October 7th, 2015

Have you seen THIS?

March 13th, 2015

My daughter likes Barbie. I suppose there are some good reasons for that. I am hoping this is one of those.


If that was indeed the case, I’d be all like


May 6th, 2014

Packt celebrates International Day Against DRM, May 6th


According to the definition of DRM on Wikipedia, Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale.

However, Packt Publishing firmly believes that you should be able to read and interact with your content when you want, where you want, and how you want – to that end they have been advocates of DRM-free content since their very first eBook was published back in 2004.

To show their continuing support for Day Against DRM, Packt Publishing is offering all its DRM-free content at $10 for 24 hours only on May 6th. Check it out!

NB: I was offered two free ebooks to promote this event with the above. I like the books Packt puts out, I like things being DRM-free.

See more about the International Day Against DRM at Defective By Design, a campaign of the Free Software Foundation.

August 23rd, 2012

I’ve gotten the ban-hammer at BoingBoing.

ban hammer

Blocked from posting comments

Why? No idea!

I did have comments disappear in a post on the Pussy Riot Solidarity Protests where I asked how [Femen activist cutting down a memorial cross] was different from the Taliban destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas. (another comment I posted still exists). I posted it twice, because the original comment disappeared. At the time, I thought it was a glitch, so re-posted. The second time, I saw for sure that it appeared. So the next day, when it was gone, I knew it had been removed. I thought about asking why, but decided to let sleeping dogs lie. [I’ve since noticed other comments have been removed; if I remember correctly, I thought they were pretty innocuous, if focused on using the word “boobs”. Which is understandable given the nature of Femen protests.]

It’s a bit of an extreme comparison, but debatable, and I was hoping for some debate.

On one level, the actions are the same — the destruction of icons one does not care about in order to draw attention.

The primary difference is the historicity of the Buddhas, and the notoriety and incompetence of the Taliban who took a month to destroy them.

[For some personal context, I align with the Western majority who think that the original Pussy Riot protest/performance was not worthy of the jail sentences they received. I’m Catholic — Roman, not Eastern Orthodox — and was not horrified by what they did. It was a stunt, but not a destructive act.]

And then in the post on the Spanish fresco “restoration” disaster, I simply posted FREE PUSSY RIOT! — it got 15 likes, a reply, and has since been removed. WTF?!?!?

I still think it was marginally witty. The amateur “restoration” was a disaster, and I am implicitly comparing it to the destruction of a religious icon (as an act of agit-prop), and also implicitly suggesting that the bad-restoration was a conscious act of destruction out of solidarity with Pussy Riot.

Not brilliant, perhaps not even witty, but worthy of the ban-hammer?

Unless Godwin’s law has been drastically expanded, I didn’t even run afoul of that.

As my friend Mike points out, managing an online community is taxing:

From my own work as a moderator, I have to confess that there are days when you have to deal with like 10 idiots in a row, and then you get into a mood where you deal with the next 50 issues by shooting first, asking questions later.

See Also: Comments in my facebook post that points here.

See Also: An interesting counter-point on Pussy Riot solidarity and Wikipedia on Voina

August 13th, 2012

I was having (losing) a discussion (argument) this weekend about outsourcing, marketing, and pricing. So I thought this article was a timely find. Although it would have been MORE timely on Friday.

Freakonomics blog: Adventures in Ideas: Conversation With Al Norman, Author of Occupy Walmart

For many Walmart shoppers, their grasp of the economic ramifications of a decision to shop at big box stores is no bigger than the dimensions of their own shopping cart. There used to be a Walmart bumper sticker which read: “Outta my way, I’m shopping at Walmart.” But if you look behind the sticker price, there is a hidden price to our economy of shopping at the giant chain stores.

The story of blue jeans will illustrate the economic forces at work. Levi-Strauss was once the iconic symbol of American clothing. Because of pressure from big box stores to lower their prices, two things happened: 1) the manufacturer shut down all its U.S. stitching plants about a decade ago, throwing more than 3,300 Americans out of work, and 2) the company began making a special “big box” brand of jeans only for stores like Walmart, K-Mart and Meijers. Today, you can buy Levi-Strauss slim straight jeans for men anywhere from $22 to $26 at these box stores.

But Walmart also sells its own “Faded Glory” brand jeans for $10 a pair. None of these jeans are made in America, and the cheaper the price, the cheaper the quality. The fabric and the thread count in a Faded Glory jean are inferior to a Levi-Strauss Signature jean, which is inferior to the Levi 511 jeans. If I go to Walmart and buy a pair of Faded Glory or Signature Levi’s, I am supporting the outsourcing of jobs to Asian sweatshops, getting an inferior product that ends up in my town’s landfill in half the time of a superior product, and weakening the value of labor in the U.S. — often described as the shrinking of the American middle class.

When Levi-Strauss closed its U.S. plants, a company spokesman said, “There is no question that we must move away from owned-and-operated plants in the U.S. to remain competitive in our industry…Outsourcing production…helps us maintain strong margin.” Since 2004, a company called Li & Fung USA has been designing, manufacturing, and marketing certain Levi trademarks. In essence, a foreign company has become the “brand manager” for what was once the classic American clothing company.

