Wednesday, December 22, 2004

eMac update...

As the two year mark approaches, I am happy with the OS 10.2.8. So far, I am not tempted to upgrade the OS, as each release seems to have some bugs to iron out. Of course the last few releases of any OS are the best, and then they bring out a whole new OS to begin the bug fixes anew. This means that Panther OS will be at its peak now because next year we get Tiger, which has already been leaked. Apple is sueing the leakers as reported in Macminute today.

My needs are met well by the status quo. When and if I upgrade the hardware, then I will think upon upgrading the software as well. And of course, every OS upgrade means program updates, with the work commensurate to that need. A lot of work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Holidays and war...

Yesterday was another sad day for the families of our troops. Amongst the happy revelry of the season flit the wraiths of death - their black forms coming between loved ones like the harsh winds of the high plains, bringing cold numbing pain and devastating loss. Let us pray for these neighbors, and let us hope for an end to this war in the coming year.

We want to blame Donald Rumsfeld, but who really knows what the seat of power is, or what the influences are, we can only pray and wait.

Monday, December 20, 2004

His Dark Materials and Tweaking...

Sitting here listening to Nat King Cole singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...Jack Frost nipping at your toes....hhmmm...hmmm" and tweaking my colors...is this festive? Well, after the season perhaps a whole new template will emerge.

I am enjoying eReading "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman. Mr. Pullman has created another universe which has tantalizing qualities quite different from our world; quite frightening actually. I have read sci-fi fantasy where the worlds are better woven, thus giving our comfort zone some better points of reference. Ursula LeGuin's "Earthsea Trilogy" and Asimov's "Foundation" series for example, and the Harry Potter books certainly, but Pullman has given us a vision of a world off balance and in flux, one where fright permeates the senses page to page. Yet, these stories are called Children's Literature. I wouldn't recommend these books to any child. Dealing as they do with the kidnapping, maiming and death of children, they would be quite troublesome. Even my quite venerable self cried and had bad dreams after immersion reading to finish the first volume.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

USO and troops around the world

Just putting in a good word for the folks at the USO, wherever they are in the world. The USO brings much needed morale boosters to the troops and their families when they are away from home. Any USO has resources and the ability to help to at least get the information a traveling Militarily related person may need, and in the forward areas, the USO is the only "show on the road" many times. God Bless them, and give some thought to allocating the USO a few dollars toward keeping our people closer to home, if only in spirit.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Do the Right thing...

While the Christmas Spirit abounds, and the shopping gets frantic, and the money flows, give a little thought to what you have and what you can afford to invest in your fellows. If we can afford to shop, we can afford to give to the Salvation Army collection buckets we see on our way in and out. No other organization gets so much bang for the buck when it comes to helping. Give a couple of dollars, or a couple of fives...let the Salvation Army turn that cash into caring.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...

Ramping up the color a bit here. I was going to sleep reading my own blog. Maybe that played into the attack of the blands and my lackadaisical unwillingness to compose.

eBooks keep you warm in winter

Or at least eBooks keep you busy doing something other than peering out the window at the falling snow. Having just finished Robert Ludlum's "The Sigma Protocol", I dove into "The Golden Compass." Light reading makes the time go by faster, and Ludlum is fast all right...maybe not so light. "The Golden Compass" is an intriguing story of demons, humans, evil, good - the usual. Set in a universe somewhat like ours, but a bit skewed from ours in history and development. A quest story, and only the first of (guess what?!) a trilogy. Excellently written, I am fast becoming coiled in the story, and no doubt will read my way through all three books within the next month or so.

I have about five books going now - paper as well as "e". The "Ladies No.1 Detective Agency" books are so warm and intelligent. I thought I was on the last one, but another in the series comes out in a few months! I must preorder it at AMAZON!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Energy Surges once again...

Someone is reading my blog, and as the LORD said to Abraham, "only one", so here goes. And, oh yes, thanks for reading! Uhh...I need a topic....

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Blogging runs its course...

This could be the last post to this blog. After over a year, the urge to ramble on shrivels up like a date on the sands of Arabia. There's something about writing only for your own ego that really begins to fade in appeal. So - perhaps a final goodbye....

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Desperate and Thankful

"Desperate Housewives," is there anyone who is not watching it? Hugely addicting, probably because of the sin and the shock value. Add me to the addicted. WOW. Talk about escapist. I heard it referred to as a "water-cooler" show and that it is. Workplace escapism run rampant.

Thankful to have Thanksgiving, and not to travel for it. Home, cooking, day of rest. That's my perfect day. Would wish the same for the world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Flu shots again...

Once more, are we a third world nation? Now 94 year olds are being told to "come to the clinic" and wait in line for flu shots, which could take hours, and maybe the vaccine will run out before it is their turn?! I guess this is thinning out the population through indirect methods, and let it be a warning for all ages.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Elections over...now to get on with it

The elections are over, and now the politicos have to deal with the issues. That will mean a shift in their view from the incessant campaigning. Our ears are tired. I have nothing to say on that topic today, and am in fact, in a slump blogging-wise again. Until I am inspired, I say no more.

Monday, November 01, 2004

A world in chaos

Tomorrow is the presidential election. The world is in quite a bad way just now, and the outcome of the election may not make a difference in the general upheaval of malediction surrounding us. Can the president of the United States really affect the multi-national corporate stranglehold on the global economy, which is probably the real enemy of the working class everywhere. Outsourcing American jobs because slave labor can be had abroad chops at the foundation of America. No one seems to care about long term solid industrial capacity leaving this country by the ton each year. In fact, we have become a "service" nation, but surely that cannot prevail. Whom shall we serve in the long run? Each other? That seems like a pyramid scheme, just as ready to fall.

Friday, October 29, 2004

How about those Sox!!

WOW. Needless to say the scene here in New England was actually riotous after the Red Sox victory. All I can say is the Red Sox "came to play ball", and the Cardinals didn't. That Red Sox team made not only their own history but history for baseball forever. What a game and what a year. It was a needed upper in a world quite frankly full of gloom.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Palm fun

And, in other news, the Zire 21 is a lot of fun. The "blemished" part of my purchase is either the teensie nick on the screen, OR the fact that the battery is pretty easy to run down in not too long a time. This battery thing shouldn't happen in the Zire models because they are monochrome, and they have no glitz like cameras, color photo display, etc. Meanwhile, I bought Eric Snider's Solitaire, and QED the Palm OS "word processor." It is sooo cute, really. I am surprised at the functionality of something as small as the 160x160 screen on the Zire. I am so glad I bought it because my purpose was to get one at rock bottom cost and see if I liked using it. The trial is still ongoing, as I don't fully trust the PDA over my paper organizer yet. After all, I carry various items tucked into the pockets of the organizer, and I have to do "virtual tucking" on the PDA. I am very pleased with the Mac Palm Desktop software, and in addition, I back up the user data to my own file as well as doing the built-in backup. I have also acquired a little program for converting txt to pdb and back again on the Mac. PorDiBle is excellent, and it is open source software. I don't like or have PayPal, so I cannot make a donation for this, but I want to get the word out - PorDiBle for Mac!

Baseball....what a game

Delirious the last few nights staying up to watch every inning of the playoffs between the Yankees and the Red Sox. WOW. What games they were. My team didn't do the job this year, so the Sox go to the World Series. Looks like it could be a match between the Cardinals, who haven't tread that arena since 1987, and the Sox, who haven't seen the series since 1986. At any rate, the uniforms will be great! Lots of color. Play on.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Debates and baseball...

The Yankees and the Red Sox are better viewing than the presidential debates. The general reaction to the debates seems to be to make fun of the candidates, parody their gestures, critique how they said what they said and in general to reduce it all to show biz. When I hear a commentator say "Kerry should not be allowed to talk without the script his writers give him", or hear "What was that square thing Bush had on?" I can only say that a realization of how serious the world is now, and the thought that is really required to make hard choices, is absent. How can it be that humor and cynicism have supplanted thoughtful consideration, hard thinking and deliberation. I have to chose between two men to lead our nation. I may not feel up to that challenge. The easy fix means people want to think that Kerry will make it all better, but logic tells me that he hasn't been doing the job, so he hasn't actually had to make any decisions that matter, and "talk is cheap" as the old cliche goes. Meanwhile, the President of the United States has had to do the job. I have no way to know if Kerry would do that job better, worse, or much the same.

Meanwhile baseball provides a battle of another kind. One that really doesn't matter, thus is much easier on the soul.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

USA a third world country?

What is this flu vaccine nightmare? One company only that we buy from, and it is in the UK? And then they get contaminated and we have to cut back tremendously on our distribution of the vaccine? So - how much does this country really value health care, prevention and the lives of its citizens? All good questions. At least my aged father got a flu shot. Many of us who usually get them are not going to get them this year. There will be lives lost because of the incredible situation our healthcare priorities have begotten. And believe this - none of the politicians will really give us national health care because in order to run for office one must be beholden to far too many large corporations. The only way to GET better health care is to constantly lobby and write to your congressional representatives not once but consistently. And it will take far more people to do this than I think are willing to take the time. As long as SHAME is the reaction one has to having no health insurance, we are stuck in our own cultural morass.

Zire has me busy...

Exploring the capabilities of the Zire 21 has me busy. There are many applications you can get for it, but really, the ones they have are fine. the only thing I really want is a word processor/text editor and a converter to turn text files into palm DOC format for reading on the Palm. There are a couple out there as far as text editors, notably QED and WORDSMITH. See the descriptions at PalmOne software store or PalmGear. As far as a converter, on the Mac there seems to be not much choice, and the application PorDiBle seems to have excellent ratings, so I'll try it?

I got a cover and some extra styli, and I find reading "The Wizard of Oz" on the Zire great fun. Did I mention that eReader is just great!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Zire up and running...

