Friday, March 31, 2006

Propaganda defined

Marge Kaiser opens some eyes with Propaganda defined:
The following is a list of propaganda techniques from a high school political science textbook: "American Government, 1998," published by Educational Design, chapters 37-39.
Definition: "Propaganda: ideas designed to influence opinion and behavior."
Glittering generalizations:
Vague generalizations that sound good. Example: "Cause X is for freedom and justice."
The polls show that everyone agrees with Cause X.
Famous people such as movie stars vouch for Cause X.
Plain Folks:
The person promoting the idea says "I'm plain folk, just like you."
Name Calling:
Discount the opposition by labeling.
Stacking the deck:
Exaggeration, telling only part of the truth, bending the truth, oversimplifying the truth.
I wonder which journalism class teaches these techniques.
(and I wonder if any course leader could make use of some modern-day examples )

On using anonymous weblogs as a source of information

There's nothing deep here; don't bother reading this post unless you're allergic to (or overly accepting of) anonymity.

The (chronologically) previous post links to two anti-Doolittle weblogs, both of which are anonymous.
The public health blog Effect Measure is also anonymous, as is The Oil Drum.

Some people are inherently opposed to taking information from anonymous sources; and it's true, you can be more easily misled if you don't know who's doing the talking or what their hidden motives might be.

But you can also be misled if everybody knows who's doing the talking; the speaker will then be less likely to share unwanted truths.

So if you want to get those unwanted truths, you need to allow anonymous input; and, at this stage of the ecosystem at least, and with the ubiquity of linkage (so you can go back to the original source and calibrate the speaker's judgement), blogs, when their contents are inhaled and weighed with care, can be of great value.

Your mileage may differ. But if it does, you might want to think about where you're getting your information from, and how well it's kept you informed.

That being said - I haven't read the two anti-Doolittle blogs enough to vouch for them. So you weigh the info, calibrate it, take it with salt - but you also check out the links, which typically are sourced.

Republican-county-politics info (with a digression)

TPM Muckraker is a good source of info on Doolittle - overview, posts.
Individuals' sites that post about the latest Doolittle-related information are Nite Swimming and Dump Doolittle.
(I do wish the tone was a little less snarky for some of these, but info's what's of value)

Thank God for blogs.

For balance: Others beg to differ - "A URL is not a mark of quality...millions of terabytes of unreliable information, badly designed and clumsily written...We have failed our own creation and given birth [to] something truly awful. We're just too busy cooing over the pram to notice."
(Depends on where you choose to hang out, I guess - the salons are there, but so are the outhouses; and sometimes someone will make a mess in the salon... Just goes to show how crucial media literacy has become.
And if anyone thinks that they're better informed by their local newspaper's Opinion section... )

Via Nite Swimming, this recent Rex Bloomfield column in the Auburn Journal puts the pieces together to paint a coherent picture. "follow the money..."

Relevant background info on Placer County (and Doolittle?) politics lurks in this Feb. 2002 Sac News and Review article on a struggle for control of the Republican party in Placer County. Starting a few paragraphs down:
"I have a 'keep government out of our lives’ mentality," said [Placer Co. Republican Paul] Hrabal, recalling with pride how his first vote at age 18 was cast for President Ronald Reagan’s re-election, as the Great Communicator was voicing Hrabal’s core value.

Yet Hrabal has a problem with Republican social conservatives like Doolittle. He says they have hurt the party with their divisive and intolerant positions on hot-button issues like abortion, gun control and homosexuality.

Being gay, Hrabal has personally felt the impacts of that intolerance. Last year, shortly after Hrabal was named capital region coordinator for Bill Simon’s gubernatorial campaign, he was the target of a mailer to Republicans around the county warning "Gay activist appointed to Simon campaign." It was purportedly mailed by a Richard Hughes, who it turns out doesn’t exist, and the true source of the mailer has yet to be discovered.

The mailer begins: "You may want to check this out, if you already haven’t. This makes me sick. To think that when our beloved country is now at war, they can still push their twisted agenda, probably with the notion that we will be too busy to notice." It goes on to note "Hrabal is also leading a group of liberal activists in an attempt to unseat the Reagan Republicans on the El Dorado and Placer central committees."

The mailer then copies and comments on portions of Hrabal’s personal Web site (which he has since taken off the Web), noting his support for gay marriages, legalized abortions, gun control, environmental protection and restrictions on prayer in school, and even including a picture of Hrabal and his lover.

