Dick Tracy’s wrist radio is here

I remember reading about Dick Tracy in the funny papers when I was a boy. I always marveled at his nifty-neato wrist radio that sent pictures too. Years went by and I dabbled in all sorts of communication media, eventually finding my way to the wonderful world of webcams. At last I can chat with family and friends and there will be none of the maddening misunderstandings brought about by primitive text-only e-mail! Whoo hoo! Dick Tracy lives!

Excited beyond words (but not to worry, gestures come through fine on a webcam) I set about getting my friends and family set up to use their webcams – and thereby hangs this tale. While some of them had computers with built-in cameras others needed to buy an add-on. In some cases I discovered their computer simply didn’t have the oomph to make a webcam work properly. Eventually I came up with a short list of notes that any aspiring Dick Tracy would need to read:

  • If your computer is more than five years old you might not be able to use a webcam effectively. Processor speed over 1 GHz is helpful and more is better.
  • If you’re on dialup, stop trying and get cable or DSL.
  • Make sure there’s sufficient light for the camera to work – even the Bat Cave had lights.
  • Place the camera so when you look at the screen to see your fellow webanaut it appears you’re looking at them – i.e. the webcam app window should be close to the camera pickup. Otherwise you’ll appear to be looking in some random direction – distracting at best.
  • Make sure the camera is fastened down firmly or you’ll look like you’re in a continuous earthquake and your friends may need Dramamine.
  • Be sure to speak clearly and have as little ambient noise as possible – turn the heavy metal down/off and refrain from tapping on things.

Now that I had them wired up, the next step was getting on the right ‘wavelength’ – there’s a couple of ways you can connect webcam users:

Skype – originally an internet telephony tool, it now supports video and is available for PC and Macintosh computers. It’s fairly easy to set up and lets PC and Mac users connect seamlessly. You’ll need to get a free Skype account.

iChat – exclusively Mac but comes standard on new machines and is fall-off-a-log simple to set up and use. Requires an AOL instant messenger (AIM) account.

There are also literally dozens of other webcam-support programs out there but those two will give you the best chance of getting a relative newbie up and running.

So now that I’ve gotten my coterie of communication-savvy geeks and geekettes set up with webcams, good computers and software there’s only one question left:

What do we talk about?

Tune in next time when I’ll be discussing digital video. Until then remember: Webcams and wine don’t mix.

Doug Wray is webmaster for the CU-Boulder Alumni Association, an instructor at Boulder Digital Arts and a huge geek.

East Looe Boys

by Alan Moorhouse
Go here to listen on ReverbNation.
Here’s the Alan Moorhouse Band Facebook Page

It was Saturday night
and we were tight
and the maids were locked indoors
and we planned to meet at Union Street
mid the sailors and the whores

On our forth round
we heard the sound
they singin’ Trelawney song
they fisher-boys makin all that noise
and from then it didn’t take long

When the East Looe Boys come in
with a shout and a terrible din
we would smack some chins
and get stuck in
when the East Looe Boys come in

We would fight they boys whenever we could
in the pubs or county fairs
we’d fight they Bodmin and Liskeard boys
Anytime anyplace! anywhere

For we worked six days
in frost or blaze
on the land throughout the year
and on Saturday night we’d go out and fight
and we’d fill our ‘eads with beer

When the East Looe Boys come in
with a shout and a terrible din
we would smack some chins
and get stuck in
when the East Looe Boys come in

By ’41 me friends had gone
and the woman worked the land
but at last I turned eighteen
and the Army took this young farmhand

The basic training soon brought home
there was worse than a big black eye
for fightin’ that meant somethin else
at the old DCLI

When the East Looe Boys come in
with a shout and a terrible din
we would smack some chins
and get stuck in
when the East Looe Boys come in

At Tobruk, Benghazi, and El Alamein
we left good friends behind
and we landed ashore at Salerno
and the bloody place was mined

With a shattered leg under firin’ shell
I was scared out of my skin
and I thought me time had come as well
till the East Looe Boys come in

When the East Looe Boys come in
it was then we knew we’d win
and this frightened boy nearly cried for joy
when the East Looe Boys come in

They cleared the ridge that had pinned us down
they led us through the wire
Jim Batten grinned as he led me in
to a place not under fire

And they saved me leg and the German lad
who was lyin next to me
and I raised me thumb and I never made

another enemy

When the East Looe Boys come in
it was then we knew we’d win
and this frightened boy nearly cried for joy
when the East Looe Boys come in

So we go back there
just now and then
just Jim and Hans and me
and the crosses of so many men
it breaks your heart to see

And we fought back tears
these many years
we are old and grey and thin
but wherever we are they’ll be pints on the bar
when the East Looe Boys come in

When the East Looe Boys come in
When the East Looe Boys come in
this frightened boy nearly cried for joy
when the East Looe Boys come in

When the East Looe Boys come in
When the East Looe Boys come in
and wherever we are they’ll be pints on the bar
when the East Looe Boys come in

Thanks to my dear friend Rebecca Jessup for introducing me to this song – it touched my heart.

I’ve linked all the place-names and other info I could guess at. Still not sure what ‘get stuck in’ means but I surmise it has to do with getting one’s arse kicked roundly.

