Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from March 2004

sxsw: Boing!

March 30th, 2004 · 1 Comment

* Cory2: Cory Doctorow goes boinnnng differently. * Cory: Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing. Boinnnnng! * Cory2: Cory Doctorow goes boinnnng differently. * Cory: Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing. Boinnnnng! *

Wow! Congratulations to Cory Doctorow! His novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (which I absolutely loved) is on the short list for a Nebula Award.

I met
Cory at sxsw, and sat across
the aisle from him at the Bloggies, where Boing Boing won three awards
(out of the four they were nominated for.)

I have mixed feelings about this–Cory and BB are awesomely brilliant and funny. But–
if the gods decreed they would lose one Bloggie anyway–couldn’t they have lost that one to my pal AccordionGuy?

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

You have rejected the pearl of Colebrook, NH….

March 29th, 2004 · 5 Comments

Once upon a time and long ago, my grandfather (and every other trustee of the University of New Hampshire) got an irate handwritten letter from Colebrook, NH. A high school student’s girlfriend had been turned down for admission. He wanted to let the trustees know–that was a big mistake!

That boy’s work, tracking down all those trustees, was much more impressive than the letter itself. My grandfather chuckled at his flowery prose–but made sure the boy himself got into college.

My point–and I do have one–is inspired by
something Scott Johnson blogged today about Fundrace:

Eek fricking Eek. I saw over on Slashdot a mention of Fundrace 2004, a new website which lets you see how your neighbors are donating funds to politicians. So I tried it. Eek….

Yes this may be publicly available information but by wrapping it into a web front end and essentially “democratizing it”, its scary. Yes I know I have no privacy but even so…

There goes yet another “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Those of us who were around in the mid 1850s will recall that the secret ballot is there for a reason. Experience shows that employers can get pretty nasty if you don’t support their favorite candidate.

Now people who thought they were giving personal data to the US government wake up to discover it’s out there on the internet. And not just the name of the candidate they support–their home addresses, job titles, and employers. The potential for abuse seems huge to me.

I don’t like the feeling that things that for years have been private are now up for sale, or given away for free. It’s like waking up one morning and discovering that someone has given away my lawn chair and is digging up my tulips–“Hey, they weren’t nailed down.”

I’d like to see the presumption of right reversed. Instead of assuming that people have a right to broadcast the name of my candidate and the color of my bra–couldn’t we assume that I have some common law (or Fourth Amendment) right to privacy?

Is anything really private? Probably not. We can’t block the boy from Colebrook who cares enough to find the addresses of 10 college trustees. But we can put a stop to the presumption that after finding that information, he owns a right to publish it to the world.

My blog has a Creative Commons license–stuff I put out here is public. You can quote me and even create derivative works so long as you credit my work as a source. If you’re planning to sell my stuff–you have to ask me. But there’s a lot of stuff in my life that I don’t put out here, and I don’t want to see out there. I think that choice ought to remain with me.

Tags: Feedster

I’m not a religious person, and this is Monday…

March 29th, 2004 · Comments Off on I’m not a religious person, and this is Monday…

…but every now and again I read something over at Halley’s Comment that makes me say, as if I were a believer:

Thank God for Halley!

There’s somebody beaming out human, baffled, but hopeful thought from the planet I live on…and that somebody is Halley.

Tags: Metablogging

“We’d see them as a terrifying army”

March 28th, 2004 · 2 Comments

According to Bruce Sterling, American internetters are slowly-boiled frogs.

We have grown used to deceptive spam and popunders–we dodge them daily without much conscious effort. (How many emails with 30 kb attachments did you delete yesterday?) Bruce says:

If you could get every scam artist, phisher, and 419 scammer and surround this building, we’d see them as a terrifying army, but they have carte
blanche to go anywhere in the world and terrorize people less
sophisticated than ourselves.

Thinking about it now, he’s totally right.

As we put more and more good stuff up on the web, and democratically encourage folks around the world to get out there and find it–maybe we should take some responsibility for the risks they’ll encounter.

How? I don’t know. But just realizing the problem exists (thanks, Bruce!) I know more than I did yesterday.

Thanks to Cory Doctorow for transcribing Bruce Sterling’s wonderful, rambling rant at sxsw. Damn, if I could have stayed just one day longer, I could have gone to his party.

BTW, I just finished reading Bruce Sterling’s novel Distraction–loved it–buy it, if you haven’t already read it!

Tags: Metablogging

Comment on post 1135

March 27th, 2004 · 2 Comments

you’re younger in spirit than so many i know… they’re too cautious just like your wuffwuff, as nally would call her.

Tags: Old Site

Big bucks going to Nader from GOP (Dallas News)

March 27th, 2004 · Comments Off on Big bucks going to Nader from GOP (Dallas News)

GOP donors double dipping with Nader
Contributors deny that financial support is designed to hurt Kerry

10:29 PM CST on Friday, March 26, 2004 by WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is getting a
little help from his friends – and from George W. Bush’s friends.

Nearly 10 percent of the Nader contributors who have given him at least
$250 each have a history of supporting the Republican president,
national GOP candidates or the party, according to computer-assisted
review of financial records by The Dallas Morning News.

Among the new crop of Nader donors: actor and former Nixon speechwriter
Ben Stein, Florida frozen-food magnate Jeno Paulucci and Pennsylvania
oil company executive Terrence Jacobs. All have strong ties to the GOP.

