Screenshot of dirty dealing by Health Insurance Companies

I guess there is a reason they call it Mafia Wars. Business Insider has broken a story about insurance company shills paying Facebook users into sending emails to their Congressional Representatives opposing health care reform.

This is interesting in the context of the Health Care debate (see the attempt to push Komen for the Cure to dump Leiberman’s lobbyist wife) but is more significant as a marker of the way that advertising and advocacy are creeping into places and forms where the information consumer does not expect them.


Steve sent me someone’s inquiry that came in off of the AAA contact page. Usually these are either “hey you guys rock” or they are lost advertisers who try to sell ad space somewhere they shouldn’t and don’t get it when we shame them.

Here’s the full email. I put it out there in full, and then I will ruminate on why i wavered for two weeks on writing this post at all:


There are bunch of line drawings that will go into this book, along with screen shots of websites, CAD images, and pictures. I spent a LOT of time before I even got the contract figuring out the best way to do line drawings without fancy software because

  • I didn’t want to spend the money to buy it and
  • I didn’t want to download a cracked or non-legal version on my pristine new laptop
  • The book will be black and white, so in a way that should simplify things. So… I found Inkscape, which is a free and open source program similar to Adobe Illustrator. There’s also a free, open source program called Gimp that’s similar in capabilities to Adobe Photoshop. Then I found paint.NET which is kind of like MS Paint on steroids, and also free.


    I took the mechanical engineering PE back in October, and I just found out yesterday that I passed! I can’t even explain what a relief it is. I’m a certified nerd. Now I can’t wait to get my seal! Now I have to start checking out the continuing education units…


    Back from the Holidays, here are the last two Fairytale Fashion videos on Mathematics.

    We’ve started working with classrooms which is quite exciting. And we are preparing for our big fashion show on Feb. 23. If you have a class that would like to participate, contact me!


    25% of my book, or the preface through chapter 3, was due January 4th. I had already asked for one extension (from 12/24) so I was really trying to hit the Jan 4th date. So, at 2am on the evening of the 4th (technically the morning of the 5th) I submitted all the chapters, and about half of the artwork. I still have to fill in some mini projects and finish the drawings, but what a HUGE relief that was! So far feedback has been great. I’m taking a few days off now before diving back in.

    When my editor replied to my submission, he included a link to an Instructables page on the most useless machine ever. I want one.


    “Aesthetic art promises a political accomplishment that it cannot satisfy, and thrives on that ambiguity. That is why those who want to isolate it from politics are somewhat beside the point. It is also why those who want to fulfill its political promise are condemned to a certain melancholy.”

    Jacques Ranciere, “The Aesthetic Revolution and its Outcomes,” New Left Review 14 Mar-Apr, 2002, p.151


    The idea borne out of a mini freak-out with my area head at NYU turned out to be a big success. About 10 friends and colleagues came over last night and were bribed with beer, wine, and pizza while they read and edited my first few chapters. The validation and encouragement I got from them came at just the right time. I slept well and haven’t felt this relaxed in weeks, even though I still have a stack of edited papers to get through before my deadline tomorrow. I just hope they enjoyed themselves enough to return to the 50% deadline Book & Bribe editing party in a couple months! So thank you Tom Igoe, Rob Faludi, Michelle Kempner, Becky Stern, Greg Shakar, Jennifer Pazdon, Jen King, Dana Vinson, Mike Sudano, and Steve Delaporte for the support, it means a lot to me.


    As part of my book deal, my agent negotiated a small equipment fee to cover project costs (thanks Neil!) on top of the small advance (not a good year for publishers to invest much in new authors of technical books). I just checked my bank account, and it cleared yesterday! I’m excited for SparkFun’s free day so I can get more for the money and really dig into some book projects.


    Thanks to my vain google alert on my own name, I saw my book pop up on McGraw-Hill’s website. The title isn’t complete, but wow, it looks real with a price and everything!

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