Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Junk Science or Junk Appointments?

Is global warming nothing more than "Junk Science" as Fox News and conservative pundits such as Rush Limbaugh are noted for saying? Not according to Representative Henry Waxman (Dem.) who today stated... (Read more)


Monday, January 29, 2007

Candidates Rise to the Digital Challenge

Following Monday night's "meet the Carbondale candidates forum" at Hanger 9 two city council election candidates declared their intent to have a more prominent web presence.

Council candidate Joe Moore said he will start putting some more effort into his nascent blog. He created it nearly two months ago, but had done nothing with it until a half-hour before the night's event.

Luanne Brown, council candidate, said she would soon have a blog of her own containing campaign information. You'll hear about it here when it is ready for prime time.


Digital Divide Digest

My recent blog about the 2007 election primary in Carbondale dealt with the election candidates (eight out of eleven) deliberately not using of the Internet for voter communications. I intentionally listed the candidate’s age along with a representative web address providing information about either their campaign, background, or other presence on the web.

One reader questioned if publishing the age of the candidate had any significance. The answer is simple. Age has always had an influence of technology adoption, as have other factors, particularly race, income, and geography. But there is more to the story.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Assocated Artist Gallery Closes

The Associated Artists' Gallery, located at 715. S. University, had its final reception last night and closed its doors at the end of business today. According to the story in this week's Carbondale
Times, the AAG started up in 1983 in the space where Yesteryear Tobacconists now operates. From whta I understand, sales at this location have never been that great and membership in the AAG has declined over the past decade to the point where there's not always a volunteer available to staff the store. I know I've driven by several times in the past couple of months on a Friday or Saturday and seen a sign on the door to the effect that no volunteer was available to open the store today.

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Carbondale Candidates Online -- NOT!

Andy Warhol’s 1968 prediction that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes is being tested this campaign season in Carbondale where only three of the eleven candidates for office have an official campaign website. It seems the digital age still escapes most candidates.

The media challenged candidates must think that voters still only get the election news from traditional broadcast media: radio, TV, newspapers, and of course, the last minute flurry of campaign literature stuffed into thousands of screen doors.

According to Internet Usage and Population website there are over 210 million people in the Unites States that use the internet. That is a 120% increase since 2000. So, why is it so difficult to locate the e-mail address of candidates for public office? If the candidates are running on a platform, why isn't it on a public website for everyone to see?

I've searched the Internet asembling what references I could find for the candidates. Shown below are websites referencing the candidates, their age and e-mail addresses, if known. If a candidate has a campaign website, it is shown in bold, italics below. Other URLS are websites that appear to contain some valid information about the candidate. (I tried to not use e-mail address for their employment or websites where more than one candidate is described.) Share and enjoy.

Mayoral Candidates

Brad Cole, 35,

Jessica Davis, 38, e-mail via campaign website

Melvin "Pepper" Holder, 57, No public e-mail address identified

Sheila Simon, 45,

Council Candidates

Stephen Haynes, 42,

Joseph Moore, 21, No public e-mail address identified

Lance D. Jack, 36,

Mary Pohlmann, 62, No public e-mail address identified

Paulette "Will" Sherwood, 62, No public e-mail address identified

Elizabeth Lewin, NA, No public e-mail address identified

Luanne J. Brown, NA, No public e-mail address identified

Read The Ultimate Answer


Bad Forensics Theater

The recent spate of purported 'forensic science' TV programs -- and the fact that a 15-hour Forensic Science interdisciplinary specialization has been approved at SIUC -- has inspired Prof. Rob Corruccini to include popular television programs in his long-running Bad Anthropology Film Festival, featuring "bits of 'Bones,' chunks of 'CSI's, and a gobbet of 'Crossing Jordan,'" to go along with the Peter Sellers classic, Murder by Death. . . . The show starts at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30, in Faner Hall 3438.

Source: SIUC News release.


Friday, January 26, 2007

any publicity is good?

A reader sends this link to Seth's Blog, showing another poor reflection of SIU.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not so fast

State officials think certain SIU professors require remedial ethics because they completed an Ethics multiple-choice test too quickly. But the professors aren't taking it lying down. At least four are refusing to cooperate. Inside Higher Ed :: Ethical Dilemma. Can you blame them?

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Wadda Ya Mean, Ya Sez Ya Can’t Sell Me $1.00 of Gasoline!

Ever tried to buy only ONE dollar of gasoline? You can’t do it. You can buy 99.9 cents worth, but never an even dollars worth, or $2.00, or $3.00, etc.

Why is that? Several reasons. Foremost, we are quite befuddled by fractional math. Sure, 4 divided by 2 = 2, but exactly how many gallons of gasoline can you buy for $10 at $2.04 and 9/10ths a gallon?

