Friday, August 10, 2007

Should we take up a collection to buy Hillary Clinton her own Flickr pro account?

Should We Take Up a Collection to Buy Hillary a Flickr Pro Account?
All three of the leading Democratic presidential candidates now have Flickr accounts. Of the three, Hillary is the only one who does not have a pro account as of this writing. (For those of you who aren't on Flickr, there are two levels of service -- the basic free account, and the "pro" account, which costs $24.99 per year and allows more storage of larger files and other goodies. Most people soon opt for the latter, especially as Flickr basically tries to shame them into ponying up by running a "Buy So and So a Pro Account" tagline at the top of their profile page, making them feel like a charity case if they don't.)

Actually, as it turns out, Hillary may not really have a basic Flickr account either -- see below.

It's interesting to watch three of the world's most famous photographers (?) -- or their campaigns -- grapple with the ins and outs of photo sharing accounts. Here are some links to their photostreams, along with a few comments. Be sure to check their profiles as well.

Barack Obama: By far the coolest of the bunch, and his photostream creates the illusion at first glance these are all snapshots Obama snapped on the campaign trail with a point and shoot. Not true, of course -- as you wade through the stream (more than 4,000 photos at last count, more than any of the others), you soon see they were shot with different cameras by different people. But at least it avoids the apperance of Flickr spam by Barrack -- and it puts the focus on the people, not him. Cool. First photos posted in February of this year. Also, I signed up all three candidates as contacts. Obama was the first to reciprocate, and got back to me (or someone on his staff did) within minutes. Impressive attention to detail.

John Edwards: Edwards also has a lot of photos -- more than 2,000, dating back to December of 2005, when the stream was started with mostly family pictures. Like Obama, Edwards has a short profile in keeping with his campaign positioning. But unlike Obama, a much higher proportion of candidate pictures to people pictures. The stream seems to scream "Me, Me, Me" -- which, in view of the flak he has encountered over his looks and his haircuts wouldn't seem to serve his cause particularly well. Another example of a candidate trying to use new media, with old media advisers still aggressively pushing his image out there the same way they always did. And he has not invited me to be a contact yet.

Hillary Clinton: What can I say? The more I look at this, I don't think it's really an official site at all. No contacts, no real profile -- and only three logos and four photos, all from an event in Kansas, uploaded in March of 2006 -- one of them titled "War Room at the Washington Days Dinner." Nothing since then. I'm guessing the Hillary Clinton for President Committee was a local group that slapped this up, and the site has languished ever since. But, if this isn't the Clinton campaign's real Flickr site, where is the real one? (This was what came up in the same Flickr search that easily turned up Obama and Edwards.) If someone finds it, please let me know.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Trying to keep alive the memory of Nagasaki, here in Madison and elsewhere around the world

It's so easy to forget the second Japanese city that the United States nuked in 1945. There are many ceremonies on and around Hiroshima Day, and of course Nagasaki is inclued in a general sense, but three days later, most people don't have enough emotional energy to spend much time thinking about it. So I thought I would post a photo I took the other night at the Lanterns for Peace observance in Tenney Park, Madison, as a small reminder. Click here to see the original set..

In early August, 1945, the U.S. had two bombs ready to go, and used them both: a uranium bomb on Hiroshima, and a technically more complicated and somewhat more powerful plutonium bomb on Nagasaki. From Wikipedia:
On 9 August 1945, Nagasaki was the target of the world's second atomic bomb attack at 11:02 a.m., when the north of the city was destroyed and an estimated 40,000 people were killed. According to statistics given at the Nagasaki Peace Park, the dead totaled 73,884, injured 74,909 and diseased several hundred.
The Nagasaki bomb was a bit off target and hills sheltered some of the city, which is why the death toll from the more powerful of the two bombs -- though obscene -- was somewhat smaller than at Hiroshima. Wikipedia notes that some Hiroshima survivors had taken shelter in Nagasaki and were bombed twice.

"Just When I Thought That I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In"

Most of the flies were already dead when I took the picture in the window of a storefront on South Park Street in Madison, Wisconsin, but two of the flies were still crawling, circling on their last legs. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

This just about says it all about the Forever War -- and what our country seems to think of the veterans who have already given more than should have been asked of them. And the fact that the poster stays up in this condition, attracting flies that are, well, dying like flies, says even more. The war drags on and on, and few seem to care -- it's somebody else's problem, and if they have to keep reenlisting just to get by, well -- that's their problem. It's an attitude that reeks of callousness, contempt and unspeakable indifference.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Congress opens up damn near the entire Internet to warrantless data mining

I drew this last year for an earlier post about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping and data mining. It seems even more apt now. Under the guise of FISA reform, a gutless Congress has pretty much invited Bush and his minions to drive a truck up to edge of the information highway and start loading it up, indiscriminantly, with bits and bytes from damn near everyone's e-mail and other Internet communications.

The pretext is that we're only monitoring overeas communications, data mining the stream of information to detect suspicious patterns of possible terrorist activity, discovering nodes of terrorist networks almost before they form. Yeah, right. Meanwhile, we're once again failing to distinguish friends and foes abroad and basically sweeping up most Americans in the net we're casting, as well. In an interconnected world, uncontrolled foreign surveillance basically means you can spy on anyone -- "six degress of separation" and all that.

I'm really ashamed of the Democrats, who supposedly are the majority party in both houses of Congress. They lined up like sheep to give Bush everything he asked for in his latest assault on the Constitution. This is how the lead editorial in today's New York Times began:
It was appalling to watch over the last few days as Congress — now led by Democrats — caved in to yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights. Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security.

