Left In Lowell

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April 26, 2014

Sun Stealin’

by at 2:46 pm.

In an unbelievably stupid and clumsy move, the Lowell Sun has been caught, yet again, stealing photos from people and calling them Sun file photos. This time, it’s from blogger Marianne, from Art is the Handmaid of Human Good. It was first posted on her write up about the new Father Morissette Boulevard bike lanes, dated from August 28, 2013.

The Cub Reporter responded to Marianne on Twitter, but you shouldn’t hold your breath on them fixing it (and it’s already in the print edition, anyone want to wager if they’ll post an apology?). It’s still there as of this posting, anyway.

Here is the photo in use on the website, and Marianne also posted a pic of it in use in print edition as well:

photo Marianne stolen pic.png

You can see in the writing underneath the photo, that they claim it as a Sun file photo, and even that they’re selling it if you want to buy it:

 photo Marianne stolen pic close up of caption.png

Excuse my French but…what a bunch of fucking amateurs.

March 11, 2014

Learn to Code for Websites!

by at 10:26 am.

The 3-session class I teach at LTC, Intensive Web Design, is starting this Thursday, March 13, with sessions on subsequent Thursdays on the 20th and 27th. The class goes from 6:30-9:30 PM (the website says 6-9 but we always do 6:30 til 9:30 when LTC closes). We could use some more students for this session! Learn web coding from scratch, no previous web experience needed! Must have basic Mac skills.

We run through a lot of material - a class of this intensity would take up most of a semester at a university or community college. We can get through material faster because the class size is small. Fee for LTC members is $50 with $25 book fee, or $75 with $25 book fee for nonmembers. It is WELL worth the cost!

Here’s the class description:

INTENSIVE WEB DESIGN 1

This 3-session class is an intense, comprehensive HTML/CSS class for those who are really serious about web design. It is taught using DreamWeaver, but you will be able to create your website in other programs. (4 student minimum)

Date & Time: Thursday, March 13, 20, 27 - 6:00-9:00 PM [note - I typically start at 6:30 and end at 9:30pm]
Fee: $50 (non-member $75) plus $25 materials fee for textbook.
To sign up using PayPal, please visit http://ltc.org/content/current-class-schedule and pay the “Intermediate/Advanced workshop fee”
If you’d prefer to pay by cash or check, please email gpolites@ltc.org to reserve a spot.

January 13, 2014

Nipping the Memes in the Butt

by at 2:12 pm.

(Yeah, I know the phrase ends with “bud.” I like mine better!)

I love social media. Especially Facebook. It has the power of instant communication, which brings out largely unfiltered thoughts, and is a great place for floating trial balloons. You can bounce ideas and concepts off of other people, in private, in a group, or in open forum, and it’s a wonderful place for gathering together the general zeitgeist of a present situation.

While I do a lot of personal posting on Facebook, so much so that I limit my friends list to only those people that I’m comfortable with seeing my photos of my dogs and nieces, amigurumi projects (my present obsession) and other things of a personal nature, interaction on friends’ statuses and in groups that include people outside my friends circle gives me a glimpse I might not otherwise get into the minds of people who don’t much agree with me on a particular issue.

So it’s no surprise that I’m seeing some memes come together around the resignation of the City Manager. They center around trying to undermine the term “professional” as applied to outgoing City Manager Bernie Lynch.

Now in some ways, this whole thing is moot. Bernie, gawd love ya, but you’re history. Old news. Yesterday’s diapers. Er, you get the drift. Rehashing age-old debates about your tenure, which is soon to end, is about as useful as closing the barn door when the horse already hightailed it. But two things I find fascinating about this: one, you can see very clearly how these memes develop and get a life of their own, right in plain pixelated view (as opposed to festering in the Lowell Rumor Mill™). Two, this conversation does have a relevance to the future, in that the effort to undermine the concept of professional city government is an ongoing one that will affect the outcome of our hiring practices (or keeping Plan E at all). A la previous blog post, etc.

(more…)

October 27, 2013

Learning Lowell

by at 11:16 am.

