Kentwood Water Tower Followup

So just for the record, some links about Ed’s experience photographing the Kentwood water tower.

The original Grand Rapids Press article about it.

Blog reactions:
Here’s my reaction.
Boy with Grenade
NYC Photo Rights
Stormy Webber
The Lonely Goth’s Guide to Independent Catholicism
US Message Board
Topsy’s Twitter Trackbacks
Canon Digital Photography Forums
Boing Boing
Reddit: 1 2, 3, 4
Also on Reddit, the picture that got Ed in trouble.
Flickr Group: Photography is Not a Crime
Slashdot: I submitted this one. Vote it up.
Mark Maynard: There’s a reference near the end of the post.
The Grand Rapids Flickr group

UPDATE 9/28/10: A couple more…
Urban Planet
Also mentioned in the show notes for No Agenda, the Adam Curry/John Dvorak podcast show, but not in the actual show.
Photography is Not a Crime
Bizarre Confessions

UPDATE 9/29/10:
Commonplace Book

UPDATE 9/30/10:
Todd Boss
What’s Pissed Me Off
Truth and Justice For All
: Warning–includes nudes.

UPDATE 10/9/10:
Network World

Personally, I think it’d be extremely funny if someone were to organize a group of people to photograph the water tower — say about 500 people, all of them wearing name tags.

That’s to make it convenient for the police who would presumably be coming to take their names.

Security or Paranoia? Kentwood’s Water Tower

Ed Heil‘s been a friend of mine since the age of six. It’s pretty much a given then, that I think he’s a decent guy.

Kentwood’s municipal staff haven’t known him as long and apparently weren’t willing to risk the possibility that he wasn’t.

The gist of the situation is that Ed took a picture of Kentwood’s water tower and one of the workers there noticed and asked his name. Ed didn’t believe he had any reason to give his name, and didn’t, but the person (and it sounds like more than one person from the article) followed him into Kentwood’s library and continued to request his name. Eventually he gave it to them.

It’s kind of bizarre.

It reminds me, oddly enough, of being in the Soviet Union as part of a college choir tour.

While we were there, we learned that we were not allowed to take pictures of train stations, and airports. Annoyed by this, I made a point of taking a couple pictures while inside a subway, and one or two of the Moscow airport as we flew away on a KLM jet.

Post 9/11, taking pictures of train stations, airports, and harbors (if I remember correctly) is also discouraged in the United States.

I recognize that there are potential security issues here. In theory, terrorists could strike anywhere. If you protect the big cities, they might go for smaller ones. If you profile people from the Middle East, they’ll use people who look European.

The question is, how far do you go?

Though it’s probably worth worrying about a city’s water supply, is it worth making everyone who takes a picture give their name? More to the point are they making everyone give their name, or do they only do it on a whim?

If they don’t have permanent guards or cameras there, is the water supply really safe?

And if they don’t have guards or cameras, why don’t they?

If it’s because the low level of risk doesn’t justify the expense, one might ask if the level of risk justifies randomly interrogating people with cameras.

If you read the article I linked to, you might find the Kentwood government representatives’ comments interesting.

The mayor states that he’s “proud of” the employee. On the one hand, it’s good that the man takes his job seriously. On the other, essentially what he did was grab some people and try to bully someone into giving his name.

What’s also interesting? The new policy, as of Friday (the day after the incident), is to call the police when you see something suspicious. Don’t do anything yourself.

That’s a good thing in the sense that I’ve got more faith in the police officers’ ability to handle things appropriately than I do in the water department’s staff. It’s not so good in that it means that they’ll potentially be sending out the police to hassle people at the water tower on a semi-regular basis instead of having them go out to solve actual crimes.

In summary…

In situations like this we have to balance personal liberty against public security. My suspicion is that if the solution reminds me of experiences I had while traveling behind the Iron Curtain, we’ve moved too far in the direction of security.

Music from My Run

It turns out to be trivially easy to get the list of things I listened to during the River Bank Run off my ipod. So I’m doing it. Read it if you care.

For what it’s worth, I started listening a little bit before the start of the race. Thus, when the actual start came around, I’m pretty sure I was listening to “Hot Cha” by They Might Be Giants.

Also, for what it’s worth? I think this my be the only time I’ve ever attended a big race and not heard “Born to Run” blasting over the loudspeakers at some point. I’ve nothing against the song, but it’s a bit of a cliche by now, I think.