Hrabal said such tactics are typical of the Doolittle political machine, which is now into its third decade of ruling the Placer County Republican Party, using functionaries like Campbell and Klein to enforce adherence to an uncompromising agenda of social and economic conservatism, as well as construction of an Auburn Dam.

Grand Juries, Ramirez, Klein, Ackerman

I have not met Ramirez or Klein; my information comes from papers and the web only.
(I have met Mr. Ackerman)

From the Sac Bee's Grand jury: Sierra trustee sowed chaos:
A Sierra College trustee tarnished his institution's reputation and helped force former President Kevin Ramirez from office by leveling unfounded allegations of misconduct, the Placer County grand jury has found.

For irresponsible actions that led to damning publicity and chaos in the college community, trustee Aaron Klein owes the public an apology, states a grand jury report obtained Thursday by The Bee. The grand jury also called for the Sierra Joint Community College District trustees to acknowledge Klein's error and apologize to Ramirez and the public.

The Bee article came out last Friday; the Union covered the news Saturday - but, as of a week later*, they have had no Opinion on it*.
Which would seem curious, given the splash the report made...
but less curious given the tone and substance of Jeff Ackerman's column* (here or here) from last year, written after he met with trustee Aaron Klein:
There is a lot more than meets the eye on this issue of renegade trustees firing poor innocent college presidents.
...Part of the closed-door settlement stipulated that nobody say anything bad about anybody else, which is why Klein really couldn't tell me anything bad about Ramirez.
... faculty members are calling for Klein's head, suggesting that he and Leslie and perhaps one or two other trustees are part of the "right-wing conspiracy," which Republicans are frequently being accused of participating in. Why else would those mean and nasty conspirators ask such a wonderful and kind and talented college president to leave?

Some highlights from the Placer County Grand Jury report:
Complainant believes that the former Sierra College President orchestrated a "scheme" to solicit funding for the three 2004 bond campaigns from donors while purposefully omitting their names from FPPC filings to avoid public scrutiny, and that he implemented the "scheme" by illegally using the Sierra College Foundation as an intermediary. Complainant alleges that through this process the former President "money laundered" in excess of $100,000, violated the California Political Reform Act and may have committed acts of misdemeanor or felony under Education Code Section 7054. His testimony, reported herein, fully explains the basis of his belief, and the Grand Jury does not doubt that he believes his allegations.

However, the facts of the case speak in total opposition to the complaint. All donors surveyed gave willing financial support to the bond measures and welcomed any accompanying publicity of their donations. In our investigation, no donors were found who requested anonymity, none who felt pressured or coerced, none who based their decisions on the tax deductibility of their donations and none who expected anything in return other than a thriving College community.
The Grand Jury believes the public, the College, and the former President deserve resolution rather than leaving unanswered allegations of wrongdoing that never occurred.
The 2005-2006 Grand Jury investigation shows five significant reasons to make this final report.

1. As a result of the former President’s retirement and settlement agreement with the College, the public never received closure on the merit of the claims.

2. Even senior members of the College staff still believe that some public agency may ultimately investigate these charges and take action.

3. Since there has been no investigation, the local press continues to report unresolved allegations.

4. We wish to reveal the truth of the matter to the public.

5. We hope to reduce the cloud of suspicion over the College.

Based on the facts, the Grand Jury makes the following findings...:

1. The Foundation could, in fact, operate legally as an intermediary.

2. The Foundation had no intent to suppress donor names.

3. Filing errors were made, but they were due to inexperience, inattention to detail, and confusing underlying documentation.

4. The filing violations were minor and easily correctable.

5. The former President was far removed from the process of making the filings and had no participation in causing the violations.

6. Complainant failed to exert reasonable due diligence before making the complaint. The complaint is utterly without merit.

7. Although not the total basis for the former President’s decision to seek a retirement settlement, the complaint was a contributing and unjustified factor.

8. Complainant’s insistence that the Foundation be barred from supporting Sierra College bond measures by donor solicitation as an intermediary is an unfounded opinion.

Placer County's Grand Jury seems unlike ours; compare the level of detail and clarity in their report* to last year's Nevada County Grand Jury report on mismanagement and intimidation by the Board of Supervisors.