Steve Austin Lives

Solar Powered Augmented Reality Contact Lenses
ByronScott writes “Want eyesight that could put your neighborhood cyborg to shame? Well, University of Washington professor Babak Amir Parviz and his students are working on solar powered contact lenses embedded with hundreds of semitransparent LEDs, letting wearers experience augmented reality right through their eyes. If their research proves successful, the applications — from health monitoring to gameplay to just plain bionic sight -could be endless.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Geekspeak March 2010


How I learned to stop worrying and love writing on the web

All my life I’ve kept journals ― at first loose pages in a three-ring binder (remember THOSE?), which led to spiral-bound notebooks, hard-bound journals and finally as electronic files. Once I made the jump to the computer I thought, “Great! Now I’m really saving time and space.” But the further I got down the digital path, the more I realized I’d traded one set of limitations for another. Paper has a lovely random-access nature to it. You can leaf through a book and find an entry quickly, but not so with digital files. Folders of word-processor files are overwhelming and I didn’t dare keep it all as one big file. One mistake and I’d lose everything! So… what to do? About that point I started working on the web and fell in love with HTML and hyperlinked text. Now I was cookin’! Off I went building websites, linking pages and cranking out tons of content. Ultimately, I found the biggest obstacle to finding things was navigating to them. My navigation schemes got more powerful but were harder to maintain. There had to be a better way. That way turned out to be Web Content Management Systems (WCMS).

What’s a WCMS?

It’s a system for organizing information on the web by applying a navigation scheme/appearance to it. The navigation scheme/appearance is called a ‘theme’ and can be changed, essentially redesigning the site. The core of the WCMS is expandable via software plug-ins that add new features or change the behavior of core features.

What’s a blog?

First, it’s a neologism and a portmanteau word created from “web log,” which is a system of posting material organized by date and subject category. Readers are generally allowed to leave comments and some sites moderate user remarks while others just allow everything but investigate reports of bad behavior. So blogs now are very common and have spawned other forms of social media such as Facebook. There’s a lot of CMS systems out there – the ones that I considered using were Drupal, Joomla, MoveableType and WordPress.

Who needs a WCMS or a blog?

First, a brief overview: WCMSes create both pages and posts. The pages are what most people consider the website and there are parent and child pages, so information can be organized by the user rather than by date and category. So pages are the part of the site that’s more-or-less static and has fixed relationships, while the regular articles/announcements/etc in categories are the blog posts. has blog postings in these categories:

Posts enable, for example, your company’s event team to announce upcoming events, the communications team to publish their newsletter, the travel group to publish their upcoming trips and so on. It’s just dated material in categories. All these groups can enter new posts or update their information pages at the same time. It’s all done through the web. You surf to a page, enter credentials and step behind the curtain where you can edit the site’s content or appearance. Heady stuff.

RSS – Really Simple Syndication

One of the features of WCMSes is RSS. Sorry for the series of sequential sibilants. It’s for a website that has an audience (however small!) that wants to know when there’s something new to read. E-mail was the usual way until some bright person thought up aggregation and suggested that site operators have their CMSes produce a file ― the RSS file ― containing a standard list of the latest posts in their blogs. Then browsers like Firefox and aggregating programs can collect new post listings, alerting the faithful that the Wall Street Journal has a new article or their favorite cartoon superhero has a new adventure. It’s more of a user pull method than a provider push using e-mail. You get the news faster and have the ability to monitor many news sources at once. It’s created a whole new breed of netizen: the news junkie. So if a friend tells you about a great new way to get your news, beware. You may be on the road to news addiction! Here’s a little taste of RSS to help you get hooked started:

Note, you might want to investigate an RSS ‘aggregator’ like NetNewsWire for the Apple Macintosh or FeedDemon for IBM-PC. While your browser can aggregate RSS feeds, these programs provide some great features. I encourage you to check them out. So, ’til next time, keep your passwords obscure and your cache files clean when I’ll be talking about webcams. Doug Wray is the webmaster for the CU-Boulder Alumni Association.

Death Chemistry

From Bifurcated Rivets and orginally from Corante:

Things I Won’t Work With: Dioxygen Difluoride

Posted by Derek

The latest addition to the long list of chemicals that I never hope to encounter takes us back to the wonderful world of fluorine chemistry. I’m always struck by how much work has taken place in that field, how long ago some of it was first done, and how many violently hideous compounds have been carefully studied. Here’s how the experimental prep of today’s fragrant breath of spring starts:

The heater was warmed to approximately 700C. The heater block glowed a dull red color, observable with room lights turned off. The ballast tank was filled to 300 torr with oxygen, and fluorine was added until the total pressure was 901 torr. . .

And yes, what happens next is just what you think happens: you run a mixture of oxygen and fluorine through a 700-degree-heating block. “Oh, no you don’t,” is the common reaction of most chemists to that proposal, “. . .not unless I’m at least a mile away, two miles if I’m downwind.” This, folks, is the bracingly direct route to preparing dioxygen difluoride, often referred to in the literature by its evocative formula of FOOF.

Well, “often” is sort of a relative term. Most of the references to this stuff are clearly from groups who’ve just been thinking about it, not making it. Rarely does an abstract that mentions density function theory ever lead to a paper featuring machine-shop diagrams, and so it is here. Once you strip away all the “calculated geometry of. . .” underbrush from the reference list, you’re left with a much smaller core of experimental papers.

And a hard core it is! This stuff was first prepared in Germany in 1932 by Ruff and Menzel, who must have been likely lads indeed, because it’s not like people didn’t respect fluorine back then. No, elemental fluorine has commanded respect since well before anyone managed to isolate it, a process that took a good fifty years to work out in the 1800s. (The list of people who were blown up or poisoned while trying to do so is impressive). And that’s at room temperature. At seven hundred freaking degrees, fluorine starts to dissociate into monoatomic radicals, thereby losing its gentle and forgiving nature. But that’s how you get it to react with oxygen to make a product that’s worse in pretty much every way.


