Saturday, March 01, 2008

Friday Photography: Fountain of Life

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

"Fountain of Life"
by Carl E. Teff

Location: Mertz Library
New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, New York

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House / Saint George and the Dragon

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/01/2008 08:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Nothing to see here, move along

NY Times:

LAS VEGAS — A man who stayed in a Las Vegas hotel room where ricin was discovered on Thursday has been hospitalized in critical condition since Feb. 14 with symptoms consistent with exposure to the deadly toxin, Las Vegas police said Friday.

The man’s identity, age and hometown were being withheld on Friday as investigators tried to determine why ricin, as well as castor beans from which is it derived, were found in a room at an Extended Stay America hotel one mile west of the Las Vegas Strip.

Deputy Chief Kathleen Suey said the man had been staying in the room where the ricin was found for an unknown length of time and was leasing the room when the substance was discovered. A man, said to be a relative or friend of the sick man, had gone into the room to retrieve the patient’s belongings when he found the vials of white powder and showed it to the hotel’s manager, Deputy Chief Suey said.

Police were called by the hotel. The man had been hospitalized on Feb. 14 with respiratory distress but did not indicate to doctors that he may have been exposed to ricin, so the health district and police were not notified of the prospect, she said.

An evacuation ensued and seven people were taken to local hospitals for treatment, though they were released when they showed no signs of exposure, Deputy Chief Suey said. The hotel was reopened early Friday after public health officials determined they had found and removed all the ricin.

The patient has not yet been questioned and is believed to be unconscious, she said.

F.B.I. national spokesman Richard Kolko said the incident did not appear to be related to terrorism “based on the information gathered so far.” [Emphasis added]

This has become a knee-jerk hiccup on the part of authorities "No terrorism here, move along." One speck of ricin is sufficient to kill, and it has no other purpose whatsoever, so, please, don't tell me there's no terrorism here - it's the most reasonable explanation, and should be the default position until proven otherwise. I'm sure that's exactly how they're treating it, and they're just trying to keep us all calm by lying to us, but it's an insult to our intelligence.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/01/2008 01:23:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 29, 2008

(3089/898) Katz: Virtuous Reality

Virtuous Reality
2371) Americans have an extraordinary love-hate relationship with the rich culture they've created. They buy, watch and read it even as they ban, block and condemn it.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2372) THE MEDIA MANTRA: It's not that complicated. I can figure this out. I can make my own decisions about media, values and morality, I don't have to choose between traditional culture and the new media. I can live a happy and fulfilling life even if I never see the World Wide Web.

Whatever they should or shouldn't watch, however much time they spend online, my children are not dumb and they're not in danger from movies TV shows, music or computers. Many children - especially underclass children, really are suffering from horrific violence, and they need more and better parenting, better schools, fewer guns and drugs, and lots of job opportunities. If I'm so worried about kids, I will help them.

If I really want to protect my own children, I will make sure they have more, not less, access to this new cultural and technological world. I won't ever call them stupid for watching things I don't like. I don't have to be at war with them. I can work out a social contract with my children that protects them, guides them through their culture and brings peace and rationality to our house.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2373) Modern media companies are no longer run by powerful individuals willing to take the heat for their decisions, but by conglomerates of corporate lawyers, Wall Street analysts, directors and powerful stockholders - all of whom dread controversy and legal difficulties because negative publicity can adversely affect stock prices and mergers, or even call down federal regulation.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2374) It sometimes happens, that men who preach most vehemently about evil and the punishment of evil, so that they seem to have practically nothing else on their minds except sin, are really unconscious haters of other men. They think the world does not appreciate them, and this is their way of getting even.
Thomas Merton
Seeds of Reflection (1949)
quoted by Jon Katz in
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2375) Th[e] ancient conflict [between the forces of "good" and the forces of "evil"] echoes through the language, imagery and passion surrounding children and media. One brand of culture is good, the other satanic; one medium safe, another dangerous. The Mediaphobe continuously evokes evil in his battle to beat back the forces surrounding him - perversion, corruption, ignorance, debasement. But unthinking, centuries-old notions of good and evil bear little relevance to the cultural choices of the young. Nor do the prejudices and phobias of their parents.