I wonder if we could hire them to investigate a case that's like that of Ramirez.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Of grayhounds, fluffy bunnies, and single-minded dedication

I barged in on a discussion between some friends of a different political orientation the other day, and I just nailed them. Here* is what I said:
You guys are like grayhounds - all Rush Limbaugh has to do is wiggle a fluffy little Hillary bunny (or a fluffy little Ted Kennedy bunny) in your field of vision and you're off, straining with every sinew of your bodies, pursuing it in leaps and bounds with single minded dedication...

Paying absolutely no attention to what's happening in your surroundings or the disasters we're in or the ones that are coming.

They were dumbstruck*; I had hit a nerve.

I felt very wise.

Until this afternoon, when a comment made me see that I have fluffy Hillary bunnies of my own.

it's embarassing, to be so easily manipulated.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Correction(s) to publisher's column from yesterday

updated Fri 3/31 - related link, observation, quote mangling.

Swift Newspapers certainly picks their publishers with an eye for quality.

It was on The Union's Opinion page, so maybe "the whole truth" is optional, but publisher Jeff Ackerman's "white flight" sequel column from yesterday appears to contain an inaccuracy.
He quotes and responds to a comment:
"They (I think he means people of color) don't move here because they are afraid of rednecks," offered another white redneck with Web access.

He probably has a good point. We had a black reporter working for us who left because she got tired of being stared at by white children who seemed to have never seen a black woman before. The little rednecks.
This is not the explanation given in the American Journalism Review; go to the 5th paragraph from the bottom (or search for "small paper in California") to read it.

Obviously, motivations are complex, and it's likely there were several factors at play; but presumably Jeff is aware that ascribing her departure to "getting tired of being stared at" is misleading.

And he's also molested the quotations - turning one person into 3, fusing others, grafting onto them his own exclamation-mark-laden emotional state.

The tone of this column however is somewhat improved over its predecessor, and Jeff does respond to some of his critics, both in the current column and in a comment in the previous column's comments. But I'm hard to impress; I want to see if he can match Bloggin' John Robinson for courage.
Not that it'd be easy; to my knowledge, no other editor or publisher has done so.

One last thing: in Jeff's aforementioned comment he said:
I do find it interesting that these comment threads do not include much in the way of solutions.
And he's right. Unfortunately, you don't get constructive conversation when the original column consists of scornful us-vs-them finger-pointing. The way to get constructive comments is to write a thoughtful, respectful article about the problem, ask your readers to share their insights, and, in general, work with other factions, not take pot shots at them. Warfare begets warfare, not teamwork.

(and if you want to tell me that we preach what we most need to've got a point.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Criteria for comments

Last updated July 11.
(still evolving; if you have suggestions, please share them in comments.)
(And when you start getting irritated reading this, skip to the bottom.)

Comments were straying - ok, stampeding - from the Platonic ideal of thoughtful and open-minded civility, so as of early July 2006 I've turned on comment moderation - which means I look at your comment before it gets published, and I only publish comments that follow these guidelines.

  1. Use your real name or adopt a* pseudonym; we need to be able to tell people apart.
    (On the comment submission form, if you click the "Other" radiobutton under "Choose an identity", you'll be able to enter it there.)

  2. Informative civil dialogue is the goal here - not a "paintball fight at close range"* or free-floating hostility or other ritual warfare-related program activities or payola punditry OR derogatory info about people's personal lives OR - aw what the heck - "attacks".

    Comments that aren't civil will be criticized, ignored or deleted.
    As for what civility is - to quote Yubanet, you know it when you see it.

    As a community, we in Nevada County haven't had much experience with informative civil dialogue. Here's why it's worthwhile. Here's how it works:

    • The "dialogue" part -
      "Dialogue" is a back-and-forth where the participants address each other's points and answer each other's questions. It's not taking turns with monologues, and it's not ignoring or just plain refusing to answer on-topic questions.
      (mine, at least.)

      And in the ideal, it's also not "debating" - debating is about scoring points, dialogue is about teaching and learning.
      In the ideal.

    • The "informative" part - say what you know, say what your level of certainty is, say how you know. Give readers the info (and links) so they can calibrate you.

    • The "civil" part -

      A civil comment is one that doesn't stoop to name-calling, that scores low on the scorning-and-shaming index, that doesn't sound like it came from Rush Limbaugh or his enantiomer*. It deals with issues, not with personalities, tries not to label people, tries to work toward solutions and not to foment conflict.