Holy shit. Read this. Here’s an excerpt:

“…gas mixture was heated to 700°C and was then rapidly cooled on the outer surface of stainless steel tubes. The tubes were refrigerated by a liquid oxygen..”

Children starve and die while we make these horrors? I lose hope for mankind.

The Future will be Padded

This is the inaugural posting of GeekSpeak, a monthly snapshot of web technologies (existing and brand new) as well as advice on how they can benefit you as a netizen.

This month I’ll be discussing the new Apple iPad and my thoughts on it.

When I was growing up information came in only a few channels: word of mouth, print and broadcast (tv and radio). The “information superhighway” wasn’t even a rude trail in the forest yet.

By the time I graduated from college the internet had appeared along with some new information channels: websites, e-mail and chat rooms. Computers went from being rare curiosities to commonplace fixtures.

With the rise of the internet came the decline of newspapers and magazines, rudely shoved aside by news sites and a wave of web logs (blogs). Consumers of this “new media” insist on up-to-the-second information and use specialized monitoring programs (feed readers and aggregators) to watch scores of sites for any tidbits that might appear.

For content-hungry consumers the smartphone isn’t quite enough (too slow, too small) and a laptop is too much (too bulky, too heavy). Apple’s “Air” portable sought to address those issues with an ultra slim design and improved battery life but was just slightly wide of the mark. Users wanted something compact, fast enough for general use and light enough to take everywhere – and I mean everywhere – remember the shower radio?

Enter the iPad.

A tool for web browsing, email, video and data entry, the iPad is a LCD touchscreen with a proprietary Apple chip driving it. The iPad eschews ungainly hard disk drives, using compact chip-based “flash RAM” instead. The all-solid-state storage has some excellent advantages: size, higher efficiency (i.e. longer device battery life), superior durability (no head crashes) and fast read/write speed. The primary drawback is price – roughly 10x the price of hard disk storage – so the advantages come with a hefty price tag.

However, once past the wallet-clubbing troll you’re over the digital bridge into a world where all the major newspapers are literally at your fingertips. A tap opens a story, a pinch-open gesture enlarges and a hand-swipe pans or scrolls. Video and music are simple and fun. You can video conference with a friend while you’re riding the bus to work thanks to the device’s 4G network connection. In short, it’s lighter than a laptop, nearly as fast (faster in some cases) and big enough to read like a folded-up newspaper – and no ink stains!

Oh, did I mention e-books?

Apple’s online store lets users download music, e-books and video effortlessly. Hear of a great new novel on a website? A few taps, pinches and swipes and you’ve got it in your hand. Love the book? Drop the author a kudo via e-mail. Did I mention you’re still on the bus? Reach your destination, drop the iPad into your briefcase or messenger bag and it will sleep (power save) on its own, ready to jump back to  work when you pull it out at coffee time or lunch.

We may just be seeing the beginning of the end for paper-based content.

My only question is: where’s all the content for this brave new world coming from?

We’ll talk about that next time when I discuss blogging software and content management systems.

Till then, keep geekin!

A bad idea

Word from Winkler

A bad idea

By Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society

I confess that I have never thought of a corporation as a human being. It has never made any sense to me to consider the notion that God created General Motors or Wal-Mart or Goldman Sachs or Smith & Wesson in God’s image. Yet, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 last month that corporations are akin to individual people. The court ruled corporations should therefore have the right to spend as much money as they want to influence elections.

From past experience we know this is a bad idea. In the late 19th century, corporations virtually owned the U.S. Congress. It was no secret. They paid for and arranged the election of many members of Congress and, in return, they expected those representatives and senators to vote as they were directed.

From past experience we know this is a bad idea.

This permitted corporations to create monopolies and oligopolies. The sugar trust, the copper trust, the steel trust and other collusive arrangements existed. Regulations were evaded. Pollution and poisons killed countless numbers of people.

The power of money remains far too influential on Capitol Hill to this day. It is not difficult at all to trace corporate contributions to members of Congress to their voting records. Follow the money trail and you will see that our elected officials are all too beholden to the power of money.

The prophet Amos spoke against those merchants who “sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.” Psalm 15 defines upright persons as those who “…stand by their oath even to their hurt … and do not take a bribe against the innocent.”

If politicians are to focus on the well-being of the people and the nation, they must be able to depend on public financing that would take government away from special interests and return it to the people.

Money, you see, equals free speech.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that individuals can spend as much as they want on their own political campaigns. Money, you see, equals free speech.

That reminds me of the old story from West Virginia when the billionaire John D. Rockefeller IV ran for the U.S. Senate against Gov. Arch Moore. A popular bumper sticker read, “Make him spend it all, Arch.”

The rich and powerful always concoct reasons why they should have prerogatives not available to others. Kings argue they have a divine right to do what they want. The wealthy would have us believe that through their beneficence riches will “trickle down” eventually to the poor.

The Supreme Court decision defies common sense.

The Supreme Court decision defies common sense. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out that corporations are not people. Corporations should not be permitted to spend whatever money they want to influence elections. Neither should individuals or interest groups. We need elections to be played on an level field.

The United Methodist Church has long supported campaign finance reform. Our highest policy-making body, the General Conference has been calling for campaign finance reform since 1996. It approved a resolution in 2008 that specifically calls for strengthening campaign finance reform laws. The resolution, “Pathways to Economic Justice,” calls for laws “that prevent corporations and special interest groups from dominating elections and the legislative process.”

