Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Lately I've been a decorating fiend... I put up some clear lights outside last week. Then, I decided to go out and get a Christmas tree, despite the fact that I'm actually not going to be here for Christmas. I lugged the tree back, dug up my stand and lights, and set the whole thing up in the front hall, where you can see it through my front door.
I don't actually have many genuine Christmas ornaments -- in fact, I'm pretty much limited to a couple of boxes of generic glass balls. So I had to get a bit creative. In some dark recess of my brain, I remembered making Christmas tree garlands out of cranberries and popcorn. It took two grocery runs to find whole cranberries in Nashville, but I was soon stringing up a storm, with only minor needle injuries. It takes a long time to do a whole tree that way, but it's pretty mindless work and I watched a movie while I was working on it.
Turns out that I somewhat underestimated the number of linear feet of cranberries in a bag. (These folks need to investigate this!) Despite creative use of cranberry spice sauce for dinner on Sunday night, I still have two bags left. Anyone have any good cranberry recipes?
After the garlands were on the tree, it still looked a bit empty. So I wandered around my house looking for ideas until I found a book of Route 66 paper cutouts, purchased for their kitsch value a few years ago while on vacation in Arizona. I pulled out the book and started happily punching out pieces and putting tab A into slot B to create models of all sorts of Mother Road ephemera -- fireworks stands, Mexican restaurants, Airstream trailers, and more. I then carefully punched holes in the cutouts and stuck them on the tree. So I now have a kitschy Middle-American tree with cranberries and popcorn. (If you look carefully, you can even find an adult bookstore.)
I also have a wreath on the door, greens on the window sills, and a cat determined to make herself sick eating Pointsettia leaves. Plus I made fudge and prepared dough for sugar and spice cookies. I'm totally down with the whole holiday thing this year.
At “The Future in Review”, a wide-ranging technology conference held in San Diego earlier this year, Allen Hammond of the World Resources Institute, an environmental think-tank, outlined a cunning scheme to provide e-mail access in rural India using buses. Each bus would be equipped with an e-mail server and a high-power Wi-Fi base-station, with a range of a mile or so. This communicates with nearby computers in homes, schools, offices or post offices, delivering and collecting e-mail wirelessly as the bus drives past, so that there are a handful of deliveries and collections each day. The buses connect to the internet when they reach the depot at the end of the line. Given the reach of the bus network, it is estimated that this approach could provide national e-mail coverage for a paltry $15m. E-mail by bus—why not?
Monday, December 15, 2003
What's an office without a rubber chicken or two? Rubber chicken on the wall, rubber chicken on the floor, rubber chickens are funny and make your spirits soar. We are pretty sure everyone's mood will pick up a little bit when you have some rubber chickens laying around the office. Make Monday Rubber Chicken Day and have everyone carry one around to meetings and stuff... how much fun can your office handle?
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
- Flew home. Arrived hours late due to typical holiday delays. Was very calm about this, since I had nowhere in particular to be that night.
- Actually read two novels: Prey and About a Boy. Also read two fascinating articles in Harper's: one about Clear Channel's radio station juggernaut, and another about a possible resurgence of locally-owned companies. Both are worth picking up.
- Had Thanksgiving dinner with grandparents, parents, one cousin, and a whole mess of food. Accidentally spilled candle wax on my mom's best tablecloth. She was not happy.
- Visited the research lab of the biotech company I'm working with for my class. Met with them for several hours. Was amazed by how much AP Bio stuff I actually remembered.
- Bought a wireless router for my parents so that I can finally get online from my laptop at home.
- My parents, brother B, brother B's girlfriend, and brother B's girlfriend's parents went out to dinner together. Meanwhile, I went out to dinner with brother A, brother B's girlfriend's sister, and brother B's girlfriend's sister's cousin. We ate at the local Salvadoran place, followed by some aimless wandering around and a trip to Cosi -- a nifty place where you can toast your own S'Mores on an open flame at your table. I drove the assembled masses nuts by taking hours to figure out why some guy jumped in front of a bus after eating a seagull sandwich.
- Got to play with the fireplace, which still works after being fixed last year. Bought a new chain for my dad's chainsaw, but didn't get around to installing it.
- Went to my mom's church. Talked to a lot of people whose names I probably couldn't remember if you paid me.
- Had very belated birthday cake for me and my brother. Gave my brother a Sony Clie as a birthday/graduation gift. He now wants a memory stick so he can listen to MP3s on it.
- Got up very early Monday morning and caught the subway back to National Airport. Waited in a really long line to get through security. Flight was late anyway. Went to work.
- Got home and started working on my part of the market plan for our company. Interrupted by a call from a friend whose new(to her) computer had a malfunctioning modem. Talked to her for about an hour. Then continued working until my eyes glazed over. Went to bed late.
- Woke up to a call from my brother, who was in a state of shock after being unexpectedly fired from his job. He had no idea this was coming -- his new dishwasher was delivered yesterday. This is totally sucky on so many levels I won't even go into it here. But suffice it to say I think very little of his former company.
- Talked to him until I realized I was going to be late for my weekly Long Boring Meeting Where Nothing Happens. Burned rubber into work and still got there late. As predicted, nothing really happened. Despite earlier plans to avoid work entirely and finish my paper, ended up putting in a good 6 hours. Found out that one of my employees is in the hospital with severe pneumonia. Not a good day.
- Tore out of work as soon as possible and headed to Fido, where I'm currently camped out working on said paper. It's slow going.