Democrats have warned that Mr. Nader’s entry in the race could help Mr.
Bush by drawing votes from John Kerry. Some analysts say Mr. Nader’s
third-party candidacy four years ago siphoned off Democratic voters and
cost Vice President Al Gore the White House.

“Republicans are well aware that Ralph Nader played a spoiler role in
the 2000 election. And there is no reason why they wouldn’t want to
encourage and help him do so again in 2004,” said Jano Cabrera, a
spokesman for the Democrat National Committee.

A spokesman for the Bush campaign declined to comment on Mr. Nader.

“We’re focused on our campaign. We’re focused on generating support for
Republican candidates,” said Danny Diaz, referring inquiries about Nader
fund raising to his donors.

Republicans who have given to Mr. Nader offered a variety of
explanations, including a desire to provide voters a choice in November
and to highlight the consumer advocate’s issues. Some donors said they
were miffed by efforts, primarily Democrats, to keep Mr. Nader off the

None said their donations were designed to boost Mr. Bush’s chances in
the fall.

“Did I give $1,000 to Ralph Nader because I hope and believe he will be
president? No,” said California business executive Charles Ashman. “I
don’t believe that any more than Ralph Nader does. But I was offended to
see this campaign to squelch him from being a candidate.”

Mr. Ashman said he remains a staunch Republican. He contributed $2,000
to the Bush campaign, the maximum allowed for the general election,
according to records.

“I proudly made a contribution to the re-election of President Bush
because I support him 100 percent,” he said. “I hope and believe he will
be re-elected.”

Tags: Stories

Sad news from my washing machine

March 27th, 2004 · Comments Off on Sad news from my washing machine

Years ago, when I lived in California, I bought a dark red beach towel, whose best feature was that it almost matched the velvet upholstery on my elderly couch.*

My dog Marianne used to love to nap on top of that towel, on top of that couch–beginning each nap by digging a hole for herself in imagined dead leaves. (Beach towels stand up to dog-digging better than velvet.)

Not any more. Tonight as I pulled that towel out of the dryer, I realized–Marianne hasn’t slept on the couch in more than a year. Even when I remember to lift her up, she’s no longer at home there.
Once, she used to launch off the edge of the couch like a white fuzzy rocket. Now, she peers over the edge and whimpers, as if the floor is no longer reachable.

I hope that I never get that old–I hope I never get to the point where anxiety and caution are more important than the impulse to do something I really enjoy.

Tonight, I put the clean beach towel into my old dog’s travel cage, the place where she hides when she wants comfort and security. As I did so, I noticed the towel had faded and its edges had frayed. My living room has been much funkier than I realized.

Damn, why can’t the world be more like the rosy-edged picture in my imagination? Marianne, sleeping happily on her towel, thinks that question is stupid–she’s probably right.

*When I was a little kid, that couch belonged to my Victorian “aunts.” It was a dark pink or pale red velvet. When I was twelve, my mother brought that couch to our living room, upholstering it dark green, her favorite color. A few generations of puppies and kittens later, she offered me that couch for my living room. (I had it upholstered in Laura Ashley-ish chintz botanicals.) More puppies and kittens ensued before I got it re-uphostered one final time, in about the same reddish pink I remember from childhood.

I just created a new blog category, “Sister Age,” inspired by the book by MFK Fisher. Because so many of my friend bloggers are younger than I am, I thought I might play your Sacajawea in time, marking out the trail through a human lifespan that I’m discovering for myself.

Tags: Sister Age

sxsw: My biggest surprise

March 27th, 2004 · 1 Comment

How do you picture a CSS ninja and PHP jedi knight? Someone like Simon Willison of incutio?

I imagined some supercoder with years of geek backstory.

Instead, when I met him at sxsw kickball, where were those imagined gray hairs? Where were the frown-wrinkles from hours of scowling at pages of bad markup?

As you can see, they were hidden by his ninja headgear.

Tags: Metablogging

sxsw: Rembrandt unfair to #joiito

March 25th, 2004 · 4 Comments

One of the great sights of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is Rembrandt’s huge painting “Night Watch.” Local gentry signed up to be painted in a big group and got into the foreground (or background) depending on how much they paid.

But where was Rembrandt last week, at sxsw? I got to meet so many people I knew from online, but photos show only groupings of two here, three there.

Therefore, by the power vested in me (to steal from online images) I have refurbished the great Rembrandt “Night Watch” to include friends from #joiito I met in Austin.

Who’s who? Back row, Jon Lebkowsky of EFF Austin, and Adam Hill of the shiny red convertible. Front row, left to right–knight on a white horse Jonas M Luster and Adina Levin, drawing her sword to defend EFF or maybe SocialText. Go, Adina! Then me!

Joi Ito himself is showing something to Tantek Çelik, a Microsoft diplomat and CSS guru. Then Liz Lawley, aka mamamusings–sharing only one dinner with her was not enough. Finally Sam Ruby, who saved me from losing my cell phone and has a very sweet smile.

In other news, I’d like to thank Jonas for the mechanical hand buzzer, and Tantek and Sam Ruby for letting me buzz them with it. Can’t imagine why Rembrandt somehow left this out….

Tags: Pilgrimages

Yee hah! Joi Ito in Texas

March 23rd, 2004 · Comments Off on Yee hah! Joi Ito in Texas

CowboyJoi: Joi in giant virtual cowboy costume

Somehow a virtual cowboy hat and shirt have attached themselves to my mental image of always-surprising Joi. What will he do next? Note the subtle product placement for Pepsi–could this be a hint?

Thanks to Jon Lebkowsky for the original photo.

Tags: Stories