Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Democrats are Dead, Long Live the Democrats

No one has asked me, but in my opinion, the current Democratic Party (DP) is dead. Even should the economy get so bad or the war cause such heartache that G.W. is not re-elected it still will not mean there is life in the DP. All it will mean is G.W. was not re-elected.

I'll have to post at a future time my thoughts on why the country seems to be coalescing around Bush and a conservative agenda. I'm not sure I have it figured out, but I'm thinking about it.

Anyway, since we are stuck with a two-party system, for good or for ill, and since my claim is that the current DP is dead, what's left? Well, with a lot of work, maybe the Truman National Security Project will light the way towards a renewed (reinvented?) DP. They are self-described as a "Democratic national security organization dedicated to forging a Democratic foreign policy founded on strength and security, grounded in a strong military and active diplomacy."

My latest thoughts on this topics were spurred by John Weidner.

Aside: I claim time of death as 9 Sept 1998. While the DP had been dying an odd death of "poll-popularity" and "opposing party position acceptance," this is the date of the Starr Report. Tales of denim dresses and cigars finally killed what was left of new DP ideas and partison fighting between the parties was all the DP had left.

If you want to argue the time of death as 27 Sept 1994, (Republican Contract with America) and the following debacle as death spasms, I'll not argue.

Hooterville Scale Model

This one is for my wife. Someone built a scale model of the Green Acres set. My question for you is, just how much did Hooterville and it environs inspire the 'succeed by goingback to the farm' that became Baby Boom?

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Diplomats for Change

I am not a conservative. In fact, I do not test as a liberal either, but all of that is another issue. The point I want to make is I do not accept all the George W. does merely because he does it; I disagree with oh-so-many of his policies. And that being said, GW is no post turtle either.

So it was with interest I read this post about a highly estemmed group of diplomats that disagree with the administrations policies. Some of the points I liked, because the mirror my own thinking, are:

  • The United States is feared and distrusted across the world much more than in the past.

  • Bush is the one pushing foreign policy, not a cabal of Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/et al.

  • Asking or hinting that Rumsfeld should have quit after Abu-Ghraib would have been a good/strong thing.

  • The Powell Doctrine was right, we should have had many more troops when we started this.

I can only ask that you read and think for yourself.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Internet Fads

One of the best things about the internet is how it allows small bits of inane amusement to enter my life. I find some of these little oddities to be a delicious part of my sufing diet. What the internet also does is encourage derivatives of those amusing bits until what was the best becomes the worst; somedays I find way too many sad versions of what I once enjoyed. This list explains and links to the best of these fads. Click and enjoy.

Truly Scrumptious, you are truly, truly scrumptious

This morning I had a wonderful conversation about the virtues of one of best musicals to ever hit the big screen, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Joe has never seen the movie or heard the music, so after finding nothing on Kazaa, I went to Google for a quick music download.

Lo and behold, I had forgotten they made the movie into a looking for a musical! It's currently playing in London and I can think of few better reasons to go to London than to see a classic like this. Now I only have to find time in our schedule and budget for the trip. This might have to go on my list of things to do.

Anyway, the website for the musical let's you send e-cards, including snippets of the most famous songs! Ah, glorious day, I was able to custom deliver a little nugget of sunshine to Joe and plan a vacation all at one time.

Has anyone seen the show or heard the cast recording? In particular, would anyone recommend the movie soundtrack or cast recording more?

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Microsoft XP has a new service pack release

Jerry Pournelle describes his efforts to update his computer with the latest and greatest from Miscrosoft. This upgrade is for Microsoft XP, Service Pack 2, second release candidate (XP SP2 RC-2). Jerry's happy with the upgrade so I may try it sometime next week, when I finally get a few moments.

Summary: Uninstall RC-1 first and then expect to spend a long time waiting while the program both downloads and installs.

It's better than twiddling your thumbs

For your amusement, and nothing more serious than that, I present Paper Wars, a cute story, drawn on paper. Kind of.

Uses Flash annimation.


Am I just really not in touch with what's going on out there?

