Monday, December 30, 2002
Friday, December 27, 2002
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Monday, December 23, 2002
The sky was absolutely beautiful driving up the Shenendoah valley on I-81 -- there was bright golden sunlight coming from the west with highlighting fluffy white clouds. But to the east of the mountains you could see a solid wall of black clouds. Every once in a while the ridgeline would dip and you could see brightly colored clouds underneath it all.
I'm in DC for the next few days, then heading up to a friend's place in the boonies in Pennsylvania for New Years, then back here for a dentist appointment (fun!) and back to Nashville sometime roundabout the 6th.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
I've managed to con my 12-year-old neighbor into taking care of my cat while I'm gone. (I plan to pay her, but I think I probably could have pulled a Tom Sawyer -- she was just excited about playing with the cat!)
On an unrelated technology note, it seems that DirectTV DSL (née Telocity) is being closed down by Hughes. (My 30-day warning arrived via e-mail at 4:30 this morning.) I originally switched to Telocity after Comcast@Home (née Intermedia@Home, aka Excite@Home) gave me crap about running a web server on my connection. So it looks like I'm back in the market for a provider. At this point, I think the top contenders are SpeakEasy and Butler. The second one seems to be run by some local guy out of his garage, but then again, there's something to be said for knowing where your ISP lives. And I really like the fact that he's actually encouraging people to set up open-access WiFi access points using his service -- that's a refreshing change from network nazis who run some of the big-name providers.
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Sunday, December 15, 2002
They just demolished the Capital Center, also known as the US Air Arena. It was an ugly building, and the new downtown arena in DC is in a much better location. But the Cap Center was part of growing up in Prince George's County. It is where I went to my first rock concert and where I graduated from high school. And I remember going there with my family a number of times to see "Spirit of America" pageants put on by local military units, and one time I was part of a chorus that sang the National Anthem before a hockey game.
The arena was built in the early 1970s, and I grew up along with it. It was probably of limited use with no hockey or basketball team to fill the seats. But it's still sad to see it go. They're going to build a shopping mall on the site.
And I haven't even started the final for the database class.
Oy. I need a beer.
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Sunday, December 08, 2002
Sotheby's has estimated that the note may go for as much as $9,400 in the auction next week. It's all for a good cause, though. The proceeds are being donated to Book Aid International, a charity that distributes books in third-world countries. And Leaky, Inc.(as the newly-incorporated Blog is now known) will donate the proceeds of its drive to charity whether or not it is successful in getting the note.
Saturday, December 07, 2002
Then again, maybe he's just attending a Santa Convention.
Or he could be on the lam because of his criminal record.
I also had the winning bid on a Mr. Coffee Espresso machine. (I can sense the coffee purists turning up their noses, but I figured for $8.50, what the heck?) Tried making my first shot tonight, but I still have some kinks to work out in my technique. While looking for tips, I came across this site. I had no idea you could actually buy a $1800 coffee machine!
This weekend is all about finishing up a paper and getting ready for two finals. Plus laundry and grocery shopping. All sorts of fun.
Wednesday, December 04, 2002
I think I'm finally telling the folks from the out-of-town job to take my name out of the running. They wanted me to give them references, and ironically one of the folks I called to set up as a reference ended up helping convince me to turn down the job.It just didn't seem like a good fit for me career-wise or company-wise. I'm still not sure I won't up and move out of Nashville one of these days, but I'm staying put for the moment.
The rest of Thanksgiving weekend was fun. We went and got a load of firewood for the newly-reconstituted fireplace, and then my brothers and I spent the afternoon playing lumberjack and splitting it with a sledgehammer and wedge. Amazingly there was only one incident involving blood.
The Salvadoran restaurant turned out to be really good -- it's one of those little holes in the wall you might not think to try.
My parents gave me a framed 1930s Fortune magazine cover as a belated birthday present -- which is very cool. I've been into these ever since I came across one in an antique shop on vacation. The depression hit soon after the magazine lauched in the late 20's, and they were able to hire first rate artists for dirt cheap. So they published all sorts of nifty art-deco design. Here are some examples, although I don't think they're the best ones.
Got a call from a recording of the "Rockin' DJ" at work, who it seems was trying to pitch some sort of voice mail service. I hit the button like I was going to order, and then gave the telemarketer a hard time until she disconnected me. Then I used the web to track down the company in Texas and file a complaint with their local better business bureau. I know these little crusades I go on every so often are futile, but they help break up the monotony.
Sunday, December 01, 2002
Thursday, November 28, 2002
The other strange thing is that my mother has continued her longterm slow-motion campaign to convert my old room into a guest room. This started out slow, but has picked up momentum and has proceeded to the point where it no longer feels like my room. (I think this happened when I got home and realized that my old penants had been removed from the wall, flowered wallpaper had been applied, and an antique china shelf had taken up residence in the corner. My middle brother's room has become my mom's office, and I think my dad is circling like a vulture over my youngest brother's bedroom when he officially moves out. (He's graduating from college in May, but is pretty vague about his plans after that. They may involve going to seminary and/or doing some sort of service program for a couple of years. Earlier he was talking about moving to Salt Lake City. )
Tomorrow we're having a very belated celebration of my birthday and my brother's birthday by going out to a nearby Salvadoran restaurant that my parents apparently begun frequenting. This should be interesting -- I'm not sure I've ever had Salvadoran food before.
Unfortunately I have to go back to Nashville on Saturday night. I used a frequent flyer award to come up for free, but the tradeoff was that I had to travel today and Saturday to avoid the holiday blackout periods. Oh, well. I think I'm going to drive up and take more time around Christmas.
I should be working on schoolwork, but I figure I'm exempt since this is a holiday. Am going to try to be good about this tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
WARNING: Feeling the discomfort, Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) caused by the long periods had habits & repetitive motion at improper working environment. Please cease to use consult your professional immediately.