Train – Drops of Jupiter
The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Blue Rondo A La Turk
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Someday I Suppose
They Might Be Giants – Hot Cha
Charles Earland – Westbound #9
R.E.M. – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville
Tom Petty – I Won’t Back Down
Jethro Tull – Aqualung
Tom Petty – A Face in the Crowd
Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs
Norah Jones – Creepin’ In
The Arcade Fire – Keep the Car Running
The Doors – Break on Through
Jamiroquai – Cosmic Girl
Jamiroquai – Virtual Insanity
The Brian Setzer Orchestra – This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof
Yes – Turn of the Century
Clifford Brown – I Get A Kick Out of You
Ben Folds Five – Steve’s Last Night in Town
They Might Be Giants – Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Laurie Anderson – Strange Angels
R.E.M. – Driver 8
Yes – Close to the Edge
U2 – Surrender
Laurie Anderson – The Dream Before
Primus – Jerry was a Race Car Driver
Charles Earland – Killer Joe
Jethro Tull – Locomotive Breath
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band – Oop Pop A Dah (with Dizzy Gillespie)
The Wallflowers – One Headlight
Yes – Starship Trooper
U2 – “40”
John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom
U2 – Running to Stand Still
The Arcade Fire – (Antichrist Television Blues)
Living Colour – Cult Of Personality
Laurie Anderson – Coolsville
The Beatles – Dear Prudence

Fifth Third River Bank Run

I did it again this year. Kristen’s workplace pays for an employee and “a friend.” Husbands apparently count as friends for this purpose. So, it’s free. I like free.

I ran the 25K run (approximately 15.5 miles).

In case you were wondering what that’s like, I’ll go over the key features here:

Friday, May 9: Packet Pickup
Packet pickup is where you pick up things like the chip they use to track when you cross the start or finish line. Also, you get your “bib”–the piece of fabric that has your number on the front. Despite the name, it is too small to protect your clothes from messy eating.

Packet Pickup is something of a runner’s convention. In the larger races (like this one), you’ve usually got a massive room filled with booths. They’re usually for other races, shoe companies (Adidas, Puma, New Balance…), medical personnel (chiropractors, sports medicine, physical therapists) and in the case of this race, Smuckers. I have no idea why.

You’ve also got a stage at the front where people are being interviewed about their training techniques and racing tips. Directly in front of the stage, they held a pasta dinner–which Kristen and I skipped. We went to Ming Ten (sushi, Chinese, and Korean buffet).

Lining Up for the Race
Lining up is an event in itself. Figure you’ve got a few thousand people on the ground. All of them need to line up. They stagger people by race and by speed. In this case, they started the 10K runners at 7:30 am, the 25K wheelchair racers at 7:50, the 25K runners at 8:00 and the 5K at 8:10.

To line up, you need to either be there early enough that there’s not much of a crowd or push, push, push till you find an open gate and can step onto the street. Last year I was late enough that I had to literally squeeze through the fence to be on time. This year was no problem as I got up at 5:45 am.

The street was almost empty as I got on it (the 10K runners had left) and I had 30 minutes to kill. Here is how I spent my time:

10% Stretching
20% Thinking about how cold my fingers were
20% Finding the runners who intended to run 9 minute miles
50% Wondering why exactly I was doing this again

The Race
It started like every other long race–slooooowly.

When you’ve got a few thousand people on the road, the starting gun/air horn goes off and the people in the front start running. The people behind them start shuffling while the people after them continue to stand in one place.

It can take five or ten minutes just to get to the starting line.

Mile 1: Once we’re started, I decide that my plan is to stay next to the official pace setters for my mile pace. That way I would definitely make my goal time. One of the two pace setters intends to go faster during the last few miles. The other plans to keep a steady pace. I decide to follow the former.

Mile 2: I bump into a volunteer handing out Gatorade at an aid station. Now there is Gatorade on my shoulder and arm.

Mile 3-4: Nothing worth mentioning happens, but it feels good to run.

Mile 5: Melissa, the pace setter I decided to follow goes much faster than the other one. I lose track of her, but decide it’s okay since she doesn’t seem to be following a 9 minute mile pace anyway.

Mile 6: Melissa reappears behind me with a few other people from the 9 minute mile group. How did I get ahead? I decide to try to stay with them.

Mile 7: The turnaround point. We cross the Grand River and start back. Melissa and a couple other people get ahead of me. I never see them again.

Mile 8-11: Hills suck.

Mile 12-14: I begin counting down the miles, knowing that it will be over soon. Confusingly, there are still signs from the 5K up. At one point I see that I have two miles to go. Then I see that I have two miles to go again. This is very demoralizing.

Mile 15-15.5: The other 9 minute mile pacesetter (I didn’t catch his name) passes me. I consider trying to stay with him, but just don’t. He runs at a 7:30 mile pace normally. It’s just not worth it. I do push myself a little during the last half mile, but not to the extent I thought I would earlier. I’m tired.

Finish: I finish at 2 hours and 22 minutes according to the clock, but according to the chip (which takes account of the actual time I passed the start) I have a 2:20:01 time–an almost perfect 9 minute mile pace.

