Saturday, July 31, 2010

Long in the Making, Woefully Underwhelming

This morning I opened a new section of called "America in Pictures."

The project began in 2003 when I visited the 48 contiguous United States in one year. My objective was to combine photos from all of my travels and organize them by state, creating individual pages for towns, parks, roadside sights, etc. I started with my cross-country bike trip since those photos were already prepared for the Web. Then I plowed through hundreds more, editing and sorting them by state. I uploaded everything I had, but I didn't think it was ready to go live yet. So all my hard work sat invisibly on a Web server for seven years without any links from the outside world.

What changed today? Nothing, really. I still don't consider it to be ready for release, much less anywhere near finished or up-to-date. But since I started adding Google AdSense ads everywhere, I thought it would be wise to make use of the pages I've already created. Besides, since most traffic will come from people searching for something specific rather than people who want to see photos from all over the U.S., the whole thing doesn't have to be "ready" to be worth putting online.

Right now, you can see pictures from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington state. Check out Texas to see the best expression thus far of my vision. There are many more photos uploaded that I have not linked to yet. What gets added next and when depends on whether I'm feeling industrious or lazy; I wouldn't expect much if I were you.

American Political Economics 101

In a hilarious review of Glenn Beck's Beck University, blogger Steve Foster at The Donkey Edge describes how things work:
The school bullies (Republicans) constantly frighten (fear-monger) the other children (the middle and working class) with threats and lies (socialized medicine, the free market is self-correcting, the wealth will trickle down… I could go on) in order to steal their lunch money (tax cuts for the wealthy) so that they can spend it on candy (yachts, mansions, hookers and blow).
Of course, that's not quite how the lesson is taught at Beck U.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Don't think of it as getting older... Think of it as a series of doors slamming shut, never to be unlocked again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I've decided to start placing advertisements served by Google AdSense on this blog as well as my other Web sites. I figure that if the comment spammers think my blog is lucrative virtual real estate, I may as well get in on the action. I don't foresee any conflicts of interest since I don't control which ads Google chooses to display. By the way, for any Blogger bloggers who are considering AdSense, it is ridiculously easy to set up if you are using the Page Elements design tool.

Oddly enough, the first ad I saw on this blog was for pizza. That's more proof that Google knows everything about us, even our dietary preferences.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Changes, Finally

Two months after moving DJWriter to this new location (because Google dropped FTP support), I am finally changing my template and upgrading to Blogger's new way of doing things. I just finished the biggest change, but don't be surprised to see more alterations throughout the next week or so as I customize the template.

I'm Just Walkin'

Actually I'm not, but Matt Green is -- from Rockaway Beach, NY to Rockaway Beach, OR (a Ramones fan?). Check out his entertaining photo blog here. He's on Day 123 in Montana, but I'm still catching up on Day 28 in Ohio.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Truth About Designer Sunglasses

The Wall Street Journal has the story. Here's a taste:
Do you prefer the "quality" of Ray-Ban to Oakley? Do you think Bulgari is better than Dolce & Gabbana, or Salvatore Ferragamo is better than Prada? Wake up. They're all made by one company, Italian manufacturer Luxottica–one of the biggest consumer companies that consumers have never heard of. Luxottica also makes sunglasses branded Burberry, Chanel, Polo Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, Stella McCartney, Tiffany, Versace, Vogue, Persol, Miu Miu, Tory Burch and Donna Karan.
But wait, there's more: "Luxottica also owns LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Should I Make of This?

A while ago, I "rescued" a lost and confused runner at Busse Woods. I was taking a break at my car between bike laps of the 7.7-mile loop path. She approached me to ask directions. I started describing where she was relative to where she had started, then said, "Wait a minute..." and reached into the car. "Here, let me show you a map in this book I wrote a few years ago."

"The book you wrote?" she asked incredulously. It's pretty funny -- what are the odds of asking directions from some random cyclist and it turns out he wrote a book including the path you're on?

Anyway, as I showed her the map, it dawned on both of us that it would be a long way for her to run back to where she had parked her car. It was one of those 90-95 degree days in July, and she had already run about as far as she was able at the time (she was training for a marathon several months away). Being a much nicer guy in person than I usually am in this blog, I offered to drive her to the parking lot.

She accepted, so I put my bike in the car and cleared the passenger seat for her. In my peripheral vision, I saw her doing something on her phone.