I took it out of the box, and I cannot see how it is “blemished.” So that was good. Then I charged it for the three recommended hours. That was fine. I turned it on - it worked. I plugged in the USB cord, stuck it in the Mac, and installed the Palm Desktop for Mac. I dropped the files I wanted on the Zire, hit the HotSync icon, and WHOOOOSCH....up it all went - no sweat. Then I read a bit of “The Wizard of Oz” on the Zire, then fell into bed - now to get addresses imported - I am not putting them in by hand for sure.

I must say Palm OS really is smooth. I like the Palm Reader on the Mac and on Windows, and the Zire is working flawlessly so far. I made the mistake of reading too many dire postings of how the Mac would not support the HotSync, and in reality it all worked flawlessly. Anyhow - all seems well, and I am going to love this baby.

The drawback was absolutely NO paper in the box except the reminder to register the Zire. No booklet with set-up instructions. There are instructions in the software in Adobe Reader format, and luckily I had printed a lot of info from the documents at the PalmOne website before getting the unit. And quite a bit of the documentation is outdated in the version of the software I have - there were two differing instruction sets in two different documents on how to HotSync files from your desktop to the Zire, and neither were necessary with my version of Palm and OS X 10.2.8. It actually supports drag and drop from the directory on the desktop! Then you HotSync and that's that.

Now to get a case so I can carry it with me everywhere. And maybe a lighted stylus...and...

OmniWeb update...

OmniWeb is now MINE, and worth every penny. The nifty feature I haven't mentioned in the past is the built-in support for RSS! Yes, you can add RSS feeds to the bookmarks, and the dock icon will indicate the number of new unread items when you connect to the internet. So I tossed my stand-alone reader into the wastebasket because the built-in functionality in OmniWeb is sufficient for my RSS needs.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

iTunes makes news in Redmond...

Well, the news that Mr. Balmer considers all of us iPod owners thieves must have certainly given the world of techdom some interesting reading. I suppose the fact that Apple created the iPod, and that Apple created iTunes Store has been a real bother for some like him.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Palm Zire....into the handheld world

Today's email brought a special from the PalmOne Store on "Blemished" handhelds. Well, I fell into the "pit of weakness" and ordered a Zire 21. This is my chance to get that "ebook hardware" I have been lusting after all these years. I don't care a whit about a calendar or reading my books in color, so the price was really right. After shipping and tax, $59 and change. This is my first experience with handhelds, with the exception of the iPod which is really not the same at all. Still, it feels a little like the same experience to me. I can't wait to get my hands on it. Hope all goes well with the installation of the Palm Desktop on the Mac. We'll see. I checked the support docs at the Palm site and there are known issues, so again, we'll see. I have hopes for the eBook Reader on the Palm because I love it on the Mac and the Wintel machines. Good or bad - I'll report on it here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Dinotopia...ode to Zippo

Having never even heard of "Dinotopia", I rented the 284 minute long DVD set last weekend, and we sat down to enjoy what I thought would be probably a first installment of a three night viewing. I thought it might even be too silly, so I wasn't expecting very much. Well, it was fascinating. I think I was in an escapist mode anyway, and I was riveted. Two of us sat there through the whole thing, with only minor snack and exercise breaks.

What a romp. The story thickens with the detail of the world of "Dinotopia" and its residents whom we meet and appreciate on the way to the final crisis and the "finding of the light." The dino-people are entertaining, and intelligent, especially Zippo the librarian! The realistic dinosaurs and the settings were a tribute to James Gurney who created the "Dinotopia" book which was published in the nineties. The book is really a bound set of beautiful and imaginative illustrations as well as a story. The story *IS* the land of Dinotopia. Based on the gentle "Laws of Dinotopia", the culture does appeal to a better side of humanity than the usual fantasy-sci-fi outing.

And whoever said librarians are quiet and retiring has not met Zippo!

OmniWeb post the second...

Omniweb has become essential to my "browsing experience" to put it in today's vernacular. Possibly it even suggests the idea of a book title: "The Spirituality of OmniWeb as Browsing Experience". The tabs have the additional duty of creating multiple "desktops" which can be interchanged as you need a new default desktop for your browsing. I love this. Then, there is the bookmark list which I finally read the HELP on and figured out. So I now have a slick list of bookmarks which incorporate the Safari bookmarks I brought into OmniWeb and the default list OmniWeb supplies. I got rid of all sorts of links I didn't want, and the result is much better. I will admit the people at Omniweb could take a look at the bookmark SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) over at Opera. But this has been a minor irritant, and I can see where some people might like the rather intricate way one could set up the bookmarks. The premier look and feel of OmniWeb accentuates the technical acuity. So far I have downloaded from various sites, ordered from various sites, and made a point to do everything with it that Firefox is "iffy" about. I can't find a single thing OmniWeb doesn't handle flawlessly. I did have a couple crashes of the software the other night when I was busy doing some "cross-window" cut and pasting, and I think I may have overgrossed it myself.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Books, books and more books

Another shipment of brain food arrived from Alibris the other day. It is getting so that I must remove some furniture from the den to make way for books. Unfortunately, I also have a problem because I now have over twenty books I have not read and they are sitting around here and there staring at me as I walk by. If I sit and watch television, I feel their sorrow. Earlier on in life I always had read what I had on the shelves, but now they burgeon out of bounds. The advent of the computer has eroded away my reading time, and although I have to count my ereading time, that is also another area in which to build a book collection of unread titles. The bright spot in all this is that for the next several decades I ought to have something to do.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Old-tech paper punches

WHY can't someone invent a reasonably priced, non-problematic 3-hole punch?! The one I have at home you have to literally jump up and come down on it with force and then you hurt. The one at work that cost four times as much has one punch that doesn't function all the time, though there is a twisty thing to regulate that...but it doesn't stay in place. Absurdly, I just exchanged a new paperpunch of medium price for another because one punch would go down but not come up. And three of the ones I tried of the same make and model also had that problem. I have come to the conclusion that the whole species "paper-punch" is flawed. The design has not changed in decades, maybe over five decades. Inventing genius, your time is NOW.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The perfect browser quest goes on...

Just as the "perfect email service" quest has wound itself around and about over the past decade or so, so goes the "perfect browser" quest. Let's just leave IE out of it entirely. The only sites I use it on are sites which are required in my work and which are sadly made to function only in IE. Netscape is out of the picture, as it is now a vortex for spyware, and another piece of bloat. I don't need the mail and the composer and the newsreader, etc., etc.

Moving right along, there is Firefox, which although a fast, sleek and really nice little non-bloaty browser, has a few little glitches, and doesn't do well on a few sites. It also has a rather temperamental download facility, and on the Mac version has actually lost the download yet kept on grinding I know not where. It does this only randomly though, and is not always a problem. I have written about Firefox before, and at the moment it is my browser of preference on both systems.

Opera 7 is also on both systems, and Opera is a dandy browser, fast and efficient. The screen real estate is the problem with Opera, and the quirky handling of all those toolbars gets interesting. I have used Opera since version 3.5, and I have been sorry to see the usable screen area shrink. But Opera cares about web standards, and money spent on a license is money well spent. Opera remains extremely secure, and trustworthy, and the download utility is the best of any browser. I use it almost as often as I use Firefox.

Now, last night I downloaded the very classy OmniWeb for Mac OS X (there is no windows version). Omniweb 5 is a beautiful creature to behold. From the beauty of the OS X "look" to the speed, tabs on the side and overall smooth browsing, this one is a keeper. I intend to write more on Omniweb. For now, the bit where you can bring up a text editing box in any web form is so so cool. And the spellcheck - well, it doesn't get much better than this. Obviously this program is worth paying for. Last night I wrote a piece of email in one webmail account. I just clicked the tiny x (a feature of Omniweb)in the lower right of the text form which has always been too small in that mailer, and up came the textediting document window, and I was able to revise and see the whole message, and as I typed in the document it automatically transferred into the actual form box on the site. OH MY, how absolutely cool that is.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Palm Zire thoughts...

If one had a Zire, one could take ebooks wherever. To be bibliographically armed would be nirvana. Doctor's offices, waiting for my tires, all these tasks made so much more pleasant by reading, yet not carrying a book. HHHmm....but there is the cost. Lately I have been cruising the PalmOne site, and a very nice site it is. I keep going back because of the appealing and informative blurbs and the eReader store, so finally I began to read about the hardware itself. The real downside is that I hate to have things that rely on my PC because it becomes a tangled web of service contracts, and the possibility of one or another hardware peripheral going is just old. Not that I have had trouble in the past with hardware, but you never know, and I like to travel light on the ether. When you get a digital camera, a 'Pod, a handheld or any one of the other goodies, you then need to concern yourself with compatibility, upgrades, etc., and in the event that one of the hardware items is outpacing the others, or becomes outdated you are faced with working that issue out. So I have held out this long on the Palm. After becoming addicted to the 'Pod, well, I know my weakness.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Blog bog

I am getting bogged down here with the blahs of Fall. The weather can't be to blame - and although the workload increases, it isn't backbreaking. No, it's just the blahs. Does anyone read this stuff? HAHA. Well, at least it is my outlet for all the speeches my poor family and friends are thus spared.

Books, how they take from computime, don't they? I haven't finished "True Grit!" I am waiting on my own copy. I have been reading a couple of ebooks, Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Across the Plains with Other Stories" and the story I'm on is a lyrical overview of French locales which became artists colonies in his time. The stories in this book are really non-fiction travelogues. And in another eReader window, I have "Dead Men Tell No Tales" by E.W. Hornung, better known for the "Raffles" books. Good stuff.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Rushdie and Peter S. Beagle

A huge hurrah was given by a friend of mine to the works of Rushdie, so I am reading "Haroun and the Sea of Stories." I have read "East, West", a book of short stories he had written a few years ago, and I found them interesting and witty.