Monday, November 25, 2002
Saturday, November 23, 2002
Max Power Aerospace, a company in nearby Smyrna, TN is apparently selling "Airplane Homes." They are made of out decommissioned Boeing 727 aircraft mounted on pedestals, and can even be mounted to swivel in the wind!
The best part? You can bid on one on E-Bay.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Today has been a very strange day. First I got roped into a last-minute project that would have waited until tomorrow if I worked in a democracy. Unfortunately, it seems I actually work in a dictatorship, and the work had to be done tonight.
When I finally escaped, I headed over to a party a work friend was throwing for some of the college kids I spoke to last week. (They followed me back and are visiting our office this week.) Hung out there for a while, then headed home. I managed to scatter the contents of my CD case all over the interior of my truck while I was driving, so I was a bit preoccupied when I pulled up in front of my house. Which is my excuse for why I locked the truck up with my keys sitting on the front seat.
I had another key to the truck in the house, but it was utterly useless since the house key was in the truck. So I started evaluating my options. I thought about knocking on my neighbors' door. But since it was around midnight and they have small kids, I felt really bad doing this, especially since I'm not 100% positive they have a current key.
So then it occurred to me that I keep a spare house key in my desk drawer at work just for situations like this. SoI grabbed a cab and headed across town to my office. When I got there, I ran in, figuring that I could just grab the key and be out in two minutes. But I had forgotten one thing: the door to my office was also locked, and the key was... in my truck. So then I had to tear around the building to find a cleaning person with the right key to get into my office, grab the key. That probably ate up ten minutes or so on the taxi meter.
Then I headed back across town, opened up the house, found my spare truck key, and retrieved my key ring. Total cost: 45 minutes and $15. Better than the hour and $60 I would have spent calling a locksmith, but still not exactly what you'd call a good use of time or money.
And now I'm compounding the damage by blogging about this instead of working on my class project that's due tomorrow...
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
My hometown got a big story in the Washington Post because of its decision set up a corn silo to support residential corn stoves. You heard that right: corn stoves! Apparently corn makes a great environmentally-friendly heating fuel.
Takoma Park, a town of about 17,000 people on the outskirts of Washington, DC, has also been a nuclear free zone since the mid-1980s. And unlike Nashville, they've had a well-run mandatory recycling program for years. (Don't get me started on Nashville's expensive new program that only picks up once a month, requires the use of minivan-sized 100 gallon drums, and doesn't even take glass or plastic!)
Monday, November 18, 2002
Margaret over at MightyGirl linked to BlackPeopleLoveUs.com, a highly (but subtly) satirical website making fund of various racist attitudes. Reading the letters received by the site, it seems that about half of the people get the joke, and the other half are utterly outraged by the whole thing. I was curious as to who the prankster was, so I did a whois on the domain and found out that it was owned by one "Jonah Peretti." I then did a google search on this name and hit paydirt. It seems that Peretti is the guy who tried to order customized sneakers from Nike with the word "sweatshop" stitched on them, and set up a "rejection hotline" in New York City as an experiment in spreading news by word of mouth.
He's was talking about the rejection line phenomenon when he made the following statement in this article:
People think of media as this monolithic thing that chooses to cover one thing or another. But really, it's people who make media, and they hear stories from friends of theirs. Social networks tie into the way mass media works.This is along the lines of the point I was trying to get at with my little "media" diatribe a few months back (here and here).
The subplot is I'm trying to demonstrate that the Internet hasn't become totally corporate. Individuals with very little money can still reach millions of people.
(Argh! In looking for those last two links, I discovered that Blogger had shredded all but two weeks worth of my archive! One of these days I gotta move this sucker off to a better publishing system. All the cool kids seems to be using Movable Type these days, so maybe that's the way to go.)
Saturday, November 16, 2002
The small college town where I just spent the week had a number of cable access channels -- including two for local high schools, one for the college, one for the city, one for the county, etc. One was apparently the "Error reading drive A" channel. This error message on screen for the entire week. I watched it for a while, figuring that something had to happen eventually. I probably doubled their audience.
I was apparently outside of the coverage area for both my pager and my cell phone. Which was great until my office fedexed me a replacement phone on Wednesday. So much for escaping the leash.
Took an unplanned side trip to the quilt museum in Paducah, Ky. Which I have to say was pretty incredible, despite what you might think. Quilting is apparently big business there -- not only do they have the museum, but they have quilting magazines, quilting suppliers, and an internationally-known quilting show. Also got to see the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, and got a quick look at the nifty historical murals on the flood walls along the river.
Got home to find my heat broken again, for the third time this fall. My landlord is not my favorite person right now.
It's cold and rainy. The guy at the little health food market seemed amazed that I had left the house -- apparently he heard a rumor of a possible snowflake this weekend. In Tennessee, it's customary to hole up for a week whenever someone uses the "S" word. Once again, I'm just not fitting in...
An old friend from high school pointed out this great site.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Now they're expecting me to get up and talk coherently to dozens of students at that hour. It's inhuman, I tell ya!
Monday, November 11, 2002
Sunday, November 10, 2002
The most amusing thing is how seriously some of the people commenting on the article are taking it.
I'm going to be out of town this coming week -- I've been recruited to speak to college students about my job 'n stuff. Should be an interesting change, but it's also a bit intimidating. (Like all of a sudden I'm some sort of role model or something!)
Right now I'm busy straightening up the house -- don't want the catsitter to know what a slob I really am...
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
A constitutional amendment to repeal a $50 limit on fines imposed by the government without a jury trial did not pass despite receiving a majority of votes cast. The limit was written into the state constitution in 1796, when $50 was a much bigger deal. I waffled on this a bit, but eventually decided that slumlords and other scum should have to pay a meaningful fine if they violate city ordinances.
In local Nashville news, term limits were once again upheld for the Metro council. (In most cases, I think term limits are a bad idea. They just reduce the number of choices available to voters and lead to a lot of lame duck candidates who don't care what the public thinks anymore. If you don't like what a politician is doing, it's your right to vote them out. You don't need a term limit for this.)
