When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

31 August 2005

LevEE, dammit

Given all of the destruction and devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, what I'm about to write is going to seem incredibly petty.

But, after all, what's a blog for? If it doesn't allow the author to vent about the petty stuff that pisses him off, what's the use?


When you're writing about the breached earthen walls that have failed to protect New Orleans from storm-related flooding, it's "levee" or "levees," dammit, and not "levy" or "levies."

I have seen this fundamental copyediting error too many places over the last couple of days, including CNN and the Wall Street Journal.

Repairing a levee is a major engineering project.

Repairing a levy is something that tax policy analysts try to do.

Got it?

It's true that both terms come from the Old French levee, meaning "to raise." That's probably what's confusing people.

To forestall further confusion, a Levite is a member of a Jewish priestly class; Levi Strauss makes blue jeans (but not in America anymore, sadly) and Lévi-Strauss is an anthropologist.

And Levi Stubbs used to sing lead for The Four Tops.

We now return you to your hurricane-devastation coverage and your regularly scheduled Wednesday workday. Don't forget to send in your donations to the hurricane-relief group of your choice.

30 August 2005

A War to Be Proud Of: Christopher Hitchens

Hitch hits it out of the park.
Why bother to call a struggle "global" if you then try to localize it? Just say plainly that we shall fight them everywhere they show themselves, and fight them on principle as well as in practice, and get ready to warn people that Nigeria is very probably the next target of the jihadists. The peaceniks love to ask: When and where will it all end? The answer is easy: It will end with the surrender or defeat of one of the contending parties. Should I add that I am certain which party that ought to be? Defeat is just about imaginable, though the mathematics and the algebra tell heavily against the holy warriors. Surrender to such a foe, after only four years of combat, is not even worthy of consideration.

29 August 2005

Bad name for a frequent flyer program

I've seen some questionable branding decisions in my time, but this one is pretty prime.

The name of the frequent flyer program for Greece's Olympic Airlines?


Okay, points for having a sense of humor. But really, naming your frequent flyer program after the guy whose wax-coated wings melted when he flew too close to the sun, causing him to plummet earthwards and drown in the sea...

They've just named their frequent flyer program after history's first human air transport casualty.

Is no one teaching the children mythology these days?

In Greece?

(Hat tip: alert enrevanche reader and spouse Carrie)

Donation as pre-emptive strike

Now might be a good time to toss a few spare shekels to the American Red Cross.

Or the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund (the Baptists, all theological weirdness aside, run one of the most efficient mobile-kitchen emergency feeding operations on the planet, and you can bet that they're going to be needed after Katrina makes landfall.)

"Uninhabitable for weeks"

Hurricane Katrina is expected to make landfall around daybreak, and all indications are that it's headed straight for New Orleans.

Map shows Katrina's position late Sunday.

A sobering (okay, scary as hell) analysis from the National Weather Service on Sunday, as reported by the Times-Picayune:
NWS outlines grim forecast of devastion expected across area

The National Weather Service has issued a special statement outlining the damage that might be caused if Hurricane Katrina makes landfall as a strong Category 4 or Category 5 storm.

"Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer," says the statement. "At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed."

The statement says the majority of industrial buildings will become "non-functional," with partial or complete wall and roof failure.

"All wood-framed low-rising apartments will sustain major damage, including some wall and roof failure," the statement said. "Concrete block low-rise apartments will sustain major damage, including some wall and roof failure."

The statement says high-rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously, "a few to the point of total collapse." And all their windows will blow out.

Airborne debris will be widespread, and may include heavy items " household appliances and light cars and trucks "and even sport utility vehicles and trucks will be moved.

"The blown debris will create additional destruction," the statement said. "Persons, pets and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck."

Power outages will last for weeks because most power poles will be down and transformers will be destroyed. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and even the heartiest, if they survive, will be stripped of all leaves.
Sites to watch:

28 August 2005

Michael Yon: Gates of Fire

I've linked to Michael Yon before, but "Gates of Fire," his latest story (which I found via Chapomatic) is nothing short of amazing.

Just read it. And then send the guy a few bucks; he's doing important work in Iraq, sending back stories that'll never make it into the New York Times.

Charles Murray on Lawrence Summers, natural ability, gender and race

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, a link to an important and interesting article by Charles Murray in Commentary.

Yes, that Charles Murray... the co-author of The Bell Curve, a book that was instantly denounced and condemned by a bunch of people who never bothered to read it (and, to be fair, a few people who actually did.)

(As one of the few people who actually read The Bell Curve in the early 1990s, I can assure you that it is the furthest thing imaginable from the racist, white-supremacist tome that the academic left has insistently--and largely successfully, in a big-lie fashion--made it out to be.)

Having seen Harvard's Lawrence Summers publically crucified for making a few mild observations about (gasp) potentially innate differences between men and women and the impact of same on their respective achievement in the sciences, Murray has a modest proposal to put forward:
Let us start talking about group differences openly—all sorts of group differences, from the visuospatial skills of men and women to the vivaciousness of Italians and Scots. Let us talk about the nature of the manly versus the womanly virtues. About differences between Russians and Chinese that might affect their adoption of capitalism. About differences between Arabs and Europeans that might affect the assimilation of Arab immigrants into European democracies. About differences between the poor and non-poor that could inform policy for reducing poverty.

Even to begin listing the topics that could be enriched by an inquiry into the nature of group differences is to reveal how stifled today’s conversation is. Besides liberating that conversation, an open and undefensive discussion would puncture the irrational fear of the male-female and black-white differences I have surveyed here. We would be free to talk about other sexual and racial differences as well, many of which favor women and blacks, and none of which is large enough to frighten anyone who looks at them dispassionately.

It is a long, exhaustively sourced and footnoted article, and well worth reading and thinking about.

Added to the blogroll: Alarming News

This week's addition to the blogroll: Alarming News.

I was most frightfully chuffed (as Bertie might say) to discover another blogging Republican in New York City. Karol's blog is pointed, witty, and is becoming a daily must-read for me.

27 August 2005

"Jack" radio format a flop in NYC

A follow-up to an earlier post about the "Jack-FM" radio format.

WCBS-FM, which recently dropped its oldies format in favor of Jack (which is really nothing but an 80's "oldies" format tarted up a little) has seen its ratings drop through the floor and into the cellar. Or, if you prefer, the toilet.

Crain's New York Business breaks the bad news:
A preliminary report from the Arbitron rating company shows WCBS-FM in 17th place among New York stations, with a 2.5 rating among listeners aged 12 and over. The ratings, covering the first month of the three-month summer survey period, mark a sharp drop in the number of listeners for the station since it switched to “Jack” in early June.

While the final ratings numbers covering the entire summer period could look very different from the preliminary report, experts say the trends do not look good for the once-thriving station.

“One thing’s for sure,” said Robert Unmacht, partner in the media consultancy iN3 Partners Inc., “WCBS-FM has ceased to be a major mover in New York radio.”
Somewhere--perhaps in his new studio at Sirius Satellite Radio, where he landed after being uncermoniously canned when WCBS-FM switched formats--radio legend "Cousin Brucie" Morrow must have a big grin on his face.

Class of 2009 Mindset (Beloit College)

Every year, Beloit College publishes the Beloit College Mindset List, offering a snapshot of the worldview of their incoming freshman class.

