Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 November, 2008

Return to the Mountains of Madness

I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why.

Scientists are making an expedition to the Antarctic to try and discover how a mountain range formed there and why it's still around. Hopefully they will not run into any Elder Things.

Also of note in the Lovecraftian universe is a production of "The Dreams in the Witch House" by Chicago's Wild Claw Theatre.

It's playing at the Athenaeum Theatre through 21 December. Nothing like some Lovecraft brought to life on the stage. There will be blood spewing and, no doubt, creepy monologues from within the bowels of the Arkham Asylum.
|| Palmer, 10:09 AM || link || (0) comments |

26 November, 2008

Putting On My Layer of Winter Blubber

You know that when a recipe calls for the cook to brown bacon in butter, it has to be good. And so it was earlier this week when I indulged my Teutonic whim and made Bohnen, Birnen und Speck, auf Hamburger Art which translates as Beans, Pears and Bacon, Hamburg Style.

The recipe called for a pound of bacon to go along with an equal amount of beans. I used Nueske's bacon. Unfortunately, I kind of did things on the fly and was unable to find a slab of bacon on short notice so I used the thick-sliced stuff and chopped it coarsely. This is, of course, a lot of tender porcine flesh, but, to make cardiac matters worse, the recipe directs one to retain all of the fat in the dish. This ensured a rich smoky flavor which one's arteries may not appreciate quite as much as the palate. Next time I'm going to put another pear in the pot. While it was delicious, I thought it could have used a bit more of the sweetness of the fruit to balance out the smokiness of the meat.
|| Palmer, 6:27 PM || link || (0) comments |


Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With savoy cabbage trees and red cabbage skies

Carl Warner is the Ansel Adams of food photography.
|| Palmer, 11:26 AM || link || (0) comments |

24 November, 2008

New Doctor Who Preview

Doctor Who once again featured in the UK charity extravaganza Children in Need. It was a preview of this year's Christmas Special, "The Next Doctor".

Watching it, I couldn't help but think of the fantastic DW audio drama, "The One Doctor".

In this story, The Doctor and Mel arrive on Generios only to find the planet celebrating an impostor Time Lord and his companion, Sally-Anne. The above preview brought to mind a couple impostors running around pretending to be The Doctor and Martha.

Only a month to go.
|| Palmer, 10:47 AM || link || (0) comments |

20 November, 2008

Wallace and Gromit Hunt for Cereal Killer

The latest Wallace and Gromit adventure, A Matter of Loaf and Death, is set to be shown at Christmas on the BBC.

A Matter of Loaf and Death sees Wallace - voiced as ever by veteran Last of the Summer Wine actor Peter Sallis - and his dog Gromit at the helm of an automated bakery, named Top Bun.

Their business is disrupted when Wallace falls in love with Piella Bakewell, the former star of a series of iconic bread commercials.

Ex-Coronation Street star Sally Lindsay supplies the voice for Piella. Meanwhile a mysterious "cereal killer" is targeting other bakers in the area, leading Gromit to fear his master's life may be in danger.

Romance beckons for the plucky canine as well when he meets Fluffles, Piella's pretty pet poodle.
|| Palmer, 12:08 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Fault, Dear Madison Beer Review, Is Not in Our Stars

The Madison blogosphere has reacted to a piece in the New York Times earlier this week called "Some See Big Problem in Wisconsin Drinking". One notable response was by the Madison Beer Review.

The author of the post begins by taking issue with some of the terms in the NYT piece.

First, let's get the "definition" of binge drinking out of the way: Five drinks in one sitting for a man; four for a woman. What is a sitting? 30 minutes? 1 hour? 3 hours? 7 hours? If I'm sitting at a bar watching a late football game and then stick around for dinner and maybe say hello to some friends, it could easily be "one sitting" from 3pm until 11pm. Five drinks in eight hours? This is a problem?

What's a "drink"? A beer? What kind of beer? Bud Light (about 4% ABV)? Dogfish Head 120 (about 21% ABV)? Wine (12-22% ABV)? Liquor (40-50% ABV)? In their standard serving sizes?

While I agree that the imprecision of these terms is problematic, it's only so when discussing Wisconsin's "culture of drinking" and does nothing to address the issue of drunk driving which is, let's face it, the big issue here. If Wisconsin's love of the drink was accompanied by the state being 40th in drunk driving as opposed to 1st, we wouldn't be discussing this and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk wouldn't be instituting programs to combat our drinking culture. Regardless of how you define "drink" or "binge", our state has more than its share of people who drive impaired. This is the issue and arguing semantics is a distraction.

Later in the post, the author concedes as much:

If it doesn't affect anyone (including the drinker), who cares? The problem is when this person does his drinking at a bar and drives home. The problem is when this person goes to a Packers game 3 hours away from where he lives and has no option but to drive home. The problem is when this person goes home and beats his wife or children. The problem is when this person can't make it through a day without getting drunk.

I agree with most of the sentiments here but take issue with this statement: "The problem is when this person goes to a Packers game 3 hours away from where he lives and has no option but to drive home." I object to it because it makes the hypothetical person here out to be a victim of cruel fate whose hand was forced when, in fact, no one made this person go to the Packer game and get drunk. Portraying such a person as a hapless victim is to deny that individuals such as this make certain choices – to get drunk and then to drive – instead of other ones – plan ahead, get a hotel room, or sleep it off in the parking lot.

This notion of drunk drivers being victims continues in the author's list of solutions:

The solution is viable public transportation alternatives (not raising the fare on an impractical and nonsensical bus system)

It is ridiculous to try and make Madison Metro a scapegoat here. People in Madison who drive drunk are not the victims of a poor bus system. No drunk person is forced to get drive instead of calling a cab. When someone gets behind the wheel after having had too much to drink, this is their fault, and criticizing public transportation options cannot absolve poor judgment of the behalf of individuals. Should we attribute Iowa's better ranking when it comes to drinking and driving to better public transportation systems?

There are always alternatives to driving drunk.
|| Palmer, 11:17 AM || link || (1) comments |

99 Bottles

Last Thursday was the first of a four-day roadshow of the new documentary 99 Bottles which profiled the craft brewing industry of southern Wisconsin. The Dulcinea and I caught the final showing on Sunday afternoon at the Orpheum.