      Keep in mind that intuition and "common sense" aren't always the best guides to acceptable behavior; we're social primates* and we didn't evolve to be fair to other "tribes":

      • For illustration, Ed Cone's Don't Talk While I'm Interrupting

      • For a tool, Joshua Marshall's Clinton test -
        When I come across something fishy from the [opposition], I try to use what I call the Clinton Test to keep myself honest and steer me right.... the Clinton Test is quite simply, how would I react to situation X if [the one doing it] was [of my tribe (or vice versa)]...

  3. Act your age. If your moral development got stuck at the second-grade level,* please go check out the many websites where you'll feel right at home, and will be welcomed by your spiritual kin.
  4. Rule of thumb: when the hackles are up, step away from the keyboard.
  5. The blogger does not always set a good example; feel free to point it out (gently) when I slip up.

to put these strictures in context:
Sorry for the holier-than-thou tone here; trust me, I've been a lot less holy than thou in the past - but now I make up in enthusiasm for what I lacked in aptitude.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Update, on The Union's online comments

Follow-up to Saturday's Speechless post, on The Union editor Pat Butler's column (and its comments)

I called Pat this evening and spoke with him. Should have done this earlier; he sounded like a reasonable human being, didn't hang up on me or bite or snarl or even foam at the mouth, at least not audibly.*

And a Tuesday update - every test comment* that I've submitted in the last few days has been posted on their site. Kudos to those who can still learn new tricks.
(if it lasts)

Tangent -
Ethics question, feedback from journalist(s) requested:

I had called Pat up to try to arrange a meeting - thus the Q&A that emerged instead was spontaneous, not planned - and it wasn't until after the conversation that I realized that the information that came from it ought to be online - but I'm still grappling with journalistic ethics so could use your feedback: should I have waited to post about it until I got his explicit permission?
- if there are no bombshells, if it's a straight exchange of information, if the individual who became the interviewee is offered free use of the "comment" link to correct any misinformation? (am I really supposed to call him back - waiting until tomorrow, if he's already left for the day - and say "may I post the information you gave me?", or is that overkill?)

If I do need to call back and get explicit permission, please stop reading here.

This weekend I'd commented*:
Pat, what are the standards? You mention that incivility isn't tolerated, but obviously that's not the only criterion; please clarify what else you consider to be in "poor taste", so we won't waste our time here.

There was no online reply.* But when I asked via phone, he said that, first, comments that were basically one-to-one communications would not be published, such as "Kady, what happened to my comment?" (?? or "[publisher] hasn't answered my questions; if you have questions for him too, submit them at my blog*"????? - which is not a one-to-one communication, so it seems there's a consistency issue here) - and second, that false statements wouldn't be published: for example, allegations that a particular comment was edited before being put up on the site (he reiterated to me that they do not do this, that it's purely a yea-or-nay decision).

He was sounding reasonable/backtracking on the anti-bloggers sentiment too, said it was not their intent to keep us bloggers from participating(??) (and an "I've posted about this over on my blog _here_" comment from Russ did get published), although I still got the feeling that he finds it painful, to allow outbound links to sites that criticize the paper.

Time to haul Lex Alexander's Working in the Glass House: Newspapers in the Age of Blogs, Grassroots Journalism and Transparency back out again-
we've got three ways we [journalists] can respond [to criticism]. We can get all defensive and arrogant. We can take the kind of absolutely silent approach that comes across as defensive and arrogant. Or we can acknowledge in fact what we always say whenever we're pushing for more liberal open-records laws: We're a public trust. We work for the people. And if we're smart, we're going to work with the people as well, and talk to the people about how we can best do that.


When you're mistrusted in the community, silence combined with a bad user interface and/or buggy software will have synergistic effects, and not in a good way. I had submitted a test comment last night*, which, despite Pat's swearing up and down that he had given it the thumbs-up, wasn't present ...
...or so I thought - but, looking more carefully, found that once again I'd been hoist by my own logical-fallacy petard - the comments' default display is "show oldest first", and it does; but, it didn't show newest comment (mine) last, but instead buried it in the middle of the pack.

and - were this any paper but The Union, with its past several years of historical baggage - I'd just assume that the burial was due to a bug in their software.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

From the Blue Plate Special, observations on newspaper blogs/comments

(These bear on yesterday's "speechless" post.)

Some relevant quotes from PressThink's Blue Plate Special -
[Kinsey Wilson, Executive Editor of USA TODAY], who describes user activity as a "journalistic tool," (not a user’s right) leans toward relatively heavy control over comments on his blogs. Bloggers screen all comments they receive, and remove any profanity, personal attacks, or off-topic posts.