For this year's crop of incoming freshmen, who were born in (gulp) 1987:
  • They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.
  • Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
  • With little need to practice, most of them do not know how to tie a tie.
  • Condoms have always been advertised on television.
  • They may have fallen asleep playing with their Gameboys in the crib.
  • Bill Gates has always been worth at least a billion dollars.
  • They have grown up in a single superpower world.
  • Irradiated food has always been available but controversial.
  • Snowboarding has always been a popular winter pastime.
  • America's Funniest Home Videos has always been on television.
(via Slacker Manager)

Another thing the government is bad at

From John Tierney's NYT Op-Ed, "Marijuana Pipe Dreams":
Phillip Alden, a writer living in Redwood City, Calif., told me that marijuana was a godsend for him in dealing with the effects of AIDS. He said it eased excruciating pains in his fingertips, controlled nausea and enabled him to avoid the wasting syndrome that afflicts AIDS patients who are unable to eat enough food.

But Mr. Alden said only some kinds of marijuana worked - not the weak variety provided by the federal government, which he smoked during a research study.

"It was awful stuff," he said. "They started out with a very low-grade plant, rolled it up with stems and seeds, and then freeze-dried it so that they probably ruined any of the THC crystals. All it did was give me headaches and bronchitis. The bronchitis got so bad I had to drop out of the study."
Small-government conservatives and libertarians, like myself, are never surprised to learn of yet another thing that the government does inefficiently, ineffectively, or just plain incompetently.

The passage above, from John Tierney's recent Op-Ed in the Times, points to a tantalizing clue about why the Federal government continues to claim that marijuana has no medical efficacy:

They're running all of the controlled experiments with Federally-grown, grade-Z headache reefer.

Gosh, it almost seems like they're trying to stack the deck.

As for rolling up the Federally-approved joints with seeds and stems inside, any reasonably worldly college freshman could apparently get a lucrative Beltway Bandit gig as an advisor to the Federal agency responsible for this ludicrous program. Kids, think how good this will look on your resume!

Related: A Whiff of "Reefer Madness" in US Drug Policy (NY Times, August 15, 2005)

26 August 2005

OpenNMS Wins Big at LinuxWorld

Congratulations and mad props (as the young people say these days) to North Carolina software firm OpenNMS.

In a true David-vs-Goliath story, the open-source guys at OpenNMS just beat out IBM/Tivoli and Novell to win the "Best Network Management Tool" award at this year's LinuxWorld.
[OpenNMS CEO Tarus] Balog describes the product, which can monitor up to 20,000 devices simultaneously, as “the first enterprise-grade network management product to be developed using the open-source model. It was designed from day one to be able to monitor tens of thousands of devices from a single instance of the application, and it aims to offer a better alternative to expensive commercial products such as Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, Micromuse Netcool, and IBM's Tivoli. The software is freely available and is supported by an international community of users and developers.
Full disclosure: Tarus Balog, the head honcho at OpenNMS, is an old friend I've known since high school.

One of my favorite things about Tarus is his unique sense of humor. He witnessed a miracle in his kitchen last night, and now he's selling it on eBay.

Related sites:

Puppy pix

Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
No catbloggery today, as I have no fresh photos of Mr. Gato to share with you; I'm in Dallas again, far from home and family.

Would a photograph of some cute puppies, taken nine years ago with a first-generation digital camera, hold you until next week?

Meet Chow Bella (red, left) and Chow Fun (yellow, right) as they looked when we got them from the breeder.

Baby Chows look like stuffed toys made by the Gund folks, don't they?

24 August 2005

CNN: India could lose 40% outsourcing market share by 2007

Report: India could lose 40% BPO market share by 2007 - Aug. 24, 2005:
A new report from market research firm Gartner, Inc. warns that a labor crunch and rising wages could erode as much as 45 percent of India's market share by 2007.


More importantly, the Gartner report cautions that a host of emerging countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Eastern European nations including Hungary and Poland, are also starting to challenge India's leadership in offshore business process outsourcing (BPO.)

Google Talk: The other shoe drops

Today, Google is introducing a new IM (instant messaging) and VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) client called Google Talk.

The Talk software requires, and integrates tightly with, a Gmail account... which, as of today, you no longer need an invitation to acquire, as long as you've got a mobile phone that can accept a short text message for authentication purposes.

A sneak peek at the new Google Talk interface.

According to press reports, Google is using the open-source IM protocol Jabber for IM, and using the standard SIP protocol for voice. (See, e.g., NY Times, BusinessWeek, Wall St. Journal) They are also offering to work with all other IM vendors to make their service interoperable.

AOL and Yahoo, over to you.

Google Talk: Go on, go get it. You know you want it.

Borowitz: Robertson urges US to covet Chavez's wife, too

The Borowitz Report:
One day after Pat Robertson called for the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the televangelist raised the ante again today, urging the U.S. to covet President Chavez’ wife.

In so doing, Mr. Robertson appeared to contradict two of The Ten Commandments in as many days, having flouted “Thou shat not kill” on Monday.

23 August 2005

compositeur: R.I.P. Bob Moog

Musician and composer Perry Townsend writes a learned appreciation of the late Robert Moog, inventor of the electronic synthesizer.
Here’s something you might not be aware of. Aside from the well-known influence his machines had on groups like Kraftwerk, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Tangerine Dream, etc., his work profoundly changed the face of classical music. Starting with the pioneering work of Edgar Varese, Leon Theremin & others in the 30s-40s, and continuing with people like Moog, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Vladimir Ussachevsky in the 50s, and later with Walter Carlos, Otto Luening, Charles Dodge and Morton Sobotnik, etc., a radical new kind of music-making happened, long before the Beach Boys made these sounds popular. The analog-based works of these and others (plus a simultaneous little burgeoning movement called minimalism) freed classical music from a rigid, mathematical approach to composition that was dominant mid-century. This led to “sound sculpture” pieces that were just as advanced but not confined to the paper games many composers were playing – the directions this music could develop into were only limited by composers’ imaginations, in spite of what we in today’s shiny new digital age might regard as “ancient” techniques like tape splicing.

The Onion: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

Alert and vigilant enrevanche reader and pal Laurie points us to this important corollary to Pastafarianism:
TOPEKA, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held 'theory of gravity' is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

'Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down,' said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.
The Onion: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

Celebrating life. Also Indian food.

Five years ago this summer, things were looking pretty grim for the home team.

Carrie, my best friend in the world and not coincidentally also my beloved wife, had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

She had surgery that was cautiously described by her oncologist as "successful," but faced months of chemotherapy and recovery.

And waiting, and testing. And waiting, and worrying. And waiting. Did I mention the waiting?

The fear with cancer, of course, is always: did we get it all? Has it already spread in some undetectable way? When will it rear its ugly head again? Is the chemo working?

We (I say "we," but Carrie had to do the hard bits) white-knuckled our way through five years of regular blood tests and checkups, and this past July, Carrie passed the five-year milestone with a continued all-clear from the doctors.

We thought that the occasion should not go unremarked. So we invited about twenty of our closest friends (15 were able to make it) to a big blowout Bengali feast this past Sunday at Angon, our favorite Indian restaurant in Manhattan (and one of our favorite restaurants, period, anywhere.)

We were treated to an excellent menu of fresh summer vegetables cooked every way imaginable... tandoori vegetables, fresh okra dishes, lentils cooked with mango, etc. etc. Two of our zanier friends brought a bottle of really good tequila, a bunch of limes, a couple of very stylish salt-shakers, and some Dixie cups (!)

Angon Party 21 August 2005 004
And then we did tequila shots in Mickey Mouse cups.
(This explains the glazed facial expressions
in some of the later group photos.)