For the occasion, Lake Louie and The Grumpy Troll were on hand offering free samples of their suds before showtime. Unfortunately, I had just completed a regimen of medication on Saturday which attacked the CD4 receptors on my liver like a blitzkrieg rolling through Poland. While I should have abstained completely, I did take a small sample of The Grumpy Troll's stout amounting to about one good sip which was quite tasty. It was rather painful for me to watch everyone else in the theatre freely imbibing.

When the movie started, I found the music over the opening to be familiar. Later I found out that the song was by Milwaukee's Mercury Crossing who happen to be fronted by a friend's sister. Little time was wasted in establishing the movie's primary stylistic convention: craft brew drinkers are shown asking questions as they quaffed and brewers answer them. This format also demonstrated that the movie was aimed at a broad audience, likely to be unfamiliar with the subject matter.

Clocking in at about an hour and a half, 99 Bottles manages to cover a fair amount of ground from a variety of questions. Brewing involves a lot of chemistry and, for the most part, the movie explains concepts in a way that is appropriate for the intended audience. One question regarding "lite"/"light" beer prompts multiple answers. It can mean beer that contains less ingredients/more water or a beer that is light in color. Jim Klisch from Lakefront gives a great non-technical illustration by noting that beers such as blonde doppelbocks are relatively light in appearance because of how the grains are roasted. Dean Coffey of Ale Asylum expounds on this by noting that Belgian trippels are light in color yet have a high alcohol content while the opposite is found in porters which are dark in color and have comparatively little alcohol. Similarly, when the concept of specific gravity is broached, it is not given an explanation out of a chemistry book but rather we are told how it affects mouth-feel and alcohol content, characteristics that those with little brewing/chemistry background can understand.

There are a couple exceptions to this. When the topics of heating kettles with gas flames vs. steam and how yeast strains change over time come up, the audience gets either vague explanations or none at all. What are the advantages of using purifying flames as opposed to steam jackets? What does the caramelization engendered by the former do to the flavor of beer? How does fresh yeast affect the taste of beer as opposed to that which has been around the block?

The movie also has plenty of tales from craft brewers and their confidantes. We learn, for instance, that Deb Carey, President of New Glarus Brewing had an epiphany in England that led to the Spotted Cow name while Jacob Sutrick of Stonefly explains the origin of Mustache Ride. In one scene, George Bluvas III of Water Street Brewery weighs in on the thin vs. fat brewmaster controversy by saying that thin ones move faster. The movie then cuts to the more rotund John Harrison, brewmaster at the Delafield Brew Haus, who comes down decidedly in favor of brewers with more girth. Harrison's tale about winning a gold medal at the 2000 Great American Beer Festival was also classic.

99 Bottles addresses SB224 or the Brewpub Bill, as it came to be known, which dramatically altered the craft brewing industry in 2007. (I wrote quite a bit about it last summer – see this post.) While the movie doesn't go into much depth, it lets Dean Coffey pronounce "If this bill had passed before we started, we would have failed." I am told that the movie's makers had a very difficult time getting any of the interviewees to say much about SB224 beyond the basics of what it is and what it was meant to accomplish. It is also my understanding that the producers are looking to gather more info, potentially for a separate mini-doc on the subject. We'll have to wait for the director's cut to appear and see what bonus features are included.

The movie necessarily left out more than it put in. E.g. - Gray's was omitted altogether. Also missing is a substantial discussion of brewing history in Wisconsin and some elements of Beer 101 such as the differences between beer styles. And I wish that Deb Carey had gotten a special mention for being the first woman to found a brewery in this country. Still, there's a fair amount of information in 99 Bottles and many humorous anecdotes. I've been drinking Capital since their beers had the Garten Brau moniker, had my first New Glarus right after it hit store shelves, and was at The Great Dane on a cold, rainly opening day. Ergo it was neat to see the people responsible for some of the beers that I've been enjoying for many years and hear them talk about their craft.

However, beyond all the history, chemistry, and any romantic notions of brewers & brewing is what was on display before the movie began – people happily socializing and drinking fine beer - that is paramount. Kirby Nelson of Capital put it best: "The point of this liquid is you can come out to a beer garden on a Friday night in the summer and see a thousand plus people out there with their friends, their family, their parents, their kids, sitting out enjoying each other's company, enjoying a band, enjoying a social aspect of life with beer as part of the process."

Here's the movie's trailer:

|| Palmer, 8:24 AM || link || (0) comments |

15 November, 2008

German Americans: Speaking in Tongues

Wednesday night was the second of three lectures on German-American heritage sponsored by the Max Kade Institute. (My account of the first, dealing with immigration, can be found here.) In preparation for the event, I made rouladen earlier in the week which turned out pretty well.

This week's topic was language and just for walking in the door I got a free copy of German Word – American Voices, a CD full of examples of German being spoken around the United States. The presenter was Professor Joe Salmons, whom I've noted previously for his work with the Dictionary of Regional English. Here he is in a characteristically Teutonic pose.

Prof. Salmons divided his presentation into four parts:

1) Kinds of German brought over and used here
2) The shift to English
3) The learning of English
4) Influence on our English

He began by showing us this map of areas in Europe where German speakers were found c. 1900:

It shows the various German dialects and, since Germans immigrated from all of these areas to Wisconsin, the German speakers of our state have reflected this diversity of language. (For a larger version of the map, head here. It also features rollovers so you can find out where the various German dialects here in the States originated.) In simplistic terms, the green area features dialects of "Low German" or "Plattdeutsch" while the yellow and brown areas feature dialects known as "High German" or "Hochdeutsch". Prof. Salmons described Low German as not being "proper" German. By contrast, High German would be the dialect used in churches, government, and other public institutions. It's the standard incarnation the language.

Advancing his PowerPoint presentation, he gave us another map.

This one shows the dialects of German spoken in Wisconsin. For example, Pomeranian is prevalent in Marathon County whereas areas west of Madison feature mainly Kölsch. (Again, you can find a larger version of this map at the MKI website which is interactive and has links to sound clips of people speaking in the various dialects.) Prof. Salmons played some clips of Wisconsin German speakers for us. I was able to understand bits and pieces of what they were saying excepting one woman who just spoke incredibly fast. Included was one clip of Pennsylvania Dutch because Wisconsin's Amish and Mennonite populations still speak it and teach it to their children.