The addition of 9/10 cent to the price of a gallon of gasoline makes impossible the purchase of one gallon of gasoline at the advertised price. And it makes our mathematically challenged brains crash into a state of befuddlement.

Imagine if all groceries, postage stamps and tuition were sold like that? So why do we do it with gasoline?

Well, some research says that a difference of two-tenths of a cent (about 30¢ for an average fill-up) may be enough to sway consumers' buying decisions. “Because of this, service stations quickly react to the price posted on the street corner by their competition and adjust their price accordingly. If not, they risk the possibility of losing their customers.”

Don’t lose a lot of sleep over this issue. What you ought to be worried about is why paying for a gallon of gas will likely always result in getting more or less than you should.
For example, gasoline volume changes approximately 0.058% for every 1ºF change in temperature. “The energy content of a gallon of gasoline purchased by a motorist in Nome, Alaska in January could, theoretically, be as much as 8-10% greater that that of a gallon of gasoline purchased by a motorist in Marion, IL (center of the universe, I’m told) in July.” So 10 gallons in Alaska might be 11 gallons in Illinois. But, they contain the same amount os useful energy. You pay for 11, but really only get the value of 10.

Robbery you say? Read more about it.


Sheila on the air, on the door

This morning, "Cap" Miller interviewed Carbondale mayoral candidate Sheila Simon on his Morning Newswatch on WJPF-AM. Miller noted the statewide interest in the contest between her and Mayor Brad Cole. She had a fundraiser in Chicago last weekend and newspapers statewide have articles about her. As if that wasn't enough exposure, one of her campaign signs has popped up two doors down from where I live, and a pamphlet appeared on my door over the weekend.

One highlight of Sheila's chat with Miller: calling for the release of the closed session City Council discussions in 2003 about the old American Tap property, a controversial topic at the time, which undoubtedly will be an issue in the upcoming campaign debate.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Most Depressing Day of the Year!

According to Dr. Cliff Arnell, a British psychologist, his research shows yesterday was the most depressing day of the year. So if you made it through yesterday, things should only improve.

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Gas Prices

Gas in Illinois runs about $2.14 per gallon, which is the lowest price since sometime in 2005. According to WSIU-FM this morning, it never got that low during all of 2006. Travelling around town this morning, I saw Carbondale prices running from a low of $2.04 a gallon at Wal-Mart and Marathon ($2.03 if you've got a Kroger card) to $2.13 at Shell. With gas $1.84 a gallon at Cape Girardeau yesterday, it's almost worth driving the 40+ miles to fill up your tank.


Monday, January 22, 2007

More Photos?

As more bloggers chime in, I wonder how many have digital cameras? It would be nice to have more photos on this blog! Especially local places and events. Maybe B&L Photo would sponsor a monthly "best of Carbondale" photo contest.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hello Carbondale!

Thought I'd introduce myself on this blog, since I've been just lurking for a while. I have a number of blogs- some personal, some professional, some creative- and I'd like to invite you to visit all of them. You can start at CESL (SIUC), where I work & try to get international students to write about Carbondale and life around us. They've done some interesting things, for example on the violent deer incidents and the WalMart controversy. One thing that's good about them is that they're relatively objective and see Carbondale with a fresh view sometimes. I have a professional blog here and a creative/personal one here which you're welcome to visit.

I'd like to get more into Carbondale civic activity, but don't have much time. I vote, and do my best to read about it, and I commend you all for your involvement- I think talking & writing about it makes a big difference and if nothing else clarifies your ideas about what should be happening. Writing about things tends to make them happen sometimes, I've found, though not always- at least people recognize good ideas when they see them. So I'll try to find a few- I promise!

Simon Campaign Starts in Earnest

Sheila Simon's campaign for mayor kicked off in force yesterday as 50 campaign workers overflowed the small campaign office on the second floor of the Island Building before setting off to cavass Carbondale residents. The campaigners dropped off material at about 400 residences over the course of the day and spoke to over a hundred people. Meanwhile, Mayor Cole's headquarters ( at least I think it's his headquarters, there's a big sign in the window) in the Campus Shopping Center remains quiet.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Is Carbondale Cool?

Hundreds of communities are "moving forward with innovative energy solutions that curb global warming, save taxpayer dollars, and create healthier cities. At a time when the federal government is failing to act, when the Illinois state legislature is failing to stem massive gas and electric rate increases, these local leaders are moving America toward a safer and more secure future."

One step Carbondale can take is to become a 'Cool City" just as ten other Illinois communities have. Read more and take the Cool Cities Poll at The Ultimate Answer blog.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Hidden Costs of Socialism

I’m still a college student, and I found myself this semester retaking a Precalculus class that I had begun a couple of years ago but had to pull out of, largely for military reasons. I was pleased, upon reading the syllabus, to see that the same book that I had used for the previous class was still assigned; it would save me having to purchase another $100 textbook. I wasn’t sure whether the same edition was still being used (the syllabus didn’t specify), but I figured I would give it a shot; even if the edition I had was out of date, I figured it would be usable. After all, how much could mathematics have changed in a couple of years?