- Friend just called, so I believe I will be taking a break to go have a beer across the street. Yay!
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
I'm not always up early in the morning to shoot this sort of thing, but I once again worked all night at the office. That's not good, but at least I got to appreciate a perfect fall morning.
Well, I thought it was perfect. Some people don't agree!)
Monday, November 24, 2003
IE-Dublin-Father Christmas & Elves
Status: Full Time, Part Time, Temporary/Contract/Project
Unique Entertainment are looking for persons interested in working for them on a part-time basis throughout late November and December 2003.
We require persons to fill the following roles:
Please send brief CV, including a passport photograph, details of your availability during November and December and the roles you are interested in to...
- Father Christmas
Friday, November 21, 2003
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
On Saturday, my grandfather went to the Parthenon and the Frist Center. Both were great, but the Frist center has an especially good "Art of Tennessee" exhibit with everything from wood carvings to maps to photos to muskets. It was extremely cool.
Then we went to the airport and picked up Laura. We went home briefly, then headed over to Hatch Show Print. We walked around lower Broad for a bit, and also stopped into Lawrence Record Shop, where we met Mr. Lawrence. This was a very memorable experience -- you can listen right here!
We gave up our coveted $10 parking space and headed back home for a few hours, where we amused ourselves by looking at old photo albums.
That night, we had tickets for the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. But before the show, we stopped in to Jack's Bar-B-Que. Then a few steps across the alley to the Ryman, where a long line was just beginning to snake through the door. We got to our seats in the balcony just before the show started. One of the first performers was Nanci Griffith, who Laura had seen a few days before in Boston.
The next day we stopped by my office to scan some of the old photos we found, then headed over to Bicentennial Mall, where we explored and played with our cameras until the misty darkness overtook us. (Listen) My grandfather took a detour into the farmer's market, where he purchased a bottle of Dave's Triple XXX Insanity Hot Sauce. The vendor cautioned to only use one drop!
Afterward, we went out to dinner at Basantes (a great Italian restaurant in the lobby of a Day's Inn), and returned home to watch "When Harry Met Sally."
Monday morning, my Grandfather left at the crack of dawn, and Laura and I had breakfast at the Pancake Pantry before her medical school interview at Vanderbilt.
All-in-all, a great weekend. You can view more photos right here.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Then a few days ago, I got an e-mail from my cousin Laura, who I haven't seen in almost two years. She has been going to school in Boston, but graduated and is now applying to medical schools. It turns out that she has an interview at Vanderbilt on Monday. So she's also coming down -- and naturally I offered up my place.
So all of a sudden I have two out-of-town guests, and it's time to get the house presentable. I've been spending every free moment cleaning, dealing with repairs, etc. Plus, we have a business plan due in several weeks for my class, and our company is getting impatient. Then late last week the massive server that holds our company's electronic archives decided to die in the middle of the night. This has already been good for one all-nighter and countless hours of additional stress. The worst part about the work is that it's a "hurry-up-and-wait" operation, because it takes so long to move around the tons of data we're dealing with.
Yesterday, I spent most of the day (from 6:30 AM until around 4:30 PM) working on the system from home while the plumber and handyman simultaneously abused my house. (After two trips, I believe I now have a working toilet in the guest bathroom!) I also broke down and hired a maid service to clean the place. I feel so bourgeois. But at least the dust bunnies have left the building.
Somewhere in there, I also ran a line directly from the phone network box to my DSL modem, and proved that my DSL problems are not the fault of the ancient phone wiring in my house. The next guess is a bad modem -- they're sending me another one. The phone company is convinced that there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with the line, so we're trying everything else first.
I then went in to work for a meeting around 5:00, and stayed there working until midnight.
This morning dawned with temperatures in the 30s, and I discovered that once again my furnace seemed to be dead. This happened last year. The repair guy said to just cycle the circuit breaker several times. After about five attempts, it finally came on. (It's an outside unit, and apparently moisture can creep into the unit and cause it not to light. A safety device cuts off the gas if there's no flame. Cycling the power resets the safety device and lets it try again. The unit hadn't been used in a few days, and it poured rain yesterday. So hopefully this won't become a regular occurrence.)
And to add to the pile of malfunction and misfortune, the zero key on my cell phone has died. So to anyone with a zero in your number, I won't be calling you. Everyone else, you're good. (Actually I can work around it with speed dial and other tricks, but it's a real pain!) Verizon says I have to take the phone to one of their stores, which are apparently all in the distant suburbs. And they're very vague about what might happen when I get there. I fear that they may ship my phone off to Timbuktu for repair and leave me without phone, which would be bad since I've also been disconnecting my home phone as part of the DSL troubleshooting.
Now I've got to go into work for more pointless meetings and server angst. Plus I've still got to go grocery shopping to do.
I'm ready for another vacation!
Saturday, November 08, 2003
When I arrived outside, I saw this for myself. I drove home, grabbed my digital camera, and headed for the backyard. I subsequently stood outside in the chilly fall weather that suddenly arrived a few days ago and watched the moon drift into the shadow of the earth. (Unfortunately I lack a real telephoto lens, so the photos aren't great.)
While I was waiting, I called my parents. My mom was busy writing a sermon, and I had to convince her to go outside. My dad went outside with no prompting. They stood and watched the eclipse with me. Suddenly the 700 miles between us didn't seem so far.
Monday, November 03, 2003
That may have also been the year that my birthday fell on a Saturday and I went to Boston for the weekend. So I spent my birthday visiting penguins in the Boston Aquarium and doing various other fun things.
