March 2005

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Lately this blog seems to be all about the photography. I can live with that.

Here’s a picture of some closeup damage of a burned-out house I passed near Elgin.

Burnout With Mermaid
Burnout With Mermaid

I was trying for irony, but I don’t think it quite works. I’m not sure why.

Here’s a nice shot of the street in front of my house:

Street With Trees
Street With Trees

This last weekend, my wife and I stopped by the Chicagoland Family Pet Expo. I took pictures. Most of them were pretty bad because I was trying to take them in ambient light with a handheld camera and they came out blurry because of camera motion. I also took a few pictures with the flash. I usually hate my flash pictures, but some of these didn’t look too bad.

First up, a red Persian, doing what persions do best:

Lounging Persian
Lounging Persian

This next animal is not technically a cat:

Alaskan Malamute
Alaskan Malamute

That’s an Alaskan Malamute, one of several breeds suitable as a sled dog. The owners told us that normal Alaskan Malamutes have a smooth coat. This one has a common mutation for the breed that gives it a soft and fluffy coat. I figure that makes it an honary cat.

Some of the owners entertained their cats for my wife. Well, we call it entertaining. The cats might think of it as annoying.

Annoying the Cats
Annoying the Cats

Finally, here’s a cat that was obviously tired of the show:

Ornery Cat
Ornery Cat

I’ve added a new link in the Resources section to Citizen ICAM, the Chicago Police Department’s online map of recent criminal activity. It’s nice to see that my neighborhood is still remarkably free from criminal activity.

When they first put this up, you could also use it as a shopping guide. Are you planning a visit to Chicago and want to find where to go to get street drugs? Just query a few areas until you find where all the narcotics busts are, and that’s where you’ll find the dealers.

It looks like these crimes are no longer being reported on the map. I used to work in one of the highest crime areas in the city, but when I checked on it just now, it had no narcotics busts. I checked a few other areas, same thing. No prostitution either, so you can’t find the hooker strolls.

UPDATE: I checked some data from a few weeks ago, and several narcotics and prostitution arrests do show up. Maybe the vice data is just getting into the system a little slower.

NOTE: Comments are closed because this item is now old and receives a lot of comment spam.

Last week I drove into Indiana to visit a couple of old friends from my days at the IIT Research Institute. I decided it would make a suitable topic for this week’s photoblogging.

The trip started—as all trips beginning in Chicago must—with mind-numbing traffic. I had to drive from my house on the northwest side of Chicago straight through the city to the Illinois-Indiana border. This leg of the trip is only about 25 miles, but it took almost two hours, and looked like this the whole way:

Mind-Numbing Chicago Traffic
Mind-Numbing Chicago Traffic

By the time I got out of the Chicago traffic mess, I needed to stop for gas. I always get a kick out of the name of this place:


The rest of the trip went much faster, even though it was a greater distance. In no time at all, I had reached George’s house in Beverly Shores, Indiana. The South Shore rail line passes through town, so I know right where I am:

Beverly Shores Platform
Beverly Shores Platform

George doesn’t photograph very well. He’s a warm, friendly, and energetic guy, but that that doesn’t show up in my pictures at all. This picture isn’t too bad:


Rich was already there. Rich doesn’t photograph very well either. (Notice how I make my lack of photographic skills seem like it’s their fault.) I was experimenting with the black-and-white mode of the camera, and I got the only good picture of Rich all evening:


We ate dinner at a place called Redamak’s. It’s a local pub/burger joint/family restaurant. (For all I know, Redamak’s is 250-location chain and this is just the only one I’ve seen.) The slogan on their sign is “Legendary Food—Good Times—Come Get Some.” They are distinguished by their fast food service. And by their use of what I’m pretty sure is Cheez Whiz on their cheeseburgers.

That picture of Rich is probably also the best picture of Redamak’s I have. All the rest are blurry or underexposed. Redamek’s is normally a roudy place, but it was so quiet that evening that I was uncomfortable using the big flash on my camera.