When one door closes, another one opens. To the embarrassment of riches that is the Lowell blogosphere (it’s turning into a thing here!) we welcome to our blogroll newcomers at Learning Lowell.

With several posts already examining the local election - musings from grow-ins trying to learn the ropes (amazing, to see brand new residents get so deep into local politics so quickly!) - it promises to be a great new addition to the conversation. (And yes, we’re sorry, we’re probably guilty of “assum[ing they] already know the decades of history these people have.” And yes, “for a town with such a history of new groups moving in, sometimes it isn’t the most accessible.” I agree - though, of course, putting all the long history of context in every politics post is really difficult. I’m always available by email, comment, or coffee to answer any question you guys might have on any post we do here! :)

So, put them on your list of blogs on your regular reading list!

September 12, 2013

New Website…No Improvement (Update for WORSE!)

by at 9:47 am.

I hate to say this, I really do, but I am pretty underwhelmed utterly disgusted with the city’s new website. On several levels, unfortunately.

Let’s begin with the aesthetics. The site looks 10 years out of date, design-wise. I know that a municipal website doesn’t have to be all Web 3.0 with tons of bells and whistles and hipster giant fonts and illustrated icons, but at least keep up with the times visually. The Pollard Memorial Library comes to mind, their new site looks excellent. In addition, I’ve checked the new city website on my smartphone and it has zero elements of responsive design. Responsive web design is when your site changes its look and layout and interface, at least a little bit, to accommodate different screen sizes and devices. This can be achieved at a pretty primitive level with the use of relative widths rather than fixed (a percentage of the screen instead of specific pixels) and the way you lay out your columns in a page, etc. There are also far more advanced ways to effect responsive design (up to and including eliminating unnecessary content or simplifying the navigation). (more…)

August 21, 2013

Oh Mr. Magoo…

by at 8:36 am.

You’ve done it again…testing new web designs seems to be something the parent company of the Lowell Sun can’t seem to get right.

Go to the Lowell Sun right now, and you get this weird ad for the lead-in (God do I HATE preloaded “click to skip” ads):

skip this ad screenshot

Then you get…the Denver Post! Well, not really, just the title. The title links to denverpost.com and the weather link is for Denver as well.

Lowell Sun, Denver Post title

Again, as a web designer, who has had to go live on web redesigns for clients all the time, this is just, well, sad. How much money did they spend on this? It’s seriously amateur. Can things go wrong in a website redesign release? Sure. But the sheer number of goofups with this media group is more than just a simple hiccup, it’s like they don’t give a crap. They still haven’t touched the blogs.lowellsun.com home page, which in Firefox (a very common browser) is so messed up you can’t even read it.

Unacceptable. But par for the course. If Denver cares so little for their web collateral that they fail to do the most basic cross browser, pre-live testing, it stands to reason this is also why they seem to care so little for good content (at least from certain of its reporters and editors…there are a few good eggs left over there, poor things).

PS - and then there’s their horrid title writing…so biased. “Tewksbury Town Meeting snubs slots-parlor plan” - obviously a negative spin on the vote, the use of the word “snubs,” as if the slots had just graciously deigned to visit and Tewksbury turned its nose up at it and sent it packing, despite the slots’ beautiful clothes and respectful manner. Kad Barma had also noted this tendency here on another Sun piece, but I’ve been writing about their awful titles since the beginning of this blog. No joke. It just never gets better…

August 5, 2013

Copyright Followup Facepalm (Updated)

by at 10:16 am.

I can’t begin to stress just how disturbed I am right now.

Look, I’m a blogger, and a graphic designer. I’m no lawyer, and I’m certainly no better informed than most journalism majors finishing up their junior year as an undergrad. So when Christopher Scott, Enterprise Editor of the Lowell Sun, responds on Facebook to the copyright scandal with the following:

Good morning Jenn. Just want to set the record straight on this one. I’m 99.9 percent sure no one lifted the picture you’re referencing from your FB page. Rather, someone, might have been me, Googled a picture of the mayor and that one was selected.