Change is inevitable and pervasive. Short of the most Draconian kinds of censorship and Luddism, there is no stopping the new media and their young consumers. Perhaps it's time to start teaching children how to cope with sexually explicit imagery rather than persisting in the fiction that we can make it evaporate.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2376) A central tenet of the Mediaphobe is that guns don't kill people; unwholesome movies, tabloid telecasts, video games and rap music do. That new media are not only corrosive and decivilizing but literally dangerous.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2377) When someone offers a study purporting to show that the online culture is riddled with pornography and is dangerous to children, they are as happy to believe it and spread the message as they were to report that comic books threatened decency (in the forties), that rock and roll was dangerous (in the fifties), that video games turned kids violent (in the eighties).
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2378) [G]rown-ups all seem to lose the neurological chip that enables them to call up their own youth. The point of much of adolescent culture is to be offensive, to individuate kids from their parents, to help define their own idea and values. Popular culture has been helping them to do that for a good half-century now.

Adult America - astonishingly, including the very baby boomers who, helped midwife rock and roll - takes pop culture literally, which is the worst and \more useless way to approach it. Beavis and Butt-head are not advocates of \stupidity but ironic commentators on it. The rhetorical style of many rap artists are absorbed by listeners not as literal advisories but as more complex expressions of attitude, values and group identity. [...]

The problem isn't that popular culture is eroding our civic and moral fabric, but that we take it far more seriously than its creators or consumers do; we give it more weight than it deserves

Concerns about how much time children spend unattended in front of screens or locked in their bedrooms with computers, are perfectly valid. Good parents always curb their children's unhealthy excesses, from overindulging in Chee-tos to joining a pack of neighborhood vandals. But the notion that exposure to pop culture is inherently dangerous is unsupported by research, statistics or common sense. We lose credibility with kids by giving it such weight. Most MTV watchers are safe, law-abiding, middle-class children; they know quite well that exposure to vulgar videos won't send them out into the streets packing guns or into their bedrooms wearing leather bustiers.

Years of battles over comics, rock and other forms of youth culture seem to have left us none the wiser. We tale the bait every time. Rather than engage our children in intelligent dialogue, we simply come across as the pompous out-to-lunch windbags many of us have become.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2379) Conscience is a conditioned reflex, psychological researcher Hans J. Eyseneck believes. Like Pavlov's salivating dogs, people develop automatic, unthinking reactions. Punished consistently by a beloved parent for telling a lie or stealing a cookie, we become nervous when lying or stealing, even if there is no chance of being caught.

So if parents teach morals, live moral lives, discourage and punish immoral behavior and treat their children in amoral way, the children are much more likely to act morally as adults. If the children are left to fend for themselves, are given no such encouragement, they may grow up without a strong moral sense. A child watches the moral judgments and decisions of his parents, his siblings and his peers, and factors in the degree of rationality and respect with which he is treated, in forming his own value system.

The idea that a TV show or a song lyric can transform a healthy, connected, grounded child into a dangerous monster is absurd, an irrational affront not only to science but to common sense, to what we know about the children in our lives. It is primarily the invention of politicians (who use it to frighten or rally supporters), of enduringly powerful religious groups (which can't teach the young doctrine and dogma without control), and of traditional journalism (which sees new media and new culture as menaces to its own once-powerful and highly profitable position in American society).
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2380) In the end, America's cultural wars are as pointless as they are unwinnable. We have created the richest cultural life in the world. Some of the things our culture creates are garish and awful, some spectacular and brilliant. We get to decide which varieties we use. We get to introduce our children, carefully and thoughtfully, to a world of one-unimaginable variety, creativity and stimulation.

