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Derivative Works from Daniel X. O'Neil

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Answer The Call: City of Chicago Firefighter/ EMT Exam

The Chicago Fire Department is open for applications to its entrance exam for the first time in 11 years. Go here (PDF), read the small print, and then click the link at the bottom of the PDF to register for the exam. Here's what Mayor Daley says:

The theme of this campaign is 'answer the call' - and it’s a high calling," the Mayor said at a news conference at the Fire Department Candidate Graduation at Navy Pier. "It's a job that gives you the opportunity not just to help your fellow human beings, but to actually save their lives. It’s a job that provides plenty of excitement and the satisfaction of working with a team of solid professionals."

Daley added, "We not only want the best-qualified set of applicants. We also want the most diverse set of applicants. We want a Fire Department that looks like Chicago, and that means we want more women and minorities in the ranks."

"I want children in Chicago - regardless of gender or background - to see Chicago firefighters in action and think, "That could be me some day'."

Yahoo! Buzz Index for Insights

I like sideways ways to get information. I subscribe to the straight-news methods-- Google Alerts, Yahoo! Keyword Alerts, Technorati, meme sites, etc. And they work.

But the sideways stuff-- original, first-hand research that tells you things that you wouldn't know from normal sources-- is the real deal. My CTA Alerts is an example. Its purpose is to be a place for wireless alerts about service outages on the CTA. But it ends up being pretty good at letting us know when there was a bus crash, or a building fire (I found out about the devastating Pilgrim Baptist Church fire via an alert) or a major crash (the famous "plane in street" alert).

Yahoo! Buzz Index is a canary in the coal mine for pop culture. By looking at what people are looking for, it's a pretty good indication of what they want. And predicting what people want is a pretty big business. Their writing is sharp, like this entry speculating on why we're interested in Sharon Stone. The things at the top advancers section always have a story about them (Robert Blake, for instance).

In the end, I like Yahoo! Buzz because it's harder to control. Our news is so tightly wound, and fixed, and  precious sometimes. This is one way you can put the hand to the straight-on news and catch some things sideways.

We Are All Kevin Finnerty

Thepapers So, like a lot of people, I watched episode 67 of the Sopranos on Sunday night. Due to some travel obligations, I couldn't get to the TV until the 11 o'clock showing, not the original 8 PM one.

The kernel of the epsiode is Tony's coma-induced dream-thinking wherein he is Kevin Finnerty, a regular guy just like us, not  the tough guy killer mob boss Tony Soprano. The summary for the episode on HBO's website starts with this Tony quote:

I'm 46 years old. I mean who am I? Where am I going?

He is, it seems, Kevin Finnerty, guy trying to get along in this world. And he's Tony Soprano, killer/ jerk. Both. And so am I. And so are pretty much all thoughtful, gainfully-employed middle aged American men-- workers in the gardens of both good & evil.

I wrote an entire book on this subject, from both the immensely broad and intensely personal perspectives. The central thought in Economics is that in order to do good-- to feed oneself and clothe one's children and keep the growth rate hovering near 4% annually-- one has to bow down before evil. No one has clean hands here. Everyone is Kevin Finnerty.

And that's why I've loved The Sopranos so much. And that's why I bought www.kevinfinnerty.com-- to explore this further. God bless us all.

The Importance of Documentation > Elementary School Websites

Last summer I created a pretty big weblog network for a Catholic elementary school here in Chicago. I also documented my work pretty heavily, showing why I did things certain ways, showing css snippets, and generally laying it out so that people who come in later can see what's going on.

When my friend Cliff McIntosh got into a web development project for his kid's school, he used TypePad and the templates & documentation I created as a base for his work. The results are here. Excellent stuff.


  1. Explain yourself to yourself-- it helps
  2. Remember that things change, especially in a place like a grade school or other changing -membership organizations. Having a simple answer to the question, "how was that website done?" is critical when things change
  3. Share!

The Danger of the Fetish of Nostalgia

Here's a look from the NYT at what can happen when a memorial to the dead becomes a showcase of the ruling class: People destroyed the memorial to the gassing of the Kurds.

So it came as a shock when hundreds of stone-throwing protesters took to the streets here Thursday on the anniversary, beating back government guards to storm and destroy a museum dedicated to the memory of the Halabja attack.

Let's not repeat. Dangers like this are baked into stories of Silverstein and the Port Authority at the WTC site.

"All the money given by foreign countries has been stolen," said Sarwat Aziz, 24, as he marched to the museum in a crowd of furious, chanting young men. "After 18 years, Halabja is still full of debris from the war, we don't even have decent roads."


