Saturday, June 22, 2002

Don't know if you've been following the National Public Radio deep linking flap, but take that NPR! (And you can learn something about the tragic loss of the Wye Oak while you're stickin' it to The Man.)
Check out a great rant about television as a babysitter on The Last Page. I met a guy with kids recently who keeps his family's TV unplugged in the closet except for official family movie nights. In my current state of singleness, I don't have to worry about warping the minds of the kiddies, but I think this is a really great idea. I don't know if I could be quite this committed, but I certainly buy in to the idea that too much TV isn't a good idea.

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.

Traveling again, and chanced to pick up Southwest Airlines' Spirit magazine. That's where I found this tidbit:
79: Percentage of Americans age 18 and older who can identify Nike's "Just Do It" slogan.

47:Percentage who can identify the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

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!

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Just spent 26 of the last 30 hours working, and none of the last 30 hours sleeping. Not good.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

In response to my post below, Susanna wrote the following:
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.

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?

Well, I can't really generalize about most journalists -- that's sort of my point.

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.

I often don't agree with Susanna's take on things. But here's an exception:

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

This is a week or two old now, but Lori McLeese has a great first-person account of the US soccer team's upset victory over Portugal. I've never been a huge soccer fan, but an account like this makes me reconsider.
There's an interesting piece by Charles Mann in Technology Review about why software is so bad. Unlike other industries, where companies with knowingly-flawed products can face massive legal action, people basically accept poor software as a fact of life. Mann thinks more lawyers may be the answer:
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.

In case you missed it, the colossal, out-of-control wildfire in Colorado that has burned more than 103,000 acres so far was apparently started by a forest ranger while attempting to burn a letter from her estranged husband. You couldn't write a better beginning for a made-for-TV movie if you tried.
Check out Joe MacLeod's riff on noo-kyoo-lur explosions, Baltimore, and dust mites. via Alt-log.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Writing in Slate, Mickey Kaus makes a good point about the "creepiness" of the word "Homeland" and the phrase "Homeland Security." He makes a number of points, but I think the most notable is this:
"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?
Decided to get off the interstate and actually see things on my way home yesterday, so I spent part of the afternoon in Tennessee's Fall Creek Falls State Park. If you follow the link, you'll see a photo of Fall Creek Falls, but unfortunately I never actually found the vantage point of that photo. I hiked around both sides of the top of the falls, but most of the "overlooks" were blocked by foliage. (I suspect late fall or early spring would be a good time to visit.) At one point I ignored the "stay on the trails or you may die" warning signs and crept to the edge of a cliff where I could see part of the falls and also see people splashing around 250 feet directly below me. (I think I was just to the right of the smaller waterfall you can see in picture.) I think perhaps there is an overlook on a different trail that gives you the best view -- something to investigate on another trip. I didn't have the time or energy to hike all the way to the bottom of the gorge and see the falls from below, but there were people splashing around down there, and it seems like it would be spectacular.

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.