In our invitation, we asked our guests to write some tasteless rhyming couplets to commemorate Carrie's survival (not content to just whistle past the graveyard, we prefer to stick our tongues out and go "nyah nyah nyah") and promised prizes to the winners.

As I don't yet have the consent of the authors to republish their work, I'll just say that the winners outdid themselves stylistically, and were awarded copies of this book.

A good time was had by all, and we plan to do this at least once every five years, probably more often than that.

(More pictures from the party here -- Flickr Photoset)

22 August 2005

"Thanks a bunch, guys" (The Religious Policeman)

Alhamedi reacts to the news that the US is giving up on the idea of a secular, non-Sharia-based constitution for Iraq.

He's, um, not too happy:
Let me see if I've got this right. You see, I live in a country where everything is based on the Koran, it's ruled more by Imams and Religious Policemen than by the nominal 'King'; to see what that means in practice, just keep on reading this blog to find out. To the south is Yemen, where the standard fashion accessory is the AK47, and it makes the Wild West look like the Regency Tea Rooms in Bath, England. To the east is a collection of minor Sheikdoms that are relatively liberal, but too small to have any influence. Further east we've got Pakistan that is only prevented from becoming an Islamic Republic by the will-power of its lonely President, and Afghanistan, say no more. To the north-east we've got Iran, with a new super-conservative-Muslim President who's going to make his own nuclear weapon, which he'll no doubt call 'Allah's Bomb'.

And now, Messrs B[ush], B[lair] and B[erlusconi], you're going to allow the previously-secular Iraq, our northern neighbour, to turn into yet another Islamic Republic paradise. And where will they get their inspiration from? From the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, of course. They'll feed off us, and we'll feed off them, in a never-ending competition to be the nastiest, most repressive, most intolerant, and most stupid theocracy in the entire world.

Thanks a bunch, guys.

(The Religious Policeman)

Greenwich Village Idiot Podcast for August 22, 2005

Good friend Chap of Chapomatic has produced another guest-hosted Greenwich Village Idiot podcast, bless his heart. I'm listening to it right now, and it's a good 'un.

Podcast download (MP3, 22.3 MB, 32:35)

Here's the word from the man himself (Chapomatic » Podcordance)
This Greenwich Village Idiot podcast’s a little weird–not much forethought, and a cheap turntable nearby–but here’s the tracklist:

Intro from Barry
Toussaint McCall - Shimmy (look for #3 on the link)
Hi, I’m Chap.
Vehicle Flips - Platitude Man
Robert Frost - Reluctance
John Fahey - Dream of the French Broad River
Me yammering again
Don Byas Quartet - Dark Eyes (recorded 6 Sep 1945, Slam Stewart-b, Johnny Guarnieri-p, J.C.Heard-d, Don Byas, ts, American Record 1004)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko/Alan Bates - Moscow Freight Station
Nick Drake - River Man
USS Sealion Sinks JIS Kongo
Bowling for Blather
Paul Lukas - Review of Barnum’s Animal Crackers
Les Parisiennes avec Claude Bolling - Il Fait Trop Beau Pour Travailler

...Also mentioned: Joanna Newsom…and the New Weird America
We're exploring ways to keep the occasional podcasting tradition around here alive, and guest hosting of this caliber is high on the list of ways to make it happen. Thanks, buddy.

Google announces Desktop Sidebar

Google Desktop doesn't just help you search your computer; it also helps you gather new information from the web with Sidebar, a new desktop feature that shows you your new email, weather and stock information, personalized news and RSS/Atom feeds, and more. Sidebar is personalized automatically, without any manual configuration required (though you can certainly make your own customizations if you want to).

We've also improved your desktop search experience. With Quick Find, you can now launch applications and see search results as you type without even opening a browser. We've also extended our Outlook integration, so you can search Google Desktop with the Outlook Toolbar and see results within Outlook itself. Finally, you can search even more stuff, including your Gmail, files on network drives, many Outlook data types (including Contacts, Tasks, Calendar, Notes and Journal) and MSN Messenger chats. And if you yearn for even stronger security, you can encrypt your entire index.
Download it here.

21 August 2005

Slacker Manager

Added to the blogroll - Slacker Manager: "Paving the path of least resistance so you don't trip and fall."

Blogger Brendon Connelly, "a university administrator and Fortune 500 refugee," wrote the Slacker@Work manifesto at ChangeThis and apparently found that he had more to say.

I'm finding it refreshing and entertaining, and actually learning something from time to time.

David Allen’s "Getting Things Done" - Hourlong web seminar

From lifehack.org:
For anyone who missed [yesterday's] web presentation by David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done... there is a recording with slides online now.
Link to LiveMeeting "webinar" replay (Internet Explorer required)

Related links:

20 August 2005

Where y'all are

Sitemeter (the tool I use to track blog visitors) keeps adding interesting new features.

Here's one that shows the last X number of visitors by location, superimposed on a world map. I think that in this graphic, X=50.

world visitors

Most of our users come from North America and Western Europe, unsurprisingly.

South America, Spain and Portugal are also well-represented, perhaps because of the many Google searches for pictures of "gatos" that wind up bringing people here to meet The Buddy.

But look at that little green dot in the lower right-hand corner, in Asia. Hard to tell at this resolution but looks like it might be Singapore.

Hi, Fiona!

His Noodly Appendage

Open Letter to the Kansas School Board:
Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.
Pastafarianism is spreading.

(Hat tip: BoingBoing)

Death by Caffeine

Just this past week (I put in roughly 80 hours, according to my timesheet) I was idly wondering which of the many cups of coffee I was downing would be the one to push me over the edge into a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

Turns out, I didn't have to wonder. Here's a site that'll tell you how much of your favorite caffeinated beverage it'll take to send you on to your final reward, wherever that may be:

Energy Fiend » Death by Caffeine

Southern Man, better keep your head

We get a nice shout-out from Scott over at Bill in Exile.

The greatness of ChowNews

Regular enrevanche readers know that I am a devotee of the website Chowhound.com. I've used it for years, and it has helped me eat well all over the country, but especially in my adopted hometown of New York City. (I post there sometimes as--no great shock here--"enrevanche.")

Since enrevanche's readership skews urban and American, as a public service I want to alert those of you who live in the metro New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco areas to the existence of the weekly ChowNews newsletter. (Sample issues: NYC, LA, SF.)

ChowNews boils down the cream of the crop of the hundreds (if not thousands) of postings on the message boards for each metro area, each week, and distills them into a quick-reading plain-text newsletter that will hip you to the latest finds and happenings in your town. Non-regional content, from the General Topics message board, is selected for inclusion as well.

The sensibility of the ChowNews editors is quirky, informed, and very reliable. They don't strive for completeness of coverage (which would be impossible anyway), just a grab bag of great picks and insider tips every week.

Here's a great pick from this week's issue of the New York Tristate ChowNews, just to give you a taste:

Hip Hop Chow [East Village]
129 2nd Ave, between 7th St and St. Marks Pl
Manhattan, NY 10003
[Link to Citysearch entry]

Month-old Hip Hop Chow dishes up soul food from the American South alongside Cantonese food from China's south. This will strike some as a parody of high-concept fusion, but early reports say the chow is surprisingly delicious. "It's not 'fusion' food," explains *Hiro*, "they simply pair mains and sides across these cuisines, typically not on the same plate. This is a multicultural asset on a block that includes B&H Dairy, Belgian fries, and Toy Tokyo."