"That monument over there has become the main problem for Halabja," said Bakhtiar Ahmad, nodding at the museum, with its distinctive yellow crown-shaped roof. "All the foreign guests are taken there, not to the city."


Many Kurds have grown angry at what they view as the corruption and tyranny of the two dominant political parties here.

More Boots at CTA Alerts

Last week I booted monay2007 for the fateful "what's up people" callout. She's in good stead with her other groups (TRUE CHAT, Teen Singles, etc.), however, so I don't feel bad. We just weren't for her.

More perplexing was today, when I had to boot a couple people who got into an "eat me/ bite me" exchange (read bottom to top):

Mar 15 3:30PM      
Pm me mel <:)>~~QQ~~<:)>
Mar 15 3:30PM    
Fr: Messytaint 
Lick my grundle
Mar 15 3:29PM    
Hi me. How r u <:)>~~QQ~~<:)>
Mar 15 3:28PM    
Bite me <:)>~~QQ~~<:)>
Mar 15 3:28PM    
Fr: melrtrain boot
Mar 15 3:28PM    
Fr: Messytaint 
Eat me
Mar 15 3:27PM    
Just wndring........Are u really a cta employee? <:)>~~QQ~~<:)>
Mar 15 3:23PM    
Fr: CTA_HQ boot
The #74 Fullerton reroute, due to an earlier building fire, has ended. Buses have returned to their regular route.

A_TRUE_FRIEND's profile states:

Im a mature  christian lady from chicago illinois and i attend  the church friendship assembly of God               

Real mature, Spicoli.

Distributed Boing Boing

So the wildly popular Boing Boing website is being blocked by SmartFilter. This guy Mark Christian came up with a script that gets past the filter and masks the origin of the content so people can get to it. Brilliant. Disruptive. Radical.

We need more of this-- bad software, bad policy, and bad ideas can be defeated by good software, good policy, and good ideas.

Here's my DBB.

DIBELS Benchmark Levels

DibelsOne of the interesting things about being a parent is seeing all the crazy assessment tools that teachers use to evaluate children. One that was new to me was DIBELS Benchmark Levels. We got a letter home with some scores for CXO and what they meant ( 1- 10, kid is at risk, 10 -34, kid has some risk, 35 +, kid is fine, etc.). He scored amazingly high, but I wanted to find out what it was all about. The University of Orgeon has the answer:

DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills)

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of standardized, individually administered measures of early literacy development. They are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of pre-reading and early reading skills.

The measures were developed upon the essential early literacy domains discussed in both the National Reading Panel (2000) and National Research Council (1998) reports to assess student development of phonological awareness, alphabetic understanding, and automaticity and fluency with the code. Each measure has been thoroughly researched and demonstrated to be reliable and valid indicators of early literacy development and predictive of later reading proficiency to aid in the early identification of students who are not progressing as expected. When used as recommended, the results can be used to evaluate individual student development as well as provide grade-level feedback toward validated instructional objectives.

The cool thing is that these tests are conducted in less than a minute per kid. They also have all sorts of assessment materials, data upload tools, and explanations of the system. Good stuff.

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are comprised of the following measures:

ISF: Initial Sounds Fluency
LNF: Letter Naming Fluency
PSF: Phoneme Segmentation Fluency
NWF: Nonsense Word Fluency
ORF: DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency
RTF: Retell Fluency
WUF: Word Use Fluency

Pelicans Like the Internet



Daniel X. O'Neil: Chicago-based writer and internet developer. I am a co-founder of and the People Person for EveryBlock, a site that pulls together local news and public information. I run dozens of personal projects and websites for clients, and also own half of a poetry book company.


EveryBlock: A news feed for your block.
CTA Tweet: Unofficial Twitter tracker for the Chicago Transit Authority.
CityPayments: Database of all vendors, contracts, and payments that have been posted by the municipal government of the City of Chicago
Wesley Willis Art: Site dedicated to the fact that Wesley Willis was an artist.
Wide Right Turn: An incomplete look at the role of variation in a capitalist society.


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    • Wesley Willis Art
      Site dedicated to the fact that Wesley Willis was an artist.
    • CTA Alerts
      Wireless notifications about service on the Chicago Transit Authority.
    • Wide Right Turn

      An incomplete look at the role of variation in a capitalist society.
    • Derivative Works Art Manifesto
      Humans own their experience of copyrighted content.
    • Y!Q Link Generator
      Simple form for creating Y!Q links to add relevance, annotate text, and provide more sophisticated layers of meaning to web content.