Best Fundraiser Idea EVER

DiverseWorks is having a “1-ish K” race on Saturday:

DiverseWorks will hold the 1ST ANNUAL 1(ISH) K FOOT RACE to help commemorate its 25th Anniversary Season. Both ELITE and MASTERS Level competitors will scramble across the demanding ONE-KILOMETER (OR SO) course in a test of strength and endurance to raise money and awareness for the non-profit contemporary art center, DiverseWorks. The 1(ish) K is SATURDAY, APRIL 5, 2008 at 6PM at DIVERSEWORKS at 1117 East Freeway, Houston, Texas. The entry fee is $25. VIP competitors paying $100 (or more) will receive a 5-minute head start and will be guaranteed to be a winner.

DiverseWorks will have plenty of “HYDRATION” and “ENERGY REPLENISHMENT” stations on site and will have a marked outer boundary of the official course to ensure runners compete within a cordoned off area. For optimal weather conditions, the race will promptly start bright and early at 6PM. The course will remain open until 10PM to allow sufficient time for all runners to complete the demanding one-kilometer (or so) course. Official judges will be on hand to insure an honest and fair race is conducted.

Register at their web site. I’m actually going to be out of town, or I’d be there with bells on.

Dept. of Unsurprising Results

As it turns out, if you’re smarter, richer, and better educated, you’ll be much, much better at finding accurate information on the Internet. What it basically boils down to is critical evaluation of sources, which is an aspect of research skills anyone who’s done a term paper should have internalized a long time ago.

The divide played out in interesting ways when it came to searching for information. Those who searched at Yahoo and MSN were evenly distributed across income groups. Over half the high-income parents, however, used Google, while only 8 percent of low-income parents did–they apparently preferred AOL search. The authors suggested that this difference arose from the fact that high-status parents were over four times more sensitive to search engines returning irrelevant results (the authors consider Google the gold standard for search engines).

The AOL vs. Google thing is the Internet version of the slow kid in your 8th grade English class not understanding why Readers’ Digest isn’t as good a source as The Economist.

Other aspects of the divide extended beyond choice of search engine. 70 percent of high-status parents went back to the original list of search results after hitting an irrelevant site; less than half of low-status parents did the same. They were also twice as likely to tweak search terms when they ran into a set of results they were unhappy with. Finally, those higher up the socioeconomic ladder were more likely (43 percent) to trust information from universities and research organizations than those at the bottom (16 percent).

The good news is that this enormous and unprecedented information resource is available for less than the cost of cable TV, which pushes it pretty far down the socioeconomic spectrum. The bad news is that, like other forms of information, those with poor educational backgrounds are ill-equipped to use it well and capitalize on its power.

