No Fancy Name
Saturday, July 31, 2004
a letter from a soldier
Today, I got a letter from a soldier. I wrote to him (and some others) because their buddies/commanding officers/family members indicated they didn't get any mail/needed moral support, via This particular soldier's name is Alejandro, and he's from Miami. He's been in the Army for 6 years and wants to be a career soldier. Right now, he's in Baghdad, and has been there for a good long while. You know what he asked for? Kool-Aid, lemonade and double-A batteries. Congress approved how much money for Bush's war games, and our soldiers can't get some fricking powdered drink mix and batteries for their flashlights? Alejandro's getting a box of powdered drink mix and batteries from me. "Thanks for defending our country, here's some stuff from Wal-Mart that the government couldn't provide for you." Seems kind of sad.

so, the cool news from the other day is...
I get to be a teacher! I was asked by the good folks at Online School of Design to develop and teach a course called "Databases and Dynamic Web Design". Yeah, I think I can handle that. If you know me personally (or maybe I've blathered on about it, somewhere in my blog), then you know that all I've ever really wanted to do is teach. There are things about me that make it not such a wonderful thing to stand up in front of a room full of people, so obviously I don't do it. But I always wanted to, and I even had the mindset of "screw it, whatever" and was going to do a Linguistics MA so I'd be qualified to teach comp classes in the community colleges here, but the stupid classes are taught in the fricking middle of the damn day so that's out the window...and another story for another time. Anyway, I get to be a teacher.

(Those of you who are real academics, please don't laugh. In no way do I equate teaching and online class with a "special topic" license from the New York State Board of Education, with the subjects you teach and methodologies used to teach them. Teacher "you" != Teacher "me", and I certainly recognize that!)

Anyway, is an online school that offers single classes as well as three levels (standard, advanced, master) of certificate programs in graphic design, Web design, multimedia, digital arts, and business marketing design. My class would be a required course for a few different tracks within the various levels of the Web design certification; there are currently about 500 students in the Web track. Since students take classes at their own pace, they can start it whenever they want, and work through the lessons as they feel comfortable. The underlying software application is actually pretty good -- and I'm the first one to disparage poorly-designed software. Each lesson has a lecture followed by a quiz and exercise (more like a project, in this case) that they turn in to me. I give them feedback, or have them do it again, and the cycle goes on. I was told it would be reasonable to expect an average of 10-15 new students per month, which is just fine with me. Of course, I'd welcome more than that, because I get paid per student, in addition to a chunk for developing the course.

I know this isn't spectacular news of relevance to everyone, certainly not worthy of the teaser the previous post turned out to be (I didn't mean to do that!). In fact, when I told my bestest bud, the conversation went something along the lines of "but you hate dealing with dumbasses" (which is true). I tried to explain that it's different when you get paid to do it (it is to me, at least) but she didn't buy that. She reminded me that we have clients who are dumbasses, I hate dealing with them, and they pay us. I have my own definition of dumbass, and students who are learning something for the first time, who are paying a chunk of change to take a class and thus will (likely) put forth a fair amount of effort, do not fit the definition. They may eventually, but that's their problem. Dumbasses are people who don't try, and expect you to do their work for them. Or, they're people who buy a $20 book and think that gives them the right to call you at your workplace instead of looking for help on that pesky Internet thing. Dumbasses are clients who don't remember certain things about design or process, which you've gone over every month (for years) with them, and then screw up your workflow and their schedule because they're idiots who don't "get" things. You get the picture. Students are not dumbasses until their throw away their opportunities and start taking up space. I may get some of those, sure, but the structure of the school, the certification programs, the lessons, and oh yeah, the cost, sort of filters all those out.

So, I'm stoked.

Friday, July 30, 2004
bucks v. brains spark
Today's spark: If you had the opportunity to become either the richest or smartest person in the world, which would you chose?

I know sparks are supposed to help you write long passages about meaningful things, but this is going to be short. I would want to be the smartest person in the world. Really smart people will find a way to make money (if that's the motivation). But being a dumb, rich person, while much more fun, wouldn't be very fulfilling. I feel guilty enough, getting money for some of the things I do, and I can't imagine just having money without earning it. On any given day, I might want that, on the surface, but not because money defines my life, just that money pays the bills. The less stress I have about paying the bills, the more things I can do!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
voter apathy and the young folks
On last night's local news, young folks (18-24) were weighing in on the upcoming election. "Weighing in" isn't really the was more like "I'm not going to vote. Why should I?" One young lady -- a recent high school graduate with a young kid, going to community college and working two jobs -- said "No politician knows what I go through on a daily basis. Why should I support one of them." I don't disagree with her that the presidential nominees have no idea of the trials and the tribulations of the lower economic classes working very hard to better themselves. But, and call me crazy, it seems to me that the way to correct this problem would be to become politically active. "Politically active" can mean so many different things, ranging from "I'm going to quit my job and go be Howard Dean's press secretary" (college friend of mine did that) to "Yes, I will cast a vote" (period). But simply doing nothing, in my opinion, is disgraceful. Don't we have a responsibility, as Americans, to exercise the right for which so many have died? What, exactly, is accomplished by simply not voting?

I have a friend who exemplifies "duty, honor, country", for whom "not voting" is just not an option. On election days, voting is the number one priority. You know that little "I voted!" sticker you get after voting? She wears it like the Medal of Honor, it's that important. It makes sense, though...I kid her that she's "American Royalty", being a direct descendent not only of several First Families, but Peregrine White himself, the first white child born in New England (1620, on the Mayflower as it was docked in the harbor), is her 8th-great-grandfather. When beginning to document her family history, it became easier for me to count the number of ancestors who didn't fight in the Revolutionary War, than those who did. The Civil War? Same thing, and this time it included the Irish side of her family, which had just landed in America a few years before (pesky Potato Famine). Flash forward to the World Wars -- whereas my ancestors joined up in order to gain their citizenship, the men in her family fought in every war that called them, because they were citizens. Her GG-grandfather was the US Minister to China in 1880, and in 1887, he was the US Minister to Turkey. Her G-grandfather was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of books such as The Foundations of American Constitutionalism and Steps in the Development of American Democracy. Like I said, "not voting" is not an option in her family.

I have no doubt that my friend will (continue to) raise her son with the sense of duty, honor, country that runs through her family. I just wish she could go beat some sense into the young folks who say "why should I vote?" (and who mean it).

wow, this really is craptastic!
Even my mother is smarter than this (sorry, mom) on: "Lemme in! I gotta use the innanet!"

i would move to illinois...
just to vote for Barack Obama for the US Senate. Of course, I won't, but that's ok, because unless he does something terribly, terribly wrong, he'll be a presidential candidate soon enough. At least, based on his speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, I sure hope he will be. Son of a Kenyan and a Kansan? That's the melting pot I heard about from Schoolhouse Rock.

Some speech highlights:
"...A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief-I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper-that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one..."

"...There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States...."

"...In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here-the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America!"

You can read the entire transcript at the WaPo, without even registering! If you come across a video of the speech, watch it, because it's even better than the transcript. I think CNN has video without needing to be registered for anything.

Anyway, I sure hope he doesn't turn out to be some lunatic, because that would really suck.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
would have been a good name for a blog...
"one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind". some of you will get it, some of you will not. it's ok. someone probably has a blog named that, or "big day, big day, need a brain". and that's how my day started, in an IM conversation between my boss and myself, at 7:04 AM. i said something like "what's up?" (which is code for "good morning, how are you, and can't I please keep working on my own stuff and not start on pesky work for paying clients?") and I get references like this. my responses were limited to things like "huh? what? too early for wit."

i voted!
for my favorite tv/movie scientist(s). There's quite a diverse group of contenders: Spock, Doctor Frankenstein, Frank 'N' Furter, Beaker & Honeydew, Doctor Strangelove, Q, The Doctor, Dana Scully, Doctor Evil and Doctor Emmett Brown. I, of course, voted for...can you guess? Can you? That's right: the crack team of Beaker & Honeydew! Meep meep meep. [link via greengrl]

Monday, July 26, 2004
bored. to. tears.
I am very glad that summer sessions are short, because the class I am currently taking ("Fundamentals of Human Resource Management") is draining the life right out of me. The information is fine (mostly legal aspects of HR) and the instructor is actually entertaining (he's not an ass, he has a sense of humor, his lectures are very informative) but the class is FOUR HOURS LONG. Twice a week, 6:30 to 10:45pm, for 5 weeks. Luckily, we usually don't go the full four hours, but still, three hours of sitting on my butt, after a long hard day of sitting on my butt, well, it takes a toll on my butt. The business building is completely wired (ethernet and power supply at every seat), and I am grateful for that -- I can't imagine taking a business class without my laptop. I do use it to take notes (my handwriting is atrocious), but being able to check the news/sports/blogs keeps me awake.