"My goal is to, ideally, promote conversation that is both civil and on point..."
He has no qualms about about stifling wide-ranging debate. "There are lots of places that people can go for that kind of thing."

This is a luxury smaller papers may not be able to afford. "At the local level, it really is a different issue," he says. "The newspaper is, partially, the town square." *
The Houston Chronicle’s early blogging efforts were scoffed at by some because their blogs were really online columns, not blogs.
...[Later] software allowed to start accepting comments on their blogs. It was then that the real conversation began. Looking closely at the Chron blogs, and watching the section over time, you see the staff, using real names, interacting a lot with readers. They seem to understand the public dialogue with those people formerly known as the audience.*
Simon Waldman..."I hardly ever see personal blogs from staff at other newspapers or media organisations. Frankly, unless you’ve kept a blog for a while, it’s very hard to understand the attraction of it and how to do it successfully."
...Oddly, many ...[newspaper "blogs" are just] blog-type sites that aren’t truly blogs ...[since they don't] provide links to other blogs and attract comments. With the exception of the Guardian and the Telegraph, none of the newspaper blogs above really link to anything outside of their own newspaper’s website. That’s short-sighted.*

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Speechless - The Union's comments policy and practice

(FYI, there's a sequel)

Monday update# and Sunday update# appended.
(and, as usual, minor edits; added/removed quoted sections)

Read the whole thing. Please, if you're from the blog world or care about journalism, read the whole thing.

The Union's editor, Pat Butler, wrote his weekly column today on The Union's comments system (which involves pre-moderation, which is keeping them very busy*).

It starts out reasonably:
we do not edit comments. We either post them or delete them....personal attacks, accusations and profanity are not welcome in our house.

then it continues
Unfortunately, not every comment made gets posted*. As a result, some readers have charged the newspaper with censorship or of violating their First Amendment rights, which is a misinterpretation of that cornerstone of the American way.

We are not stopping anybody from saying anything. You can always start your own Web site and say whatever you please there. The problem is that your audience will likely be significantly smaller than what you will find on

But before you go out on your own you might want to contact local bloggers if you can find them. One place you might look is on our Web site where they like to solicit traffic. One warning to bloggers: We have to check your blogs before we will consider posting your address and that might take some time.
Our favorite comments are the ones that address local issues, which means when we're scanning a long list those are the one's we look at first.

So what are the standards?

...we do not edit comments. We either post them or delete them. So perfectly reasonable commentary will get punched out if it ends with a [scurrilous] claim...
...there's still this question about whether we are censoring when we decline to post a comment. I prefer to think of it as editing...
Our standards on the Web are looser than...what we would allow in a letter to the editor...
The goal is to publish as many as we can. Overall, I would estimate that fewer than 5 percent have been sent into oblivion. Now, a closing thought from another commenter that summarizes our position quite well:

"Of course, it's a matter of taste! And considering is a privately owned Web site that opens a forum for the entire community, it has every right to determine what "tasteless" is and whether it wants to publish it on its OWN Web site..."

Here are the comments of mine, that were apparently too tasteless to appear on The Union's site:*:
(for comments on publisher Jeff Ackerman's column)
I haven't gotten an answer from Jeff yet - if you have questions for him too, please submit them at my most recent post at

(for Web editor Kady Guyton's comments)
Kady, my comment over at Jeff's column still hasn't shown up there. Could you let me know what the problem is?

Kady's most recent blog post is on their comments too, but it seems her understanding of the policy was different, and reasonable:
A few comments never saw the light of day today.

Why? Let me tell you.

The majority went off on tears about how mind-numbingly stupid the original poster is.
...A few were directed at me wondering why their post didn't make it online. This is for one of two reasons:
1) I haven't read it yet. Pat Butler and I are the Official Comment Readers and we only have four eyeballs between us.
2) Your comment was one of the ones I mentioned above.
Poor Kady. I don't think she's the one driving this policy.

Sunday update:

I should follow my own advice*, and not blog when the emotions are fresh.

Pat's column does show integrity ("say what you do and do what you say") - so they're not "silently deep-sixing comments" anymore, it's out in the open. Yes, you still have to read between the lines a bit to get the true policy, but it's a step forward in transparency to state that 'editing' of comments (via selective deletion, of whichever ones the editor wants) is occurring.