Actually, I did get another good picture at Redamak’s:

Beer at Redamak's
Beer at Redamak's

After dinner, we drove down the road to an ice cream stand called Oink’s. I didn’t manage to get any pictures of Oink’s worth posting, but I got a nice long exposure of the mean streets of New Buffalo:

Mean Streets of New Buffalo
Mean Streets of New Buffalo

My wife didn’t come with me, so we decided to do what any three guys out on the town would do. We tried out the time exposure feature of my camera.

Here’s a photo taken in the middle of the night on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, looking west:

Southern Shore of Lake Michigan
Southern Shore of Lake Michigan

The distant lights are probably the harbor facilities of Gary, Indiana. The tall buildings in downtown Chicago are sometimes visible from here, but there was too much fog on the lake this evening.

We also took a group portrait. The flash fired to illuminate the three of us standing there, then the shutter stayed open to expose the background. It’s a neat trick.

Technogeek Night Portrait
Technogeek Night Portrait

The final night picture is of a small lagoon near George’s house. I think the structure in the middle of it is a monument to the attempt by Steponas Darius and Stasys Girenas to beat Lindberg’s non-stop distance record, which ended when their plane, the Lituanica, crashed at Soldin, Germany in 1933.

Lagoon and Monument
Lagoon and Monument

Nearly all the light for these scenes comes from distant incandescent sources, either directly or scattered off the trees, water, and fog. In this photo, I remembered to set the white balance for the low color temperature. Too bad I didn’t think of that for the others, huh?

Anyway, after all this I started the 65-mile ride back home. Well, not quite. I had lost the diffuser for my flash unit, and I was pretty sure it happened in the outdoor patio at Oink’s. I drove back to Oink’s—15 miles in the wrong direction—and sure enough, there it was. The place had closed right as we were leaving, so nobody had stepped on it or anything.

Now I started the drive home. It was 80 miles of fast, relaxing driving. Except, well, if there’s congestion, you must be in Chicago:

Skyway Toll Platform
Skyway Toll Platform

Other than that, it was a peaceful trip back.

Network Security Specialist
Larger ImageNetwork Security Specialist

This is Buffy. I put up a picture of her first because she always hides when people come over. Many of our friends probably think she’s a figment of our imagination.

I think I’ve had enough template tweaking for a while, so how about some content? My wife gave me a digital camera for Christmas, so I’ve decided to try to learn photography. I’m just taking pictures of things, trying to teach myself how the camera works, and something about composition. Now that I’ve upgraded my server, I can do some photoblogging. It’s fun, and it’s less work than writing stuff. Onward…

First, a sample of the weather in the windy city:

A Stormy Day in the Windy City
A Stormy Day in the Windy City

Now here’s a picture inside the Commons building at the IIT campus:

IIT Commons
IIT Commons

They say that a good picture tells a story. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I think I’m starting to understand just a little. This next picture doesn’t actually tell a story, but it does seem to at least convey the idea of a student studying:


Well…I’m back.

By now, the new nameserver entries should have propagated out to everyone who reads this. (I think there are a few of you.)

Windypundit used to be served by a low-budget Windows-based business hosting service called LFC Hosting. For a pretty low monthly fee, they hosted both my business site and this blog. They have a great many features turned on for this price, including MYSQL and Microsoft SQL databases. If you know how to build web sites, have a small budget, and don’t need to support high-volume web traffic (i.e. the web site does not constitute your primary business activity) then LFC is a good place to start.

The downside is that their servers are a bit slow, probably because they squeeze a lot of sites on them to save money. Readers of Windypundit might not have noticed it, because once the page pops up they just scroll down the page. I, on the other hand, am always clicking around the MovableType user interface, usually updating and rebuilding either postings or site templates. The 2-5 second pauses each and every time were getting quite painful.

Now, for only a few dollars per month, I’m hosted with these guys:

Hosted by

They’re a MovableType Hosting Partner. The servers are linux-based, and I guess that means they run Perl a lot faster. MovableType, let me tell you, screams on the 2MHost server.

I’m enjoying this.

Well, he’s guilty of some stuff. But it looks like someone other than white supremacist Matt Hale was responsible for the February 28 killing of the husband and mother of United States District Judge Joan Humphry Lefkow.

