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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Weighs In

Another round of South Florida coverage of the Mark Foley scandal has begun. The fact has not been missed that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has issued a press release which is posted on her Congressional site:

This goes beyond Rep. Foley, it goes to the values of the Congressional leadership and the fact that when children felt that sexual advances were being made against them by people in positions of authority, the Congressional leadership of this Congress did nothing.

The Congresswoman's point will prove to be at the crux of this matter, as the Foley scandal plays out.

How many stories have we heard about children being embarrassed or afraid to complain about the advances of an adult authority figure? So many that there has been a concerted effort for years, by responsible Americans of every persuasion, to provide safe means for children to make such complaints and to encourage them to do just that. The House Page Board was supposed to be just such a place, and, instead, proved to have been absorbed into the extreme partisanship of the present House. The Republican Chair of the Board, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., did what was necessary to keep the matter private, and, in the process, may have left the House pages without protection in the face of a sexual predator.

Related Stories:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Magical Time

After heavy rainfalls the field here used to flood and become a two acre marshland. For days, or even weeks, flocks of egrets, ibises, cranes and Killdeers (Charadrius vociferus, named for their distinctive call) trolled the waters. Depending upon the time of year, the edges of the marsh (until recently, on the north edge, there was a 5+ acre woodland bounded by thick low brush) might be purled with yellow bellied sapsuckers and various types of migrating sparrow, nuthatch, and warbler. Each morning, from near its nest, in a high elm at the northwest corner of the property, the resident Cardinal would regale all who would take the time to listen.

At dusk the wood thrust sang its plaintive song from deep within the woods across the street. I used to play cassette tapes I had of various birdsongs and the wood thrush would always answer when it heard its song played.

Of course, the Blue Jay and the Starling were constant residents, marsh or no. Near the powerlines that paralleled the woodland on the northeast a Grey Jay occasionally stopped in for a visit.

It was a magical time.

To check out my book, Henry David
Thoreau and Two Other Autistic
, click here!
After Hurricane Irene, which flooded the crumbling little cottage that I was kindly being put up in at the time, the county installed flood drains along the road. That was the end of the marsh and its visitors. Not long after, the woodland was divided into housing lots. Only a thin strip remains now, consisting almost entirely of Australian Pines, and newly enacted state laws require it be cleared within the year. The migrating birds, then, stopped coming as well, a little at a time, the last of them appearingg about three years ago. Only the starlings and ring doves and the occasional jay remain.

The reader may imagine my surprise, then, when a Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) began frequenting the field last month. The only permanent nesting place, in this area, for the Great Egret is located in a patch of marsh nestled between sections of nearby Lake Osborne. The lake has also been considerably "redesigned" over the past several years and I can only suspect that the avian residents are forced to look ever farther afield to maintain themselves. The grass is not cut religiously, here, and the field is probably uniquely attractive for the fact.

Our guest has since stopped once or twice a week to slowly walk the field in search, it turns out, of grass snakes. The first I saw it dine I was impressed. It shook the snake into submission and then worked it down its throat. There was some sense of indigestion as the snake visibly struggled against its fate.

The second time I saw it dine the matter was not resolved quite so easily. In an ungaurded moment, the snake managed to get its tail around the crook in the egret's throat. The egret, then, had the snake's head in its beak and the snake had the egret by the neck. All snakes are powerful constrictors for their size and the egret found itself in a terrible fix. It tried again and again, hopping to prodigious heights with the effort, to pull the snake off of its throat, desperately resting between attempts. The snake only kept the egret's beak trapped against its neck probably quite aware that its own life depended upon the success of the venture. I wondered who would win.

After some 15 minutes of combat, my binoculars fixed on them checking every nuance, neither had made the least progress. I had things to do and could no longer put them off. When I returned from putting the binoculars away I noticed the egret working the snake down its muscular throat.

* * *

The difficulties of its recent dining experience did not prevent our guest from coming back. In fact, on the next occasion it brought a friend.

While I stood watching them a flurry of wings came around the corner and settled near my feet. A ring dove had landed and was trying desperately to burrow into a small stand of palmetto beside me. Just beyond it was a Swainson's Hawk (see previous post about Swainson's Hawk) also now on the ground. It was shocked to find itself only a few feet from a human being, and, there being no available updraft, it immediately lifted back off by main force, with a heavy urgency, in the opposite direction, its wingbeats slow and labored. I could hear the powerful woosh of air and snap of its wings for each beat.

