Friday, July 31, 2009

Flimsy network, click to enlarge

A spider works outside my window
spinning a web (at upper right)
uncaring or unknowing
the stranded wire supporting gourd feeder
is severely frayed - all could tumble
when one or two more of the wound wire threads snap;
is that not the guesswork essence
of a spider's web today?


cat can only see in black and white
but sleeps on a rainbow of sound
blackness and ivory make up his bed
and in music he can be found

Thursday, July 30, 2009

...because their tongues had forked no lightning....

Formal Gardens in Frame Park, Waukesha

Within 5 blocks of the raccoon district are the precisely-maintained formal gardens of the city of Waukesha.
If we had a nickel for every wedding picture shoot that has taken place in that ethereal domain over the years.......well, what better place for perfect background? And just to sit for a while on one of the comfortable benches and peer......
The old bower-forming lannon pillars supporting the cross timbers in the staging arbor are still plumb and rigid, giving testimony to their original excellent construction and their careful remortaring maintenance over the eroding decades.

In our youth in the 40's there was a large, dark, deep pond across the front (or interior), about where the red flowers above are seen. The pond had huge goldfish plying the murky, lily-padded depths, fish which we later learned were called Koi. They would disappeaar into the darkened water and rise, blazing orange in the surface sun. Along the way, the pond was filled in to make room for even more flowers.

It is indeed beautiful there.

A visit yesterday reminded us of what a treasure for Waukesha these gardens are. A young park employee was carefully watering the hundreds of flower varieties, and she kindly warned us that we might get peripherally wet when she turned on the sprinklers. Chipmunks skittered about, and unbelievably big bumble bees worked the bee balm flowers. They may have grown so large because of the pollen and nectar 'mother lode' which is their home.

There were many robins.

The clay urns of old are still there. looking fresh, with metal lids I don't think they had in the old days.

We believe the proposed baseball mini-stadium, surely noisy, a hundred or so yards away from this placid site is not in accord with the donor, Andrew Frame's intent for this beautiful park along the Fox River.

Esthetics and leisure, we think, should hold sway.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Speaking of stones


Fecund, full of life

Lithop pretends to be stone

Doesn't make it

Monday, July 27, 2009

Found object

'Triune' stone

For 45 years (approx) I have carried this million year old (approx) stone above, an object that was mysteriously found at my wading feet on the expanse of beach directly south of the Norport ferry dock in Door County.

I was walking along the beach looking at the surf and the stones that had been washing in there for unknown time. Timeless time. All the stones in that particular locus looked the same, uniformly beige and not eye-catching at all.

This stone, colored like all the others around it, would have escaped my notice but for the way it washed in through the water of Death's Door, aka Passe de Morte. It has an exposed crystalline face, and within, in gold, a triangle. If it had not been turned face upward in the water, its wet surface catching the sun like a jewel, it would have gone unnoticed. Maybe it would have washed back down the sand surf and been lost for another thousand or so years, who knows?

I've always believed that stone was meant for me. I sometimes carry it in a beaded Indian pouch around my neck, for luck or blessings. It is only an inch wide.

Last week I listened to a program on Wisconsin Public Radio about the ferry line operating between Northport and Washington Island. Richard Purinton is the long-time ferry captain and now president of the transport company that plies the treacherous waters between the tip of the thumb of Wisconsin and Washington Island, a passage known historically as Death's Door. More fragile craft (canoes, etc.) have met their fate making that dangerous crossing, with its conflicting currents and sudden high waves.

Mr. Purinton has just completed a journal of some of his ferry trips, and that was partly the subject of the WPR program, hosted by the well-modulated Jim Packard. When Purinton mentioned the mounted Web-cams that take hourly pictures of the dock at Northport and the dock at the island I made note of it and found it, at

Now, I can check the weather up there by simply clicking on the website saved in My Favorites. And when I do, the first picture of the three is of the Northport dock. If you go left and beyond the edge of the image some 300 yards, + or -, that's where the stone pictured above was found.