I think that I have allowed myself to Blog these many months without ranting about the writing of Peter S. Beagle. I fell over "Folk of the Air" while cataloging gift books into the library. I read it at once, then bought a copy in hardcover of the first edition, shockingly cheap and available only through the used book trade once again, and sent this to a reading friend. I was amazed and impressed by the book. while at once fantastic and weird, it was also so contemporary and so "California." I had never really given one moment's thought to the Society for Creative Anachronisms, Inc but having read "Folk of the Air" I looked them up on the web. Beagle pokes a lot of fun at the group, but in its way the novel glamorized them a bit. I enjoyed the story of the "old Hippie," Joe Farrell, and his wanderings through the mazes of magic, mayhem and mystery. The crowning glory of this novel is the powerful Athanasia Sioris, Mother Goddess extraordinaire. I did acquire my own copy of the book after a few months. My shelves would not be complete without it, although I try to keep my resident book collection to the bare minimum. Shelving is finite, and books are a movable commodity, so my permanent keepers are not allowed to flow to far afield from my available space. That's the ideal, that's the measure I try to work from anyway.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Alibris for Portis and McGuane...

Well, overcome with eagerness to continue the present state of "bibliomania" I cruised Alibris today and ended up with a bursting basket of Portis and McGuane. With trade paperbacks going for $2.95 and stated as Very Fine, how could resist? I am getting all of Portis's novels and several of Mcguane's. Let's hope I like Thomas McGuane. Everything I've read points to liking his writing, and the library afforded me a glance at a few of his books, and they looked interesting. Apparently McGuane is considered a Western writer of literary eminence.

I also decided to grab a couple Ludlum's. Well, I have heard good things about "Road to Gandolfo" and "Road to Omaha." Earlier works that have an edge of irony and hilarity not found in say - the "Bourne Trilogy."

Thursday, September 09, 2004

More Charles Portis...

Now I have finished "Norwood." Another wonderful novel. Charles Portis is truly a writer to amuse and fascinate. His lean "to-the-point" style is unembellished by the hackneyed adjectival blather of so many novelists. I guess I have to differentiate between "pop-best-seller-creators" and writers. Or is it "AUTHORS?" If this distinction were to be drawn, Charles Portis would fall into the "AUTHOR" category, one whose works will be read decades after their creation, having, as they do, stories centered on human life and character.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Masters of Atlantis...

I just finished reading "Masters of Atlantis" by Charles Portis. The first Portis novel I've read, but not the last. The experience of reading Portis was like discovering another hobby.

Unfortunately he has written only five novels thus far, and it has been awhile since the last. The movie "True Grit" is an adaptation of one of his five novels. I never thought about reading it, but now I certainly will. While I was reading I could only think of "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" by Vonnegut, and "Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. Both of those books were poignantly told stories of misfit individuals who tried to make a world while somehow shining a light on our world. The difference is that, while the two novels above were funny, Portis is hilarious. I mean I actually hurt from laughing at the ludicrous statements, the sudden surprise twists and the just plain silly nonsense this book offers from cover to cover. All told in the tale of a secret society of very few whose origin was the scamming of our innocent central figure by a con artist he met after leaving the Army. Mr. Jimmerson never realizes he was conned, and he succeeds in gathering a coterie of faithful to the Gnomen Society, and there begins the epic which ends years later in a mobile home in Texas. The years between are a story you should not miss.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Oh iMac My precious......

Will I get to look a lot like Golum if I keep drooling over the new iMac and wanting to touch and feel? This day has brought yet another addition to a line of superbly beautiful Mac designs. I do wonder about the heat of the CPU right flattened on the display though...somehow it seems like a laptop with the display half melding to the bottom, keyboard removed to wireless. Today's best comment was: "Oh, look a laptop on a stick!" Excellent!

And what the heck is wrong with GMail?! I went to sign in while using Opera's newest and got told "Oh we here at GMail don't support Opera 'yet'." They were friendly enough...offering download links to Mozilla, Netscape, and probably IE. Sigh. You can log in in Opera but nothing works. Get on the stick, GMail. Oh, and on that subject, several people have taken my invitation, which is great. Perhaps if enough people flock over to GMail they will eventually add POP. I mean POPing mail into GMail. It is so large it would make a convenient catch-all for various newsletters etc.

Shall we build an ark?

I asked my family the above question last night, as the waters poured down for the third day in succession. Roads have washed out here, basements have flooded and given way, and the earth has moved downstream in mud slides. This is not typical, especially for this time of year. On the larger scene, the hurricane season has been bad already with devastating effects on Florida and other Southern areas. North Carolina has come in for a heavy dose of storms and wetness. Maybe a trip to the lumber yard is in order!

Monday, August 30, 2004

Movies and books...

Skip "The Big Bounce." Oh my. The plot doesn't even begin to form before it's all done, and the cheesecake on the beach cannot make up for the general lameness of the whole thing. Even with Morgan Freeman, Owen Wilson, Charlie Sheen et. al., it just doesn't ever come together. I wasn't even expecting much, just a funny, relaxing escapist flick, but this one wasn't it.

I have moved on through three of Dan Brown's books, and am into "The DaVinci Code." So far the formula is the same. And I do mean formula....plug in one "able smart female", one "academic serious yet hunky man", one hideous plot, and go from there through several plot twists that see our heros through unbelievable escapes from doom, until finally they save the day, overcoming all the weird odds. And they are odd. Frankly, Brown's writing makes Len Deighton, John Le Carre and even Robert Ludlum (his REAL books) look like Hemingway, Conrad and Doyle, but the books are entertaining enough. Fast reading and not hard on the brain.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

That next Season...

It is easy to tell the next season will be upon us soon. Each night as I drive home from work I pass the high school. The football team has been out practicing in the evening sun for about the last week and a half. The boys lined up in their blue and white, scrimmaging on the field of green with the sun glinting down from the West, and gold spreading over the hills. Truly an eternal moment, every year repeating, flowing one year into the next. Ten years ago it was my son's team, and now he and his classmates are far away from the football field through time and space.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Changes on Monday...

Template change here. I want a clean look and one that does not encourage any idea that the blog is a silly waste of time. There are so many blogs that are a silly waste of time, and indeed many that make me sad. So much of blogspace is written in the lowest common denominator, both linguistically and culturally. Knowing that my own blog is no great advance in terms of human intellect, I usually try to maintain a certain humility, but when I go blog reading, it is just sad. I have fallen over one or two very interesting blogs out there, but the drek one has to wade through to find these gems is waist high and rising.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

With regret...

Mariner just went into the trash. I cannot really fund the purchase of a word processor when I already have licensed Nisus Writer Express and Appleworks, yet my need for word processing is minimal. I write whatever letters I need and I produce a yearly Christmas letter (yup - I do that and I don't care what anyone thinks...hahahha). Sad though, what a nice program Mariner Write is.

Spent some time tweaking Opera for Mac last night and today. Very nice, not withstanding the Opera UI is still too much landscape on the page. Too many toolbars, people! But the preferences and the printing choices (disappointingly less in the Mac interface) make Opera a must have. The beauty of the UI in its "Opera Standard" choice is better than the OS X look available in the list now.



Saturday, August 21, 2004

Opera for Mac finally the Opera I knew

I just installed Opera 7.54 for Mac, after installing the Win version on the PC at work. After all this time using Opera (since version 3 on the Windows PC) I just whipped through the preferences to get the setup I wanted. All previous versions I have tried in MAC OS X have been slow, crashy and not up to the standard one expects from Opera. This installation seems to be very good. I had one bad moment when the program froze while setting up prefs, but an "end program" and another try let me do what I wanted. So far this version is doing the job. It works well with Google and Yahoo, and I have seen no bad sites so far. So we'll see. If it is faster than Firefox I will be very surprised, but Firefox has download oddities, so I have been using Safari to do downloads. There is also a problem with the limited print efficiency in Firefox on Mac OS X. I love the many prefs for print setup in Opera.

In other news, Darryl Worley on iTunes has been successfully purchased. His music is just infectious. Thank you Apple for bringing us iTunes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Nisus Writer Express where are you?

Well, after trying Mariner Write, my teeth are gnashing. I paid for Nisus Express, and every time one goes to the site it says "Nisus Express Version 2.0 COMING." Well, it seems we have waited a long time, and they also say that the new version will not accommodate embedded graphics with a simple text wrap. Now, Mariner Write does this so flawlessly that I am wondering if I should have spent the money on Mariner that I spent on Nisus, but I don't want to hear the answer. I could license Mariner right away, as I said I was going to do in a previous post, but the cost of Mariner is the only real drawback. It is quite expensive at $69.95 for the download edition. But, perhaps worth the price. Indeed, I would not hesitate, except that I don't need much more than I have already, what with Appleworks and Nisus Express.

No more ads?

After becoming fascinated with the rotation of ads on the top of the page, I was amazed to see the new "navbar" after posting a few days ago. This is a good thing. Very sleek and useful, but somehow I will miss the fun of the ads. I can't seem to find out if this is permanent or it there will be ads in a new configuration? Well, time will tell.

Commensurate with the new look I also tweaked the template one more time to blend the background in with the bar, having never really liked the background. And, I also never really liked the redwood color of my title, so that went away too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Summer reading ...

After finally registering eReader Pro, I have really "wasted" a bit of time on ebook reading the last few weeks. The package comes with a few free ebooks - mainly the best seller type - or what I usually refer to as "schlock." I have to admit I am enjoying them.

Another book I just finished is "Digital Fortress" by Dan Brown. Dan Brown's books definitely fall into this category. His writing is very Ludlumish, and evocative of Tom Clancy as well. "Digital Fortress" was his first novel, and it is 'pretty good.' I had the thing figured out but the action was non-stop, so it held my interest. Don't take things too literally in his books, they are not science, nor are they fact...they are fun quick reading. Enjoy them and don't get caught up in the controversies and don't believe everything you read. Next up: "Angels and Demons."

Beautiful but noxious Purple Loosestrife...