That unusual experience was probably also the result of shrinking habitat. The Swainson's Hawk only rarely takes prey the size of a full-grown ring dove. It limits itself to prey that is small enough to fly away with in a pinch. Nor does it follow it to the ground around unknown corners. With more and more of the wild life in the area dying off or going elsewhere, and less and less unmolested land, the hawk may be more often forced to take whatever is available and on whatever terms. Squab, I suspect, is more often on the menu and the chances that go with it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cyber Punks, Street Punks and Ring Doves

I decided to go to the corner store, at about 10:30 Friday night, to pick up a couple of items. It's right around the corner, no big thing; I'd hop on the bike and be there and back in no time. As I crossed the field between my rooms and the street I noticed four young guys emerge from the cross street. They had to be thirteen or fourteen years old and seemed to have done their best to dress in similar black and orange clothing.

While I had to wonder, there seemed little reason for concern. As the boys walked the sidewalk in front of the property, the largest of the four saw me and lowered his head and walked toward me. The next largest boy followed at his shoulder. The two others hovered timidly behind. I continued to walk toward the sidewalk. The two continued to walk toward me clearly looking more menacing as they did so. As they nearly reached me, seeing that I was looking directly at them without blanching, they suddenly veered off and walked into the shadows beside a row of trees, just off the road, from where they stood taunting me with calls of "f--king white boy". I turned toward the store and rode on in silence.

They were Latinos. For all the years I've been part of the largely Latino community, here, I've probably sat down more than once for barbaqua with their parents or other relatives. Good solid peasant stock, likely enough. Salt of the earth.

* * *

It has been only a couple of weeks now since two guys in their mid-twenties -- one white, one Latino -- approached as I stood outside smoking a cigarette at about 3:00 AM. They nonchalantly turned off the side road and began to cross the field toward me. As they approached, the Latino guy pulled a razor-knife partially out of his pocket, opened it, and slid it back into his pocket again his hand casually over the top of it. With that I stepped back inside the door. They just as nonchalantly kept walking past. When I stepped out again behind them the white guy called over his shoulder: "Just passing through!"

* * *

Between these two joyous incidents, I spent several hours acting as go-between/counselor for a late-twenties couple with anger management problems, infidelity issues, and heroin/methadone (and prescription drug) issues. The intervention seemed to go gratifyingly well but it's not exactly the average idea of recreation or of getting some writing done. A few days later, another patron of the outreach programs for which I volunteer spent hours pounding with the butt of her fist on all of the doors and windows demanding mail-upon-demand, refusing to wait for Friday mail-call. When the sheriffs arrived she got her mail, notice of her being removed from the mail program forthwith, and notice that she would be would be arrested should she return. Again, no writing.

* * *

Last but not least, a couple of individual Wikipedia "Users" took umbrage over my posting material to the site's new Claudia Emerson page. (A Claudia Emerson poem, provided to VGS per agreement with the American Life in Poetry series, and the Palm Beaches Review's own Claudia Emerson Page.) "Hot" pages bring out the worst in Wikiterritorialism. One of the Users has made himself personal dictator over a number of pages and has removed my (targetted, high content) links before. Having been absorbed into Wikiculture, he blithely blew off all of the supposed Wikiethics of public editing and left an order not to post links at Wikipedia any more in the future. It's absolutely light-years beyond any authority provided to any User (or Administrator, for that matter) and I mentioned that he lived sufficiently nearby that legal papers could be served. He and some half-dozen other Wikipedians immediately and publically began "tracking" me, wolf-pack fashion, via Wikipedia's record of my IP adresses, looking for avenues of personal attack.

I've told the outlines of the story at the article Is Wikipedia Handing Out Your Browsing Information to Thousands? You can find it, and much more on the subject, at VGS's new Wiki Watchdog blog. I'd been planning to start a new blog on computer security issues and this incident fleshed out my plans quite well.

* * *

With all of this for atmosphere, I have sat watching a ring dove (almost certainly a variation of Zenaidura macroura we have here which displays the neck ring) build its nest nearby. It has chosen a drooping branch that must be approached through a kind of passageway of intertwined pine needles and spends its days swooping down to the ground for a beak full of nest-weaving materials. Then back up to the passageway for a short walk to the accumulating nest.