This seems cause for celebration, not alarm.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 325 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/29/2008 08:30:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is encouraging

FBI opens inquiry into whether Clemens lied to Congress about steroid use

I sure am glad the FBI has its priorities straight. After all, I wouldn't want them using their resources to catch criminals, break up organized crime, or figure out who sent anthrax through the mail and killed some people. Better they figure out if some over-the-hill asshole lied to Congress about cheating at playing a game.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2008 04:49:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) The Internet Revolution

2368) Like many European capitals, Belgrade is a delight for revolutionaries because of the concentration of government buildings all within walking distance. Unlike, say, Los Angeles, which sprawls willy-nilly, Belgrade seems designed to be shut down.
David S. Bennahum
"The Internet Revolution"
Wired (4/1997)

2369) The phrase tipping point comes from the study of how disease spreads through populations. Epidemiologists have long known that a disease can hover in a population for a long time at a stable rate of infection, then suddenly leap into an epidemic, spreading exponentially. This is the point where the disease "tips" from one state to another, and if you can define what triggers this point, reducing the disease becomes much easier.

[...] Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist with The New Yorker, told me how tipping-point theory had been successfully applied to social behavior, especially crime. Criminologists have speculated that crime is like a disease: a gradual escalation in petty crime can act as a tipping point, leading to an outbreak of violent crime. What they're really focusing on in the idea of crime - more specifically, fighting the spread of the idea that getting away with a small crime means you can get away with a serious crime. Or you could look at tipping points in fields such as advertising or politics. What crime, ads, and revolutions have in common is that they are predicated on the spread of ideas, ideas that travel along slowly through populations and then suddenly break out - spreading exponentially. What is the tipping point where criminals think they can get away with murder? Or shoppers decide new sneakers are worth a hundred dollars? Or citizens believe that a regime can be overthrown? Each of these systems has a tipping point, and clever people - be they police, ad executives, or revolutionaries - have an instinct for finding that putative sweet spot, using whatever means at their disposal to manipulate it, gain leverage, and tip the system.
David S. Bennahum
"The Internet Revolution"
Wired (4/1997)

2370) There is something about computers that seems to promote a certain culture, wherever in the world you may be. Some call this a hacker culture, others simply the computer culture. It is an eerie phenomenon to witness, because it implies that people react to technology in a similar way, whatever their environment may be. The cardinal ethic that binds the users of Sezam Pro [(an online community in Belgrade)] with, for instance, users of The Well or other homegrown BBS and Internet providers is the virtue of information transparency. The idea is that a system - whatever it may be - should be transparent, its topology visible to the uninitiated. In the case of software, this means supporting the continuing role of freeware and shareware, Unix and [the Internet protocols] TCP/IP - systems whose source code remains visible, uncompiled. In the case of politics, it means supporting systems where what you choose is what you get, according to a clear, transparent process.

The antithesis of information transparency is information opacity - the inability to distinguish the constituent parts of a system and how they interplay. Opacity is the absolute prerequisite for successful thought control [...]

[T]he experience of using the Internet bolsters the idea that people can be trusted to mind their own affairs and govern themselves. It is this idea - that there is something inherent about the Net that supports democracy - that the Data Conflicts conference ["Data Conflicts: Cyberspace and the Geo-Politics of Eastern Europe", held in Berlin in the winter of 1996] had attempted to answer, an idea I had found specious until I visited Serbia. Now, with a real case study at hand, it appears clear that access to the Internet is incompatible with authoritarianism, that regimes around the world that want the benefits of the information age while maintaining a lock on information transparency are facing a paradox. Like matter and antimatter, information transparency and information opacity cannot coexist for long. They come from different universes.