Prof. Salmons closed out the first part of his lecture by noting that German speakers in Wisconsin knew both High German and another dialect. He said that, when asked what dialect of German they speak, they would usually give something other than High German. However, in conversation, they would often drift into the standard dialect.

As he turned towards the topic of English and how German speakers adopted it, Prof. Salmons gave a brief overview of German immigration to Wisconsin. Some of this was covered in the previous lecture so I won't go into too much detail. But I will note some interesting statistics he gave.

Around 1900, there were approximately half a million German speakers in Wisconsin, which was about 30% of the state's population. This number dropped to about 60,000 in 1990 or 1.3%. This dramatic shift took place in the course of a century which is remarkably swift in terms of language. So how and why did the shift occur?

We were offered three common reasons. First was the idea that people simply adapt to their new surroundings – "Time takes care of the question of language," as Nils Haugen once said. The second was that there is simply no rhyme or reason to the process. Lastly was the oft-cited "thunderclap from a cloudless sky" – World War I. Anti-German sentiment ran high so German-Americans adopted English to be less like the enemy abroad. However, Prof. Salmons noted that the shift to English was well underway prior to the war.

So he offered a fourth reason which had to do with broad changes in the structure of communities. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a decline in the autonomy of local institutions such as churches and the public schools. An example given was how, prior to this time, communities determined how the public schools operated. With the rise of state boards of education, mandates were handed down that directed all schools teach in English.

Prof. Salmons showed that19th century Wisconsin was awash in German-language newspapers and periodicals. By the early 20th century, however, the newspaper industry had changed all around the country and those in Wisconsin succumbed to the new environment. They just couldn't do small runs just as newspapers around the country were finding out the same thing. Many of them consolidated before going out of print.

Next on the docket was a bit of myth-busting. Prof. Salmons gave a quote from James Crawford's book At War With Diversity which read, "Today's immigrants refuse to learn English, unlike the good old immigrants of yesterday…" This was followed by a letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal which objected to Spanish-speaking students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in their native tongue. In it the author said essentially the same thing as Crawford, namely, that in the good old days, immigrants adopted English quickly, unlike Latinos today and that English should be this country's official language.

In his rebuttal, Prof. Salmons cited the work of Calvin Veltman which demonstrates that Spanish-speaking immigrants today are quick to adopt English. He continued by showing data from the 1910 census. It was revealed that many Wisconsin-born people spoke only German. Indeed, there were third generation Americans still speaking the language of their grandparents exclusively. A whopping 24% of the population of Hustisford (about 50 miles NW of Madison) spoke only Deutsch in 1910.

Another myth was addressed, namely that those who can't speak English in America are relegated to the margins of society. Again, the 1910 census says differently. Of those in Wisconsin who spoke only German, there were blacksmiths, tailors, merchants, teachers, clergy, et al.

Considering that it's likely that English was over-reported in the census, you can see that the immigrants back in the good-ol' days weren't in a big hurry to learn English and those that didn't were part of the mainstream.

The last topic that Prof. Salmons addressed was how German influenced our English here in Wisconsin. Firstly he gave examples of words such as brat (for bratwurst) and then noted the prevalence here of the game Sheepshead or Shafskopf.

In addition to words, he examined grammatical structures and gave examples from Peter & Lou Berryman ("Oh yah hey") and others such as "Give me a beer once" and "As long as you're up yet". Prof. Salmons said that German uses "modal particles" to soften the language. So words like mal (meaning once) are added. E.g. - the German translation of "Come here" is Komm mal her. This literally means "come here once" – the mal is added to soften things.

Along these same lines, we have the general English sentence "He's coming along." In Wisconsin, it's not uncommon to hear "He's coming with." A German speaker would say Er kommt mit - mit meaning "with". While this is often held to be evidence of the influence of German on Wisconsin English, it should be noted that other languages practice this as well – Yiddish, Norwegian, etc.

This ended Prof. Salmons formal presentation and he opened the floor to questions. Here are a few tidbits gleaned from them:

1) Regarding word order, it is generally new immigrants who make mistakes such as "Throw mama down the stairs a kiss" and "The streetcar turns the corner around".

2) German is a very direct culture with "ganz genau!" (exactly!) often being added at the end of sentences these days.

3) German newspapers are and have been very uniform, much more so than speech. They are usually a reduction of regional variations and you have to go back a long time to find German newspapers in the U.S. which give away the dialect of the community in which it was printed.

4) With regards to Milwaukee, the learning of English was faster there than in the rest of Wisconsin yet there were robust German-speaking communities there into the 1950s.

5) A group of people studying the dialects of the UP (that's Michigan's Upper Peninsula) have discovered some vowel pronunciation that is exactly like Finnish. This discovery apparently sent one researcher into fits of ecstasy.

The final lecture next week concerns music and will be given by Prof. Jim Leary.

|| Palmer, 10:55 AM || link || (0) comments |

Down on Treinen Farm

We have finally entered the last throes of 2008. All the pretty leaves have fallen to the ground, the air is nippy, and we shall soon be beset by snow. Before things got all gloomy a few weeks ago, I made my first trek out to Treinen Farm with my friend Dogger and his daughter, Miss Regan. While I'd seen ads for it in years past, I'd never been.

It was a nice temperate autumn day and, had it been summer, I'd have been tempted to take a swim in the large swimming hole, the shores of which were littered with small gourds. We were greeted by a small dog which looked rather odd as it had a couple short lengths of PVC pipe strapped to its collar.

We soon found out why as we wandered to the area where we could pet the animals. The pipe kept it from sneaking under the fence and wreaking havoc in the barnyard. The goats were quite friendly that day and were eager to lap up any corn thrown their way.

At one point, the dog grabbed the cob from Regan's hand and ran off with it. It was quite amusing to watch her chase the dog in circles.

Treinen Farm advertises its corn maze as being the largest in all the land. I didn't measure the acreage but it was certainly huge.

We got lost several times despite having a map. In our defense, you got only a portion of the map to start and had to piece the rest of it together.