To put it into "George Washington and the cherry tree" terms - George isn't stonewalling on the cherry tree, he's saying "yes, I do cut the warped ones down, and which [other] ones I choose to cut down is none of your business."#
So do you criticise George for the act, do you express gratitude for the increased transparency, or do you criticise him for his conviction that using his own arbitrary standards is acceptable behavior? (and if the latter, do you use "high road" reasons ("public trust", "town square") or "low road" reasons ("you'll be left behind")?)

(as usual, we at NCFocus are prolific with questions, less so with answers)

For reference,
The Union's written comments policy*:
Those submitting comments to articles will abide by the following guidelines:
  • No personal attacks
  • No profane or vulgar language
  • No racial, ethnic or religious slurs
  • No unlawful use of copyright material
All comments go to a moderator before being posted online. Sometimes, it may take several hours [for] a comment to appear online. Those not adhering to the guidelines will be deleted.
So how does this bear on the deleting of civil comments -
- does asking someone a question that they don't want to answer constitute an attack?
- or did I make an error of logic, in having assumed that "if sins, then delete" also meant "if not sins, then don't delete"?

The former question brings to mind an old Scott Rosenberg quote:
...The value journalists continue to provide in a 'disintermediated,' Net-enabled world -- when they are doing their jobs right, of course -- is to continue to ask public figures the uncomfortable questions that they won't choose to answer on their own.

Monday update, re George Washington metaphor: Keep in mind that George's much older brother is standing on a nearby grassy knoll, thumbs hooked in his belt, within range of the proceedings.*

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Qs for the local paper's publisher

(Sat. eve update: not unrelated, see Doug McGill (aka Localman) on The Coffee Shop Warriors of Minnesota-Somalia)

Friday afternoon updates -
that's funny... a comment I'd posted to Jeff's column Wed.* eve, suggesting that people with questions come here and add them, doesn't seem to be up over there. I've just now asked Kady, over in her comments (it'll likely be #4, if it gets approved); am hoping she will find out and reply.
It'd seem to me that if your paper is already widely viewed with distrust, silently deep-sixing comments would be unwise.

And no answers from Jeff, when I emailed these questions to him.

Any guesses as to who wrote this?:
Speaking of empathy ... we need more of it from our leaders today. One of my Christmas gifts was a book titled "The Power of Servant Leadership." Inside are some characteristics of a servant leader (whether it's a CEO, or politician) that include the ability to listen, empathize, heal, be aware, persuade, conceptualize, have foresight, practice good stewardship, and be committed to the growth of the people and building of community.*



The Union Publisher Jeff Ackerman's latest column (akin to Feb 28's) drew plenty of comments (including someone's analysis of that column's logic); this comment's from me:
Jeff, glad to see you care about this issue. Does this mean you'll be willing to engage in dialog on it?
Please reply (here in [The Union's] comments is fine)-
Anna Haynes (
('dialog' meaning discussion, asking and answering questions in good faith, not serial monologues or paintball-fight interactions)

Response from Jeff: none so far.

So I figured it's time to collect some questions for him, and post them here, and drop him a line requesting answers. Feel free to submit yours in the comments, if any come to mind.

So, Jeff Ackerman, publisher of western Nevada County's newspaper -
  • should community leaders involve themselves in community discourse?
  • is it ok if they limit their involvement to one-way broadcasts, or should they engage in dialogue?
  • should their commentary be respectful of others, or should it caricature and belittle them?
  • is the publisher of a regional newspaper, by definition, a community leader?
  • does a community leader have a responsibility to reply to questions posed respectfully?

Thank you for your time.

Anna Haynes

Monday, March 20, 2006

Error correction in Nevada City: tourist trap repair

Fortunately, Nevada City staff is a lot more on the ball than the blogger, who's been intending to post this for days now.

Date: last Monday
Time: 9am
Action: Called City Hall to report a broken meter cover in the sidewalk on South Pine St., leaving a hole for the unwary pedestrian to insert foot and break bones.
"Whose meter is it?"
"I don't know*. Could you ask Vern* to take a look at it sometime today, and see if he can find out, and get the responsible party to fix it?"

At next sighting, the spot was covered with a board and had traffic cones on it;
at next sighting, a utilities truck was on the scene;
at next sighting, the repairs were complete.

Thanks to all. And thanks too, on behalf of someone who isn't thanking you, who's blissfully unaware of their accident averted.

