12/29/2003

Here's an important plea for help for a Houston family. This is a letter from a very good friend of mine, a local musician here in Houston:
My aunt is in jail!

Back in 1989, my aunt and uncle moved from Houston to Puerto Rico to work for my other uncle's company. They lived in Puerto Rico until about 2000 or so...when they moved to Tampa, Florida.

Well, Dec. 24 (yes, Christmas Eve) my aunt and their 3 children were driving around looking at Tampa's Christmas lights when she was pulled over because she accidentally went down a one way street in a neighborhood she was not familiar with. The officer was super friendly, and even joked about the whole one way street being particularly confusing. But, upon running her DL #, the officer came back andpromptly arrested my aunt- in front of her kids! Handcuffs and all. And took her away. The 3 kids were taken, I assume, by another officer back to the station.

So what happened? Well, back in 1989, a arrest warrant was issued for my aunt because the state has on record that she had a few bad checks written, and for substantial amounts. No one had any idea of this. The bad checks has been returned well after my aunt and uncle closed their bank accounts in Houston. Even well after they moved to Puerto Rico. So, it can be safely assumed that this is a case of identity theft dating back to 1989. Where someone managed to get a hold of some old checks of my aunts (which she may have disposed of improperly, i.e. didn't destroy them) and made purchases with these fraudulent checks. The checks were in her name. Thus, my aunt was considered a felon, since hot check writing is a felony.

As of today, Dec. 29, my aunt is still in jail. The court set NO BAIL since they called her a "flight risk" since "she had left Texas in 1989 right after the bad checks". They assumed "she fled Texas to escape prosecution." So she's stuck in the jailhouse.

My aunt and unclebought a house in Puerto Rico, and a car, and never had heard of any kind arrest warrant for my aunt when the credit checks were run. They were approved for all major credit apps they tried for, so why didn't the warrant show up on any credit checks? This is one way the police and FBI make it hard for criminals on the loose to live a normal life. They should have "caught" my aunt after the first credit check in the early 90's. Nonetheless, she is in jail now.

Some Christmas for my law-abiding aunt huh? She is still incarcerated and will remain there until something can be figured out between my uncle, my mom, and my other uncle, to get her out.

We are pulling out all our resources here in Houston (where this case originated and is still open), seeking legal counsel to help my aunt. Any leads, tips, or resources you can suggest would be great, as every day that goes by my perfect citizen of an aunt sits in prison.
So, as far as I can see there are two main ways you can help.


  1. Important: If you are a lawyer or know any lawyers who are looking to do some pro bono work in the name of justice, please contact me and I will put you in touch with my friend. I know there must be organizations out there for this purpose, but I don't know who they are.
  2. If you have a few minutes, it would be a big help to write a letter to the editor of the Houston Chronicle and let them know about this, and try to attract attention and help for the case. Email me and I'll give you the specifics on the case (names, precincts, etc.). (I'm not posting them here to preserve my friend's privacy.)

We're not seeking monetary donations at present, but we may in the future if her bail is set and is high. Thanks for your generosity and help!

(Update, 1/3/03 - She has been released from jail. No word yet on the next steps.)

12/25/2003

Merry Christmas all! überjam and I are at her folks house, with my mom. Getting ready for Christmas dinner, listening to my new McCoy Tyner CD and my new Niacin CD (which I am particularly excited about). Mmm. How did you all spend your Christmas?

12/22/2003

Naming Contest

OK, I need help. There's a new project I'm working on that is looking to be really cool - a local music calendar site. I don't want to say too much about it now, since it's still so early in the concept phase. Suffice it to say that the idea is to have a VERY comprehensive local music calendar, with the data supported by 3 input streams (automated data capture from other sites, self-entry by bands, and editorial updates by local editors). It'll track genres, individual artists, venues, etc, and it'll all be geared towards getting people more involved in local music by helping them zero in on their favorite music, as well as to be loyal fans for bands they've seen. Similar to JamBase in some ways, but broader in scope (not just for "jam" music - this will have classical, country, hip hop, tejano, etc.) and with more detailed data. This database will also power other sites as well, as a sort of local music tracking engine.

Here's the problem: I don't know what to name it. I've been thinking for a while, but I'm stumped. I want something weird and catchy, something that reminds you of supporting local music. It also needs to be something that I can get the .com for. I like the idea of a "scout" (it finds good local music for you) or the idea of a "glut" (like, there's almost too much good stuff going on, an embarrasment of riches.) Abstract names are OK too. I don't want it to just be a combination of ordinary words like "LocalMusicCalendar.com" or something. I want it to have some spunk.

So ... help me find a name! Put it in the comments or email me your ideas.

12/19/2003

Ah, what a day ... überjam got her new car today, and it's a beauty. The day was spent cleaning and preparing for my family's visit (they arrive tonight) with a few minor emergencies thrown in for good measure. Now we're off to Sambuca to see Mark Dini (with a friend, Austin Biel, on keys), then off to the airport to pick up the fam. Should be a fun few days with them around for the holidays!