I ran into a whole new type of web page last night. Very graphic, generally well done, and often by people who are much younger. (I think one site was by a 13 year old girl!) It seems like there is a whole little subculture of folks using graphics programs to create 'blends' or pictures blended into a montage with a variety or artistic elements, and then compete against each other for bragging rights. Here, take a look:

I don't even know what to say. Some of the work is absolutely incredible and almost all is somewhat fascinating. Most of the montages focus on TV and movies stars. The style and age of some of the blenders (did I make this descriptive name up?) make me want to ask some questions about their self-identity. It's been too long since I read anything about developmental psychology to make any kind of statement though.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The truth is stranger than fiction.

This is the recap of the weird experience Kristi and I had in Las Vegas...

Barry Manilow's show in Las Vegas was held at Mandalay Bay in a 12,000 seat auditorium. Kristi and I fully expected it to take ages to get a taxicab, so we wisely gambled rather than go wait in line with the rest of the crowd. After a couple of hours, with the line still hundreds of people long, we took a tram to Luxor and got in a much shorter line for a cab back to our room.

I noticed the couple in front of us while waiting in line. They were younger, mid-twenties, and very friendly (read "chatty with strangers"). After carrying on a conversation with the group in front of them, this couple started talking to us. 'Rich' and 'Nicole' (not their real names) were actually co-workers, in town from opposite ends of the country on business.

After we had been talking for two or three minutes Nicole paused, touched Kristi on the arm, and told her what pretty eyes she had. Nicole said she noticed Kristi's eye make-up immediately when we walked up. It's always nice to be complimented, but this seemed a bit askew.

We continued to chat for a couple more minutes while we moved forward in the taxicab line. As we neared the front of the line, and other people were telling the doorman their destination, Nicole announces to us, "I am a strip-club virgin. Rich is taking me to Crazy Horse because I've never been. No, I've never been so we're going; I'm a strip-club virgin." Next thing you know, the cab--a minivan--has the door slid open, Nicole grabs Kristi's hand, looks at both of us, and says, "Come with us. Come on. Let's go together. Let's all go."

I quickly said we were tired (it was getting on 1AM or so at this point) and let them go on their way. We got in our own cab and headed over to Belagio.

I have to wonder though, just how close was this to one of those letters you can find in a dirty magazine? And if we were different people, could the story have ended the same? But just because we aren't interested in acting out that story, I ponder if this was a window of opportunity into a different life.

**SPECIAL** Barry Manilow Announcement


While the news is not yet available to the public, Barry Manilow will be touring this coming fall. My source informed me he would be on the East Coast in October, Texas in early November, and hit a total of 24 cities.

If this is true, and I believe it is, the One Night Live show in Las Vegas was in part just a preview and test for a real tour. (Which makes sense, because he definately needs to work some kinks out with the staging.)

Remember, you heard it hear first!

101 Things to Do...

... in 1001 Days.

I have started a to do list, filled with things I'd like to do. I got this idea from others on the web, but I'll not go into that here. Go, check out my list, and then create your own. Let's have some fun with this one.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Beulah Bernadine Hentz (Kessel), 1916 - 2004

My grandmother passed away Sunday morning. She was a good woman who loved her family. She was known for laughing at everything. I first noticed this when I was about 10 during one of our annual summer visits to Shelbyville. I remember my grandparents were visiting with a lawyer, discussing everyone's health when Grandma mentioned how she had broken her arm, or maybe a leg. Then she laughed. I still remember the silence as my grandfather and the lawyer just stopped to look at her as she chuckled. Honestly, her response to almost everything was a laugh.

I think the laugh may have been a defense mechanism. My Grandpa, John--Johnny to his friends--was always quick with humor and a joke. He would tell amusing little stories and puns, and play small tricks on whoever was nearby. I loved him dearly. Anyway, going on 50 years of marriage, he still thought all of this was hilarious. The only time I ever heard Grandmas swear was years later, during a visit to their home after they had retired. He played some small trick at lunch and instead of her usual laugh she let go a tiny outburst, really no more than a sentence or maybe two. I guess some jokes get old after a few decades.

Last year, Grandma stayed with us for a few days during Christmas season. We talked extensively and I learned just how stoic she was. During this time I learned all new things about her health problems, most of which no one else knew. She just accepted some problems, after learning a condition was permanent, she didn't see a need to talk about it anymore. She didn't see a need to go back and forth to the doctor if their wasn't a ready cure, and she didn't see the need to talk about what couldn't be changed. It was what it was, so why bother with it?