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Problem is, I have no attention span, so I keep firing them up and then going off and reading blogs, writing e-mails, staring aimlessly into space, etc. Then when I make it back to the real work, I've forgotten exactly what I was trying to test in the first place. This has happened repeatedly tonight. Urk. Think I need to go home.
Sunday, November 03, 2002
Friday, November 01, 2002
Thursday, October 31, 2002
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Friday, October 25, 2002
So there I am in coastal North Carolina, and I have to hop a plane and fly home to decidedly noncoastal Nashville in about 6 hours. Wanting to avoid this unpleasant reality as long as possible, I grab the bare necessities (towel, sunglasses, and, of course, cell phone) and head down to the beach. I arrive at said beach. I set down the towel. I take off the sunglasses. And I head for the water. (Those reading carefully have probably already noticed the problem here.)
I dive blissfully into the ocean, enjoying the crashing waves and salt water. I get in about chest deep when I notice a strange sensation coming from somewhere in the depths of my bathing suit. (No, not that kind of sensation, you perv!)
Always alert for sharks and other precursors to the loss of vital anatomy, I swat at it, only to realize that it is rather rectangular, and is vibrating in a rather mechanical way. Sort of like, well...
CRAP! Grab for pocket, and retrieve a very wet cell phone that is shaking like it's about to self-destruct. That would be bad, I figure, so I attempt to remove the battery from the back of the phone. Only the battery is spring loaded, and immediately flies off and disappears beneath the waves. I make a brief attempt to dive after it, only I'm still trying to hold the drowning remains of the phone above water. At this point people on the beach have noticed the strange dance I'm doing, and are probably considering calling in the coast guard for a maritime rescue.
After a minute I give up on the battery and head for shore to deposit the phone. Then I head back out to the area, and remarkably find the battery with my foot.
I retained some hope that my poor little flip-phone would come back from the dead after a few days of rest. After all, I've seen computers get doused and come back to life. (Although the salt water was sort of a new twist, I have to admit.)
For the first day or so the cell phone would vibrate in a sickly way if I reattached the battery. But now I like to think it has passed on to a better world. And I've temporarily reverted back to my previous cell phone (circa 1999) which weighs about 20 pounds and will come in handy if I ever need to take out a mugger.
So I guess I'm in the market for a new phone one of these days. (And as my pennance, I'm giving mocking the stupid things my users manage to do to their laptops. At least for a week or two.)
Monday, October 21, 2002
So instead of flowcharting and analyzing, I spent the last few hours watching the whimsical Parisian flick. Which, I have decided, is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is just a beautiful film in every respect, and the story appeals the closet romantic in me.
So I finished the DVD, and had pretty much decided that I needed to take a trip to Paris. Then I clicked on the director's commentary while I burrowed back into my laptop. Suddenly, I heard director and Montmartre native Jean-Pierre Jeunet tell me just how bad an idea this was:
Dont come to paris. It's a nightmare for the French people. And this film is a big lie, believe me. Paris is very different. We have a lot of dog shits on the street. It rains every day. And we have a lot of traffic jam. This film is a big cheat.And later, admiring a shot:
Except Montmartre . Montmartre is very nice.
It's a little bit like a real set. Look at this set, it's amazing. You know, Paris is very nice.Sorry, Jean-Pierre, I'm not buying your "Paris sucks" routine...
Friday, October 18, 2002
Look here as soon as you return October frickin 14th. This is [NAME OMITTED TO AVOID LITIGATION]. I have a letter from you that says you will not telemarket me again. I've had some of your crappin people call me today and I don't appreciate it. OK? Why don't you wake up down there. Why don't you get somebody to happen. And find out what you're doing. If... if... if... I am called one.. more.. time.. I will turn my attorney over to you and we'll deal with it then. So why don't you shake some crap up down there boy. Punk sissy. <click>I thought this was pretty amusing, but it's nothing compared to the voicemail received recently by one of the Tennessean's music writers. (Scroll down until you see the headline You're not going to (expletive) believe this!)
Which would be better? If the sniper stopped now, with this last killing, and got away, never to be heard from again, or if he killed just one more person and got caught.You can read my answer here. Scroll down -- as usual, I'm late...
Sunday, October 06, 2002
Thursday, October 03, 2002
One time, he was making his way through the cemetery, when he spotted what he thought was a discarded soda can. How could anyone be so insensitive, he wondered.
But as he walked over to the headstone -- the grave of one of the casualties of the Persian Gulf War -- he realized it was an unopened can of Iron City Beer and that there was a note attached: "John, we said we'd share a beer when you came back. Welcome back." Sherlock left the can where he found it and walked away.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
As you may know, Clippy the Paperclip was ostensibly killed as a marketing gimmick to promote the launch of Microsoft OfficeXP last year. The company actually set up a website complete with an animated movie portraying the delivery of the clip's pink slip. Clippy's voice is done by (who else?) Gilbert Gottfried, and his favorite saying through the piece is "HEY! YOU! WOULD YOU LIKE TO WRITE A LETTER???"
<sigh> If only they could put that much effort into writing secure code..
Sunday, September 29, 2002
Saturday, September 28, 2002
Being anonymous hasn't been the perfect solution, since I've found that I self-censor some things to avoid giving away information that would let people figure out my "true identity." (This is not as difficult as it sounds -- I recently stumbled on an anonymous blog written by someone who I've dealt with professionally, and was able to figure out who was writing it by looking at clues scattered throughout the writing.)
As a compromise, I've decided to post some information about who I am in a very general sense. Loyal readers are unlikely to find anything new or scandalous here, but I figured I'd at least you can confirm your suspicions about what sort of nutcase I really am.
