Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Visit to Savannah

a long branch
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
Karen and I are in Savannah, Georgia, for a long weekend. We're here partly in celebration of her birthday and partly just as a get-away. We both have election day off, and we both took Monday as well.

We're very much in low-key, chill mode. This is a great place for that. Savannah is, quiet simply, a lovely city. It is historic and southern and quiet yet hip and hopping with a strong college-town feel. The buildings are fascinating and the city layout is graceful, comfortable and a delight to walk about.

We've eaten at the Paula Deen restaurant (The Lady and Sons). That was somewhat by accident; we were looking for lunch after arriving about noon from the airport and that's the first place we came to. We've also eaten at a wonderful place called The Olde Pink House.

At one place, we looked over to the next table and saw a polo shirt with "Sussex County" written on it. I recognized Russ Archut, a retiree from the Sussex government in Delaware. We chatted over old times. The next morning, we found our carriage diver/tour guide had lived for a short time near Lewes, as a child. And our Olde Pink House waiter turned out to be a recent transplant from Annapolis whose vacation spot as a child was always Bethany Beach.

It's that sort of a place. like southern Delaware, in fact; a great place to visit that many people decide to stay in.

We've another day of wandering around with a camera ahead. We'll be back in time to vote on Tuesday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yes, Delaware, There Is A Tea Party Twitter Bot Network

Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing, who had developed tools to root-out Twitter-based political astroturfing campaigns, have uncovered a determined, bot-based smear campaign against Delaware Senate-candidate Chris Coons.

Delaware twitter users had started to suspect something fishy as the #netde hashtag, originally declared to help build an on-line community for the state, became polluted by out-of-state political tweets. It was bad during the republican primary -- bad enough that I tried a bit of back of the envelop analysis myself -- but has become really awful in the general election.

There are repeated tweets of a collection of allegations against Mr. Coons, continuing long after those allegations have been independently refuted. They are tweets with the same wording, or virtually the same wording, re-surfacing every day or so. They are always auto-retweeted from twitter accounts mostly outside of the state. When challenged, a few of those accounts respond as real people; most stay silent.

The Indiana University work -- and the "Truthy" web site the researchers have built -- came up in discussion about this phenomenon. Twitter user ôl ə twit′ər did some initial detective work to point the researchers in the right direction.
Following a tip from a user who flagged a handful of suspicious tweets smearing Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Delaware, the researchers uncovered a network of about 10 bot accounts. These bots have names like @krossnews, @BethlehemTweets, and @kingdomcast. They inject thousands of memes, all of which link to posts from the website.
Interestingly, it was this freedomist web site that Christine O'Donnell quoted as her source for some of the "facts" she tried to establish in the celebrated "CNN debate" earlier this month.

This is what they call "astroturfing." It is a sign of a morally bankrupt campaign. It is a sign of a campaign that has no real ideas. It is a sign of desperation.

This is the Christine O'Donnell campaign.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And So, We Enter... The Loop

recursive 3

This IS Getting Recursive!


This Could Get Recursive


"Politics -- Delaware" is Stealing my Content

A blog calling itself "Politics -- Delaware" is scraping other Delaware blogs and stealing their content, including mine.

The "about" page says the intent is to gather all of Delaware's political blog content into one place. But no permission was ever requested and I have granted none. There is no information about the owner of this blog and I have found no way to comment to that owner. And there are "sponsored links" on this blog.

So whoever owns this thing is using my work without my permission, in violation of my posted copyright, and they are making money from it.

I call that stealing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The World Has Lost Two Great Teachers

I learned of the passing of two great teachers this month. Each will be remembered for the profound and lasting effect they had on their students.

Lyn Hendry, who was a childhood neighbor and taught at my High School in Bethesda, Maryland, passed away on October 13 at the age of 89. She was living in retirement in Chestertown, Maryland.

As far as I can recall, I never had a class with Mrs. Hendry. I graduated 30 years ago, after all, but I think I would have remembered. But she was a neighbor and I can say that her teaching influenced me, if only at a remove. Several of my siblings took her classes and brought her influence home. I'm sure she is one of the reasons our dinner-time table-talk was in many ways like a seminar itself.