Believe it or not, this class is an elective. We have to take three electives along with the core classes for our concentration (mine is management), but with all the cutbacks in the budget results in cutbacks in classes. So, not only are the electives the first to go, the ones that remain are at odd times. With only two more semesters to go (fall and spring), I didn't want to take the chance that I'd be one elective short, so I grabbed this one during the summer session. Next semester's elective is a bit more relevant to me, "Management Issues in High Tech Firms". Yeah, they tend to have issues.

did you ever...
have a really cool thing just drop in your lap, and you just want to tell everyone about it, but then you don't because you haven't signed anything yet and it would be just your luck that it would all get blown to hell before that happened? Yeah, me too. RIGHT NOW. But I have to wait. Very, very frustrating.

Oh, in other news...remember that really cute puppy? She was adopted into a nice family over the weekend. Yay!

Saturday, July 24, 2004
decaf is NOT a good thing
I thought I'd be a good little girl and switch to decaf while dieting. That lasted exactly 11 hours. My daily liquid intake is one pot of coffee throughout the morning (Those "10 cup" coffeemakers? Who the hell measured the cups? 1 mug = 2 cups. They should definitely measure in mugs.) and then water, water, water throughout the rest of the day. So, post-gym I went to SBUX (there's actually one right across the parking lot, and I did not drive to it, as several other gym-goers did after their workouts. What the hell? You just worked out, now you're going to drive 100 yards?) and got my venti drip...decaf. Two hours later I was zonked out on the couch with a raging headache, and stayed that way all afternoon. I just made a pot of coffee, and headache is magically gone. Screw decaf.

back at the ol' homestead
My friends are back from Kauai (at least, I assume they are) so I spent last night at my own home, with my own furry friends. I'm not sure they even knew I was gone, just that their food bowl was empty. Everything quickly settled back to normal: Toby took a long nap in the laundry basket, the baby curled up with me on the couch and watched Law & Order, and Max hung out on the top of the couch-back cushions. Whoop de do, what a terribly exciting life we lead.

Today I went to the gym for the first time in awhile, not because I was housesitting but because I was working so much lately that following my early-morning gym routine wasn't possible. It's unfortunate, because I could feel myself just getting fatter and fatter. I had actually signed up to do a year-long diet study at Stanford, in which I would be randomized to one of four popular diets (Atkins, traditional, Ornish, Zone), receive 8 weeks of classes on how to do the diet properly, then would "do my best" to stay with the diet for a year, with various measurement checkpoints along the way. Stanford is doing this study "to scientifically test the health claims being made by their proponents. Findings will fill important gaps in our knowledge, and have an impact on both consumer and health professionals who remain confused about the benefits and risks of these diets." It's actually a really cool thing, but I had to take my name off the list because of conflicts between the meeting times in the fall, and classes.

But, today I started the Zone diet, on my own. Atkins doesn't work for me -- I actually gained a lot of weight during the induction phase, and I just can't survive without some sort of carbs. I walked around for a few weeks like a drooling zombie, without any carbs. It was pretty pathetic, and not conducive to work. I am eating my Zone breakfast right now, which is two pieces of rye bread, topped with swiss cheese and wheat germ, broiled in the toaster oven. It's really good, actually. I pick my meals through eDiets, and since I'm lazy, I tend to eat the same breakfast, lunch and snacks for a whole week. It makes grocery shopping much easier.

Friday, July 23, 2004
amy richards, and being pro-choice
I've had this story nagging at me for the last week or so, because it raised all sorts of issues that, to be honest, I never have to deal with....but I couldn't get it out of my head. I barely go out into the world, let alone engage in debate about the fundamental rights of all people, and what not; I have my set of opinions, and they're on the liberal side of the fence. But I don't particularly hate/think are evil/want to exile to an island those on the other side of the fence. "Hate" and "evil" are really, really strong words. Sure, I use them all the time, as in "I hate this client" or "That particular marketing manager is evil and needs to die", but that's work-related, not real world. Anyway, the point is that I'll listen to and consider any well-reasoned, "this is my opinion and I'm not trying to force it on you", respect-laden argument. That being said, it doesn't matter if it's a liberal spouting off or a conservative -- I'm not going to waste my time listening to or participating in a "discussion" consisting of personal attacks and judgments, with poorly-formed arguments at its core.

[NOTE: read the story if you want any of the rest of this to make sense; summarizing the story doesn't work]

But it's the former type of discussion (well-reasoned, respectful) and not the latter (vitriol) that one finds (for the most part) in the comments going on in Hugo Schwyzer's blog, namely these posts:
    - Crying with rage at Amy Richards
    - More on Amy Richards
    - One more on Amy Richards, and "Choice for Men"

Some of the well-done posts with good discussion, from the pro-choice side, are (note, these are just the ones I've read and I'm sure there are plenty more):
    - When Is An Abortion Okay, and Who Gets To Decide? (from Trish Wilson's blog)
    - Regarding Amy Richards & Abortion (from alas, a blog)
    - Freedom of Choice -- But Only On Certain Terms (from alas, a blog)

The question Hugo originally posed was "Anyone on the pro-choice side want to make a case that what this woman did was morally defensible?" Hugo is pro-life, as are most of his readers, but the ensuing discussion was a heart-felt one from both sides. I didn't jump into the commenting fray, primarily because I didn't have a good argument. I am pro-choice, and believe Amy Richards has the right to choose. But, given what was related in the story -- and possibly because of how the story was told -- I couldn't defend her on moral grounds. Or maybe I could, but I didn't want to. Sure, I could legally defend her, as in "she can legally choose, and she did", but I found the story distasteful.

Not "wrong", not "evil", not "immoral," but distasteful. Selective reduction happens frequently, such as when the health of the fetuses is an issue, or the health of the mother. I'm sure it happens (more frequently than the Amy Richards example) when the parent(s) just "can't", for whatever their reasons, deal with multiple births. What made this story distasteful to me were the proper nouns thrown into the story -- Staten Island, Costco, Boston Pops, Symphony Hall. As in "I'm going to have to move to Staten Island" and "I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise" and "I had just finished watching a Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall," the is irrelevant to the tale of selective reduction except to highlight one more material thing valued by Amy Richards, that I personally read as "and I'll have to give up my symphony tickets, too."

I don't know what Amy Richards was trying to accomplish by telling her story (and that's what it was, as the byline reads "By Amy Richards as told to Amy Barrett", although I'm not sure what would have been different had it been a written essay, except perhaps longer). If it was to simply say "I'm a woman, I can choose", well, that's just dandy. You can, and you should be able to. If it was to make people think, well that's certainly happened although I fear it may have polarized the camps more than anything, because the story seemed so...callous.

Thursday, July 22, 2004
name-calling schmuck
It's a good thing Mac doesn't live in California, because I don't think she could bear living in Schwarzenegger's state. Heck, she lives 3000 miles away, and she calls him out regularly. Then again, it's not too difficult, given all that he's done while in office. Some highlights from "On Girlie Men and Our Manly Governor" (LA Times link, see bugmenot for creds), in which Steve Lopez does an index-like take on what we've been through. Some highlights:
Total dollar amount of the 2003-04 budget signed by ex-Gov. Gray Davis: $99.1 billion.

Total amount of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's first budget after promising to shrink government: $103 billion.

Number of employees on Gov. Schwarzenegger's staff who make $100,000 or more: 14.

Number of employees on Gov. Davis' staff who made $100,000 or more: 8.

Pay concessions Gov. Schwarzenegger vowed to extract by playing hardball with the California prison guards union: $300 million.

Amount of pay concessions actually negotiated by Schwarzenegger with the prison union: $108 million.

And so on. Sigh.

i'm not a dog person, but...
Today, I played with the CUTEST PUPPY EVER. Kate is the president of a rescue, and as such, she rescues dogs from bad situations. This particular situation was a "food aggressive" puppy. Humane society workers shove a plastic arm in a dog's face while it's being fed, and if it tries to bite it, they think it's food aggressive. There's a scale of 1 to 10 for aggressiveness, and if you're a 10, you pretty much get euthanized. I'll grant you, there are plenty of dogs who actually are food aggressive, and it's a bad thing. But, if you're a stray or a puppy who doesn't know any better, and/or you've had to fight for your food if you had any at all, well, I'd probably bite the strange plastic thing being shoved in my face, too. So Kate goes and rescues this particular "10", and within like half an hour the puppy isn't food aggressive anymore. She's nippy and licky, sure, but she's a puppy. She is also very smart, and playful and just...a great little puppy. Kate, of course, has no idea what kind of dog she is...the description on the CARE puppy page said "Beagle/Border Collie/Corgi?" -- a little vague. Unfortunately, "undeniably cute" isn't a recognized breed. It took several tries to get this picture (and that's my arm in the background), but come on...that's a cute puppy. She didn't have a name until this afternoon; Kate was going to name her "Bo", because Bo Derek was also a 10, but "Bo" sounds an awful lot like "No", which the puppy's been hearing a lot of, lately. So, her name is Dez. Dez is Portuguese for "ten".

a wee bit o' hope for the future
Student's film winning awards, changing minds -- high school senior Zach Landman, "a white rich kid from the suburbs who's probably never come in contact with that situation at all", makes an award-winning, 12-minute movie, "A Nation Divided". Via greengrl, who says "Yet another reminder that there are a lot of amazing kids out there, who will eventually make their mark in our society."