We should also make mention that the SRN has ordered the book Purinton wrote, Words On Water: A Ferryman's Journal. Mr Purinton also writes a blog we find highly interesting, connecting us with a beloved part of Door County we haven't visited for... too long.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

From archen coves and caverns


While the City Sleeps

Waukeshans complacently enjoy their town-grown-to-city
With it’s well-policed, clean, safe streets
And the cerulean blue skies overhead;
Or when it rains

The rain washing everything anew and flowing
If heavy
Away like dirty bathwater down the drain
Out of sight, out of mind; oh yes,

We think of everything and take for granted
That the solid terra-firma plane on which we work and play
IS as storybooked as it appears
And that the sky overhead here is relatively terrorless

That covers two of the three physical dimensions
But we never think about the seething subterranean world
Beneath the city where that dirty bathwater flows
Unless we happen to be with the Sanitation Department

And as far as I know, they aren’t talking;
My friends, we co-exist over a nether-world
About which we never think
And the Sewer Raccoons down there - that’s right - count on our ignorance;

Their profligacy festers beneath us
Growing daily, like whiskers becoming a dread-locked beard
But we don’t know it because we trust in our local government
And in what we see

The coons, woe to us! phantoms of this opera are
Just a few feet beneath Waukesha in archen coves and caverns
Until nightfall when every storm grate at every corner
Becomes an open doorway into our elysian yards and gardens;

Marauders on velvet paws which they keep licking, masked,
They steal about under cover of nocturnal shadows, late,
When the windows of our proud houses show black;
It’s then the Sewer Coons take over the town; by day,

These slick creatures have free rein in their underworld
Bartering our garden produce in little shops and bazaars
In their sub-city
Where they swarm and reproduce like rabbits;

They have their own school district where all the little coons
Study burglary and ankle-nipping;
So far they are content with their lowly position, hence,
The Sanitation Department, the Mayor and the Aldermen

Only monitor them and do not tell us of their spreading presence
An Amos or a Paul Revere I send this warning
For I live nearer the Fox River in one of the town’s ruder huts
And the Sewer Coons are, though proliferating

Concentrated only in our poorer neighborhoods at the present time;
By the railroad tracks and the Fox River waterway,
But the storm sewer web is beneath us all, free and accessible
And even now no one is safe

I have again lately seen the coons emerge from the grate at our corner
As has my wife; we know the desolation
Of having our grapes stolen from our vines;
We’ve actually heard the coons’ little “chick-chick-chick” sounds;

Close-up, we’ve seen the phosphorescent reflection of their eyes
In our flashlight beams; they run, are not brazen yet – oh, no -
Carrying little bindles over their hump-ed shoulders
And make their dash back to their grated holes,

Furred hit-and-run warriors, in place,
Waiting for their messiah to come, perhaps from Milwaukee or Chicago
The Really Big Coon, to marshal them into an invading army,
Meanwhile waxing stronger in secret on Dix grapes and sacked left-overs;

And sometimes I think I can hear muffled “tink”s
As they pound on their tiny anvils under Arcadian Avenue
Making suits of armor on foot-pumped forges; flaring
Light seems to flash from the gratings after the clock has struck twelve

And I go out and listen at my corner sewer entrance
And hear their “YO-OH, HO HO!” chants
Echoing softly up from below;
The Sewer Raccoons are coming.

Bear 'sign'

From an early age......
the raccoon editor was sensitive to the care of animals.


