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Randolph librarian wins surprise judgement against Equifax

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This article by Matt Hongoltz-Hetling was initially published by the Valley News.

RANDOLPH — In a small claims court ruling that surprised even the victor, a self-described member of the “librarian resistance” has won a $600 judgment against Equifax, the credit ratings agency that collects financial data on nearly a billion consumers and businesses worldwide.

In September, Jessamyn West, of Randolph, walked into the Orange County Courthouse in Chelsea and filed papers asking the judge to compel Equifax to pay her nearly $5,000 in connection with a data breach that affected more than 100 million people.

“I found out along with everyone else in September that Equifax had lost my information,” West said during a Tuesday phone interview. “They didn’t patch part of their computer system, and hackers absconded with the information of me and 140 million other Americans.”

The 49-year-old West said she’s not sure what of her personal information was compromised, though the company has admitted the hackers accessed names, addresses, Social Security numbers and, for hundreds of thousands of people, credit card information.

West is a tech-savvy librarian at the Randolph Technical Career Center who gives regular public lectures on privacy rights, online security and information science across the state.

“I’m a civics nerd. I’m a justice of the peace. It’s all very ‘Vermonty,’” she said.
In the aftermath of the breach, West was dismayed by what she perceived to be a general sense of defeatism when discussing the breach with friends.

“I would go to dinner and they would say ‘Equifax! Crazy! Nothing you can do,’” she recalled.

But for West, the situation rankled. Her mother had died that year and, as co-executor of the estate, West had run into various problems verifying her online identity during what already was a distressing experience.

So she decided to do something about it.

“Filing small claims cases is a thing human beings can do. It’s not that hard,” she said. “And the amount of money it cost, 90 bucks — it’s not nothing, but to me it’s not a huge amount of money.”

West didn’t expect Equifax to bother to put in an appearance during a May court date. The Atlanta-based company, one of the country’s “Big Three” credit ratings agencies, reported $3.4 billion in revenue for 2017, up 7 percent from 2016.

But someone did show up.

West described the company representative, who had been flown into the state, as a “surprisingly nice and friendly” paralegal, who, between the courtroom proceedings, chatted with her about novel-to-him Vermont experiences, including the state’s craft beers and dirt roads.

“I expected someone in a suit who did not have a sense of humor about having to come to Vermont,” she said. “Instead I got this guy.”

After West and the Equifax representative argued their respective positions, West said she thought she would lose the case because he had pointed out her difficulties in proving “speculative damages” — which cannot typically be recovered by a plaintiff.

Judge Bernard Lewis said he would look into the idea of speculative damages, and issue a ruling soon. On June 4, Lewis issued a court order that found West was owed money to cover the cost of up to two years of payments to online identity protection services, plus her $90 filing fee.

West said the victory shows that large corporations don’t always win.

“I’m not even the little guy,” she said. “I’m the microscopic, can’t-even-see-me, speck of dust guy.”

She encouraged others to follow her lead, “if they think they have a case. Especially if weird stuff is going on with your finances.”

In an email on Tuesday, Marisa Salcines, an Equifax spokeswoman, declined to comment on the case.

Though it’s unclear whether Equifax’s bottom line is being affected, news agencies across the country have reported a flurry of class action lawsuits and small claims court cases against the company in recent months. A Stanford University student made headlines nationwide when he created an online application that streamlined the process to file against the company, and some cases reportedly have been resolved against the company for up to $10,000 each.

West said that seeing news coverage about that application had helped spark her interest in filing the suit.

But now, West said, she’s moving on to express her ire in other ways, at other companies.
“Today,” she said, “I’m mad at Greyhound…”

Take the legal journey with West in this thread from her Twitter account:


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bjtitus
5 days ago
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Denver, CO
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skorgu
7 days ago
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Jessamyn is awesome!
emdot
7 days ago
You took the words out of my keyboard. She is one of the internet greats.

Country Time will cover illegal lemonade stand fines and fees this summer

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The makers of Country Time Lemonade are running a unique promotion this summer. If you’re the parent of a child 14 or younger who has incurred a fine for running an unlicensed lemonade stand or who has paid for a permit, Country Time will “cover your fine or permit fees up to $300”. This video explains (ok, I lol’d at “tastes like justice”):

Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. (including D.C.), who are the parents or legal guardians of a child 14 years of age or younger operating a lemonade stand. Program ends 11:59pm ET on 8/31/18 or when $60,000 worth of offers have been awarded, whichever comes first.