But I really just can't get all that excited about it this year. It's too much like just another day.
To be fair, I guess this has been a pretty decent year. The highlights were Italy, New Years (in PA), my brother's graduation in Maine, the 4th of July in DC, and my trip back to Syracuse. Hmm. None of the highlights were in Nashville. That sort of sums up why I want to leave one of these days, I'd say.
Friday, October 31, 2003
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Sunday, October 26, 2003
And I'm still procrastinating on my paper, despite the looming deadline. Last night I cleaned my living room to avoid working on it. When I start house cleaning, that's a good indicator that I really don't want to do something. But I'm about to have a burst of caffeine-induced productivity. I can feel it coming on. Right. Now.
Drat. It didn't happen.
Saturday, October 25, 2003
The only real change I can think of during this time period has to do with the assault on pavement currently being carried out by the good people at Nashville Gas. Part of this involved digging up my front yard and replacing an old-school iron gas pipe with plastic tubing. I'm wondering if perhaps something in the house was improperly grounded to the gas pipe. Now that the pipe is insulated with plastic tubing, perhaps the lack of ground is causing the problem.
My little theory, however, wouldn't explain the curious day/night phenomenon.
This is all quite vexing.
Like all good DSL techies, Mr. Butler was very quick to blame my unfiltered alarm system. But the system has been disconnected from the phone line for several days, and the problem has persisted.
Of course, the phone wiring in this 1920s-vintage house is strung up from the rafters in the dirt cellar, and is quite literally held together by thumbtacks and duct tape. So I suppose at some level it's amazing the thing worked at all. I should probably take the time to crawl around down there and run new wiring, but I have a paper to write this weekend. So maybe I'll just borrow a cup of wireless Internet from everyone's favorite funkadelic neighborhood coffee joint.
In unrelated news...
I saw The Runaway Jury with a friend earlier tonight. A great suspense story, and I got to revel in a bit of New Orleans nostalgia to boot. (Shady dealings are just better when you negotiate them over Beignets at Cafe du Monde.)
I also discovered that Bonhoeffer, which I just missed the last time I was in DC, is playing for the next few days at the Belcourt. I have been fascinated by the German theologian and Nazi resister ever since I read Denise Giardina's haunting historical novel Saints and Villains. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to convince my friend to go see it with me, but I'm going to try to make it over there before the show closes.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
So for a brief moment, I thought that the corporate honchos had scheduled activities like like "clean bathroom, "get new toilet seat," "get scrapbook supplies," and "directions for Grandpa." Alas, it turns out that they're just doing things like having Operational Discussions about Financial Impact. Too bad.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
So then I was awake for a while, checked my e-mail and did a few other things, and could already tell that I was dragging. So around 7:45 I figured that I'd go back to bed for another couple hours. No sooner had I gotten to sleep, the world champion jackhammer team arrives outside my bedroom window. And starts tearing up the part of the street that they hadn't already destroyed.
Maybe I'm an unwitting part of some sort of sleep deprivation experiment.
On a non-stressful topic, I saw Luther on Friday night, and was blown away by it. Not that it was necessarily the best movie ever made. But, like Titanic, it gives you a real impression of what people might have seen and heard at a particular point in history.
I think if you've been exposed to something all your life, you sometimes don't really get the point. Growing up Lutheran, I've known about the 95 theses and Luther's wrath over indulgences for as long as I can remember.
The phrase "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise" is stuck in my head, but not because I really comprehended it. Instead, it was part of a church camp chant that we'd repeat every morning before announcements:
Gooood Mooorning, Mister Craig. And what a fine morning it is. Yes, yes, indeed. The sun is peeking through the clouds, and it looks like it's going to be a wonnnderfulll day. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me, Amen. A might fortress is our God. His banner over me is love. Turn, Turn, Turn. Oh, rocka my soul, Baby! A Do Run Run Run, A Do Run Run.(Or something along those lines -- it was like 20 years ago!)
The point is, that when something is drummed into you in such a relentless and silly way, it loses all meaning. So that's why I was blown away by the scene where Luther stands in front of representatives of the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor (who could easily have him burned at the stake) and refuses to recant his writings.
Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.
This dude is thumbing his nose at the most powerful people in the world, in a time when due process wasn't even a glimmer on the horizon. Not something you realize when the phrase is a prelude to announcements about tonight's big game of capture the flag.
To be sure, the movie is probably a rose-colored look at the life of a complex person. Nothing is said, for example, of Luther's antisemitic writings -- which reflected his time but are incongruous with his otherwise progressive views.
Still, I found the movie to be inspiring. If nothing else, it made me want to revisit Germany. I think we breezed by some Luther-related sites during our whirlwind 3-week stay in high school, but I'd like to see more. So I was also inspired to dust off my German book and order a new set of flash cards.
Nothing new there, I guess. I think my restlessness in Nashville is reaching new heights lately. And that's saying something.
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
This is a huge deal. Carrier is one of the most visible industries in the city -- SU's domed stadium has been known as the Carrier Dome since it was built about 25 years ago.
Monday, October 06, 2003
In other news...
What I did this weekend:
- Went to an Italian restaurant with friends and got to listen to a lounge guitarist with really cheesy synthesized background tracks. Then a chunky guy wearing an apron and an "Italian Stallion" t-shirt came out and started crooning. I was endlessly amused.