Picture at left, with Uncle Lee
Picture at right, with Grandpa Ray S. Dix in Cedar Falls Iowa
Story to follow

Thursday, July 23, 2009

'You never know'

Derby Days Hopping Again This Weekend

Three-day event includes parade, frog jump and live music in Dousman
By Jeff Rumage Freeman Staff
DOUSMAN – Jumping frogs, dancing grannies and acrobats trapped in spheres are just a few of the sites that can be taken in at the 54th annual Dousman Derby Days this weekend at Cory Park in Dousman. The three-day event kicks off Friday with food, beer tents and the Big H amusements carnival opening at 6 p.m. Men’s softball tournaments begin at 6 p.m. Attendees can enjoy the sounds of DJ Reggie at 6 p.m. in addition to local band 16 West from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Saturday, softball and kickball tournaments begin early at 8 a.m. The famous Wisconsin State Championship Frog Jump will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Molly Courtney has organized the frog jump for the last 19 years, but she has helped out ever since she can remember. The longest frog jump in the history of Derby Days was the work of Eric Carlson, whose frog Sam jumped 19 feet and 3 1/2 inches. She said about 350 frogs enter the competition every year, and it’s always a good time. “To get them to jump around the people jump around like frogs and blow on them, but sometimes the frog will just take off,” Courtney said. “You never know what’s going to happen.” The frog jump finals will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Four different entertainment options are available throughout the day Saturday: the teen talent show from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the Main Stage Academy of Dance from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., live music from The Over-Served from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and live music from The Sociables from 8 p.m. to midnight. On Sunday, a gigantic parade will be held on Main Street and Ottawa Avenue starting at 11 a.m. Parade committee member Sue Smith said the parade will feature dancing grandmas, an acrobat that rolls in and around a sphere, and all of the other parade favorites. Dousman Transport has volunteered to take people from the end of the parade to the beginning of the parade from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. DJ Reggie will take the music stage from noon to 1 p.m., and Dirty Boogie will play live music from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Dousman Area Chamber of Commerce chicken barbecue will start at 1 p.m. E-mail:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Telescoping flamingo, old

A friend, years ago when plastic was first coming into its own, gave me two of his early flock of flamingoes when he left Milwaukee for Sequim WA. I cherished these antique creatures and proudly displayed them on holidays within the back fence enclosure where they were not apt to be stolen by the omnipresent flamingo thieves, lurking.
Alas, one of the fragile-necked birds got broken, decapitated. Not wanting to let a perfectly good flamingo of that vintage go to waste, I took the head of the old flamingo and crossed it with two gourds that grew near the flamingo's pronged site when it was whole.
This was years before affiliating with the Zeta Chapter of the
American Gourd Society. I am not sure if there is any proscription against such mixed media breeding, but at the time I certainly felt no constraint. Given the windings and threadings and paintings and puttyings of the gourds I see in the newsletters, I think I am within bounds.
The bird, we contend, 'hangs together' as a unit just fine. Surreptitious painted bands around the joints where one piece joins another established that, hey, this is one thing, a natural phenomenon. Probably born that way.


Vodka & Tonic
Consumed Here
It is known
that here at the sewer raccoon headquarters
a nip of preventative is partaken of
at times;
due to lack of summer heat this year
and a low mosquito population
the Quinine (kwi-NEEN) ingestion
is lower.
However, Uncle Norman
and I have protected ourselves
historically with the elixer -
Jolly good.
Quinine (US: /ˈkwaɪnaɪn/, UK: /kwɪˈniːn, ˈkwɪniːn/) is a natural white crystalline alkaloid having antipyretic (fever-reducing), antimalarial, analgesic (painkilling), and anti-inflammatory properties and a bitter taste. It is a stereoisomer of quinidine.
Quinine was the first effective treatment for malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum, appearing in therapeutics in the 17th century. It remained the antimalarial drug of choice until the 1940s, when other drugs replaced it. Since then, many effective antimalarials have been introduced, although quinine is still used to treat the disease in certain critical situations. Quinine is available with a prescription in the United States and over-the-counter, in very small quantities, in tonic water. Quinine is also used to treat lupus, nocturnal leg cramps and arthritis, and there have been attempts (with limited success) to treat prion diseases.
Originally discovered by the Quechua Indians of Peru, the bark of the cinchona tree was first brought to Europe by the Jesuits.

Why? (Y?)


never know....
when you grow gourds
as we do
what is going to happen;
sometimes results are obtained,
and often, not many.
In latitude
known agriculturally as Zone 4
where we are,
growing conditions -
- enough
hot days in a long season - etc.
are of paramount importance.