Our denomination’s efforts to fight the power of predatory gambling, alcohol and tobacco interests have long been thwarted by the fantastic sums of money those enterprises pour into the campaign coffers of politicians.

Fortunately, although they are treated as individuals, corporations don’t vote. We do. Politicians know that. We have to encourage them to do the right thing. Right now, that means contacting them in support of the “Fair Elections Now Act” (S. 752 and H.R. 1826). The Supreme Court has made an egregious error in its ruling. It is crucial to encourage your members of Congress to rectify that error through strengthening laws that will level the playing field for all of us.

Editor’s note: More than 200 faith leaders representing diverse religions sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., this week urging passage of the Fair Elections Now Act.” You can read about their effort in this issue of Faith in Action, at “Pass Fair Elections Now Act”. Date: 2/5/2010

Further Away

Long ago, like yesterday
she warned me
“You’ll miss me
when I’m gone”

Now the grief lies frozen
beneath my feet
till something breaks it
and casts me in

All the strength I took from her
washes away in a moment
the icy knowledge crashing in
that I will hear her no more

Small silences loom large
stopping my voice
the silence bursting with absence
of a love that defined my life

The days pass
the sun keeps rising
the ice seems thicker
and safer to walk across

The pain stays the same
fewer cracks in the ice
the truth still beneath my feet
just a little further away.

MDW 11/98
For Marilyn
on the loss of her mother


The Word from Winkler – News and Views from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. – Word from Winkler

Withholding food

By Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society

My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

—South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R) (The Greenville News, Jan. 25)

I prefer to think of impoverished people as sacred children of God. I read this stunningly uncharitable and unChristian statement several days after reading a posting on a United Methodist Web site that counseled people how and why not to give money to poor people who may approach on the street.

Surely, these are not among those he wants to stop feeding.

In Lt. Gov. Bauer’s own state, 58% of South Carolina school children participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program. Surely, these are not among those he wants to stop feeding.

One of The United Methodist Church’s focus areas is ministry with the poor. Many of our congregations support ministries for impoverished people. I doubt any of them withhold food in order to hold down the population, though.

When times get tough economically, some people always search for a reason to punish the poor. Years ago, the Reagan administration attempted unsuccessfully to classify packets of ketchup as vegetables in an effort to reduce school lunches for impoverished children.

The unfortunate news just arrived that President Obama intends in his “State of the Union” address to recommend no additional money be given to programs that help impoverished people. He’s also squeezing money to education, health and human services, housing and urban development, agriculture, environmental protection, national parks, nutrition and other non-defense spending.

At a time of great need, those in need will have to do without.

The military machine, as always, will be fed. Wars must go on. The merchants of death must receive their due. Regretfully, there will be scant opposition in Congress to the continually growing military budget. Anyone who questions money for war risks being portrayed as soft on terrorism, a charge that frightens many elected officials.

Lt. Gov. Bauer tried to clarify his faux pas by stating he just wants to end the “culture of dependency.” Me, too: I want to see an end to our dependency on military spending and violent solutions to solve problems.

Money spent on nutrition, education, and health and human needs is a wise use of our resources. Well-fed and well-cared for children and adults are more productive and valuable to society. Let’s care for all of God’s creatures.

Date: 1/27/2010

Daren Gray

Screamingly funny twist on Casey at the Bat.

From the comments at’s live coverage of the Apple event

“Jobs at the Bat”

by Daren Gray

(as largely thefted from Ernest Lawrence Thayer)


The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the older tech that day:

The score stood ten to one against, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Kindle died at first, and Nook did the same,

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.


A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, if only Jobs could get but a whack at that –

We’d put up even money now, and possibly our cat.


But first some stuff about that phone, and more of AT&T

And the former was a lulu and the latter an atrocity;

So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,

For there seemed but little chance of Jobs getting out of that.


But soon the music swelled and to the wonderment of all,

To ringing chords of Coldplay came Jobs into the hall

And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,

There was Jobs upon the stage, and Ballmer flipped him the bird.


Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;

It rumbled through the building, it rattled down at Dell;

It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,

For Jobs, mighty Jobs, was advancing to the… WHAT THE F*** IS THAT?!


There was ease in Jobs’ manner as he stepped into his place;

There was pride in Jobs’ bearing and a smile on Jobs’ face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lofted high the gizmo,

No fanboy in the crowd could hold their ever-building jizzmo.


Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with balm;

Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped it on his palm.

Then while the writhing members ground their hands into their hips,

Defiance gleamed in Jobs’ eye, a sneer curled Jobs’ lips.


And now his withered old man finger came whizzing cross the screen,

And Jobs stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur keen.

Close by the sturdy CEO the clock unheeded sped –

”That ain’t my style,” said Jobs. “Strike one,” a critic said.


From the aisles, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.

“Kill him! Kill the blasphemer!” shouted someone on the stand;

And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Jobs raised his hand.


With a smile of Christian charity great Jobs’ visage shone;

He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the show go on;

He signaled to the projector, and once more the hype did flew;

But Jobs still ignored it, and the critic said, “Strike two.”


“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;

But one scornful look from Jobs and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,

And they knew that Jobs wouldn’t let that moment pass again.


The sneer is gone from Jobs’ lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;

He pounds with cruel violence the tablet on his pate.

And now the critic holds his tongue, and now he lets it go,

And now the air is shattered by the force of Jobs’ blow.


Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children tweet;

There is no joy in Redmond, but, MAN… this tablet’s sweet!


Posted by: daren_gray | 01/27/10 | 2:13 am

Great Speech

This speech was incredibly moving to me when I first read it while posting it at the CU Alumni Association’s website. I was doing a year-end review of content and felt moved again to read it through… and was just as impressed as the first time. I encourage you to read the entire piece, it’s an amazing speech, I’m going to have to find the video of it – certainly it’s amazing.