- Actually read my school reading assignments (on time, for a change.) Listened to an hour long interview with this biotech bigwig. And chatted online with my project team. All sorts of academic fun.
- An assload of laundry. And actually put most of it away when I was done.
- IMed with my friend in Boston about the Yankees, Red Sox, etc.
- e-mailed a professor at said friend's college to try to get in on a trip to India in January. For credit, to study offshore outsourcing of IT. Assuming they'll let me enroll and my school will let me transfer the credit. A lot of ifs, but traveling to India would sure beat another boring online elective.
- Watched The Other Sister with Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi. This is going to brand me as a total sentimental sap, but I absolutely loved this movie. It is a (debatably realistic) portrayal of a mentally-disabled couple, focusing on the woman's struggle for independence from her domineering Mom. I probably wouldn't have given this a second look in the theater, but I'm glad I happened to stumble into it on cable.
That's about all the excitement. On Wednesday night, I'm flying out to North Carolina for a four-day beach minibreak with my parents and one of my brothers. My parents are nuts, which is why they think that October is ideal beach season. I laughed at them the first year, but every time I've gone it's been warm enough to swim, at least most days. And there are absolutely no crowds. So maybe they've got the right idea.
OK, enough of this. Gotta go finish a group paper that I stupidly volunteered to edit. Gak.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Q: Why is there no question 13?(For those of you scratching your heads, a RAID is where a server uses multiple disks with multiple copies of the same data to help guard against data disasters.)
A: If you are concerned about RAID, High Availability, and UPS, then its probably a good idea to be superstitious as well. It can't hurt, can it?
Monday, September 29, 2003
Personally, I think the zoo should recognize his effort and just let him go!
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Q. Does the new graphics system improve graph/chart appearance?Hmm. I've always heard that it's not the length of your variable, it's the motion of your probability distribution.
A. Get ready to impress your customers and colleagues because you won't be restricted by your variable length any longer....
Sunday, September 21, 2003
There are obvious mitigating factors that make this easier. For example, attending the affair with one or more other people helps. (I think married folks have this easy -- they have a built in conversation partner, and someone who can tag-team with them in case of awkward gaps in conversations.)
Attending an event where you've had enough previous contact with the people to know a few names, faces, and hometowns also helps out. The more people you already know -- even slightly -- the easier it is to meet more folks.
But these factors don't help in situations where you are attending an event alone and know virtually no one. Conference organizers could help somewhat by taking this sort of thing into account -- for example, providing nametags that are very descriptive, or even providing a list of attendees and their backgrounds as part of the conference packet. Sometimes they do, but often you are cast adrift with no lifeboat.
From years of experience with this sort of thing, I have decided that I am simply lousy at this sort of spontaneously-generated "cocktail conversation." You'd think they would teach this sort of thing in school. Maybe they do, and I just skipped class that day. In any case, I think it's a skill I need to develop. Anyone know where I can find an online class?
Friday, September 19, 2003
I'm also fighting off a nasty head cold. Gak.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Last month, in one of the most far-reaching environmental decisions of his tenure, Mr. Bush eliminated [environmental] rules, allowing thousands of power plants, refineries and factories to make extensive upgrades that increase pollutants without having to install new antipollution devices. The president said other regulations, as well as the passage of his bill known as the Clear Skies initiative, would keep the air clean.Grumble... Who really needs clean air anyway?
[T]he trip to the Detroit plant, intended as a broad defense of the Bush administration's clean air policy, quickly reignited the fierce debate between government officials and environmental groups. While Mr. Bush was greeting workers, environmentalists said the relaxation of clean air rules known as the new source review would allow this plant to increase emissions by more than 30,000 tons a year, a 56 percent increase over current levels.
The groups also noted that the government's own analysis of the effect of the Clear Skies bill found that the Monroe plant would not decrease its emissions of soot-forming sulfur dioxide.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
- Anything from Arbys -- Aside from their mystery meat "roast beef" sandwiches, that talking oven mit is just annoying.
- Michelina's frozen dinners -- The Macarena went out with the last century. Let it go, people.
- Feminine hygiene products -- Well, OK, boycotting these isn't really causing me any great hardship. But with all the great market research out there, you'd think they could target these things better. Most men I know would be quite happy if they never had to think about the words "yeast infection."
- Anything advertised on the folded over half page that comes on top of the Sunday comics. How are you supposed to get your "Get Fuzzy" fix with that annoying paper flap tacked onto the section? I make it a point to rip it off without reading it. Take that, corporate America!
- Wal-Mart -- I confess to not really being 100% faithful to this boycott. But the company still bugs me. They have a penchant for image campaigns where they promote themselves as a down-home Mom and apple pie retailer. Of course, this after they killed off all the real Mom and apple pie retailers with their giant suburban mega-warehouses. (I did a paper on this for my marketing class -- and I had to admit that their strategy was brilliant, in a Dr. Evil sort of way.)
Monday, September 08, 2003
We are now facing a time of chill, with repercussions both silly ("freedom fries") and substantial (tourism and commerce in both directions have taken a hit). There is a great deal of hand-wringing about it on both sides of the Atlantic. No one seems quite certain how to deal with it -- least of all the French, who thought it a swell idea to enlist Woody Allen to tell us, as a specialist in ethics, how we are being unfair to France.Go read the rest right here.
As usual, it falls to a journalist to make things right. This has happened before.
