LGBT equality in U.S. cities

I’ve been really into making maps lately. Today, I got an email from the Human Rights Campaign about their 2014 Municipal Equality Index, which grades U.S. cities on LGBT equality. I began to wonder about which areas of the U.S. are most friendly or unfriendly to the LGBT community, so I had to map it. I reorganized and geocoded the data to match the city names with their (approximate) geographical locations, then used CartoDB to convert the table into a visual representation of the points. An interactive version of the map is available at http://cdb.io/1v4A74w.

lgbt map

I also made a few maps of the election results for Sangamon County, Illinois, but I’ll save those for another post.

Broccoli and etymology – a delicious dish

This is what a broccoli floret looks like when it’s magnified who knows how many times.IMG_6385[1]

I like taking big photos of small objects. It’s usually called “macro” photography. The prefix “macro” comes from the Greek word “makros,” meaning “long or large.” I’ve always thought it was silly that “macro” ends up meaning the same thing as “micro” in this context. Micro, of course, comes from the Latinized form of the Greek word “mikros,” meaning “small, little, petty, trivial or slight.”

Interestingly, the word “meager” is a cognate of “macro,” from the Old Norse word “magr,” which evolved into the Old English word “mæger,” meaning “lean or thin.”

And yes, I did have to look all of that up.

Pouty puppy

My dog, Britain, craves attention. If she’s not being petted or fed, she’s usually mopey. I caught her moping while I was playing with my flash equipment and decided to have a little fun at her expense.

IMG_5702[1] IMG_5707[1]

Typically, the subject’s eyes should be in focus, but I was using my smartphone to trigger the shutter while the camera was on the floor, so I couldn’t quite tell where the focus was on that small screen. Next time, I’ll use the tablet. When winter comes, I plan to put out some bird feed and station the camera next to it so I can get close-up shots of the birds eating.

IDOT spends $143k on zombie-themed seatbelt commercial

A souped-up late model Ford Mustang with a mounted rotary machine gun steals the show in IDOT’s zombie-themed seatbelt PSA featuring “Walking Dead” star Michael Rooker.

The Illinois Department of Transportation released an eight-minute, zombie-themed short film in September to promote seat belt use. It struck me as odd, so I obtained some documents through FOIA and reported on it. The ad featured Walking Dead actor Michael Rooker and had a similar feel to the popular zombie show. The story is here, and the video is below.

Black and white – On race, cops and traffic stops

Some white people think that just because the slaves were freed and the Jim Crow laws were repealed, racism in America is over. Ask almost any black person, however, and they’ll tell you a different story. We middle-class white people live in a different world from most black people, so sometimes it’s hard for us to comprehend why they feel our laws and society in general are discriminatory. My article “Black and white” deals with one small facet of that discrimination: traffic stops.

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson of Springfield. Photo by Patrick Yeagle.

“Every time you pass a cop car, you’re always looking out your rearview mirror,” he said. “You don’t know if they’re going to pull you over, not because you have something on you or you’re doing something illegal, but because growing up, that’s what we’ve seen, and that’s what was happening to us.”

He says that paranoia creates a feeling of inequality, which is compounded by seeing a traffic courtroom full of people who already live in poverty paying hundreds of dollars in fines and court fees for minor traffic violations.

“You feel like there’s no hope, and it’s mentally damaging,” he said. “You carry that every day. Even now, if I see a cop, I look in the mirror. I hate it, but I do. I see my peers and other people in my culture do the same thing.”

The article didn’t solve any problems by any means, but I hope it gave some white people insight into the frustration that black people deal with in many aspects of life. This is the kind of reporting I enjoy the most; it’s challenging for me and hopefully for the reader, too.

Last week, I went to an awesome flash photography workshop hosted by the awesome Kari Bedford and taught by the venerable Joseph Victor Stefanchik.

My favorite photo from the workshop is below. 

Dale Jefferies models for a flash photography workshop by Joseph Victor Stefanchik (jvsworkshops.com) in Springfield on Sept. 3, 2014.
Dale Jefferies models for a flash photography workshop by Joseph Victor Stefanchik (jvsworkshops.com) in Springfield on Sept. 3, 2014.

I took it using the Orbis Ring Flash. The model is Dale Jefferies, who is really great at looking serious. The photos JVS took were incredible, even without any post-processing. When I grow up, I want to be like him.

Encrypted communications

With Edward Snowden’s revelation of massive secret spying programs by the NSA and an endless parade of digital thieves waiting to steal your identity, it’s more important than ever to know that your communications are secure. As a reporter, I have to be able to confidently assure my sources that their email communications with me won’t fall into the wrong hands. That’s why I adopted the PGP encryption protocol for email. 

In a nutshell, PGP works by giving each user two “keys”: a public key and a private key. The public key is shared with everyone, while the private key is closely guarded by the user. The purpose of the two keys is to unlock an encryption algorithm that has more than 339,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible solutions. (I didn’t use scientific notation there so you could see just how massive that number is.) Needless to say, it’s pretty darn secure.

If you need to contact me securely, use PGP. You can learn more about PGP, including how to get it yourself, here.

My public key is below. For work-related topics, email me at pyeagle (at) illinoistimes (dot) com. For personal stuff, email me at pyeagle (at) gmail (dot) com.

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