L.A. Episcopal Diocese elects openly gay bishop — latimes.com

You go girls. All the more reason, if you grew up Catholic, and you’re gay/lesbian, you should dump the Catholic church for the Episcopalian one.  At least they’re willing to go to bat for you.

L.A. Episcopal Diocese elects openly gay bishop — latimes.com.

Senate rejects gay-marriage bill : The Buffalo News

What makes this story interesting isn’t the story itself, but the comments below.  The readers of The Buffalo News are usually a pretty suburban conservative bunch, and the comments usually reflect a conservative Rush Limbaugh-inspired hate for all things not white, “middle” class, overweight, and suburban.  This time around, I’ve been proved wrong, and in less than a half hour after the story posted, 10 pages of comments from Western New Yorkers laregely demonstrate what the state senate failed to recognize: that it’s unjust and unfair.  Goes to show, that even if the conservative suburbanites in Buffalo are saying this… how out of touch the state senators are.  Remember that next time you hit up the polling station on election day.

Senate rejects gay-marriage bill : Home: The Buffalo News.

6 pack and snow

About 30 years ago, the then mayor of Buffalo, Jimmy Griffin, said to the media, that when snow hits Buffalo, the best thing to do is get a six-pack and wait it out.  He was ridiculed in the national press for appearing incapable and unprepared.  He was ridiculed in the local press because everyone here knows a six-pack doesn’t last more than an hour on a snowy night.

Every winter, Buffalo gets socked with a winter storm or two, and truth be told, that’s about it, we rarely get much more snow than most of our Great Lakes sister and brother cities, but when we get it, we get it.  This seems to be that weekend, and Mayor Griffin’s advice has never been more helpful — especially considering that our new Mayor, Byron Brown can’t seem to keep the streets cleared.  We’ve had more than a foot of snow in three days, and as of this writing, my street, and many streets in my neighborhood still haven’t seen a plow.  Typical of the new Mayor, he instituted (to much fanfare) a 311 “one stop” line for Buffalo residents to call for questions and answers — and to complain about unplowed streets. However, in VERY typical Brownian fashion, the line is closed for the weekend, and closed early on Friday because of bad weather.  Calls to the Mayor’s office are forwarded to the 311 service.  Nice.  I’m glad to see that my tax money was used to pay for something that works, as clearly, the plows aren’t.

About a month ago, The New York Times ran an article about Buffalo and our rich architectural heritage.  Fine piece, that highlighted a few of the better-known architectural gems of the area (and ignored many more of the more gritty and less tourist-friendly.)  You can read the full text of the article at NYT.com, or click here.

As I was trudging through the unplowed streets and toward the curiously pristine and cleanly-plowed sidewalks on Elmwood Avenue this morning (thanks, Elmwood Village Association), I snapped a few images of my neighborhood — one to contrast some of the images shown in The New York Times article, two, to show Byron that our streets still aren’t plowed, and three, to celebrate one of the several days we get in Buffalo each year to kick back with a case or two, and just watch the snow fly.  Enjoy!

Face(book)ing the Music.

Unrepentant on Facebook? Expect jail time

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — Two weeks after Joshua Lipton was charged in a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a woman, the 20-year-old college junior attended a Halloween party dressed as a prisoner. Pictures from the party showed him in a black-and-white striped shirt and an orange jumpsuit labeled “Jail Bird.”

In the age of the Internet, it might not be hard to guess what happened to those pictures: Someone posted them on the social networking site Facebook. And that offered remarkable evidence for Jay Sullivan, the prosecutor handling Lipton’s drunken-driving case.

Sullivan used the pictures to paint Lipton as an unrepentant partier who lived it up while his victim recovered in the hospital. A judge agreed, calling the pictures depraved when sentencing Lipton to two years in prison.

Online hangouts like Facebook and MySpace have offered crime-solving help to detectives and become a resource for employers vetting job applicants. Now the sites are proving fruitful for prosecutors, who have used damaging Internet photos of defendants to cast doubt on their character during sentencing hearings and argue for harsher punishment.

“Social networking sites are just another way that people say things or do things that come back and haunt them,” said Phil Malone, director of the cyberlaw clinic at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “The things that people say online or leave online are pretty permanent.”

The pictures, when shown at sentencing, not only embarrass defendants but can make it harder for them to convince a judge that they’re remorseful or that their drunken behavior was an aberration. (Of course, the sites are also valuable for defense lawyers looking to dig up dirt to undercut the credibility of a star prosecution witness.)