We must have spent an hour or so wandering around. The maze was that of a dragonfly surrounded by what looked like Celtic knotwork. Were we wandering in its wing or somewhere outside of it? I put Regan on my shoulders to see if she could see above the corn but it was all for naught. By the end of it, the little lady was pooped and I had to carry her out.

Two paths diverged in a yellow wood

Once out of the maze, Regan got a burst of energy and it was off to the slide for a bit before we took a hayride. It was a nice'n'leisurely and we were the only folks on the wagon. The gentleman at the reins was fun to chat with and had a good sense of humor. And so the horses led us down the dale and through the pumpkin patches.

Back at the farm I bought some doughnuts – pumpkin and apple cider. We also noticed a large slingshot which was being used to sling small gourds at an inner tube floating on the pond which explained why we saw so many on the shore when we pulled up.

On the way home, we stopped in Lodi and found a stand selling Chicago dogs. After stuffing ourselves, it was off to Lapacek's Orchard to buy some apples and whatnot. I bought some of their cider and it's among the best I've ever tasted. This is because they pressed a generous amount of tart apples into the mix. The cider has a fairly sharp taste which lends the impression that it's carbonated. Great stuff.

It'll definitely be back to Treinen Farm next year.
|| Palmer, 8:17 AM || link || (0) comments |

Medieval Art is Making a Comeback

I think that my predilection for all things medieval is rubbing off on M., The Dulcinea's youngest. This came home from school earlier this week:

(Untitled by M.T., 2008)

See the broad crayon strokes and the thick layers of wax - very reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh's style. Notice that the "Ye Old Stable" is outside of the castle rather than inside as it would have been during The Middle Ages. This symbolizes the Christian idea that Man was created in God's image, that we stand above the beasts and outside of nature. Indeed, the horses themselves are very indistinct - almost impressionistic. Yet the artist also recognizes that, despite being descended from God, post-lapsarian life is a trial. He does this by portraying one of the spires as "incomplete", that is, it does not touch the ground and is instead supported by crossbeams. Very impressive for a 9-year old.

The piece is currently on display at the Fearful Symmetries Museum of Art and hangs in the Kitchen Gallery.
|| Palmer, 7:13 AM || link || (1) comments |

13 November, 2008

They Cling to More Than Their Guns

Apparently the memo about Obama's election making this country "post-racial" didn't reach northern Michigan where Hampel's Key and Lockshop, which also traffics in firearms, flew the American flag upside down. And why would the shop do this?

"(The inverted flag is) an international signal for distress and we feel our country is in distress because the n----- got in," said Hampel's employee Rod Nyland, of Traverse City.

This story got some press in the Michigan Messenger and a few days later it reported that Nyland had been fired and apologized for the episode.

Personally that sounds like insincere damage control to me. I am really to believe that the owners of the store were blissfully unaware that they had this rogue racist of an employee flying the flag upside down? Come on! Nyland worked there for 25 years so I find it difficult to believe that he was fired because he thought of Obama as a nigger, but rather because he was honest with a reporter.

(h/t to Ed Brayton.)
|| Palmer, 10:04 AM || link || (2) comments |

12 November, 2008

How's That Bailout Coming Along?

Last week Bloomberg News filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to "force the Federal Reserve to disclose securities the central bank is accepting on behalf of American taxpayers as collateral for $1.5 trillion of loans to banks." This didn't come as a surprise to me as I've been reading BailoutSleuth.com for a few weeks and on 17 October, it featured a post called "The End of Bailout Transparency Already?" which showed documents relating to an agreement made public between the Treasury Department and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. to be full of redactions.

A few days later the site pointed out redactions in a contract between we the taxpayers and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

I am reminded of Cheney's little confab with the energy industry reps. How typical of this administration to do what it can to elude transparency.

The site also noted that a Wisconsin bank was trying to get its fair share of the bailout money: "Marshall & Ilsley Corp., based in Milwaukee, announced that it is getting as much as $1.7 billion in government funds." This despite the fact that the bank is "financially healthy". Instead it was "accepting the new capital as part of the government's broader effort to spur lending by removing doubts about the solvency of the banking sector." I thought the bailout effort was for banks in trouble but I'll put this down to my ignorance.

Today I read that Treasury Secretary Paulson is altering the bailout:

The government has abandoned the original centerpiece of its $700 billion rescue effort for the financial system and will not use the money to purchase troubled bank assets.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Wednesday that the administration will continue to use $250 billion of the program to purchase stock in banks as a way to bolster their balance sheets and encourage them to resume more normal lending. He also announced that the administration was looking at a major expansion of the program into the markets that provide support for credit card debt, auto loans and student loans.

Asked about what he had in mind to expand the rescue effort to support credit card and other types of consumer debt that is backed by selling securities, Paulson said it would probably take weeks to design the new program and then more time to get it implemented, a possible sign that any such proposal would have to be implemented by the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.

After reading this last paragraph, I couldn't help but think of George W. Bush's great wisdom as he announced his War on Terror which would last generations: "…and I encourage you all to go shopping more."
|| Palmer, 3:20 PM || link || (0) comments |

Just Grab Your Hat and Take the Ride

I fix computers for a living. Over the past year I've serviced PCs, laptops, notebooks, and servers; I have ably deleted registry entries to get Microsoft Word up and running again so that grant applications were submitted on time and somehow got Dragon Naturally Speaking working for a user afflicted with multiple sclerosis; on the same computer I've switched from the friendly Windows interface to a UNIX command prompt and back again. Perhaps this is no surprise because my father also worked on them - he serviced mainframes for 25 years at IBM. Next to our rotary phone was a stack of punch cards for jotting down messages and his workshop was stocked with a lifetime supply of dustless rags, isopropyl alcohol, and oil all emblazoned with the IBM logo. I recall well going into the bowels of the Montgomery Wards headquarters in downtown Chicago on take-your-son-to-work day. It was a large well air-conditioned room with spools of magnetic tape strewn about and lights flashing everywhere. Computers are in my blood.

Several of my friends work in IT and most of the rest use them at work and have one at home. And so it's easy for me to forget that there are, in fact, people out there who don't own a personal computer, don't use one at work, don't make them the centerpiece of their lives, and/or just plain avoid them at all costs. Not everyone is a "digital citizen".