[...] The question, which remains unanswered, is what percentage of a population, once wired, marks the tipping point of no return to authoritarianism. Is it 1 percent, 2 percent, or 50 percent? Do these numbers hold true, like some constant, across cultures, or do they vary, requiring a different threshold in, say, China, than in Serbia?
David S. Bennahum
"The Internet Revolution"
Wired (4/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 326 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2008 02:29:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) A more civil society?

2367) Although online culture is widely perceived as hostile and chaotic, the stereotype is superficial. Writing for The Netizen, I noticed a recurring phenomenon that speaks both to [the contemporary] sense of alienation and to the potential for community.

As anyone who writes on the Web knows, criticism comes fast and furious. Some of it is cruel - even vicious. But as an experiment, I began responding to angry email as if it were civil, addressing the point being made instead of the tone of the message. The pattern was clear: at least three-quarters of the time, the most hostile emailers responded with apologies, often picking up the discussion as if it had been perfectly polite. In hundreds of instances, flamers said things like, "Sorry, but I had no idea you would actually read this," or "I never expected to get a reply."

Months of these exchanges have convinced me that alienation online - and perhaps offline as well - is not ingrained, that it comes from a reflexive assumption that powerful political and media institutions don't care, won't listen, and will not respond. Proven wrong, many of the most hostile flamers become faithful correspondents, often continuing to disagree - but in a civil way. I found myself listening more to them as well.

We were forming a new sort of media culture. In small ways, over time, we were moving beyond the head-butting that characterizes too many online discussions (offline ones, too) and engaging in actual dialog, the cornerstone of any real political political entity. We were finding that interactivity could bring a new kind of community, new ways of building political conversations.

Of all the prospects raised by the evolution of digital culture, the most tantalizing is the possibility that technology could fuse with politics to create a more civil society. It's the possibility that we could end up with a media and political culture in which people could amass factual material, voice their perspectives, confront other points of view, and discuss issues in a rational way.
Jon Katz
"Netizen: Birth of a Digital Nation"
Wired (4/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 326 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2008 02:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, February 25, 2008

Friday Photography: Saint George and the Dragon

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

Ice sulpture by Eric Fontecchio and Alfred Georgs

Location: Boston Common
Boston, Massachusetts

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2008 10:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Why we need government

2364) The policy debate in Washington DC has been framed in extremely simplistic terms for the last two years: excessive government regulation versus our brave private sector. But government regulation doesn't have to be restrictive, and our private sector sometimes needs help to do the right thing. Government has many tools, including eminent domain, taxing, licensing, public works, antitrust laws, and codes of conduct. These tolls can ensure that individuals get rights: parks to walk in, roads that are open to all, jobs that are available on a nondiscriminatory basis - and privacy in cyberspace.
Carl Malamud
"Building a Park on RSA"
in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (10/1996)

2365) The government is exactly what makes capitalism and democracy able to coexist. Capital is not democratic. Capital and its organ-grinder's monkey, advertising, are coercive, manipulative, and solely self-interested. The government [...] is at least elected democratically. [...] History has shown repeatedly that wide gaps between rich and poor lead to instability - exactly the conditions in which capitalism suffers the most. Capitalism needs stability. In the 1890s and 1930s when this country became dangerously unstable, it was the government that stepped in and restored stability. [...] Capitalism and markets do not provide for all human needs.
Bob Klein
letter to the editor
Wired (2/1997)
[in response to the article
"Wealth If You Want It"
by W. Michael Cox in
Wired (11/1996)]

2366) When [...] engineers [...] looked at the way society worked, sometimes all they could see was infinite loops. Just open the newspaper. Politicians ensure that taxes are always high enough to campaign for re-election on the pledge to cut taxes. Meanwhile, the public complains that it wants its politicians to "discuss the real issues," which the politicians would be perfectly willing to do as soon as the public would stop caring about the first lady's haircut. The cure for this loop is the educational system, but that happens to be caught in its own loop. Our failed educational systems guarantee that students will graduate uneducated, thereby creating an even greater demand for more failed educational systems. Education could get out of its rut if the entertainment industry would just clean up its act, and the entertainment executives would happily clean up their act if the public would just stop clamoring for more flesh'n'blood. But flesh'n'blood was the great pacifier, and we needed it, particularly in hard times like these when taxes are so high. From the engineer's point of view [...] - a vantage point that they considered, without question, to be outside the "system" - society had somehow entered into an infinite loop and stopped responding.
Po Bronson
"Building the VW of PCs"
Wired (3/1997)
[excerpt from The First $20 Million
is Always the Hardest