There was plenty of bad behavior. Republicans marched in mindless lockstep with the president. There was double-dealing by the White House. The director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, crossed the line from being a steward of this nation’s security to acting as a White House political operative.

But mostly, the spectacle left us wondering what the Democrats — especially their feckless Senate leaders — plan to do with their majority in Congress if they are too scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution and restrain an out-of-control president.
You know you're in trouble when even the New York Times is telling Congressional Democrats they need to grow a spine.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

With a little help from its friends, the peace fleet was set free last night in Tenney Park

Lanterns for Peace: Everyone Pitches In
It's hard to sum up something as beautiful and -- yes, spiritual -- as last night's Lanterns for Peace observance at Tenney Park in a single photograph. That's why, if you're interested, I've uploaded more photos to this Flickr set. The event was cosponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility-Wisconsin and Madison Area Peace Coalition on the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

It was extraordinarily moving. It was partly the beauty of the lanterns glowing in the dark. It was partly the somber occasion -- mourning those who perished in Hiroshima, as well as expressing the participants' quiet but determined opposition to the Iraq war.

But it was also the gentle, fluid way everyone shared a single focus. When the peace fleet was bogged down in the weeds next to the shore, the lantern wrangler in the canoe picked up a crew of two children and they started ferrying the glowing lanterns to the center of the lagoon. Adults and kids pitched in, picking up the flickering, floating lanterns and passing them out to the canoe.

It doesn't really show up in the photographs -- but I'll never forget the faces of the two children in the canoe, bathed in candlelight, and beaming with a combination of proud delight, joy and steady determination. They had a job to do, and people were counting on them.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The UW-Madison's Science Hall, in all its red brick glory, is 120 years old this year

Science Hall
Madison seems to have been especially fire-prone in the late 19th Century, which is not surprising, since they lacked modern, high-tech firefighting equipment. In 1883 the predecessor of historic Science Hall was gutted by fire despite repeated warnings that it was a firetrap waiting for a spark to set it off.

The red brick Science Hall that was built to replace the earlier structure consumed by fire has been a campus landmark for 120 years this year. As you can see, little has changed since this 1915 photo from vfm4's 1915, Madison, Wisconsin Set. It's a special building, and although most Madisonians have seen it forever, they don't know how special it is. It not only provides a footnote to the career of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his brief tenure as a student at the University of Wisconsin, but inside this shambling red pile lurks the heart of a modern skyscraper. Science Hall is the oldest existing building in the country to use structural steel in significant amounts. A 1974 Wisconsin Engineer article tells more.
Science Hall is more than just a red brick monstrosity at the bottom of Bascom Hill. It is a structural marvel and the oldest existing building in the world to use structural steel in significant amounts.

Completed in 1887, Science Hall was meant to last a long time. An original Science Hall, standing in the same spot as the present one, was completely destroyed by fire several years before, disrupting the university so much that it was feared that it would have to shut down.

Housing all sciences except pharmacy, Science Hall was the main building on campus. Yet in 1883, when Allen D. Conover, engineering professor, warned the Board of Regents that it was falling apart, nothing was done about it. Shortly after, flames demolished the structure.

The Madison fire department considered the alarm a prank, and didn't get there until it was too late. Students were unable to use the building's fire equipment, which was locked up to prevent vandalism. Along with the building, the $10,000 Lapham library, the university's art collection, and geological specimens, including the bones of General Sherman's horse were destroyed.

Students were urged not to transfer, and classes were held temporarily in the library, (now Music Hall), and North Hall, then a men's dormitory. Meanwhile, plans were brewing to construct a new, fireproof Science Hall. As usual, the university was low on funds. In addition to $41,000 coming from insurance on the old building, the university got $150,000 from the legislature. But this still was not enough.

Since all bids were too high, building started without a constructor. Civil Engineering professor Conover was appointed constructing supervisor. He was aided by Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked as a part time student assistant.
Once, Science Hall actually held all the science departments on campus. They have since spread to all the far-flung corners of the large Madison campus.

Only the geography Department remains. Perhaps it was thought that since the continents that provide the department's subject matter change but slowly, the same consideration should apply to the department's building. The department's website has an interesting History of Science Hall, which at one point flirts with dressing up the building's past in mystery and hints of the supernatural.
Both an architectural and educational edifice, Science Hall also is tied to the mysterious. Much of this part of its reputation results from its castle-like appearance and its link to the campus system of underground utility tunnels, but the former presence of the Department of Anatomy contributes greatly to the building’s mystique. Over the last twenty years, wandering graduate students have exhumed from dusty and forgotten corners of the attics a set of leg bones of a “tall man” and an embalmed human foot. Samuel Rogers set his mystery novel Don’t Look Behind You in Science Hall, as did authors for First Comics’ The Phantom of Bascom Hill. Bats regularly fly its vaulted hallways...

Think of this richness as you explore Science Hall--a National Historic Landmark--look at the plaque just above the sidewalk on the street. Admire the building’s towered grandeur from down Langdon Street. Walk toward the structure, and notice the magnificence of style--the turrets and dormers, the arches and raised brick, the imposing roof. As you climb toward the arched entrance, look for the neat blocks of rhyolite framing the basement, the massive unfinished blocks bordering the stairs, and the polished columns beside the wooden doors. Enter the building, and read, before passing through the inner doors, the plaque commemorating the study of geology in Science Hall.
Incidentally, if you'd like to see more of the evolution of the University of Wisconsin campus as a whole, the Geography Department's website conveniently provides an online series of Historic UW-Madison Campus Visitor's Maps, 1937-2006. They're a real treat to page through.