So let me get this straight. Lifting the photo from Google sans permission is better than lifting this photo from Facebook sans permission? I don’t care where the photo was found via Google images (in this case, Jen says an article from Latitude News “regarding the connection the Mayor has created with the Cambodian community” used the photo with her permission). And then you go and list it in print as a Sun File Photo?

Are you kidding me? Does Scott not have a clue as to how copyright works as applied to the internet?

Bet you dollars to donuts, if I started lifting actual Sun File Photos from their website and putting them on my blog, they’d be after me faster than a canal minnow on tossed bread (and that’s fast, I’ve fed them, those suckers EAT).

Bad form, Lowell Sun, you got caught and called out, and your lame ass excuse just digs you deeper. Just admit it, you know crap all about what you’re doing over there, kids. The Museum truly is a museum - they can’t even catch up to two decades of the internet, for heaven’s sake.

Someone please clean house over there before they hurt themselves.

Update I: Apparently, this is not the first time the Lowell Sun has blatantly stolen photos from others. In fact, it appears to be pretty common. In regards to a recent post on the Lowell Sun Column blog, another commenter on Jen’s status caught them again:

Perhaps the “column” photo was “borrowed” from LHS Photography student Monita Khuth/ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/52773728

These students have produced some outstanding work. And if you keep an eye on them you’ll see their progress year after year.
[And later:]
Check the link…that photo of LHS has a copyright.

Photo details:
Uploaded on May 16, 2011
© All Rights Reserved
by LHS Photo

You can see where the Sun Column blog stole that photo, with apparently zero permission, zero attribution, here.

And from Dan Murphy, the Mayor’s brother:

Not the first time this has happened. The Sun stole a picture of Patrick and his wife off the “Google” when they found out he was getting married.

I’m sure there’s more, anyone wishing to jump in and find more violations feel free.

August 4, 2013

Another “Expert” Running for Council

by at 5:03 pm.

For those who watch Lowell City Council meetings, we’ve all experienced the moments where Councilor Rodney Elliot insists he knows better than the experts testifying in front of the Council. Like the time Elliot knew more about the traffic patterns on Father Morissette Blvd than any city traffic engineer.

So most people would agree we need another “expert” (in air quotes) in the Council like we need speed bumps on Tanner St. (Reference to the fact Tanner St has like a million potholes and bumps already and you can’t go faster than 20 mph or risk your wheels flying off.)

But we have another such “expert,” a challenger, running for City Council, and the evidence for his lack of judgement in an online discussion with real professionals was too clear and illustrative to not bring it to your attention. After all, this guy is vying for one of your votes, and you need to know the content of his character before you make your decision.

That “expert” is Council challenger Matt Vieira. (more…)

Copyright, Shcmockyright

by at 12:18 pm.

There’s professionalism, then there’s the Lowell Sun, which is on another plane of existence all together. The rules don’t apply to them, doncha know?

What rules would that be? Rules about stealing, of course!

On first glance, this photo looks like a great shot by a staff photographer.

(more…)

November 21, 2012

Political Hyperbolae

by at 4:44 pm.

I’ve been literally running around in circles all day trying to finish prep for hosting of the Thanksgiving Day festivities. With a 24lb turkey to get into my Alton Brown brine (I even found candied ginger today, in my second MarketBasket in two days), a house to clean, and a lot of guests coming, it’s been hard to be online much. (PS: if you do not get your fresh turkey from Elm Turkey Farm you are missing something!)

But obviously there’s some to-do in the state of Lowell blogistan. So I am taking really precious time out of my day (vacuuming! washing floors! mashed sweet potatoes with cream, cardamom, and maple syrup yet to start!) to address it.

If you’ve read the online article from the Lowell Sun by reporter Sarah Favot (who has the GLTHS beat) you’ll know what I’m talking about. At issue is a comment I made on Jack’s post from November 18th. (I’m snipping out the irrelevant part at the beginning addressed to the Anonymous comments.)