This year
in clairvoyance (?)
we did not plant any gourds
at all;
and July unfolded and fizzled;
not enough heat.

Sewer raccoons laid low
too in their underground chambers,
an off-year all around.

But better days are coming.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You go, guy!

Jimmy Carter Leaves Church

over treatment of women

Re: Welsh coal miner, Richard Burton's father

(Disregard the modern miner at right, see the coal seam)

See the video clip at the bottom of this exchange. (In the way of Email, the sequence is shown with the reply at the top.)

In the way of the sewer raccoons, this video clip caught my eye as it concerned underground enterprises. I sent it to my Wheeling WVA Symphony friend, because as a coal miner's daughter I thought she would appreciate it. Then I sent it to friend Stewart who lives on a reclaimed coal mine in eastern Ohio. Stew sent the below reply.

Said Stew, retired pipe fitter and metal artist: "My mother and I would watch the Cavett show but in 1980 I married my 3rd wife a profound mistake so I missed this. Mom would holiday in Wales at her Aunt and Uncles . Mom loves the [she is still going at 89] Welsh people . She told me that the miners in Wales would go into the pits for less than the 'dole' which was British welfare in the depression . Their wives would scrub them in tubs [no running water] when they came home and always leave a circle of coal dirt the size of a coin on there backs , a superstition that if u washed off all the coal the mine would be jealous and you would not let you come out next time. If I am not mistaken the deep mine that was here where I now live (PA) is part of the same seam. Top welders in the pipetrades have the same attitude as the Senior Burton , and he was right . There are certain difficult tasks that must me done for survival, preaching doctoring and lawyering are all extras that we could do without if we have to.
thanks my friend I enjoyed this very much "

On Jul 19, 2009, at 4:58 PM, David Dix wrote:
I think you should see this, too, Stew. It is a clip that I found runs erratically, but when I did not enlarge the screen size it ran OK.

Richard Burton on Welsh father's coal mining. whence he himself originated and returned from time to time. I don't care much for the interviewer, Dick Cavett, but the Burton part is good. David

----- Original Message -----
From: David Dix
To: L/L wheeling symph
Sent: Saturday, July 18, 2009 9:02 PM
Check this out sometime. Richard Burton on Dick Cavett, speaking about Welsh coal mining. I hope it plays all the way thru. I had a little trouble with the clip, but the talk about coal mining is memorable, I think. Stay with it, it will work eventually.......David

Sunday, July 19, 2009


by Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2009:
He was our guide to the news during one of this nation's most eventful periods, so it was almost inevitable Walter Cronkite's death would coincide with the anniversary of some momentous occasion or another to be remembered through the prism he provided.That it was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission seemed particularly appropriate.There is much for which to eulogize Cronkite, who died Friday at age 92. The man so defined the job of anchorman as reporter rather than simply reader that it's said anchormen were called Cronkiters in Holland and Kronkiters in Sweden. It matters not that NBC's "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" had more viewers in his early years on the " CBS Evening News."Among clips committed to collective memory are: Cronkite's report that President John Kennedy was dead; his 1968 analysis that the United States should seek a negotiated peace in Vietnam; his agenda-setting decision to devote 14 minutes to the growing Watergate scandal one autumn evening in '72, followed four nights later by an eight-minute report; his nightly countdown for U.S. hostages in Iran.
For remainder of article:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Modern wired closures defeated by time-honored method

Tired of having to spend double-dextrous moments fooling with those little plastic and wire strips that come with your airtight plastic-wrapped bread loaves from the grocery?
This is not our original idea but greatly simplifies the operation of re-closing the package after extracting, say, a piece of bread. Just spin-wind the plastic wrapper a few times with a push of momentum and then close the package with a pinch clothespin.
This time-saving method also works with such food wrappers as those nasty quarter-pack quantities of saltines, bags of cookies, anything requiring fumbling with &%#@!! twisties requiring two hands to secure the tops of food packages. Raid your clothespin bag, if you have one.
Old-fashioned spring-powered clothespins put it together for me, for I much prefer to dance rather than fumble through the kitchen, where I have other fish to fry, dishes to wash, &C..........

