eric's blog

Virus hidden as Facebook Application?

A friend complained on facebook today about an application called PicDoodle that she had installed.

It was supposed to give her a way of drawing fancy things on images and share that fun with her friends.

Instead, she got one of her images with a roughly scrawled heart on the corner and it automatically has been taking names from her friends list and "tagging" the image with their names.

tcpdf rotate confusion

I spent the last few days fighting with dynamic generation of pdf files using the tcpdf php library.

tcpdf is not well documented, so much of the process of getting it to work is trial and error (and error and error...)

The one thing that really kicked my ass was trying to print an item rotated 90 degrees, and then getting another rotated item to print where I wanted it. Finally after reading the documentation a dozen times, I saw that my answer was there but is not all that clear.

If you want to have control over more than one rotated item, you have to add a line to start and end each rotation/transformation

Some thoughts on State sanctioned violence

Today has been a very hard day.

Since I awoke from yet another violent nightmare this morning, I've been overwhelmed by mental images and thoughts of violence, especially State-sanctioned violence.

Two days ago, the partner of a close friend was hit in the head by a high-velocity teargas canister fired into a group of non-violent protesters in the West Bank. He is still alive, but in critical condition and no one knows when or even if he will recover.

Seeing the photos of him on the ground, covered in blood, brought back a flood of memories.

Images of my friend Brad Will, gunned down in 2006 by government paramilitary thugs in Mexico, push themselves into the front of my mind. The sound of his voice when he was shot, recorded by the video camera he was holding at the time, echoes in my brain.

I also keep thinking about the hundreds, if not thousands, of nameless and faceless victims of similar violence.

I know that the attention that Tristan and Brad have gotten is because they are white American activists. Their skin privilege makes them stand out in a sea of darker skinned victims.

It is not fair, but if we can shine a light of attention on the larger issues; if we can get the mainstream public to pay attention because these victims look and talk like they do, it is necessary to do so.

If what happened to them can make the other victims less anonymous and ignored, maybe their sacrifices are not in vain.

I know that there are tens of thousands of people dying in Darfur, in the Middle East, in Oaxaca, and other small ignored corners around the globe.

Why should the lives of these few people be worth more?

The quick answer is that, of course, their lives are not worth more. However, the sad reality is that because of how our world is, it seems to take the mutilation or death of someone white and from the west to get people to put aside their complacency and think about what is going on; what is being done in our names and with our tax money.

Today is especially hard for me because it is the anniversary of one of the darkest moments of my life. 21 years ago this evening, I almost became one of those martyrs.

After calling the police to deal with the theft of my roommate's bicycle, due to the arrogance and hate of one police officer, I was badly beaten -- first in a public parking lot by 3 officers and then again in the witness-free zone of the strip-search room of Central Booking in downtown Buffalo. The only thing that saved my life that night, other than the fast action of my friends, was the color of my skin.

In fact, the cop that was the ringleader of those that attacked me told me directly that it was my skin that kept him from killing me in the parking lot. "You should shut up about police brutality, let me tell you son, if you were a nigger you'd be going right to the hospital instead of downtown"

A half hour later, when he started beating me while I was being strip searched, I was sure that he had decided that white skin privilege was not enough to keep him from killing me. I was sure then and am still sure now that he wanted to kill me, and for it to be a long and painful death.

I'm not sure what happened. Maybe he got bored, maybe one of the other cops made a comment or gesture that made him think twice about it, maybe he just wanted to take a break and continue after some coffee. After he stopped beating the crap out of me, I was put in a holding cell. It was the middle of a very cold Buffalo winter, and the cell I was put in had all the windows open.

Covered in blood, the spit of numerous police officers, and completely naked, I sat there trying to stay warm and awake -- sure that if I were to fall asleep I would freeze to death by morning and it would simply be chalked up as a crazy accident. Maybe they'll try to make it look like a suicide, I thought as I did my best to keep moving and alert.

My vision was blurred by a combination of factors, they had confiscated my glasses and I had sustained a concussion as my head was slammed into a brick wall by the force of the cop's blows.

All I knew was that I was being held on a high bail, I had no idea what I was being charged with. Later I would find out that I was accused of attacking a cop, as well as numerous other false charges.

I was informed that I would be held for the maximum time they could before bringing me in front of a judge. I could only wonder how many other beatings I would be subject to before I got to see a judge.

I knew that I was hurt badly and was not sure how much more I could sustain before my body gave in, or forced me to fall asleep in the sub-zero temperatures. I was comforted by the thought that from what I had read, freezing to death is a relatively painless way to die.

What I did not know at the time was that because they had officially filed charges against me, it was possible for me to be bailed out before I saw a judge. They put a dollar amount on every charge, add them up and arrive at the amount of money (cash only) that is necessary.