12/17/2003

If you have a few minutes, read this cartoon - A Drug War Carol. It's a pretty indepth look at the history and sources of drug prohibition, and the current state of affairs. Very well done, and thought provoking.

12/16/2003

Today, so far, has been a great day:

a) überjam is done with her schoolwork for the year. A collective sigh of relief is heaved.

b) Today at Eatzi's, my salad was made by the Salad Ninja. For those of you who've never had the pleasure, Eatzi's in Houston has one particular salad chef who does all kinds of knife acrobatics while he makes your salad. It rules, he has real ultimate salad power. I'd get his picture, only they don't allow photography. Maybe my friend Marty who works there can hook me up.

c) My family are all coming to visit on Friday and staying with us for a few days. I am very excited to see them all.

d) Tonight I am going to see the best movie ever made for the first time.

Much to be thankful for!
Just read this Salon article about the police crackdown at the Miami FTAA protests, and it's pretty disturbing. People were arresting people - even journalists and legal observers - indiscriminately, shooting senior citizens with pepper spray, etc.

As many people in this article said, I am all about supporting the badge, but this was not "the badge". This was a police force gone crazy, whipped up into a frenzy ... not by protesters, but by their own superiors, who want to make the Miami police force look good. Thankfully we have a legal system that will allow those injured to sue; and since these are such well-documented, flagrant abuses, I would think it'd stand up in court. We'll see.

In the mean time, those of you who are democrats should contact the Democratic National Committee and tell them to fire John Timoney, who was the architect of this crackdown. He has been hired to provide security at the DNC convention in Boston. You can comment on the DNC blog and tell them.

12/15/2003

Thanks to everybody who donated and voted. We raised a couple hundred bucks for Michael, and we'll find out Friday who wins on House Rules.

I spent yesterday re-reading lord of the rings one last time before the movie finally comes out, and then recording in the studio on a few cuts from Plump's new album, which sounds great. Now we're in the home stretch for Christmas, which involves much cleaning, preparing, etc..

12/12/2003

Today I am extending 2 important requests for friends of mine. Please take a moment and help out!

1. Mike Switzer, our friendly neighborhood trombone player, KTRU DJ, and all around wacky guy, had his trombone stolen out of his car last night. If we all pitch in a couple bucks, he'll have a new horn in no time.

Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

2. Cindy Scott, a great jazz singer from Houston, is competing on the TV reality show "House Rules". It's kind of like "Survivor" meets "Trading Spaces." Bill and Cindy are the Blue Team, and if they win, they keep the house and $50,000. Starting tonight at 8pm, you can vote for them this weekend, as many times as you want. Click here for the full scoop!



Please take a moment and help these folks out!

12/10/2003

A few days ago, I saw this lovely internet side effect - type miserable failure into google and click "I'm Feeling Lucky" and you'll see this. It's explained a bit in this BBC article, but it's a prank - a practice formally known as Google Bombing - by using words to link to a page, those words become associated in the google search results.

So that's old news by now, but a couple days back, I got a forward from a friend - someone he knew had written to him regarding this effect, with the subject of "Vast Left Wing Conspiracy":
Why on earth would you be directed to George Bush's official bio page?? That page does not even contain the words "miserable failure". Yahoo has a perfectly good search engine - it's time to switch!
I promise: people's feelings about Bush aren't a vast conspiracy. He invokes that anger one person at a time, and people make their opposition publicly known. And it's not just liberals.

No, if you really want to see a vast conspiracy, you don't need to look any farther than the connections between corporate board rooms and government.


Also, I think the fact that J Lo and Ben Affleck are still making movies has got to be some kind of vast conspiracy.

12/09/2003

Big news in Deanland today - Al Gore has endorsed Howard Dean for President.

I was never a big Gore fan, but I have become much more of one since he won and subsequently ceded the election in 2000. He's really started speaking out for stuff I believe in, and seems like he's got some guts. He's no longer in the shadow of Bill Clinton (and Bill Clinton's misdeeds).

So at this point, I think pretty much everybody thinks it's sealed up. If anybody else but Dean gets it, all the air will go out of the sails of this new "progressive middle" democratic movement and Bush will certainly win. So I think it's time for the other guys to drop out. But I guess they can't do that easily and still save face. It would just be so much better in the long run, cuz Dean can focus on beating Bush and not the other Dems.

12/08/2003

Busy weekend! Friday night Jill and I attended a party for the Foundation for Modern Music, a really great local music promotion group that advocates for "modern classical music" (for lack of a better word) in Houston. In other words, music by living or recently living composers. I will mention them more later.

Through that, we learned of a volunteer opportunity for Bill White's campaign, which we did on Saturday. And as predicted, Bill White came out ahead. I think that's a good thing for Houston, we will see ...

