Saturday, July 20, 2013

Village Green Tour of Gardens today

We had a constant stream of visitors from about 11am to around 3:30 today, for the Village Green Tour of Gardens. A few came earlier, and one couple stopped by around 5 as we were relaxing over cold beer with our friend Gail Gorud. It's kinda flattering to have people stop by to look at our garden, since in the most important sense we are very ordinary homeowners; anyone could have done what we did - we are simply among the first. Our photovoltaic system was very popular and we almost ran out of PSCCU brochures - which is important, because the financing side of the solar cell project, like that for the rain garden, seems to be a major barrier for many people.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Imp And The Cat Goddess

Our Cat, Impromptu Underfoot McCord, is looking solemnly into infinity, or perhaps just having us on! 
The Cat Goddess was one of the first bits of decoration we added to our fence. We like the terra-cotta look; it goes well with the greenery. And it's always nice to have a cat watching over things!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Button Materials A-Z: Identification Guide

Button Materials A-Z: Identification Guide by Jacelyn Howells can help the most advanced collector or dealer, as well as the beginner. It includes:
  • Step-by-step directions for identifying your own buttons
  • Descriptions of 140 different materials from ABC to Zirconia. Typical of the care with which the material is presented is that Zircon is carefully distinguished from Zirconia!
  • Lots of cross-referencing, making it easy to find what you're looking for
  • Over 1850 color images of great clarity, including some backs, back marks and shanks.
  • Emphasis on problematical or misunderstood materials and techniques, such as how to distinguish between several different polymers.
The author's many years of button experience, research and testing is obvious throughout this attractive and detail-packed book. She has over 20 years of experience as a button judge at competitions, and it shows!

If you're a button collector, or looking for a gift for a button collector, this is the book you want!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


This is a Big Frickin' Deal!
AND ... the cool swag is going fast (I got mine!)....
Well, in case you don't want to click on the link, here's an huge quote from their site that explains it all:
"FOIA became law July 4, 1966 – and it’s been fighting for its life ever since. Presidents and Congress have tried to make it harder to use. Sometimes they’ve been successful; sometimes they haven’t. State sunshine laws frequently come under attack as well. CIR and FOIA Machine will help keep the laws strong by using them tenaciously and teaching others how to do the same. Now that you’ve celebrated the Fourth of July with sparklers and picnics, declare your independence from government secrets – help us launch FOIA Machine.   
Some of America’s top investigative reporters are building a sophisticated and open online platform to give people a legal way to get these secrets from the government. It’s called FOIA Machine, it's almost ready to launch and needs your help!

"Free" information is not always free

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), called “FOY-ah” by journalists, is at the heart of public demands for government accountability. This federal law says anyone can make a freedom of information request. Many states have similar legislation, often called sunshine laws. 
Sounds easy, right? 
But there’s a catch: FOIA is riddled with exceptions, its rules differ widely from agency to agency and state to state, it often requires legal expertise to surmount bureaucratic brick walls, and “free” requests can end up costing a bundle of money. Those who have abused public trust often are able to hide behind all of this bureaucracy. Their secrets, held in millions of government documents, simply won’t reveal themselves. 

An open online solution

Meet FOIA Machine, an integrated web platform developed by veteran investigative reporters and technology pros. It's sponsored by the award-winning nonprofit The Center for Investigative Reporting.
It’s like TurboTax for government records. We’re streamlining the complicated process of filing and tracking public record requests, putting all of the steps, rules, exceptions and best practices in one place and allowing users to track requests on dashboards, receive alerts, share request blueprints and get social support and expertise from the FOIA Machine community. 
This new platform is open and free for anyone, from citizen groups to reporters, the public, commercial media and educators. And it can be used to extract documents no matter the issue – human rights, the environment, political reform, public safety, privacy and more.
If this sounds like a smart idea to you, you’re not alone. At last count, almost 800 reporters have signed up to start using FOIA Machine when it launches publicly. The seed money for the project ($47,000) was provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 
“FOIA Machine will aid journalists and private citizens in accessing millions of important governmental documents around the world that are covered by freedom of information laws which exist in more than 90 countries.”  – The Knight Foundation, announcing its 2012 funding for the prototype “to advance innovation in media and journalism” 

So what's left to do before launch?

When we started this project in late 2012, it was called BirdDog and we thought it was only going to collect statistics on government response times to public records act requests. With the support of the Knight Foundation, we were able to expand our scope to include sending and generating information requests. 
Over the next few months, we built out new features and tested them in the newsroom of CIR until we had a workable prototype, now called FOIA Machine.
Today, FOIA Machine can generate, edit and send requests to government agencies fairly well. It's useable but it's not ready for the general public.

FOIA Request screen shot
FOIA Request screen shot

Starting a FOIA request
Starting a FOIA request

Picking a topic
Picking a topic
That's where Kickstarter comes in: we're asking for your help to finish development, improve design and pay for servers and data curation. 
We have 15 users currently sending real freedom of information requests through FOIA Machine, but almost 800 people are still waiting to use it. And when we launch, that number will grow. 
Here's what we need to do to open this up to everyone:
  • We need to build a notification system to tell users when an agency responds to a request and to notify users when they need to follow up on outstanding requests.
  • We want to better track requests sent using FOIA Machine, allow users to override the status of a request, and then add data if they choose to follow up with an agency outside of FOIA Machine.
  • We need to expose more permissions so users can share their requests with whomever they want to.
  • Our designer will help smooth over some of the user interface quirks.
  • FOIA Machine lives on data and we need to continue adding into the database laws and information on government agencies that we're missing.
  • We need $55 - $150 per month, depending on traffic demands, for servers and a database.
  • Users will need a page to change their passwords and update their account information. We'll build that!
  • Oh, and it'd be great to get rid of bottlenecks that would stop us from expanding when FOIA Machine is used heavily.