Chef Eric Kwan finds the two disparate cuisines' common ground in comfort food: country fried steak, slow-cooked Chinese cabbage, pork belly with grits, ribs with hoisin glaze. The Southern fare passes muster with native Southerner *NYgal*, who reports top-notch cornbread ("and I know from cornbread," she assures us) and crisp, tender smothered pork chops that you might as well just pick up and gnaw on. "The food is creative and really excellent," she adds. "I would venture to call it chowish."

At $15 for six months, ChowNews will more than pay for itself with the first great meal you find. Historically, I have found at least two good tips that I could use immediately in every single issue, and in terms of price/performance the bang for the buck is even better than my subscription to the Wall Street Journal's fantastic web site, my previous benchmark for value on the Web.

To subscribe to ChowNews, click here.

(Full disclosure: until fairly recently, when my life got a lot more busy and complicated, I provided some editorial support for the publication of the NYC edition of ChowNews. I no longer do that, but I am still a happy--and paid-up--subscriber.)

19 August 2005

Me and my dad, having a top laugh

Chap pointed me to this exquisite little animation, a music video for a song called "JCB" by the English acoustic duo Nizlopi.

First of all, anybody who can rhyme "B.A. Baracus" with "Bruce Lee's nunchakus" is clearly a lyrical force to be reckoned with. Full marks for that.

But there's more to it than clever rhyming and throwaway pop-culture references. It is a deceptively simple but very moving song about being five years old and hanging out with your dad, who is the coolest guy in the world.
Well, I'm rumbling in this JCB.
I'm five years old and my dad's a giant sitting beside me.
And the engine rattles my bum like berserk
While we're singing, "Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work!"

My dad's probably had a bloody hard day
But he's been good fun and bubbling and joking away
And the procession of cars stuck behind
Are getting all impatient and angry, but we don't mind...
It probably has something to do with the fact that my dad is in the process of dying right now, but this sweet, sentimental little song just kicked the shit out of me.

(A "JCB," by the way, is a big yellow earth-mover manufactured by J.C. Bamford Excavators Ltd... if you're American, mentally substitute "Caterpillar," which neither scans nor rhymes in this context, but that's what it's about.)

18 August 2005

Your biggest fan

Gato with components
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
What's better than a seat on a freshly shredded cardboard box?

A seat next to a powerful fan moving a high volume of air, on a hot day.

Here, Mister Gato takes advantage of the airflow pattern of a spare Vornado in our living room.

Be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator for pictures of bloggers' pets from around the world, and don't forget the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday. (This week, the Carnival is at Running Scared.)

17 August 2005

Bird Flu: Can We Out-Collaborate a Pandemic?

Bird Flu: Can We Out-Collaborate a Pandemic?
Here's one modest proposal: Let's sound the alarm this week. If you're reading this and you have a blog, make a point of posting something about bird flu this week.
(From WorldChanging, via Kottke.)

Okay, I'm supposed to be a professional technical communicator. Let's see whether I can get some complex points across, briefly, simply and effectively, before I've had much coffee.
  1. Bird flu ("avian influenza H5N1") which has making domestic and wild birds sick in Asia for years, is spreading rapidly, reaching epidemic levels in Russia and extending its reach towards Europe. (Source: Times of London.)

    If you are a bird, this sucks.

  2. In its current form, bird flu can also make people and other animals sick (more than 50 people have died from it already in Asia since 2003) but it is relatively hard to transmit. (Source: USA Today, quoting WHO statistics.)

    • The great fear is that the virus might mutate in such a way that it could jump between birds and human beings, and pass from human to human, much more easily.

    • This is an especially nasty flu virus, in that it has killed (so far) over 50% of the people who are known to have gotten sick with it.

    • If you are a bird, or a person, or any of the animals that can get the flu, this sucks.

  3. Public health agencies, within individual governments and across governmental boundaries, have been trying, and mostly failing, to alert the public to the potential risk of a bird flu pandemic in the human population.

  4. An uncontained epidemic of bird flu could kill millions (of people; it has already killed millions of birds.)

  5. We may not have time to prepare and distribute updated human vaccine stocks, and almost certainly don't have the resources to inoculate the whole world; however, we can stockpile modern anti-viral drugs, which are highly effective against flu if they are taken within a few days of the onset of symptoms, so that they could quickly be rushed to "hot spots" in the event of a major outbreak.

  6. Should the virus mutate into more easily transmissable form, and should public health monitoring pick up the clusters of new infection in time, aggressive treatment (with antivirals, see point 5) plus travel restrictions and quarantines are our best hope to avoid a tragedy.

  7. It is now time to rally public support behind plans for such aggressive monitoring and plan for intervention.
Got a blog, or a mailing list? Use your influence: talk the issue up. Alex Steffen's excellent article at WorldChanging (which moved me to write this post) has good suggestions for how to do it and points to excellent resources for you to use.

"Mr Housing Bubble"

Striking a chord with uneasy U.S. property investors, T-shirtHumor.com's latest design -- 'Mr. Housing Bubble' -- has become its best seller in less than a week.

The parody of the decades-old Mr. Bubble bath foam package offers a 'Free Balloon Mortgage Inside.' But the smiling pink house-shaped bubble also warns: 'If I pop, you're screwed.'
Get your t-shirts here.


Mr. Housing Bubble is certainly a fetching fellow.

16 August 2005

iBook melee

$50 laptop sale sets off violent stampede - Tech News & Reviews - MSNBC.com:
A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far as to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.
The cause of the violence, aggravation, and auto-urination?

A bunch of four year-old Apple iBooks that were being sold off by a country school system in Virginia.

Jesse Sandler said he was one of the people pushing forward, using a folding chair he had brought with him to beat back people who tried to cut in front of him.

"I took my chair here and I threw it over my shoulder and I went, 'Bam,'" the 20-year-old said nonchalantly, his eyes glued to the screen of his new iBook, as he tapped away on the keyboard at a testing station.

"They were getting in front of me and I was there a lot earlier than them, so I thought that it was just," he said.

Wow. It turned into the Jerry Springer Show out there.

NY Times: Dignity for patients

In the Hospital, a Degrading Shift from Person to Patient (New York Times, 16 August 2005)
Mary Duffy was lying in bed half-asleep on the morning after her breast cancer surgery in February when a group of white-coated strangers filed into her hospital room.

Without a word, one of them - a man - leaned over Ms. Duffy, pulled back her blanket, and stripped her nightgown from her shoulders.

Weak from the surgery, Ms. Duffy, 55, still managed to exclaim, "Well, good morning," a quiver of sarcasm in her voice.

But the doctor ignored her. He talked about carcinomas and circled her bed like a presenter at a lawnmower trade show, while his audience, a half-dozen medical students in their 20's, stared at Ms. Duffy's naked body with detached curiosity, she said.

After what seemed an eternity, the doctor abruptly turned to face her.

"Have you passed gas yet?" he asked.

"Those are his first words to me, in front of everyone," said Ms. Duffy, who runs a food service business near San Jose, Calif.

"I tell him, 'No, I don't do that until the third date,' " she said. "And he looks at me like he's offended, like I'm not holding up my end of the bargain."
Great, great article. Should be required reading for anyone even remotely involved with patient care.

What's on your coffee table?

I spend a lot of time on the Web these days, and read most of my newspapers and magazines there, as well as the entertaining and instructive output of my fellow bloggers. (I used to subscribe to the print version of the Wall Street Journal, for instance, but find the web site much more useful... haven't taken the Journal in print for at least five years now.)

But there are still a lot of periodicals coming to the house, many of which I even read.