And earlier this week, we lost Charlie Bassett, retired American Studies professor at Colby College and one of the touchstones in my own intellectual development.

I took his survey of American literature class. It was one of those large, lecture hall classes that can become simply a catalog of facts and figures. But his teaching style was so vivid and involved that I remember some of his lectures to this day.

Ironically, I had heard earlier this fall that Professor Bassett was battling an illness at a nursing home near Villanova, where my eldest has just started her college career. Her school search, selection process, and move to Villanova had had me thinking back to my time at Colby and to teachers like Charlie Bassett, and what he helped me learn.

I think we forget sometimes how important teachers can be in helping shape us into the citizens we become. I'm glad to have known these two as neighbors and teachers.

I'm sad to learn that they are gone, but grateful for the work they did -- work that we'll remember and hopefully pass on to the next group to come along.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Windy Day in Lewes

Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I took a walk into Lewes on Saturday morning to drop a book at the library, deal with some banking, and shop for Karen's coming birthday.

It was such a pretty day, I wandered through Canalfront Park, where the wind whipped the flags into a staccatto flapping sound, backed by a clanking counterpoint of blocks knocking against the metal masts of sailboats in the harbor.

Behind it all was a complex chord created by the wind through the rigging on the Lightship Overfalls.

A Few Delaware Musicians to Watch

Setting up for a rehoboth jazz fest concertKaren and I went out last night to watch a concert by Doug James and Keith Mack, two local musicians who do, I think, great work. Particularly when they play together.

The show, at Epworth United Methodist Church, in Rehoboth, was part of the Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival; but was also much more. It was a release party for a new EP by the duo. They have released three songs they are working on for a larger album and, based on what we heard last night, it promises to be pretty good.

Doug James has had a long career as a songwriter. He's penned hits for a number of people, including Michael Bolton, for whom he wrote "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You." But he's also a fine performer with strong piano chops and a great voice. We've heard him many times around our area, playing restaurant and bar gigs and sitting in for jazzy church services.

Keith Mack is a Rehoboth native who went away to NYC and recorded and toured as a rock musician. He's returned and plays around the area as well.

Together, I think these two have a great sound.

I will be honest: as much as I admire Doug James' craft as a songwriter, he writes the sort of music I don't really care for. I never could listen to Michael Bolton, though I know strong songwriting when I hear it. But the work he's doing now with Keith Mack takes traditional song forms and stretches it, adding a depth and adventurous spirit, without losing a core commercial appeal, that sounds interesting.

The crowd at last night's show was interesting as well. IT was a who's who of the Lewes/Rehoboth arts and music scene. Many people know these two musicians and many, clearly, count them as friends.

It was, in a word, cool.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Deadhead Interlude

Just like Jack the Ripper
Just like Mojo Hand
Just like Billy Sunday
In a shotgun ragtime band
Just like New York City,
Just like Jericho
Pace the halls and climb the walls
Get out when they blow

Did you say your name was
Ramblin' Rose?
Ramble on, baby
Settle down easy
Ramble on, Rose

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Word Clouds From the Coons/O'Donnell Debate

Wordle: coons-o'donnell debate (All)I found a transcript of Wednesday night's debate between Chris Coons and Christine O'Donnell at the University of Delaware and decided (of course) to make a series of word clouds.

I made a word cloud of the whole thing (at right), and one of each participant's comments alone. That is, one of Wolf Blitzer, one of Nancy Karibjanian, one of Christine O'Donnell and one of Chris Coons' comments.

For the two candidates, I left in their names, which appear at the start of each section of their comments in the transcript. I did so for artistic purposes.

Wordle: coons-o'donnell debate (coons)If you haven't figured it out by now, I am voting for Chris Coons. I was leaning that way anyway; we've seen enough of Christine O'Donnell over the last two election cycles to know that she is not qualified.

The debate did nothing at all to change my mind.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

RIP: Tim Westbrook

I learned last week that a colleague, who I knew to be battling cancer, has lost his fight and passed away. Tim Westbrook was in a leadership post in New Castle County, Delaware, government and took part in our state GIS Coordination group for many years. I knew him as a wise and experienced friend who offered generous and useful advice. He will be missed.