I’m guessing that this murder of a judge’s family hits a guy like Mike at Crime & Federalism pretty hard. He knows a lot of judges and is, of course, an officer of the court himself. His own trial work has probably angered enough people that he’s been threatened a few times himself. I’m sure the Lefkow family killings left him very angry and—Hale being the obvious suspect—Mike wanted Hale’s blood.

Now, however, Mike is apologizing for us all:

Everyone just knew that Matt Hale was responsible for the murder of Judge Lefkow’s family. We all just knew it. […] We would have convicted him, and justice would have been served.

In cases like these I lose faith in the criminal justice system, and in all of us. How can we so arrogantly be sure of what happened in a home thousands of miles away from us? But we were sure, and we would have extracted our pound of flesh.

Speak for yourself, Mike. Ever since I heard about this I’ve been pretty sure Hale wasn’t involved in the Lefkow family killings. My thinking went like this:

  1. One of the things that made Matt Hale the central suspect in this is that back in 2002 he tried to have Judge Lefkow killed. However, that case isn’t quite out of the court system. Next month, U.S. District Judge James Moody will be sentencing Hale for soliciting the murder. The attack on Lefkow’s family (unsolved at the time) probably destroyed any remaining chance that Hale would get a light sentence. Judge Moody isn’t supposed to take notice of the killings because nothing about them has been proven in court, but do you really think he can pull that off? More to the point, would a white supremacist like Matt Hale think he would even try?
  2. One response to the above argument is that perhaps Hale was hoping the Lefkow killings would intimidate Judge Moody into a lighter sentence. But if Hale was trying to intimidate Moody with violence, why didn’t he intimidate Moody with violence? Surely he would have wanted to make the threat a little more personal?
  3. Matt Hale, aka prisoner 15177424, is locked in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago. It’s pretty hard to order a killing from prison. It’s possible that gangsters—of either the Tony Soprano or Avon Barksdale varieties—can order a hit from inside a prison cell because their gang provides the organization, planning, and resources. Most other types of prisoners, Hale included, would have a lot of trouble arranging a hit from behind bars.
  4. Ordering a hit on a federal judge would be even harder. It brings an awful lot of heat, so it’s hard to find someone willing to do it.
  5. Don’t forget that Matt Hale wasn’t even able to order a hit on Judge Lefkow from outside of prison. That’s how he got sent there in the first place: He tried to hire a guy to kill Judge Lefkow, and it turned out the guy was a federal informant. Hale wouldn’t have had to do that if he knew anyone who would kill a judge for him.

I was thinking along these lines when the Lefkow family killing story first broke, and the resulting developments have proven me right. Of course, I can’t prove I predicted this because I didn’t mention it to anyone. Now I sound like some TV psychic who claims to have predicted the latest piece of big news even though nobody can find any mention of it before it happened. If I’d thought to blog about it, I would now be hailed as a genius. Blogging about it after the fact however…not so much.

So now I’ve resolved to start blogging these kinds of things. That’s why I’m starting a new feature here at WindyPundit: The Prognostication Department. Next time I think I know what’s going on in a situation like this, I’ll go on the record about it. That way if subsequent events prove me right or wrong, there’s nothing I can do to fake it.

Some of the folks in New Zealand aren’t happy with how Britain is complying (or not) with the Treaty of Waitangi which guarantees…well, I have no idea. What got my attention is one woman’s rather unusual method of protesting Prince Charles’ visit this week. As the MSNBC story headlines it, “Prince Charles faces bare-breasted protest.” Ths link is worth checking out if only for the article’s remarkable subtitle. In case MSNBC changes it, I’ll repeat it here:

Topless woman, others oppose sovereignty over New Zealand

The Onion couldn’t have said it better.

The Amazingly prolific and talented James Lileks is now doing some audio productions of something he calls the Diner. Think of it as the musical version of his other cultural commentary.

His 3/4/2005 Diner is pretty good, but I have three gripes.

First, it’s a little insulting that he thinks his readers wouldn’t recognize the Terminator music. ‘Nuff said.