Everything was going fine until I got about halfway done with my homework and realized that several problems were assigned that did not exist in my text. Frustrated, I went to Morris to check out the current edition from the Reserve room. The answer to the question of how much mathematics had changed in a couple of years was not much; there was very little difference between the readings portion of the two texts. In fact, the only difference I noticed was the removal of a tidbit I had thought interesting about the origin of the word “Algebra.”

The Exercises portion, however, was another story. It was completely different from what was in my old text. Problems had been added, existing problems had been moved; sometimes the only noticeable change was that the problem sections had been rearranged and renumbered. Why? Was the new format somehow superior to the old, aside from the additional problems? No; it was about the same, just reworded and renumbered. Why then? For one purpose: to stiff poor college students like myself.

It’s a cute trick: Leave the text substantially alone, but rearrange the exercises in order to instantly outdate the old textbook and force students to buy the expensive new edition instead of purchasing the old one used. It’s particularly transparent in mathematics, where (at least on the undergraduate level) things change so slowly that publishing a new edition every two years is patently silly. But it’s a trick that is used throughout the massively profitable textbook publishing system. Publish a new edition, discontinue the old edition, and rearrange things sufficiently so that the old edition is incompatible with the new. This bit of skullduggery, along with the exorbitant price of textbooks, combine to jilt college students out of millions of dollars every year.

How is this possible? How is it that in a free-market economy where it seems that nearly every other commodity or service seems to get better and/or cheaper over time, can textbook publishing be stuck in this Dark Ages cycle of ripoffs and exploitation?

The answer, oddly enough, would seem to be socialism. In particular, socialist colleges and universities. “Huh?” you might ask. “What socialist universities?” There’s one right before your eyes. I attend one. SIUC is a state-owned, and therefore socialist, school. Its tuition rates are subsidized, particularly for state residents, so that its tuition rates are substantially below market rates for a comparable education.

So how are state schools responsible for textbook prices? Simple: socialist schools have no incentive to keep costs low for their students. Their tuition rates are already artificially low, so they can expect high enrollment even if they heap other, hidden costs on the students (although SIUC, amazingly, seems to be doing a horrible job at enrollment, even so). What’s more, the low price of state schools removes poorer students from the free market for higher education, so that (except for the intellectual cream) private schools rarely even attempt to entice them. This results in reduced price competition between private schools. Someone who is paying $20,000 a semester (or whatever it is now) to attend MIT is unlikely to balk at a $500 textbook bill.

If state schools did not exist, low-cost private schools would spring up in their place, and (given the magic of the free market) would likely be providing a superior education at equivalent or lesser cost within a few years. What’s more, a free market in education would tend to solve the textbook problem. If schools could compete freely for the poorer students, textbook cost would likely become a factor.

And the solution to the textbook problem is astonishingly simple: Textbook cost should be counted as part of tuition. Students don’t pay room-rental fees for their classrooms; they don’t pay electricity fees for the energy they use while in class. All of that and more are part of the cost of tuition. If textbooks as well were considered as part of this cost by a majority or substantial minority of schools, textbook prices would plummet. Why? Because schools, trying to minimize their textbook cost, would press professors to choose cheaper texts, and those that are not updated more often than necessary. A market for cheaper textbooks would spring up, and publishers would move to fill that market. In fairly short order, this ridiculous stranglehold publishing companies have over students would be abolished. As of now, there is no market for cheaper textbooks. Sure, you want a cheaper textbook, but you are not the one who chooses the textbook you have to buy; your professor is. And your professor is not the one who has to pay for it, so he will rationalize the cost to himself, and you are, once again, screwed.

So remember: The next time you think government would do a better job than the market at providing some service or good, don’t forget the hidden costs.

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Landscape change

The view at the intersection of College and Washington has changed from a stately old school building to heaps of rubble. Another old building has been demolished to make room for something new in Carbondale ... haven't you heard? - a joint City and University Police "Safety Center" that Mayor Cole has been pushing for about a year.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Later Hours

Looks like a couple of the newer businesses in downtown C'dale are going to be open later than their competition and, suprise, they're not restaurants or bars. Star Nails, located where the Currency Exchange was for many years, and Paradise Tanning, located where Sundance Tanning was for about a year, are both open until 8 p.m. It's nice to see more storefronts in downtown lit up after dark and offering something other than food.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

To blog or not to blog, that is the question.

Hi. I'm a new contributor to Bytelife. I've also just started my own blog at The Ultimate Answer. What follows is a sample topic apropos to Carbondale Bytelife and The Ultimate Answer blogs.