Back in 1834, during the Jackson administration, the French-American rift was trivial, really -- largely a matter of bookkeeping: We sought reparations for damage done to American shipping during the Napoleonic wars, and France was stiffing us. The whole matter was easily resolvable, but President Jackson was given to gruff, obliquely threatening pronouncements -- "bring 'em on" kind of stuff -- and before you knew it, France had recalled its Washington ambassador, and invited ours to leave Paris. There was muffled talk of war.
At that precise moment, a young French writer named Alexis de Tocqueville published a book about the national character of America, gleaned from a nine-month visit here. Democracy in America proved an instant balm to global tensions, not because it was entirely complimentary -- it wasn't -- but because it was entirely honest. It confronted openly the differences between Americans and the French, and found much for the French to like and admire. War reparations were paid and cultural exchanges began again between the two countries, with young Tocqueville himself in the middle of it -- an ambassador without portfolio.
Tocqueville had nine months, but he probably dillydallied. You know the French.
I figured six days should do it.
Sunday, September 07, 2003
One was a partial copy of a letter apparently written by one of my grandmother's relatives in which she catalogged some of the wedding gifts and gave a description of the wedding day. Here's a snippet:
I'll try to tell you all about the wedding now. Whew!! what a job. Well, here goes and your mother can supply the gaps and details.Alas, the copy of the letter I have ends there, so we'll have to rely on the newspaper for a description. I found a copy of an article (and bridal photograph) that ran in the Washington Evening Star on May 21, 1942. It reads, in part:
It started about five:thirty A.M. with me waking up and almost shreiking with joy because I peeked out of the window and found out it was going to be a perfectly beautiful day. We all got up later and had breakfast on the installment plan and then tried to get Lucile to pack her things from her bureau and dressing table. She started in the middle and went both ways, so up to now we haven't any of us been able to find anything! In the middle of it I happened to think that she didn't have anything to sit on besides her Davenport and one big chair, so I went up to the store room and got out two of the four solid walnut shairs that belonged to my grandmother and which a good friend had kept for me all these years until about four months ago. One was O.K, two were hopeless as far as any amateur cabinet work was concerned, but the fourth only needed a brace. So Papa put one on and I washed them and then waxed them. Then your mother and I upholstered them in a blue linen ex-skirt, and PRESTO-! they matched her livingroom suite! Then we got down the cedar gatelegged table Papa made and she is borrowing it for her dinette until she gets one.
We had just gotten that settled and Lucile off to the beauty parlour when Roscoe arrived so we packed everything into his car and Dolores and your Dad helped him over to the apartment and got the things into it.
The next thing lovely that happened was Harry calling up unexpectedly from the airport and maybe THAT didnt set us wild with joy!! We weren't expecting him until quarter of seven and were worried about the timing, as it takes 45 minutes or longer to get here from there, and the wedding was a seventhirty. While your Ma and Pa went to the airport with Papa, Dolores and I had already decorated the church in the afternoon, and I must say it looked beautiful. Roscoe had gotten a whole carload of laurel and pear blossoms, we had lilac, bridal wreath and forsythia, and Papa actually got two dozen gladiolas.
Miss Crumm Wed NearbyI am fascinated by this sort of thing. Here are the lives of my forbears laid out from the grand to the mundane. My grandmother, who has never let me live down my frantic last-minute packing binge at the end of my senior year of college, is revealed as a young bride frantically throwing things in boxes.
Amid decorations of spring flowers and palms the marriage of Miss Lucile Marianne Crumm of Mount Ranier to Mr. Roscoe Daniel D--* of College Park took place last evening in the Mount Rainier Methodist Church, where the Rev. Clarkson R. Banes officiated at 7:30 o'clock.
The daughter of Mrs. Mildred E. Crumm, the bride was escorted to the altar by her grandfather, Mr. Christian Eckert, and given by him in marriage. She wore a gown of white satin made on princess lines with long sleeves, a sweetheart neckline and a full skirt ending in a train. Her veil was fingertip length and edged with lace and was held by a pearl trimmed net coronet. A necklace of pearls, the gift of the bridegroom, was her only ornament, and she carried a shower bouquet of white roses and lillies of the valley.
Out-of-town guests attending the wedding included Mr. and Mrs. George Eckert of Chicago and Mr. and Mrs. B.A. Kilby of Laurel, Md.
Mr. and Mrs. D-- will be at home after May 1 at the Prince George Garden apartments in Hyattsville.
* name omitted to prevent voyeuristic googling of this site.
I would not be born for another 33 years, yet I feel like I know these people.
As we sit in my living room, my friend Brian keeps glancing anxiously out the window toward the parking lot where he parks his car. He is checking for tow trucks -- he is convinced that the parking company is out to get him.
He is obsessed by this.
Of course, his concerns are not totally unjustified. He just mailed a late payment, and the last time the company was convinced he owed money, his car was towed. But when you get right down to hi, there's something a little odd about Brian's relationship with his car.
"I think parking lot attendants are automatons," he tells me. "They're an unwitting part of the system." The "system," in Brian's world, includes parking attendants, the police, tow truck drivers, meter maids, and anyone else who tells him where he can park his car. (Or for that matter, how he can drive it -- he says he doesn't "believe in 'no right turn on red' signs.")
This is no idle pursuit. Brian spends an almost frightening amount of time coming up with ways to foil tow truck operators.
"If you park your car," he says, "leave the wheels turned in such a way that if the two truck pulls it out, the car will turn and smash into something!" And woe betide the poor schlub who does succeed in towing his car. There is a scrape on one of the doors left when his mother ran into a snow bank. "If my vehicle is ever towed," he says, "I'll have something to hold up against the towing company for damaging the car!"