Friday, July 17, 2009

Camobird jus' fline atcha

Varietal gourd purchased from last year's Waukesha Farmers market comes right at you in the above photo. Painted here at the SRN, the body of the gourd took on all the coloration except for the head naturally, by itself, and resembles camouflage. This is due to the natural weathering and mold that the originally white gourd metamorphized into.

Here the bird seems happy, whereas in the top picture he has a mixed expression, almost ill-meaning. One cannot be sure.

Here the non-plussed creature investigates the anal sphincter of an octo-bird. Like a Rhesus Monkey in that regard, the subject's posterior is colorful and attractive (to an animal). In the gourd's instance the hind region is done in glitter gold, but one can vary that at will.

Another angle.
As the season progresses, gourds may be found at the farmers markets for such decorative endeavors. We highly recommend the gourd stand of the Gourd Guy and Gourd Girl at the Dane County (Madison WI) Farmers Market. Art applications are taught at their gourd farm in Blue Mounds, WI.

Valuable House of Koshu Japanese hand-painted figure holds cheap pen

Some have written inquiring if we still engage in hand-written letters.
They are of the group of correspondents who to date do not receive our oft-written
old-fashioned, by hand
missives, frequently sent along with submitted illustrations. Our predilection is for flowing ink on paper, let it be known, along with water colours, pastels &c. Electronic di-dah-dits via this medium, the internet SRN, are merely a postage-saving device.
We have one fine-tip felt-writer that is our currently favorite pen.
It used to be misplaced on the helter-skelter of our all-purpose tabletop, or in nearby
drawers swarming with miscellany that concealed the blue pen,

we realized that the priceless oriental fat-man, Buddha-like, always on the tabletop for emulation, could hold the searched-for pen in a way that would stand out, nicely protruding from the jug that the man carries over his shoulder.

By removing the stopper, the opening is just the right diameter for securing the pen, ever at the ready. This may seem trivial.........

but it isn't.

Note focus sharpness comparison of the two photos.
Lower one is taken with the old Olympus 2 pixel,
while upper close-up is courtesy of the LVD 13.5 pixel P-6000.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A good story

Excerpted from the Sunday NYT magazine

"The pangeros, (whale-watch boat skippers) for their part, have seen enough remarkable whale behavior to know better than to prejudge any explanation, however mind-bending, for what is going on in the lagoons of Baja. A 25-year-old named Alberto Haro Romero, known as Beto, told me of something he saw a month earlier while kayaking off Cabo San Lucas. A group of southward-migrating gray whales were suddenly surrounded and attacked by a pod of pilot whales. Out of nowhere, a group of humpbacks — who, like grays, are baleen whales — appeared and began going at the pilot whales, a highly coordinated counterattack. “It was unbelievable,” Beto said. “One baleen whale coming in on the behalf of another. It was, like, tribal.”
As Beto spoke, I thought of another bit of interspecies cooperation involving humpbacks that I recently read about. A female humpback was spotted in December 2005 east of the Farallon Islands, just off the coast of San Francisco. She was entangled in a web of crab-trap lines, hundreds of yards of nylon rope that had become wrapped around her mouth, torso and tail, the weight of the traps causing her to struggle to stay afloat. A rescue team arrived within a few hours and decided that the only way to save her was to dive in and cut her loose.
For an hour they cut at the lines and rope with curved knives, all the while trying to steer clear of a tail they knew could kill them with one swipe. When the whale was finally freed, the divers said, she swam around them for a time in what appeared to be joyous circles. She then came back and visited with each one of them, nudging them all gently, as if in thanks. The divers said it was the most beautiful experience they ever had. As for the diver who cut free the rope that was entangled in the whale’s mouth, her huge eye was following him the entire time, and he said that he will never be the same. "

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Directly overhead

Famed Author, Teresa O'Connor Mahoney

Visits us on her pre-natal day
We have cake and coffee
made from the diving bell antique percolator
she gave us;
she emits aura,
trades stories long into the day.......