I've been interested in computing technology since I first visited a Control Data Corporation factory in Minneapolis in about 1967. I can't remember if the experience was a field trip for the Explorer Scouts or Junior Achievement . Either way, at the time, computers were basically "big iron" occupying large rooms and whole floors of buildings. I was introduced to the marvels of punched chadless tape storage (There is a lesson somewhere in there regarding Florida voting machines), punch cards, and the power of 0's and 1's. Yes, "we've come a long way, baby!

Most older adults were raised with broadcast technologies such as radio and TV and have yet to fully embrace new digital technologies unless they are iterative forms of radio and TV (e.g. XM Radio, plasma/LCD displays), satellite delivery, etc. Despite there being over sixty million blogs now in existence, if you are reading this blog, then you are probably the exception to the rule.

Most older adults also missed the advent of digital communities that began evolving in earnest with Usenet newsgroups, e-mail distribution lists and bulletin board systems (BBS). I cut my digital in 1989 teeth starting a BBS in Carbondale, IL called The Preservation BBS. It was devoted to information sharing on historic preservation issues and sustainable community development. It had an international scope serving up FidoNet and RIME Network discussion forums and shareware resources.

All global technologies tend to start in urban areas and migrate to rural environs. Southern Illinois is no exception. High speed internet was quite slow in coming to Carbondale and is still unavailable to most homes outside the city limits of large towns in the region.

The earliest blog was probably a stone tablet chronicle passed around the village. After Gutenberg made his first impression, print journals and later electronic diaries filled the need for personal publishing. Those technologies and today's blogs empower the common person with an uncensored voice. The result can be a free community of ideas as exemplified in the Memphis Manifesto.

Like all technologies most blogs have a typical life cycle characteristic of the Internet (short, furious growth, followed by anguished decline). Someday, blogs will be supplanted by something different, though not necessarily better. Wikipedia quotes Gartner research that says "blogging will peak in 2007, levelling off when the number of writers who maintain a personal website reaches 100 million. Gartner analysts expect that the novelty value of the medium will wear off as most people who are interested in the phenomenon have checked it out, and new bloggers will offset the number of writers who abandon their creation out of boredom. The firm estimates that there are more than 200 million former bloggers who have ceased posting to their online diaries, creating an exponential rise in the amount of dotsam and netsam (i.e. unwanted objects) on the Web."

Carbondale (IL) is already developing its own pile of digital dotsam and netsam. There is a lot of evidence to indicate local blogging does not attract bloggers with staying power. That is everyone's loss. A quick survey of the latest posting dates of 17 Carbondale area blogs indicates that only five are less than a week old. The average age of the most recent post is 52 days. Throw out the four most stale blogs and the last update age is still a whopping 26 days.

I believe that a blog will have a greater chance of being successful when it can maintain a certain degree of freshness. Isn't that just common sense? Readers won't revisit a blog if it is not updated between visits. Daily updating is certainly a achievable. Lots of bloggers do it and have something interesting to say, share, or announce every day. Weekly updates should be a minimum expectation. Bloggers could do us all a favor by deleting their dead blogs or contributing to group blogs like Bytelife.

Even getting authors to share a blogspace is difficult. As probably the one blogger in southern Illinois who has tried the most to live and advocate the blogging discipline, Dave More, recently indicated here in Bytelife that group blogging has yet to really succeed.

I could be wrong about the perceived value of blogs that are seldom updated. Greg Linden in Geeking with Greg offers an interesting take on blog staleness. He says "It seems that old news is news after all." Then again, Greg's blog's last post whan this commentary was written was six months old.

Time will tell.

Till then, blog on...


Logo idea?

The image upper left is the hand of local e-commerce consultant, whom I met at the Dunn Richmond Center last year. The photo was placed here temporarily until a team member or reader suggests something more appropriate for Carbondale and/or Bytelife.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Blogger, New Bytelife

The transition to New Blogger format is complete, so everyone should now be able to post here.

As a team blog, the (New) Carbondaley Dispatch experiment failed for several reasons.... 1) Peter G. resumed his original blog, with a new name and renewed dedication; 2) My own posts tended to dominate the Dispatch, 3) Other local bloggers, like Cindy, Shawn, and others continued posting their own local observations on their own blogs. . . . Which is great.

But I still hanker after a blog that brings together different voices, like the Peoria and Champaign blogs, for instance. Illini Pundit is doing something nice with Drupal.

Meanwhile, the Shawnee Net "Drupal" News & Views portal, has a convenient blogging feature that everyone can use.

So, I hope that Tom, just bill, Lucy is Lefty, and other keen observers of the Carbondale scene will chime in here or there. Keeping it local.

Invitations to local bloggers and neophytes to join the Carbondale Bytelife Team Blog.

If you want to participate, but didn't get an "invitation," send an email request to Bytelife.

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