30.10.04

Who's next?

While SI readres ponder Who has the most die-hard fans now?, I suggest we all just buy this t-shirt and root for the Cubbies. After all, the BoSox had five Series titles before The Curse and the 86 year draught. Now that we've won, wouldn't it be great if the Cubs could do the same?

29.10.04

The view from the middle

Crooked Timber has a guest blogger from Ohio. He'll be blogging about the election and what it's like to live in, well, as he says "It’s possible that Ohio could prove to be the Gettysburg of the 2004 vote. If so, Columbus would be Cemetary Ridge. I’ll try to tell you what it looks like from here." I'll be reading the reports daily...

Links Galore

28.10.04

Why am I not surprised

HIGH-SPEED INTERNET POLICY FAILURE

The Bush Administration's Internet policy has resulted in high prices that are retarding the spread of high-speed Internet service and widening the digital divide, a report released today by the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union concludes. The report, Expanding the Digital Divide and Falling Behind in Broadband, documents the advantages that Internet households, particularly those with high-speed access, have in conducting economic, social and political activities, and concludes that it is critical to aggressively close the digital divide by promoting universal service at affordable prices for all.
I'm shocked, shocked! The narrowing of competion by allowing companies to take over in almost monopolistic fashion has expanded the problem, not solved it. Competition for broadband users is nil - if I want it, I have to go with RoadRunner. There's no choice between them and Optimum or Comcast or another provider.

When I go on-line at home, I use a 56K modem. Why? Because I'm not spending another $50+/month to get on-line. And my total household income would allow me to do so. Now, what about people who aren't at my income level? Or who are but have more responsiblities and claims on that income (like children)? Relying on Starbucks or work for highspeed access doesn't help. The FCC should mandate that competion for broadband increase, much as it has for phone services. Somehow I doubt this is a top priority for either Bush or Kerry.

It just wasn't in the Cards

No pigs flying, hell hasn't frozen over, but the Red Sox WIN!

27.10.04

Ya gotta wonder

Like many bloggers, I keep track of my site statistics. One of the features is a keyword analysis that tells me what search terms people are using to find my site. I have to admit, I feel sorry for some of the people who found my site by looking for:
michael jordan newsclips
germans are the rudest in poll
mark helprin cliff notes
cliff notes of the da vinci code
fried dough circus fair
concord grapes in bosnia
al franken no child left behind quiz lies and the lying liars
kitty burns florey diagramming
puerto rico bobsled team
I hope they found what they were really looking for!

What's your WPM?

Yesterday Terry Teachout and Sarah Weinman blogged about how quickly they read. This ties into a discussion I've been having on TRP about how many books I have read (and cataloged) as well as how many are on Mt. Bookpile.

When I was younger I was tested at something like 1000wpm, but I think that's gotten considerably slower as the years have progressed. I usually manage to read about 100-150 books/year. Now, that total has gone down as I've become more professionally involved, and as my intake of magazines (professional and otherwise) and newspapers has gone up. The total for the summer, for example, was about 35 books in three months, but the number I'll be able to read during the school year will be less.

Some of the books are really short, YA/Child Lit books while others are longer (like Jonathan Strange...). The rate of speed really depends on the type of book, though. I mean, if I'm reading something "deep", something I really want to learn from, I'll slow down so that I can take in more of the ideas and think about them as I read. However, something "fun", like a mystery or the latest Cirque du Freak, I'll whip through in no time.

Does this mean I don't enjoy the reading? No. Nor does it mean that I read so quickly that all the plots and characters blend into each other. I may not be able to tell you in which Chalet School book Jo pulled what prank, but I can tell you what the books are about, why I like them and why they're worth reading (or not - there are books I really found a waste of time, effort and dead tree).

Reading for speed does raise the question of quality vs. quantity, though. I think that for many of us, the reality is that we read. Period. The fact that we read faster than some doesn't mean that we're going for quantity; in fact, it may mean that we also read a lot of dross. I do know that I enjoy the majority of what I read, whether or not it is considered "quality" by other readers. And ultimately, isn't that what matters most? The enjoyment of the book should be paramount, not how quickly you can plow through it and get on to the next one.