Monday, July 6, 2009


Correxions (2)

In yesterday's post I made a couple of mistakes.

First, St. Paul's church was founded in 1840, not 1880. The building was erected in 1880. Therefore, some of the tombstones in the cemetery are antebellum.

Second, my wife corrected me on our anniversary date, which is 11/11/83, not 11/9/83. Imagine my embarrassment not remembering our anniversary! And I've historically always remembered that correct date, with its quotient of eleven. 11th month, 11th day, and 8 + 3 = 11.
Evidently I am a victim of serious seniorous momentous. Sorry about that.....

Since I must make right those things, above are some additional photos taken on the 4th.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

You want a cemetery with that?

ONE of the things I like about my friend Rev. John Helt’s new church, - and I should put 'new' in quotes, for St Paul’s United Church of Christ in the wooded hills on St. Augustine Rd. near Hubertus WI was founded in 1880, church built in 1890 – is that he, having happily accepted their church’s call as their full-time pastor, got a cemetery with that..........

On July Fourth, the raccoon entourage was invited to be the Helts’ very first guests, at a breakfast brunch served on the deck of the small and historic rustic cabin they have taken, on the Hogsback Road. They moved in only a week ago. (John married us Nov 11, 1983 at Friedens UCC, Milwaukee.) After basking in the charm of the rustically-hewn dwelling, enlarged, that I personally have enjoyed riding past and admiring from the Hogsback Road on scenic drives through the Holy Hill area during the fall colors, for decades before John Helt was ever known to me, we then took a tour of the nearby church.

From the front, it looks like a church that a Sunday School-attending kindergartener would draw. White, with a steeple, and the door in the center. But from the side, in the spacious parking lot, the truth of the structure in its present incarnation is disclosed. An addition offers a covered main entry and rooms for meetings and offices. The church, up and down, is 'what's happening now' modernized without sacrificing any of the history and its architectural features.
John’s study, with the yet unsettled books and various memorabilia with which he travels, including a picture of a man paddling a coracle, is taking settled form. His giant and battered Bible Concordance is among the many books stacked on the floor for now, awaiting the order of bookshelves.

It occurs to me that a church with an attached cemetery, with gravesites going back to the late 1800s, has a permanence that transcends temporal weather changes and deflections, and assures that St. Paul's is going to continue lasting. It is anchored by the well-tended graves of many dear forbears. Now, they have Dr. John Helt to till their pastoral garden in the coming years.

One sunny day during his first week on the job, John met a watercolorist sitting in a back corner of the cemetery, doing a sketch of the church with the cemetery in the foreground.

John says ‘I love it here.’ So says his wife and longtime faithful partner, Cindy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi

Gordon Brown
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Posted: July 3, 2009 09:51 AM