The Joshua Tree and Me: Musical History in Five Parts

I am almost 17. It is spring. My father is 7 months dead, and I’m somewhat unmoored by the potent cocktail of teen angst filtered through that prism. In retrospect, I had a pretty ok high school exprience, but only because of friends and the idea of what would come next — not because of anything that happened in any class there, except one: our very free-form debate team, naturally scheduled for the last class of the day. After school on a March afternoon, after someone in that class (Jason?) reminded me of its release date, I drive to the mall. The small, southern town I grew up in had only a single music store, and it was mall-bound: Camelot. We called it Camelsnot, and it was the only outlet for music short of expensive mail-order from NME or Rolling Stone or other, hipper, indie or punk magazines like Maximum Rock & Roll. I buy it on cassette. Only rich people had CD already, and only people older than me had vinyl. I unwrap it in my 1978 Buick, but I don’t move my car until I have to flip the tape. The music is ethereal, atmospheric, deep, and polished without being poppy. (It will be years before I realize this is Daniel Lanois’ touch.) The tape moves with me from car deck to walkman to bedroom stereo and back for much of the rest of the year.
I am 19, and a college freshman in Tuscaloosa. The rest of my life I looked forward to in high school is starting. My tape has gone the way of all flesh, which is what happens to tapes in cars in the South. The transparent case is scratched to opacity; the tape warbles and presents only a distorted version of the record. Two years is a long time, though, and I have a CD deck now. I buy a CD copy at Turtle’s — a real record store! in a college town! — on a credit card I won’t pay off for years. I listen to it again, closely, for the first time since 1987. I play it over and over that afternoon, kind of amazed it’s still interesting after two whole years, and realize suddenly it’s a record I’ll keep coming back to all my life.
I am 26, theoretically an adult. Years of dorm life, college-era parties, and haphazard storage habits claim the CD; a skip I know by heart mars “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Mobile Fidelity releases a “gold disc” remastered version, and I buy it — this time at the venerable Cactus Music in Houston. It does indeed sound better than my old CD, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is real and how much of it is the lack of the skip I continue to anticipate for years afterwards. I fail to notice that, at 26, I am about the same age the band was when they recorded it.
I am 34, edging into the vast middle of life. I am engaged to a woman I knew in 1989, but lost track of. Our first date after finding each other again in 2001 was a U2 show in Dallas; the date lasted 72 hours, and continued the following weekend for 72 more. I buy her the U2 iPod for Christmas, and fill it with the Digital Box Set, which of course contains the first new copy of the Joshua Tree I didn’t actually need to buy. We listen to nothing but U2 for weeks, and it reminds us of high school, of college, and most of all of a bubble of possibility we created for ourselves as we drove to Dallas on that absurdly optimistic first date. On our honeymoon, a year later in Mendocino, it is this copy and that iPod that we listen to through the window of our suite as we soak in our private hot tub, gaze at the California stars, and marvel at our incredible good fortune.
I am 38. The actual Joshua tree pictured on the cover is now dead and the album itself is older than I was at its release. Actually, it’s also older now than “old” records like Abbey Road, Who’s Next, Sticky Fingers, or the entire discography of Led Zeppelin were when I discovered them in high school. My brother and sister-in-law notice that The Joshua Tree is now old enough to drink, and send me the 20th Anniversary edition for my birthday; it’s playing as I type this. The mix is brighter, more alive, more intense, more spacious. Listening closely, I hear things I don’t think I’ve noticed before, deep in the background of the mix. When it finishes, I hit “play” again.

We feel this way about the Internet some days

From the wisdom of Al Swearingen, late of Deadwood, S. D., on the subject of the rapidly approaching telegraph lines:

SWEARENGEN: Messages from invisible sources, or what some people think of as progress.

DORITY: Well, ain’t the heathens used smoke signals all through recorded history?

S: How is that a fucking recommendation?

D: Well, it seems to me like letters posted one person to another is just a slower version of the same idea

S: When’s the last time you got a fucking letter from a stranger?

D: Bad news about Pa.

S: Bad news. Tries against our interest is our sole communication from strangers, so by all means let’s . . . let’s plant poles all across the country, festoon the cocksucker with wires to hurry the sorry word, and blinker our judgements of motive, huh?

D: You’ve given it more thought than me.

S: Ain’t the state of things cloudy enough? Don’t we face enough fucking imponderables?

Bait shop. No Internet in the bait shop.

Why we’re happy with our “old” DirecTivo

It’s not HD, and isn’t engineered to do bullshit like this. We’ve never seen it refuse to record something, or insist that it needed to delete something because of restrictions placed on the recording by DTV. The HD-Tivo boxes apparently do this now, as do the halfass DVRs sold by myriad cable and dish companies.

We’ll stick with the device we have, since it seems to understand for whom it works: US, not the content providers. Tricks like automatically zapping PPV movies off your DVR after an arbitrary amount of time will serve to do one thing: drive more people to Bittorrent.

This actually reminds me of something else: Why are the TV people so stupid? Yes, I know, I need to be more specific, given how widely their stupidity gets deployed. I speak now of DVD release dates. SciFi had ample chance to get the 3rd season of Battlestar Galactica ready in time for, if not Christmas, then at least in stores in advance of the premier of season 4 in a few weeks. That way, folks could catch up, and do so with legal media.