As far as they figured, no one knew I was under arrest -- I was never given the chance to make a phone call. If you think that after arrest you are guaranteed a phone call and that someone reads you your rights, you've been watching too much TV. You only hear your rights if they intend to question you and want to be able to use what you say in court. If they think you'll never survive to make it to court, or if they don't care about using your statements in court, they don't waste their time.

They assessed my situation and acted accordingly. They could do what they wanted, kill me if they cared to and I would be simply another faceless and nameless victim of the System.

Luckily for me, they did not realize that one of the witnesses to my arrest and beating was one of my roommates. Their prejudice would not allow them to contemplate the possibility that a grubby hippy could have friends that could quickly organize a bail fund.

5 hours after being thrown into the jail cell, the cage door opened. When the 3 cops walked in, I knew I was about to die. This was it.

When they handed me my clothes and ordered me to get dressed, I was really confused. Where were they taking me? Why won't they just let me freeze to death? What new torture and pain did they have planned? I was fully prepared to die.

"You've been bailed out, hurry up before I change my mind, your friends are waiting for you downstairs." the highest ranking among the cops said.

My friends and professors had emptied their bank accounts, taken cash advances on their credit cards, pooled together whatever spare change they had lying around. Some of them went to the precinct and demanded I be released. They were determined to not leave without me. They had come to take me home (although I required a trip to the hospital first).

I walked as fast as my bruised bones could carry me, still confused and certain that this was a trick. Get my hopes up and then beat me down again -- I was sure this was the plan.

When I was led to the waiting area and saw two friends, Steve and Diana, waiting for me it did not seem real. It was not until I made physical contact with them, limping out of Central Booking with my arms over their shoulders, that I realized it was over, that I had survived.

We went to the hospital, and then home. The feeling of relief that flooded me when I sat down and Diana made me a cup of tea also has stayed with me. It's amazing how powerful such a small act can be, I still refer to Lipton blackberry flavored black tea as "Freedom Tea" and whenever I get really stressed out I make myself a cup.

I will never forget all sides of that night -- the certainty of death; the violence of the State; the power of community; the love of friends.

When my case came to trial, I was forced to take a really crappy deal.

They were going to convict me of at least one count of disorderly conduct if not more. I had after all, as I was charged with, "shouted an obscenity in a public place in a way that made others feel uncomfortable." The fact that the obscenity was used in the sentence "Why the fuck are you hitting me!" would not keep me from being convicted.

In order to keep my record clear of convictions, I had to sign away my rights to sue the City of Buffalo for brutality and false arrest. Nothing would ever happen to the cops that tried to kill me. There would never be any justice.

This is hard for me to say, but in many ways, I have never fully recovered. It was only a couple of years ago that I finally came to the realization of just how much that one night had impacted my life.

I still struggle every day to move beyond that space in my head; to get away from the feeling that death is waiting for me around every corner; to find myself amidst the emotional rubble.

Each day is a struggle, but each day is a victory. I survived. The reality that white skin privilege allowed me to walk out where so many others had been carried out in caskets has gnawed at my soul.

The guilt, the anger, the shame, the rage have all stayed with me. I work every day to move past it.

Someday, I'll be free.

Amazon reviews of the Bible

I remember reading a while back on Amanda's blog that people have been posting reviews for mundane, everyday objects like pens and milk. Some people with too much time on their hands actually have talent, some don't. But, I was really amazed when someone recently posted this page of rather funny reviews of the bible to a mailing list I'm on.

for example:

This book should never be left where it could fall into the hands of children. Recurrent themes of bloody violence, murder, racism, incest and rape are dealt with extremely irresponsibly. Horrific events are presented as justified by circumstances and as solutions to petty wrongs.

Certainly this is what the internet was made for!

Revolution and Regurgitation: some thoughts on a new radicalism in the 1990s

I had mentioned a line from this essay to a friend via facebook recently and she asked me to post the entire thing. I'm not the biggest fan of facebook, and since I have my own blog/site, I thought it would be best to post this here.

I wrote this in January 1989, shortly before leaving Buffalo to move to NYC. It was published in a small magazine called Silence in the summer of 1989, after I had already left to start my new life as Production Manager of The Guardian Newsweekly (which at the time was the longest publishing non-party affiliated socialist/radical newspaper in the US).

One thing worth noting: I eventually learned who the artist was that created the flyer that I quote in section 4. In fact, I'm happy to consider him a friend, -- 10 years after I was randomly handed a one page leaflet with his artwork/propaganda at a protest, I helped to produce his graphic novel, War in the Neighborhood, about the struggles against gentrification on the Lower East Side in the 80s and 90s. ( ). This is worth mention because the leaflet and the research I did after reading it are one of the reasons I made the decision to leave Buffalo a few credits short of my degree.

Revolution and Regurgitation:
Some thoughts on the potential for a new radicalism in the 90s