When I told my wife this story later, I mentioned that she was doing something on her phone, "probably texting a friend to say she's getting in a silver Ford Focus with license plate XXXXX and 'If you don't hear from me in 30 minutes call the police.'"

"That's good," my wife said.

I understand that my wife was just thinking about what a woman should do for safety, but come on, it was me this woman was getting into a car with. It's reasonable for the runner to be concerned that I might rape and kill her in the forest preserve, but my wife?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Folkers in the Neighborhood

Of the many cultural resources in this great city that I virtually ignore, the Old Town School of Folk Music is the closest to my home. I've been to only one concert there, which was excellent, but that was about a decade ago. I've missed out on at least a dozen great shows because they were sold out long before I got wind of them. Why don't I check their Web site more frequently? I also have thought about taking classes there from time to time, but my lack of coordination dashes any dreams of playing a musical instrument competently (just ask the four unfortunate, aurally scarred people who heard me play electric guitar as a teenager). So the Old Town School goes on being a venerable and probably wonderful place without me.

Anyway, they are expanding to a new building across the street. Now there will be two buildings full of interesting musical things in my neighborhood that I'll probably continue to ignore.

This is not a post against the Old Town School. As I said, my sole experience there was great. It's not even really about my own failure to enjoy my own neighborhood. It's mostly just an excuse for the title pun referring to guitar-toting students walking past my house.

Monday, July 19, 2010

70% Less Spacey

That's just an estimate, but the good news is that my entire summer 2007 travelogue has been edited using KompoZer to remove all those inappropriate spaces that were introduced by bugs in Namo's WebEditor product (which apparently still have not been fixed). Anyone who has read some of my Web pages (outside of this blog) knows what I'm talking about. I also noticed a number of mysteriously missing semicolons, but I can't guarantee I caught all of them. Unfortunately, there are hundreds more pages of content from the past eight years that need similar corrections. I can't say when I'll get to those, but this particular road trip was a manageable size to start with.

Police Killings

In the past two months, three off-duty Chicago police officers have been shot and killed. Even if I wasn't married to a Chicago police officer, I would be outraged.

Two were in uniform, and one was even in a police parking lot. What the Hell is going on here? Doesn't anyone respect the badge anymore? These aren't situations where criminals are exchanging fire to evade arrest. These are cases where they are targeting off-duty officers (I'm not suggesting that shooting a cop in either scenario is justifiable, of course, just that the motives are very different). There was a time not long ago when this would have been unimaginable. Criminals feared the police or at least avoided them. Now they just don't care.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Chicago's gun control law, their opinion referred to crime being out of control here (it mentioned politicians calling for the Illinois National Guard to be assigned to Chicago streets). It sounded a bit harsh to me then, but clearly they are correct. When the bad guys no longer fear the good guys, the streets really are up for grabs.

Among myriad reasons, this one stands out: The police department is short by two or three thousand officers. How many more officers and regular citizens have to die before the City decides to do something about that?

There's more on this from John Kass, although he predictably blames it on political corruption (Kass is the journalistic embodiment of "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail"). Kass' biggest logical error is assuming that money lost to corruption would have gone to fight crime. Knowing Mayor Daley's skewed priorities, that money probably would have funded additional wrought iron fences and median planters.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Tour de Nada

There's a bicycle race going on in France right now, I assume, but don't ask me about it. I gave up on pro cycling this year. After following the sport daily since 2000, I quit cold turkey on January 1, 2010. I'd like to say it was a principled stand against doping or something like that, but really I just decided it was a waste of my time and energy to read obsessively.

The only article I've read about pro cycling this year was about Floyd Landis' allegations of widespread doping. For what it's worth, I think he's probably telling the truth this time. I lost all faith in clean cycling after the Tyler Hamilton affair.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Cyrillic Spammers

Why is my blog being spammed in Cyrillic? It's especially strange that this local post about Illinois and Cook County politics has attracted dozens of Russian advertisements. After weeks of trying to stay on top of the problem by deleting the obnoxious comments, today I finally "fixed" the problem by turning off comments for that post. I hope legitimate commenter Jennifer wasn't subscribing to follow-up comments (and if she was, I'm very, very sorry for all the garbage she's been receiving lately).

Note: Other posts have been heavily spammed, but they sometimes attract legitimate comments so I'm not turning off commenting (sub-note: before someone suggests it, let me say that I do not want to moderate comments on the entire blog). Oddly enough, what is by far the most popular page of my blog -- even more popular than the freaking index! -- has not attracted spammers among its 263 comments.