I’ve met judge Arguello a couple of times now and she was very sweet, taking note that I had posted her speech, saying she’d had trouble finding it online – so I hope having it here makes it even easier to find.

Thank you for being ambitious Christine and giving your life to the people to make the law live and breathe. We are honored by your service.


Remarks by Christine M. Arguello (Edu’77)

Investiture for United States District Judge for the District of Colorado

December 5, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, cherished family and friends, esteemed colleagues and honored guests:

First let me thank the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and all my dear friends at the CHBA for this beautiful robe – I can think of no better symbol of your friendship and respect than this gift, which I shall cherish.

Words cannot express the emotions I am feeling today as I consider the responsibility that has been entrusted to me by this appointment. Perhaps this is because in my heart, today is really yesterday – a day more than 40 years ago when, as a 13-year-old, I picked up a magazine in the library and found myself entranced by the world of the law, and with the prospect that I could become a lawyer – an advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves.

In the decades that have followed that day, I am privileged to have been such an advocate, as well as a teacher, and now, today, a guardian of the law. In each of these roles, I hope I have been steadfast in my responsibilities as a citizen, and it is with respect for my fellow citizens that I wish today to share, with them, and with you, a little bit of who I am, and what I will bring to the role of United States District Judge for the District of Colorado.

I think the people deserve to know who presides over their courts and what we bring to that enormous responsibility. I bring a number of big dreams realized. Even as a barber’s daughter in Buena Vista, Colorado, I dreamed big. Maybe it was the altitude, or maybe it was my attitude. Either way, I was fortunate not only to have such dreams, but to be encouraged to pursue them by my father, and my mother, my wonderful husband Ron, and by many other key mentors and friends who saw my potential and reached out to grab my hands and help pull me up that steep incline of life.

But first, back to my “Eureka” moment when the “lawyer” light bulb went on for me. As a child, I was an avid reader. I discovered that marvelous entity known as the public library during the summer after my 4th grade year. And believe me, I was a frequent visitor to that little library in Buena Vista – trekking the two miles from my home on the outskirts of Buena Vista to the library at least 3 times a week during the summer – because I was only allowed to check out 3 books at a time. You can ask my dear sister Elaine and she will tell you that, much to her chagrin, I was the type of kid who would rather spend time reading than doing anything else, and that included playing with her. Because in my family only the “girls” did the housework and cooking and I was the oldest girl so most of the responsibility of helping my mom fell on my shoulders, often, in order to read, I had to sneak off and climb my reading tree, where hidden by the foliage, I could spend hours immersed in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder or Jo of Little Women. And even when I heard my mom calling for me to come in to peel the potatoes or iron the clothes, I just could not pull my nose out of that book, although I knew I was going to get a whipping when I finally did climb down from my reading tree.

One day, as I waited for my friend who was querying the librarian about a book she was looking for, I happened to pick up a news magazine – I don’t remember if it was Time or Newsweek but it was a news magazine of that sort – and, leafing through it, found an article on lawyers and law schools.

I have to say that lightning struck me. I was swept away – partially by images of Harvard University with its stately red brick buildings with the pillars and black iron gates and, of course, its ivy. And partially by the sheer power of what the text conveyed about what the law and its advocates could achieve for people and for our nation. From that moment on, I was on a new mission – I no longer wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be a lawyer and I wanted to go to Harvard Law School.

Incidentally, knocking “teacher” off the top of my list of careers was no mean trick. Based on a previous “Eureka” moment that had transpired about three years earlier, I had committed to become a teacher and inspire kids, just like Mrs. Cole had inspired me. We had just moved to Buena Vista in October of my fourth grade year so that my dad could open up his barbershop, and it was the first time I attended public school instead of Catholic school. Unfortunately for me, my experience with the nuns was not positive. My memories are of strict, humorless nuns with rulers in their hands meting out discipline for such things as speaking Spanish on the playground or putting your shoes on the wrong foot. Needless to say, I hated school and was counting the days until I hit 8th grade (some how I had gotten it into my head that you could drop out in 8th grade) so I could drop out of school and get a job.

Fortunately for me, God had other plans in mind. My 4th grade teacher at Irving W. Avery Elementary School in Buena Vista was Mildred Cole. Mrs. Cole was one of those teachers that when she told the class she wanted the room so quiet she could hear a pin drop, the class immediately quieted down. Mrs. Cole liked me because of my Catholic school manners, bearing, and respect for authority. Every time she called on me I would stand up to address her – “yes, ma’am” or “no, ma’am”. This behavior caused my classmates to giggle, but I could tell it pleased Mrs. Cole, so I didn’t mind. Anyway, one day Mrs. Cole came up behind me as I toiled in my phonics workbook and I froze in terror, expecting the ruler at any minute to slash across the knuckles of my hands. Instead, she leaned down and, noticing I was working on making up the pages I had missed, patted me on the back and whispered kindly in my ear, “My, aren’t you ambitious?”

I didn’t know what “ambitious” meant, but I could tell by the encouraging tone of her voice that she was complimenting me and that “ambitious” had to be a positive word. During recess, I looked up the word in the classroom dictionary and discovered that ambitious meant – “having a strong desire for success or achievement.” I decided that being ambitious was a good thing and I decided then and there that I would be ambitious and instead of dropping out of school when I got to 8th grade, I would stay in school and grow up to be a teacher just like Mrs. Cole – my first teacher mentor.