His obituary answers a question I had wondered about -- his on-line username. Tim was active on wikipedia; he made a mission of writing and managing entries about Delaware's political leaders:
I would also like to add articles on other notable Delaware political figures such as certain members of the Delaware Judiciary, Delaware General Assembly, some Mayors of Wilmington, some members of certain politically active families, and some defeated major party candidates. This project also includes several lists of these people and articles describing their positions. While much is done, there is no end in sight.
He wrote on wikipedia as "Stilltim," which I had assumed might be a combative reaction to having cancer. I was wrong. I learn this evening that his given name was "Stillman" and his handle was simply his given name and nickname combined.

It seems oddly appropriate. I remember Tim as a simple and very straightforward man. I'm glad to have known him and sad that he is gone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Broke 100? Sorta

Waiting...Andy and I played golf at Salt Pond, outside of Bethany Beach, this afternoon. I carded a 92, which I'm tempted to brag about. But maybe I shouldn't.

I am not a very good golfer, though I love the game. It has been my ambition lately to break 100. I've made some small strides this year and I think my goal is in reach.

Today I scored a 92, but Salt Pond is an "executive" course. It is short and has a par of 61, where a long course would be a 72. So I don't think I'll count this as having broken 100.

But I had a pretty good round in spots. At one point I made par on consecutive holes. And many times, I made bogey, which is usually my goal.

So. The hunt for 100 continues.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

This May Be the Most Accurate News Story Ever

I found this via twitter on the NPR web site. I don't expect it to survive there long, so I did a screen-grab and posted it to flickr.

I can't help myself. I love things like this.

I did not see this coming: Insane Clown Posse have been secretly evangelical Christians all along

If you don't know who or what the Insane Clown Posse might be, good for you. But they have been, for 20 years, a violet, apparently misogynist rap group that worrked the outre side of the music business and inspired legions of young fans to self-identify as "Juggalos" and act as a loosely organized, fairly violent street gang.

Apparently, it has all been an act, designed to draw young people closer to God, based on what I read in The Guardian this morning (Insane Clown Posse: And God created controversy).
Violent J explained himself unapologetically to a New Jersey newspaper: 'You have to speak their language. You have to interest them, gain their trust, talk to them and show you're one of them. You're a person from the street and you speak of your experiences. Then at the end you can tell them: God has helped me.'

Of course, one might argue that 20 years was, under the circumstances, an incredibly long time for them to have pretended to be unholy, and that, from a Christian perspective, the harm they did while feigning unholiness may even have outweighed the greater good.
I think they may have gone too far.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In Which Pat and Mike Play Golf With Jay and Silent Bob

sussex pines golf clubI got a chance to play golf at the Sussex Pines Country Club today. It was a fund-raiser for the Possum Point Players, a community theater group in Georgetown, Delaware.

Karen and I used to take part in Possum Point shows on a regular basis. We dialed back a bit when the kids came, but I have been back a bit since.

My friend Pat came down from New Castle County to join in and we were paired with two gents named Jay and Bob.

We played a scramble format, in which we each hit our ball but used whichever shot out of the four that we judged to be the best. Often, that was Bob's drive; he was playing very well. Pat was also playing well. And though he started slowly, Jay proved to be a long-driver as well. I was the weakest, of course, but among us we managed to play fairly well.

We finished at 3-under par - a 69 -- and finished fourth in the tournament. I believe there were 18 teams. The winners, by the way, scored a 61!

Two wet feetThe weather was a challenge. Rain was forecast for the afternoon, but it started in the late morning and by the time we finished it was a steady, cold rain. At one point, we took refuge in a gazebo to wait out a particularly heavy squall. I found myself considering just how wet my feet were getting.

But we persevered and finished our 18 holes. And my play wasn't all terrible, I made a wise choice and used one of my mulligans to sink a long putt for a birdie that may have made the difference between fourth place and fifth.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Craig Ferguson on Christine O'Donnell

Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show Wednesday night started with an audience member who had moved to California from Delaware (Are you a witch?") in the cold open. And he spent most of his monologue talking about our laughable republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. Bless her heart.