Friday, April 28, 2006


Anonymous Blogging Part 2: Anonymous Comments

When reading a blog, it is tempting to underestimate the comments. When writing a blog, this is not the case. Bloggers love comments. Comments are party guests. Our first instinct might be that the more comments, the better. This has been called the blog conversational index. Why blog goodness cannot be measured this way was clearly demonstrated by this post at Weblogsky. First, the dude notes that this encourages comment spam and doesn't measure the thoughtfulness of the responses.

It's like the kegger in Sixteen Candles. You're inviting people to trash your blog. Edward Vielmetti adds that trying to use stats only encourages people to game the stats and that blogging is often just one component in a conversation. People often use email to respond to a blog post. Nancy White notes that we've been down this metric road before with online forums. I should also mention that comments are moderated on Weblogsky which probably has a lot to do with why the comments are so thoughtful. If anonymous comments are not moderated, good luck assembling your own Algonquin Round Table. Its the guests that make your blog.

I began moderating "anonymous" comments recently and I'm glad I did. Today, in response to this post, two "anonymous" comments were created by the same person pretending to be two different people. A year ago, I described how to detect this when I warned that there is no such thing as anonymous blogging.

See for yourself. I've highlighted the ringer.

Post #1:
Okay, for starters I'm having to log in as Anonymous because I tried about 17 times to sign up and your system kept telling me I did something wrong.

So for the record and if anyone cares my name is Rosa. Not that anyone really wants anyone to know who they are on these blog things.

Anyway, I received a postcard on this project about a week ago and I for one am delighted and thought it was real nice of the person building this building to send it.

I'm a widow who lives in this area and I plan on considering one of these condos, getting rid of my 2 story home and the stairs and all the work that goes into keeping it up and finally enjoying life and my grandkids. So that comment about all I'll get is a view is a bunch of malarky. And it DOES get expensive to bring someone in to mow the lawn -- $50 a week! I'm tired of paying that and I can't mow the lawn myself anymore. I want to live somewhere where I can see other people when I get my mail, and play cards with my friends, and enjoy a pool for the first time in my life.

And really, why does everyone
have their knickers in a knot about height? There are high buildings all over this part of Austin. They have been popping up here for years and no one asked me if it was okay, I just accepted it. Ausiting is a growing town and this is busy part of town. You don't need a degree in urban development to know that if there is a vacant lot, someone will eventually build something on it. Why not this?

And Miss Jenny, with all due respect to you dear, if you bought your house in the area that I think you are in, with highways on both sides of you and businesses all around you, why is it such a surprise that someone would eventually build on that lot near you?? I've always wondered why anyone would buy a house there!That's all I have for now.
Post #2:
I got a postcard on this building the other day and was impressed. I think this will add to the area and could even increase property values. I welcome it as there have been a lot of nice buildings going up in this area and it's made things better in my opinion.

Personally, I think the developer has both class and balls to let people know what he is doing and to ask for feedback. I actually called him, he answered the phone (shocker!) and he was polite, intelligent, friendly, and seemed to know what he was talking about. You have to give him credit because I know he probably got a lot of opposers harassing him, too. Most developers wouldn't have bothered or would have had an answering machine or even someone else taking the calls.

I just don't get why some folks
have their knickers in a knot about "another" high rise in this area. It's not the first. There are already several of them and even a few right across 183. They haven't really changed much about quality of life. Personally, I'd rather have a high rise, especially one with senior citizens living in it, in my "back yard" then a lot of other things.

And, let's face facts, this part of Austin IS another downtown, which is probably why most people choose to live and stay here in the first place. We have everything here: a hospital, hotels, tons of stores and restaurants, bars, movie theaters, lots of dentists and doctors offices. But once people choose to live here they think they can gripe about not wanting anything new built. Flawed logic in my opinion. Change and progress happens and should happen. I'm for it. Heck, I may decide to live there eventually.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006

Jacobs was mentioned in the New York Times a few weeks ago:
"If Jane Jacobs had the tools and technology back when she was fighting Robert Moses' plans to bulldoze Lower Manhattan," said the Times article, quoting blogger Aaron Naparstek, "I bet 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities' would have been a blog."