So, it was not an easy decision to give up that dream and assume my new aspiration of becoming a lawyer and going to Harvard Law School. But from seventh grade through my junior year in high school, I did not waiver in my Harvard ambitions. I didn’t know anything about Harvard, other than that the magazine said it was the “best” law school in the country and that is what I wanted for myself – “the best.” In my simple thinking, I figured that to get into the “best” school I would have to be the “best” student. So, from that day forward, it wasn’t good enough for me to get merely A’s in my classes, I had to have the top grade in all my classes. And if I didn’t get it the first time, I would just work harder and make sure I set the curve the next time. It helped that I had smart and supportive friends like Jolene Flowers Ahrens, who together with her mother Eva Flowers, traveled from Buena Vista today to share in this celebration with me. I remember that at the beginning of our freshman year, Jolene told me that she wanted to be Valedictorian of the class. I asked her what that was, because I had never heard the term. She said it was the student in the class that had the highest grades and that student got to give the speech at graduation. I said, “That sounds good to me. I think I will be Valedictorian.” And, throughout high school Jolene and I were neck to neck in the competition to be class valedictorian. But there was never any jealousy or negative competition, we just helped inspire one another to be and do our best.

And though I did not waiver from my dream, neither did I share my dream publicly with anyone. Deep down I instinctively knew that others would not really understand or accept the idea of Phil the barber’s daughter going to Harvard Law School. This knowledge reached its zenith during my junior year in high school.

On a late spring day – the kind when most students are daydreaming about being anywhere but in school and a few are projecting their lives forward into the future – my high school English teacher, Mrs. Cecilia Poplin decided to go around the room and ask each of us what we were going to do with our lives after we graduated high school.

Each student volunteered his or her big plans. This one was going to be an engineer, that one a teacher, another one a hair dresser. My classmates became enthralled with each other’s possibilities, applauding and offering words of encouragement to each in turn. As I listened with one ear, a raging debate was going on in my head – should I tell them? Will they support me? Finally, my turn came. After hearing all the acclaim of my classmates for one another’s big plans, I let my guard down, figuring they would greet my grand ambitions with the same applause and encouragement they had given to one another.

So, when the question was directed at me, “What about you, Chris?” I forthrightly declared my intentions. “I am going to be a lawyer and I am going to go to Harvard Law School.” I waited for their response, expecting some words of encouragement or support. And I waited—Instead, I got stunned looks and— silence. Deafening silence, for what seemed to me like hours. Then my worst nightmare: a few nervous giggles and then someone broke the silence: “Ha Ha Ha – Chris Martinez thinks she can go to Harvard.”

Although the rest of that day is a blur in my memory, to this day I can still feel that turmoil of emotions and the sharp stab of pain that struck me to the bone. I remember hiding in the bathroom until well after school was out because there was no way I was going to let anyone to see me cry. As I walked down the now silent, empty hallways of my school on the way out to my rusted out 1960 Ford which I had bought for $50, the laughter of my classmates ringing in my ears, I began to doubt myself. “My friends are right. Who did I think I was? What made me think I was so special that I could get into a school like Harvard?” And so, with the echo of laughter ringing in my ears, the flame that was my dream began to sputter and fade. But again, that was not part of God’s Greater Plan for my life. Instead, Mrs. Poplin intercepted me just as I was ready to walk out of the school. In fact, years later I realized she had been waiting for me. She stopped me, looked me straight in the eye, and, unwavering, said “Chris, I know you can do it.” These 7 words from a person that I deeply respected were all I needed to re-ignite the flame of my ambition – one person who believed in me! I returned to school the next day more determined than ever to accomplish whatever dreams or goals I set for myself. And I haven’t waivered since.

I often think about Mrs. Poplin – about whether I would be speaking to you here today, if she had not found me that awful day more than 30 years ago. Later, in my law school years at Harvard, I wrote to Mrs. Poplin and I expressed to her how important her belief in me had been to me at a critical tipping point in my life. A number of years ago, Mrs. Poplin’s daughter contacted me to tell me that her mother had passed away. She told me that she had found my letters and she just wanted to let me know how much those letters had meant to her mother. She told me that she had found them tucked safely away in her mother’s bible and by their condition she could tell that her mother had read them many times.

This story is a tribute to all those teachers out there, like my husband Ron, my sister Elaine, my friends Carol Silva and Rick and Veronica Gallegos who, despite low pay, never have waivered from their dedication to preparing the next generation of kids and inspiring them to be all that they can be. It is because of people like Mrs. Poplin and my husband that I have such a commitment to mentoring others – many of whom are sitting in this courtroom today.

I tell that story when I speak to young people for all the obvious reasons – because they need to know what determination can achieve; because it’s good for them to learn the value of not ridiculing the dreams of their classmates; but also, because I want them to understand that all it takes is for one person to believe in you and to express that belief to help you keep your dreams on track.

As for my friends, I eventually forgave them because I came to understand that their laughter was not of spite, but rather, was of incredulity and an inability to comprehend such grand dreams. No one from Buena Vista, as far as they knew, had ever attended Harvard Law School. I later came to find out that I was a bit ahead of my time – the year I decided that I was going to go to Harvard was 1968 – the year I confided my dream to my classmates was 1972. Harvard did not admit its first Chicana until 1974.

My path to this courtroom was blazed by so many other mentors – great professors at CU-Boulder, Harvard Law and later KU Law School where I taught law; attorneys in the community and at the firms where I worked; and judges in whose courts I have won and lost cases. I won’t go into all of those acknowledgements because that only leads to trouble when you inadvertently leave someone out. Also, I promised to keep my remarks to 15 minutes.