I wonder if perhaps this kind of fanaticism runs in the family. Brian says that his uncle removes the starter from his engine whenever he parks it. And although he boasts that this technique once foiled a thief, you have to admit that there's something a little, uh, weird about taking a wrench to the engine every time you pull into a parking lot.
On top of everything else, Brian's car has a name. Baby. "I think of my car as feminine," he says. And by anyone's estimation, "Baby" leads a pretty sheltered life. Her oil gets changed religiously every 3000 miles, and her fluids are checked on a biweekly basis. She gets a wax job every time she heads for Syracuse. And Brian refuses to move the car, turn on the defroster, the radio, or any other accessory until the car has been running for at least 45 seconds. ("It puts strain on the engine.") And if Brian has to avoid hitting something or someone, Brian says he tries not to slam on the brakes. ("It would cause them to wear.")
Despite all this rationalization, you have to wonder if there is something else to this whole car obsession. For most people, a car is simply a device that gets them from point A to point B. Brian's car seems to fall into the category of loved one.
"Have you ever considered," I ask him, "that you might be using your car as a surrogate for a woman?"
"Shut up," he says. "I'll tell you when I have a girlfriend."
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
--My friend John, during a discussion on how the people who moved into his old house are taking out the toilet, which I believe was originally given to his mother, and giving it to him, and then he's taking the one out of his new house and giving it to someone yet to be named.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Not that the Enquirer's archives are the most important archival collection out there. But they are a slice of American life, and it's tragic to see them destroyed.
For more, see this New York Times story.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
More angst, I know. I'm just worried I'm going to wake up one day and be 40 without having done anything but slaved away at a job. :-(
Alright, enough of this. Back to PHP.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
So why was I at work so late tonight? I'm working on a collaborative development project with several other people, one of whom is at another branch of our company several hundred miles away. (This is my first experience using CVS, and I now don't know how I got this far without it.)
Right now I am little less enthused about the whole collaboration thing, though. About a week ago, we decided that we were going to lock in the database schema. So I went ahead and migrated a bunch of our old data so that we'd have something to test with (and eventually launch.)
Next thing I know, the other guy is making more changes to the schema. That's ok -- they're good changes, and they tack on to the end of what I've already done. Not a huge deal.
This afternoon, he e-mailed me again. Only this time he had totally reworked the structure of major chunks of the database, changing datatypes, altering field names, and generally wreaking havoc. So at about 6:00 PM I basically had to start from scratch and do another complete data migration to get it into the new, supposedly locked down for real, schema.
Once again, most of his changes are very good, and they will improve the product in the long run. But at the same time, I feel like I just wasted 8 hours of my life redoing work I'd already finished! And this sucker's got to launch in just over a week. Yikes - I feel some all-nighters coming on!
Layne points out that all-nighters are a "telltale sign of sucky planning and mismanagement." Or they could just be a sign of two many projects and not enough staff. Which, come to think of it, would fall under the heading of "sucky planning and mismanagement."
Oh, and the phantom Mary Kay truck basher hasn't returned my call. Maybe her two-year-old is screening her messages for her.
Monday, August 11, 2003
I'm sorry. I hit your truck. Please call so we can get my ins. info to you.WTF??!? I began to walk around the truck, and at that point realized that the side had been bashed in and there was paint scraped off.
I don't exactly know when this happened, although I suspect it may have been on Saturday -- I heard the doorbell ring, but was not exactly fully dressed, and by the time I got to the door there was no one there. She left a business card, though, so I'm hoping she is well insured. But this is a hassle I did not need to deal with this week.
It is incredible -- definitely worth the long wait!
The Shelby Street bridge, which has been also been called the Sparkman Street Bridge, the Broadway Bridge, the McGavock Street Bridge, and even the "Korean War Veterans 1950-53 Memorial Bridge," was originally built in 1909, along with a companion bridge at Jefferson Street that has since been replaced. The bridge was among the longest in the nation when it was completed.
The bridge was built in the midst of a great deal of commercial activity. On the east side of the river, it bisected the operations of the Nashville Bridge Company, which manufactured barges. A building (with an entrance at the bridge level) can still be seen, and the remains of derricks used for launching barges are also visible:
On the west side, the bridge descends over an old railway line, and emerges into the "SoBro" area -- that's what the Chamber of Commerce calls the area South of Broadway. In the 19th century, it was first known as "Black Bottom," a notorious slum containing "A conglomeration of dives, brothels, pawnshops, secondhand clothing stores, filthy habitations accompanied by the daily display of lewdness and drunkenness on the sidewalks and redolent with the stench of every vile odor," according to one resident. Later in the century it became known as Hay Market -- an area of town used for swapping cows, horses, and cow/horse paraphenalia. You can still see traces of this on some of the remaining buildings:
The Bridge now emerges very near the square that is currently flanked by the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Hilton, and the Gaylord Entertainment Center. (Home of the recent Brewer's Festival for those of you who are keeping track at home.) The fourth side of this square is currently a Metro firehouse, but will soon be home to the new concert hall for the Nashville Symphony. (That's just a mural below -- the real building hasn't been started yet.)
The bridge itself is a joy to walk over. It soars high into the air, and offers superb views of the Nashville skyline, the river, the Coliseum, and even the new Gateway bridge being built to its south. (The Shelby Street bridge was deemed unsafe for vehicular traffic, so it was converted to a pedestrian bridge and a new bridge was planned to carry Shelby Avenue across the river.)