Print publications that we take, chez enrevanche:

- The New York Times (daily and Sunday)

Magazines I subscribe to and actually read:

- The Atlantic
- The Economist
- The New Yorker
- Oxford American
- PM Network - publication of the Project Management Institute
- Reason

Magazines I used to subscribe to, and still buy pretty frequently on the newsstand:

- Harper's
- Forbes
- New Scientist
- Scientific American

Magazines we immediately throw in the trash because we get them even though we don't want them:

- Alumni magazines from NCSSM, Carolina, Harvard
- Diabetes Forecast (American Diabetes Association)
- Intercom (Society for Technical Communication)

Care to comment about your favorite dead-tree reads?

(post modified from a comment in a thread below. Reuse, recycle! Okay!)

Forecast: mixed, light blogging

Another week of light blogging in store, as business travel continues. A few notes to bring my regular readers up to date:
  • Dad is leaving the hospital today, to be cared for at home. Hospice is involved, and so far they seem like incredibly competent and very nice people.

  • I heartily endorse the pairing of March of the Penguins and The Aristocrats as a double-bill. Both are very moving pictures in their own way; one had me practicallly weeping at the incredible beauty and harshness of the natural surroundings, and the other was a very good movie about penguins. (rimshot)

    At any rate, both flicks get my highest recommendation.

  • Perhaps in revenge for my snarky piece on the Transportation Security Authority, yesterday a helpful airport screener announced that she wanted to run some tests on my shoes and my laptop. No problem, I said, figuring that she was going to swab them for explosives.

    Which she did. But first, she dropped the laptop, from high enough up that she might as well have drop-kicked it. Dammit. Hewlett-Packard, we salute you! (And we're very glad that our employer just leases this one.)

14 August 2005

I know Jack

The latest in a series of cultural parties that I'm arriving late for: the "Jack FM" radio format, also referred to by radio industry types as "random radio."

I gave up on commercial radio a long time ago. In New York City, when at home I listen, mostly, to one of three stations: Newark, NJ's excellent WBGO, arguably the best jazz station in the English-speaking world; the Columbia University college radio station, WKCR; and one of the local public radio outlets, usually WNYC. That, plus occasional streaming audio from the Internets, makes up our staple radio diet.

I've been spending a fair bit of time in Dallas lately, however, and driving around in rental cars. Scanning around the FM dial, hoping for an old-school country station (ha! it is to laugh) in amongst the slickly packaged Top 40, broadcast-safe hip-hop and radio preachers, I found WJKK, 100.3 FM, which seemed to be playing a very interesting and attractive mix of music.

In this increasingly market-segmented world, when something commercial really appeals to you, it usually means that someone has quite successfully taken dead demographic aim at you and squarely hit the target.

A little research turns up the awful truth: Jack, as a radio format, is a thinly disguised 80s nostalgia trip, with just enough "edgy" contemporary stuff to make the listener feel a little smug about his hipness factor, all packaged up to sound like an iPod in shuffle mode.

Bang. Right between the eyes. I gotcher 35-44 demographic right here.

That I am now old enough to be targeted by Oldies programmers is a little depressing. What's more depressing is that it works so well.

Guardian: New York's heart loses its beat

Guardian Unlimited | Arts news | New York's heart loses its beat:
For decades the streets of Greenwich Village beat as the counterculture heart of American life. From Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac to the anonymous thousands fresh off the bus from Middle America, it has provided a sanctuary for the alternative and outcast or those simply fleeing a suburban childhood.

No longer. America's bohemian pulse has faded. Assailed by sky-high rents, chain stores and hyper-expensive eateries, Greenwich Village is starting to look more Wall Street than Beat Street. Last week a headline in the Village Voice, New York's venerable alternative newspaper, said simply: 'The Village is Dying'.
The nominal occasion for this journalistic eulogy is the release of "The Ballad of Greenwich Village," a documentary (which I haven't seen yet) apparently consisting of a bunch of elderly ex-bohemians pissing and moaning about the lost glories of the old Village, now that it has become one of the most desirable (and expensive) residential neighborhoods in the City.

(That *all* of the celebrity ex-bohemians referenced in the article could still *easily* afford to live here if they chose may or may not be mentioned; as I said, I haven't seen it. Tim Robbins, one of the key interviewees, certainly still lives here and is in fact a neighbor of ours; I see him every now and then on the street.)

Things must have been so much nicer here when the neighborhood was mostly a seedy, inexpensive shithole. You know, poor people are so much more authentic.

Believe me, I'm not thrilled with the displacement of the mom-and-pop stores on Bleecker Street by high-end fashion boutiques catering to rich Eurotrash and Japanese tourists (Marc Jacobs, I'm looking at you.)

Given a choice between the condition this neighborhood was in during the 1970s, pre-landmarking (homes renovated during this period bear a striking resemblance to Fort Knox) and today, I'll take the Starbucks and the high-end restaurants over squalor every time, thanks very much.

And by the way, y'all: the Village hasn't been a Bohemian Paradise for at least 25 years now, maybe longer. Where the hell have you been?

It's just absolute genius that the author of the article in the Guardian quotes opinion from the Village Voice, by the way. Whiny, irrelevant and firmly stuck in the past, virtually no one writing in the Voice has had anything original or interesting to say in years. It's the perfect source for an article about faded glory.

Artists and musicians are going to live where the rents are cheap; it has been ever thus. If you want to find a colony of hipsters in Metro NYC these days, try one of the yet-to-be-gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn or Queens (our money is on Greenpoint as the next Willamsburg, which enjoyed a brief vogue as the Next New Greenwich Village before it, um, got too expensive.)

It's the heat AND the humidity, frankly

The heat in New York City is all but unbearable this weekend.

Heat advisories have been out all weekend, with temperatures in the high 90s and humidity to match. Our little window-unit air conditioner in the bedroom (all that the wiring in our early 20th century apartment building will support) is overmatched; Carrie and I slept fitfully last night with our necks resting on icepacks, rolled up in dishtowels. (It helped a little.)

The unairconditioned bits of the apartment (everywhere else, basically - living room, kitchen, bathroom, etc.) are essentially uninhabitable after about 10 AM.

We have deployed fans on the floor to help keep the animals cool, and are replenishing their water bowls three or four times daily, often adding ice. They, no fools, are mostly hanging out in the bedroom, where it is at least barely tolerable.

Today, we're going to spend the hottest part of the day sitting in movie theaters. (I hope they've got industrial air conditioning and that it's turned up to 11.)

What are we seeing today? Well, as tempted as we might be by the genuine artistry and love of cinema that goes into major-studio Hollywood fare like Deuce Bigalow, European Gigalo, we're checking out a couple of indy movies at opposite ends of the politeness spectrum today: the family-friendly, heartwarming and wholesome (and G-rated) March of the Penguins, and the scabrously nihilistic and scatological (and unrated) The Aristocrats.

We'll work in a spicy Indian or Thai late lunch in between, try to stay hydrated, and hopefully by this evening things will have cooled off a bit.

13 August 2005

Airline Security Changes Planned (Washington Post)

Airline Security Changes Planned:

Frequent flyers, rejoice. The TSA Shuffle may be changing soon, as some forward-thinking folks at Homeland Security are considering letting people take small pocketknives and fingernail scissors on airplanes again, and go through security screenings without taking their shoes off by default.
K. Jack Riley, a homeland security expert at Rand Corp., said hardened cockpit doors, air marshals and stronger public vigilance will prevent another 9/11-style hijacking. "Frankly, the preeminent security challenge at this point is keeping explosives off the airplane," Riley said. The TSA's ideas, he said, "recognize the reality that we know that air transportation security has changed post-9/11. Most of these rules don't contribute to security."
[emphasis added]
The proposed new rules might also, you know, allow some folks to escape screening entirely:
The TSA memo proposes to minimize the number of passengers who must be patted down at checkpoints. It also recommends that certain categories of passengers be exempt from airport security screening, such as members of Congress, airline pilots, Cabinet members, state governors, federal judges, high-ranking military officers and people with top-secret security clearances.
[emphasis added]
So, let me get this straight: Racial or ethnic profiling, bad. VIP profiling, good.

