Tuesday, August 30, 2005

But for the Grace

I'd forgotten, until just now, that Mira of The Oubliette is a resident of both my blogroll and of Huntsville, Alabama. She cat-blogged Katrina's arrival yesterday. Best wishes to her and all those in those states. Like many, I went to bed last night thinking, "Well, looks like New Orleans didn't get it as bad as everyone thought", only to find out earlier this evening that it might be just as bad as originally feared -- although in slow motion.

Two teeth at five months?!

Geez...apparently Aaron's kid, who is now five months old, has in that brief time suffered both colic and teething. This, I suspect, put seriously to the test Aaron's status as the most mellow human being to ever come from Iowa.

(By the way, go look at the photos of the kid that Aaron has posted. I found them funny, because I've seen Aaron make every single one of those exact facial expressions, usually in some degree or other of inebriation.)

Queen of the Memes, part the second

Lynn has another meme, in which one lists the first five things one would do if suddenly installed, without warning, in the office of President of the United States. Hopefully my answers are a little more interesting than the ones Dan Quayle gave in that infamous 1988 Vice Presidential debate....

(For the sake of argument, I assume that since I'd be President without warning, I would have little time to think through my first five actions, and thus that listing these items do not necessarily constitute five actions that I think any President should necessarily engage.)

1. Decorate the Oval Office with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings related artwork.

2. Order the immediate declassification and release of all papers and materials relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

(2a. Order that I be fully briefed on whatever the hell really is going on at Area 51. This, however, I'd keep secret from the American people, just because all Presidents should get to keep stuff secret from the American people. What's the fun of being President otherwise?)

3. Immediately cancel all contracts with Halliburton.

4. As per Lynn: start work on an energy policy, opening the doors to everything. Including nuclear power.

5. Begin formulation of a space exploration policy with the emphasis on real space science, followed by genuine colonization, as opposed to the current emphasis on projects that are little more than space-based pork and lofty announcements of unattainable goals.

Bonus Item #6: Begin scouring the country for my senior staff, with the main requirement being that their names be Leo, Josh, Sam, Toby, CJ, Donna, Charlie, and Mrs. Landingham.

Queen of the Memes, part the first

Lynn has a meme today: you just throw out there, for all to see, ten strongly-held, possibly politically-incorrect opinions of yours. Just because. Here are mine.

1. CDs are inherently superior to digitally traded/downloadable music, and the techno-dweebs at WIRED who keep harping on how "uncool" the compact disc is are goofballs who are just cheerleading for anything new and shiny that comes down the pike. (Hey, WIRED readers -- and remember, I adore WIRED and never miss an issue -- remember that awful CueCat device they fell in love with some years back?)

2. No good political argument at all starts with the words, "I don't want my tax dollars going for XXX!"

3. The "Free World" (such as it is) does entirely too little to oppose brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein.

4. Taking out Saddam Hussein, while ignoring all manner of other brutal dictators who are hardly less odious, renders all of our high rhetoric unconvincing.

5. I'll grit my teeth and concede that the New England Stupid Patriots are a dynasty, but I will not rank them with any of the greatest teams in NFL history. Period.

6. People who think that the Internet renders libraries obsolete are wrong, wrong, wrong wrong wrongity-wrong wrong wrong. Wrong.

7. The Usual Suspects is a shitty movie.

8. I voted for the guy, but I think that John Kerry would have been a very underwhelming President.

9. I don't find anything particularly interesting about Condolleezza Rice. To me, she's just another garden-variety surly-looking Republican.

10. The music of Jerry Goldsmith is overrated to a staggering degree.

OK, that should annoy some readers!

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I haven't freeloaded off the Government's bandwidth in some time, so here I go again, freely filching from NASA. Apparently some new observations have astronomers increasingly suspecting that the Milky Way Galaxy isn't a pure spiral galaxy, but rather a barred spiral, like this:

Of course, lots of people in the United States have a different spiral-shaped natural entity on their minds right now:

Hurricane Katrina

I don't know if I have any readers in the line of fire of this thing, but if I do, my thoughts are with you all. (And the non-readers, too.) My understanding is that a storm of this magnitude directly impacting New Orleans could be a natural disaster of stunning proportions. Keep well, and if you're still there, get out!!!

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

If you're squeamish about looking at photos of people with large tumors growing in strange places, don't follow this link. But if you are not squeamish about such things, by all means, have a look at a guy who's really figured out a way to turn the lemons life has handed him into a nice pitcher of ice-cold lemonade. Wow.

(via Warren Ellis)

Unintended Ironies

Among my more recent obsessions is Asian classical music, to which the Naxos series "Japanese Classics" is a huge boon. This series of recordings presents works written by Japanese composers, some from pre-WWII Japan, some from post-WWII. It's fascinating stuff, although some of it I've found disappointing -- particularly those discs from composers who worked in more directly European classical idioms, as opposed to the composers who try, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to blend European classical traditions with Japanese melodic material. The latter tends to sound more genuine to me, and I'm always one to prefer a faulty work that's genuine to a more polished work that isn't.

Anyway, I'm listening right now to one of the most recent releases in the Japanese Classics series, the Piano Concerto #3 and the Symphony No. 3 by Hisato Ohzawa (1907-1953). Ohzawa's sound is described on the back blurb as a blend of "jazz, late Romanticism, Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Hindemith and other contemporary composers". That's quite a blend of styles, no? American jazz, French Impressionism, and a bit of post-Romantic atonality? Wow. To be fair, though, I do hear some of this in Ohzawa's music -- mainly the jazz and the Bartok, though. I'm not really hearing the Debussy or Ravel. (I don't know Hindemith well enough to make any kind of judgement here.)