Can he hurry up and do that, please?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
another silly quiz, but this time from IKEA
Via Rana (who is a RISKA hall mirror), comes the IKEA Family Personality Test...from IKEA itself! I am an OBSERVATÖR TV stand. Ok....
OBSERVATÖR TV stands are usually described by their friends as being good listeners, quick-witted and with a keen eye for observation. Enemies, on the hand, see them as watchful, suspicious, trouble-making control-freaks. Such criticisms do not worry TV stands too much, since you know exactly who your friends and enemies are. More importantly, you know who you are. Other important qualities of the OBSERVATÖR TV stand include self-knowledge and the ability to see things in perspective, as well as individualism and a sense of humour. In troubled times, TV stands may be prone to attacks of melancholy, followed by feelings of cynicism. At such times, the OBSERVATÖR TV stand should take care not to be superior in his/her dealings with friends. There is nothing more risky than taking your friends for granted.

TV stands may not admit it, but the fact is that they enjoy a good gossip, hence the well-known phrase: "TV stands know about it before it even happens". If you want to be in the know, talk to an OBSERVATÖR TV stand.

There you have it!

mmmm, donut...
with a straw, even! These aren't for the Atkins crowd...nor should they be for me, either! But I'll be trying one, that's for sure. [via BoingBoing]

oh, those boys...
'Eye' spiffs up Bayside man [from NY Newsday]. Yes, it's amazing what switching from instant coffee will do for ya!

book writin'
Despite the trials and tribulations during the writing of my Plone book, my publisher hasn't dropped me. In fact, they want me to update my "immensely popular" (their words, not mine) book, Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL and Apache All-in-One, in anticipation of winter holiday shopping sprees. It's only been on the shelves since the previous winter holiday shopping spree, and it's already sold over 22K copies, so that's cool.

I'm such a hypocrite, though -- I complain about how much I hate writing books, then I go write/update another one. I wrote my first book, back in the olden days of 1999, because I wanted to publish something, and there were only two or three books out on the (then) new-fangled thing I picked to write about. I wrote a second book on the same topic, but geared toward a different audience and in a different style (step by step and with lots of pictures), and that one was well-received. Over the next two years, I wrote articles for Wired's Webmonkey, and for CNet and other things like that, and had tutorials and extras at my website, and I dutifully answered emails when people had questions, etc. Then things started to suck. The new-fangled stuff got really, really popular, and books started springing up all over the a result, friends/fans of other authors would write unfounded crappy reviews of all the books not authored by their friends, would fill my mailbox (and presumably those of other authors) with "you suck" messages, garbage like that. I could deal with those, because I knew it was just a bunch of stupid people trying to cause trouble.

But then a whole other gaggle of people started to surface -- the "I can't get my thumb out of my own ass, you have to help me" bunch. Now, I intentionally write books for beginners, so I know my audience is not the most technically-oriented audience in the world (when they start out to learn these things). I also know it's entirely possibly and in fact quite likely that things I write aren't crystal clear to all readers. I have no problem with clarifications along those lines...that's mostly what I do when making changes for new editions. My problem is with the people who do not pay attention to the book they're reading, then complain that it's my fault that they missed something clearly printed in bold text under a heading of its own. For example, "How do I start xyz thing? You suck. You should have told me how to start xyz thing instead of going from installing xyz thing to running a test with xyz thing. I can't believe you get paid to write books. You're a terrible writer. I can't get past chapter 1 because I can't start xyz thing, and it's your fault." After a few years of dutifully answering emails like this with something along the lines of "Please see the step-by-step instructions on page 6, under the heading 'How to Start XYZ Thing'", I stopped. I offer errata and downloadable code at my site now, and that's it. No contact info (although it's not all that difficult to find me, if one tries, and they do), nothing. It's my job to correct things I may have screwed up, but it's not my responsibility to hand-hold you through reading a page in its entirety. Argh. But then, there are people who buy my books and then call my office. I mean really, who in their right mind thinks that by buying my book, for which I get about a buck, gives them some special dispensation to call my workplace and ask for help/clarification/whatever? Do these people call Dr. Phil's office for clarification on something in the Ultimate Weight Loss Solution? Not that I'm anywhere near as popular as Dr. Phil, of course, but you get the point. Come to think of it, they probably do call him.

Despite the fallout from writing two successful books, I wrote a few more. I never know how many books to say I've written. Technically, I have nine (and soon to be ten) ISBN numbers under my belt, but those are comprised of books that have multiple editions...although work definitely goes into new editions, it's not like I re-wrote the darn thing. In other words, the numbers make it look like I've written way more than I have. Truth be told, I'll probably keep writing books as long as Sams/Pearson wants to pay me to do it. They're very good folk, there, and a lot of their books are quite good.

My profs in the B-school use a lot of Pearson Ed. books in class, and if I were a shit, I'd try to weasel free copies out of them. But then I think about people I know in academia, who write books and get squat for them. These sorts of books, the labors of love that can make or break a career, which are often the culmination of a life's work, etc. etc....those folks get like ten cents a copy for a book that doesn't sell nearly as many copies as mine. That sort of inequity really ticks me off, so I'll be the last person to ask for a free book, although any authors who want to send me one, from their comp stash, I'm fine with that. This last sentence was going to be a shout out to one of those academic types who edited an edition of something from the olden, olden days, but doing so would screw with the whole anonymity of the blogosphere thing. I'll just send along a dollar, to make up for sale that would have been. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
oh. my. god.
Michael Jackson to Be Father of Quadruplets

No words. I have no words.

UPDATE: now he says it isn't true. That's good. I wish he would just go away, though. [shudder]

"it was dark and stormy night..."
The results of the 2004 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been announced! What's that, you say? Why, it's probably the only thing for which the English Dept. at my school is known -- an annual parody contest in honor of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who began his novel, Paul Clifford, with "It was a dark and stormy night..." Hie thee hither to read the latest "winners" in numerous categories. My favorite at this very moment (there are plenty of good ones, though) is the runner-up:
"The notion that they would no longer be a couple dashed Helen's hopes and scrambled her thoughts not unlike the time her sleeve caught the edge of the open egg carton and the contents hit the floor like fragile things hitting cold tiles, more pitiable because they were the expensive organic brown eggs from free-range chickens, and one of them clearly had double yolks entwined in one sac just the way Helen and Richard used to be." --Pamela Patchet Hamilton, Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada

birthday spark
Today's spark: The most memorable birthday I had was...

When I turned [something like 10, I'm not sure], I had chickenpox. That alone would suck, having chickenpox on your birthday. But at the time, my brother was sick and in the hospital (pesky leukemia) and obviously it would be a very, very bad thing indeed had he caught the pox. So, I was staying with my grandmother (yeah, the one who has a problem with diversity), I had the chickenpox, my brother was in the hospital and my parents were with him (understandable). The sad thing is, there are pictures -- me, pox-ridden, with a cake and my grandmother. That was it.

The most memorable birthday I had which was a positive experience, was my most recent one. My bestest bud asked what I wanted to do, and I said that I wanted to go to a Warriors game. Good seats at an NBA game are not cheap, and we had good seats. I had never been to an NBA game before, although I am a huge sports fan. The best part was that it was just us, which, despite the fact she's my bestest bud, rarely happens. I can count on one hand the times we've hung out just the two of us (going to meetings, as she's also my boss, doesn't count), in the ten years we've known each other. It's just the way things work out, with families and what not (it should be noted that she has a kick ass partner, who is tied with Mel for smartest person I've ever known.)

My birthday falls at a crappy birthday time -- 5 days after Christmas -- so anytime I get/do something specifically for my birthday, it's memorable...and, save for the chickenpox year, not usually bad!

the pixies
This is from the "random recollections" file, prompted by Curtis' post The Art of the Jukebox. Best use of a 20th century song in a performance of a 17th century play: "Wave of Mutilation" by the Pixies, as performed by a member of Shenandoah Shakespeare Express during their performances of Macbeth in the 1992 season.

the obligatory pet-related post
For the longest time (10 years, in fact), it was just me and the boys -- Max (black cat in background) and Toby (orange tabby). The one in the foreground, that's Deuce (post-spaying, which accounts for the shaved belly), and I'll get to her in a moment. I lived with my boys in Durham NC, then we moved to San Jose CA (I drove, they flew), then we moved to Richmond VA (we all drove), then to Alexandria VA (more driving), then back to San Jose CA (and even more driving). When I picked them up at the airport, after that first trip westward, Max was one pissed-off cat, and I could hear his yowling from the parking lot. Toby was curled up under the blankie that went with him in his carrier, shaking like a leaf. He stayed like that for a good two days. From that point, I vowed we'd be driving together, if we ever moved again (and we did).