During the last year she had a number of small strokes. Her last one was a week before she died. When my mother asked her if she had experience a stroke her response was "Yes, a number of times." When Mom asked if she had a stroke recently recently Grandma calmly replied "Yes." She didn't tell anyone, because what was there to do after the stroke?

Oh, how I will miss her.

All of this is why Kristi and I will be in Shelbyville, IL for her funeral this Friday. To bid a fond farewell to a member of the family, to hold hands and share a Kleenex with loved ones, to use this opportunity to build a better relationship with those who are left, to say good-bye.

I end this with an unattributed poem read at Princess Diana's funeral.

If I should die and leave you here awhile
be not like others, sore lundone, who keep
long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.
For my sake, turn again to life, and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine,
and I, perchance, may therein comfort you.

The Dead Don't Care

The following excerpt comes from The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, a National Book Award Finalist written by Thomas Lynch, W.W. Norton and Company, 1997. Mr. Lynch is a published poet and essayist, who lives and works in Milford, Michigan, where he is the funeral director.

    Being a dead saint is not more worthwhile than being a dead philodendron or a dead angelfish. Living is the rub, and always has been. Living saints still feel the flames and stigmata of this vale of tears, the ache of chastity and the pangs of conscience. Once dead, they let their relics do the legwork, because, as I was trying to tell this priest, the dead don't care.
    Only the living care.
    And I am sorry to be repeating myself, but this is the central fact of my business--that there is nothing, once you are dead, that can be done to you or for you or with you or about you that will do you any good or any harm; that any damage or decency we do accrues to the living, to whom your death happens, if it really happens to anyone. The living have to live with it. You don't. Theirs is the grief or gladness your death brings. Theirs is the loss or gain of it. Theirs is the pain and the pleasure of memory. Theirs is the invoice for services rendered and theirs is the check in the mail for its payment.
    Give it a rest is the think I say.
    Once you are dead, put your feet up, call it a day, and let the husband or the missus or the kids or a sibling decide whether you are to be buries or burned or blown out of a cannon or left to dry out in a ditch somewhere. It's not your day to watch it, because the done don't care.
    Which is not to say that the dead do not matter.
    They do. They do. Of course they do.

I recommend you find this book on Amazon or in your local library and read it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Vegas Update

Briefly, because I need to go to bed after a delayed flight, long wait to get off the plane (we sat in the next to last row), and the last hour looking online for flights to Shelbyville (more on that when I have time to think).

1. The Barry Manilow concert was good. Fanilows are highly amusing.
2. Bellagio has the best service in Las Vegas. Outstanding! Highly recommended. The poker room was nice; I was a net winner. And watching the fountains was a treasure to me during a trying time.
3. We had a moment straight out of Penthouse letters. Very odd. More later.
4. I have information about the currently unannouced Barry Manilow tour, coming ___.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Barry Manilow in Las Vegas

Well, no blogging this weekend. Kristi & I are off to see Barry Manilow in Las Vegas. It's his one concert this year and we have great seats!

Another first, we've a "Lakeside View" at Bellagio this trip. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing; I'll fill you next week. Let's just hope the power stays on for the duration of our stay.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Prudes are Winning

I find this contest very disturbing. Not because Photoshop isn't a good tool, and not because good people don't have real skills using it.

Rather, this contest seems to presume Attorney General John Ashcroft was correct when he hid the work of master craftsmen because it does not sit with his desire to impose morality on others. (Hmm, seems a bit like a flame. If you've got a better way to say this, please let me know. -jsd)

Contest Directions
If you've ever walked into a musuem with your child, you were certainly shocked at the flagrant nudity being touted around for pure shock value. Whatever happened to morals? Whatever happened to kissship? How can you appreciate art when it's so...nude? In this contest your task is to make nude art work-safe in creative ways. Remember, cleanlines is next to godliness.

Why do conservatives seem to be claiming a moral highground on hiding nature, art, God's handiwork, etc. rather than taking the highground of teaching children how to appreciate this?

Truthwatch: NPS Director Fran Mainella Lies to Congress

A number of former officials and employees of the National Park Service (NPS) have banded together into a group dedicated to protecting national parks and call themselves Campaign To Protect Americas Lands (CPAL). Honestly, I'm not sure what I think about our national park service. I like the idea, but I'm not sure I think our tax dollars should go towards parks. But that's irrelevant to today's entry.