The only downside is the noise, pollution, and visual blight created by the Nashville Thermal Plant, a humongous garbage incinerator built on the Nashville waterfront in the mid-1970s. At that point in history downtown was seen as a good place to send trash, demolish buildings to create parking lots, etc. Nowadays, Nashville is more interested in fostering a livable city, and the plant is scheduled to go away soon. There is some debate over what to do with the riverfront real estate it currently occupies, but the most interesting idea is to build a new downtown ballpark for the Nashville Sounds, our minor league baseball team. They currently play in an aging ballpark in a remote corner of the city that is only accessible by car. Moving this ballpark downtown near the shopping and entertainment district (and next to the bridge) would be a great idea -- keep your fingers crossed!
I ended up spending several hours walking around on the bridge and downtown, and I'm seriously considering occasionally walking across the river to work. (The main barrier to this is my chronic inability to get up in the morning!)
In any case, this bridge definitely goes on my list of must-see Nashville attractions, along with Bicentennial Mall.
Saturday, August 09, 2003
Friday, August 08, 2003
It is actually not a bad place, but it suffers from an overdose of "little-old-lady" decor. It has institutional green walls in many of the rooms, vintage 1960s light fixtures, customized switch plates, and flowered contact paper on the kitchen cabinets. But overall it is in pretty good condition, and with some paint and minor remodeling it has real potential. It even has a back yard with a large shed that functions as a workshop -- I'm a bit jealous of that!
We spent the better part of two days trekking back and forth between the apartment and the house, lugging all of my brother's earthly possessions from one place to another. (I helped him move into his apartment in 2001, so I've done this drill before.) We finished up the moving on Sunday afternoon, and then focused on important moving tasks: we left the shower curtain for later, but got the Playstation working right away. (This was my first time playing Grand Theft Auto Vice City, and I think I'm hooked!
That evening, my brother and I went out shopping and bought another window air conditioner. While we were gone, my Mom arrived from DC to see the house. Since none of us were in any shape to eat out, we got carry-out fried chicken for dinner. We then traipsed back to Maryland around midnight.
PhotosTop Left: Our first look at the house.
Top Right: Daniel shows off his empty living room. This is the before picture -- after much grunting and perspiration it looked like the picture in the bottom row.
Middle Left: Dad and Patrick carrying an easy chair. Well, half of one anyway. Hopefully it was supposed to come apart that way!
Middle Right: One of many architectural details in the house. Every switch plate and light fixture is different. Note the green paint -- the photo doesn't do it justice.
Lower Left: Patrick carries Daniel's giraffe into the house. When we were little, our grandfather made one of these wooden giraffes for each of us, and we had them in our rooms growing up. Mine is still in the attic at home, but my brother took his with him to Richmond. I'm not sure quite where it ended up in the house.
Lower Right: Dad views the carnage in the new living room, while the cat begins exploring. We set her free from her cardboard carrier just in time -- she was making pretty good progress clawing her way out!
Thursday, August 07, 2003
I know a man who has lived on one farm half a century. He sleeps in the room in which he was born in the dark. Yet his lambs and his pigs, the velvety roll of new sprouting wheat, the procession of seasons, the apple trees he palnted and has watched for years -- all are new to him each day. I have seen him stand and look at his sheep as if he were a city man long shut out from such sights. A sunset or a sunrise is to him a miracle new-performed each day. That man has the seeing eye. -- Detroit NewsPublished in the April 19, 1912 edition of the Carbon County News, which I found through the Utah Digital Newspapers project. Very cool.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Sunday, August 03, 2003
Friday, August 01, 2003
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
My grand housecleaning ambitions for the weekend basically fizzled. Oh, well, at least I'm taking advantage of the no classes thing while I can.
One of the two senators, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, said the idea seemed so preposterous that he had trouble persuading people it was not a hoax. "Can you imagine," Mr. Dorgan asked, "if another country set up a betting parlor so that people could go in — and is sponsored by the government itself — people could go in and bet on the assassination of an American political figure?"And meanwhile on the homefront, the administration is busy trying to dismantle what remains of the nation's passenger rail system, creating record-breaking budget deficits, and coming up with tax cuts for the rich.
Sorry for the political benders lately, but a times I get very frustrated about some of these things, and blowing off steam here seems more constructive then yelling at the computer. For my next post, I promise something more fun and decidedly non-political.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
In his April 25 speech at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, a couple of weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Kiesling made an explicit attempt to rally the internationalists. Princeton, he told the 200 or so students, faculty and foreign policy professionals in his audience, "used to be the heartland of a brilliantly successful foreign policy coalition" that shaped American diplomacy for most of the 20th century. It was a bipartisan alliance between liberal "Wilsonian idealists," with their humanist worldview, and the kind of conservative pragmatists who used international institutions to advance American economic interests. But the coalition now "lies in tatters," he said, and he offered his views on how this had happened:
September 11 offered a golden opportunity for anyone "savvy and unscrupulous enough to manipulate public fears," and the advocates of "hard-nosed neoconservatism" promptly seized it. They adopted "the power politics of the schoolyard as their model of human interaction" and reduced a complex moral universe to a permanent face-off between "the forces of light and the forces of darkness." They used "lies and half-truths" to build a case for invading Iraq as "a step toward a more complete power grab." As the neoconservatives began to drive American policy, old-school internationalists tried to come to terms with them, hoping to retain influence. But accommodation has proved no easy task.