I've had Max and Toby since they were each about 2 months old. They're not from the same litter, but they're only about a month apart in age. Max and his littermates were left on the side of the road, near a vet hospital. A vet tech took them into the office and there they stayed, waiting for adoption. I happened to go to that vet hospital with my quasi-gf, as she had three cats to take in for checkups and I had nothing else to do that day. I ended up playing with a particularly gregarious little fella, and was sad when it was time to leave. The quasi-gf had to make a return trip with one of her cats, about a week later. I went along, and Max (as he would later be named, after Mad Max) was the only one of his litter still at the vet hospital. He came home with me a few days later. We lived in a crappy little duplex, and then I realized after about a month that we needed a roommate to help with the rent. It happened to be the summertime in a college town, which means there were plenty of people who needed a place to crash for a month or two, to participate in various camps or academic endeavors. We got a ballerina. This ballerina managed to step on my poor little Max, around midnight on July 4th. I freaked out, but miraculously enough, the emergency vet hospital not only was open at midnight on a holiday, but the vet was actually there. I plunked down my hundred bucks, determined his leg wasn't broken, and went home. It was a frosty few weeks until the ballerina left.

During the frosty time, the owner of the gelato/coffee place where I worked called me up and said "I have a cat for you". I had no intention of getting another cat. Max was only a few months old. But it seemed reasonable that Max should have a buddy, so I said "go on..." She told me that her next door neighbor had found a few-months-old orange tabby hanging out alone at the gas station. They scooped him up and had him in their shed, and would I come over and get him? I said of course, after work. Well, one of the neighbors didn't get the message, and took him to the pound. I immediately followed and said "No! I was going to take him." But he was already in the system, so I plunked down the sixty bucks to "reserve" him, and visited him every day for a week, in kitty quarantine. Then, Toby came home. After three whole seconds of hissing, Max and Toby became the best of buds.

Flash forward to 2001, and the three of us are living in San Jose. My boys are all grown up (18lbs each) and well-traveled. One day, I realized that Toby was throwing up an awful every day. He would eat his normal amount, act his normal lazy self, but couldn't keep his food down. I took him to the vet, and she determined that he had a "nervous stomach", which was plausible because he's always been a wee It may have had something to do with how another roommate's big ol' chow would wander around the duplex looking for Toby to chew on. Anyway, Toby didn't get better. Toby lost six pounds. Went back to the vet and finally found something -- a mass in his gut. They opened him up for a biopsy, and lo and behold: gastrointestinal lymphoma. It has a very low survival rate, but if you start the chemotherapy, you'll know within six weeks if it's going to "take". If it does, it's a two-year process before "you're cured!" is proclaimed.

Toby started the chemo. Thankfully, there is a veterinary oncologist in my town. We went every week for six weeks, and he responded well. He stopped throwing up, and he started to gain weight. So we kept on with the treatment. After a few months, the visits were monthly...every month for the next 18 months. Toby was the only one who made it, from the various cats and dogs who started treatment at the same time. We always went on the same day of the week, so we got to know the "Thursday crowd". It was very sad, when I realized that the "Thursday crowd" was a whole new set of animals, as none of the originals made it (except the Tobester). Toby is a happy, healthy, 18 pound cat again....$6000 later. He prefers chinese food takeout boxes to those fancy carpet-covered things that cats are supposed to like.

During the last few months of his chemo, there was a wee kitten also at the vet hospital. I hadn't seen it, but I heard its story: a weeks-old kitten, covered in some sort of caustic goo and thrown into the sewer. Vet tech heard her cries, rescued her, brought her into the vet hospital. Her little paws and face had the hair burned off them, from the caustic substance. She had pneumonia. She was very young, and understandably terrified of everything. She had been in the hospital for a month when Toby's favorite vet tech said something to the effect of "you should take her, you grow big cats" (It's true, I do). So, I disrupted my happy household and brought the baby home. When my friend Kate saw her, she said she was the absolute spitting image of her cat, Dexter. Dexter lived to be like 18 years old, and had died the year or so before. Since we couldn't really call a girl kitten "Dexter", she became "Deuce". But she's referred to now as "the baby", even though she's 2 years old, 13 pounds and, as you can see, queen of the world (or at least the aquarium)

Those are my kids. They are all quite unique and I love each of them dearly...and boy, do they have personalities! Max thinks he's a dog, and likes strawberry-banana smoothies. Toby would climb over burning coals for a french cut green bean. The baby? She wanders around carrying on a conversation with herself, and likes to be combed, a lot. Miss priss, that one.

Monday, July 19, 2004
well, this is embarrassing
Just when you think no one reads your blog, along comes a whole host of smart people who do, AND who call you on the carpet when you randomly (and incorrectly) muse in public.

Mark at Language Log has appropriately corrected my statement regarding the spelling of "D'oh". He points out that "Doh" is "preferred by the OED" and that it pre-dates the Simpsons. Ah yes, the Simpsons, for that was the usage to which I was referring:

d'oh [interjection] said when annoyed or disappointed; popularized by the character Homer Simpson in the animated television series The Simpsons, performed by Dan Castellaneta; written in the scripts as "annoyed grunt" -- Source: Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English

If I had taken any time to expand on my thought, it would have gone something like this:

The emails I receive daily, from clients who are trying to express the work they need completed, often contain one or more misused apostrophes and/or grammar-related issues which grate on my last nerve. But without fail, every single one of these people can correctly spell Homer Simpson's "D'oh," where "correctly" means "as I've always seen it written by Matt Groening, and he should know".

Or something like that, in which case I wasn't really "wrong"...but thanks for pointing out that I pretty much was. :) It was really meant to be a random thought on how poorly our clients express themselves, and in the future I'm just going to say that...

another silly quiz
I thought this quiz would be interesting [via kmsqrd] since I only went to high school for a year. The quiz is: What High School Stereotype Are You? and I am/was/whatever:

Oh, there's a big surprise. I thought, though, since I answered all the clothing-related questions with some variant of "black", I'd get categorized as Goth, but I was not.

whoo hoo, an A!
I actually got an "A" in a science class, in this case my BIO 101, "Origins of Life" summer class. Now, what would a 2nd BA student in the Business department be doing in a science class in the summer, you may ask? Cal State Univ. Advanced General Education this case, in the "Earth and the Environment" category. It was a very cool class, the best science class I ever took (ok, so I've only ever taken three others). There was a quiz or essay every day (it was only 16 days, 3 hours each day), and we watched the entire Evolution series from PBS. Good stuff. The instructor required uploading of all essays to, due to the immense amount of plagiarism in science classes at my school. Not only did I get an A, all my uploads were blue (blue = good, green = warning sign, red = very bad), which means I was completely original. I knew that, but it's nice to have the validation!

I am currently taking the second of two summer classes, BUS 150 - "Fundamentals of Human Resource Management". I'll write about that, soon...I know you all just can't wait to hear about it...

that owen goodyear, at it again
He writes, in "The Victorian Breakfast", about sausages:

One may not assume, as might "those below stairs", sufficient strength of character of the simple beasts whose fate it is to constitute one's breakfast sausage. Letters of recommendation will be required by all those of loftier station in life than that of oik. Once sausages of commendable moral rectitude have been obtained, it is common practice to "cook" them - by which, naturally, one means that task performed in the normal course of events by one's most corpulent servant.

Ok see, this (and the rest of his article) will be amusing to you if you either:
a) quit graduate school precisely because of this sort of thing (which was supposed to be your concentration)...not that I did that or anything...ahem. Oh yeah, I did.
b) stayed in graduate school and became a highfalutin (I mean that as a compliment) Victorianist with a sense of humor, at least one of whom reads my blog

All the rest of you, just move along...

Sunday, July 18, 2004
i'm torn
I could participate in a discussion at Hugo's blog, about a woman who was having triplets and aborted two of them "just because", or I could think of something witty to say about my friend Mel and her edginess (she's very edgy, and it's discussion-worthy).

I think I'll just take a short nap and then write about my cats.

random thought
One of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse of "you're" vs "your", "it's" vs "its", "they're" vs "their" and so forth. But you know what? EVERYONE knows how to properly spell "d'oh". Hm.

Saturday, July 17, 2004
computer history museum
In the GoogleBlog, they noted that one of their original server racks can now be found in the Computer History Museum. I think I knew about this museum, but for some reason thought it was just a bunch of guys with a big garage and a hankering for TRS-80s and Commodore 64s. I'm not exactly sure where I got that idea, but I was absolutely wrong.