When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon meets the military dictatorship in Burma today he will have the whole world with him.
His mission, to persuade the junta to release all political prisoners and engage with democracy, is critical to the future of the Burmese people.
But it is also a crucial moment for the international community.
In recent weeks, we have seen an extraordinary consensus around the world in support of all those forced to suffer under the Burmese regime.
The UN, the EU, and ASEAN have all made clear the need for urgent change. More than 45 Heads of State have added their voices to the call.
How we respond to the injustices in Burma will send a message about our resolution to tackle similar abuses across the globe.
Political and humanitarian conditions in the country continue to deteriorate.
When over 140,000 were killed and millions made destitute by Cyclone Nargis last year the world's efforts to help were resisted, a peaceful uprising by monks in 2007 was violently quashed, ethnic minorities are persecuted and under armed attack.
The media are muzzled, freedom of speech and assembly are non-existent and the number of political prisoners has doubled to more than 2000.
As Secretary-General Ban arrives, the most high profile of them -- Aung San Suu Kyi -- faces further persecution from the Generals as her sham trial resumes.
She has long been a symbol of hope and defiance during her 14 years as a prisoner of conscience.
She is a most courageous woman. In those long years, she has barely seen her two sons -- yet is resolute in her faith in democracy and the Burmese people.
Her refusal to buckle in the face of tyranny is an inspiration.
I call on the regime to mark Ban Ki Moon's arrival by immediately halting her trial, which makes a mockery of justice, and ending her detention which undermines their credibility in the eyes of the world.
But while hugely significant, this alone would not be the sole measure of progress.
Only agreement to release all political prisoners, start a genuine dialogue with the opposition and ethnic groups will give any credibility to the elections in 2010.
I hope that Ban Ki Moon can convince the Generals to take the first steps. A serious offer is on the table: the international community will work with Burma if the Generals are prepared to embark on a genuine transition to democracy.
But if the Burmese regime refuses to engage, the international community must be prepared to respond robustly.
We should not rest until Aung San Suu Kyi -- and all those who share her commitment to a better and brighter future for Burma -- are able to play their rightful role in it.
The Burmese people have been condemned to nearly half a century of conflict, poverty and isolation. It is time to give them the chance of a new beginning.
The regime can choose to ignore the clamour for change. Or it can choose the path of reform as the region, and the world, have urged.
Today can be the start.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I've got ears for you, baby!

Just how private is your life?

Check this out:

June 29, 2009 09:58 AM CDT

Courtney and Heather Kuykendall were harassed by an unknown caller for months.
WTHR producer Cyndee Hebert agreed to have her cell phone tapped as part of our experiment.
A map showed Cyndee's location - wherever she went with her phone.
Imagine someone watching your every move, hearing everything you say and knowing where you are at every moment. * Hear tune at bottom.
If you have a cell phone, it could happen to you. WTHR 13 Investigates explains how your cell phone can be secretly hijacked and used against you - and how to protect yourself.
After four months of harassing phone calls, Courtney Kuykendall was afraid to answer her cell phone.The Tacoma, Washington, teenager was receiving graphic, violent threats at all hours.And when she and her family changed their cell phone numbers and got new phones, the calls continued.Using deep scratchy voices, anonymous stalkers literally took control of the Kuykendall's cell phones, repeatedly threatened Courtney with murder and rape, and began following the family's every move."They're listening to us and recording us," Courtney's mother, Heather Kuykendall, told NBC's Today Show. "We know that because they will record us and play it back as a voicemail."
How is something like this possible?
Just take a look on the internet. That's where you'll find the latest spy technology for cell phones."Anywhere, anytime"Spyware marketers claim you can tap into someone's calls, read their text messages and track their movements "anywhere, anytime." They say you can "catch a cheating spouse", protect your children from an evil babysitter and "hear what your boss is saying about you." And while you're spying on others, the Spyware companies say "no one will ever know" because it's supposed to be "completely invisible" with "absolutely no trace."Security experts say it's no internet hoax.