"This is an administration at war, and you are with them or you are against them," Kiesling said.
Among Kiesling's former State Department colleagues you can find a variety of opinions on the need to forcefully remove Saddam Hussein. But there appears to be near-consensus on one point: American foreign policy in general has been dangerously militarized, and the diplomatic point of view devalued. [...] Chas. Freeman, the retired ambassador, is more direct. "We have a national mentality now that says, if you see a problem, shoot it! Because we know that we're very, very good at shooting things."
The deal is, you pay $20 to get in, and then you get a "bottomless cup" that lets you sample beer from a bunch of different brewers arrayed around the outside of the park. There is also live music, and part of the proceeds go to Second Harvest.
Altogether, a pretty great way to spend an afternoon. (The beer is free, but you have to pay a buck for the water!)
We hung out at the festival for most of the afternoon, then went and had dinner at Jack's Bar-B-Que, which serves the best barbeque in Nashville (in my opinion, that is!).Then back to the beer festival for a while longer. We finally closed out the night at Robert's Western World. Oh, and we took a few more catfish photos, too!
I walked from my house over to the park, which I like to think compensated in some small way for drinking beer all afternoon. The refurbished Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge is scheduled to reopen next week, which will make it a lot easier to hike from one side of the river to the other. (Right now all the working bridges are clustered on the other side of downtown.)
Here are some photos:
You can check out some more right here.
Friday, July 25, 2003
- 37206: My zipcode can beat up your zipcode.
- 37206: We'll Steal Your Heart AND Your Lawnmower.
- 37206: The Police don't know where it is either.
- 37206: We're the neighborhood your Mamma warned you about.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Tomorrow I go to work, and he goes back to frantic home improvement land. If I can escape work at a reasonable hour, I'll probably head back over -- he has a real problem if he can't get everything shipshape by Friday morning!
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Gore Vidal appears as himself, speaking in English dubbed in Italian and then subtitled in English. He says:
Rome is the city of illusions. Not only by chance, you have here the church, the government, the cinema. They all produce illusions, like you do and like I do. We're getting closer and closer to the end of the world because of too many people, too many cars, too many poisons. And what better city than Rome, which has been reborn so often? What place could be more peaceful to wait for the end from pollution and overpopulation? It's the ideal city for waiting to see if it will really come to an end or not.For me, the most striking of the many disconnected scenes in the film portrayed the entry of the film crew into a subway tunnel being dug under the city. Rome has only two subway lines, and they don't service many of the most popular destinations. This is because it's almost impossible to dig tunnels without running into important archeaological finds. Fellini uses this as a device to make a statement about art and progress. We descend through a roaring wasteland of subterranean pipes, tunnels, and ruins until we reach the forefront of the excavation, where giant robotic claws are eating their way through the earth. The work stops because a another cavity has been detected. The guide is exasperated -- work will have to stop for another two months while the archaeologists get involved. One of the foremen looks ill. The team starts up the insect-like claw and begins burrowing a tiny hole through the loose dirt. Suddenly the hole opens up and air begins roaring into the cavity. The team climbs through and finds a perfectly preserved, 2000 year old Roman house, filled with beautiful sculptures and frescoes. The camera lands on a figure bearing a striking resemblance to the sick construction foreman. The explorers continue to wander, witnessing mosaics covered by luminous pools of water, and come to a room with even more brilliant lifesize artwork. All this time, air is roaring into the cavern. Suddenly, though, the frescoes begin to dissolve, destroyed by the air. The very act of witnessing the art has destroyed it.
I didn't appreciate the movie at first. It rambles, and it's not the sort of movie that yields a clear message without a lot of thought. But the more I watched it, the more I got in the groove of Fellini's bizarre worldview.
While we're in the foreign film vein, I guess I could also offer my thoughts on L'Auberge espagnole, which I saw with my mom and brother in the newly-restored Avalon Theater in DC when I was home a few weeks ago. Unlike Roma, this movie has a very clear political message -- in fact, you walk out of the theater feeling like you've been beaten over the head. The tone reminds me of the sort of proletarian epiphanies found in radical novels like Jews without money and Germinal.
In this case, however, the utopian vision is not of a socialist paradise, but instead of pan-European unity brought into being by the youth of the continent.
This no doubt sounds heavy, so I should back up and say that this film is, first and foremost, a very amusing comedy about a bunch of college students in a cramped apartment in Barcelona. In fact, you could easily mistake it for a feature length version of MTV's The Real World. The residents of the apartment are from many different countries, and despite their initial stereotypes and squabbles, they end up becoming fast friends. But the movie also functions at a more allegorical level (true to form, the British characters end up literally in bed with the Americans), and its position on the development of a trans-national European identity are clear. In some places, the film has been released under the English titles "Euro Pudding" and "Pot Luck," which pretty much sum up the director's vision.
Today's Washington Post has an article about the exact phenomena chronicled in the movie. It seems young people in Europe are traveling between countries and breaking down cultural barriers like never before. It strikes me that Bush's myopic foreign policy is probably giving wings to this trend -- it's easy for people from many cultures to find common ground in their dislike for American unilateralism and military posturing.
In any case, I recommend this movie. If you're looking for a light comedy, you can enjoy it at that level. If you want something to think about, it's got that too.
All right, enough of this. I'm going to bed.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm supposed to be working on my exam. Can't a fella goof off just a little?