The Computer History Museum has a ton of stuff you can see online in addition to being open to the public. Given the darn thing is just down the street (relatively), and no more than a block away from the movie theatre I go to most often, I really need to visit it. I appreciate museums -- I've been to all the Smithsonians at least once -- although I haven't taken advantage of the ones around here as much as I should (or, at all. Never been to the Tech Museum of Innovation either, although I drive by it nearly every day. But there's something about the Computer History Museum that speaks to me a bit more than the hands-on science and engineering stuff at the Tech, or pretty pictures/paintings/sculpture/etc at your standard art-related museum. Maybe it's because I've personally owned things that are in the Computer History Museum...the TRS-80, the Commodore 64, etc. Maybe it's because the Enigma machine is just so terribly cool. I don't know. All I know is that I want to visit it!

punctuation nazis
I don't understand the backlash against Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a book that I haven't yet read but hope to do so, today). Despite her book being a best-seller, editors, columnists, linguists, etc seem to enjoy taking shots at her. Sure, I get it -- if you set yourself up as the guardian of punctuation, word usage, etc. then you also better make damn sure that you never make a mistake. Nobody's perfect, and if she (like every single one of us) makes mistakes, then whoop-de-do, she made a mistake. Maybe it's her attitude that people don't like, but I've got the same one -- learn the basic rules of your own language (at least). If you make a mistake, correct it. Try not to make it again.

Anyway, via Language Log I was directed to her opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph, " You pour thing, if you don't see the point of spelling correctly". It's a great piece, in my opinion, and I especially like this: "The argument goes that the spelling of English words is, by and large, 'irrational'. Why is there a silent 'p' in 'receipt' and not in 'deceit'? Well, the quick answer is: life's a pain sometimes; stop whining; if you don't like it, go and speak German." Ha!

blogger's recent editor-related changes
I've read a number of posts recently, in which people comment about their perceived crappy aspects of Blogger, and how they move to this blog tool or that blog tool, and that's just fine, people have their preferences, etc. I chose Blogger because I'm lazy -- I have server of my own, I could have installed any blog tool I wanted, I could even have written my own blog tool if I was bored or unhappy enough with the alternatives. But for me, Blogger is dandy. In addition to (free) Blogger, I paid $12 for a year of unlimited-length/advanced feature Haloscan-based comments and trackbacks, but I would have been perfectly fine with the free version if I didn't have verbose friends who write long comments. :) But anyway, you get what you pay for...and I pay zippo for something that I use every day, and I'm happy with it.

All that being said, I was a bit miffed when Blogger rolled out their new editor, because I hate editors and it defaulted to "fancy editor" rather than "edit HTML" (on your own). I recognize that I have an elitist view when it comes to coding, and as such I am not saying that editors suck and you suck if you use them, I'm just saying that for me, it takes me three times as long to do something in an editor that is intended to "help" you, than it does for me to code by hand. I know that's not the case for a lot of people, and as long as the editor doesn't spit out crappy, e.g. non-validated, code, then by all means knock yourself out with an editor.

Anyway, the implementation of this new editing tool was not a well-synchronized push to the numerous Blogger servers (meaning, not everyone in the Blogger user world was experiencing the same thing at the same time), and it caused publishing issues for a lot of people. Additionally, it did not seem to be very well tested with regards to browser usage, and caused a lot of issues for people using Gecko-based browsers, etc. I was less perturbed by the fact that I had to work my way past the editor than I was with these issues of non-synchronization and what I perceive to be poor testing. If I had published something in this manner, my clients would shoot me. Heck, I'd shoot me! It just wouldn't happen.

But I checked and saw that they posted updates about the push, and pointed users to an updated knowledgebase article on the topic. That's something, at least. What got them some points from me was that one of the main engineers (if not the guy, I'm not sure) wrote two posts in his own blog, "A note on the usefulness of WYSIWYG editing in the browser" and "A more technical note on Blogger's implementation of WYSIWYG editing in the browser". They're very truthful and in some instances, funny. But the cool thing is that from about 4pm yesterday afternoon, when the push occurred, dude's blog comments were a free-for-all from users, and they quickly filled up with bug reports, "this sucks"/"this rocks" comments, etc. To his credit, dude not only addressed each of those comments via his own follow-up comments, he basically sat there fixing things and pushing out as patches were complete.

Now, I still wouldn't have pushed a new feature on a weekday with that many issues outstanding, but the engineer is definitely someone I would have wanted to my team, given that he not only opened himself up to unfiltered public comments, he addressed a majority of his issues in a really short time frame. I'd buy him a beer. (They also fixed my main issue, and now I don't have to see the fancy editor unless I select it, because it "remembers" the last editor I used, which is not the fancy one. Yay for smart tools.)

housesitting, again
I am staying at my friends' house again, taking care of their lovely plants and co-dependent doggies. They're good dogs, just....barky when you come home. They have to have bark collars on when you leave for more than a few hours and leave them outside, because...they bark, and they're not small dogs. They're 4 1/2 years old, from the same litter. They came from a rescue, and just a few weeks ago the owners of one of their other litter mates decided they would be returning the dog to the rescue, because "he's just too dumb." No, you're dumb, because your dog is 4 1/2 years old and haven't done any training with it since a puppy class that you dropped out of because it was too much trouble. People like that shouldn't be allowed to have pets.

But anyway...while my friends are in Kauai, I get to spend a week with the fancy big TV with the surround sound, and my cats get to spend a week without me wandering around their house.

Thursday, July 15, 2004
the movie i really want to see
is Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow. All my favorite people are in it (Jude Law! Angelina Jolie! In the same movie! Exclamation points!), and it seems like it's been forEVer that it's been "coming soon". GET here, already. I sure hope it doesn't suck. That would be disappointing.

never saw this before...
The UPS tracking info for a package I'm expecting shows "PKG DELAY-ADD'L SECURITY CHECK BY GOV'T OR OTHER AGENCY- BEYOND UPS CONTROL". It's a box of three books: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and The Confusion. It's not like I ordered the freaking Anarchist's Cookbook or something!

UPDATE: Turns out the "ADD'L SECURITY CHECK..." was the fill-in driver not being able to open the gate to my little condo community. I asked my regular UPS guy today, "so, what did the government want with my books?" and he looked at me like I was nuts, and I explained to him what the status said, and he said "stupid driver" and laughed, said he'd have to tell his boss about that. "Can't open gate because I'm an idiot and don't know how to work the phone" does NOT qualify as a "check by gov't or other agency", in my book!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004
sparks (not hal)
Via kmsqrd, I now know about spark ... aka "writing prompts". Now, I'm known to blather on about all sorts of meaningless stuff, so hopefully these will guide me toward creating at least one on-point post each day (or thereabouts).

Today's spark: What is the last luxury you tend to give up?

My computer. I can't imagine not owning one. If I had to give up my car for six months and take public transportation (oh wait, I did), not a problem. No cell phone? No problem (if I remember to carry it, it's a rare day indeed). I already get my hair cut at Cost Cutters (think Supercuts knock off), so no problem giving up the $60 haircuts (I used to do that, then really didn't see the point). Shoes? Been wearing the same ones for like 5 years. I haven't bought new clothes in ages. Haven't got around to hooking up my kitchen faucets, so I still don't have running water in my kitchen. But a computer? I take it everywhere, and treat it like gold. I even bought a special cooler for it. Priorities!

i swear this just happened
I read the news headline "Bush Says His Re-Election Will Make America Safer" and I swear it said "Bush Says His Re-Election Will Make America SUFFER". The latter (unfortunately was not the actual headline) I agree with, the former, well, not so much.

see, this would have made me buy MORE...
Today we find that Slim-Fast is dropping their ads featuring Whoopi Goldberg "following her lewd riff on President Bush's name at a fund-raiser last week". Oh WAH. See Mac's post You're a Big Poopiehead (heh) for a well-spoken post on how shrub's campaign "tossing up a big old hissy fit over this is just...well, entertaining and goofy." Amen, sistah.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
not a good sign for the rest of the day...
when you've been working since 5:45 and you finally stop at 12:45 to make a poached egg (for breakfast) and the damn thing explodes all over your microwave. But I do like those little microwave poached-egg-makers, and the omelet thing works, too. In fact, so does the microwave hard-boiled-egg-maker. Why dirty a pot when you can nuke your eggs in form-fitting plastic containers? Then again, you run the risk of eggy explosions...

Monday, July 12, 2004
on a lighter note...
enough of the world going to hell in an handbasket...let's talk about machine names. PJM noticed a really cool one in his access logs: "Reepicheep" from Chronicles of Narnia. That's definitely up there. At one point, I named all my machines after Ewoks. Yes, I'm that one person who likes the Ewoks. My mother made me a kickass Ewok costume for Halloween in the third grade. It was very hot. It had a zipper up the back, much like the werewolf costumes from various Buffy episodes.... Anyway, can anyone actually name more than one Ewok? Even one Ewok? You have the famous one, Wicket W. Warrick, but them there's Wiley, Chirpa, Romba, Kneesaa, Latara, Paploo, Gwig, Malani, Mookiee, Leeni and Nippet. I'll stop there, before you think I'm a real freak. ("Before", she says. ha!)