Prosecutors do not appear to be scouring networking sites while preparing for every sentencing, even though telling photos of criminal defendants are sometimes available in plain sight and accessible under a person’s real name. But in cases where they’ve had reason to suspect incriminating pictures online, or have been tipped off to a particular person’s MySpace or Facebook page, the sites have yielded critical character evidence.

“It’s not possible to do it in every case,” said Darryl Perlin, a senior prosecutor in Santa Barbara County, California. “But certain cases, it does become relevant.”

Perlin said he was willing to recommend probation for Lara Buys for a drunken driving crash that killed her passenger last year, until he thought to check her MySpace page while preparing for sentencing.

The page featured photos of Buys, taken after the crash but before sentencing, holding a glass of wine as well as joking comments about drinking. Perlin used the photos to argue for a jail sentence instead of probation, and Buys, then 22, got two years in prison.

“Pending sentencing, you should be going to [Alcoholics Anonymous]; you should be in therapy; you should be in a program to learn to deal with drinking and driving,” Perlin said. “She was doing nothing other than having a good old time.”

Santa Barbara defense lawyer Steve Balash said the day he met client Jessica Binkerd, a recent college graduate charged in a fatal drunken driving crash, he asked whether she had a MySpace page. When she said yes, he told her to take it down because he figured it might have pictures that cast her in a bad light.

But she didn’t remove the page. And right before Binkerd was sentenced in January 2007, the attorney said, he was “blindsided” by a presentencing report from prosecutors that featured photos posted on MySpace after the crash.

One showed Binkerd holding a beer bottle. Others had her wearing a shirt advertising tequila and a belt bearing plastic shot glasses.

Binkerd wasn’t doing anything illegal, but Balash said the photos hurt her anyway. She was given more than five years in prison, though the sentence was later shortened for unrelated reasons.

“When you take those pictures like that, it’s a hell of an impact,” he said.

Rhode Island prosecutors say Lipton was drunk and speeding near his school, Bryant University in Smithfield, in October 2006 when he triggered a three-car collision that left 20-year-old Jade Combies hospitalized for weeks.

Sullivan, the prosecutor, said another victim of the crash gave him copies of photographs from Lipton’s Facebook page that were posted after the collision. Sullivan assembled the pictures, which were posted by someone else but accessible on Lipton’s page, into a PowerPoint presentation at sentencing.

One image shows a smiling Lipton at the Halloween party, clutching cans of the energy drink Red Bull with his arm draped around a young woman in a sorority T-shirt. Above it, Sullivan rhetorically wrote, “Remorseful?”

Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini said the prosecutor’s slide show influenced his decision to sentence Lipton.

“I did feel that gave me some indication of how that young man was feeling a short time after a near-fatal accident, that he thought it was appropriate to joke and mock about the possibility of going to prison,” the judge said.

Kevin Bristow, Lipton’s attorney, said the photos didn’t accurately reflect his client’s character or level of remorse and made it more likely he’d get prison over probation.

“The pictures showed a kid who didn’t know what to do two weeks after this accident,” Bristow said, adding that Lipton wrote apologetic letters to the victim and her family and was so upset that he left college. “He didn’t know how to react.”

Still, he uses the incident as an example to his own teenage children to watch what they post online.

“If it shows up under your name, you own it,” he said, “and you better understand that people look for that stuff.”

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Some days you’re in, the next you’re out.

Project Runway

Various web reports are being posted that the days for Project Runway and Bravo! are numbered. Apparently, the company that produces and distributes the program has negotiated a deal with Lifetime to move the program after season 5 to Lifetime. That means that the next season will be Bravo’s last stand.

Could be interesting, as the “talent” for the series is contracted year to year — so it could mean that starting in season 6, we could see a whole new bumper crop in a revised Runway. We saw what those types of production changes did for the once unstoppable afternoon mega-hit Trading Spaces…it knocked the show so far off the radar that it’s nearly in the next galaxy.

Words of advice to Lifetime and Co.: Make it work.

Goodbye, My Friend.

Magda Cordell McHale

This is a difficult tribute to write. My good friend, Magda Cordell McHale passed away this evening.

Magda and I were an unlikely set. Separated by 50 years, we shared a great deal of time over the past 15 years. I enjoyed that time immeasurably. Though we were distant in chronological age, we connected. I know that inside throughout her life, Magda remained a vibrant, energetic, 25 year-old.

