 20 indoor gardens within 4 acres (1.6 hectares) of heated greenhouses; 11,000 different types of plants; spectacular fountains; extensive educational programs including horticultural career training and internships; and 800 horticultural and performing arts events each year, from flower shows, gardening demonstrations, courses, and children?s programs to concerts, organ and carillon recitals, musical theatre, and fireworks displays"
Nanticoke Indian Museum
The Wilmington Riverfront project is an attempt to build something special that tries to follow Baltimore's success with their "Inner Harbour." With the First USA RiverFront Arts Center, and the outlet shops in place, it's an enjoyable place to visit. There are also some great places to eat in the Riverfront Market.
University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum
One of the best museums of its type on the east coast or anywhere. From their web site: "Explore and enjoy our museum, garden and library. See the museum's magnificent collection of American antiques celebrating the best in style and craftsmanship. Delight your senses with a stroll through the glorious 60-acre garden and surrounding landscape of hills, waterways, and rolling meadows."