And a drinking water quality update: it continues to be excellent.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Winter endurance tips

Update: Pioneer Park as seen on the first day of 'spring'

[snow and speck in Pioneer Park]

The speck in middle of the photo above
[closup of speck (border collie)]
is a border collie racing after a killdeer, with seemingly inexhaustible energy


"They" may say this upcoming Monday is the first day of spring, but we know better.

To help you make it to spring:
  • Winter driving tips from Kady Guyton
  • Footwear tip: a pair of YakTrax or Get-A-Grip Ice Cleats will help you remain upright when walking on snow and ice, if you can find them; neither product seems to be available in western Nevada County.
  • Frozen door lock tip: carry a small lighter with you; heat key before inserting in lock. Thanks again Sally!
  • If you're parking where there's nighttime frost, park under a tree or cover the windshield.
  • For keeping warm indoors, without having to deliver your firstborn to PG&E by winter's end:

    • Live in a subset of your house; let the rest stay cool.
    • electric heaters: my experience has been that the cheap heating-element-and-fan ones don't last; the oil one does.
    • Kmart sells microwavable flannel-covered gel packs for $10; buy two, so you can nuke one while sucking heat from the other.
    • they also sell those Mylar(?) "emergency blankets", which reflect heat and so can be put over your aged single-pane windows, if you don't mind taking the tinfoil motif to distress-the-neighbors extremes.
    • radiant heat barrier (the aforementioned 'emergency blanket'?) under the mattress pad
    • fingerless gloves; the alpaca ones from Asylum Down are wonderful.
    • long underwear.
    • a piece of Reflectix can be made into (short-lived) insoles for your slippers.
    • next year, have the sense to insulate and weatherstrip before the advent of cold weather.
And consider taking 1000IU of Vitamin D daily - many to most of us are deficient, by this time of year, and it matters:
vitamin D deficiency is behind musculoskeletal pain:
... 93 percent of all subjects with non-specific musculoskeletal pain were Vitamin D deficient
... We were stunned to find no Vitamin D at all in five patients who had been told their pain was 'all in their head.' This study supports more routine testing for Vitamin D deficiency.
Studies have shown that higher Vitamin D levels also cut the risk of developing multiple sclerosis by 40% and many cancers by as much as 50% (here's the meta-study)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Katrina (and other) cottage links

Mar 20 update: "What's wrong with flash" clarified below.

I am besotted.

SP Times' The house that Katrina built ("14 by 22 feet plus an 8-foot-deep porch with bench seating...same size and price as a temporary FEMA trailer...")
(a few more photos)

SF Chron's The little house that roared:
A tiny cottage designed for Katrina survivors offers the Bay Area a few clues about disaster relief and affordable housing
...308-square-foot ... various models of the Katrina Cottage could serve as a "Grow House" that would over time be expanded to a bigger house
"Decent housing" in FHA and VA jargon is defined purely on the basis of room sizes and other similar measures. Depending on how many doors you put and where you put them, Katrina Cottage I violates most of the "decent housing" rules currently in place. But ask yourself: What's indecent about the Katrina Cottages? Currently, if we follow "decent housing" law, we have to be bigger, even if that means being stupid.

What if small were fashionable?
What if small were to become fashionable? What if we were to decide, as a community, that quality mattered more than quantity? What if we had to move into spaces half the size we now occupy? Besides solving not a few local housing problems, how liberating would that be?'d only take a few minutes to clean, leaving the rest of a Saturday for living.
what really attracts is the idea that one could actually change the thrust of one's life -- from working to accumulate and support things to actually living.

Many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions.
-- Frank Lloyd Wright *

The Katrina Cottage designer's website, Cusato Cottages - sadly, it's pure Flash.*

Garage conversions into accessory dwelling units actively encouraged in Santa Cruz (also covered here; Santa Cruz docs on it here):
By rezoning detached garages into dwelling units, and then offering small loans for the construction and/or renovation of these tiny houses... the city hopes to take advantage of its own unused margins and backlots.
..."a low-cost way to accommodate surging population growth without increasing sprawl." prototype designs**, small units that are easy to assemble - pre-fabricated garage-homes...
the sheer quantity of unused space in American cities is astonishing

On teardowns, obese houses, and diversityof house sizes in a community:
Variegated texture has given way to homogeneity. It feels as if the town I knew was lost and replaced by a different one... I'd bet anything that whoever replaced my childhood home believed he was building "higher and better."

katrina housing pdf - designs from a charette - are available via ftp at

Housing other refugees - Nevada City homebuilder Greg Zaller's tin and strawbale houses are constructed in earthquake-ravaged Pakistan.

