Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Places I Have Been

Born: St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond Heights on Clayton Road

Brought Home to: Itaska Street in the Southampton neighborhood of St. Louis.

Age 4: First the Missouri Ozarks

Age 8: Attended a family reunion in Sherman, Texas

Age 12: First time at the Beach...Cocoa Beach, Florida


First (and only, so far) time at Disneyworld, in Orlando, Florida

Age 15: First trip to Chicago, Illinois

Age 17: Memphis, Tennessee

Age 18: Chicago

Age 19: Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri

Age 20: Chicago; New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis

Other smaller places I've been through and to:

Springfield, Illinois
Carbondale, Illinois
Hannibal, Missouri
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Columbia, Missouri
Fulton, Missouri
Jefferson City, Missouri
Sikeston, Missouri
Nashville, Tennessee (drove through)
Chatanooga, Tennessee (drove through)
Knoxville, Tennessee (drove through)
Pigeon Forge/Sevierville/Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Atlanta, Georgia (drove through)
Panama City Beach, Florida
Eufala, Alabama
Kentwood, Louisiana (Britney Spears's hometown)
Canton, Mississippi
Grand Rapids, Michigan (drove through)
Cherokee, North Carolina

States that I've been to and through:
North Carolina

That's my life's itinerary. What's yours?

MySpace Saves Lives?

Riverton, Kansas on April 20, 2006--

In what is becoming a frighteningly common event, the popular MySpace website has led to the arrests of several suspects believed to be involved in the intricate plotting of a Columbine-esque school shooting. According to the Yahoo! Tech News article, five students' gruesome plans were averted when one of the members of the group, which intended to pay homage to Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of Columbine on the now infamous 20th of April, posted a brief message of his intentions on his MySpace profile to a friend at the Kansas school.

The article also mentions the negative press that MySpace has garnered--due to its pedophilia friendly set-up. As MySpace enacts further security measures and, bafflingly, continues to be used as a "private" posting grounds for would-be criminals, it seems the popular website could become something of a benevolent force on the web.

I simply do not understand how people could believe that what they write on the internet would not get back to them in person--but, in this case and in others, thankfully it did!

My personal opinion of MySpace is that is has an awful design and allows, dare I say, a bit too many options for the user. Some profiles are laden with flashing graphics, annoying songs, and too little actual text. There is no cohesion of the profiles. It is as if MySpace merely rents out webspace to millions of people, who then create a self-deferential website that contains, at times, all of the information none of us really want to know. Additionally, and related to the recent controversies, MySpace allows itself a certain anonymity, due to the fact that anyone can join and fabricate an identity. Some users set up profiles just to advance their musical band and send annoying messages to local people telling them to attend events.

Facebook, while not perfect, seems to address MySpace's problems. It has a clear and crisp design. One registers through his or her school, and thus the creation of promotional profiles is not a problem. In addition, Facebook serves almost a practical purpose in addition to leisurely egotism. One can contact friends far away or, in last minute desperation to determine the meaning of a class assignment, one can contact a classmate with a cell phone number. While sometimes derisevly labeled as a stalker's paradise, Facebook is in reality much more intimate and "safe" than MySpace.

Still, it's nice to hear that MySpace is securing and legitimizing itself in the popular online realm of social networks.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Apathetic Altruism

In Chicago, this weekend...

A 30 degree wind tunnel of a street dons hundreds of shops of all kinds, people of all colors. The flat city allows a view for hundreds of feet of expansive urban streetscape.

A siren sounds. Red lights flash.

A virtual caravan of autos on Broadway halts, the flurry of the street subsides only for a moment. Seated anonymously in a Camry, I peer out the back window to see the hapless truck scramble, delicately, through the thicket of cars. He passes us. My errant head follows the vehicle whose siren and lights part the crowd into two impossibly symmetric, angled pairs as it shrieks towards the distant blaze.

The cars resume their positions and shuffle aimlessly once more. The people on the sidewalks do the same.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


If a performed a search for "Godsend" on Wikipedia, surely the online encyclopedia phenom would not be so modest as to neglect a reference to its own services.

Wikipedia has been an indispensable tool for me in my academic career. More than that, I often turn to the site for quick and comprehensible knowledge on current events that I am not quite up to date on.