I am a 20-something male, currently living and working in Nashville, Tenn. I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C., and went to college in upstate New York where I majored in English. (I still have a lot of friends in the Northeast, which accounts for some of my intermittent scheming to get out of Nashville, and for the number of frequent-flyer points I've managed to accumulate.) I moved here about 4 1/2 years ago, and work in the technology field for a somewhat recognizable company in the "communications industry."
Off the job, much of my free time right now is spent working toward a Master's degree in Technology Management -- a longterm project that began in January 2001 and will probably conclude sometime late next year. The idea being to prove that someone who spent college reading Foucault and Faulkner can have at least a passing clue about Apache and aggregate database functions. I'm taking classes online from the University of Maryland's University College. I have mixed feelings about the online format. On the one hand, it is definitely a boon for people with unpredictable work hours or travel schedules (I have had classes -- and even done group projects -- with military personnel stationed overseas). On the other hand, since almost all interaction is done via the web, you lose some of the social aspects of a traditional classroom. And you have to be very disciplined to force yourself to do all of the reading and writing.
Politically speaking, I guess I'd probably stake my claim in the Liberal/Progressive camp, although I try to avoid blindly subscribing to any one viewpoint. I honestly believe that Bill Clinton, while admittedly a schmuck in his personal life, was a very good president in terms of domestic policy. (And I thought that wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to essentially prosecute him for gettin' it on in the Oval Office was a travesty.)
Well, that's a start. Perhaps I'll make an effort to reveal more details about myself in the future. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the good and bad points of online anonymity...
Friday, September 27, 2002
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Anyway, despite my inner turmoil about actually quitting my job and moving, the whole "pre-interview" thing went pretty well. We chatted about all sorts of things, and I got the sense that an actual interview was a definite possibility.
To my mind, the oddest part came up at the end, when he pointed out that the job would involve at least one trip to a small northern-European country well known for its fairy tales. He wanted to know if I was OK with this, given that several applicants had said they would refuse to travel overseas in "today's climate."
My feeling on this is pretty straightforward, and it hasn't changed a whit since September 11: If someone -- anyone -- wants to give me a free trip to Europe, I'm totally down with that. I'll meet you with passport in hand, anytime, anyplace!
That said, I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole job thing...
Monday, September 23, 2002
Wow. Not only can I get a diploma from a "prestigious" university, but it's also non-acredited! Isn't the Internet great?
Thursday, September 19, 2002
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Lamar happily accepted $800,000 in contributions from the Bush fundraiser, plus another $300,000 in soft money contributions to the state Republican party. This despite the fact that a few years ago Alexander accused Bush of holding an auction for the presidency on the White House lawn. Guess he's over that now...
I was never a Napster junkie, but I'll confess that I used it on occasion. The great thing was that you could try out all sorts of music without risking spending $15 on a totally lousy CD. I found a lot of music that I never would have discovered this way, and I've purchased CDs because I heard the music first on my computer. I think if the record industry had tried to come up with a fair and reasonable way to make this sort of service work, they would have done well. Instead, their knee jerk reaction just forced Internet music to be more furtive and ultimately less controllable.
Singer/Songwriter (and Nashville resident) Janis Ian wrote a great article earlier this year about how internet downloads are actually a good thing for most recording artists. In it she methodically debunks the assertions of the RIAA about how downloadable music hurts musicians and the music business:
If you think about it, the music industry should be rejoicing at this new technological advance! Here's a fool-proof way to deliver music to millions who might otherwise never purchase a CD in a store. The cross-marketing opportunities are unbelievable. It's instantaneous, costs are minimal, shipping non-existant…a staggering vehicle for higher earnings and lower costs. Instead, they're running around like chickens with their heads cut off, bleeding on everyone and making no sense.One of these days, the big record labels are either going to get with the program. Or they're going to decline as cheaper and fairer alternatives emerge. It's their choice.
Sunday, September 15, 2002
The rabbit has a charming face; Its private life is a disgrace. I really dare not name to you The awful things that rabbits do; Things that your paper never prints -- You only mention them in hints. They have such lost, degraded souls No wonder they inhabit holes; When such depravity is found It can only live underground.--AnonymousPosted by David at 9/15/2002 03:50:00 AM
Friday, September 13, 2002
19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-) From: Scott E FahlmanIt appears that the idea for a "joke mark" emerged after someone caused a panic by joking that one of the physics department elevators was contaminated with mercury. (There had been a previous discussion about what would happen to a blob of mercury on the floor of the elevator if the cable snapped.)
I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(
Interestingly, in reading the followup thread, many people began using doing it the other way (-:, which doesn't look very familiar to us now.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
We've all heard the "herding cats" analogy with regard to managing programmers. Managing sysadmins is like leading a neighborhood gang of neurotic pumas on jet-powered hoverbikes with nasty smack habits and opposable thumbs. Oh, and as a manager you're a neurotic junkie puma too, only they cut your thumbs off and whereas all the other pumas get to drive around on their badass hoverbikes and fire chainguns at the marketing department, YOU have to drive a maroon AMC Gremlin behind them and hand out Band-Aids and smile a lot, when all you're REALLY thinking about is how to get one of them to let you borrow his hoverbike for a few minutes so you can show those fools how it's DONE. This is because managers are usually people who proved that they were handy with a chaingun and were thus rewarded by having their thumbs cut off and their weapons handed to some punk college hire.Hehe. Very true, I think. Except that some managers weren't very good with the chainguns in the first place.
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Why do people hate each other so much? I don't see why people hate each other so much that they would kill people and destroy buildings. I think they don't know what love is or have never felt love in their lives. I think we should all find ways to spread love around to other people. Some things we can do is be nice to all our friends and enemies, help feed the hungry and poor, give homes to the homeless and help our neighbors. Since Sept. 11, people have been nicer to each other and more helpful in their communities. To remember those who lost their lives, we should all try to do something every day to make the world a better place to live.Here's another good one about living in fear. (The section also contains more than 400 drawings done by area school children.)--Caleb Pease
Westmeade Elementary School
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Stalberg says he particularly liked Siegel's [Pulitzer Prize] nomination letter, which ended with a George Bernard Shaw quote that Stalberg wrote down and saved: " 'Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.' "
That, says Hanson, is what the Onion is all about. "Some people see comedy as a venue to provide light distraction, put a smile on other people's faces," he says. "And yet if you really understand what comedy really is, I believe, it's not about lightheartedness at all. It's about very harsh and terrible things that were really horrific. It's sort of a way of processing horror and misery. That's where comedy comes from."