Anyway....machine names! It's a fun (geeky) party game to play, trying to find the connection in machine names. Our two main servers now are mike and sulley. As in Monsters, Inc. As my boss said, if we actually got a separate machine to act as a firewall, we'd call it Boo. But we don't. I lost my creativity at some point, because I named my laptop "sleek". Well, I think it is. It's shiny, at least, and has a nice big screen.

Sunday, July 11, 2004
fahrenheit 9/11 - i finally saw it
I warned Kate that I would be crying a lot, and I did. But that's not where this story starts. About a block away from the theatre, there were some women carrying signs and a clipboard saying "switch to republican here!" Kate muttered a "hell no" on her way past them, while some white-haired ladies said in unison "oh, we already are". Unison. Like lemmings. Kate had a good response for the sign women, which she of course didn't think of until she was past them: "I'll register as a republican if you vote democrat." Because after all, what the women with the "switch now" sign probably forgot is that crossover voting is alive and well. On the off chance that some republicans went to see F 9/11, and "got" it, their crossover votes should be happily counted in the Kerry column -- because I don't understand how anyone can see F 9/11 and, in good conscience, vote for the shrub. This isn't a Republican vs Democrat issue -- it's a dumbass liar vs the other guy issue. Be a Republican, be conservative, that's fine with me -- it's exercising the same freedom I have to be a Democrat, and liberal. Just don't freaking vote for George W. Bush.

Oh, the movie. I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats. Having actually paid attention to the news the last few years, I knew the basics of what Moore was showing. Having not actually read things as in-depth as I should have in the last few years, I was grateful for the spelling-out of things. I knew everything was related, but I wasn't exactly sure how, and now I do. Like Mac said, "Maybe the connection from Bush to James Baker to The Carlyle Group to the bin Ladens isn't what it seems...But sometimes if something smells like shit, looks like shit, and tastes like shit, it is shit." I agree, and this seems like a pretty big steaming pile of shit.

Some reviews have noted how manipulative the movie was, but you know, I didn't really feel manipulated. "To influence or manage shrewdly or deviously" -- I didn't think Moore was devious, but he was definitely shrewd, but that's not a bad thing. He played puzzlemaster, when the pieces were all laid out on the table, nice and neat, but no one had come by and snapped them together. "To tamper with or falsify for personal gain" -- while Moore definitely has gained from this, he sure didn't falsify or tamper with anything. So no, I don't feel manipulated by Moore. The president, that's another story. If I actually thought anything he said was true to begin with, I'd be very pissed off right now. Since I've never believed a word he's said -- and he's still not the president as far as I'm concerned, what with that whole Florida thing -- I don't feel any differently about him than I did before seeing the movie....just more sad for his victims, because now his victims have a face.

Did Moore use Lila Lipscomb a little too much? Maybe so. But she, and her family, represented so many of the key points that I'm ok that Moore stuck with her rather than introduce us to three or four other families, which would have led to less focused, less intense emotions. I appreciated the fact that Lila Lipscomb expressed her anger at war protestors, and said how she hated them -- until she realized that the war protestors were not protesting the soldiers, they were protesting the war. I think that's a difficult distinction for military families to draw, because all they see are people with signs, calling for peace, saying "no blood for oil". I'm against the war. I'm not against the soldiers. (Unless the soldiers do shitty things, in which case they're acting inhuman and I'm against that. Kate said something to the effect of "How could they not see that when the high school bully joined the Army, he'd still be a bully?" Too true. But that's a discussion for another day. Let's just say I'm not against the girl from my school who joined the national guard to help pay for nursing school, got called up and yanked out of school, got her arm shot up in Iraq, and is now back home and trying to figure out how to be a nurse with a shot up arm. I'm not against her.)

Did Moore use African-Americans too much, and fail to focus on other minorities (Hispanics, Asians, etc)? Sure, but he was filming in Flint, MI -- 41.39% White, 53.27% African-American. If he had filmed in El Paso (76.62% Hispanic or Latino of any race) or San Jose (26.86% Asian American), I trust that he would have focused appropriately. But he filmed in Flint, and I can extrapolate, so I was cool with it.

Did Moore fail to mention religion, as Mel said? Sure, but I think he made his points perfectly clear without even needing to go into religion. If he had gone into religion, or a whole host of other things that would have been even more damning to Bush, then the documentary would have been skewed more toward an anti-Bush political ad than a draw-your-own-conclusions, here are the facts documentary. I'm glad he didn't, because it would have lost its oomph, if you ask me.

There's another documentary playing here, called Control Room, which I haven't heard much about (anything, actually) but is described as "A chronicle which provides a rare window into the international perception of the Iraq War, courtesy of Al Jazeera, the Arab world's most popular news outlet. [...]" Has anyone seen it?

Saturday, July 10, 2004
"Put that in your pipe and smoke it, chimp boy"
So says Jen, of Slowpoke fame, to Dubya. This was in response to a Washington Post article (semi-soul sucking registration required) about how John Edwards "tried to get an article about the threat of terrorism published in a major newspaper before September 11, but no one would run it." According to the Post, "The North Carolina senator had such limited luck pitching an OpEd article on terrorism to major newspapers that the piece, warning of poor cooperation among federal and local law enforcement, ended up in the weekly Littleton Observer, circulation 2,230 -- four weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks."

keep a safe distance...
You gotta love these personality tests. A few people whose blogs I read regularly, well, apparantly we should never be in the same room together. kmsqrd is a WRCF (Wacky Rational Constructive Follower), while stag is a WECL (Wacky Emotional Constructive Leader). Come to think of it, they'd probably do just fine -- it's me who should stay away. See, my results were:

Wackiness: 30/100 // Rationality: 56/100 // Constructiveness: 28/100 // Leadership: 56/100

This translates to SRDL (Sober Rational Destructive Leader), aka "this makes you a mob boss." [Well, I am Italian.]

"You are the ultimate alpha person ..." [unless I'm with my boss, then no.]

"and even your friends give you your space." [friends....oh, those. nice concept.]

"You can't stand whiners, weaklings, schlemiels or schlemozzles." [SPOT ON.]

"You don't make many jokes, but when you do, others laugh out loud. They must." [actually, I'm bad at jokes, so I don't try.]

"People often turn to you for advice, and wisely." [mmm, not so much.]

"You are calm in a crisis, cautious in a tempest, and attuned to even the finest details." [yes, yes I am. Every time I wreck a car or some great tragedy arises, I do not melt into a pile of goo. I save that for important things like TV drama and sports.]

"Yours is the profile of a smart head for business and a dangerous enemy." [I keep telling people that.]

"You have a natural knack for fashion and occupy a suit like a matinee idol." [um, no. If I weren't a fat slob, yes. But I am, so no.]

"Your charisma is striking and without artifice." [depends on the person]

"You are generous, thoughtful, and appreciate life's finer things." [I like to think I do. Heck, I even appreciate life's simpler things.]

"Please don't kick my ass." [I won't.]

oh, the uninformed...
Mac posted about her mother's recent "scare" involving brown men and fishing nets. The "scare" was that some "Iraqis" were acting suspicious, near the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant in Luzerne Co. PA (~300K people, 96.7% white). Read the full post for a very exasperating tale of just how crazy this all is. Mac, I agree: worry when there's reason to worry, and brown men with fishing nets is not a reason to worry.

Then there's my grandmother, who just happens to live a few counties over from Mac's mother, in Mifflin Co. PA (~47K people, 98.5% white). My grandmother was convinced that the group of brown men living in the house across the alley were terrorists. Her reasons? They were brown, they didn't speak English, there were four or five of them living in the one house together, and they drove a car without a license plate. After many stressful phone calls with my mother (who, thankfully, has a bit more sense than my grandmother), it was determined that these fellas where just living in town because they worked at the chicken plant nearby, and this happened to be a cheap place to stay. My grandmother was more concerned about the chicken plant guys than the eight-people-to-a-house heroin dealers that also live nearby, because those folks are white and thus are not suspicious.

Now, my county of 1.6M people is "53.83% White, 2.80% Black or African American, 0.67% Native American, 25.56% Asian, 0.34% Pacific Islander, 12.13% from other races, and 4.66% from two or more races. 23.98% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race." (thanks, wikipedia). At the nearby intersection, there are four gas stations. One is run by a Chinese family, one by a Vietnamese family, one by a group of Sikh men and one by a Mexican family. I think if my grandmother ever came to visit and had to gas up her car, she'd just drop dead from all that diversity.

bunnies, it must be bunnies!
"Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposes...." and now we have 30-second movie re-enactments by bunnies for Alien, The Exorcist, The Shining and Titanic. Good fun. (Thanks, Mel!).