Second, the whole shooting business disturbs me. Oh, not because Lileks shot that guy. You walk into the Diner and pull something like that, and you ought to know there will be consequences. But that gunshot sound effect…just listen to it:

Diner Gunshot

Where did he get that? It’s all wrong for the diner. Did he grab it out of some western movie? I can just hear the echo reverbating off the surrounding hills. Loaded into a sound editor, I can see the echo reverberating off the hills. (I’m just that kind of bear.)

If you want to sample gunshots, try a rap album. Here’s one from Eminem’s latest:

Eminem Gunshot

See what I mean? Less echo. Of course there’s still too much, because he’s shooting in a concert hall. Besides, Lileks doesn’t strike me as a fan of rap music. I think this is more his style, from the Greatest Noir Video Game Ever. I give you Max Payne’s Beretta:


That’s too flat, but it’s a lot easier to add echo than take it away.

Damn. I just replayed the Diner, and he said at the end he had a shotgun. Now I’m sounding like some crazed stalker who spent hours downloading sounds off the web for some hotshot writer he’s never met. I can stop anytime I want. Here’s Max’s shotgun:


Much better. Oh, what the hell, because it’s cool, here’s his Desert Eagle:

Desert Eagle

This brings me to my third gripe. How can Lileks mention the Diner and fire extinguishers and not include a reference to…well…here’s a hint, courtesy of an

Aqualads cover of a Burt Bacharach tune

Give up?

You know, I wrote all this in an email to Lileks, but then I realized it had grown into enough material for a blog post. So I did both.

After the Sprint post below, I decided to add content rating information to this site. I’m now rated by ICRA.

I selected some pretty heavy content ratings. Although most of this site is rated PG, I’m clearly capable of going off the deep end now and then. Also, if violent or sexual topics come up, I want to be able to discuss them seriously and, if necessary, explicitly without having to censor myself. Important topics are best served by frank and unflinching discussion. Plus you never know when I’ll link to naked pictures of Charisma Carpenter.

I don’t know who Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow is. I don’t know if she’s a good judge or one of the bad ones. But just a few days after discovering the murder of her husband and mother, she’s announced she’s going to return to the bench. “Nobody is going to intimidate me off my duty,” she’s quoted as saying in an AP piece.

Amazing. Give ’em hell, judge.

No SprintI’ve fucking had it up to my fucking ears with those fucking fuckers at Sprint! Fuckers through and through! Fucker-coated fuckers with fucker centers! Fuck! I fucking hate those fuckers!

Ahem…Sorry about that. There’s something about cellular rate plans that just pushes me over the edge…

I’m about 15 months into my 2-year contract with Sprint when my wife’s phone starts to crap out. Sprint will get me a free phone if I sign up for a new 2-year contract. If I don’t sign up, a new phone will cost my about $150. Or, I can quit Sprint and switch to a 1-year contract at Verizon and also get a new phone. Then Sprint will charge me $150 for a new phone. Either way I have to pay $150 dollars to get my wife a new phone without renewing with Sprint, but the second way gets me out of the contract 9 months sooner.

So, done. Got the bill today. $150 as expected. But, oops, I forgot something. My phone and my parents’ phone are still on the plan, but now that my wife is off it, I don’t need 1400 minutes per month anymore. I’ll lower it to just the 500 minute plan.

So I call Sprint, and the nice person on the phone tells me that he’ll be happy to provide “excellent customer service” (so they say) by doing that, but I’ll have to restart the 2-year plan again. I tell him thank you and hang up. For some reason, I had been under the impression that I could change the number of minutes. Apparently, not only do they charge you for taking a phone out of the plan, but they want to exact a penalty for lowering your plan to compensate for the person no longer in the plan.

I do the math: Finishing out the current plan will cost $40/month more than switching to a new plan. Over 9 months that’s $360. Leaving Sprint right now will only cost $300 in cancellation charges. Looks like Sprint is going to pay me $60 to drop them.

Well, no. I’m going to have to pay Sprint $450 to get out of this stupid, stupid plan. I’ve just figured out a way to avoid paying them $510.