Sunday, September 08, 2002
Newton's Kumquat has been on something of a summer vacation for the last month or so. I'd like to reassure my dozens of loyal readers (well, ok, two) that this is not permanent and should not be taken as anything more meaningful than a fit of inexcusable laziness.
As some of you may know, I'm taking online classes from the University of Maryland University College toward a master's degree. Since this involves a lot of typing, I tend to end up glued to my computer for hours on end. (This isn't always welcome, since I spend most of my time at work also glued to my computer.) Blogging provides me with a way to avoid school work while pretending that I'm still busily slaving away.
August, however, was a month of no classes and hellish hours on a project at work. Since I didn't have to do school work, I tended to avoid the computer when I got home. (My real-world accomplishments included skipping town to visit friends in New York, watching strange late-ngiht TV movies, and actually reading books that didn't appear on a syllabus.)
But, now that classes have started again, I'm once again glued to the computer and looking for ways to procrastinate. And so, gentle reader, be assured that you can look forward to more of the quality prose you've come to expect from Newton's Kumquat.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Thursday, July 25, 2002
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Monday, July 22, 2002
We also went and saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which was pretty funny. But it's one of those "lonely 20/30 something finally stumbles across the right person and lives happily ever after" flicks. <sigh> I'm still waiting...
Saturday, July 20, 2002
Friday, July 19, 2002
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Saturday, July 13, 2002
Worst Response To A Crisis, 1985:
From a readers' Q and A column in TV GUIDE: "If we get involved in a nuclear war, would the electromagnetic pulses from exploding bombs damage my videotapes?"As quoted by Wanda the GNOME Fish
Friday, July 12, 2002
TOWNSEND, Tenn. (AP) -- Bears sometimes attack deer -- it's what bears do.
But a Florida tourist apparently could not accept that, rangers say, and he took nature into his own hands by kicking and slamming a young black bear that had pounced on a fawn in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
“He probably thought he was saving Bambi,” park spokeswoman Nancy Gray said yesterday.
Michael Shaw, 38, of Grand Ridge, Fla., was charged with disturbing wildlife and disorderly conduct — federal offenses carrying up to $5,000 in fines and six months in jail.
“He seemed to be quite put out that we were charging him,” ranger Kent Looney said. “He thought he was doing the right thing.”
According to a ranger's report, Shaw and other visitors became distraught when they saw a 45-pound yearling bear jump on the young deer in Cades Cove on June 28.
Shaw ran toward the animals and began kicking the bear. When it refused to let go of the deer, Shaw picked up the bear and threw it down, the report said.
The bear released its grip and ran back into the woods, “probably pretty confused,” Gray said. The injured deer was euthanized.
But park officials said Shaw interrupted nature.
“The bear was doing what it was supposed to be doing,” Looney said. “Many of the people who gave me statements about the incident were incensed. ... If they had gotten hold of him, we might have had to save him.”
Tuesday, July 09, 2002
Family tradition: Attended Takoma Park Independence Day Parade with entire family, including a brother home from college and another brother visiting from out of state.
Took metro to Union Station to meet visiting friend. He had been bumped from his flight the night before, but got a sweet settlement from the airline.
Walked from station to look for other friends. Stood in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue yelling into cell phone trying to figure out where they were.
Got searched (several times, actually) by dutiful police officers manning security checkpoints around the Mall.
Availed ourselves of free free food from the rather large Hare Krishna encampment on the Mall. Listened to repetitive chanting for about 20 minutes. Worried mildly about possible sedatives in the lemonade.
Visited the Silk Road-themed Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Were soon deterred by near 100 degree heat, so escaped to the (air conditioned!) Natural History Museum to look at Mammoths, Mastadons, and bugs.
Went and got less holistic food at the Old Post Office Pavillion. I remembered this place from school field trips, but apparently no one else did, since it was nearly deserted. We had to go through a metal detector and have our bags x-rayed to get in.
Hopped on Metro and, after some confusion over the bizarre holiday routing changes, took it to Arlington Cemetary. Then hiked a ways looking for the Iwo Jima memorial. (Turns out it's closer to the Roslyn stop.) Eventually found another friend, and decided to stay there to watch the fireworks. This picture is almost exactly the view we had. It's a pretty great place to watch from, although you don't get as much booming as you do right on the Mall.
Followed throngs of people to Metro, and went our seperate ways to retrieve cars and luggage. Then met back up on the Maryland side of town and headed to the Route 1 IHOP. Returned home sometime after midnight.
That's it for now -- more later...
Sunday, July 07, 2002
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
Sort of makes you wonder if a lot of people are showing up just in time to protest their way onto the evening news. (I'm not the only one with this idea -- Danielle over at Missives Anonymous hatched a plot to head over there with signs promoting the band she works for! )
Oh, and as she very accurately points out, it's hot here!
Saturday, June 29, 2002
I stumbled across a link somewhere and clicked it. My browser responded by calling up a large image of a woman falling through space, one of the towers of the World Trade Center, blurred, in the background. iTunes was churning out music in a major key. I was in mid sip of a diet Coke. It was like running across a pleasant meadow, then falling into a deep, hidden well. The Coke in my mouth drained down my lips back into the glass. I didn't want to see this image, yet there it was. The light was so warm, falling on her falling body. I could see her black shoes and her beige skirt, the warmth of a sunlit arm. I felt seized with one wish: that I could reach out, reach through the screen, through the browser window, through the pixels and the 9 months and 18 days, through all the screens and space and days that separated us. I wanted to reach out with huge arms and catch her and bring her to my chest and tell her that she was all right, that everything was all right and she was safe.