UPDATE: "Thomas H. Benton" writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the correlation between owning books and being an academic. He also reminds us of a New Yorker cartoon ("A couple years ago a cartoon from The New Yorker depicted a man in a book-lined study sipping a martini and talking to a woman in a black party dress. The caption: "These books represent the person I once aspired to be."). For me it's almost the reverse: my books represent the person I aspire to become.

25.10.04

Notable Quotes

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward

22.10.04

Links Galore

  • Better than Cliff's Notes: The Book Spoiler: "Want to act like you've read The Da Vinci Code when you really haven't? Or maybe you just want to spoil the ending for everyone you see carrying it around?" (þ: Bookslut)
  • Got too much time on your hands? Want to take a quick break from work? Solitaire Central may be the place to go.
  • Bored with Verdana, Times Roman and Arial? Check out The International Type Index (þ: Reserach Buzz)
  • Stumped by a word you just can't seem to remember? The Onelook Reverse Dictionary might be able to help (þ: Scout Report)

FIBB

(from the ISED-L listserv):
Friday
Is
Browser
Diversity
Day


What is Bi-Browseralism?
It is using more than one browser to accomplish your web browsing needs.

A little history.
  • The Internet is not owned by anyone.
  • It is a global communal effort to facilitate communication.
  • Most people use the Internet via a web browser.
  • Microsoft tried to take over the browser market (and therefore, in a way, the Internet) by using their market dominance to destroy their chief browser competitor, Netscape. This is not my opinion, Microsoft was convicted of just this in a massive anti-trust case a few years ago.

Netscape went under but the computer source code of the Netscape browser was donated to the open source programming community. Many people have contributed to this code over the years and have helped forge a wonderful new browser called FireFox.

FireFox is not perfect. For some things Explorer will work better.
So don't get rid of Explorer, just add FireFox, and by this small act accomplish two things:

1. Improve your web browsing experience.
2. Help make sure the Internet stays a free and undominated resource for everyone.

Freedom is On The March


*****

And then there's this fromBlogography: "FQ Quantum Leap: You have been given a one-time-only opportunity to travel back in time and interfere with history! Would you do it? Sure! Where would you go and what would you try to change? I'd go back to when Microsoft was first starting out and sabotage the company... that way, I wouldn't have to freak out about trying to make web sites render properly on Window's crappy 'Internet Explorer' program because Windows wouldn't exist."

20.10.04

What will these people do on November 3rd?

Reaction from the US to the Guardian's Clark County project: "Last week G2 launched Operation Clark County to help readers have a say in the American election by writing to undecided voters in the crucial state of Ohio. In the first three days, more than 11,000 people requested addresses. Here is some of the reaction to the project that we received from the US "
The Guardian, Truthout, anti-Bush bloggers, Michael Moore, etc.. The election is too close to call right now, but let's suppose that Bush wins. What will these people do? Move to Canada? Commit mass suicide?

Now, let's suppose that Kerry wins the election. All of a sudden these people, who have constructed lives around their work anti-Bush, will have waaaaay to much time on their hands (personally, I think they have too much time on their hands right now!). Will they turn that into something positive or will they just fade into the woodwork?

My sense is that all this energy and rhetoric and passion will just fade into bitterness no matter who wins or loses. No candidate can live up to the pictures partisans on either side have painted. They're neither the antiChrist nor the Second Coming. They're politicians and as such are pretty flawed. Sad, but true. Pity we've become so blinded to that fact.

19.10.04

When did we meet Generation X?

Surprisingly, according to this article, in 1952! Sexy was sexy in 1956 but sex was hot in 1929. Check out the other "words of the year". (þ: Language Hat)

18.10.04

Feeling generous?

A few days ago I mentioned a game that I thought would be fun to own. Today I discovered that Powells, my favorite 'clicks-and-mortar' bookstore, has a wish list program. So, if you're in the mood to be nice to me, go there and search the wish list under lpblog@att.net. You don't just have to buy something for me - maybe you'll discover a 'must read' for yourself (not to mention supporting a real bookstore, not Amazon!).