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 329 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2008 09:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Information and data

2360) Information isn't always power - just ask a librarian.
David Brake (attributed)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (2/1997)

2361) In a world glutted with information, constant updates are not only a diminishing asset, they are becoming a dangerous distraction. Watching could be hazardous to our health. [...] Since the dawn of time, humans have constructed a quilt of community understanding out of new information. In a world of information scarcity, messenger-journalists performed the vital service of acquiring and transmitting fresh data. [...] Then information came into abundance. Data is now so plentiful that consumers face the curious hazard of an information glut. We cannot keep up with the information we produce. [...] Today's challenge is to manage the vast quantity of information we already have stored up [...] to share this information with each other, to manage it thoughtfully, and to transform it into knowledge inside millions of individual brains. This is not so much fact-hunting as it is data-gardening. [...] Journalists who limit their role to news flashes are absolving themselves of their overarching obligation to the audience. In our new world, reporters must become more like teachers, and we all must learn the skills of the librarian. Information management is the fuel for our thriving civilization.
David Shenk
"More Is Less"
"Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (2/1997)

2362) I'm convinced a new kind of social responsibility is emerging - an imperative to be succinct. Just as we've had to curtail our gaseous emissions in an increasingly smoggy world, the information glut demands that we be more economical about what we say, write, and post online. With time an ever more valuable commodity, the long-winded are beginning to resemble people who open their door at a stoplight to dump trash onto the street.

We now have the means to publish anything we wish. If we don't respect our new information ecology, we will increasingly suffer from data anarchy and social dissolution. Technically, we'll have access to a phenomenal vat of information, but in practical terms, we'll become so specialized and distracted that we'll share less and less with our fellow citizens. Give a hoot, don't info-pollute.
David Shenk
"A New Brevity" in
the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (7/1996)

2363) The twilight zone between living memory and written history is one of the favorite breeding places of mythology.
C. Vann Woodward
The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (2/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 329 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2008 09:26:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right,
Here I am...
site feed
2008 rules of thumb
Progressive populism!
Economic insecurity is key
Restore the balance
Cast the candidate
Persona is important
Iraq, not "national security"
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a progressive slogan
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(Alex Gregory - The New Yorker)
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another progressive slogan
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election prediction
Democrats 230 (+27) - Republicans 205

Democrats 233 (+30) - Republicans 201 - TBD 1 [FL-13]

Democrats 50 (+5) - Republicans 50

Democrats 51 (+6) - Republicans 49

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Never a bridesmaid...

...and never a bride, either!!

what I've been reading
Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
class warriors
con artists
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
not candid
not "reality-based"
not trustworthy
out of control
without integrity

Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
recently seen
Island in the Sky (1952)

Robot Chicken

The Family Guy

House M.D. (2004-7)
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Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
David Addington
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
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John Ashcroft
Bob Bennett
William Bennett
Joe Biden
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(click on image for more info)

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Kenneth Starr
Randall Terry
Clarence Thomas
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Donald Trump
Richard Viguere
Donald Wildmon
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Bob Woodward (WaPo)
John Yoo
All the fine sites I've
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Be sure to visit them all!!
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"2001: A Space Odyssey"
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03/23/2008 - 03/30/2008
03/30/2008 - 04/06/2008
06/01/2008 - 06/08/2008
09/21/2008 - 09/28/2008

search websearch unfutz

Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


take all you want
but credit all you take.

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