After the race, I passed in my chip, collected my medal for running, and ate some watermelon and oranges. I considered getting free beer at the beer tent, but didn’t have an id with me. I got Pepsi instead. In the end this was okay. I like micro-brews and darker beers. They had Michelob Ultra. To be honest, I don’t particularly like that beer anyway.

At that point I left for my car. So I’m done–at least for this year.

Hey, That’s My Church…

There’s apparently a website called “Ship of Fools” which looks at Christianity with a perspective that’s both critical and irreverent at the same time (to my mind this is a good thing).

One of the features is something called “The Mystery Worshiper” in which someone reviews a church. During the summer, someone apparently reviewed Church of the Servant, the church I go to.

In the recent past, they apparently also reviewed Mars Hill Bible Church, a locally prominent congregation.

Hippie Food

I’ve avoided buying organic foods for years. The reason is partially inherent cheapness on my part. Organic foods often end up being more expensive (sometimes twice as much) at the local grocery store.

That doesn’t stop me from liking the idea of organic foods.

I certainly can’t argue with people who think that industrial agriculture has some major problems. I think specifically of e. coli outbreaks, mad cow disease, the nasty conditions food animals face, and the overuse of pesticides.

Lately (by which I mean the last two years), Kristen and I have started buying locally grown meat and vegetables when possible.

West Michigan Cooperative:West Michigan Coop is an organization that distributes locally grown meats and produce. Meat seems to be the main focus, but they sell seasonal fruits and vegetables as well. It works on an invitation only basis. You give them your name and when they have an opening, they give you an account on their website. Using that account, you can order anything they have available from a variety of local farms. You then pick up your orders at a local warehouse on the monthly distribution date.

Oddly enough, if you visit the site on the day that I’m writing this, you’ll find a mass of php errors and sql code. I’ve volunteered to work on the site if they need help. They haven’t called.

Trillium Haven:A local organic farm started by people I know through my church. Basically, you buy a membership in the fall. Then in the summer through the late fall you receive fresh produce. We have a half share. A full share would be too much food.

I’ve been introduced to a lot of vegetables that I’d never have used otherwise through Trillium Haven. Leeks. Celeriac. Swiss chard. A wide variety of heirloom tomatoes

It’s good stuff.

Incidentally, they also grow vegetables that you’ve heard of.

Remembering Erdin Elmi

In the mid 90’s I was in graduate school for sociology and working at a market research firm. I’d initially been working part time in the phone room, but was moved into the Analysis and Consulting department when one of the professionals there noticed I was reading a book on multiple regression (a statistical technique).

My supervisor in A & C knew that I was interested in web development and mentioned that Nermin Elmi, someone he knew through his place of worship (the Islamic Center), needed help getting a web page going. Nermin was trying to raise money to help her cousin come to the United States to get treatment for leukemia.

In the course of working on the web page, I met her family–her husband, daughter and Erdin, her son. I didn’t really get to know him, but he seemed like a decent guy. He was going to high school at the time.

Nermin Elmi succeeded in bringing Elmira (her cousin) to the US for treatment–though complications from the chemotherapy ultimately killed her.

Nonetheless, I’ve still kept in touch with the family on and off. It’s been a little while though and that’s why it was a bit of a shock to read the following article in the paper:

25 year-old steps in front of commuter train

The 25 year old man is Erdin.

It’s a sad and strange thing. I remember hearing that when Nermin and her husband immigrated from Romania (at that time a communist state), the state would not allow Erdin to go with them. Ultimately, bringing Erdin here would involve Grand Rapids’ congressional representative (Rep. Paul Henry?) as well as (I think) the State department.

I’m sure that this event will prompt me to reconnect with the family again soon, but a card or phone call seems such a small thing in the face of something like this.

Real Live Preacher

There’s a blog out there called Real Live Preacher that you’ve probably heard of. I say probably because I know pretty much everyone who reads this blog and know that most of them know Ed. Ed linked to Real Live Preacher every so often a couple years ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure the blog’s writer commented on Ed’s blog once.

In case you didn’t know, Real Live Preacher is a blog by Gordon Atkinson, a pastor who writes about his church, his life, his family, depression, religion and a multitude of other things.

Eerdmans (right here in Grand Rapids) published a book of his blog entries a couple years ago and apparently it didn’t sell as well as they hoped.

As I understand it (and I could be wrong about the details), they sent him the remainders and now he’s selling them on his website.

Along with the books (which are signed), you also receive odd surprises within the covers.

Kristen ordered one and we received a key (he doesn’t know what it’s for) and some religiously themed candy. Pictures of both to be attached to this post someday.

Kristen reads the blog regularly and I read it occasionally. As someone who attended seminary for a couple years, I’ve been on his end of the pulpit/visitation/church politics.

It’s interesting to be reminded of what that was like and of other things I spent more time thinking about in seminary than I do right now.

Not to mention the fact that beyond anything else, he’s a good writer, making it an interesting blog whether or not you connect with his major topics.