Companies like Walmart have had a major impact on our trade deficit with China, our loss of millions of production jobs, and our switch from a manufacturing economy to a consumer economy. All this flows from the decisions we make as shoppers to buy Chinese-made jeans at an import store like Walmart.


As I state in my latest book, capitalism is inherently very wasteful and inefficient. Defenders of this “free” marketplace like to quote the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, who popularized the concept of the “creative destruction” of the capitalist enterprise. One of the great economic myths about companies like Walmart is that they are “job creators.” When a new Walmart opens, the company (and local officials) will claim that the new superstore brings with it “250 new jobs.” This is a form of voodoo economics—because studies have shown that as much as 80 percent of these jobs are simply transferred from existing retailers in the same trade area. So the net effect is negligible. In fact, some analyses have shown negative job growth after a Walmart opens.


The point is, capitalism is not “perfectly engineered.” It is perhaps evenly balanced between creation and destruction. In the field or retailing, the nearly 4,000 Walmart stores in American have done little or nothing to lift the economy, and as I have argued for years, have actually precipitated the decline in the value of labor and the sustainability of the middle class. Our economy over the past 50 years would have fared better if Sam Walton had never stumbled onto the concept of discount retailing in small towns.

May 23rd, 2012

For my birthday (a month ago today, hey!), I got a hand-crank/solar-powered radio, with NOAA and shortwave bells-n-whistles — it can even power/charge USB devices (and can run on batteries, if you want).

More pieces for getting off the grid! Or for when Connecticut Power & Light are surprised by the weather….

Little Michael thinks this is the best thing since sliced toast, and loves turning on the lights, changing the volume, and then finding something shiny and letting it on the floor to discharge the battery…. and he’s always frustrated when I try to crank it back to life.

February 2nd, 2009

Charles Platt was suspicious of Nickled and Dimed, so he decided to work at WalMart.

January 28th, 2009

Lack Cty Dept. of Arts & Kultcha is on the Twitter

July 24th, 2008

Scranton’s on the right track with infrastructure investments

That’s nice to hear, now that I’m an official Scranton resident, again. Room to grow, things to fix, challenges to face, as always….

April 8th, 2008


June 21st, 2007


May 7th, 2007

death of wikipedia

January 17th, 2007

slow down

January 9th, 2007

the pickle story

October 9th, 2006

Raise the Gas Tax!

In late September, as [Alan Greenspan] spoke to a group of business executives in Massachusetts, a question was posed as to whether hed like to see an increase in the federal gasoline tax, which has stood at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993. Yes, I would, Mr. Greenspan responded with atypical clarity. Thats the way to get consumption down. Its a national security issue. [emphasis added]

Mr. Greenspan isnt the only Republican-aligned economist to have discovered, or rediscovered, a fondness for higher energy taxes since leaving government service. N. Gregory Mankiw, the Harvard economist who served as chairman of President Bushs Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, favored a higher gas tax before going to Washington, and has been banging the drum loudly for it since he left. On his blog, Mr. Mankiw has formed the Pigou Club, named for Arthur C. Pigou, the British economist credited with introducing the notion that taxes could be used to correct imperfections in the market. The roster of what Mr. Mankiw calls economists and pundits with the good sense to have publicly advocated higher Pigovian taxes, such as gasoline taxes or carbon taxes, includes some of the usual suspects Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times, and Al Gore, for example as well as unusual suspects like Gary S. Becker, the economics professor and Nobel laureate at the University of Chicago.

Q: Want lower gas prices?
A: Drive Less!

October 7th, 2006

Immigrant Law” examined for Scranton, or, Hazleton, exported.

Immigrant law in city explored

There are 46 miles of hard road and heavy-duty truck traffic between downtown Hazleton and the heart of Scranton, but City Council President Judy Gatelli would have you believe that its a smooth ride for illegal immigrants.

Interestingly, Mrs. Gatelli has a strong voice echoing her contention that theres an exodus heading north on Interstate 81 now that Hazleton has passed an ordinance that says businesses can not employ or sell goods to illegal immigrants and landlords can not rent to them.

Weve watched people pick up in the middle of the night and move away, and, from what I understand, theyve moved to Scranton, said Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who has found himself in the national spotlight since introducing the ordinance, which he recently signed. If they were legal, they wouldnt pick up like that and move.

Admittedly, Mrs. Gatelli has neither hard numbers nor official estimates of the number of illegal immigrants in the city. However, she does have a feeling they are here, and she wants to do something about that.

I have asked that we get a copy of Hazletons ordinance and review it because the illegal immigrants are coming here from Hazleton, she said. I know that they are doing this because Ive spoken to some of them and have asked them where they are from, and theyve told me that theyre coming here from Hazleton. (That) is wrong, and it must be stopped.

read more…

September 22nd, 2006

gotta read 'em all

Noam Chomsky is alive and well. And has reading plans for the weekend.

And people complain about my bookshelves.

September 7th, 2006

it’s time to move

August 28th, 2006

Warren Ellis on speed of access

August 25th, 2006

It’s all about Economics

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