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Created Surfaces

In Designing Bioregional Economies in Response to Globalization, the definition of complementary currency is stretched to include a novel system that has been used in Curitiba, Brazil to finance community projects:
Like most cities Curitiba has a detailed zoning plan which specifies the number of floors that can be built in each zone. In Curitiba however, there are two standards: the normal allowable standard and the maximum level. For instance, a hotel with a ground plan of 10,000 square meters is being built in an area where the normal allowable level is 10 floors and the maximum 15. If the hotel owner wants to build 15 floors he has to "buy 50,000 square meters (5x 10,000 sq. Meters) in the 'sol criado' market." The city itself only plays the role of an intermediary matching demand with supply in that market.

But where is the supply for these sol criado surfaces generated? One source is historical buildings. For instance the "Club Italiano" owns a beautiful historic landmark building called the "Garibaldi House." The property has a total ground surface of 25,000 square meters, but the place needed a serious restoration job. The Club did not have the money to restore the building. But because it is located in an area where up to two floors of new construction could theoretically be built, it sold 50,000 square meters (2 floors x 25,000 square meters) to the highest bidder, for instance, the hotel owner mentioned above. The proceeds belong to the Club to administer, but have to be used to restore the property. Therefore the hotel owner ends up paying for restoring the historic edifice in order to obtain the right to build the extra floors of the hotel, without financial intervention from the city.

Other sources of supply for such "created surfaces" are green areas where trees are protected, and the construction of social housing in other parts of the town. Several of the more recent of the sixteen extensive nature parks, open to the public, have been completely financed in this way. The owner of a large plot of land obtained the right to develop one side of the street on the condition that the other side becomes a public park. The new housing has an extra value because it is located at walking distance from the park; the people of Curitiba have another park for their week-end strolls; and the township does not have to go into debt or raise taxes to obtain all of that. Everybody wins.

What is most interesting from our perspective is that this market for "created surfaces" is another type of specialized complementary currency, which enables Curitiba to obtain public goods for which other cities have to obtain traditional financing.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Anonymous comments to be moderated...

I'm glad to have so many good comments. However, today I found myself wasting time with someone posting anonymously. May or may not have been a troll but the effect was the same so, following the example of some blogs that I admire, anonymous (or more accurately "non-member") posts will now be moderated before they get published. Lesson learned.


Arboretum Tower

Austin residents not enthusiastic about efforts to change rules so 12 story condo can be built in their backyard...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


What's up with the New York Times?

Tim Spalding thinks it odd that an idle website (Zunafish) can earn major coverage from the New York Times.

Of course, it's odd. Consider this. How long did it take the New York Times to cover the Wright Brothers flying machine?

Four years.

Zunafish beat man's conquest of flight by four years. Of course, once Zunafish was covered in the NYT, they were everywhere. As far as spreading memes or companies is concerned, bloggers are still no match for the NYT and the social proof they wield.

What is Zunafish? They take a dollar cut of trades that people do with each other. Huh? Taking money out of a transaction when there was no money in the first place? That's the online equivalent of Hazel Henderson's illustration of community decay: "If you want to have breakfast prepared by your Mom, go to McDonald's where she is serving it."

Companies (like Zunafish, Peerflix and Swapthing) whose business plans include siphoning money out of exchanges where money doesn't belong are grotesquely artificial and blueprints for community decay and the subversion of reciprocity. People can set up these exchanges for free. No middle man required.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


40 Years Ago: herestom's grandfather

From the Sunday April 10, 1966 edition of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times:

Labor's New Battlefront Is In Valley
by Bill Walraven
A Corpus Christi labor leader has confirmed that a number of unions are zeroing in for a large-scale effort to organize laborers of all classes in the Rio Grande Valley.

Reports of such a drive have been current in South Texas for some time.

J. Elro Brown of Corpus Christi, international representative of the Oil, Atomic and Chemical Workers in South Texas, is one of the active planners of the campaign. It is being conducted by a number of other unions in cooperation with the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO.