Did they do that? Nope. The Season 3 DVDs are still unavailable, so in order for Mrs Heathen and I to get caught up, we’re watching episodes gleaned from Bittorrent. iTunes would have solved this, had NBC not taken its ball and gone home in favor of their own half-assed, commercial-ridden, streaming-only site, but who wants to watch like that?

Why legislatures ought to stay away from admissions requirements

For years now, UT — and all state colleges and universities in Texas — has been subject to a state law that requires them to guarantee admission to the top 10% of every high school’s graduating class.

This may sound like a good idea, but it’s really not. In essence, it penalizes students who go to very good high schools and rewards students who don’t. A friend of mine has her daughter in one of the best private high schools in Houston, which means that UT is pretty much off the table for her — but elite private schools like SMU and Vanderbilt are, bizarrely, completely reasonable possibilities because of the girl’s credentials (National Merit, etc). These credentials would put her in the top 10% of pretty much any public school’s graduating class, but in a more elite private school, where the entire class is at a higher level of achievement, that 10% is significantly harder to crack. Because of this, it’s not unheard of for students to transfer to easier, less demanding high schools for their senior year, in order to pad their rank, if admission to UT (or any other state school) is desired.

I had this conversation with Leesa yesterday, and was reminded of it by this story in the Chronicle that notes:

Eighty-one percent of the students being offered admission to UT’s 2008 fall freshman class got in because they graduated in the top 10 percent of their high schools. That number is up 10 percent over 2007 figures and likely will rise to include all students in the not-too-distant future, William Powers Jr. warned.

A 2004 story at CBSNews included the stories of students Elizabeth Aicklen, of Austin, and Laura Torres, of San Antonio:

Not fair is exactly how Elizabeth Aicklen describes her experience with the “Top 10” plan.

“Everyone in my family has gone to U.T. I’ve lived in Austin for my whole life. I love it,” says Aicklen, who took a lot of advanced placement classes to improve her class rank.

Elizabeth’s problem, if you can call it that, was that she went to Westlake, the most competitive public high school in Austin, filled with overachievers from upscale families.

Did kids talk about their ranking all the time? Were they thinking of it constantly? “All the time,” says Aicklen. “After every test or every final, people were pulling out their calculators.”

Aicklen had a 3.9 GPA, and she still didn’t make the top 10 at her school.

But 80 miles away in San Antonio, Torres’ high school, Fox Tech, was vastly different. There were fewer challenging courses, less competition, and many kids from poor families. Torres had a 3.4-3.5 GPA, which put her in the top 10 percent of her high school. She didn’t take any advanced placement classes.

If Torres had gone to Westlake, she’d barely have made the top 50 percent. And if Aicklen had gone to Fox Tech, she might have been the valedictorian. As for SAT scores, Aicklen also scored hundreds of points higher than Torres.

N.B. that this rule doesn’t allow for other factors at all. No extracurriculars? No problem. Shitty SAT? No one cares. Took only the minimum classes required for graduation? Come to Austin! If it results in a full incoming class, with no room for out of state students or otherwise qualified kids outside the 10%, its proponents don’t care. If it results in good students going elsewhere while nebulously qualified kids from terrible high schools skate in, they don’t care. It’s just freakish.

Turns out, maybe Sequoia’s not so dumb

Yeah, the whole intimidation thing worked, and New Jersey will not be getting an independent audit of the Sequoia machines thanks to Sequoia’s legal threats.

Even so, they’re getting plenty of critical coverage, so in the end it’s probably not a win for them. Why would any government consider a voting machine maker that intimidates analysts into NOT examining the machines that would count our votes, and which have a history of misbehavior?

Huckabee on Obama

He may be a raving nutbird fundie, but he’s a decent human being who actually listened to Obama’s speech, which seems to have annoyed Scarborough yesterday (quoted at Kos):

HUCKABEE: [Obama] made the point, and I think it’s a valid one, that you can’t hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do. You just can’t. Whether it’s me, whether it’s Obama…anybody else. But he did distance himself from the very vitriolic statements.