(By the way, is anybody else mildly squicked by the name "Homeland Security?" I couldn't be more supportive of the War on Terror, but the word "Homeland" has unpleasant echoes of Vaterland for me... just a little too Ein Volk, ein Reich, for my tastes...)


EverNote is a free Windows-based Personal Information Manager that allows to to consolidate your notes, to-do lists, and random Web and text clippings in a single location and access it via your Windows desktop. (A paid version, which costs $35, adds support for users of Tablet PCs and other pen-computing users, including owners of graphics tablets.)

EverNote just got the stamp of approval from the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, who isn't all that easy to impress with software gimmicks; Walt says EverNote "is fast and logical and a good way to round up random thoughts and resources."

Lord knows I've got a lot of those.

Like many other geeks, I've been pretty enthralled with David Allen's "Getting Things Done" personal productivity/time management system, and I think a tool like EverNote might be a very useful adjunct to GTD.

I've downloaded it to my work and home machines (there doesn't seem to be an easy way to synchronize content between two machines, unfortunately) and will report back.

One Bag: The Art and Science of Travelling Light

Years ago, I had a job that was basically 100% travel during the workweek, and required me to wear a suit. While I was racking up the frequent flyer miles, I honed my packing style to a science: I could live for a week out of a hanging bag *or* a stowable rollaboard, I never ever checked baggage, and never had to do laundry on a trip.

I wish, back then, that there had been a resource like One Bag--a site devoted to the art (and science) of travelling light. Even a seasoned road warrior like myself could've picked up a few tips.

Regular blog readers will know that I've been doing a lot of business and personal travel in the last weeks. In the days of "business casual," it's even easier to pack light than ever before; the One Bag site has tons of practical advice about how to pull it off.

If you pack for a three-day trip like you're planning to emigrate, you need this information. Just to cut to the chase, check out their comprehensive and authoritative packing list (in PDF format.)

Hat tip: Lifehack.org


Petropolis: A Social History of Urban Animal Companions
From the horse bought at auction to pull the family carriage, to the adopted kitten curled up on the living room couch, animals have always been part of the social fabric in America. Our relationship with our companion animals has changed dramatically over time, however, as have our notions of how a pet can enhance our lives. Through a diverse display of art and objects, Petropolis: A Social History of Urban Animal Companions depicts the evolution of that bond.
(Sponsored by Purina, the Petropolis exhibit ran in 2003 at the New-York Historical Society, and now has a permanent home on the Web.)

Which book are you?

You're Prufrock and Other Observations!
by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Hat tip: Rose at No Credentials.

Johnny Ganjaseed

This Johnny Appleseed Is Wanted by the Law - New York Times:
'Let me be the light that shines on the American gulag,' [Marc Emery] said, stern-eyed, pointing into the camera. Without notes, Mr. Emery sermonized for a half-hour about everything from the marvelous medicinal and spiritual qualities of pot to the greatness of Thomas Jefferson, 'who gave America on hemp paper the Declaration of Independence.'
Marc Emery, of Pot-TV and Cannabis Culture magazine, was recently busted by authorities in British Columbia, where he lives, at the behest of the American Drug Enforcement Administration.

His crime? Well, for the last ten years or so, he's been running--quite openly--one of the largest marijuana seed banks in existence, selling high-quality seeds all over the world, including to eager recreational and commercial growers in the United States.

In Vancouver, what he does is widely tolerated, though still technically illegal. He estimates that he's paid at least CDN$600,000 in taxes over the last several years, listing his occupation as "marijuana seed salesman" on his tax forms. You can't say he's been sly or underhanded about it... in fact, he's made a crusade out of it, travelling around the world and smoking pot in front of police stations in less tolerant countries.

How did this über-libertarian scofflaw form his philosophy of life?

Hold on to your hats--I'm not making this up. In his teenage years, his then-girlfriend gave him a joint not long after he discovered Ayn Rand:
[H]e said his life changed in 1979 when he began reading the works of Ayn Rand, who championed individual freedom and capitalism.

"The right to be free, the right to own the fruits of your mind and effort now all made sense," he recalled. Only a few months after discovering Rand, his girlfriend at the time offered him a joint and he smoked marijuana for the first time.

It was an epiphany," he said. "I had a sixth sense added to my five senses. The silence sounded different, smells were more nuanced and the brightness of the moon made it look bigger and more substantial in the sky."

To which I might add, Pink Floyd records instantly became more interesting, as did Doritos.

At any rate, this case raises a very interesting question, one that Canadians are going to be talking about for quite some time: should Canada extradite Mr. Emery to the United States, to stand trial for doing something that is de facto legal where he lives?

To put it very mildly, the drug laws in the United States have been something less than an unqualified success. Our failed effort at marijuana prohibition has resulted in the expenditure of a ton of money for no positive (and many negative) social results:
Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year, finds a June 2005 report by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University.
And we now have half a million people in the United States behind bars for drug offenses... more than the entire prison population (for all offenses) of Western Europe, which in the aggregate has a larger population.

Look... I think Marc Emery is kind of goofy, okay? And the last time I had any pot in my house was when my wife was going through chemotherapy (she's all better now, thanks.)

But the idea that my government is trying to put a seed salesman into the clink for life is absolutely ludicrous and laughable.

Does anyone in their right mind think that pot is as much of a danger to society as, say, terrorism? We're spending more on marijuana control every year than we are on port security.

Is it as dangerous as obesity, tobacco smoking, alcohol abuse, Michael Moore, Howard Dean, James Dobson or Tom DeLay?

The question answers itself.

Podcast on indefinite hiatus

One of the things I loved about podcasting was the response that I got from so many people.

I get comments on the blog all the time, many of them thoughtful and interesting.

But folks really seemed to react, and respond, to the music, or to some of the stupid stories I told or the interviews I did, a few of which I'm really proud of. Strangers from around the world felt moved to write in and ask questions, offer suggestions, or just shoot the breeze. Very cool.

Unfortunately, putting the podcasts together every week takes too much time and energy--two commodities that are in short supply for me right now. My work is ramping up to an entirely new level, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and there are family concerns that are taking up a lot of my time as well.

As well, with the copyright situation yet to be sorted out for podcasts, the possibility of creating legal entanglements by playing music in podcasts is too great, and if anything is becoming greater over time.

In short, although it's been rewarding, the combination of the resource requirements and the risks involved are too much for me right now. I have rethought my priorities, and making podcasts isn't one of them.

So "Greenwich Village Idiot" is going away, quite possibly forever. The podcast site will remain up until the end of the month, at which point it goes away too, so grab 'em if you want 'em while they're still around.

I may be back someday with something different and new.

In the meantime, blogging will continue apace.

Thank you for your continued support and interest.

12 August 2005

Oxford American Magazine - Southern Music Issue

Happy happy, joy joy. The Oxford American, a quarterly publication I look forward to reading more than any other magazine I take, has just put out their 7th Annual Southern Music Issue, with free included CD. (Past OA CD compilations are among the favorite discs in my record collection.)