Friday, June 28, 2002
We just discovered this amazing property on our intranet, where if you click a button on how to contact the fire departent, it actually links you to a site on how to find pornography! We just thought you might want to come see it...Hmmm. We just assumed "redhotfirefighters.com" was the fire department's web page! (Actually, it appears that www.nashtnfiredept.org got hijacked by a porn baron. Don't go there, though, since it tries to install all sorts of spyware on your computer.)
"...A really nice guy, and he just loves AC Transit. He's got a picture of every bus -- he even drove down to Freemont to take pictures of the busses there. If you're ever trying to convince him to go somewhere, all you have to say is, 'But think, you could look at the busses while you're there...'All very amusing. (Link via Laura at My Side of Things.)
"He better not be taking pictures of my bus."--A passenger and the driver on an AC Transit bus
Thursday, June 27, 2002
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
I'm ticked off at a tow-truck driver who showed up to tow the car -- then said he didn't want to get his feet wet so he couldn't tow the car out of the puddle. This is after I waited for him for three hours. If he can't tow the car, he should get out of the business.You get the idea. What makes these people think that a bunch of strangers are going to want to read their ranting and complaining on a daily basis? Hmm. Come to think of it, I guess it's sort of like blogging...
To the person who said that trailer park people actually have money: Why do you live in trailers and not in a house like the rest of us? It seems to me you're lying.
Since nobody else wants to say it, I guess it's got to be me. You know what really ticks me off? All these guys walking around with their pants almost to their kneecaps. Heck, I've even seen a few girls doing it. You know what? You look like clowns! And I thought bell-bottoms looked stupid in the '70s. Boy, was I wrong.
Saturday, June 22, 2002
When I was very little, we had a very small black and white TV, and I was only allowed to watch a very limited menu of shows, mostly on PBS and mosly involving a bunch of muppets who lived on a street named after a seed. (In fact, I remember that my parents went out and bought their first color TV so Mom could watch Princess Di's wedding.)
At the time I believed my limited TV access was a form of child abuse, but in retrospect, I think it forced me to find more constructive ways to use my time, and I'm probably a better person for it.
79: Percentage of Americans age 18 and older who can identify Nike's "Just Do It" slogan.Personally, I'm hoping the other 53% realized that there is no constitutional right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," since the phrase actually came from the Declaration of Independence. Sheesh -- if you're going to make fun of ignorant people, you should at least make sure you know what you're talking about!
47:Percentage who can identify the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
In this instance, about the blanket skewering of media - if you notice, I try to consistently point out that a lot of journalists are doing a good job, and that the possibility of a fair and honest media is within reach while they're still around. But in this instance BOTH WaPo and the Washgtn Times were on the bandwagon; apparently it was bad enough in the market area for Mundy to think it needed addressing. It's also evident in the Catholic priests case, and I've seen it elsewhere. So, I do think in this instance it's more pervasive than not.Well, I can't really generalize about most journalists -- that's sort of my point.
But you tell me - are the majority of journalists strongly religious, and inclined to view the religious as just basic everyday people with a value system that is subject to the law just as everyone else's is? Or for most of them, is a go-to-church-three-times-a-week-or-more and really-believe-in-God-like-follow-the-Bible kind of religion some odd cultural quirk that is protected by the Constitution and sometimes causes people to do freaky things not understandable except in the context of their religion?
That said, though, I know some journalists who are intensely religious, and others who are borderline atheist. I suspect, however, that journalists as a group tend to be strong defenders of the bill of rights -- they'd be out of business without it. So perhaps they do tend to give some preferential treatment to defenses based on religion. (Remember, I said that for the most part I do agree with the original post.)
The "Media" thing was really a bit of a tangent -- but it is a of a pet peeve of mine. I think the term "Media" is an easily misused label, just like the terms "liberal," "conservative," and "Christian." (Leonard Pitts Jr. has an interesting take on the last one.) Attempts to pigeon-hole people into categories are often flawed, and I think the term "Media" is commonly used this way.
In a post earlier this morning, she writes about a child who died after being left in a hot car. The boy was the youngest of a Catholic family's 13 children, and Susanna points out that by focusing on the family's Catholicism, press accounts seemed to be shifting the issue away from the actual criminal act. The family's spiritual beliefs are being portrayed as valid excuse for criminal behavior.
The news media need to get out of this view of religion as a form of organized insanity that gives its practitioners some type of bye in criminal cases. No, no and no. The criminal law is what it is, and those who break it for whatever reason are still responsible to it. There may be mitigating circumstances, and the religious beliefs of the offender may serve as one, but to present this case of neglect as more than just that is a result of ignorance, media bias and an unwillingness to be clear-sighted about our modern society.On a related note, I generally cringe when I read blanket criticism of "the Media" -- as if every journalist in the world gets daily marching orders from some sort of secret headquarters. In my experiece, there is often a lot of dissent and variation of opinion within a given newsroom, let alone among different media organizations. Just as religion shouldn't be used to explain away criminal behavior, being part of "the Media" shoudn't be used to explain away poor reporting. If there are problems, sure, point them out and loudly criticize the reporters and editors involved. But don't assume that every journalist would have done the same thing.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
As software becomes increasingly important, the potential impact of bad code will increase to match, in the view of Peter G. Neumann, a computer scientist at SRI International, a private R&D center in Menlo Park, CA. In the last 15 years alone, software defects have wrecked a European satellite launch, delayed the opening of the hugely expensive Denver airport for a year, destroyed a NASA Mars mission, killed four marines in a helicopter crash, induced a U.S. Navy ship to destroy a civilian airliner, and shut down ambulance systems in London, leading to as many as 30 deaths. And because of our growing dependence on the Net, Neumann says, “We’re much worse off than we were five years ago. The risks are worse and the defenses are not as good. We’re going backwards—and that’s a scary thing.”