Now, the second story. It’s interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what Louis Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you’d say “Well, I didn’t mean to say it quite like that.”

And later:

HUCKABEE: I don’t think we know. If this were October, I think it would have a dramatic impact. But it’s not October. It’s March. And I don’t believe that by the time we get to October, this is gonna be the defining issue of the campaign, and the reason that people vote.

And one other thing I think we’ve gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say “That’s a terrible statement!”…I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this, but I’m just tellin’ you — we’ve gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told “you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus…” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.

Today’s Guest Corpse: Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, giant of science fiction, has died. He was 90. With him passes one of the last of the first wave of SF authors.

One perfect note about his passing: his official time of death is 1:30AM on March 19, 2008. As I write this, it is 5:40PM on March 18. Clarke lived in Sri Lanka, you see, but the upshot is this: Arthur Clarke managed to die in the future.

Well done, Sir Arthur, and Godspeed.

Dept. of Really Dumb Ideas

So, New Jersey is apparently evaluating Sequoia’s voting machines, and the corporate drones got wind the state might let Princeton prof and voting machine security expert Ed Felton examine them.

This, clearly, scared the bejesus out of said drones, so they sent Prof. Felton a threatening letter, which was of course immediately leaked to the web, and which as elicited a great deal of ridicule and comment. Techdirt has more.


Go and at least read Obama’s speech, even if you don’t watch the video. It is a profound document, perhaps the most significant such text since the civil rights movement. Senator Obama speaks to not just the red herring of his pastor’s most obnoxious remarks, but the anger and resentment that continue to characterize far too much of the racial dialog in this country — a country, he also notes, that is the only place a story like his could even begin to happen.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

Later, he finished with the story of Ashley, a woman who organized for his campaign in South Carolina. As a child, Ashley’s mother’s illness plunged her family into poverty, and Ashley wanted to work to avoid that fate for other families:

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Yes. We. Can.

Andy Sullivan had this to say about it:

I do want to say that this searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime. It is a speech we have all been waiting for for a generation. Its ability to embrace both the legitimate fears and resentments of whites and the understandable anger and dashed hopes of many blacks was, in my view, unique in recent American history.

And it was a reflection of faith – deep, hopeful, transcending faith in the promises of the Gospels. And it was about America – its unique promise, its historic purpose, and our duty to take up the burden to perfect this union – today, in our time, in our way.

I have never felt more convinced that this man’s candidacy – not this man, his candidacy – and what he can bring us to achieve – is an historic opportunity. This was a testing; and he did not merely pass it by uttering safe bromides. He addressed the intimate, painful love he has for an imperfect and sometimes embittered man. And how that love enables him to see that man’s faults and pain as well as his promise. This is what my faith is about. It is what the Gospels are about. This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian.

As Rob notes, however, it should surprise no one that Fox is boiling the speech down to Obama still considering Wright “like family.” They don’t like it when people insist on talking about issues and matters of substance over there.

Sport from Office Hell

I’ve just learned of the existence of what may be the only legitimate use of Powerpoint: Battledecks. Apparently, at SXSW, there’s a “competition” that folks are invited to participate in wherein they must present, extemporaneously, with a slide deck they have never seen and which makes no sense whatsoever. They are then graded on flow, gesture, jargon, credibility, and getting through the deck.

Madcap hilarity ensues. Uberblogger Dooce‘s husband Jon participated this year, and points us to this compilation video from Rocketboom. Jon’s post also includes links to some representative slides, most of which are enough to make you laugh without someone trying to “present” something over it. There’s also a photoset on Flickr.

Happy Birthday to Me

It’s HeathenDay, which is also the birthday of William H. Macy (’50) and Adam Clayton (’60) and, well, Bill Casey (’13) and L. Ron Hubbard (’11).

Celebrate in any way you feel appropriate. We suggest whisky and cake.