Magda was an avid smoker. One of her few indulgent habits, she smoked frequently, and everywhere. About 5 years ago, someone opened a door — into Magda — which caused a nasty break in her hip. On the floor, she waited for the ambulance. Obviously in great pain, she waited patiently until the medics secured he to the stretcher. Once outside and on her way to the ambulance, she exclaimed “STOP” (which, naturally, everyone did). In the silence that followed, she said, “Everyone must wait. I need to have a cigarette.” Naturally, everyone waited.

Magda was tough. Following emergency hip replacement, I visited Magda in the hospital the following morning at about 3am. She inquired as to how I had gotten in after hours, to which I replied, “I just walked in.” She loved that. We chatted about her new hip. I worried, and she argued that the new replacement hip would likely work much better than the 80-some-odd year-old one she had, and that it would be fine. I suspected she might be right, and less than 3 months later, she was back in the office as usual.Magda was a survivor. She gracefully overcame religious persecution, social prejudice, academic elitism, and age. Magda selflessly shared her unique perspectives and experience with generations of students, through her ability to weave disparate and seemingly wholly unrelated facts into monumental observations that forced one to reexamine the perspective through which the world is viewed. This is one trait of Magda’s that I have worked hard to emulate, and it shapes my career and research trajectories to this day.

Magda was unique. Everyone remembered Magda. Her accent, she confided, made her unique. People remembered it, and that made people remember her.

Magda very consistently offered frank and sage advice, about working, relationships, and food. Framed in 80-some years of experience, it was often difficult to debate the wisdom she offered. Through Magda, I learned a great deal about design, but more about life, and more about how to live. Importantly, I learned to focus on what matters, and let go of the things that don’t, and for that, I will always be in her debt.

Magda was a my close friend, and we spent a lot of time together. We would close our time together saying “goodbye, my friend.” Often, after walking away, I would wonder, what will I do when she’s gone? Who will I ask for advice? Who will chart out the things that are most obvious that I can’t seem to see? I always left our time together with a pang of sadness — wishing there was just a little more time to spend, and recognizing that our time was limited. I’ll miss Magda tremendously, and will remember her fondly as our time together now comes to an end.

Goodbye, My Friend.

No Child Left Behind.

OK.  I’m coming out.  Now I can say it. I’ve held my tongue, remained professional, and impartial for nearly a decade: To say the least, the last 7 years have been interesting. The entire time I’ve been teaching, George W. Bush has been president.  I can’t wait — hear this, I can’t WAIT — for him to leave office.When I began teaching in 2000, the country was optimistic, and life was fun, exciting, and full of promise.  I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to practice architecture, start my own design firm, or teach.  Each choice was filled with promise, and each was a sure fire ticket to a successful and stable career.  I chose teaching, and it has been a splendid 7 years of meeting wonderful students from all around the world, but during that time, I’ve watched closely as the mood of the students has changed from one of hope, outlook, and opportunity, to jaded, disconnected, anger over a “country on the wrong track” — and there are nary a few left that believe that our country isn’t on the wrong track.As emerging designers that are in tune with not only the demands of their profession, my students and I often discuss current events, the state of the world, and the larger vector of where “we’re” going.  It’s been curious — seven years ago, my students were split.  About 50% were proudly republican, and 50% were ardent democrat.  Those numbers have shifted. Even my most staunch republican students (and friends) have toned it down, and some (like the one former young republican chapter president that graduated last year) have jumped ship all together.  Most of my students, republican or not, believe the country is on the wrong track and nearly all agree that this presidency has been a bust.Oddly too, that perspective has rubbed off.  For the first time in ages, I really couldn’t care less who wins in 2008, because even the most miserable, gay-hating, hard-headed Republican (arguably Romney) and the most confused, deer-in-the-headlights, avoid-the-issues, Democrat (arguably ________ — fill in your own blank), beats the heck out of the last 7 years.  Regardless of who gets elected, whether it’s Barack, Hillary, Mike, John, or Mitt (or even Mike Bloomberg), the next president will be little more than a federal janitor, cleaning up a hell of a mess in the Oval Office.The election is an open game, and it’s one of the very few in history that hasn’t been largely predetermined.  If you’re a student and reading this, YOU SHOULD GET INVOLVED.  Volunteer for your candidate (you’ll learn a lot), vote (not only in the “big one” but in the primaries and caucuses for your state (get an absentee ballot if you need to), wear a t-shirt for your candidate, start a Facebook group, talk about it with your friends.  The dark days are over kids, it’s time to reignite the national mood of hope and promise, because it’s your future. So today, I have 377 links left in my paper chain.  That means one more time around the sun, and a few extra days, and George will be a blank page in history, scribbled with blood and misery and footnoted with dollar signs.  Adios George, don’t let the Oval Office door hit you on your way out.