Notable Quotes

Bunny, for all his appearance of amiable, callous stability, was actually a wildly erratic character. There were any number of reasons for this, but primary among them was his complete inability to think about anything before he did it. He sailed through the world guided only by the dim lights of impulse and habit, confident that his course would throw up no obstacles so large that they could not be plowed over with sheer force of momentum.

The Secret History
Donna Tartt

17.10.04

This got me thinking

Number Inflation
What has happened to big numbers? Units aside, a sizable amount of something used to be counted in the hundreds. One thousand was Grand. Tens of thousands were quite enough.
Erica has a point. Everything has gotten larger: we "supersize" our food, our cars, our houses, our lives.

What happened to appreciating the little things? Even something Real Simple is really large (and expensive). This weekend they sponsored Get Organized New York, a huge tag sale in Central Park. While I applaud the thought and the charity it supports, why do we need the opportunity to get even more stuff in our lives?

I'm thinking of scaling back. Ok, perhaps not the books. But the other stuff: appreciating the simpler things; taking time being quiet and at rest; not spending every penny I earn - these all sound very appealing right now. Why? I think it's because of the frenetic pace of our oversized lives. Who really needs to buy meals in a bag and microwave them? What's wrong with buying the individual ingredients and making your own, fresher and better tasting dinner?

More on this experiment as it unfolds.

16.10.04

Yet another voice against IE

Firefox
THREE HOURS AND COUNTING: Amount of time it's taking me to figure out why the pages will display perfectly in every browser I can find EXCEPT Internet Explorer in Microsoft Windows.
WHAT THE F#@&?!?

Seriously. This is stupid, STUPID, STUPID!!! I just don't get it. Why doesn't Microsoft feel any obligation whatsoever to fix rendering bugs that ONLY appear in their browser? I'll tell you why... they don't give a shit. And why should they? 90% of the people on earth are using their shitty software, so web designers have no choice but to grab their ankles and waste hours and hours of time trying to make sites compatible with a bug-ridden pile of crap browser. Microsoft is law unto itself and is apparently not accountable to their customers, web standards, the US government, or anybody else.
What are YOU waiting for?

Boy, did they get this one wrong...

HASH(0x8e9854c)
You have yellow wings! Calm, and peaceful, you
hardly stress and worry. Being around you makes
others feel happy and in tune. Even though you
are serious, you never over react or panic,
which can make you the perfect body guard.
Using logic, and thinking with quick wit, you
may be in a grave situation, and be able to
think your way through. You like doing quite
things, such as reading, and enjoy watching
sunsets, aquariums, and snow storms. At peace
in your soul, your yellow things reflect the
collected person you are.


What Color are your wings?(Mainly for Girls)Beautiful Pix!
brought to you by Quizilla

15.10.04

Links Galore

  • The Foliage Network. In other words, get out of town now! (þ: Scout Report)
  • People just don't understand

    BEYOND THE VOTE: THE CRISIS OF AMERICAN LIBERALISM
    It almost goes without saying that one experiences a profound sense of bewilderment with each reading of the polls for the 2004 Presidential election. The statistical dead heat may have come as little surprise to some, but the unshakable anxiety that it invokes in those on the left is unquestionable, and the reasons are obvious. Here we have perhaps the most ruthlessly conservative and, indeed, most radically right wing administration of the 20th century. But even after the endless war against the environment and public assistance programs, the implementation of regressive tax cuts and a ballooning national debt, and finally the morass in Iraq with its endless errors—whether it be the invasion itself, Abu Ghraib, or its gradual descent into social chaos under the American occupation—the numbers have remained stubbornly fixed.
    I've said this before, when you lose sight of your base, you're in trouble. Democratic leadership doesn't get that they've lost "them", but they have. It's not just the rich and privileged that are voting Republican these days. It's the "street" - the union guys, the average Janes and Joes, the young - that are.