Some software companies are responding to these criticisms by revamping their procedures; Microsoft, stung by charges that its products are buggy, is publicly leading the way. Yet problems with software quality have endured so long, and seem so intractably embedded in software culture, that some coders are beginning to think the unthinkable. To their own amazement, these people have found themselves wondering if the real problem with software is that not enough lawyers are involved.
Sunday, June 16, 2002
"Homeland" is un-American in another way: it explicitly ties our sentiments to the land, not to our ideas. Logically, this step makes no sense (presumably we want to stop terrorism even if it targets Americans and American institutions abroad). It also misses the exceptional American contribution that's worth defending. People throughout history have felt sentimental attachment to their land. We're sentimentally attached to something less geographic: i.e., freedom. Didn't Ronald Reagan make this point with some regularity?In the end, he suggests calling it the "Department of Doestic Security," which makes a lot of sense to me. Before September 11, I certainly never thought of the U.S. as "the Homeland." Why start now?
I did get a pretty good look at another large waterfall on Caney Creek, which is near the nature center and a little more accessible. I took some pictures, but alas have not yet entered the era age of digital photography, so they are sitting on a roll of film in my backpack. Perhaps I'll post a few if they turn out.
On my way out of the park, I followed state route 30, which winds down off of the Cumberland Plateau and into McMinnville. I imagine it would be a blast in a smaller sports car, but the turns and switchbacks were fun even in my pickup truck. Almost drove off the road once when I was passing through a small town and all of a sudden the road just stopped (or, more accurately, took a sharp right turn with no warning.)
I drove most of the way back to Nashville on back roads, which was a lot more fun than the 75 mph interstate blur. I passed by a woman selling hand-made wooden rocking chairs from a shop behind her house. bought one to go on my patio once I get around to painting it.
Have been lounging around at home most of today, but will probably go out and run some errands tonight. Then back to the daily grind tomorrow. Ugh.
Friday, June 14, 2002
I don't know about you, but most parking tickets I've gotten in the past generally strike a pretty authoritarian note: "You are a violator. You are evil," they seem to say. "We will hunt you down and make you pay. You and your little dog too!"
So while I won't say I was happy about receiving a ticket in Asheville, NC, they certainly tried to make it as painless as possible:
BEFORE YOU FILE THIS CITATION IN YOUR GLOVE COMPARTMENT, READ THIS.I may not agree with what they had to say, but they sure were nice about it!
No one likes getting a parking citation. But it's the most effective way we have to manage downtown parking. Time limits promote orderly turnover and make downtown shopping and entertainment convienient for everyone.
Avoid the frustration of receiving a parking citation by using one of the three parking garages noted on the reverse of this citation. The first hour is free Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m. Until 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, June 13, 2002
According to one of the front desk guys, I should have called ahead and verified that my reservation was right, since they always screw up stuff like this.
Now I am not an anti-smoking fanatic. But frankly I don't especially like the smell. And I was a bit perturbed by how they didn't really seem to think this was anything out of the ordinary. So since I had a few hours, I figured I'd make a point by finding somewhere else to stay.
After calling several places and finding that they were also full, I found a prospect -- A major hotel franchise had a location only a few blocks from my meeting. (I won't mention the chain's name to protect the guilty, but it rhymes with Less Pesterin'.)
So I get to the hotel and go to the front desk to check in. I guess the avacado carpet and aged stucco should have been my first tip off. But, hey, the desk clerk was kind of cute, and I figured I'll try anything once. I got my room key and headed up the elevator. (Dark pseudo-wood paneling, circa 1970.) I got out of the elevator. (Flourescent fixtures circa home of future 1967 and more patterned avacado carpet.) But I figured, "Hey, I'm renting the room, not the hallway."
Then I went into the room. Picture scary looking lamps in a pineapple-battering ram motif. Picture a tiny porthole of a window, last cleaned circa 1982. Picture noisy air conditioning stuck on the "stuffy" setting. Picture cigarette burns on the couch of the nonsmoking room. If they were going for the fleabag look, they had it down pat.
Now I'm not opposed to roughing it every once in a while. In fact, when I was a starving student, I stayed in some places that made this look like the Ritz. But I guess my standards have gone up just a bit since then. Plus, I was on expense account, so I couldn't even really congratulate myself thriftiness. (For that matter, I've stayed in nicer places for half the cost.)
So I did what any self-respecting creeped out traveler would do: I lied to the front desk guy (the cute chick was gone) and told him my plans had changed, I was leaving town that evening, and could I please "un-check-in" my room. He bought the story. I skeedaddled and found a more expensive but less scary alternative.
I know there's probably a moral here somewhere. Like maybe "Be happy with what you get, because it could be worse." But I'm too busy enjoying my clean sheets and working A/C to worry about it.
On the plus side, I think I'm finally indexed on google. I can tell by the fact that someone searching for "uncensored lingerie catalogs" hit the site a few minutes ago. I've never really produced such a catalog, but who am I to argue with popular demand. Any volunteer models out there?
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
I'm for the death penalty, but I think it needs to be very narrowly applied, and more swiftly implemented. I think one of the reasons for the slow drag from sentencing to execution is the concern about whether the sentence is just. When it's used for situations where the crime is obviously egregious, and the evidence highly compelling, the public support for its logical follow-through will increase. Support for the death penalty is a two-step process: Is it morally appropriate? If so, is it fairly and appropriately applied? I think most Americans answer "yes" on the first question, but have been wavering - with good reason - on the second. More careful procedures, and a reduction overall of the types of cases allowed to be prosecuted toward a death sentence, will increase the "yeses" to the second question too.When I was younger, I wavered a lot about the death penalty. After all, most of the people killed had committed egregious crimes. Wasn't this a good way to deter future violence?