I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago talking to a woman in her 50s who expressed to me her disappointment that The Capital Times had stopped daily publication. After I said that she'd have to read it online, she replied that her computer was in its own room upstairs at her home and she wasn't going to go into seclusion in order to read the "paper". This woman fit the stereotype in my mind of people who don't opt into a digital lifestyle – people like my mother. Older folks, that is.

After that conversation, I stumbled onto a couple things which further expanded my notion of who is across the digital divide. First was a recent post at the Freakonomics blog called "The Adverse Impact of Web Based Hiring on Minorities":

JobApp Network helps other companies to hire. Applications can be made either over the phone or online. Edgar Johns, an employee at JobApp Network, analyzed data his company had on over 25,000 applicants to restaurant and retail job positions. Looking at means in the data, he found something striking. Of those job seekers applying by phone, more than 40 percent were minorities. When it came to applying over the web, the share of minorities fell to less than 20 percent. His conclusion: as firms move more and more toward taking only online applications, there could be an adverse impact on minority applicants.

This sounds like a good reason to improve our public libraries to ensure that Internet access is available for as many people as possible.

Yesterday I found "Generational Myth" by Siva Vaidhyanathan. (Vaidhyanathan spent some time here at the UW and I saw him speak at the Overture Center a few years ago.) In the essay, he argues two points: 1) that not all kids today –the so-called "Digital Generation" – are all that digitally inclined and 2) the notion of generations isn't particularly useful and doesn’t explain a whole helluva lot.

Vaidhyanathan is an associate professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia and he offers his observations on how digital his students are:

Every class has a handful of people with amazing skills and a large number who can't deal with computers at all. A few lack mobile phones. Many can't afford any gizmos and resent assignments that demand digital work. Many use Facebook and MySpace because they are easy and fun, not because they are powerful (which, of course, they are not). And almost none know how to program or even code text with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Only a handful come to college with a sense of how the Internet fundamentally differs from the other major media platforms in daily life.

College students in America are not as "digital" as we might wish to pretend. And even at elite universities, many are not rich enough. All this mystical talk about a generational shift and all the claims that kids won't read books are just not true. Our students read books when books work for them (and when I tell them to). And they all (I mean all) tell me that they prefer the technology of the bound book to the PDF or Web page. What kids, like the rest of us, don't like is the price of books.

Of course they use Google, but not very well — just like my 75-year-old father. And they fill the campus libraries at all hours, just as Americans of all ages are using libraries in record numbers. (According to the American Library Association, visits to public libraries in the United States increased 61 percent from 1994 to 2004).

Keeping in mind his comment about how most of his students don't know HTML, there's also this bit:

On my blog, Sivacracy, Elizabeth Losh, writing director of the humanities core course at the University of California at Irvine and author of the forthcoming Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes (MIT Press, 2009), kept the online conversation going: "Unlike many in today's supposed 'digital generation,' we learned real programming skills — with punch cards in the beginning — from the time we were in elementary school. What passes for 'media literacy' now is often nothing more than teaching kids to make prepackaged PowerPoint presentations."

On my first read, Losh's comment came across as that of an old fogey – "Things were better in my day" kind of criticism (whining?). Perhaps Vaidhyanathan should have used the Socrates playbook and defined exactly what he means when he refers to students being "digital". While his point that they still read books instead of e-books is well taken, is being able to code or understanding how radio waves propagate the benchmark for determining whether one is "literate" in digital media? I don't think it does anymore than one must know how the internal combustion engine works to structure one's life around the automobile or to understand how a clock works to have your life ruled by arbitrary points in time. When I think about a "digital generation", I don't think of a massively large group of code monkeys; instead I envision large numbers of people who use cell phones and computers in their daily lives outside of work or school. Were people 30 years ago who listened to music but ignorant of how the phonograph & the 8-track worked not really as analog as we thought because they didn't understand the sound reproduction technology of the day? Should they have been considered part of the pre-electronics era?

There are people out there who can open up a text editor and code a webpage in HTML yet do not understand TCP/IP, DNS, how routers work, and the like so, while they can create webpages, they have little or no understanding of how it gets from their server to a user's PC. And to use myself, a so-called "IT professional", as example – I couldn't code my way out of a paper bag. I know a bit of HTML but anyone who reads this blog can tell that my skills in this area are very limited. Yet I can help enterprises hum along smoothly on the IT end of things. Down the hall from me are coders who, when Windows has a problem, have absolutely no idea what to do except call me. They can create and maintain large databases (something I decidedly cannot do) but, if a .dll file becomes unregistered, they are helpless and are, for better or for worse, at my mercy.

Vaidhyanathan's argument for the futility of using the concept of generations is more cogent. Here are some excerpts:

Once we assume that all young people love certain forms of interaction and hate others, we forge policies and design systems and devices that match those presumptions. By doing so, we either pander to some marketing cliché or force an otherwise diverse group of potential users into a one-size-fits-all system that might not meet their needs. Then, lo and behold, young people rush to adapt to those changes that we assumed all along that they wanted.

Invoking "generations" demands an exclusive focus on people of wealth and means, because they get to express their preferences (for music, clothes, technology, etc.) in ways that are easy to count. It tends to exclude immigrants and non-English-speaking Americans, not to mention those who live beyond the borders of the United States. And it excludes anyone on the margins of mainstream consumer or cultural behavior.

A short list of the best of those who are studying and writing about the effects of digital media on youth must include Eszter Hargittai, a sociologist and associate professor of communications studies at Northwestern University, who has received a major grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study digital communication and youth. In a recent paper in Information, Communication & Society, "The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age," Hargittai and Gina Walejko conclude that the habit of creating digital content and sharing it across digital platforms correlates with a person's identity traits. When asked in an interview in the May 2 issue of The Chronicle which demographic groups are less Web-savvy than others, Hargittai responded that women, students of Hispanic origin, African-American students, and students whose parents have lower levels of education tend to have less mastery of the inner workings of digital technology than other groups do.

There are just some of the relevant highlights for me. Vaidhyanathan goes into much more depth as he invokes David Hume in his fight against Karl Mannheim. But it's important to note that minority students make up a large portion of those who are the less digitally inclined among us and I think that Edgar Johns' findings at JobApp Network are quite understandable in light of this.