We are trying to rid the area of Purple Loosestrife, yet another observation I made on the trip to new York State was the plethora of loosestrife along the highways, and in wet areas wherever I looked. I don't know if any control is in place in upstate New York or if there just is no money to fight this infestation. While being lovely, loosestrife is noxious in the way it proliferates and it chokes out native species and will close off waterways and lessen habitat. Here in Vermont there are volunteers out trying to pick the plants out by the roots one at a time to prevent the seeds from spraying out when they ripen. It seems like a loosing battle if right across Lake Champlain the loosestrife goes wild.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Darryl Worley...

I was fortunate to get tickets to a benefit for military families last Saturday night. The featured artist was Darryl Worley. I can't believe I never paid much attention before. This young man is extremely personable, extremely talented, and his rapport with the audience was stunning! His music is a winning combination of humor and energy, with some serious notes. I recommend his music to anyone who loves country as it was; country as it should be. Somewhat reminiscent of George Strait, with some Jimmy Buffett influence, some Haggard and some good old traditional roots.

Opening for Worley was Donovon Chapman, much less polished but he has potential and real charm. Donovon has just signed a recording contract so I am sure the company will polish those edges. I look for more from him. His music is very influenced by both Hawaiian sound (he is half Hawaiian) and by Jimmy Buffet sound, as well as the more traditional country styles.

Also opening was Steve Vaus. Steve is an older performer with quite a history of patriot song writing. At the moment he has a children's album and plans for a SONY sponsored television show this Fall. All in all an interesting evening.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Mariner Write is beautiful...

I got the newest version yesterday and installed that to my own Applications folder. It is just so nice, functionally as well as visually. The options are presented in an intuitive way, and there are lots of them. They have them arranged in an easily handled fashion, and the editing "ribbon", the edit toolbar actually, is removable as is the ruler. Pretty standard in a word processor, but none does that all so beautifully, and the customizing of the toolbar is also easy. You will be up to par with Mariner Write in a very short time - like for instance - ten minutes, if you have used WPs in the past. The PDF manual included could have OS X illustrations, since OS X has been around awhile now. But as a manual it is great. I will register Mariner Write.

This program is elegantly styled and just very lovely to look at as well as fast. Did I say that last time? Well, it is, and it opens WORD docs too, from version 6 on. Mariner will save in rtf, and has also got a save as PDF right in the save dialogue. All in all, Write is heads above Nisus now for my needs, and although Appleworks does so many things, Write has the WP game wrapped up on the Mac, if you don't need WORD.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Repair Permissions...

In the year and a half since I bought my Mac, I have only done "Repair Permissions" twice. I think it was last winter the first time and then last night was the second. In both cases it was after the Applications folder wouldn't let me put something in it that I wanted on the system for all users. I was told the folder was locked. Well, the Disk Utility repaired permissions nicely. I really must get up the energy to research why this happens. I know I had a few programs in trial mode in and out of the Mac, and in fact just two nights ago I was trying out Mariner Write and I put that program in the Applications folder. So perhaps the tossing of that trial demo and the associated files was my problem. Who knows. I do know that the advice offered every time an update from Apple comes is to do Repair Permissions before and after the installation. So, perhaps once in awhile I should do this routinely.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Doing good far away...

I have to collect my thoughts in order to write about people who go to great lengths to "do good."

So many times I read in our newspaper or see a feature on television about someone from the area who has gone to India, or Bangladesh, or Latin America, and even Selma, Alabama in order to do works of charity: to hold orphan children, to succor the ill in Africa, to bring a few days of order to a primitive hospital, and to, in general, get in touch with the seamier side of human existence, while at the same time some of these people show a certain amount of scorn and distain for those around them in the normal daily routine of life in Puddletown, USA. I am often amazed because the same spirit of generous and spiritual giving could have been accomplished right in town. I often hear that such experiences give a "groundedness" even a "spirituality dimension" to those to whom the luxury of travel to a faraway place can give a feeling of being in some way superior to those who go about their daily routines and may give in other ways as best they can but without the publicity. I know many people who have never had a newspaper spread nor have they gotten public notice for what they do every day to bring some comfort into the lives of others.

I believe that doing good faraway is another incarnation of the "White Man's Burden" sort of thing the Europeans were so chastised for in another era. Is holding and comforting a baby in India somehow better than holding and comforting a baby in the local clinic while his Mom is being seen by the nurse? Is it better than holding and comforting a child whose family has to depend on the local food shelf because of the unemployment of the family - or to help out with time talent or treasure at the local shelter, food shelf or school? Is it better to travel to another continent to do a few days or a week of comforting people whom you are going to leave in the lurch again? In order to change something, time has to be invested. Better to invest it locally and hope the rest of the world will do it to. We won't be able to make a difference unless we do it one person at a time where we are. As the old hymn says, "Brighten the corner where you are..."

Monday, August 09, 2004

Mariner Write compared...

Ah HA! Yes, indeed. Now the ads up top are for the reunion sites. An odd thing to me was to find that many schools have people with the additional duty of coordinating alumni information, and herding the collection of older yearbooks. These initiatives might increase the number of gifts to schools from alumni, an idea that may have filtered down to the high school from the college level. Interesting.

I should mention that I am in the early stages of a trial of Mariner Write for OS X. It is a very pleasant software package indeed. I love the intuitive elegant interface, the swift response to all commands, and the very nifty capability of surrounding a graphic with text without the usual several level preference screens one has to go through in most word processors. As far as I can tell the only drawback is the price. Since I already have Appleworks and Nisus Express, I can hardly validate the need for Mariner Write, but Nisus is rather a cumbersome beast in some ways, especially the default save mechanism...a dedicated folder with Nisus documents. I always feel I should back them up in a folder of my own making. Appleworks is very capable but rather slow. The varied capabilities of the program itself are probably what make it so ponderous. I do like the look of both Nisus and Appleworks though.

Overall Mariner Write looks the best, moves the fastest, and just might get my money in the end!

That website editor software...

Need I say I really don't like "you-know-who-Frontpage" web editor? I like the clean simple html coding of yore. I like to do it simple and do it myself. I have to use Frontstuff at work to edit my site there. Well, I probably could entirely rework it, but then when I brought it into the server it would be Frontpaged anyway. It isn't the prettiest stuff when you look at the source code. It is actually a hideous mess in that view. If I didn't have another site created with a simple editor - TACO for Mac OS X - I would probably spend more time on the work web. Since THE BLOG, I can't really see the point of the strictly personal web site anymore, unless some content which will remain static is housed therein.

Again, the ads at the top of the page are becoming a fascination for me. What text will Google like next? Part of the fun...but you have to be careful what you say because you could end up advertising "you-know-who-software." >;)

Peru High School Reunion...

After all these years. So many classmates have seen each other over these past years at one reunion or another, some even at all of the reunions. I have not seen anyone in my graduating class since graduation.

I looked forward to this off year reunion, but I was nervous. After all, I had been there only a short time compared to "regular" kids who grew up in Peru and environs. What, after all, did I know about these people and their lives after all the time and space that has passed between all of us?

When we gathered, we were only 16 classmates, three of whom were Milbrats, myself included. I walked in, recognized several people right away, and was recognized by several others. We knew faces sometimes without knowing names, but once we began to talk and share our lives, we felt a bond that can exist only with those with whom you share a generational experience. I am not really even sure that this bond is only with those you know - perhaps you could go to any reunion of that same year and the life experiences and the growth those experiences trigger could help you feel at home.

I had brought pictures I had taken the last few days of our senior year. Several others had brought pictures, and there was a yearbook in residence on the reception table. I think we enjoyed the pictures of past reunions as much as any other pictures. The women who organized the reunion worked very hard to find others in the class and entice them to join us, but it is amazing how many people can't make room in their lives for even one evening with old old friends. We did talk about the reasons some may have, but we missed their company and hope for the gift of their attendance the next time. You know, even if you think there weren't many friends, you would be amazed how time makes friends of old classmates. After all, we were so young then, the world and our lives were unfolding before us, and the magic was yet to happen. Now, we have had bad thing and good things happen, and we have weathered it. I think the celebration is in the "being there." Those classmates whom we have lost were remembered.

There were of course those for whom I had special fondness in that sparkling misty dawn of time so far away. I still feel fondness. There were those whom I had not known as well, but whom I now know better after having joined with the group in the memories and the sharing of just that one special evening on that warm summer night in August.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Support Our Troops...

Our "Support our Troops" yellow magnetic ribbons were stolen by some piece of human excrement.

I didn't notice mine last night when I left the parking lot at the college, but they either disappeared at home in the driveway or in some parking lot. So many people never learned this basic fact of civilized life: IF IT ISN"T YOURS - DON"T TOUCH!

The yellow ribbons are not a political statement. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the magnets is going to the fund for the families of our National Guard members presently deployed to the Middle East. We remember the men and women who serve, and we pray for their safe return. I deplore the deaths and the injuries in this war, as in all others, and as a military family, we know that there are so many lonely separations and times of hardship that affect our community, both military and civilian.

The next thing I attach to my car will stay.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

My PBS station scheduling...and global warming

We were enjoying the new episodes in the British series "Foyle's War." But Sunday evening at the usual time, my PBS station had no trace of the third episode, nor was there any sign of the fourth episode in the guide for this month. Now, the guide doesn't include anything after about midnight at all, so imagine my surprise when I emailed the station and the reply was: "Oh, we were going to run it in the overnight hours about 1am, but technical difficulties precluded this. " ? Here we have a new episode of a new series. Something like this doesn't come along very often these days on Public Television. Add that to the fact that I had no way to know they were planning on offering it in the middle of the night. Oh - I am supposed to go to their website and what? Print out the schedule?! I get the guide because I send a yearly pittance to the station, and it would be nice to have the WHOLE broadcasting schedule in the guide.