In a related promotion, Domino’s Pizza is working to fix potholes in streets around the US.

I guess it’s nice of these companies to step in here, but it’s sad that America’s crumbling infrastructure and antiquated legal system have become promotional opportunities for massive multinational corporations that spend millions each year trying to avoid paying local, state, and federal taxes that might conceivably go towards fixing problems like this in a non-ad hoc way. But hey, pizza and lemonade, mmmmmm.

Tags: food   legal   video
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bjtitus
8 days ago
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MotherHydra
7 days ago
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Brilliant marketing.
Space City, USA
jimwise
8 days ago
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:-)

The 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time: A Playlist Curated by Pitchfork

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What makes a good ambient record? I’m not sure I can even begin to answer that question, and I count myself a longtime fan of the genre, such as it is. Though conceived, ostensibly, by Brian Eno as modernist mood music—“as ignorable as it is interesting,” he wrote in the liner notes to 1978's Ambient 1: Music for Airports—the term has come to encompass “tracks you can dance to all the way to harsh noise.” This description from composer and musician Keith Fullerton Whitman at Pitchfork may not get us any closer to a clear definition in prose, though “cloud of sound” is a lovely turn of phrase.

Unlike other forms of music, there is no set of standards—both in the jazz sense of a canon and the formal sense of a set of rules. Reverberating keyboards, squelching, burping synthesizers, droning guitar feedback, field recordings, found sounds, laptops, strings… whatever it takes to get you there—“there” being a state of suspended emotion, “drifting” rather than “driving,” the sounds “soothing, sad, haunting, or ominous.” (Cheerful, upbeat ambient music may be a contradiction in terms.)

Given the looseness of these criteria, it only stands to reason that “good” ambient must be judged on far more subjective terms than most any other kind of music. Next to “atmospheric,” a primary operative word in an ambient critical lexicon is “evocative,” and what the music evokes will differ vastly from listener to listener. “No one agrees on the language surrounding this music,” Whitman admits, “not the musicians who make it, not the audience.”

Ambient’s close association with trends in avant-garde minimalism, from Erik Satie to Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and Charlemagne Palestine, may prepare us for its many crossover strains in electronic music, but not, perhaps, for the seeming synergy between ambient and certain developments in heavy metal (though Lou Reed seems to have presaged this evolution). “There are many roads one can take into this particular sector,” writes Whitman, “virtually every extant sub- and micro-genre has an ambient shadow.”

Such ecumenicalism is a feature: it means that a list like Pitchfork’s “50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time” (stream most of those albums on the Spotify playlist above) can pull from an impressively wide array of musical domains, from the early experimental electronic music of Laurie Spiegel to the spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane; the chill-out electronica of The Orb and The KLF to the ethereal indie post-folk dreampop of Grouper, a very rare entry with vocals.

If the genre has stars, Tim Hecker and William Basinski might be considered two of them; if it has august forebears, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, and of course Eno are three. (Music for Airports comes in at number one, though another very well-chosen inclusion here is Eno and Harold Budd’s utterly gorgeous The Pearl.) Other entries I’m very pleased to see on this list include albums by Gas, composer Max Richter, and vocal experimentalist Juliana Barwick, artists who might never share a stage, but sit quite comfortably next to each other here.

What’s missing? Maybe the glacially slow, guitar and bass drones of Sunn O))) or the deeply unnerving noise of Prurient or the lush electro-acoustic compositions of Ashley Bellouin, I don’t know. These aren’t complaints but suggestions on the order of if you like Pitchfork’s “50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time,” check out…. I could go on, but I’d rather leave it to you, reader. What’s on your list that didn’t make the cut?

Visit Pitchfork's list here.