But there are some very special people that I want to acknowledge because they stand out. My dad, Felipe Ramon Martinez and my mom, Emilia Manuela Martinez, both of whom taught their children the importance of a strong work ethic, the value of an education, the responsibility to share the blessings God has bestowed upon us with those less fortunate, and so many other lessons that have made me the person I am today.

Unfortunately daddy died three years ago and my mom was too ill to make the trip from Pueblo so they are not able to be here in body, but I know how proud they both are and I know that both continue to hold me up in prayer – that the Lord will guide me in my new role as a guardian of the law. But daddy, I think it is time for you to stop bragging to all your friends in heaven about your Jita who, even though she didn’t become the first doctor in the family, is now a big shot Federal judge!

Last, but certainly not least, I want to recognize my family – my loving and much loved husband Ron and my wonderful children Ronnie, Tiffany, Jennifer, and Kenny. I was truly blessed when God set Ron in my path my first week at CU more than 35 years ago. Ron and I were just kids when we married and we have essentially grown up together. Ron, thank you for always being there for me, for inspiring me when I needed encouragement, for believing in me when I lost faith in myself, for guiding me when I was lost and floundering. Most of all thank you for the sacrifices you have made in your life and your career so that I could achieve my dreams and my ambitions. Without you Ron, I know I would not be where I am today. You are and always have been the love of my life and my anchor. Ronnie, Tiffany, Jennifer, and Kenny – I hope you know how much I love you all and how proud I am of each of you. A mom couldn’t ask for better kids. I hope you know that all I do, I do for you.

I am very much aware that I am here today not simply because of the force of my own ambitions, but in equal measure, because of the faith, hope, and charity of many, many people, who saw in my ambitions something bigger than my fortunes alone. Who saw something good and lasting for their community, for their country, and for its most vital public institutions. I intend in all matters to be true to them, even as I am true to the law. My own history demands it, but more importantly, the times demand it.

And these are, we must admit, difficult times. Our economy languishes. We are engaged in two military struggles in the Middle East with uncertain ends. We have a new president with a new spirit of optimism and bold confidence, and a new Congress with fresh new faces from all walks of American life. And yet a pressing question remains: can our hearts and minds invest these leaders with confidence and faith? Are we patient enough to let our government function in this, our digital age, where things are expected to move at a lightning pace and arrive at a destination that always pleases us, rewards us and benefits us? Can our government succeed when people measure its effectiveness by a yardstick of satisfaction forged from the material world, and not from the world of values, ethics, and service that is supposed to infuse our civic life?

These questions are no less pressing and momentous for our legal system – the third branch of our government – than they are for the executive and legislative branches. Our justice system, too, suffers from low public esteem and a lack of public confidence. It is plagued by false expectations – that it, and the law itself, should somehow function to always give people what they want, rather to mete out what truth and justice demand.

Alongside these false concepts of the law and our lack of confidence in our justice system, I find even more troubling the degradation of the rule of law itself. While our foreign policy seeks to advance this central tenet of free societies as a public value in other nations, the United States of America seems headed in the opposite direction.

Again we see an apathy, a shrugging-off, a broad disinterest by U.S. society in the need to continue the commitment to the three-part process that has advanced and secured our freedoms up to the present: i) reasoned, civil discourse regarding policy choices on economic and social issues; ii) accurate translation of the results from such discourse into laws and regulations and dedication of adequate resources to enforce them; and iii) adherence to those rules by government officials at all levels – most importantly at the highest level.

If we forsake the rule of law for convenience or expediency; if we sacrifice it out of ruthlessness; if we abandon it out of laziness, history will never forgive us. All who have struggled against tyranny, arbitrary rule, despotism, and even simple injustice, will hold us accountable for all time for this unforgiveable sin. It cannot be allowed to happen. The rule of the law is one of the crowning American legacies – as George Washington reminded us, “The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.”

As guardians of the law, we have a special responsibility at this difficult moment in our nation’s history to restore the rule of law as a living, breathing, working value in American society even as we work to enshrine it in other societies. Likewise, we must embrace the co-equal challenge of restoring confidence in the judicial branch of our government as a key step toward restoring overall confidence in our entire government.

And so the challenge today for us – for me, for all the judges invested today; all the attorneys admitted to the bar today; all the DAs reporting for their first day of work today in Denver and around the nation; all the law students studying for finals at law schools here in Colorado and around the country – with Washington’s admonition – “the administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government” – in mind, is to commit to begin this process anew. As if this were the first birth of our republic, as if all pressing issues were at stake, as if our survival depended upon our efforts – because plainly, it does.

And with this commitment, let us draw not just upon our training, our scholarship, and our dedication as guardians of the law. Let us draw upon our life experience, our deepest humanity and the understanding of human nature we have cultivated in our lives outside the practice of law.

What we need most now, at this moment, is not more expertise. We have expertise to burn. We are not lacking in legal brilliance, erudition, or talent by any measure. No, if we are to summon the public back into a confident compact with our legal system – with attorneys, with judges and juries, with litigants – it must come from a demonstration that the law is relevant and central to people’s lives, not separate and sequestered from their lives.

And so with this in mind, I return to the story I told at the beginning of my remarks: my life story. As a guardian of the law, I am pledging today to stay in close touch with all that I have been, with all whom I have met, with all that I have seen. I will trust in my training, certainly, and in my professional experience, but alone, they will not be adequate to make me an effective judge, or to do the extra work of helping to restore some measure of public confidence in our courts, in our judicial system, and in the law itself.