Now, with the demographics of Public Television showing that the audience is older and pretty small, you would think that a new series would be a headliner event. The OTHER PBS station in the area, from the state across the lake, has the series on in prime time every Sunday night. This week it is preempted for a special, but there it is, in their guide for next week, so my day is happier. I really like the OTHER station and I support them too.


If Public Television is going to grow and keep on getting viewership, they better get some idea of scheduling for more of the masses, both in programming and in timing. Wouldn't Friday night be a nice time for a really good movie in prime time? Even an old B&W classic? For heavens sake, that is not the time I want to see political pundits envelope the planet in hot air. HHmmm...is politics the real cause of global warming?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Reunion...

This weekend is a high school reunion, year unmentioned. It will be interesting to see how everyone has made peace with the world over the years. Unfortunately a couple of my really good friends from that time are not to be found, so they won't be there. Well, many of the people I remember fondly will be there, so I am sure we will enjoy the evening. I haven't been able to attend any of the reunions, in fact didn't know of them since the tenth. The wonder of the web has changed all that. I added my email to the list at the high school alumni site, and there you go.

I was disappointed in Johnny Depp's "The Secret Window." Not very good. Creepy without any redeeming resolution. Johnny must have needed the cash. Looking forward to Juliet Binoche and Jean Reno in "Jet Lag" which is rented and awaits our viewing. I just saw "The Others" over the weekend, and I have to say it is well done and gripping. Nicole Kidman is, as usual, a flawless actress. She was at her peak in "The Hours", a film which I recommend only for the performances, as the story is a bit too long in the telling.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Steve Jobs recovery...

I wish Steve Jobs a speedy recovery. I know that his health is directly related to Apple as a company as well. I read the positive prognosis in the articles regarding his illness, and I certainly hope they are 100% accurate.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Another man from Vermont dead in Iraq

Lt. Col. David Greene has been killed in Iraq. He leaves a wife and two children. He was a marine pilot and flew Cobra helicopters. He was shot down. He is, as far as I can find out, the 12th Vermonter to die in Iraq. He moved here with his family a few years ago from the Raleigh, NC area.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Apple musings...

Apple has just sent me (and about a million or more others) a nifty deal where if I buy a new Mac with various accoutrements, I can save up to $330. Well, they don't understand that I need to pay for the one I have! A nice no-interest loan but I have another 6-7 months to go. Oh - to dream. I am still learning and enjoying the eMac. It is so easy to USE that one can put off the exploring and delving into the innards. I do like to go romping through the file directories to see what's on the inside, what's behind the pretty window dressing. Actually, on the Mac, the innards are as pleasing looking as the display! I still like to look at the folders in various views and see what sort of folder looks best in what view.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bloggers with credentials....

BBrrr...sounds like a disease....credentials...getting into your distal portions and making you crepitatious and gnarly. Well, enough levity. The Democratic convention has "credentialed" some twenty+ bloggers to augment the press corps. The thinking is that these cutting edge techies will have a unique perspective on the whole Democratic process. Interesting thought, and the one interesting thing so far in the convention. While Kerry is out slogging down the campaign trail, his minions in Boston are conventioneering. I was surprised that Kerry wasn't there (he gives a speech there Thursday night to accept the nomination), I had supposed he would be. So all that is happening is rhetoric. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, new we are presented with. It seems that the Democrats don't dare run on a "Get out of Iraq" platform, and frankly that is all I wanted to hear. Healthcare and "Get out of Iraq." And I hardly think the Demos can deliver on either thing, and the Republicans don't even want to. So far, the election is the most lackluster one in decades. We'll see.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Camera bug bites again....

Again I was bitten by the camera bug. It seems to be a summer infestation. I have plenty of cameras. Some funky items I have had for years. And you never know what camera I might be taken with next. Reluctantly I also face the possibility that my little Mini 3 might give out on me due to the fact that I have dropped her about four times. But she trucks on and is giving me fine pictures. I also have a Minolta SLR, a Yashica Mat, and now a little Rollei Prego. None of which are top of the line photo equipment by the criteria of serious photographers, but they all have excellent glass compared to most consumer level point and shoot cameras. I love to take pictures and I always have. I got the Rollei because she was on sale used at B&H Photo for a very good price, as far as I was concerned. And I was amazed to find when it arrived, that included was the manual in new condition, and the original box, though sadly the case was missing. However, in the ad online, B&H had made no mention of anything included at all - just the camera. Factory refurbished (interesting definition - refurbished is to furbish again, according to the OED online). As usual - great dealing with B&H.

Back in 19?? I got my first camera, a little Kodak Brownie Holiday which took 127 film on a roll. Yes, kiddies, film used to come on a roll. It then wound itself up unto another spool as it took the pictures. I loved that camera. I have still got some "super-slides" that it took. They were larger than 35mm slides, but fit into the same mount, so you could show them on a standard projector. I had that camera for several trips to various scenic spots in the West, and then for the trip to Spain. While living in Spain my mother bought me a used Zeiss Ikon folding 35mm camera at the "thrift shop." I haven't a clue which model that was, all I know was it was small, and it was all manual, and you have to cock the shutter before you took the picture. Excellent lens though. I had that camera for several years, until the urge for glitz and convenience sadly led me to sell it for a song to a friend. I then rushed out and bought a Kodak Instamatic 304, with the cool new-fangled "electric eye" exposure meter.

This lasted until I was living in Okinawa, at which time the camera bug seriously bit the whole family. This is where the Yashica Mat comes in, as well as my first SLR, of the trusty Pentax K series. This camera is still working fine as my daughter's main camera. She loves the manual nature of the Pentax and it's excellent glass. Somewhere in those years I bought and loved a little Kodak Cameo 35mm with the flip flash that also acted as the lens protector, and the lens retracted when the flash flipped down. That was a keen little camera. It was so small and convenient that I sacrificed using the better lenses I had on my other cameras to go for the convenience of size and portability.

I inherited the Minolta SLR from my mother. It is a flexible camera which can be used in manual mode, aperture priority, or fully programmed. I always use fully programmed, but the fact is that I have not got the confidence in it that I have in the Pentax or in my little P&S cameras. I don't know why, because it always gives excellent results and has an excellent lens. It can focus the closest of any of the cameras I have ever used.

After the Kodak Cameo's flash just stopped working about five years ago, I had to get a new camera or take all my pictures outside. Since I wanted convenience, small size and all automatic, I knew I had to move up the ladder into the more expensive point and shoots. I knew I wanted a better lens. I had a family wedding coming up, and I needed really good results. After much suffering and comparison shopping, I bought the Mini 3, and I have never been more pleased with a camera. As I say, I have dropped her four times, and two of those times were rather harsh. I was all set to take my punishment in finding her dead, but the camera works fine, and the lens is still excellent. That camera is built like a little tank. I just bought the Rollei prego to have as a backup camera, and because I want to have a camera with B&W film in it sometimes.

I know that to lots of techno-persons I am a troglodyte when it comes to cameras. WHAT! NO DIGITAL? Nope. I like film, negatives, archival storage and the fun of getting the film processed. Call me old fashioned, I know you will. My mother was teaching photography classes when I was in grammar school, and I had the pleasure of a period early on when the family had a small darkroom and did our own B&W, including enlargements. I even sold my prints to friends when I took pictures of the high school basketball games. I never intend to do that again, but the memories remain of the good times, and that is a part of my fun with cameras. And, once in awhile, very rarely, I see a print of one of my pictures, and it is good.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Healthcare and Iraq

In my previous post, I may have overlooked mentioning that the war in Iraq and the state of the nation's healthcare are the two most important issues before us in this country. As usual, we are in a sticky position in the world, and I hope the Democrats have a plan to oppose any more troops and actions in Iraq. We need the money for the domestic front - we need Healthcare reform and we need it badly.

So for what it's worth, the conventions will have to address both these issues.

Summer heat, humidity and politics

I had this all written, and the prose was astoundingly beautiful, and then Blogger hiccupped and away went my post. Really. It was a work of art. I cannot hope to do it over again, so here is a synopsis:

Political conventions are not that exciting anymore, and do they have them in the middle of summer in order to distract our attention from what goes on at the convention? Most of us are enjoying the summer, and we don't really want to deal with the issues at this point. I know, I know, shame on me. And then there is this: can any of the parties actually do much about the "issues" anyway. Well, the Democrats have had their turn at saving the country, and so have the Republicans, and on the whole I prefer the Democratic approach. But I am not certain the difference is apparent. The main product of the conventions will be billowing waves of hot air, and the proof will have to come later.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Added Blog links

I added some more "Blogs I Like" down there on the right...I want to add that the link to "My.......Programming Blog" is NOT mine! That's the title of a blog located in Calgary, Alberta. Great photos and lots of stuff that's not programming.

Rain followed by torrents and wetness...

Weather the last few weeks has been, in the main, wet. The tomato plants haven't had enough warm sunny days to extend foliage growth, but they are filled with tomatoes, so that works out. Perhaps the only tomatoes we will get. The beans are the happiest, having grown sevenfold in the last two weeks. Blooming purple flowers attest to the future bean harvest of Royal Burgundy Bush Beans. The grass is deep green and the tropical rainforest ambiance is lazing us out.

Political conventions are coming up soon, and I will try to follow the events until the rhetoric gags me, and then once again, duck under the whole "current events" scene with my computer and books. As mental health treatment, books and Macs are up there with the best. Not to mention Jimmy Buffet CDs.

I see that the random ads from Google now advertise Alaska to anyone who checks out this blog. I am so tempted to put a string of key words into every post...heh. Like this: Beef Council, Coca-Cola, Mount Etna, the BBC. That should suffice for this time.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

GMail discussion and PBS

The above topics are not really connected, though they are both running around in my brain. There is a discussion group for GMail issues. The same site has other email services advertised, and forums dealing with other webmails as well. Some very interesting and useful tips for users of several specific webmail services. I read these forums regularly.