Vaidhyanathan's concerns relate to pedagogy – schools can be more effective by recognizing that not every student has the same access to or abilities with technology. For my part, the essay broadened my understanding of who is not like me with regards to computer literacy. Plus it makes me wonder what assumptions Madison's schools and the UW make about the "digital literacy" of its students and the importance placed on them. Lastly, it makes me worry about the rise of an analog underclass that is unable or has a more difficult time accessing resources and performing quotidian tasks that increasingly are done via computer.

|| Palmer, 11:59 AM || link || (2) comments |

11 November, 2008

A Dollar and Fifty Cents Everyday

It's editorials like this one which justify the name Wisconsin State Urinal.

The WSJ is preaching in favor of the mayor's proposal to increase bus the standard bus fare by $0.50 to $2.00 and, presumably, rates for other fares and passes would increase as well.

Madison property taxpayers keep forking over more and more money to the city's bus system.

They're paying enough.

It's time for those who actually ride the buses to contribute a bit more to maintain routes and improve service.

That's what Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's proposal for a modest fare hike would do. As part of his 2009 budget plan, the mayor wants to boost the basic cash fare by 50 cents to $2 per ride.

A couple things stand out here:

Firstly there is the use of the term "modest". Yeah, 50 cents in and of itself is modest but we're not talking about a one-time fee, we're talking about 50 cents each time someone pays a fare. This is a 33% increase. If the legislature were to propose boosting property taxes by 33%, the State Urinal's editorial board would not be calling that a modest increase and would instead be reaching for the nearest thesaurus seeking synonyms for "egregious" as they try to incite a rebellion.

Secondly the infinite wisdom of the WSJ editorial board implies that property owners don't ride Metro. This would no doubt come as a surprise to a couple of my neighbors with whom I ride the bus as well as numerous co-workers and friends. Metro ridership got a significant boost the first half of this year – up 6%. Am I to believe that all the proles in this town saved up their money so they could finally afford a bus ride? Or (gasp!) did some property-owning taxpayers stop driving as much?

A corollary of this is equally asinine, namely that those who do not own their own homes are immune to increases in property taxes. As many renters can tell you, springtime brings flowers preparing to bloom, birds & bees beginning to mate, and often times an increase in rent. I'm sure that most landlords pass increases in property taxes on to their renters. So, in the end, people like me who don't own a house and take the bus end up in a pecuniary double jeopardy as well.

Now, raising fares may be necessary. Perhaps 25 cents and not 50. But instead of arguing simply that the benefit of having the extra cash on hand outweighs the negative of transportation costs going up for many who may barely be able to afford it, the WSJ promulgates the divisive notion that buses are a subsidy for poor people. It is not just simple dichotomy of members of Bush's Ownership Society vs. renters; it's about what constitutes the commonweal and how to improve a basic service in hard economic times.

Perhaps parking rates should also rise 33%. What do you say, WSJ?
|| Palmer, 11:25 AM || link || (0) comments |

10 November, 2008

Using Craigslist to Your Advantage

This is just classic.

A man in Washington robbed an armored truck and used Craigslist to aid in his escape.

At about 11am, the robber sprayed the guard of an armored truck with pepper spray and grabbed a sack of money. He was wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask, and a blue shirt which just happens to be the description he used in a Craigslist ad. The ad said that there was construction work and to meet the foreman near the bank with the aforementioned outfit. So, when authorities came, they ran into a lot of decoys. Reminds me of Spike Lee's Inside Man.

But it gets better. The robber made his escape down a creek - in an inner tube.
|| Palmer, 2:48 PM || link || (0) comments |

Don't Know Much About Geography

Mireille Soria and Mark Swift need a geography lesson. Soria and Swift are the producers of the new film Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa which, I hear, did some pukka box office this past weekend despite its stupid name.

Above is a map of the continent of Africa. Notice how Madagascar is part of Africa.


Would we say "England: Escape to Europe" or "Key West: Escape to Florida"?! Is Africa still so dark a continent that Americans can't understand 5th grade geography? One working title of the film was Madagascar: The Crate Escape - why not keep that instead of a title that projects such gross ignorance?
|| Palmer, 12:29 PM || link || (1) comments |

09 November, 2008

Ill Communication: Exchange at Café Mimosa

When I read Amelia Cook's review of Exchange at Café Mimosa, I decided that I'd go see it. And so it was off to the Bartell Theatre last night with The Dulcinea for the Mercury Players Theatre production.

Despite having a cousin who was involved with the Steppenwolf in Chicago back in the day and having a family that enjoys theatre and despite having been on several field trips to the Goodman while in grade school, I've never developed a healthy appetite for live theatre. Sure, I've seen Shakespeare at American Players Theatre several times but, in general, it takes something out of the ordinary to be happening on the stage to get my arse in a seat. Use 10' tall puppets and wears masks like Squonk Opera; paint yourself blue and throw marshmallows into your fellow actors' mouths as do The Blue Man Group; have naked bodies prance around like they do in The Living Canvas; dramatize the meeting of dorky scientists in Copenhagen; or parody Shakespeare. I don't know why, but I just need novelty in my theatre. Witnessing a death bring estranged family members back together or a chance meeting that brings two friends back together just doesn't cut it for me. So when I read the Isthmus review and read the words "surreal" and "non-linear", I just had to go see Exchange at Café Mimosa.

First, let me dispense with the whole non-linear bit. Time isn't demarcated very strictly in the play but it is quite linear. The Browns of Milwaukee and the Von Rupperstahls of Europe each get a mysterious phone call, they hop on their respective planes to a tropical island, and they all end up at the same hotel for a rendezvous and an exchange of boxes and it is all done in that order. No flashbacks, no flashforwards – it's all quite linear. As for the surreal aspect, yes it was surreal, but only moderately so. On a Lynchian scale, this is Twin Peaks stuff, not Inland Empire. Exchange at Café Mimosa is, after all, a comedy - a comedy which "explores the elaborate rituals of sex and marriage". And it does so with reptiles slithering about, a man from the Sandwich Islands in a gourd helmet who reputedly knows everything, and a parrot which knows more than it lets on.