Next year will be the really fun one, since it’ll be the first time since 1998 that my birthday has fallen on Friday, which some folks consider unlucky. We disagree, since the first time our birthday fell on a Friday was our very first go-round, in 1970.

Since then, the 13th has only been on a Friday in ’81, ’87, ’92, and ’98. That pesky leap year keeps getting in the way.

We suspect a Big-Ass Party is called for in honor of my Sixth Friday Birthday next year, which would be flaunting tradition — I’ll only be 39, and convention would suggest the big party would come in 2010, but fuck that. Fridays are more fun.

(Btw, very quick and dirty: for ((i=1970;i<=2009;i+=1)); do cal march $i | grep -e ‘ 8 9 10 11 12 13 14’ -e ‘March’; done)


Via Rob, we find this fine quote: “Saying that Hillary has Executive Branch experience is like saying Yoko Ono was a Beatle.”

From Kos.

Dept. of MetaMedia

If you follow the gossip sites — shut up; I know you do — you may have heard the story about Paris Hilton giving away diamonds, which was of course gobbled up by all the celeb outlets.

Turns it, the whole thing was staged as part of Ashton Kutcher’s new project, a sort of meta-media version of Punk’d designed with the celeb-focussed media, not celebs themselves, as the butt of the joke:

Pop Fiction, an eight-episode series, is a prank show targeting paparazzi and gullible media outlets. It’s made with the eager help of stars, who were the laughing stocks of Kutcher’s former MTV show. This time the shoe’s on the other foot, and the series has been kept so tightly under wraps that E!’s own website fell victim to the Hilton hoax and other planted stories that producers won’t yet divulge.

It’s really, really hard not to like this idea a whole lot.


You people SO get extra points if you can tell me where the dialog in this animated GIF is from:


(Dorman: You’re disqualified.)


BoingBoingTV gives us Kung Fu Fuck You, which is actually the first part of a double feature also including a spot for the Falipornia Speak Therapy Institute. “We learn to nouns, sentences, and talking!”

Oh. My.

I’m not sure what the origin of this is, but the Aimee Mann Christmas Special is not something you should miss at all. It’s weird, surreal, and chock full of cameos — Patton Oswalt, Emily Proctor, Fred Armisen, Ben Stiller, etc.

I’ve had this on my desk for a while, and just got around to watching it now. The whole thing’s about 25 minutes, split into 3 parts.

Amusingly, the director — Michael Blieden — is the same guy behind this very odd Kanye video starring Will Oldham as well as several other amusing bits.

More on Gygax

From, we get “16 Gary Gygax Jokes We Better Not Catch You Making.” Our faves:

  • “Now who will lead our young people to Satan?”
  • “At least he didn’t live to see Disney’s Greyhawk on Ice.”
  • “When I heard, I cried 2d10 tears.”


  • “Heart condition? Wow, I always thought it would be owlbears that got him.”

(via JZ.)

Dept. of Creepy Corporate Behavior

Two bits, recently:

ONE: I get an update email from an online magazine that’s usually chock full of images and crap. I read the text, and never bother loading the images. Actually, I rarely load any images, since images in email are usually worthless footer graphics or, worse, web bugs designed to allow the sender to know when and if you’ve read their mail. No thank you.

Sure enough, they think I’m not reading their updates, so they sent me a message saying “hey, we noticed you don’t read our mail, so we’ll quit sending it to you if you don’t [click here].”

Obviously, they’re using these web bugs. Icky. I like the magazine, but I don’t think I’ll bother reading the much anymore.

TWO: Yesterday, I got a call on the old line from a credit card company pitching add-on services. It was an ARU, but one dressed up and obfuscated in such a way as to try very hard to pretend it was a real person, and they’d worked hard enough that I was thrown initially. When I interrupted the voice to ask if it as a real person, it said “Do I sound that bad? (pause)” and then resumed its pitch. I asked irrelevant questions, and it clumsily spat out something based on keywords, like Eliza. I asked it to say “rutabaga,” and it hung up on me. Very creepy. Also an excellent way to ensure I never do business with your company.