    Why? Because they perceive that the Democrats stand for more taxes, more social programs. When you pass unfunded mandates, someone has to pick up the slack and states, counties and cities then raise taxes to do so. Who gets hurt? Everyone. The people that were supposed to be covered by the mandate get hurt because their needs aren't me and the people that have to pay ever higher taxes get hurt because, well, that's obvious.

    Some believe that American is the land of opportunity, but that means "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" not "take the government for every handout you can". Republicans better embody the former for many voters.

    I'm not saying either perception is true, but if the Democrats really want to regain the White House (and Congress) they need to stop repeating past mistakes and offer programs and candidates that speak to what the people want NOW, not what they wanted years ago.

    Getting to know all about me!

    Some time ago a person reading this blog commented "You seem to formulate opinions about everything going on around you very well, but you hardly write anything strictly about you. Other blog-browsers, such as myself, might be able to understand more where you are coming from if they knew more about you.... just a suggestion."

    Well, I've thought about that and, unlike some bloggers, I'm not comfortable sharing with strangers intimate details about my life. However, to satisfy some reader's curiosity (þ: The Little Professor)...

    #1: Name three of your...

    1. Pet Peeves: incompetence, ignorance, not having enough time to read
    2. Favorite Sounds: purring, pages turning, purring
    3. Favorite Flavors of Candy: chocolate, peppermint
    4. Biggest Fears: heights, dying alone, not having cats in my life
    5. Biggest Challenges: eating properly, making small talk with strangers (or mere acquaintances), getting time to read
    6. Favorite Department Stores: Saks, Almys (now defunct), Kaufmans
    7. Most Used Words: clearly, problematic, "not so much"
    8. Favorite Pizza Toppings: cheese, mushrooms, garlic
    9. Favorite Cartoon Characters: Fisher, the dog in Drabble, Violet from Peanuts
    10. Movies Recently Watched: Paycheck, Secret Window, Collateral
    11. Favorite Fruits: apples, peaches, pomegranate
    12. Favorite Vegetables: green peppers, cucumbers, carrots

    #2:

    1. What is your favorite word? Book
    2. What is your least favorite word? Anything to do with bad weather (eg, sleet, snow, blizzard, nor'easter)
    3. What turns you on? Intelligence and wit
    4. What turns you off? Incompetence
    5. What sound or noise do you love? Purring
    6. What sound or noise do you hate? Doors slamming
    7. What is your favorite curse word? The "O" word (O'F*ck) ties with F*cksh*td*mnh*ll
    8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Fiction writer
    9. What profession other than yours would absolutely not like to attempt? Athelete
    10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the gates? The bookstore is that way, everything's there and it's all free to take.

    14.10.04

    Gotta get this!

    People that know me know that I like playing Trivial Pursuit. They also know that I like reading (ok, ok, I'm a book-a-holic). So this seems like the ideal gift. Not that I'm hinting or anything.

    13.10.04

    Notable Quotes

    ...if art does not reflect the times in which it is created, if it does not inspire us in some way, the artist is not worthy of our patronage.

    12.10.04

    For Bernie



    Love to eat them mousies,
    Mousies what I love to eat.
    Bite they little heads off...
    Nibble on they tiny feet.
    (B. Kliban)

    My Sister Bernadette

    Kitty Burns Florey writes about her youth: "Diagramming sentences is one of those lost skills, like darning socks or playing the sackbut, that no one seems to miss." She goes on to talk about Sister Bernadette, who taught her this "skill".

    I had a Sister Bernadette - Miss Webster. She was half-Maori, all-Kiwi and very strict. One of the first things we learned was that New Zealand was not on the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, nor was it to be confused with Tasmania. If you answered a question without properly reflecting, she'd say, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Since I was attending school in Geneva, Switzerland at that time and we were required to use fountain pens, my fine motor skills got quite a workout. If there was an ink splotch on the paper, we'd be asked what happened. Now, I was 10/11 at the time and my response was usually a variation on "My pen splattered." Miss Webster's raised eyebrows and her disapproving, "A poor workman always blames his tools" soon broke me of that!