Who are we? 

FOIA Machine is currently housed at CIR (more about us in a minute) and is being built by a team of people working at a variety of news organizations:
  • Djordje Padejski is FOIA Machine's founding director and community manager. He is a founder of Serbia’s Center for Investigative Reporting and was a 2012 Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University.
  • Shane Shifflett is FOIA Machine's developer and a data reporter at The Huffington Post. Before that, he was a data reporter for CIR. 
  • Michael Corey, a news applications developer for CIR, is an advisor to FOIA Machine and occasionally contributes code to the project.
  • Coulter Jones is FOIA Machine's project manager and a data journalist at WNYC. Before that, he was an investigative reporter for CIR specializing in data analysis. 
  • David Suriano is CIR's master of user interface design. He is working to make sure FOIA Machine looks good and is easy to use.
The FOIA Machine advisory group includes Chase Davis of The New York Times, David Herzog of the University of Missouri, T. Christian Miller of ProPublica, and Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press.
CIR has taken on FOIA Machine because we believe that journalism that moves citizens to action is an essential pillar of democracy. To correct injustices, people need to know what's really happening. FOIA Machine is all about bringing previously hidden information to light. 
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, CIR’s reporters, editors, producers and data analysts produce deep investigative stories that make an impact. CIR’s staff are experts at using freedom of information laws for investigations into important issues such as themistreatment of U.S. veteransabuse in state hospitalsincompetence and corruption at the U.S. border, and charity fraud
We are the only nonprofit journalism organization in the country with the in-house ability to produce stories on every available media platform – from print to video, radio and interactive data applications – making our reporting accessible and engaging and presented for maximum impact. We have worked with more than 300 news outlets, including FRONTLINE, ABC, Univision, Al-Jazeera English, The Young Turks, Stars and Stripes, the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, NPR, The Daily Beast, CNN, YouTube and more. 

CIR is home to FOIA Machine until it is ready to go public (that’s where you come in!), when it will be handed over to the national, nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors(IRE), which offers its hundreds of members around the world access to its extensive resource center, conferences and specialized training."
OK, so you get it? These people are for real, and this project can make a difference. Jump in - you're be proud you did!

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15: Taking Mom To The Doctor

When mom goes to the doctor, it seems to be policy that a family member must be along to push her wheelchair. It was explained to me in terms of liability but maybe they also want a third party to listen to what the doctor is saying. They put down notes on a packet mom takes back to her care provider, but there's no substitute for ears on the ground. Or whatever.
Monday the 15th it was my turn. I met her at Bethany and rode in the van over to the doctor's (note: it's a good idea to make it clear when the van appointment's made if you're riding along, because the van coming back may not be the one going over, and maybe there wouldn't be room. Ooops!)
We got to the doctor more than half an hour early, so we went for a walk. The doctor is right next to where mom used to live, Emeritus, so we rolled over to see if anyone was there to say hello. And there was - in the room where the medical aides work, there were two people who she recognized. There were hugs all around and a lot of happy talk, catching up with people and finding out who's where.
Mom had lived at Emeritus many years, and although she had to move, it's quite difficult to miss the people you see on a daily basis. Maybe every time we go to that doctor, we should factor in a little time for a therapeutic stroll around the old place

Sunday, July 14, 2013

4freeCLE: The Free CLE Newsletter! July 14, 2013

4freeCLE: The Free CLE Newsletter!
July 14, 2013
In This Issue
Webcasts 7/15-7/21
Webcasts 7/22-7/28
Webcasts 7/29+
In California
In Massachusetts
In Minnesota
In New York
In Ohio
Past 4freeCLE Issues
with Attorney
Roberto Zamora

Attorney Roberto Zamora 
This 1.5 credit AV CLE features Attorney Roberto Zamora who, as a law student in 2003, sued his government for violating the right to peace enshrined in Costa Rica's constitution ... and won!
As a result, the President of that nation was compelled to rescind participation in war-making.
How Zamora succeeded and further efforts to implement peace under law in a variety of legal venues is the subject of this lecture, recorded at Seattle University School of Law in June of 2013.

Webcasts July 15 - July 21
Convenient AccessRegister now and put them on your calendar!
Webcasts July 22 - July 28
Register now and put them on your calendar!

Webcasts July 29 and Later
Register now and put them on your calendar!

In-Person CLEs State-by-State
Each of these programs can earn you credit, at no cost, in the state in which it is held.
In addition, these programs often can earn you credit in other states. If the organizer has not applied for credit in your state, check with the credit-granting authority in your state.
New York


On-Demand CLE
Learn Any Time& Any Where!
Learn what you need to know from the comfort of your home or office! 
Find more on-demand programs at 4freeCLE's List of On-Demand CLE. And feel free to share this list with a friend!

About 4freeCLE
4freeCLE is delivered weekly free of charge!