Last night, after volunteering, we went over to the Alamo Draft House for a performance of Mr. Sinus Theater 3000. It's just like the real MST3K, but they do it live in theaters. It was great - they did Top Gun, with a keen eye for the blatant homosexual overtones that run rampant in the movie. A+.

Then we went to Brasil to check out Righteous Buddha. Those guys are awesome. I wish they had a web site I could direct you to, but you can hear one of their tracks on the Drop Trio blog.

Today was mostly relaxing and winding down, watching west wing and such. Back to the grind tomorrow ...

12/05/2003

For those of you in Houston, it's almost voting time! There is a major runoff election this Saturday, Dec. 6th. To see who is running and read about their positions, check out this awesome site called LocalVoter.com:
http://www.localvoter.com/cityhouston.asp
They've got lots of good info on local races across texas, so if you ever need to know what's going on in local politics, check there. I hope this site branches out to the rest of the country, it's really helpful.

For myself, I'm going with the color guard - White, Brown & Green! Bill White for mayor, Peter Brown for City Council, and Ronald Green for city council. Throw in Anise Parker for good measure. Too bad her name's not a color as well.

But regardless of who you pick, VOTE!

12/04/2003

So last night, I'm driving home from a couple rehearsals, and I turn on the radio. The show on KFPT is Damage Control, a hip hop show with host Matt Sonzala and others. They're talking with some congressman, who I assume to be a state congressman.

Then I realize that it's Dennis Kucinich. And he's in studio.

So naturally, I change course and head over to the studios, a few blocks from my house. I find the studio full to overflowing with people - rappers, hip hop djs, and a few other friends. I shake hands with the guy, and head home.

What I wanted to say (but of course did not) was: Dennis, I think you are a man of great integrity and courage, and your campaign impresses me. Now stop it already, and throw your weight to Dean so we can get him elected and end the most disasterous administration in US history.

But later, I came to a couple realizations. Kucinich will never get the Democratic nod. But he is playing an important role at this stage in the election, in 2 ways.

First, he is giving voice and focus to the left-most element in US politics, giving them a spokesman in a very high position. That has the effect of pulling the whole debate a little bit to the left. If he weren't there, Dean would be as far left as it goes, and he's a blooming centrist for crying out loud. Kucinich says the stuff that needs to be said but that would get Dean thrown out on his ear if he said it.

Second, Kucinich has taken all the super-left politically active people - the wonderful people who are always politically active, but who, for better or worse, have a tendency to alienate the average American - and kept them out of the Dean campaign. So the Dean campaign's infrastructure is dug in with left-leaning moderates, like myself, who don't want revolution, just honesty and improvement. You'll never hear a Dean organizer shout "Free Mumia!". So the campaign actually has a chance of convincing Joe NASCAR Dad to lend his vote.

I don't want to sound like an apologist for the center. I am all for freeing Mumia, legalizing pot, supporting gay marriage, waging peace, and cracking down on corporate and political cronyism. But I also want to a) win this election and then b) heal this artificial rift between left and right that has exploded under Bush. The direction things are going, both sides feel a sort of "with us or against us" mentality (which Bush has even said explicitly). But we all share more in common than we realize. The categorical divisions need to end, and that's the most important thing. Bush is a divider, and the American nation is hurting because of it. Dean is a uniter, and a healer.

12/02/2003

I've been wondering about something lately. Where does my tax money go? I know it goes for public services and such. But, specifically, how much goes to what? That's public information, right? It would be nice to be able to say "I personally paid 400 for that war in Iraq", etc. Sadly, all my searching has turned up no such handy tool.

So since I've been learning a little PHP lately, just for fun, I cooked up this little calculator:
Where's my money?
The figures come from the National Budget Simulator, and I don't know if they're totally accurate (and naturally, the situation is more complex than that, with property taxes, state taxes, sales tax, etc.). But it's interesting to see where your money is actually going, at least roughly.

If you like it, give me some feedback and maybe I'll make a version 2.0 that takes more factors into account.

12/01/2003

Ah, back to the grind.

Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I did, very restful. One minor complaint: I have lately been a bit irked by the emphasis everybody puts on preparing and eating large amounts of food at Thanksgiving. Everybody I talked to about the weekend was pretty psyched about how much food they made and ate. I'm all for feasting - there's a lot to be thankful for, and parties & family are both good things. But I couldn't help thinking that it's time now for a compensating increase in our awarness of hunger. 850 million people go to sleep hungry every day, and 24,000 people die every day from hunger related causes. World hunger is on the rise again, and it's not because we don't have enough food in the world. I don't understand the political and economic causes of hunger, certainly, but I know that the only way to change things is for people who have enough to be aware.

So here's your task for today. If you had a great big Thanksgiving meal, donate $5 to help. It's not gonna set you back much, and if nothing else, it'll put you in a spirit of helpfulness. Better, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, to light one small candle than to curse the darkness. Go do it.