While I thought the acting as almost uniformly great (I'm not a theatre critic so what do I know?) but kudos must go to Rachel Bledsoe for her portrayal of June Brown. The Wisconsin accent and her facial expressions were all wonderful. Her eyes were especially, well, expressive, in the way they bulged with excitement or narrowed as lips pursed in anger. Amy Sawyers played Marie-Louise Von Rupperstahl who got lost in the shuffle a bit. I found myself giving her my attention mostly when she was in one state of undress or another. This is not to say that Sawyers was bad but Marie-Louise's husband, Leopold, was played by Doug Holtz, who towers over Sawyer. I wonder if the play, scripted by Oana Cajal, called for such a size mismatch. Bledsoe and Al Hart, who plays Peter Brown are nearer in height to one another.

So, what was it all about? As I said above, the Browns and Von Rupperstahls separately receive packages and phone calls directing them to a tropical island for an exchange with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. June and Marie-Louise are both essentially bitches in heat and, perhaps tellingly, end up on all fours with their lovers entering from behind. There's wife-swapping but no Leopold and Peter and Marie-Louise and June action. The ladies' husbands alternate between concern for their penises and concern for the packages and their mission, as it is, of exchanging boxes at the required moment.

You've got four actors prancing around with lizard masks on who also serve as onlookers. During scenes with sex, the herpetological chorus begins to imitate the carnal dance from their perch. Similarly, the scantily-clad parrot in the hotel's dining room imitates the speech of the diners. The characters are thrown into confusion by hearing their words repeated for all to hear. By the end of the play, I thought that it wasn't so much about the rituals of sex and marriage as it was about the difficulty of communication in a relationship such as a marriage. The parrot creates dissonance; a Chinese man speaks but no one can comprehend; the Man in a Dark Suit and the Woman in a White Dress can only experience silent frustration with one another through most of the play. When they finally exchange words, neither can say anything comprehensible to the other – he wants her to speak grammatically correct English while she wants her heart to speak freely.

Personally, I think that Ms. Cook and Lindsay Christians of 77 Square either give the play credit for being more surreal than it truly is or are too timid to delve into it. There's too much repetition, binary opposites, and depths of metaphor to be plumbed and it's a shame that the reviewers basically said that the play was surreal and then began commenting on the acting, direction, etc. while not daring to tell their readers whether or not they actually got anything out of the play besides laughter. Did they actually find meaning in it? Did the story and the method by which it was told have any resonance for them?

I would like to see the play again as I didn't bring a notepad with me and I suspect that some choice bits of dialogue would help me flesh out my interpretation of it.

It will be at the Bartell through Saturday. Here's a promo:

