New-mown astroturf


A couple of comments on old posts popped up in the last week. They look like ads going for link placement, but they look like real people wrote them, and two of them were from the same person on quite different topics.

So, users mgins and bothwell, I've published your comments, but I've removed the links, figuring that's an appropriate punishment.

The comments in question are 1, 2, and

Oh, all right - hand me the kool-aid.


Just a courtesy note - I finally got sick of my other webmail client and decided to just forward my existing addresses to gmail. I've actually had a "murph.monkey" account there for a few years, but never used it; so if you see that address, this is why.

Meanwhile, you can still continue to send to my or addresses if you prefer.

Online with Wireless Ypsi


Eventually, the Wireless Washtenaw project aims to network the entire County, intending to "provide an economic development tool", "attract and retain young professionals", and "reduce the digital divide". Eventually.

In the meantime, Wireless Ypsi is forging ahead, thanks to some of the usual suspects. As stated in the Ann Arbor News,

"Most of the time, when you don't have institutional involvement, things happen much quicker," Robb said. "We didn't need committees, we didn't need an advisory board, we didn't need anything. ... Seriously, in three weeks, we've done what (Wireless Washtenaw has) promised to do for four years."

"'Good reads'? What's 'good reads'?"


Elias just told me I should be on Good Reads. "How is this different from Library Thing?" He sensibly answered, "How do you make a good idea better if not by splitting the user base three ways?"

Part of me wants to get into the spirit of things by letting all of you vote on which one I should be on, but, really, I kind of lump these in with almost all other social software - even if I had an account, I probably wouldn't use it, just because it wouldn't occur to me at the proper time that something was an appropriate task to use it for.

Arborwiki Industrial History Project

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I apologize for the silence in this venue. My idle interneting time has been otherwise occupied lately with digesting various sources from the Bentley and elsewhere into Arborwiki pages on (mostly Ypsilanti) past local industries.

Check out the Arborwiki Industrial History Project for a fledgling entry point, or pages like Ferrier Machine Works (now the Ypsi food co-op), Louis Z. Foerster (prominent German-Canadian Ypsilanti brewer), or Federal Screw Works (vacant and likely doomed plant in Chelsea) as example pages.

1500 pages of OCR goodness

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*swoon*. (warning: local geekery.)

I've been pleased in the past that UMich's library has a scanned, publicly-accessible version of Charles Chapman's History of Washtenaw County, Michigan : together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships...and biographies of representative citizens. This is a 1,500 page book published in 1881 covering the area's history to that date - a pretty impressive length, when you consider that the white man's history of Washtenaw County, aside from a Jesuit or two, only extended as far back as 1823,

Historical census info

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Thanks to Dale, I'm suddenly aware of the National Historical Geographic Information System, from the University of Minnesota. NHGIS hosts census data back to 1790! (An admission of mindlessness: I pulled up 1790 as a test and for a moment thought they only had partial census data, since Michigan wasn't listed. D'oh.)

Now I just need to restrain myself to looking up only the data I actually need, and not geeking out into semirandom data dumps.

Tracking the Thirstbelt fires

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You can track wildfire size and containment status on InciWeb, a US Forest Service aggregator from various Federal agency databases. They additionally provide a Google Earth feed of fire data. However, I think it's still somewhat incomplete, since it lists only 162,000 acres in 7 active incidents in California, while the media is variously reporting numbers as high as 600,000 acres in 12 fires.

The question is why we insist on calling this a "natural disaster". Fire is good (and necessary) for many natural ecosystems - it's just bad for humans. Additionally, we generally wouldn't think the fire was a problem if there weren't humans in the way. Pop quiz: How many active forest fires are there in Montana right now? (Answer: 16 listed in InciWeb.) How many acres do they cover? (Answer: 411,000.) In Montana, it's not a "natural disaster", it's just natural. And, guess what, it's natural in California, as well. But because humans have gone and put themselves in the way of a (very predictable) natural phenomenon, it becomes a human disaster.

What kind of slime are you?


Your Score: CES: The Advisor!

75% Cuddliness, 30% Introversion, 45% Blobbiness

You are a Cuddly / Extraverted / Sharp slime: the Advisor! Whether it's helping a fellow slime out of a jam or breaking a confused human out of some mental rut, you're always happy to dive into a mess and look for the right way out. Unlike many other slime types, sometimes you can actually come up with solutions -- but it will always be with you slimey good cheer and your unique perspective on life.

Blortrand the Peripatetic was a famous advisor slime. He seemed gruff, but he was never too busy to help someone in need. In 1984 he spent a week in deep dialog with a depressed young university student. Those who were fortunate enough to observe the conversation described it as an epic Socratic duel, in which the student raised every possible reason for one to despair, and Blortrand time and again maneuvered her into admitting that the proper response was "to bounce." The young woman was eventually converted. Scholars consider this to have been the genesis of the rave movement.

Learn more about advisor slimes.

Link: The Slime Personality Test written by inhumandecency on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Model Y - Creating an alternative narrative

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For as long as I've been paying attention, Ypsilanti residents have had some significant discontent with its coverage in the local news. Many complain that Ypsi is to the Ann Arbor News what Detroit is to the national media - that place you go when you're out of fodder for your "if it bleeds, it leads" doctrine. (I don't know if I necessarily see it, but I haven't been paying attention to the News' Ypsi coverage for the 30 years that some have.) The Ypsilanti Courier, meanwhile, has long been maligned, with the criticism stepping up recently when Heritage Newspapers closed the Ypsi office and moved the paper to Belleville.

A few attempts have been made, or discussed, to provide "better" (more thorough and/or more balanced) news coverage to Ypsi. A year or two ago, a group of local bloggers were discussing the formation of an online news site, "The Ypsilanti Sentinel", but never quite got off the ground. (Oddly, google turns up a note in 2006 Pittsfield Township Historical Commission minutes that "A new newspaper will be starting in Ypsilanti, a daily newspaper called the Ypsilanti Evening Sentinal".) Blogger Steve Pierce went ahead and started videoing meetings and otherwise devoting his YpsiNews to local current events. Finally, word on the street is that a group of old-school Depot Townies have been discussing the formation of a new print paper, to the point of putting together a business plan and starting to raise the $1 million(!) in startup costs. Edit: This new daily publication would be the "Ypsilanti Evening Sentinal" - apparently there are only so many former Ypsi newspaper names worth recycling.

Now, into that simmering brew of alt-media efforts, let's throw in an experienced regional new media powerhouse, shall we? Sure, sounds good.

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