How hip are they, you ask? They've got everybody from Bessie Smith to Elvis on this thing, along with Erma Franklin (Aretha's older sister) and such gems as the Pilgrim Travelers singing "Jesus Hits Like The Atom Bomb."

If you care one whit for Southern music, or good music in general, and you live anywhere with a half-decent newsstand, I urge you to pick up a copy today (or visit their web site and subscribe!)

If you don't live near a good newsstand, call the folks at OA directly to order: (501) 450-5820.

An oral history of September 11

The City of New York, prodded by lawsuits under state freedom of information laws, is releasing over 12,000 pages of oral histories (among other records) from the September 11 terrorist attacks:
The histories - a mosaic of vision and memory recalling the human struggle against surging fire, confusion, and horror - were compiled by the New York City Fire Department beginning in October 2001, but to this date, no one from the department has read them all or used them for any official purpose.

The city has announced that it will also release today a written log of calls to the 911 system, many from trapped office workers, as well as tapes of fire dispatchers. Other records, including tapes of 911 operators, are being assembled and are not yet ready for release, city officials said.
("City to Release Oral Histories of 9/11 Friday," New York Times, 12 August 2005.)

The Times has already obtained some of this information through unofficial channels, and has compiled it here:

The 9/11 Records: Complete Coverage (New York Times)

While this may seem ghoulish or macabre to some, I think it is actually incredibly important. As someone who lives about a mile, as the crow flies, from Ground Zero, and who lost friends when the Towers went down, I want this documentary history made public and available.

Borowitz: Rafael Palmeiro named White House Spokesman

The Borowitz Report:
[T]he plain-spoken Palmeiro impressed White House staffers in his first press briefing today, jutting his index finger in the faces of reporters and offering no fewer than twenty-seven spirited denials in answer to their questions.

In response to a question about the rising tide of violence in Iraq, Mr. Palmeiro said, "The insurgency in Iraq is not gaining in strength. Not at all. Period."

After a reporter quizzed the former Orioles slugger about the controversy swirling around deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, Mr. Palmeiro replied, "Karl Rove had nothing to do with the leaking of a CIA agent’s identity. Nothing. Nada. Period."

Chapomatic: Why I'm unlikely to buy a Thinkpad

Chapomatic has just had a hellish experience trying to get his Thinkpad repaired.

It took eight months--eight months!--and countless hours of phone calls and e-mails, before Chap finally got his laptop returned to him in semi-working condition.

With a wiped hard drive. (sigh)

Although Lenovo has bought out IBM's PC business--a transaction that took place, incidentally, during the time Chap's laptop was already in the shop--all of these repairs were (mis)handled by former IBM staff, and I must confess that I am especially surprised and disappointed to learn of the incredible runaround that Chap experienced.

I have memories of a much-different IBM.

Twenty years ago (cough), I started my career in information technology working for IBM, while still a college student.

I bought IBM products (the employee discount didn't hurt!) and having seen first-hand the ruthless efficiency and fanatical devotion (pace Monty Python) of IBM field service personnel, always popped for the service contract.

When my IBM PC Convertible suffered a fried motherboard after a power spike in Chapel Hill, two days before a big paper was due, I made a frantic phone call to the local repair depot, and was literally met at the door by a guy in a suit who expedited my repair. An hour later I was walking out the door with what was essentially a new computer.

My, how times have changed.

Back in the day, a letter like Chap's that made it to the desk of a competent Service Manager would have resulted in someone, or several someones, getting terminated with extreme prejudice, followed by an extended bout of customer ass-kissing.

These days, apparently, they can't even be bothered to answer their mail.

The welcoming committee

Back in New York for a long weekend, before returning to Texas on Monday.

And here's a little Friday catdogblogging.

An immutable rule at our house, until fairly recently, is that there is always a Chow Chow guarding the door.

Chow Bella and Chow Fun, through a complicated and poorly-understood (by me) system, take "shifts" on the door, making sure that they know what's going on in the apartment hallway at all times.

The recent change is that sometimes Mister Gato volunteers to take a shift on the door. And though there was initial grumbling, the dogs now accept this. While he must seem a strange and oddly-shaped guard dog to them, no one doubts his ferocity.

Often, however, Mr. G. and one of the dogs guard the door together, as in this photograph. Mister Gato and Chow Fun were actually photographed by me while all of us were waiting for Carrie (working late) to come home, but this is very much what I saw (from the other side of the door) when I stumbled home with my baggage Thursday night:

The welcoming committee.

Be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator for pictures of bloggers' pets from around the world, and don't forget the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday. (This week, the Carnival is at Mind of Mog.)

10 August 2005

We'll just see about this

The New York Times > "Rib" Restaurant Review > "North Carolina in a Downtown Diner":
[W]hen a cadre of North Carolinians, including a couple who routinely have barbecue FedExed to their West Village walk up, raved about the pork sandwich at Rib, the latest incarnation of the chartreuse-trimmed Greenwich Village diner that was Lunchbox Food, I took it with a grain of salt.

But they were right. It's the closest thing in New York to the chopped hog I've inhaled while driving down Highway 70 - just salt, pepper, a whisper of smoke and enough sauce to make the sides of your tongue water...
I have two observations.

(1) I'll believe it when I taste it, and plan to taste it soon.

(2) There are North Carolinians in the West Village having 'cue FedExed to their walkup, and I haven't met them yet?

09 August 2005

He's baaaaaaaack (The Religious Policeman)

Look who showed up in my comments!

Welcome back, Alhamedi. We've missed you (and have been plenty worried.)

Where has he been?
Well, in the last 12 months, events took me to the United Kingdom, where I was once schooled, and where I now work. I am much freer to post in safety, but it wouldn't have been very smart to do so the day after I arrived, so I've only just started up now. I will be returning to the Magic Kingdom from time to time, and so there will be gaps in my posting, which may or may not coincide with these intervals, just in case our heroic security forces are keeping track. As there are several thousand of us working here at any one time, and several hundred arriving or leaving each year, I am satisfied enough that I can maintain my anonymity.

I thought I'd got away from terrorist attacks but obviously that was a mistake. As someone with an obvious Asian appearance I feel a bit wary but that's not surprising. I think the British are starting to wake up to the "dark side" of Islam that we see so much in Saudi Arabia but is something new to them over here. Life as a moderate Muslim is getting increasingly difficult. Perhaps I should become a Christian, but where I come from they call that Apostacy and you get your head chopped off for it.
And he's back on my blogroll, too: The Religious Policeman.

Technology gone amok

The phone rang at 3:30 AM, jarring me out of an exhausted slumber. Given recent family events, my instinctive reaction was that of "Rose," the Olympia Dukakis character in Moonstruck, suddenly awakened in the wee hours of the morning: "Who's dead?"

It was... get this... an urgent recorded message from Continental Airlines, telling me that my morning flight to Dallas had been delayed or cancelled, and that I should call an 800 number for further instructions.

How the hell does Continental know where I live, I wondered dimly as I struggled to wake up, then vaguely remembered filling out a corporate travel profile last year when I joined up with my current employer.

At 3:30 in the morning Eastern Time, I am guessing that Continental's help desk is being staffed by someone in the U.K., as I got a very polite, deeply apologetic and quite correct English lady named Margaret on the phone when I called in.

"I am so very sorry, Mr. Campbell. There seems to have been a dreadful mistake; your flight from Newark to Dallas is showing no delays, on-time departure and arrival."

Although Margaret and I did have, as the diplomats put it, a full and frank exchange of views, I couldn't bring myself to be truly ugly to her.

