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11.14.07

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Nūz: Social justice and the Monning Assembly campaign.

La Raza Is On

There was a good explanation for the unusually high concentration of Toyota Priuses on the upper Westside of Santa Cruz this past Sunday afternoon. Bill Monning, one of three candidates running to fill the 27th District Assembly seat should popular incumbent John Laird be termed out, was holding a fundraiser in the neighborhood.

Monning didn't give too many details about his platform in the brief speech he made, but one thing was clear. While he maintains impeccable credentials as an environmentalist—one of those Priuses was his, after all—this campaign is prioritizing social justice issues in what many will see as a welcome return to good old-fashioned progressive politics.

Speaking to a crowd of perhaps 60 supporters, many of whom volunteered during Monning's 1993 run for Congress ("We're the base," one such longtime supporter told Nūz), Monning hit on several themes. One was health care, which he cited first in a list of priorities for the state Assembly. He also mentioned a plan for setting up committees at local universities and colleges to engage young people in politics. He talked about education, gangs and civil rights.

"Racial profiling happens," he said. "And law enforcement will always deny racial profiling happens. Right, Tony?"

There was plenty of knowing laughter as Santa Cruz Councilmember Tony Madrigal, who was standing off to the side holding a Chihuahua in his arms, nodded ruefully.

It was a nice collegial gesture, but Monning appeared to distance himself from Madrigal in subsequent comments. Monning's approach is far more nuanced than that of Madrigal, who brought down the wrath of the police force and the City Council after pronouncing the police department guilty of racial profiling on Halloweens past. Monning, an attorney who teaches conflict resolution at the Monterey College of Law, actually got something done when he took up racial profiling by the sheriff's department in Castroville: he helped establish a liaison between the sheriff's department and the community—and in the process picked up an endorsement by Monterey County's Republican Sheriff, Mike Kanalakis. Now that's economy of effort.

It was all good grist for Nūz's mill, but without question the highlight of the day came with the introduction of the big gun: Luis Valdez, founder of San Juan Bautista-based El Teatro Campesino, who attended with his wife Lupe and several family members.

Valdez, whose agitprop theater troupe was born in the vineyards of Cesar Chavez's farmworker strike, spoke passionately and eloquently about the role the arts play in the lives of oppressed groups.

"Yes, there's the problem of poverty and the problem of inequality," he said. "But the real problem is a soul problem. It's a problem of self-esteem. It's a question of how do you take control of your own lives? That's where the arts come in. It's a very direct way to attack a problem."

Valdez recalled performing in tiny Negrito Hall in Delano to an overflowing house. The stage was miniscule, he said, just a few feet across. "But that was enough. Sometimes all you need is a place to stand. Archimedes said: 'Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.'"

Antiimperialists.com

As the Internet continues to spread across the globe, computer technicians are looking for ways to make the technology more accessible to non-English speakers. Nūz is happy to report that Santa Cruz programmer Paul Hoffman, founder of local business Virtual Private Network (VPN) Technologies, has helped greatly in making this goal a reality.

Hoffman, whose company sets up secure private networks for businesses transmitting sensitive information, had a large hand in developing what are called international domain names (IDNs).

Internet users will recognize a domain name as the words typed into the address bar on most browsers, such as Yahoo.com or WhiteHouse.gov. If you're reading this, you probably type those names using Latin characters. Before 2003, so did everyone else, even if they were in China or India and didn't speak anything resembling a Romantic or Germanic language.

With the Internet becoming more popular everywhere, however, it was clear to leaders in the increasingly powerful Asian marketplace and worldly minded programmers such as Hoffman that this was not going to cut it. So beginning in 1998 Hoffman, along with Patrik Fältström of Cisco Systems in Sweden and others in the internationally focused Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), began work on a system that would allow these domain names to be written in the native script of the Internet user.

Specifically, Hoffman worked on developing the standards for this system. Standards can be thought of as general rules that ensure uniformity across various programs and platforms.

Under the IDN system, in place since 2003 thanks to Hoffman and his fellow programmers, a woman in China can type an Internet address using Chinese characters, a Russian can type in Cyrillic letters, and a man from Qatar can type in the address using his native Arabic script. It's most likely that these individuals will be accessing websites created in the country or region in which they live, but they could also access pages such as Wikipedia.org that are translated into a number of different languages.

Well, almost. The only part that was left exclusively to the Latin alphabet was the end of the address, or in Internet lingo "the top level," including .com, .biz, and country codes such as .uk or .cn. This was due to the fact that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), created by the U.S. government in 1998, regulates those parts of a web address. To imagine what a hassle that is, visualize having to use the keystrokes for Greek letters every time you typed in an Internet address.

"The letters 'cn' don't mean shit to anybody in China," says Hoffman jovially, referring to the country code for China. "It doesn't even sound like the letters that are in the Chinese word for China. Those are letters from the English word for China. If you're in China, that 'cn' just looks wrong. It looks like some goddamn thing an American invented, which is true."

But now this barrier is about to fall. Last month, ICANN released 11 test webpages using domain names written entirely in alphabets other than Latin, including the "top-level" end of the web addresses. Each test page uses a writing system from a different country.

So within the next couple of years, after ICANN gets all the kinks out of the system (kinks that Hoffman actually says don't exist), Internet users across the world will be able to type their native writing into their address bars.

"It would be so good that if, before I died, I could hear from some grandfather in India who would never have been able to use the Internet in 2000," says Hoffman, "who now says, 'Oh yea, I was able to talk to my grandson in Southern Africa and help him with his math homework.'"

Name That Hotel!

Longtime locals still refer to the big hotel on West Cliff Drive overlooking the boardwalk as the Dream Inn. That's partly due to the fact that longtime locals, here and everywhere, are change-averse. But it's also a plain fact that the "new" name, with us since 1999, sucks. "Coast Santa Cruz Hotel" hits all the right keywords, but is so utterly deficient in poetry that it's impossible to remember and difficult to even say. Thankfully, it is about to be erased from the map.Joie de Vivre, the über trendy San Francisco-based boutique hotelier that purchased the property last year, recently announced that it is changing the name of Santa Cruz's beachfront landmark, and has launched a contest to come up with a new moniker for the place. Famous for its hip sense of style, Joie de Vivre is also well known in the industry for its idiosyncratic corporate culture. For example, the company promises to "infuse the hotel with the Santa Cruz vibe" (which apparently means iPod docking stations as well as surfboard storage). Furthermore: the Joie de Vivre website lists "five words that would reflect the personality of the hotel, the personality of the local community and the personality or aspirations of the hotel's guests: Young at Heart; Worldly; Eclectic; Organic; Dreamy."

That last one might suggest that Joie de Vivre is considering a return to the past, but old-timers shouldn't get their hopes up. Apparently recognizing that the place was once blessed with the perfect name, the Joie de Vivre reports that "Unfortunately, there is a copyright/trademark issue with that name prohibiting us from using it again."

Whoever comes up with the new name will win a suite in the hotel for a weekend, dinner for four at what will probably be a terrific on-site restaurant, and an invitation to a grand-opening party. The new name, according to a contest form, should "pay homage to the Santa Cruz location, be easily articulated and create an emotional connection for the guest and the local community of Santa Cruz."

It's a lot to ask of a couple of words. And it's a sure bet that no matter how cool the new name is, the place will always be the Dream Inn.


Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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