Thursday, July 08, 2004
books for soldiers
I'm no fan of war, and I'm certainly no fan of this war. But we have to support the troops who are just doing their jobs...and for a lot of them, doing their second job, that whole "defend your country" thing, while their "real" lives are put on hold. Ever since the tens of thousands of our soldiers were deployed to all points elsewhere, I've wanted to do something to support the troops. I've seen so many "send stuff here!" web sites, many of them hastily put together and, frankly, looking like scams. Ten years of working with the Web gives one a fairly jaded outlook on these things.

So today Mac posted a link to Books for Soldiers, which has a great tagline: "care packages for the mind". Essentially, there's a forum where military folks, their families, whomever, can request books -- or just cards and letters -- from those of us with the free time and extra books.

I don't personally know anyone in the military, and certainly no one overseas, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to read through the requests and look through my bookshelf and find something to send to someone. I'm sure there aren't any requests for Emile Zola paperbacks, which is what I mostly have, but I'll find something! If anyone has extra books laying around, and some free time to search the requests, I'd recommend the process. After all, no one hates war more than the soldiers fighting it...the least I can do is send them some happy mail.

"amish in the city"
UPN announced the launching of their new reality show Amish in the City. [Pausing for the chuckles.] No, really.

"Blending reality TV with a bit of 'rumspringa,' the UPN network is launching a controversial new series this month centered on a group of Amish teens as they venture from their rural environs into the outside world.

Debuting July 28 with two consecutive hourlong episodes, 'Amish in the City' will follow five Amish youth sharing an ultra-modern house in the Hollywood Hills with six young urbanites..."

"Rumspringa" means "running wild", and at 16, Amish kids get to go out and play in the "real world" for awhile, then make their choice to stay out or go back to their community and become baptized adults.

Now, I come from Amish country...not Lancaster County PA, but Mifflin County PA, which is a lot smaller and a whole lot less commercialized when it comes to the Amish. Our Amish (and the Mennonites, too) are an integral part of the county's culture. Many of the homes that are built have Amish workers on the construction crews. You can't drive on any roads (except the 55mph+ 4-lanes) without coming up on a buggy. If you want a good pie, bread, other baked goods, you get it from the Amish...usually from stands set up at the ends of their farm lanes, run by the young kids. On Wednesdays, there's this thing called the Sale Barn. It's a lifestock sale/flea market thing, and the majority of the buyers and sellers are Amish -- or people on bus tours who have come to look at the Amish.

So, I don't really like the idea of a network making a "reality" show about the Amish, because, quite frankly, I don't want to see them ridiculed for their way of life, which stems from their religious beliefs. Sure, it's TV, and it's all in "good fun", but I just get a bad feeling about it.

we have a winner!
My friend Kate went back to college after a 20 year absence. That alone should be celebrated. She had to start from the beginning -- English 1A, for example, aka "Beginning Composition". Although she grumbled a bit throughout the semester about having to take the class, she got an A and wrote some good essays. She found out today that she won for "Best Narrative Essay", as determined by the English Department of West Valley College. Her essays is called "Collars and Tags", and I told her to post it on her blog because it made me all teary and others need to have the chance to get all teary, too. So read it, then pet your doggies (or other furry family members)...and leave her a congratulatory comment because she deserves it!

who gives what, and to whom
Use Newsmeat to search the records of the Federal Election Commission for all individual donations made from 1977 - 2004. For a quick and interesting list, check out the Hall of Fame -- actors, other politicians, sports figures, generally famous people. Good to know that Faith is politically active. (from Metafilter)

photo essays
You know, writing something interesting is hard enough, but then some creative fella goes and takes pictures and puts those in essay format, too? Geez. What's the world coming too? Tony Pierce published a photo essay the other day, and I don't know if it's just me (it probably is), but I got all teary at the end.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004
sure sign of the apocalypse
I checked two books out of the library yesterday, from the fiction section! They're not for a class...I checked them out under the assumption that I'd have -- gasp -- some free time. Now, Life of Pi (by Yann Martel) and Trumpet (by Jackie Kay) are sitting on top of my copy of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, which I bought myself for Christmas and have managed to read all of 31 pages. There are 916, total. Not good, especially when it's part one of trilogy, all equally as long. I like Stephenson, always have, but the first 31 pages of this book have seemed especially sluggish. Maybe the relatively short novels from my library trip will jumpstart my reading skills.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
and the last chapter has been delivered...
For such short, boring chapters, they sure do take a long time to write. All orginal Plone chapters are now delivered, which just leaves the author review of the 8 chapters that have already made it through three editors (developmental, copy and technical) and back to me for "finishing touches". Oh, and there's real work to do too now....can I have another vacation day??

kerry/edwards '04
It's official, and I have no problems with the ticket. Let's just start calling it the"john-john" ticket, now.

Monday, July 05, 2004
happy dance
coach k will stay. praise be. my basketball world would have been turned upside down and I would have walked around with a really funny look on my face, all season long.

finally finished a chapter
My poor little plone book, it's only been in the works long I lost track. My editor finally handed down the ultimatum -- finish the two outstanding chapters, plus all the author review (that means looking at edited chapters and either fixing/updating things or completely ignoring things that editors may have said) by the 6th, or I can't do a 2nd edition to my book that sells like gangbusters. Now, on any given day I'll tell you how much I hate to write, or I'll tell you that writing books is cook. I'm not sure which of those days it is right now, I just know I need to sustain the productivity for another 30 hours or so.

Saturday, July 03, 2004
give blood
Not "give blood, play hockey", as the bumper sticker goes, although there's nothing wrong with that. I just got home from finally getting off my butt and donating blood. It's like a civic duty or something, isn't it? I've been meaning to do it for a really long time, like 10 years. But there's this rule about not being able to give blood if you've had a tattoo in the last n months, and I always had gotten one sometime within the n months time frame, so it never worked out. There were a lot of Red Cross bloodmobiles on campus this past semester, which got me thinking about it more, but I was always on my way to class and they'd be gone by the time I was out of class. So I finally made an appointment, at the Stanford Blood Center, a few weeks ago. I picked Stanford because, well, it's Stanford and also because they have this handy list that tells you exactly how much and what kind of blood they have on that day, and what they use blood. For example, "five month old had a liver transplant here last week", with accompanying adorable pictures of small children. They do a really good job at the ol' heartstrings tugging. What can you say? "I'm sorry, I have to go run errands. I can't take 30 minutes out of my day to give you some of my blood".

Unfortunately, my first trip was unsuccessful, as my hemoglobin level was .2 too low. Good enough reason as any to eat Cream of Wheat and take a multi-vitamin every day. I did that, went back today and it was much higher, so they took my blood. I got the "new" medical assistant, so it's a good thing I don't mind medical procedures. She wasn't bad or anything, and it didn't hurt, and it only took ten minutes for me to fill up a pint. But she was definitely new because all the other medical assistants kept hovering around her to make sure she didn't kill me/let the blood drain onto the floor/etc. No such thing happened, and afterwards I was encouraged to have cookies. That was the best part!

So, if you think you'll have a spare 30 minutes one day, check with the American Red Cross to find a blood drive near you. If you happen to live around Stanford, I recommend them. Except they're currently not using red bandages due to some sort of reported allergy to the dye used in them, so you'll walk out of the Stanford Blood Center wearing a Cal colored bandage...

Friday, July 02, 2004
sprechen sie Pennsylvanian?
UPDATE: Welcome, Salon readers!

Because I do, and I used to get a lot of grief for it when I moved to California (I lived for a chunk of time in Virginia and North Carolina, but no one there ever noticed. I suppose they have their own language-related issues...). pjm pointed out this link to CoalSpeak, which includes many of the things I've been known to say. I offer it to my friends in my continuing effort to show that it's not my fault! The specific coal region referenced by the guide-writers is a whole 70 miles east of where I'm from, but it's enough to tip the scale toward us being more PA Dutch than PA Polish.

Some wonderful examples that I personally use, which often lead to blank stares from my friends. Kind of like when I referenced the "pot stick" that my Mom used (sorry, Mom) to give me a spanking when I was small (I'm sure I deserved it). Pot stick. As in, "the stick used to stir a pot." I was recently informed by my California friends that this is actually called "a wooden spoon". Huh. Go figure.

Anyway...I'll just hit the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view):

- "buggy", not as in "horse and..." but instead of "grocery cart". I swear I've heard this elsewhere, though.

- "Coal Cracker", which in the guide is used to describe a person from the coal region, but to me, it's the name of the fake-logs-in-the-water ride at Hershey Park.

- "crick"...that would be "creek". I know this isn't PA-specific.

- "differnt", "ignernt", etc...the whole gamut of words that should have another syllable at the end but we feel the need not to spend our time saying "differEnt" or "ignorAnt".