I remember performing my first search on St. Louis. The site goes into much depth with other cities, and I wanted to see how the author of the article would depict St. Louis in light of its well-publicized decline. When I first accessed Wikipedia over a year ago, its article on St. Louis was typically critical of the aged city. Highest crime rate in the nation? Check. One of the most segregated cities in the country? Check. Decline from 850,000 people in 1950 to just under 350,000 in 2000? Check. Thank God for the reference page to "Gooey Butter Cake." Otherwise I would assume the author had never been to St. Louis or, worse, had some inexplicable axe to grind.

Luckily, some entrepid Wikipedia visitor, perhaps the original author, has since expanded the article to include recent developments, such as the Washington Avenue Loft District, and has included very recent St. Louis happenings such as another census challenge success that holds the city's population to be at 352,000 as of 2005 (+4,000 since 2000). The article is now very accurate, balancing both the negative and the positive of St. Louis.

With other topics, Wikipedia has proven itself just as notably. Need a brush up on World War II? Wikipedia's got you covered. Want to know the discography of Radiohead? It's just a couple of clicks of the keyboard away with Wikipedia. The features it offers seem to safeguard its potential downfalls. A review board scans the articles for false information and any user can report an article for supposed bias.

I don't know about you, but I'm a believer in Wikipedia. Give it a chance.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Downtown St. Louis

It is no secret these days that downtown St. Louis is on the rebound. Before the availability of historic rehab tax credits in 1998, downtown was a shell of its former self. With much of the urban core demolished to make way for large plazas, superblocks (the former Busch Stadium), and empty green spaces (the barren Gateway Mall), the popular saying regarding our ill-fated central business district was that you could shoot a cannonball down any street and not hit anyone after 5 p.m.

Thankfully, that's no longer true. With continued Washington Avenue revitalization, the completed Old Post Office and its surrounding development, the upcoming Bottle District, the ever more beautiful new stadium and its exciting attached Ballpark Village, a reconfigured St. Louis Centre, a European-styled pedestrian only St. Charles Street, the ambitious Chouteau's Landing development on the south side of downtown, the Chouteau Lake and Greenway Project taking shape just south of the stadium, the Pinnacle Casino and Hotel on Laclede's Landing, the lid over I-70 and improved pedestrian access near the Gateway Arch, the crazy riverfront redevelopment plans...downtown in 2008 will perhaps be something that St. Louisans in 1908 would have been proud of.

For more information on downtown St. Louis developments mentioned above and other exciting developments around the city, please visit Urban STL. Thanks to Xing of Urban STL for the accompanying photo of the ever more vibrant Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis.

Facebook Gets Poked

Is it wrong for a University to allow pictures and writings on the popular Facebook website as investigative evidence in disciplinary cases? That is the question at hand in the two articles regarding Facebook policy at Princeton and the University of Dayton.

Both universities admit to charging students with misconduct based on investigations that surfaced incriminating photos (underage drinking and other illicit activities) from Facebook.My first reaction to the universities' methods was one of disapproval. Other than the process of registering one's .edu mail address as a means of creating a Facebook profile, the site has no affiliation with the university the student attends. So why should information supplied on an unaffiliated website be allowed in a university investigation? It seems very intrusive, underhanded, and wrong. Especially when considering that some students complain about D.P.S. officials posing as undergraduates in order to circumvent privacy settings that allow only students to see other students' profiles.

Still, the article mentions that neither university scours Facebook for illicit activities and writes citations. Rather, both use Facebook material as "secondary evidence" in an already ongoing investigation of a particular student or group.

It is my prediction that the surveillance imposed upon Facebook will quickly diminish its fad status faster than it would have normally been phased out. Students will not continue to support a website that only serves to incriminate them. While I do not really agree with the methods of Princeton and Dayton, the use of Facebook by students to advertise their drunkenness sends the wrong message to prospective college students about what university education and its social setting must entail. The culture of alcoholism is promoted and sustained by the display of unbridled underage drinking. Thus, maybe it's better for everyone that students who wish to flaunt their misbehavior choose a less public setting.

That is not to say that I have never had a drink in my underage life--or do not even do so regularly. It is to say, however, that Facebook promotes drinking irresponsibility so endemic to college campuses. Privacy settings on Facebook should solve both problems in that the public advertisement of questionable activities is lessened as well as administrator's access to it. The tactics of deception utilized by some schools is wrong and any evidence obtained by deceit should be ruled as unlawful to use in an investigative setting.