Brown said the Retail-Wholesale-Department Store Union workers probably will be co-operating in the Valley drive in a short time. Organizers have been instructed in the purposes and methods of the Industrial Union Department. Two representatives of the IUD are directing the organizational drive, Brown said.

Other attempts have been made to organize Rio Grande Valley farm laborers, he agreed, but never on such a widespread basis.

Mexican Labor Cooperating
The Confederacion de Trabajadores Mexicanos, the most powerful labor group in Mexico, is cooperating with American labor for the first time to help raise Valley pay scales, Brown said.

Why is a Corpus Christi refinery union official working to organize farm and other unskilled labor?

"There are two reasons," Brown replied. "We are no longer interested in the welfare of union members alone. We are vitally interested in the public welfare in general, and this includes all of our people.

"Secondly, so long as you have this huge reservoir of people willing to work for substandard wages, it will always be a threat to the good wages of oil workers."

In the Valley, he said, work formerly done by oil company employees is being handled on a labor contract basis. "These contract workers receive the minimum of $1.25 an hour instead of the $2.75 an hour paid to yard labor," Brown said.

Brown said, "When you leave Corpus Christi and head south, economically, you're entering a new country. In this area discriminatory wages still prevail and the 'patron system' still exists.

"The only way to break it is to set up an agricultural union and get wages up."

He said the unions and the Industrial Union Department, headed by Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers, hope "to install a real liason between Mexican and Texas trade unions. Often in Mexico all organizing has to be done away from the working premises."

Brown said Valley laborers have not earned enough money to pay poll taxes, and added, "Maybe there will be a change with the new voter registration, provided they receive the proper assistance."

Poverty Spreads Like Dye on Water
Like dye on water, he said, poverty of one area spreads to other areas where conditions are not so bad, tending to lower union wages. The young Latin Americans who are educated are inclined to migrate away from the area.

"They could learn the advantages of being union members and stay," he said. "We are teaching the advantages of unionism in this program whether the organizational program succeeds or not."

Brown said "There is a need for the development of the militancy the American Negro has. Then you would see a change in the Valley. The Latin American leaders have the militancy and the talent, but the people do not. What the IUD is doing is backing up the War on Poverty by trying to raise wages."

Leaders of Latin Americans, however, have shown weakness American labor had a few years ago, he said. "The AFL and CIO spent all of their resources and energies fighting each other and had little left to fight for their rights. The Latin American leadership must organize and work together to forge an efficient voice for their people," he said.

Brown believes that the War on Poverty can bring about a "great social good to the country if only something is done to upgrade housing in poverty areas without forcing people living there to move from their home communities."

A member of the executive committee of the local Community on Youth Education and Job Opportunities, Brown said that all of the programs, if used to complement one another, "could make Corpus Christi a model community in the United States. We might again win a beauty and cleanliness award."

The anti-poverty program probably needs a public relations campaign to acquaint everyone with its projects, he said.

"Disease and poverty go hand and hand," he said. "Poverty cannot afford cleanliness, and this includes more than just soap and water.

"Politically, the AFL-CIO always has supported those who are for social progress," he said, "be it for better schools, Medicare or the War on Poverty."

Generally, he thinks President Johnson has achieved the greatest social progress since the Roosevelt era and that there was a compelling emergency from the depression in the FDR times which is not present with the Johnson administration, he said.

"The only thing labor is critical of is the lack of evident action of the administration in working for the repeal of 14-B (the provision permitting states to enact right-to-work laws) and establishment of guidelines for wage increases wihtout guidelines for profits and the cost of living," he said.

There has been administration "footdragging" on federal standards for unemployment compensation, Brown said. Now the amount of workmen's ocmpensation and the length of time it may be drawn varies in different states.

There has also been "footdragging" on a situs bill, Brown said. This would allow picketing at sites where other unions are involved. Encouraging other unions to support a strike has been ruled to constitute a secondary boycott.