Now for the PBS aspect of tonight's entry. "Foyle's War." Excellent program with three more new episodes after the first one tonight. Against the pall of early World War II, a policeman goes about his duties and is often met with official interference because the lines of national defense often cross those of the local police. A thoughtful and articulate look at England in one of her most trying periods, excellently plotted and acted by a cast of familiar faces from British drama.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Mac users - Blogger loves you!

HEY - good news! Mac users all clap! Blogger has a Help site which gives Mac users the option of uploading graphics straight into blogs. Good to know. And new. Have fun!

Alaska Pipeline

Last night on the History Channel, they told the story of the Alaska Pipeline. On the one hand, it was and still is an engineering marvel. On the other hand, it occurred to me that the enterprise was a monumental example of the SHOW ME THE MONEY philosophy of greed which has permeated the economy of the world probably forever. I hardly think it is a new phenomenon.

The men who literally powered that pipeline through all obstacles were a fascinating story. They went through and over mountains, they went under and over swamps and rivers, wide and narrow, they powered across the tundra and right through the Alaskan peninsula from North to South. From Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, they built it at a cost of 8 million dollars. Price was really no object, as the oil companies knew this project stood to make untold millions.

Of course, old age has now set in, the pipeline is 30 years old and maintenance is at a premium. At some point it will all have to be environmentally taken apart at another huge bunch of millions. I can only speculate what the environmental cost has been. Alaska, like many states in the lower 48, such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, could be rapaciously shorn of her natural resources by outsider companies, who then disappear when the mines and the oil run out, and leave the land to recover as best it can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Blogs of Summer...Zzzzzzzzzzzz...

Well, yes. There is blogger burnout. More like LazyBloggerSyndrome(LBS). Like last summer, this summer is enervating...feels like I should just flop over the edge of the back deck like a Dali clock. I keep trying to force myself to find a topic worth rambling on about, and believe me, several have occurred to me, but I just don't have the ambition while the thermometer exceeds the upper seventies. For one thing, there is the Bush administration's environmental policies - bad. For another, there is the war in Iraq - bad. Another possibility is further words on healthcare - situation remains bad for so many. And then there is the picayune daily irritants: people parking in the ten minute spot, people parking in the employee lot who shouldn't, people who don't clean up after themselves, and on and on. But, on the whole, this part of summer is so short and sweet that the short sabbatical from holding forth at length is justified.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Finished two books...

Over the weekend I finished both "Topper" and "Listening With My Heart." "Topper" I have previously discussed, and it finished with Topper sure to begin enjoying himself more, and his little wife was apparently going to join in the fun. The book is dated yet somehow the quaintness is fun.

"Listening With My Heart" is life story of Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995. Of course she was in her twenties when she wrote the book, and she had not yet become a mother, nor had she gotten her cochlear implant. I was touched and inspired by her story. She certainly worked hard to get her voice, quite literally. I saw her on television within the last year, after her surgery for the implant, and she was still getting used to hearing so much at once. It was so sad to hear of the confusion and disorientation suffered in the years necessary to get used to the implant. She said the doctors say an adult might take 5 years getting used to differentiating sounds. Apparently the noise of the crowd is of equal import to the brain to the sound of a close voice - any background noise is "frontground" noise to the new cochlear implant recipient. So the brain is trained to differentiate, as a hearing person's brain does in our earliest years. I look forward to seeing her again and hearing about her progress. She is truly an inspiration, and a wonderful role model for deaf children. Whatever method of hearing-speech a person is trained with, the important thing is to be able to communicate with the largest number of people possible.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

GMail - O.K...I broke down...

Blogger keeps offering the GMail thing, so even though I not only do not need another email account, but have stated thus in this blog, I signed up. There doesn't seem to be any way to change the colors, and that's too bad because the interface is extremely bright. The "labels" thing is a bit too contrived. After all the years of neatly arranged folders, I guess that's what most of us will do with "labels." Anyway, I am going to give it a try and see how it all goes. Free amusements are not that common. By the way, I was amazed to see in so many places on the web that people are clamoring for a GMail account, and that did play into my getting one. I want to see what all the noise is about.

Hearing colors...

Last night on the news they had a feature about a neurological condition in which the brain synapses do not untangle as they should as the child develops prenatally, and thus the person has two senses intertwined. One man think about the days of the week and he sees them in color. Each day has its own color. A woman sees colored shapes flying through the air when she hears music. Each person thinks everyone has this same experience, and at some point in life they discover that the rest of us do not have this going on. Interesting, and thought provoking. How many children are told they are imagining things, and how many people have been thought mentally ill after people discover their differences in perception.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Weight and alcohol...

All over the media I seem to encounter the war against fat, fat people, fat children, and all things fat. Health warnings are issued daily, and half of America is on either the "I hate carbs" or the "I hate fat" diet. When will the crusade against booze start? And I don't mean the "prohibition era II", but the media war on drinking to excess.

Several decades ago the crusade marched on smoking, and with good reason, but the fight took years and years (and still goes on), and certainly diverted attention from the massive numbers of alcohol related deaths, highway accidents, accidental deaths on the highway and in the home, family misery and brutality, and all the disease processes known to be exacerbated by alcohol. The old saying "You're never too thin or too rich" has never been more true. At the same time people are becoming addicted to exercise.

I see two reasons for all this emphasis on overweight. 1. It is a new crusade of attention that diverts the culture from facing its alcohol problem which affects social life even on the highest levels of society and government, and 2. So many people think they will be able to exercise their way and diet their way to eternal life. And by eternal life I mean the complete denial of death.

I am overweight. I have always had this tendency, and many times I have dieted to slenderness. I do not deny the possibility of weight playing a factor in illness, but it has not been shown conclusively that weight "causes" all the diseases that are at this moment being advertised as weight-caused.

It is a good idea to exercise and to watch ones intake. It is a good idea to try to live a healthy life. But philosophically speaking, I must tell you that at my age I know that to really go after the overuse of alcohol in this country (and I am not talking about any other country here at the moment) would just be such a revolutionary idea that any other crusade will always come first. "I can hold my liquor" and "I always stop at two" are probably the biggest lies we hear, and sadly they are often told by people who believe them to be true.

I see the college aged men and women drinking to excess as a "fun" pastime. They didn't get this idea from emanations out of the ozone, they got it from their parents generation. Drinking is nothing new, but the amounts and the spreading damage from the numbers of drinking students as young as junior high is amazing. This is sad, and will not be fixed by a few pious public service messages.

When you drive fat you don't kill, but when you drive drunk you do.

Good call, Senator Kerry...

This is not a blog which will follow the parties, the conventions or the election. Plenty of people are doing that. I will of course make some personal remarks about the thing from time to time. That said: excellent choice in a VP running mate, Senator Kerry! John Edwards is an excellent complement to John Kerry. Interesting election, and the decision was made much easier today.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Books and Apple computers

Has anyone thought much about the Google ads generated on your BlogSpot site? Interesting selection. I was a tiny bit annoyed at some of them because they were pretty much outside what I would have wished for, as in the case of all the links up there after the death of a former president whom named once more will generate more ads like the previous ones. So the title of this entry is a ploy to generate ads for two of my favorite things, heh.

The news from Apple today is the end of the present configuration of the iMac and a new model announced for September. I am looking forward to seeing the new model. No rush for me; I am happy with my present system, but it never hurts to look at the newer ones. Oh joy.

And as to books, why there just isn't time to read them all. I have just checked out a new non-fiction work by Tim Holland, entitled "Rubicon: the triumph and tragedy of the Roman Republic." This looks terrific, and if the first few sentences are anything like the rest of the book, I am in for an enlightening and well written treat.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Blogging disease

Is it real? I think it is, and I am infected. I just created a second blog on the slim pretext of journaling the life of our new popup camper. With us, I mean. Someone had to do it. I hope to get the picture thing worked out and add a few pictures to the new blog. Beware the blogging disease...my precious...

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Retired and discharged troops to Iraq?

Where will it all end? Are we all to go over there carrying our guns? Recalling retired and discharged Army veterans, what can possibly justify this? I had hoped for a troop reduction, NOW. All this about transferring power to the new "government of Iraq?" Sure. Well, they better not have jurisdiction over U.S. troops and we had better plan on getting out. When this first started it was "We will WITHDRAW and hand over power to the government of Iraq, but what happened to the WITHDRAW part? We will never solve the problems of the millenniums in the Middle East. Are we hurting our own security by sending troops to Iraq? I think so.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Bamboozled..."The play's the thing..."

Astounding film. I use the word FILM because Spike Lee deserves all the Oscars he can lug home and yet - where are they? A nomination for "Do the Right Thing" for Best Original Screenplay, and a nomination for Best Documentary for "4 Little girls". Golden Globes - nominations for Directing and screenplay. Yet no winners in these two prestigious venues. I can only compare Spike Lee to Woody Allen for genius in direction and writing. They are the two directors who will still be remembered far into the future as American film greats.

"Bamboozled" got such mixed reviews. I think that's because it is uncomfortable for everyone, and yet it is a story about greed, human failings, injustice and the wish of every human to be taken at his own value as an individual. I knew that the end could not be pretty, and I cried because of the death of the innocent Manray. Used and thrown out by the people who had only one idea of his personhood, and then killed by violence in the most terrifying way, starting a chain of violence ending in tragedy for all the main participants.

Unfortunately, I think the worst indictment the film makes is of the whole television thing. Television exists ONLY to sell product, and whatever that takes is seemingly O.K., and has caused the gradual eroding of what we are willing to allow into our homes. The racist, horrifying, dehumanizing picture of how the media (and Spike Lee suggests we all have internalized these concepts) and its minions are willing to use and abuse the African American Community rang true to me, and all those critics who thought it was too far out, too over the edge; perhaps they missed the art form the movie took, the "Show is the show", the poetry in film. "The play is the thing" and as in Shakespeare, so in the work of Spike Lee.

Email...what's the big deal?