To do that requires an extra commitment. So as I pledge that commitment today, I ask all of you to do the same. I ask you to infuse your work in the law with the passion that your lives have forged, with the humanity that has informed your work, and with the decency that has grounded your conduct. Nothing is more important than that we do this, and do it now. Our times demand it. The future of the law, and of American civilization, demands it.

And for those of you not involved in the law directly, I ask you to rededicate yourselves to renewing the spirit of civic discourse and to doing the hard work of advancing our republic in your lives and your work. This is important work – as John Adams reminded us: “there are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth: those who are committed, and those who require the commitment of others.” We must become both kinds of people to ensure the blessings of our republic and the promise of our government.

I stand ready and eager to undertake the tremendous challenges ahead and am confident that, with the support and mentoring that the other members of this court have already provided to me, I will be successful. For myself, I hope it is said that my time on the bench was dedicated to these propositions – that I helped to make our courts better, make the administration of justice better, and make the law live, and live vibrantly, in our little corner of America. I would be satisfied with that legacy – the kind of legacy at the center of the great poem “Success” – long my favorite work, which reads: “To know that even one life has breathed easier because I have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

I strive to attain this kind of success. And I wish it for each of you as well. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this supreme honor, for being here with me today, and for hearing me out. Let us commit to helping others achieve what this small town girl, with the help of many of you in this audience, has achieved – a very big dream; indeed, the “American Dream.”


I just wanted to offer a sincere thanks to all of the programmers, moderators, testers and other users of WordPress. This tool has revolutionized my web experience, brought me business and made my clients more productive. I owe it all to you folks.

Thank you.

May the season bring you everything you hope for and may the new year be filled with joy!

Blessings on you all.

Day of Reckoning

Democratic Senator: GOP on Desperate Mission of Propaganda, Obstruction and Fear

By Sheldon Whitehouse, AlterNet. Posted December 21, 2009.

In his Senate floor speech on the health-care bill, the Rhode Island senator accused the GOP of fomenting the kind of paranoia that led to Kristallnacht and lynchings.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This floor speech was delivered by the junior senator from Rhode Island yesterday, as the Senate remained in session to debate the health-care bill before a procedural vote that will bring the bill to the Senate floor later this week. References to “Madam President” or “Mr. President” refer to the senator who is presiding over the body at the time of the senator’s comments. When Whitehouse began speaking, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was presiding; when he finished up, it was one of the male senators wielding the gavel. Transcription and links added by AlterNet.

Madam President, as we are here in the Senate today, Washington rests under a blanket of snow, reminding us here of the Christmas spirit across the nation — the spirit that is bringing families happily together for the holidays. Unfortunately, a different spirit has descended on this Senate. The spirit that has descended on the Senate is one described by Chief Justice John Marshall back in the Burr trial: “those malignant and vindictive passions which rage in the bosoms of contending parties struggling for power.”

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Hofstadter captured some examples in his famous essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

The “malignant and vindictive passions” often arise, he points out, when an aggrieved minority believes that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind. Though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.” Does that sound familiar, Madam President, in this health-care debate? Forty years ago he wrote that.

Hofstader continued, those aggrieved fear what he described as “the now-familiar sustained conspiracy” — familiar then, 40 years ago; persistent now — “whose supposed purpose,” Hofstadter described, “is to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism.” Again, familiar words here today.

More than 50 years ago, he wrote of the dangers of an aggrieved right-wing minority with the power to create what he called “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”

A political environment “in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”

The malignant and vindictive passions that have descended on the Senate are busily creating just such a political climate. Far from appealing to the better angels of our nature, too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, falsehood, obstruction and fear.

Read the rest at Alternet.

Others declare me a guru

This is truly funny and sweet. Just recently someone using a pseudonymous sockpuppet to mock me said I was a self-proclaimed guru. It was a direct slam against the text on my about page. I ignored it because it was clear they simply didn’t read the whole page.

Then, today, one of my students and a local journalist, Bob Wells writes an article about two other WordPress experts and I!

WordPress gurus speak

Thanks Bob! You da man.

Go give the Boulder Reporter a lookee see!

AC Adapters

A friend of mine went to South America recently. He prudently went to a Boulder store to get a power connector adapter – and was promptly given the wrong thing by an ill-informed shopkeeper. So, upon reaching his destination, he ended up having to buy something that would work. Here’s photos of the adapters he needed:

These cost around $5 USD… the one’s recommended in Boulder – I think he said around $20. He took the bogus ones back and asked for a refund.

Double-check before you buy!

Rough God Goes Riding

by Van Morrisson

Oh the mud splattered victims
Have to pay out all along the ancient highway
Torn between half truth and victimisation
Fighting back with counter attacks

It’s when that rough god goes riding
When the rough god goes gliding
And then rough god goes riding
Riding on in

I was flabbergasted by the headlines
People in glasshouses throwing stones
Gaping wounds that will never heal
Now they’re moaning like a dog in a manger

It’s when that rough god goes riding
And then the rough god goes gliding
There’ll be nobody hiding
When that rough god comes riding on in

And it’s a matter of survival
When you’re born with your back against the wall
Won’t somebody hand me a bible
Won’t you give me that number to call

When that rough god goed riding
And then that rough god goes gliding
They’ll be nobody hiding
When that rough god goes riding on in
Riding on in

When that rough god goes riding
When that rough god goes gliding
There’ll be nobody hiding
When that rough god goes riding on in
Riding on in

There’ll be no more heroes
They’ll be reduced to zero
When that rough god goes riding
Riding on in
Riding on in
Riding on in