For the curious reader, some links explaining why flash is evil

It's a very odd thing that people still think you want an "experience" when you go to their web site, when what you want is content, fast. Not form, slowly and unusably. Or maybe it's due to some ultra-powerful Flash-programmer union in the entertainment industry.
... the first time I visited...I didn't notice...links for news, videos, etc., due to the non-standard layout. I hate having to guess what some designer's clever idea for hiding the data was!
The thing is, in my experience, that the bands like stupid (I mean multimedia-rich) websites. They like opaque navigation systems, they like websites that make music come out of your speakers unbidden, they like *pointless* animations. The same applies to many 'creatives' that I speak to.

Poynter isn't a blog and there's mindless bandwidth hogging Flash crap on the front page.
Does "ethics" include "accessibility", or is low-bandwidth and visual handicap outside of ethics?*

Monday, March 13, 2006

Nevada City Council candidates (NCFocus scoop)

Mortgage broker (and current Nevada City Planning Commissioner) Sheila Stein and attorney Barbara Coffman are challenging incumbents Kerry Arnett and Conley Weaver for their seats on the Nevada City Council.

Mark my words, it will be an interesting race.

Disclosure: I know Barbara.

Edited Apr 21: Added links, fixed occupation.

Welcome new residents


Let's extend a warm welcome to the new residents of Nevada City.
(and hope they won't be staying long)

East of the freeway:
[carrot-noses seem to be popular this storm] [snow humanoid and dog]*

West of the freeway:
[snow man]
Tuesday, showing ravages of age:
[the past 24 hrs have not been kind ]

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

interesting reading...

...on editor Bruce Anderson of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. If you're local to Nevada County, you should read it.

(The Anderson Valley's on the other side of the state, but there are similarities)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Classic column, and comments

Friday update: in response to my 'trackback' email requesting corrections*, Jeff demurred ("That would only provide credibility to your efforts.") Local bloggers Sadie and Russ have contributed comments.

This morning a coffeehouse friend alerted me to the most recent column by Jeff Ackerman, who is publisher of Nevada County's local paper The Union, one of the Swift Newspapers chain. If you're not familiar with Nevada County or The Union or its publisher, please read this very informative column.

Jeff also recently wrote this characterization:
...the screeching, caterwauling, howling, yelling, demanding, ranting and other noise that generally overrides any meaningful debate these days...*

Not wishing to engage in screeching, caterwauling etc, I'd like to extract what I believe to be the logic of Jeff's column. (And Jeff, or anyone else with greater skills in perception or logic than me, if I got anything wrong, please add a comment to this post, to set me straight.)
(I tried to strip out the hyperbole/strawmen/caricatures and emphasize the logical assumptions; while this does make the arguments less entertaining, it also makes their substance more visible.)

The logical statements/arguments/assumptions from Jeff's column:
  • Longtime local developers who are known to be nice, good people can be trusted not to 'despoil'* a community.
  • If one can traverse an intersection with ease at 7:15 a.m., that intersection is not a "traffic problem".
  • For people to despoil a community, they must set out with 'despoiling' as their goal.
  • Any project which only increases an existing problem by a small degree should be handled as though it does not increase the problem at all.
  • People who oppose these projects should run for office, instead of trying to oppose the projects as citizens.
  • People who oppose these projects tend not to go to community fundraisers (at least not the ones that Jeff sees his "builder and leader" friends at).
    (BTW, to anyone who missed the one for Hetty Williams' missed something special. Thanks to the members of the Key Club and their supporters for putting this together.)

Remember, corrections in the comments to this post...I'll incorporate them if any come in.

Some comic relief in the column's comments:
Re: Builders, leaders aren't out to ruin our town
by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 28 @ 11:42:30 PST
With Jeff Ackerman's reputation in the area I sure wouldn't want him to defend me, that says a lot.

Re: Builders, leaders aren't out to ruin our town
by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 28 @ 18:23:22 PST
In order for you to know anything about my reputation you'd need to expand your circle of friends WAY beyond the little weasles who occupy this anonymous space.

This one's good too, on a more substantive level:*
by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 28 @ 08:11:28 PST
I wish I was their friend too. I could become a planning commissioner and have my house remodeled by the president of the contractors association while I recommend that his proposed development projects are approved. I guess it's not a conflict of interest if they are your friends. I guess Abramoff and Delay are just friends too, so it's ok.