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Apparently, Mary Jo Santoro decided to construe this as some sort of personal, physical threat, and reportedly went to the Lowell PD, who referred her to the Tyngsboro PD, where she was supposedly heading to today to file a complaint.

First and foremost, and I do believe this is pretty plain within the context of my comment, of course I meant absolutely no personal physical threat to Ms. Santoro. Anyone who knows me – or heck, reads my blog, knows I’m about as physically threatening as the mice that make their way into my house in the cold fall weather that I insist upon trapping humanely so I can release them in a nice field away from human habitation. (This year it was a mom and her three half grown meese children.) But even if you don’t know me at all or have never read a word of my blog, the comment totally does not meet any standard of threat that can be reasonably argued. Specifically, the use of very common phrases to denote “accountability” like head on a platter or hung (usually elongated as “hung out to dry”) could hardly be argued to be actual threats of harm. They are hyperbole.

Furthermore, political hyperbole is protected first amendment free speech. To quote:

Consistent with judicial construction given to other federal threat statutes, § 875(c) applies only to “true threats” which are not protected by the First Amendment. This requirement was established by Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969) (per curiam), which held that a threat statute “must be interpreted with the commands of the First Amendment clearly in mind,” and therefore be construed only to reach a “true threat” and not “constitutionally protected speech.” Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

When assessing whether a communication constitutes a true threat, context is important. Various factors must be considered, including the following: the reaction of the person who received the threat; the history and relationship between the defendant and the victim; whether the threat was communicated directly to the victim; and whether the threat was conditional. By properly assessing these factors at the investigative and charging stages of a case, federal prosecutors can avoid, minimize and overcome defense arguments to the trier of fact that the defendant was purely exercising free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

My comment is very obviously political hyperbole. Which of course I engage in on a regular basis. It’s fun. It’s protected. It’s even cathartic, but that’s not why I do it. I do it to point out injustices, bad political actors, and misuse of the public trust, its funds, and the abuse of power in general.

In other words. Protected speech.

Also, consistent with that quote from www.justice.gov, is that Ms. Santoro and I have zero personal interaction. In fact, and I quote her from the Lowell Sun article online today, “But I wouldn’t know this woman if I saw her in a parking lot.” Pretty much proof positive that we have no personal relationship or history whatsoever.

Furthermore, the speech was delivered not personally, not even with any knowledge whether or not Ms. Santoro would ever read it, but on a blog. Publicly. Not in a personal phone call, email, or any other delivery system direct to Ms. Santoro. It’s probably the least “direct” a communication could ever get, frankly. Excepting the Lowell Rumor Mill™.

Another point in the quoted legal paragraph above is whether the threat was conditional. As in, “if x happens, then y.” If a statement is conditional, it does not meet the standard of threat. Let me quote my own comment again, this time with italics where the conditionals exist:

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Lots of ifs there. I didn’t directly state that Santoro is falsifying her harassment case against Eric Gitschier. I stated that if that was the case, I would be very angry about it and, in hyperbolic phraseology, would want her held accountable for such an act. Furthermore, I support that view with a very compelling reason – that of the plight of a real woman in a real harassment/bias situation in a real workplace whose case may be undermined by any falsified harassment claim someone in such a high profile position makes.

Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

Was I unpleasantly sharp? Caustic? Vehement? Sure. Was it a threat under these conditions outlined? Absolutely not. This falls so far below the level of threat, that it honestly is a waste – of taxpayer dollars – to “investigate.”

I will not in this post question her motives for this action. I’m sure you can come to your own conclusions. I only hope, for all our sakes, that she is not doing this to suppress free speech or thwart legitimate questions or criticism about her tenure as a public servant who works directly for the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee, whom we, as voters, taxpayers, and citizens, elected to represent us.

I can also assure you, my free speech will not be impinged. I will continue to ask the tough questions, and yes, sometimes my language is colorful. I write sarcastically at times. I use political hyperbole. This should come as no surprise to anyone, considering I’ve been here since 2005 doing the same thing and writing the same way as I always have.

I’m not going anywhere. Lowell, you’re stuck with me.

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