    Penmanship was important to Miss Webster. I still have copybooks filled with pages of properly (and improperly) slanted l's, m's, w's and other letters. Thanks to her I have two different styles of handwriting, the very upright looped version I was taught in my American public school and her version.

    We were also taught "New Math" by Miss Webster. To this day I can do bases. In later years I was able to do quadratic equations and I was taught geometry, trig and even how to find f(x). Do I remember any of that? No. But her lessons have stayed with me:
    • how to write an interesting essay (remember not to repeat the opening word of any sentence more than twice)
    • how to write neatly
    • how to use a fountain pen (which I now use when solving the NYTimes Crossword Puzzle)
    • how to take responsibility for your thoughts and express them appropriately
    • how to play Maori stick games
    • how to diagram a sentence
    • how to be (and not be) a teacher.
    She's also the only teacher I had in my early years that I remember with any clarity. The American teachers are all a blur, but she remains fixed in my mind. Back then we called her "Webby" and couldn't wait to get out of her class. I wish I had the opportunity to tell her how much she influenced my life, and how I now appreciate her.

    11.10.04

    R.I.P.

    Christopher Reeve.

    I met him once, back in 1985. He was visiting Circle Repertory Theatre, where I was working. At the time I met him, I was doing concessions in the theatre in Seventh Avenue South. The space for a lobby was a bit cramped, and the brick walls were lined with framed posters of the famous Circle Rep productions from past years.

    Christopher Reeve was not a small person and it was hard for him go be unnoticed. Despite this, he tried to blend in by sort of huddling along this wall. One of the other patrons noticed him and asked me, "Is that Superman?". Hearing this, Chris started, knocking several of the posters off the wall, and his attempts to fix things just made it worse. In a flash of inspiration, I said, "No, that's Clark Kent," causing Chris to bolt into the theatre and hide in the lighting booth.

    Several seconds later the stage manager came over to me laughing, saying that whatever I'd said had really rattled Chris. That's how I remember will him, a normal guy caught in an abnormal situation and horribly embarrassed by it. Not as the man in the wheelchair, and not as the movie star.

    8.10.04

    Links galore

    We don't need no stinkin' spyware

    LibrarianInBlack reports that the House of Representatives is finally moving on anti-spyware legislation. As with most technological issues, it took them long enough. The bigger question is, will this legislation have teeth and make our lives better and safer?

    In the meantime, check out Ad-Aware to protect yourself.

    7.10.04

    If I only had a car

    (SeeYaGeorge)

    This bothered me, too

    From yesterday's Best of the Web Today
    Two decades ago, when we were a teenager, we knew an older man named Paul. Paul was in his late 50s, a reformed alcoholic and born-again Christian, and he had very conservative views on social issues. In particular, he had a strong antipathy to homosexuality. And he taught us a lesson about the complexity of political identity.

    From the description above, you'd think he was a member of the "religious right" and thus a reliable Republican voter. But in fact he was a diehard Democrat who detested Ronald Reagan. Why? Well, Paul worked for the U.S. Postal Service, which means he was a blue-collar worker, a federal employee and a union man.

    Given his age, he presumably became a Democrat during the FDR and Truman years, when the main difference between the two parties had to do with economic class, with the Dems the party of the workingman. Most of today's "social issues" weren't even on the political radar at that time; what liberals today call "extreme right-wing" views were, for better or worse, merely a matter of longstanding tradition.

    We thought of Paul during last night's debate, when John Edwards said this during an exchange on same-sex marriage:

    I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.

    Why bring the Cheneys' daughter's private life into this? Here's a theory: At present, a vast majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage; when it comes up to a statewide vote--whether in a red state or blue--voters typically reject it by majorities ranging from 60% to 80%. This means there are a lot of Democrats who, like Paul 20 years ago, belong to their party despite its views on social issues. Among these, we would surmise, are many black and other minority voters whose party identification grew out of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights triumphs in the 1960s.
    The more comments I hear from Democrats about not understanding union workers who are now voting Republican, the more I realize that they expect that everyone has political allegiances that froze years ago. That's simply not true - given the lessening of the economic differences between the parties, the social issues become the focal point and that's what attracts new voters.