|| Palmer, 8:24 PM || link || (9) comments |

06 November, 2008

Election Reflections

I know, putting this in God's hands, the right thing for America will be done on November 4.
~~~~~ Sarah Palin

I have to admit that I never though that I'd live to see someone elected president who wasn't 100% white. At the very least, that I would have been much older when it happened than I am now. It was thrilling when he got the nod from the Dems to be their nominee and even more so when I woke up yesterday morning to see that he'd wiped the floor with McCain. I was elated that someone with much more than one drop of African ancestry (proximate, that is) had been elected president. In addition, I was incredibly pleased that McCain would not get to set up shop in the White House with his ignoramus of a sidekick whose self-professed qualifications for the Executive Branch were proximity to the Bering Strait and fecundity.

Despite Barack Obama not being my ideal candidate, his election to the office of President is both historic and very important. But many of my positive feelings were subdued yesterday as I read the news and was reminded that the world doesn't stop while we go to the polls. People's homes are still being foreclosed upon, the auto industry is seeing car sales rapidly decline, our factories are making less, and more and more workers are losing their jobs. Don’t forget that Obama is only the President-Elect which means that George W. Bush is still in office. And he has plans to weaken environmental regulations before heading back to Texas to clear brush. Looking for parting gifts such as giving coal mining operations the right "to dump toxic waste in valleys and streams" and to allow companies to put more pollutants in the air – pollutants that contribute to global warming.

As we sit back enjoying Obama's victory, the Russians are moving missiles into areas near Poland. Plus there's that war Bush started. As we celebrate an impending Obama presidency, families in Afghanistan mourn the deaths of 37 friends and family members, 23 of which were children, apparently at the hands of U.S. forces. This most recent debacle does not help our already strained relations with Afghanistan. Under President Obama (the man who said, "I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan"), we can expect more troops to head over there, more civilians to die, and the defense budget to remain extraordinarily large.

I was also dismayed that California voters decided to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage. Similar measures passed in Arizona and Florida.

On the bright side, Colorado voters defeated an attempt to legally define personhood to "include any human being from the moment of fertilization" while those in South Dakota struck down the idea of banning abortion except in cases of incest or rape. Back in California, intercity passenger rail got a boost by voters who approved Proposition 1A which allocated nearly $10 billion to the California High-Speed Rail Authority to build a rail line from L.A. to San Francisco. The project awaits federal funding, however.

I was also quite pleased to hear that Elizabeth Dole failed in her reelection bid. Her "godless" ad really got in my craw. Not only what is patently misleading, but it was also a slur against anyone who doesn't believe in supernatural deities. Then again, the ad was in a grand American tradition. Take this campaign ad from the election of 1800:


At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is: “Shall I continue in allegiance to


Or impiously declare for

|| Palmer, 2:00 PM || link || (2) comments |

05 November, 2008

Help Us Barack Obama, You're Our Only Hope

This is freaky. CNN debuted some new technology last night that beamed reporters from Chicago into the newsroom as holograms. The only thing missing was Wolf Blitzer in an R2-D2 costume.

|| Palmer, 1:13 PM || link || (0) comments |

A Farewell Dinner Wherein I Eat the Most Wonderful Cake

In anticipation of John McCain and Sarah Palin being told to take a hike and having to fast starting at 9 PM, I wanted to cook a nice hearty dinner last night. And so I pulled out my German cookbook to find a recipe. Somehow I ended up making Hungarian food for supper instead.

That is Szegediner Gulyas or Szeged Goulash which is named after the Hungarian city of Szeged. The Wikipedia article on the place notes that it is "known as the home of paprika" and that "Szeged is famous" for this dish. I didn't know this – I always thought of goulash as being Hungarian generally and not associated with a particular burg.

Although it took a while to cook, Szeged Goulash isn't a very difficult dish to make. You brown some pork, add onions, and then sweet paprika. In my case, I bought some Hungarian sweet at Penzey's. You then add some liquid followed by sauerkraut and potatoes. The recipe calls for 1 cup of water but I used about ¾ of a cup of a mixture of beef and chicken stock and ¼ cup of akvavit. The brand I have has a rather pronounced caraway flavor which I thought would complement the caraway seed in the recipe.

I had my goulash with a slice of Russian rye from The Rolling Pin in Fitchburg. It tasted very good, though I'll add a bit more paprika the next time I make it. I was surprised that, despite not having washed the kraut, the flavor of pickled cabbage was quite mild. All in all, very tasty.

The Dulcinea, for her part, was busy in the kitchen as well. She baked up an apple-walnut cake with caramel.

Trust me, the cake was much better than my photography. Its texture was fluffier than I thought it would be and full of luscious buttery goodness. Plus she put just the right amount of caramel on top. It added a goodly amount of sweetness to most bites but was not overpowering.

As I said above, I had to begin fasting at 9PM last night in anticipation of going to the doctor this morning to have some blood drawn. Now, having written about last night's dinner and tweaked the photos, I am drooling at the thought of some of that cake. It is sitting on the kitchen counter all by its lonesome…
|| Palmer, 4:56 AM || link || (0) comments |

The Doctor to Regenerate

David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who.

|| Palmer, 4:05 AM || link || (0) comments |

04 November, 2008

Counting Chickens, Voting Your Conscience, and Nukes

Journalist Greg Palast has a disturbing article this week up at TruthOut called "How McCain Could Win". It's all about voter suppression. Here are some lowlights:

***In Colorado: "Before this election, two Republican secretaries of state purged 19.4 percent of the entire voter roll." Don't worry, though, Colorado's Election Reform Commission will hold hearings on this purge on 19 November.

***"In 2004, based on the data from the US Elections Assistance Commission, 3,006,080 votes were not counted."

***"San Miguel County elections supervisor, Democrat Pecos Paul Maez, was none too happy that 20 percent of his voters, the majority poor and Hispanic, were not on the voter rolls" including Maez himself, who had been purged.

***Re New Voters: "In California, a Republican secretary of state rejected 42 percent of new registrations.

***Re New ID Laws: "Professor Matthew Barreto of the University of Washington found that 10 percent of white voters in Indiana don't have the needed ID. And, for blacks, it's about double – 19 percent lack the ID required to vote."

***"A US Civil rights Commission analysis shows that the chance a black voter's ballot will 'spoil' or be blank is 900 percent higher than a white voter's."

***"Another study shows that Hispanics' vote choices are six times as likely to fail to be recorded when they vote on computers versus paper ballots."

Also of interest was this week's column by Chris Hedges who favors Ralph Nader in today's election. He argues that Nader is right on the issues…

There is little disagreement among liberals and progressives about the Nader and Obama campaign issues. Nader would win among us in a landslide if this was based on issues. Sen. Barack Obama’s vote to renew the Patriot Act, his votes to continue to fund the Iraq war, his backing of the FISA Reform Act, his craven courting of the Israeli lobby, his support of the death penalty, his refusal to champion universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans, his call to increase troop levels and expand the war in Afghanistan, his failure to call for a reduction in the bloated and wasteful defense spending and his lobbying for the huge taxpayer swindle known as the bailout are repugnant to most of us on the left. Nader stands on the other side of all those issues.

…and in favor of voting one's conscience.

Those on the left who back Obama, although they disagree with much of what he promotes, believe they are choosing the practical over the moral. They see themselves as political realists. They fear John McCain and the Republicans. They believe Obama is better for the country. They are right. Obama is better. He is not John McCain. There will be under Obama marginal improvements for some Americans although the corporate state, as Obama knows, will remain our shadow government and the working class will continue to descend into poverty. Democratic administrations have, at least until Bill Clinton, been more receptive to social programs that provide benefits, better working conditions and higher wages. An Obama presidency, however, will make no difference to those in the Middle East.

I can’t join the practical. I spent two decades of my life witnessing the suffering of those on the receiving end of American power. I have stood over the rows of bodies, including women and children, butchered by Ronald Reagan’s Contra forces in Nicaragua. I have inspected the mutilated corpses dumped in pits outside San Salvador by the death squads. I have crouched in a concrete hovel as American-made F-16 fighter jets, piloted by Israelis, dropped 500- and 1,000-pound iron-fragmentation bombs on Gaza City.

I can’t join the practical because I do not see myself exclusively as an American. The narrow, provincial and national lines that divide cultures and races blurred and evaporated during the years I spent in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Balkans. I built friendships around a shared morality, not a common language, religion, history or tradition. I cannot support any candidate who does not call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and an end to Israeli abuse of Palestinians. We have no moral or legal right to debate the terms of the occupation. And we will recover our sanity as a nation only when our troops have left Iraq and our president flies to Baghdad, kneels before a monument to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi war dead and asks for forgiveness.

We dismiss the suffering of others because it is not our suffering. There are between 600,000 and perhaps a million dead in Iraq. They died because we invaded and occupied their country. At least three Afghan civilians have died at the hands of the occupation forces for every foreign soldier killed this year. The dead Afghans include the 95 people, 60 of them children, killed by an air assault in Azizabad in August and the 47 wedding guests butchered in July during a bombardment in Nangarhar. The Palestinians are forgotten. Obama and McCain, courting the Israeli lobby, do not mention them. The 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza live in a vast open-air prison. Supplies and food dribble through the Israeli blockade. Ninety-five percent of local industries have shut down. Unemployment is rampant. Childhood malnutrition has skyrocketed. A staggering 80 percent of families in Gaza are dependent on international food aid to survive.
(Emphasis mine.)

Finally, did anyone else watch last week's Frontline - The War Briefing? If not, I highly recommend doing so. (You can watch it online.) The thought of extremists getting their hands on Pakistan's nukes is chilling.

|| Palmer, 10:16 AM || link || (0) comments |

01 November, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Studs

R.I.P. Studs Terkel.

|| Palmer, 6:31 AM || link || (0) comments |