During college, however, I became increasingly convinced that the government should not be in the business of killing people. There were many reasons for this. Books such as A Lesson Before Dying, The Chamber, and Dead Man Walking certainly contributed. So did the strong arguments against the idea of the death penalty as a deterrent, the fact that the inevitable mistakes could cost someone their life. and statistical evidence of the unfair application of the penalty.
But most of all, my feeling that the death penalty is wrong is based on the conviction that premeditated killing is never morally justifiable. This is a hard position to take, because you have to fight the urge to apply it selectively. Viscerally, I feel that Timothy McVeigh got what he deserved. But I think that moral principles have to take precedence over gut-level reactions. I just don't think the job of our government should be to kill people, no matter how much we think they deserve it. A true life sentence without the possibility of parole achieves the same societal goals without the moral ambiguity. And if the conviction turns out to have been in error (which happens with alarming frequency) imprisonment is reversible whereas execution is not.
I also don't think state-sponsored execution is justifiable from a religious point of view. (Whenever I see one of those "What would Jesus do?" slogans, I always wonder if the bearer thinks that Jesus would pull the switch on an electric chair.) Most Christians believe that sinfulness is inherent in the human condition, and that ultimately forgiveness, redemption, and judgement are between the individual and God. The murderer will answer for his sins before God -- what right do we have to take a greater action than necesary to protect society from further harm?
The United States is the only major democratic power in the world that still imposes the death penalty. Worldwide, there is an increasing concensus that execution is a basic violation of human rights. Abolition is the global trend. "In 1986, 46 countries had abolished the death penalty. By 1999, 108 had abolished it in law or in fact." (ref)
This is a very condensed version of my feelings on capital punishment, but I figured I'd throw them out there anyway.
I'd had enough political and theological discussions by the time I was nineteen to figure out that they are functionally inert. No-one convinces anyone of anything, everybody just heaps their baggage on the table and gestures at it wildly.IMHO, not always true, but probably more often than not.
Being single means being good at waiting. It means having patience and not settling for something because you're bored with being single. Being single is often both an opportunity and a commitment to learn from the mistakes of relationships past.
Of course, telling single people they should not fall into the first available relationship is a little like telling aging NFL stars they should not do phone commercials with Alf. They already know it's not a good idea, but they can't seem to control themselves.
Monday, June 10, 2002
In related (silly) government filings, check out this actual patent for a method of exercising a cat. If only I'd thought of that one first!
Sunday, June 09, 2002
If nothing else, the film gives you a fairly in-depth overview of the history of minstrel shows, blackface routines, and pickaninny imagery. And it makes you think about the ways stereotypes are still used to get a laugh.
Interestingly, most of the action in the movie was shot using consumer-grade Mini-DV cameras and edited digitally. The idea that you can use this type of equipment to produce a studio-grade movie release is very exciting. Movie making is becoming less mystical and easier for anyone with an idea to try. Hopefully at some point this will result in a wider variety of material making it into the local multiplex.
An interesting comment is buried in the director's voiceover on the DVD. Spike Lee says:
In my opinion, this gangsta rap is the 21st century version of minstrel shows. And what's sad is these brothers don't even know about it.
Saturday, June 08, 2002
To be frank, we do not know how to cure or prevent micromanagement. It is practiced by individuals who have so little trust in their coworkers that they most control everything. Micromanagers are rarely likable enough for anyone to try to help them. Our considered advice to PMs who are micromanaged is to request a transfer.
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — A would-be rapper from Mt. Juliet has been charged with holding up the Alpine Lodge in Cookeville and is a suspect in two similar motel robberies in Crossville and Carthage, police said.Now I know as an aspiring rapper you gotta keep up a certain image. But listen up, buddy boy... You got nerve stomping all over the American flag while still partaking of the cultural bounty of America! Do you think they even have Victoria's Secret catalogs in places like Iraq or Libya? Sheesh!
Earl Raymond Vantrese, 22, of Mt. Juliet, was pulled over on Interstate 40 Thursday after a clerk was held up at gunpoint at the Ramada Inn in Crossville around 6:30 a.m. that day, police said.
After stopping Vantrese's 1981 Buick Regal near Monterey, police said, they found numerous rap lyrics and a boom box in the front seat, along with a Victoria's Secret lingerie catalog, a video camera and pictures in the back seat of Vantrese stomping on the American flag, along with $812 in cash.
Friday, June 07, 2002
CHATTANOOGA (AP) — The Ten Commandments have been removed from Hamilton County court buildings, ending an episode that may cost the government as much as $80,000.Many of the quixotic chumps pushing this crap are the same ones protesting big government and wasteful spending. Well, here's a perfect example of waste in government. (the article goes on to say that the county commissioners who voted to post the commandments originally said public money would not be used to defend the decision, but it fails to state where else the $80,000 in legal fees might come from.)
[County Commission Chairman Bill Hullander] said he believes a drop in Hamilton County's crime rate can be attributed to the posting of the Ten Commandments. [...] The ACLU submitted a bill this week for more than $50,000. Hamilton County's attorney estimates the county owes between $30,000 and $40,000 for outside legal fees.
Before the bible thumpers track me down, I should point out that I have nothing in particular against the 10 Commandments. But I also believe in the Bill of Rights, which is designed to keep government out of the religion business. Say we post the 10 Commandments. Well, what happens next week when Satanists want their manifesto posted in the courthouse?
And the idea that this is some sort of deterrent to crime is absurd. I can just see it:
HEAVILY ARMED ROBBER: Stick em' up. And gimme all the money from the register before I blow your brains out.I wonder what the $80,000 spent on this travesty could have purchased if it were put toward improving schools or building affordable housing...
SCARED CONVENIENCE STORE CLERK: You know, according to the 10 commandments posted in the county courthouse, holding up convenience stores is wrong.
HEAVILY ARMED ROBBER: Really? I had no idea. I'll be off now -- I'm so terribly sorry for the inconvenience. Have a nice day!