    Putting on my curmudgeon hat, I think that too many changes are being forced down our throats rather than allowing some of them to occur organically. Backlash is inevitable and will be ugly when it comes.

    I think he gets this wrong

    Tom Watson blogs today about Howard Stern's announcement that he's leaving "free" radio for satellite. He compares the growth of satellite to cable, and mentions the cost/necessity of having multiple fees and receivers (as opposed to having many, relatively cheap radios that you can take anywhere).

    I think the real story is the growth of the fragmentation of society. Way back when, you had a melange of musical genres and tastes on each station. Yes, some played "Free Bird" and "Stairway to Heaven" until you wanted to kill, but a quick flick down (or up) the dial brought you another song. Exposure was the serendipitous result - finding something or someone new to listen to and learn about. That's a lot harder to find today.

    Why is this a problem? While the majority of us still use the radio, the homogenization of music means that the "aha" moment is removed. Those that opt for XM or Sirius remove that almost entirely, as they narrowly program their tastes and excise what they don't know.

    One of my professors in graduate school thought this was an exciting development, that soon we could drive across country and only hear the music we wanted. That thought scares me. Diversity breeds knowledge and potential acceptance of the "other." Narrowing our choices (on the radio, tv, in life) ultimately hurts everyone.

    6.10.04

    So where's Kevin Bacon in all this?

    Homicide: Life on the Street Crossovers & A Multiverse Explored. I found this on A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago:
    "SIX DEGREES OF FRANK PEMBLETON: I refer you to this lengthy file. It comprehensively chronicles how 166 different TV shows are apparently taking place in the same universe (that is, inside Timmy Westphal's head, as revealed at the end of 'St. Elsewhere'). Try this one series of connections:

    Sports Night on CSC is playing on a TV at the end of an episode of Spin City. Spin City made mention (in Michael J. Fox's final episode) of the existence of Alex P. Keaton, from Family Ties. Andrew Keaton, from Family Ties, showed up on an episode of Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Eddie Haskell (from Leave it To Beaver) showed up on Parker Lewis. Beaver's June Cleaver showed up on an episode of Hi, Honey, I'm Home! Hi Honey, also featured a cameo from Gomer Pyle from Andy Griffith, which was a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show. Buddy from Dick Van Dyke appeared on Danny Thomas. Alan Brady from Dick Van Dyke narrated a film made by Paul Buchman on Mad About You. Mad About You ties into Friends through Phoebe and her twin Ursula (among other ways). Caroline In The City and Friends crossed over in an episode where Caroline's Annie was hit on by Chandler. Niles and Daphne from Frasier read the Caroline in the City comic strip. Frasier is, of course, tied to Cheers. Westphall, Craig, and Auschlander from St. Elsewhere all visited the Cheers bar.

    Thus, every single one of those 15 shows takes place in the same universe, and there are still more connections. Everything from The Geena Davis Show to Becker to The White Shadow can be tied in somehow. The sound you just heard? That's my mind...blowing."
    Not only does someone have waaaaay too much time on their hands, but I'm starting to worry that I've seen too many of these episodes!

    5.10.04

    Just in time for tonight's debate

    Not sure if you support John Kerry or George Bush? Try these quizzes to find out. (þ: Aravis)

    4.10.04

    Interesting Debate Analysis

    Presidential Debate Analysis. I wonder if this will be done for all the debates. The list of favorite noun phrases is interesting. (þ: Sybil Finemel)

    2.10.04

    Links Galore

    1.10.04

    Why comment?

    There's nothing I can say about the debate that Lileks hasn't said better than I ever could. So go read him.

    It's about time!

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee: "Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, but he had something bigger in mind all along... Berners-Lee is finally getting his reward: in July he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and the previous month he received Finland’s million-euro Millennium Technology Prize, awarded 'for outstanding technological achievements that directly promote people’s quality of life, are based on humane values, and encourage sustainable economic development.'"

    Arguably one of the most influential people of the past half century.