(a) It certainly wasn't her fault,
(b) She was extremely polite, and I am socially conditioned to respond to, and return, polite and respectful behavior, and
(c) I have a beloved aunt (though not an English one) named Margaret and somehow it wouldn't have seemed quite right.

Had Margaret given me even a scintilla of attitude, however--even a tenth of what you get, say, calling one of the helpful public servants in local government in New York, or one of the sociopaths working in the Post Office--all of Greenwich Village would have been awakened by my response, and it wouldn't have been fit for reprinting even in this blog, where the morals standards are admittedly low.

My mission for the day, armed with Continental's "Customer Care" number (which opens, naturally, in, oh, about five hours) is to find the name(s) and the home phone number(s) of the person or persons who administer Continental Airlines' malfunctioning autodialer system.

From the area code(s) of their home number(s), I should be able to figure out what time zone(s) they live in.

I'm going to call them at 3:30 AM their time tomorrow, as I have a few irrelevant and distracting issues I'd like to discuss with them.

07 August 2005


"DNR" is hospital shorthand for "Do Not Resuscitate." It is an order entered into a patient's chart indicating that if the patient stops breathing, or if his heart stops, no effort is to be made to revive him.

Withholding lifesaving treatment can be an ethically thorny issue, especially if the patient is unconscious or not in his right mind and cannot request it personally, and/or has not made his wishes known in advance in writing, in an advance medical directive or durable power of attorney.

(Uncharacteristically, I kept my mouth shut during the entire Terri Schiavo kerfuffle, blog-wise, except for the one post I just linked, urging everyone to make their wishes known in writing. Do it. Do it now.)

When a lucid, coherent patient requests DNR status, however, virtually all hospitals will honor this request, and in fact have a protocol to follow for ensuring that the patient's wishes are carried out.

At my father's request, a DNR order was entered into his chart last night, and a "no-code" (Code Blue being hospital jargon for an emergency resuscitation effort) bracelet was affixed to his wrist.

The reason is simple. While my father's ongoing biological processes might be prolonged almost indefinitely, he no longer has anything resembling a "life" of any quality. And he's quite ready for it to be over. In fact, while affirming his DNR request after demonstrating his mental competence, he said, rather plaintively, "If there's anything that can be done to hurry the process along, let's do that too." (There isn't, of course, other than completely refusing further care, including food and water. Not in North Carolina, anyway.)

The laundry list of what's currently wrong with him is daunting. He's been paralyzed for almost 40 years, which has its own attendant set of health problems. But right now:

He has antibiotic-resistant pneumonia, which has thwarted treatment by even the Biggest of the Big Guns, the latest and greatest "antibiotics of last resort" like Vancomycin.

The fluid in his lungs, complicated by a non-trivial case of emphysema, leaves him periodically gasping for breath like a beached fish, even with supplemental oxygen.

More troubling are the decubitus ulcers, or pressure sores, which started out as discrete spots on his back near the base of his spine and on his right ankle; the spots on his back and hips have merged into one solid mass of rotting, weeping tissue, and his right leg from the knee to the ankle is open down to the bone.

They are a constant source of continued infection and sepsis, and have resisted all efforts to treat them; the only thing that would keep the one on his leg from spreading further would be amputation, and given his debilitated physical state it is unlikely in the extreme that he would survive such an operation.

Complications from pressure sores ultimately killed Christopher Reeve, and are a constant problem with paraplegics and quadriplegics. My father has dealt with them on and off for years now, but this last bout has finally gotten completely out of control, and as a reservoir for bacterial infection and sepsis they just about cannot be beat.

Modern medicine has done a lot for my Dad. It's kept him alive long past the life expectancy for a paraplegic injured in the late 1960s.

But his body just doesn't have the reserves to keep fighting, and so now the objective is to keep him as comfortable as possible, and with any luck to bring him back home and let him die with his family around him, rather than a bunch of strangers in a hospital or nursing home.

To that end, once he is discharged from this hospital stay, we will be engaging the services of the local Hospice and bringing him back home.

I have had many lucid, coherent conversations with my father since flying to North Carolina on Friday night. But even that is starting to slip away from him; he is existing on several planes of reality at the same time, it seems.

He passes, and continues to pass, the quick-and-dirty test for mental competency, being oriented as to person, place and time (in other words, he knows who he is, where he is, and the day of the week and roughly the time of day); he responds appropriately to direct questions and is capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation without prompting.

This morning he had a perfectly lucid conversation with his doctor, and he and I watched CBS Sunday Morning together, and Face The Nation, and he commented on some of the stories; he's looking forward to a NASCAR race this afternoon.

As the day wears on, however, or if he is tired out from an activity that requires physical exertion (like holding himself in place rolled over on his side while they change his dressings), he starts, well, having extended conversations with People Who Aren't There.

It sounded, at first, like a nonsense monologue, but on careful listening I realized that what I was hearing was one side of a conversation, the other side of which is occurring only in my father's increasingly cross-wired brain. Sometimes, he seems to be having an argument ("No! I said no, dammit, and I meant no!") and at other times he seems puzzled or even amused. He also says things that parse correctly as perfectly well-formed English sentences but don't really make much sense, as when he told me that he had a multi-million-dollar idea for a new and improved outhouse, though given his sense of humor this may well have been his somewhat muddled idea of a joke.

People of a spiritual bent have suggested to me that Dad may already have one foot in the Afterlife, and I guess that's possible. For all I know, he's arguing with his own father, or someone else who has gone on before.

For now, I am treasuring the moments of lucidity that remain, planning to make his end-of-life care as comfortable as possible, and saying my thank-yous and goodbyes.

I really appreciate the e-mails and offers of support that I've received from y'all. Thanks so much. This is a hard time for all of us.

Submarine rescue story

One bit of good news this morning is that the crippled Russian mini-submarine has been raised to the surface, and all seven crew members are safe.

Veteran submariner Chapomatic has been following the story avidly, as have other submarine bloggers; Chap seems to be particularly impressed with the coverage at Ultraquiet No More, which is a group blog for current and former submariners, and I have to say that the "gouge" (to use a term of art that I recently learned, hopefully correctly!) there has been of extraordinarily high quality.

This is one of those situations where "citizens' media" (blogs) will never replace formal news services; all of the bloggers covering the story were relying on the wire services for basic information. But the interpretation and commentary that was going on in the submarine-blogosphere was head and shoulders above anything I managed to catch on CNN over the weekend, and that includes CNN's interviews with military personnel.

06 August 2005

Continued light blogging, and an absence of podcasting

I didn't make it back to New York last night.

Dad's not doing well at all. He came home from the "skilled care nursing facility" on Wednesday, had an absolutely horrible night, and wound up back in the hospital on Thursday.

My parents were assuring me that everything was under control, but a frank discussion with my Dad's physician late Friday afternoon convinced me that the right thing to do was to fly directly to Raleigh-Durham from Dallas. He is not, apparently, in imminent danger of immediate death, but without going into too much detail right now, there are "family" decisions that need to be made, right now.

My schedule for the next little while:

I'll fly back to NYC on Monday morning, put in an appearance at the office, pick up the "refreshed" computer equipment (the new laptop they've been promising for weeks has finally arrived, and should be waiting for me there), load on up clean clothes at home (stopping briefly to kiss my wife and pet the furry creatures on the way out the door) and then head back out to Dallas for another week.

(It's going to be fun getting these last few flights sorted out with our travel reimbursement folks. "You went where? Do we have an office there?")

Blogging will continue to be very light; podcasting isn't going to happen at all for a while.

Real life trumps virtual life every time.