Related Content:

The “True” Story Of How Brian Eno Invented Ambient Music

10 Hours of Ambient Arctic Sounds Will Help You Relax, Meditate, Study & Sleep

Hear “Weightless,” the Most Relaxing Song Ever Made, According to Researchers (You’ll Need It Today)

Moby Lets You Download 4 Hours of Ambient Music to Help You Sleep, Meditate, Do Yoga & Not Panic

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

bjtitus
8 days ago
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On My Misalignment With Apple’s Love Affair With Swift

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Dominik Wagner (tweet, Hacker News, Reddit):

On top of all of this, there is that great tension with the existing Apple framework ecosystem. While Apple did a great job on exposing Cocoa/Foundation as graspable into Swift as they could, there is still great tension in the way Swift wants to see the world, and the design paradigms that created the existing frameworks. That tension is not resolved yet, and since it is a design conflict, essentially can’t be resolved. Just mitigated.

[…]

If you work in that world you are constantly torn between doing things the Swift/standard-library way, or the Cocoa way and bridging in-between. To make matters worse there are a lot of concepts that don’t even have a good equivalent. This, for me at least, generates an almost unbearable mental load. It leads to writers block and/or running around in cognitive circles trying to answer questions on how to best express the problem, or make Swift be happy with my code.

[…]

Yes, Swift code might end up being more correct in the end. It also might alert you to edge cases early on. However, the flip side is it inhibits your creativity while writing.

[…]

In my opinion, a lot of the “lofty goals” haven’t been achieved, and as discussed, should even be non-goals. Just imagine a world where Objective‑C would have gotten the same amount of drive and attention Swift got from Apple? It is not a big leap to see that everyone would be better off right now. Swift just ended up being a jack of all trades, master of none.

I agree with most of what he says, except that overall I do like programming in Swift, and I prefer it to Objective-C most of the time. I suspect I would also like an enhanced Objective-C much more than the Objective-C that we actually have. I remain unconvinced that Swift was the right strategy for Apple to take vs. putting the same amount of effort into improving Objective-C. But that decision was made long ago. I do not, as he suggests, want to see a pivot back to try that path now. I think Swift (and the frameworks and tools) can get to where they need to go, but a long way remains, and it will require continued sustained focus to get there.

Update (2018-06-10): See also these Twitter threads from: Daniel Pasco, Dominik Wagner, Nick Lockwood, Marcel Weiher, Ilja A. Iwas.

Update (2018-06-11): See also: Steven Sinofsky, Alexis Gallagher, Dominik Wagner, Lukas Spieß, Colin Wheeler, Kyle Bashour, Gopal Sharma, Daniel Pasco, Marco Scheurer, Helge Heß, Kristof.

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bjtitus
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Ten guidelines for nurturing a thriving democracy by Bertrand Russell

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In December 1951, British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a piece for the NY Times Magazine titled The Best Answer to Fanaticism — Liberalism with a subhead that says “Its calm search for truth, viewed as dangerous in many places, remains the hope of humanity.” At the end of the article, he offers a list of ten commandments for living in the spirit of liberalism:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Over the past few years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to keep an open mind about many issues, particularly on those related to politics. Remaining curious and generous about new & different ideas, especially in public, is perhaps more challenging than it was in Russell’s time. We are bombarded on all sides by propaganda, conspiracy theories, and broadly discredited theories from the past pushed upon us by entertainment news outlets and social media algorithms — we’re under a constant denial-of-service attack on our ability to think and reason.

We can’t reasonably be expected to give serious consideration to ideas like “the Holocaust didn’t happen”, “the Earth is flat”, “the Newtown massacre was faked”, “let’s try slavery again”, “vaccines cause autism”, and “anthropogenic climate change is a myth” — the evidence just doesn’t support any of it — but playing constant defense against all this crap makes it difficult to have good & important discussions with those we might disagree with about things like education, the role of national borders in a extremely mobile world, how to address our changing climate, systemic racism & discrimination, gun violence, healthcare, and dozens of other important issues. Perhaps with Russell’s guidelines in mind, we can make some progress on that front.

Tags: Bertrand Russell   lists   politics
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bjtitus
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For 90 years, the Tower of Memories has watched over Denver’s suburbs — and on Sunday you can go inside

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The Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, seen from a distance. May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
The view south from Carr Street in Arvada. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

There’s a tower that looks over Denver’s western suburbs. You’ll be driving near Interstate 70, or walking in Arvada, and suddenly it’s there — watching you through a gap in the trees.

It’s not an office, not an apartment building. It stands alone on the ridge, a solitary outline against the silhouette of Denver’s southern mountains and occasionally Pikes Peak. It is 158 feet tall. And it is home to thousands of people’s remains.