- "dippy egg", thank god it's in the guide. I was beginning to think it was just my family. It's really difficult ordering eggs at a diner outside of central Pennsylvania, when all your life you've just ordered "dippy eggs". It took me years to learn the difference in the levels of "over" (easy/medium/hard) and I still don't think I understand. Omelets and scrambled eggs for me -- much easier to explain. The actual definition of a dippy egg is "an egg, such as a soft-boiled or sunnyside-up egg, into which you can dip your toast", meaning it doesn't correlate to any particular level of "over". frustrating.

- "down the shore", meaning "to the beach", when the beach is either in New Jersey or Maryland. If you go to a beach in a different state, e.g. Virginia, North/South Carolina, "down the shore" doesn't apply. To me, going to the beach meant going to Greenwood Furnace, which had a whole 300 yards of sand dumped at the edge of a tadpole-infested lake, which scared the hell out of me and I never went in it. The sandy recreation area really had nothing to do with the fact that Greenwood Furnace was an iron furnace in the 19th century, and thus the surrounding area was all historic buildings, etc. Did your childhood swimming hole have a cemetery next to it? Mine did!

- "four-ways" for your car's hazard lights. This can't be PA-only.

- "Gawd Love Ya!" ... I do not say this, and never have, unless I'm making fun of my grandmother, who DOES say this for real. It's an "exclamation that can mean anything from 'Oh, what a beautiful baby' to 'I'm sorry your house burned down'". Yep.

- now, "gumband" is not in the list, so I'm still on my quest to figure out where I got this from (besides the obvious "your dad"). gumband = rubber band. Anyone?

- "Knoebel's" is an amusement park, but the thing is, you pronounce the K and the N. Kinda like "knnnnniggets" but not really.

- "lightening bugs"...does EVERYone else call them fireflies?

- "long johns"... think "eclair" but longer, more rectangular, and filled with cream, custard, or jelly. My aunt owned a doughnut store for what, thirty years? and we still don't know why they're called long johns.

- "macadam", the asphalt pavement on the road.

- "outen" (one of my favorites) as in "turn off". "Outen the lights" = "Turn the lights out". It's PA Dutch, what can I say. Right up there with "red up", as in "to make ready", such as "Red up your room", meaning "clean your room, or no allowance".

- I'm leaving out "worsh" instead of "wash" because, thank god, I never picked it up from my Dad (sorry, Dad).

Now, if someone could just tell me how I explain "Lebanon bologna" to people out here, so that I can make a decent sandwich, I'll be ok.

yes, RSS is now my new best friend
I am just so lazy when it comes to installing new software, but it really only takes one other person to say "you know, you really should do it". So, thanks to pjm's "RSS is your friend" comment to my post regarding how I can't keep up with all these smart, witty people, I went and got me an RSS aggregator, SharpReader (Windows only). I just picked the first one I came to that worked well, so if I picked some loser piece of software, don't judge me. It's donate-ware, and I'll be donating because it seems pretty well done to me!

Maybe now I can keep up!

Note: I urge people to provide a link to their site feeds (and yes, I've taken my own advice). If you're a blogger user, you can get the link in the site feed section under your settings tab. Then, just put the link in your template and republish your blog. Good times.

Thursday, July 01, 2004
While people are off seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 (which I plan to see this weekend), my friends and I went to see Spider-Man 2. It's about a 4 (out of 10), and that has nothing to do with the cast. In fact, Tobey Maguire was good (disclaimer: he's one my 5 favorite actors). Kirsten Dunst did the best she could do with what was given to her (disclaimer: I really like her a lot, and while I don't really have a list of favorite actresses, she'd be in it. Drop Dead Gorgeous? Bring it On? Hilarious, and she did a great job in both.)

As for the rest of the cast, Skoda was good. I mean, J.K. Simmons. This may be the role that makes me forget he was Vern Schillinger in Oz, when I see him every day on Law & Order. Alfred Molina? Eh. Whatever. I wasn't particularly a-feared of Doc Ock, which isn't good when he's your villain. James Franco was fine, but he's still Daniel from Freaks and Geeks to me. Dylan Baker probably would have been just fine, but all I could see was the guy who played no less than three different roles on various Law & Order episodes (particularly the one in which he killed his little boy), an arc on The Practice in which he was a law-breaking senator, as well as the aforementioned Shillinger's attorney on Oz. Highlights from supporting cast/cameo appearances: Joxer, I mean Ted Raimi, was very funny. Autolycus, I mean, Brisco County, Jr., I mean Bruce Campbell also had a funny 2 minutes. Finally, Hal Sparks' elevator scene was a trip. That man doesn't have to say anything to be funny.

So, the problem certainly wasn't the cast. The CGI didn't especially suck. The ability to show terribly violent things without any blood, that was good for the kids. I think it all boiled down to: too damn much talking. Shut UP already, we get it that you're conflicted. We got it with the first sentence, didn't need to hear the remaining rambling paragraph about it.

I probably wouldn't give it a rotten tomato, because the individual pieces were good, except the writing. I didn't see Wonder Boys, so I don't know if Michael Chabon just can't do screenplays, or what. I really liked his book The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, but that was like 15 years ago.

i can't keep up
The bad thing about finding new blogs to read is have more blogs to read. This wouldn't be a problem if I read boring blogs (like this one), but no -- I had to go and find the blogs of smart, witty, creative people. Great. By the time I get a moment in my day to pop over and read something (it's like a little treat after actually finishing a task), I'm like four witty posts behind, and the comments are already filled with other people's witty retorts. Dang.

Mac at peksy'apostrophe (who wins the award for best tagline courtesy of a reader: "pesky'apostrophe: always better than an unexpected period") went all gangbusters yesterday. For example, I'm Edumacated, in which some of Kerry's proposed plans for education funding are discussed (with good comments from readers); the crux of the post is how much Mac (and a lot of us) "...want to have faith that a President genuinely wants to do the right thing for Americans instead of American business." Amen. Then, there is Speechless, which is a reaction to an "update" by the Family Research Council (yeah, whatEVER), following on the heels of a WSJ opinion piece that asserts the Democrats are losing elections because abortions are legal. No, really. Unbelievable. As one of Mac's readers' comments said, "someone needs to hit me really hard on the back of the get my eyes un-stuck from rolling them so hard about that one." Agreed.

So I got to thinking about the sheep/lemming mentality, and lo and behold Kate comes up with an outrage post simply titled "political emails" but could easily have been called "sheep! they're all sheep!", in which she tells of reaching the breaking point after receiving the gagillionth email from someone who is a Republican, along the lines of "Bush is great! Let's keep him in the White House!". [shuddering] Kate's not a Republican. Anyone who knows Kate at all (such as the person who put Kate on her "send to everyone I know" list), knows that. Kate, probably like a lot of us, is not anti-the-notion-of-Republicans; we're all entitled to our own political leanings and that's wonderful and is what makes our country great (I read that in a book or something) -- she's anti-dumbass (and that's not a party-specific trait).

Political, yet geeky (in a good way) -- pjm at flashes of panic points out a fricking hilarious (to me, at least) part of the Wired news story regarding a security/infrastructure review of the Kerry and Bush official campaign web sites. Says pjm, "The part I found most amusing, however, was the software roundup, which fits the liberal vs. conservative stereotypes pretty well: '[T]he Kerry site is housed on an Apache Web server running on a Red Hat Linux box. The Bush website is hosted on a Microsoft IIS 5.0 server and uses Microsoft's'" That's funny. (I realize a lot of you are going to just have to trust me on that. It's ok.)

But when I really need a good break, I head over to Tales from the "Liberry". Someone needs to sign this guy up to do a "collected works" edition. Seriously. I don't think you have to be from small-town nowheresville (in his case, West Virginia, or one of the only states besides maybe Mississippi at which we Pennsylvanians, which I am by birth, can poke fun) to visualize the people he's writing about, which are 100% real. His entry from a few days ago is a three-parter, describing a confrontation with a creepy pervert. Don't worry, good triumphed over evil.

On it goes, the list of things I wish I had time to write, but I am grateful that I at least had time to read!

get your archive on...
04/04 · 05/04 · 06/04 · 07/04 · 08/04 · 09/04 · 10/04 · 11/04 · 12/04 · 01/05 · 02/05 · 03/05 · 04/05 · 05/05 · 06/05 · 07/05 · 08/05 · 09/05 · 10/05 · 11/05 · 12/05 · 01/06 · 02/06 · 03/06 · 04/06 · 05/06 · 06/06 · 07/06 · 08/06 · 09/06 · 10/06 · 11/06 · 12/06 · ???


job / books / new blog

04/04 · 05/04 · 06/04 · 07/04 · 08/04 · 09/04 · 10/04 · 11/04 · 12/04 · 01/05 · 02/05 · 03/05 · 04/05 · 05/05 · 06/05 · 07/05 · 08/05 · 09/05 · 10/05 · 11/05 · 12/05 · 01/06 · 02/06 · 03/06 · 04/06 · 05/06 · 06/06 · 07/06 · 08/06 · 09/06 · 10/06 · 11/06 · 12/06 · ???


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