One day there was a loud report from the property next door. The dove was at the door of its bower and was shaken enough out of its thoughts of nest building to stop and take a long look around. While the shock of the sound would have passed soon enough, he (she?) spied another ring dove on the horizontal arm of a lamp post some twenty yeards away. He flew to the top of the lamp post, above the interloper, and began repeatedly to stamp his feet. Once didn't do it and fully three sessions of furious foot stamping and feinting in the direction of the unwelcome guest were required before it flew off to a more acceptable distance. After taking a moment to calm down it returned to its nest building.
Related Stories:

Monday, April 24, 2006

VGS Welcomes the PBS News Hour!

It would appear that the PBS News Hour is doing some research for a Claudia Emerson segment and stopped by the Claudia Emerson Page for an extended look-see:

Location: Virginia, Alexandria, United States
Hostname: ([IP]***.*.**.*)
Entry Page:
Exit Page:
Referring URL:

I have long been a fan of the PBS News Hour. It is the finest non-magazine format news program on television and has been for decades. (The finest magazine format, bar none, is Frontline.) I am delighted to think that the Claudia Emerson Page and Wiki Watchdog's article Is Wikipedia Handing Out Your Browsing Information to Thousands? may have been a small help to their effort.

The above traffic information is provided by courtesy of which has provided the VGS blog family with nearly perfect service for well over a year now. Thanks StatCounter!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wikipedia: a Privacy Disaster Area?

Well, several of the crew over at Wikipedia have made a fine public display of how they are by all appearances in the habit of using visitor IP addresses to search for personal vulnerabilities in persons of whom they do not approve. No sense at all that their fellow Registered Users would rein them in for breaking any Wikipedia rules or that anything out of the ordinary was being done. It's a privacy hole wide enough to sail the QEII through.

I'd been planning to start another computer security blog for logistical reasons. The time seemed right and the result is Virtual Grub Street's Wiki Watchdog blog. Here are a couple of teasers from the first article:

Any user is provided access to the browser information of anyone who checks onto any editing platform throughout all public Wikipedia pages! That is, anyone who becomes a registered user can view the browser information by virtue of the mere fact of having registered. Adminstrator status is not required. Thus the following "Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents" chat thread in which I am freely and publically defamed, my personal information is posted and a plan is discussed about attacking me via that information:...


I strongly advise that no one donate to Wikipedia so long as such behavior is being indulged in. At a minimum, the
following changes are clearly necessary:...
[Go to the full article >>> Is Wikipedia Handing Out Your Browsing Information to Thousands?]

I've received no apology. The offending public revelations of my personal information has not been replaced with asterisks. Only time will tell if the changes are made.

As for the question: "Why are you listing the info if the breach of your privacy offends you so?" I intend that my reply to their defamatory comments and open plans to attack me will show up on the search engines ahead of theirs for all major related search terms.

Related Stories:
Man-Boy Love Advocate Accused of Using Wikipedia to Troll for Interested Parties (March 4, 2007). Rookie Revolyob, Clayboy, Zanthalon, et al: Why is Wikpedia a Pedophile Haven?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

VGS's Radio Dial and New Philosophy.

The last year has been quite the experience. I have finally given up on the thought that the Internet is anywhere near the "democratic" place it is made out to be. It is unlikely that I will be posting as much in the future.

Still, the VGS blog family briefly had quite a success before its various silent partners reduced or completely withdrew their support. There was every reason to understand that a million hits per year was within reach in the near term. But the Net is entirely private property and the various free or advertising-based services are bound to have unspoken limitations corresponding to the proprietors' various agendas. Most bloggers will never bump up against the walls of their cage and all will go along believing the sky's the limit. All is as it is designed to be.

There are some things that can be accomplished at a few hundred hits per day (search-engines permitting), however, and I intend to forge ahead in a smaller way. The old Virtual Grub Street Computer Archive pages, the originals of which have been lost with the demise of the MyBlogSite blogging system, you may have noticed, have been spread amoung the various remaining members of the VGS blog family. The new numbers of Ted Kooser's "American Life in Poetry" column are now being posting at VGS's Palm Beaches Review journal/blog.

I will be building a number of new theme-pages (computer oriented and otherwise). The first is the Virtual Grub Street Radio Dial already in-progress in VGS's Indexes and Specialty Pages blog. I am an avid short-wave listener when I can find the time and have hunted down scores of of net-casts by short-wave stations large and small over the years. The Radio Dial will also include standard-band stations. Seven stations are presently listed and many programs and individual broadcasts. Both the number of stations and amount of related information will be greatly expanded in the coming weeks.