Anyway, CPAL has issued a report pointing out how NPS Director Mainella lied to Congress. According to the press release, the report
casts into doubt the truthfulness of March 24, 2004 testimony by National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, who told angry members of Congress that Americans would not see major park cuts this summer.

It pisses me off when the officials who are suppose to be serving us lie instead.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Thermochemical Joy of Cooking

About a 15 years ago, maybe more, Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg had a show with a number of Chicago chefs. What I remember was how the group of them, there must of been three or four, all stated that not one of them baked. They did not bake bread or rolls, they did not bake desserts, they just did not bake. I want to say they thought it was too hard, but I really shouldn't commit their thoughts on an old memory. Rather, let's say the consensus of this group of chefs was baking is a sequence of exact measurements and precise steps, or chemistry, and is not the same thing as cooking.

This article in Wired talks about a TV show I have never seen, Good Eats. It sounds like a wonderfully wacky cooking show that includes a little bit of chemistry, biology, and physics, in every viewing. The chef on the show, Alton Brown, is called a culinary hacker who claims, "Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it."

Brown has used a Venetian blind to explain how heat interacts with proteins and the microscopic cross-structure of a pie crust. Here, read for yourself:
"Let's just say for a moment that this is a microscopic cross-section of our pie crust in the oven," says Brown, reaching around to run his hand along the closed slats. "By the time the layers of fat start to melt, the protein structure formed by the flour and water needs to be set. That way, when the fat melts, it'll look like this," he says, twisting the rod to open the blind. Brown grabs hold of two slats in the middle and wiggles them up and down. "These are the nice flakes in our flaky crust. If the fats melt before the protein sets, we'll have a real mess on our hands. Ten minutes in the refrigerator will keep that from happening."

This sounds like my kind of show!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Sony: handheld update

Update to my recent posting on Sony's handheld equipment lines.

Financial Times and others are posting stories about Sony's decision to abandon production of handheld PDAs in Europe and the US. Of interest to me is a couple of facts. One, they held third place in the marketplace with a 9.3% share. Two, they routinely had the best screens for their PDAs. In fact, all of my considerations to again buy a PDA was constrained by a desire to have a good integration with a cell phone or a Sony Clie. I know Sony's naming convention seems goofy, but the product really was a better version of the standard PDA. [side note: The inclusion of cameras into every possible device is a disservice to the product and my potential usage.]

All of which leads me to question whether Sony is pulling out of the PDA market because they are going in a new direction? Might they be forgoing both PalmOS and WinCE for a full WinXP? It seems to me they are one of the few companies with the strength to try for an early homerun. Certainly they stand a better chance if they can get the early adoption, even if the whole consumer electronics market is too tight to rationally play in.

Microsoft is smarter than you are

Scientific American has just published an on-line article discussing the deep thinkers Bill & Co. have hired in the last decade. Cleverly titled A Confederacy of Smarts, it does more than just trumpet the huge potential of hiring the smartest folks on the planet. Also mentioned are the ties from research to the real world, or more importantly, the lack of ties to many real issues. Here's a quote you'll probably read most about, even if it isn't the central thrust of the author.

"Microsoft has had some of the brightest computer scientists the world has ever produced, people who understand security better than anybody, and yet they fail to think fundamentally about an entirely new way that computers could run that makes them infinitely more secure and virus-free," notes John Seely Brown, former director of Xerox PARC. "For some reason, they haven't been tackling some of the most fundamental problems, and I'm confused by that."

I have to wonder though, are Microsoft's shareholders getting enough value out of this quarter-billion dollar per year investment? Alternatively, if society is gaining some value for employing all of these deep thinkers, should shareholders view this as a non-profit venture, giving to society at large with the potential for a future payday?

Sparklines: Intense, Simple, Word-Sized Graphics

Edward Tufte, an amazing author of outstanding graphics has published a chapter from his upcoming book.

The first page alone is outstanding and makes you want to call your doctor and ask him to reformat all the reports he gives you. And then you want to call other folks you know because his work, as usual is outstanding.

Okay, enough gushing. Go, read, enjoy, dream of a better user interface for the whole world.