O.K....so I have several email addresses. Who doesn't these days. Who needs the massive storage. One day you will have to clean that baby out and save the ones you want, so keep it clean now! I mean 1 GIG? I am drawn to try Gmail, but even though I got the invite, I am not really excited. Oh, at first I thought, "Why not?" but then I realized I already had a really great account at Fastmail, and then there is Yahoo, so because both of these are great, and I use them a lot, and I actually PAID for Fastmail, and then bought extra storage, well, nothing more is needed. My work email is the SPAMMYyest thing out there. No SPAM control at all, and it's Outlook - what more need be said. But as to Yahoo, they have upped the storage, and overall they have been the most reliable and have had the most uptime of all the accounts I have used for the last ten years. And I got my account that is now Yahoo about ten years ago. WOW, how time flies. But if you need an account, why not try Gmail? Everyone does need more than one so that you can POP the mail when your main server is on the blink, so give it a whirl.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Topper and modern life

Having almost finished reading Thorne Smith's "Topper", I can say that the whole message of the book is that modern life has smothered many a fine soul. Written in 1926, it resonates just as much in 2004, except that perhaps we have a finer sense of the eventual mess alcohol and fast driving brings, but then again, maybe not. Through the ghosts of George and Marian Kirby, Topper is introduced to wild living and breaks out just a bit from the deadening pace of his ritualized suburban life, each day of which he can recite from memory as well as in advance: meals planned by the day of the week, and all appearances to be carefully maintained.

Of course most of us have seen the movie, and the casting of Cary Grant and Constance Bennett couldn't have been better. The DVD, released in Feb. 2004, is excellent. The book is different than the movie, mainly in the transfer of the action in several scenes to other settings from those in the book. I don't know why, but really, the movie does an excellent job of capturing both the absurdly confused state Mr. Topper is in after seeing the Kirby's, and the ambiance of the whole story. I love the movie, and now I love the book. Just a wee bit dated, but still a romp.

Interesting note: Thorne Smith is credited with creating the "modern ghost", and with the general pop culture status of ghosts in movies such as "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", "Heaven Can Wait", and even "Ghost". That last sentence is taken from the blurb on the back cover of the Modern Library paperback edition, published in 1999. Look for it. Read it.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Lottery with lives

"WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will give "50,000 lucky individuals" chosen in a lottery up to a 16-month jump on Medicare prescription drug coverage, paying for costly medications for cancer and other illnesses this year." [from Yahoo News]

I wonder if I even need to comment? Who wrote this terrible bill. Are we really sure that a lottery is the way to treat human beings? I am appalled.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

No health coverage!?

Recently I had friends visiting from Canada. Almost the first question they asked me was, "Do you really have people in the States with no health coverage? We hear that on television, but can it be true?"

I was amazed by the question because worrying about health coverage is one of the major problems in America today, and that reality we take for granted. Not only do we have uninsured people, but we have MILLIONS of uninsured people. I explained the whole system, and I want to tell you, when you hear yourself try to explain our system to outsiders who haven't lived with the worry of healthcare costs over their heads, you end up sounding to yourself like a citizen of some barbarous state.

I also quizzed them on their experiences in the Canadian system, and compared the two provinces I know about now, Ontario and Alberta, and apparently both provinces have an excellent word-of-mouth reputation. My relatives in Ontario tell me that they don't have long waits, they do have good care and they are satisfied. My visitors from Alberta tell me they have health care they are proud of, and they are scandalized by our system now that they know about it. A major concern was drug costs. Canadians know that lots of Americans have been buying their prescription drugs in Canada, and my visitors wondered why, and how the prices compare, and how we pay for drugs. Again...to have to say that some of our people have to chose heat over medicine, or medicine over food, or medicine over heat and rent, was very embarrassing.

Perhaps we should all take a long look from a distance at our healthcare system, as if we were foreign visitors, and then would we still think that the profit motive and the free enterprise ideal should be the way to treat the healthcare needs of our fellow citizens? Can our perception that the Canadian system is bankrupting the country, and that the care in Canada is less than it should be, be a product of clever drug and healthcare companies lobbying and advertising? Are these large corporations afraid that a national healthcare plan would really be detrimental, not so much to the populace as to their profits?

Footnote: Is this why all the Canadians and the Europeans who visit here seem to enjoy the time they are on vacation? They are not worried about getting sick "out-of-network"?

Back from trip

To North Dakota and Minnesota. Northern parts...the prairie. Beautiful country. You can see the clouds marching to the horizon. I think that's the place Christopher Columbus was when he decided the world was round. He looked out there and he saw the clouds going around the world in perspective, curving toward the other side. Weather coolish but very nice, family wonderful to see, and all in all a good trip. Didn't even miss the world of the internet for the duration. The very upper Midwest has a way of life (not a "lifestyle") that is a bit less fractious and a bit less frenetic. EVERYONE isn't on their cell phones at all times (but a few people are). On glancing around the town of Grand Forks, I see cleaner streets, cleaner yards and in general a better look to things - but to be fair, the SPACE on the prairie may allow less of a RAT-BITE feeling then the crowds of the metro areas. Driving isn't much of a problem with straight roads, easy curves and less congestion, although people have been known to fall asleep on the straight country roads, with sorrow resulting.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Donate your tax refund to your local library

This comes a bit late, but if you're wondering what to do with excess cash, think "LIBRARY." Your local public library will appreciate some funding. Most libraries today are severely underfunded, and many are understaffed. It takes money to payroll employees who can acquire, process and circulate materials, and these days it takes employees who understand and use technology as second nature. Libraries need funding to train and refresh staff, and to acquire new and updated technologies as they are released.

All these needs are so basic to meet public demands, but demands far exceed practical applications when budgets are hammered out in municipalities across the land. My own public library solicits funds and books, and must be content with a collection that contains lots of outdated materials. For both public and academic libraries today, the purchase of periodicals has become a nightmare as the subscription prices go dramatically higher and higher, and the library budgets go lower and lower. "Level funding" is the operative term for library budgeting these days, which of course means lower materials acquisitions, and less to offer patrons! Librarians are like teachers; they really care about their jobs and they go beyond the call of duty to serve. Librarians do all they can with less then they deserve, and the only ones to suffer are the public in search of information and education - the tools they need for functioning in the world today.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Along Came Polly

And, what a joy that was! To my amazement, Ben Stiller and Jennifer Anniston click in what might be the funniest movie Ben Stiller has made yet. I liked "Meet the Parents" it's true, but "Along Came Polly" is better, and stars Rodolfo the ferret for an even more enriching viewing experience. Hank Azaria is swell as the French scuba instructor, and Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin and the rest of the cast are all perfect! Philip Seymour Hoffman is hysterical as Ben's best friend, a sloth of a man without the least trace of couth. To see Michele Lee as Ben's mom, and Bryan Brown as the extreme sports loving Aussie businessman was a real romp. Ben Stiller has a penchant for over-the-top stuff, and it is not always successful, but here he plays it cool, giving the transition from uptight worry-wart to guy-who-is-willing-to-take-chances believability and flare! Five big stars for this fun film.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Observations on the reactions to Ronald Reagan's death

I look on in amazement at the incredible numbers of people who are lining the roads to catch a glimpse of the passing motorcade, and visiting the viewing of President Reagan's casket, and the outpouring of tributes and television specials extolling the former president as a great American leader. He is credited with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the fall of the Communist Empire. He is credited with having "saved" our failing economy, and in general, he is spoken of by pundits and admired by multitudes for his character and his smile. In fact, there is talk of replacing another president on a piece of U.S. currency!

All this comes as a surprise to me, as neither I nor my family or friends remember the Reagan era in quite that way. We remember the cuts in spending and the general draconian way that the Republican administration sought to dismantle many aid programs, as well as many cuts in other areas.

I can only surmise that the present feeling that pervades America is one of insecurity, and one of disillusionment with the last few administrations in Washington. The awful events of September 11, 2001, divide time as we know it into two parts, and we want to remember, maybe even fantasize, about an America before 9/11, an America before the Patriot's Act, and even an America before Bill Clinton was caught having sex in the oval office with Monica.

Maybe President Reagan seems to embody for us an "Apple Pie and Mom" time that never was, his smile giving us the same feeling of confidence in a man of integrity that John Wayne and Bob Hope also gave us. And so we mourn not just Ronald Reagan, but that decisive, confident feeling that all is well with America, and all is right with the world.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Reading old books...

Robert Lewis Stevenson's (it is a real pity that more people don't read old books) "Across the Plains" is an engaging commentary on his trip across American in 1879 or so. The many people and places are fascinating, and the droll wit apparent in every page is a surprise and a relief. He was not impressed with the grandeur of the plains, and found his trip across Nebraska and Utah and surrounds to be "that homely and unkindly world", a phrase he used to describe Wyoming.

There are several insights which resonate more with today's attitudes than those of his time. He expounds at some length on the plight of the Indian and the Chinese and the clumsy ruffians who dare to think they are better than these other races. Apparently he was not the typical result of an English upper class upbringing. He was a Scot, and maybe the relationship the Scots "enjoyed" with England all those centuries had made him more of an egalitarian thinker.

What you get out of old books is a picture of the society in which they were written. The general milieu of each work of literature is the "schema" prevalent in the era of its creation. No author can be free of the culture which surround him, even though he can try. In this trying is even more a picture of what formed the era in which he lived. Reading history may be a revised picture of an era, while its fiction may give a much more insightful reading, and in most cases a lot more fun! Oh, I am reading it in PalmReader eBook, and it was free! Another good reason to read old books.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Seriously...about national health insurance

Heard on Public Radio coming home from work today: Medicare's new "Drug Card" program has a 70 card choice people must make. Now that's a nightmare. Apparently seniors are having trouble differentiating between the 70 choices. Who wouldn't? Imagine reading "government-eze" about all those different cards. Apparently the Medicare recipient must discern which is correct for his or her needs. Luckily, as the radio people put it, there are people in each state at Departments of Aging to help one make the choice.