"It's real, and it is pretty creepy," said Rick Mislan, a former military intelligence officer who now teaches cyber forensics at Purdue University's Department of Computer and Information Technology.
Mislan has examined thousands of cell phones inside Purdue's Cyber Forensics Lab, and he says spy software can now make even the most high-tech cell phone vulnerable."I think a lot of people think their cell phone calls are very secure but our privacy isn't always what we think it is."Is your privacy truly at risk?13 Investigates tested some cell phone Spyware to find out.With the permission of WTHR producer Cyndee Hebert, 13 Investigates purchased and downloaded Spyware on her personal cell phone.Hebert agreed to be spied on - if the spy software lived up to its bold claims.WTHR's Spy TestThe process of downloading the software took several attempts and a great deal of patience. But once the spy program was installed, Hebert's phone could indeed be tapped into at any time - just as its distributor promised.
While Hebert was at home making phone calls to her family, investigative reporter Bob Segall was outside her house, listening to the conversations on his cell phone.And there's more - much more. Every time Hebert made or received a phone call, Segall received an instant text message, telling him that Hebert was talking on her cell phone so that Segall could call in and listen.On his computer, Segall also got a copy of Hebert's text messages and a list of phone numbers detailing each incoming and outgoing call to Hebert's cell phone. And no matter where Hebert went with her phone, Segall received constant satellite updates on her location. He could literally track Hebert anywhere she went.
"It's hard to believe you can do all that," Hebert said when she saw the spy software in action. "I think that's really scary."It gets even scarier.When spy software was installed onto Hebert's phone, that phone became an instant spy device - even when the phone was not being used. As Hebert's cell phone was simply sitting on a table or attached to her purse, Segall could activate the speaker on the phone and secretly listen in to the phone's surroundings. While Hebert was in a meeting on the 36th floor of a downtown Indianapolis building, Segall heard her conversations, even though he was four miles away.
13 Investigates found more than a dozen companies willing to sell this type of cell phone spy software, which ranges in price from $60 to $3,000. The majority of the companies are located in foreign countries such as Thailand, Taiwan and the United Kingdom - and for good reason. Most of the advertised applications for the spy software are illegal in the United States, and the existence of the software angers CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry organization representing the nation's major cell phone manufacturers."These are gross violations of federal and state laws," said association spokesman Joe Farren. "It's very clear, without their express permission, you can't listen in to someone's phone calls, you cannot read their text messages, you can't track their movements. You can't do any of those things and there are numerous laws being broken."Farren said his organization was not familiar with cell phone Spyware prior to WTHR's investigation, adding "I can tell you our lawyers and engineers are now looking into this."Government spyingThe United States government is familiar with spy software for cell phones.In 2003 and 2004, the FBI used cell phone spy software to eavesdrop on the conversations of organized crime families in New York, and it used those conversations in its federal prosecutions. Private investigator Tim Wilcox says several federal agencies rely on cell phone spying technology to monitor suspected criminals, and he says private citizens are now using the technology, too."The technology is there. It's been there a long time. It's accessible, and it's done all the time," Wilcox said. As founder of Indianapolis-based International Investigators Inc., Wilcox says he receives daily letters and e-mails from people wanting help with "cell phone bugging," the ability to download spy software onto a cell phone, turning it into a secret listening device."There's only two kinds of people," Wilcox said, holding a large stack of e-mails. "One wants to bug somebody and the other has been bugged and wants to know how it's being done and how to find out and how to stop it.... it's a federal crime, but it's still happening."The harassment eventually did stop for the Kuykendalls, but only after they brought in police and the FBI. While authorities never figured out who hijacked the family's cell phones, security experts say the case serves as a powerful lesson for others. "Your privacy is not your privacy. It is exposed and it is exploited," Mislan said. "The key is being vigilant and knowing how to protect yourself.How to protect yourselfMislan suggests keeping a close eye on your cell phone so that others never get an opportunity to download information such as spy software when you're not looking. He also says it's important to install a security password on your phone to restrict anyone else from using it.And while some Spyware marketers claim their products can be used on any make and model of cell phone, Mislan says high-end cell phones that include internet access and online capability are particularly vulnerable to Spyware tapping. To limit the ability of others to download certain types of spyware onto your phone, choose a cell phone that is not internet-accessible. Wilcox recommends removing the battery from your cell phone when it's not being used and, for sensitive phone calls, he suggests making them on a newly-purchased cell phone that comes with a pre-paid month-to-month service plan.Based on WTHR's test, here are some subtle signs that could suggest your cell phone is being secretly tapped:- Cell phone battery is warm even when your phone has not been used- Cell phone lights up at unexpected times, including occasions when phone is not in use- Unexpected beep or click during phone conversation.
The Raccoon News does not wish to stir up paranoia. But we advise you to listen to this song:

(We neither Twit, Facebook nor own a cell phone in the raccoon district, but that doesn't mean we're insulated.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A snapshot from Tennessee, 1941

My dad during WW II maneuvers, Tennessee, 1941
I still say, Give me a manual typewriter.....