Brown said that labor supports the President in his Vietnam policy as well as in his foreign policies in Europe and Africa. Contrary to what many believe, he said, unions have been successful in combatting communism in the labor movement.

Labor unions and particularly the OACW, are particularly concerned today about job security-even more than about wage increases, Brown said.

"We are now at a point in the petroleum industry where, unless you are talking about a new plant, even the workers with low seniority have at least 10 to 15 years of service. And people with that much of their productive life invested with a given company feel insecure.

"We see companies such as Sinclair Pipeline which used to employ 1,500 people in the Texas area. It now is operated by less than 500. The natural attrition from retirement and death with no replacements has kept pace with automation, but workers are still worried about what will happen if automation accelerates. Many in the petroleum industry with a high seniority have been laid off.

"And it's not all automation. There are metals that do not corrode and do not require much maintenance. Computers can pump wells and operate fractionating units. Microwave radio closes valves 500 miles away.

"Unions will continue to ask for wage increases in view of jumps in the cost of living and excessive profits of industry, but our main energy is turned to the problem of displacement by computers."

Brown, 58, is the son of a Baptist minister. He grew up "all over Texas and Louisiana." He finished high school in Beaumont and attended South Park College (now Lamar Tech), spent one summer at Louisiana College, then attended Louisiana State University before going to work for the Texas Company refinery in Port Arthur in 1933, the same year he was married.

He worked in Port Arthur until 1944 when he went to work for the Oil Workers International union. He had been president of Local 4-23 in Port Arthur and had been made the union's fulltime secretary.

In 1944 he became an international union representative for California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona.

He became a district director in 1946 and was transferred to Chicago in 1950 where he spent some time organizing unions in Canada. In 1951 he became district director of the southern half of Texas. In 1962 the number of union districts was cut from 16 to nine, and Brown once more became an international representative. He transferred to Corpus Christi in 1963 when the Hess Oil and Chemical Co. purchased Delhi Taylor Refinery.

Brown has been active in civic affairs in all of the cities where he lived. He has also been a working Democrat.

He was a delegate to two Democratic National Conventions. In 1952 he was a member of the maverick Texas liberal delegation which was not seated in Chicago. There, however, a number of liberal leaders of the Democratic Party worked to seat the delegation.

"As a result I became well acquainted with Estes Kefauver, G. Mennen Williams, Hubert Humphrey, Averell Harriman and returned home a Jack Kennedy man," he said.

Brown served on the California State Employment Commission under Gov. Earl Warren and was a personal friend of Gov. Adlai Stevenson who appointed him to the Illinois Safety Advisory Committee. In Texas, Gov. Price Daniel appointed Brown to the Southern States Manpower Conference in Miami.

"This conference first produced the idea of a Peace Corps and Head Start," Brown said. "Gen. Gavin proposed the Peace Corps idea as a possibility for people of draft age to get credit for service in the armed forces. I don't know whether he got the idea from John F. Kennedy or Kennedy got it from him."

Brown and his wife live at 518 Atlantic. They have two sons, James Elro Brown Jr., who was graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1957 and who also received a law degree from George Washington University, and Lane Baxter Brown, an employee of Standard Oil Co. of Texas who will receive a law degree in August from the University of Houston.

Elro Jr. is a lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard and will be executive officer of the cutter Active, a new ship. The Browns have three grandchildren.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Letters vs. Numbers

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


This is Legal Tender in Liberia

This may be old news to Trekkies but it was news to me when I read it in a book by Bernard Lietaer. I would like to see Chewbacca replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Coach Fired. Used a 4-Letter Word.

The Houston Independent School District fired Coach Rudy Rios today:
He was fired as coach because he made copies of a flier put together by students stating that Latinos must stick together during this immigration issue.

"And stay united, and that's why I did the copies. I mean it wasn't anything bad against the school," said Rios.

Making copies, however, was not only against school policy, but the flier also contained a four-letter word.
I don't think it's a secret that coaches use four letter words. What's next? Firing a principal for bad hair? Firing a superintendent for drinking the blood of schoolchildren? A little harsh I think.

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