The Tower of Memories, as it’s called, started construction more than 90 years ago. This Sunday, its owners will unveil a major renovation and open the colossal mausoleum to the public. (More details on that at the bottom.)

The Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
The Tower of Memories, with an adjacent property in the foreground. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

I only recently learned what the building was, and I’m terminally curious, so I headed over this week. Mike Skoulat, general manager of Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, spent an hour showing me around.

The place was founded in 1907 by George Olinger, who also started the mortuary that now is home to the Linger restaurant near downtown Denver.

Construction started in 1926, although Olinger back then imagined a far more ornate and Gothic (and creepy, I’d say) design. The building’s $1 million budget was trumpeted in headlines, but the project fell into disarray as its builder hit bankruptcy in 1928.

The Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
The Tower of Memories in Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

By that point, remains had already been entombed in the building, so there was really no going back. Olinger brought on new architects — William and Arthur Fisher — who stripped away the gothic detailing from the plan.

Instead, the project became a rare Denver example of a monumental modernist structure. (The final design reminds me of the 1930s-looking Denver Wastewater Management fortress along Interstate 25, which is actually pretty modern.)

Construction was delayed again by World War II, stretching some 20 years to 1948 — but the unfinished building quickly became a landmark in every sense of the word.

“A lot of pilots would use it to line up for Stapleton airport,” Skoulat told me as we drove the half-mile esplanade toward the tower.

A work crew pours a new parking lot around the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 22, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
A work crew pours a new parking lot around the Tower of Memories at Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 22, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The recent renovation replaced the tower’s plexiglass windows with dark blue glass, repaired its tiled roof, repaired water damage and restored the front doors to their original gold color.

Opening those great gold doors, we stepped into a ground floor criss-crossed with broad marble halls. Some were lined with crypts and marked by family names. Beneath them were a few understated pieces of furniture for visitors.

Inside the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 22, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The tower’s home to some 6,000 crypts — large enough to fit a person’s full remains. About 90 percent are sold, and 75 percent are occupied, Soulak said. They range from $25,000 to $50,000.

The mortuary also has about 5,000 niches for cremated remains, priced from $1,000 to $22,000, depending on how high up the wall you’d like to be. Of course, you could also choose one of the thousands of plots on the cemetery’s 240-acre grounds.

“There are those who want to be in the ground, and those who want to be above the ground,” my tour guide noted. Either way, his goal is to deliver perfection.

Inside the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 22, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The second floor was a bit more dramatic.

“Mr. Olinger, he liked the red,” Soulak explained as we stepped off the elevator. Indeed, the carpets and the chapel windows are saturated with the color.

Then we returned to the elevator and Soulak turned a key to send us to a  part of the tower that few people see: The upper floors, which remain unfinished.

Inside the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
Inside the Tower of Memories in Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

The upper floors are cast in an icy blue from the frosted new windows. The old windows would light up in a burning red when the sun hit right.

We passed the filing cabinets and boxes, then took a slightly unnerving climb up four sets of original, poured-concrete stairs.

Inside the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
Inside the Tower of Memories in Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

We stopped short of an absolutely unnerving ladder to the tower’s very highest floor. For a moment, I thought that might be the end.

Inside the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
(Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

But I got what I had really come for. Soulak led me out onto a balcony, and we suddenly had the view that had been hidden behind those semi-opaque windows: the land of the living.

The view from atop the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
The view from atop the Tower of Memories in Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
The view from atop the Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
The view from atop the Tower of Memories in Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 23, 2018. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Soulak and his staff will re-dedicate the tower on Sunday, May 27. They’ll lay a marker for a military veteran at 11, host a Memorial Day event for veterans at 11:30, and then rededicate the tower at 1 p.m.

I can’t promise you’ll get as much access as I did, but you’ll get to hear from the architect and project manager of the renovation. It’s a quiet and lovely place.

Crown Hill Mortuary is at 7777 W 29th Ave in Wheat Ridge.

The Tower of Memories in Lakewood's Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, May 22, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; lakewood; cemetery; mausoleum;
The Tower of Memories. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Correction: This post originally misstated the construction date of the wastewater management building.

The post For 90 years, the Tower of Memories has watched over Denver’s suburbs — and on Sunday you can go inside appeared first on Denverite.

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bjtitus
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