I can only surmise that the confusion will result in less usage of the cards at all which will save the tax payers money. Is this the diabolical scheme behind the whole thing? Let's make sure our legislators know that we want a one card system that covers drug costs fairly for all. And here's an idea - how about a National Insurance plan for all of us, not just a hit or miss attempt to placate the multitudes while keeping the drug companies and the hospital administrators happily raking it in.

Pop culture and Jennifer Lopez

Well, Jennifer has done it again. Married for the third time and apparently with all the hoopla usually reserved for the first wedding for the more sedate among us. May she and Marc Anthony (doesn't anyone remember Cleopatra?) live happily forever and ever. But don't you really doubt it? She always strikes me as a pretty bright girl really, and one I'd like, but WOW, her idea of going steady is to get married apparently - or at least have a wild ride of an engagement, then marry someone else!

Perhaps this illustrates the superficiality of today's culture. Jennifer Lopez is not alone in her inability to consider the gravity of life's larger decisions. Ordinary people make the same mistakes time after time. I even wonder why Jennifer Lopez gets married at all. I can see wanting a party, but really, she could live just fine on her income and just mellow out for ten years to come before she got into another marriage.

Edith Piaf...more please...

"Something's Gotta Give" inspired me to dig out my Edith Piaf CD, so here I sit listening to her wonderful voice. More French music, please! As for the movie update, skip "Timeline". Watched the DVD this weekend, and there is nothing to recommend this film. It is a rehash of too many bits of other plots to mention, contains gratuitous violence, and is almost all battle scenes, leaving only the very minimum of plot development. Development? No, hints really. Sort of a science fiction-middle ages-love-political film, leaving no core plot at all, not to mention the difficulties of the whole time-travel thing, which the plot leaves in limbo.

Friday, June 04, 2004

PalmReader...now eReader

PalmReader is the best reader for your desktop or your Palm PDA. I don't even have a PDA, but have been reading ebooks on what has now been renamed "eReader" for quite a long time now. You can check this out at the Palm Digital Media site. Then see Memoware for more titles. They have a free titles site and a commercial ebookstore as well.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Something's Gotta Give...WOW

WOW. "Something's Gotta Give" really blew away the "where-are-the-good-movies" blues. To be treated to stellar performances from Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in the same movie was just the apex of evening entertainment. It doesn't get any better. By the time these two have come to "now", they have both become such flexible and professional actors, and they both have that easy grace about them. I was taken in at once, and just floated along all the way. A wonderful story within a story, really, and a good old-fashioned cry was not out of place. And say, Keanu Reeves isn't hard to look at either, and he has become such a good actor since the early "pretty-boy" years.

Mona Lisa Smile, X-Men and The Big Empty

"Mona Lisa Smile" is another successful film for Julia Roberts, and the performances of the women who are the Wellesley "girls" gives the film the support the story line needed. You almost believe the 1990s cultural template being laid over the 1950s storyline. All in all worth watching.

"X-Men" and "X2(X-Men United)" are both excellent. In a genre I hardly ever even pickup, much less rent, these were a happy surprise. There was something Harry Potterish about the whole thing as well. I guess that was the theme of saving children who are different. You just expected the word "muggles" to surface. MUCH better than the usual action-adventure. Maybe the comic book medium can influence Hollywood for the better, and with "Spiderman" and "X-Men", comics sure have a running start. I also had a very "Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" feeling while watching "X-Men."

On the downside is "The Big Empty" which really was. Starting out there was a storyline, and it seemed to be going somewhere, but, much like my impression of "K-PAX", there was a dichotomy here. Was it science fiction or was the guy having hallucinations. Where the people in Baker, California aliens or were they not. Are we to assume the folks in the blue suits (and what the heck did the blue suits mean) were picked up by a space ship? And why was the neighbor killed? Why do we care? In the end, we really don't. An excellent performance by John Favreau saved watching this from being a huge waste of time. John is always good. Catch his short bit in "Something's Gotta Give".

Template mania

After tweaking templates left and right I am again back to this one. TicTac Blue by Dan Cederholm. The problem with such a wide choice is that I can spend hours just trying them out and tweaking. Isn't it supposed to be content over form at all times? I must try to stick to "deep thoughts" rather than techy fun. But really, isn't it fun to tweak? The work has been done so well by Blogger's template authors, thus freeing me up for worthy exploration of ideas and experiences. Today I don't have any thoughts because my coffee has been delayed.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

MacJournal blog now on Blogger....

Happily Dan Schimpf has his blog on Blogger. You can go here

  • Dan's Blog
  • and follow progress of this great program.

    Monday, May 31, 2004

    Tomatoes and grass...Memorial Day 2004

    Spring has definitely sprung. Yesterday was a trip to our favorite local greenhouse. Our deck now holds flowers, both potted and waiting for planting in the garden, and today is the day the tomatoes go in. Only three plants this time, two beefsteak and one smaller patio plant. Since we bought them already strong and about a foot and a half tall, there should be no problem being overrun in August and September with tomatoes. The cherry tree and the apple tree are happily leafed out, both bigger than last year. I am amazed because last year there was a blight of some sort on them. I have no idea what, or how to combat that. It looks like leaving it alone worked! Meanwhile the grass has grown to resemble prairie, only to be cut down to suburban tameness a day or two ago. Mosquitoes love the tall grass, or I would leave it natural and intersperse flowers. It's a dream. And, in even more astonishing news, the sun is shining and the temperature is about 70. Truly a day off made in heaven.

    The more somber note is that it is the Memorial Day Remembrance, and the televised ceremonials over the weekend were very sad. To think we have another crop of war dead is a shattering thought, and one that I hoped would never be true. After Vietnam, what did we learn about getting bogged down in a guerilla war in a place where no one likes us?

    Saturday, May 29, 2004

    Musings on our political system

    It's a hard call to know what would serve us better. Some criticism of the two party system may be valid, but this is countered a bit when people actually get into congress, depending on each legislator's level of thirst for power. At present we could argue there is too much power in the Supreme Court as well as in the Executive branch of the government, and not enough guts in Congress.

    But we do have elections where as a rule people aren't trampled during riots at the poling places, and we have elections where you don't get shot as you come out of voting, and where you actually have more than the one candidate! Compared with the systems throughout the world, ours looks pretty workable. I don't see a utopia where things are accomplished in a more even manner politically, unless there were a very small population with a common culture. And this brings to mind the Big Man system, which heaven knows is not FAIR either. So In the end, our Constitution has served us fairly well all these years.

    I do take my American citizenship seriously. I remember I was 9 when I raised my little arm and took the Oath of Citizenship. I remember wearing this little dress with a checkered print and cat-eye glasses. They gave us each a silk flag and a certificate. And there was a letter from president Eisenhower. The flag is and has always been, in my dresser drawer. I was the only child among the new citizens that day, and I remember that the courthouse smelled like well-waxed wood.

    Friday, May 28, 2004

    Library books as ideas and the weeding of same

    I often think about the wealth of knowledge kept for the generations by the libraries of the world. Ideas become weapons and motivate some countries and some regimes to raid the libraries, and to incarcerate librarians. Cuba has done this lately. You would think that by now it would be generally known that draconian measures cannot prevail against ideas, and that print (paper or electronic) will circulate faster in this era than ever before. That's the big concern of every library association: how to keep the books circulating while safeguarding the freedom of each patron to read whatever is available without leaving a trail of identifying information.

    Moreover it is important to keep in mind (on a more local scale) that weeding can be dangerous if the criteria used are simply "has this circulated in ten years" or "do we have room." At present, space is as short as funding for most libraries, academic libraries included, and there has been the temptation in some places to simply weed "the old stuff." Luckily, the saner view has prevailed in the cases I have seen. Just because a book has no astounding monetary value doesn't mean it isn't rare, and someone might have a need to read just the volume you are holding trying to decide if it goes out the door or if you keep it. The frenzy over electronic databases and full text sources hasn't lessened the value of our book collections. Although libraries certainly have embraced the electronic age, there is still value in the print holdings. How often has the "system been down" or the vendor no longer offered that periodical your patrons suddenly need.

    Monday, May 24, 2004

    eBooks: maybe NOT the wave of the future?

    The wave of the future in books and publishing about ten years ago was the eBook. The Rocket Ebook excited the "cutting edge" reader-library world. That is to say, some of us. There were a few hardware readers, and there were a few software readers you could get for reading from your desktop screen. the first book I read this way was by Robert Rosenberg, his first, "Crimes of the City." I read it in plain text on a blue background even before I had Windows 95. Well, that all changed with Microsoft Reader, Adobe Reader, and several other handy book reader utilities I actually preferred, because plain text readers suited me very well and still do. Today the Palm Reader is on my desktop, and the excellent options make it a joy to use. It doesn't of course display plain text. There is always the html option. Several sites offer online reading and downloads in html zip files.

    We were all very excited for awhile, but it became obvious to me that no hardware reader was going to remain viable because of the rise in popularity of handhelds PDAs which can do the job of a book reader as well. A somewhat small reading area for me - I would have preferred a Rocket eBook in a lighter and slimmer body with some of the nicer features of today's PDAs. Now I have to wonder what the future of the ebook is at all because of the pricing of the books.

    At AMAZON today I saw a brand new book I had just cataloged into the library. It sells for $10.50 in hardcover, and is a very nicely bound smallish book with an attractive dust cover. I saw that it is also available in both Adobe and Microsoft Reader format at a cost of $17.50. WOW. I had to laugh. Who is going to pay for the eBook when they can have the hardcopy. And, in fact, it angers me to think that this is the way publishers have responded. They could have had a really thriving market for eBooks. It would be so convenient to travel with the laptop and read at leisure when business could be set aside. But, as is not unusual in the world of publishing and music publishing, foresight is less than common, and a market was never expanded to fill the potential. Someday...