But on to the topic of this post, named in the title above: an unintended irony. The Piano Concerto #3 was written in 1938, three years before war between Japan and the US broke out, so there is clearly no malicious intent behind the concerto's subtitle: "Kamikaze". That's right, it's the "Kamikaze Concerto". The word kamikaze literally translates to "divine wind" or "the wind of God", and for Ohzawa at the time of writing his concerto, it referred specifically to a civil airplane in use at the time that, according to the CD's liner notes, "represented an important feat in Japanese aeronautical engineering". (Here's what it looked like, I think. The plane pictured here seems to match the one on the cover of the Naxos booklet, but it's hard to tell because the photo on the booklet has the plane sitting on the ground and surrounded by a mob of people.)

In the Concerto's second movement, the jazz idioms Ohzawa uses really come to play, especially toward the end, when there's a really nice passage that has the piano doing obligato work while a trumpet plays one of those sad, slow jazz tunes that sounds almost like Jerry Goldsmith's theme to Chinatown. So here's music with a distinctly American sound that bears a subtitle that would soon be one of the most infamous words to Americans.

I always find little cultural twist-abouts like this fascinating.

A metaphysical conundrum....

I wonder if, for the sake of determining which souls go to Heaven and which go to Hell in these days of the Web and Blogistan, just what God's linking policy is. For instance: does it count against me if I link this, noting that I think it's pretty funny?

But then, I do like to think that God has a pretty good sense of humor. I don't see how He could run this Universe without one.

(Oh, and in the last panel, the depiction of God looks a bit like how I'd expect PZ Myers to look at the end of a typical semester -- sort of a blend of Gandalf, George Carlin, Richard Feynman, and the guy who comes into The Store every Wednesday morning with a giant garbage bag full of beer cans....)

Tag'd Ag'n

Jennifer hit me with this one, so here goes:

7 Things I plan to do before I die:

1. Stand within Stonehenge at dawn
2. Stand atop Glastonbury Tor at dawn
3. Have dim sum in Hong Kong
4. Watch Little Quinn crawl
5. Listen to Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in one sitting (somehow, I think this may be the most unrealistic item on this list)
6. Publish a piece of fiction -- anything at all.
7. Walk The Daughter down the aisle.

7 Things I can do:

1. I can make a pastitsio that will make you cry.
2. I can read a full orchestral score.
3. I can fasten a sign to a brick wall. (I didn't know how to do this before I started working at The Store.)
4. I can write.
5. I can declaim for hours on just about any topic within Star Wars you can name.
6. I can shut my own hair in the car door. (This f***ing hurts!)
7. I can talk myself into liking the current Buffalo Bills quarterback for months after everyone else here has given up on whoever that happens to be. (I didn't give up on Rob Johnson until he was actually on IR.)

7 Things I cannot do:

1. I can't stand the sight of a woman crying, for just about any reason.
2. I can't say no to a chocolate chip cookie.
3. Or a free piece of pizza.
4. I cannot grant that the New England Stupid Patriots are the greatest dynasty of all time. (Because they're not, dammit!)
5. I can't forgive the Atlanta Braves for the 1992 National League Championship Series. (Francisco F***ing Cabrera?!)
6. I can't do much of use under the hood of the car, save changing the air filter, checking the oil, and filling the windshield washer. (I suspect that given the opportunity to learn, I'd do OK at such things. But as it is, I have no knowledge whatsoever of the workings of an automobile.)
7. I can't shoot a basketball to save my life. (Some years ago I learned from an eye doctor that my ability to judge distances accurately is, well, minimal, which is why my attempts at sports involving throwing are always disastrous.)

7 Things that attract me to the opposite sex:

1. Long hair.
2. Red hair.
3. A beautiful smile.
4. Cute glasses.
5. Curves.
6. The presence of overalls in her wardrobe.
7. A lovely, and often-used, laugh.

7 Things I say most often:

1. "Oh, for the LOVE of GOD--!"
2. "You want me do what with the who, now?" (Managers love hearing this.)
3. "Bite me."
4. "GAHHH! Put that down!"
5. "Well, there's a reason why Mommy and I tell you not to do stuff like that."
6. "I'd like a large coffee, please. Stat."
7. "Oooooh, look! He pooped! Aren't I the lucky ducky!"

7 Celebrity crushes:

Well, you could just pick seven women at random from the MOB! roster. The big one right now, though, is Sela Ward, due to my viewing of Once and Again on DVD.

7 People I Want To Do This:

I gotta pick seven? Yeesh. OK, here are a few: Aaron, Aaron's Sister, LC Scotty (who has his own new blog and is thus tagged for the first time, heh!), Lynn (who will probably resist this rather jejune quiz), and, well, whoever else wants to take a whack at it. Lazy, I know, but them's the breaks.

Damn. Gotta write more slash fanfiction!

Here are the results of another quiz-thingie I took. Enjoy. Or not. (Quiz via Aaron.) Personally, I still like the One-Question Geek Test: "Pronounce the word coax." But this was fun.

Joe Normal

47 % Nerd, 39% Geek, 43% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored less than half in all three, earning you the title of: Joe Normal.

This is not to say that you don't have some Nerd, Geek or Dork inside
of you--we all do, and you can see the percentages you have right
above. This is just to say that none of those qualities stand out so
much as to define you. Sure, you enjoy an episode of Star Trek
now and again, and yeah, you kinda enjoyed a few classes back in the
day. And, once in a while, you stumble while walking down the street
even though there was nothing there to cause you to trip. But, for the
most part, you look and act fairly typically, and aren't much of an

I'd say there's a fair chance someone asked you to take this test. In any event, fairly normal.


If you enjoyed this test, I would love the feedback!

Also, you might want to check out some of my other tests if you're interested in either of the following:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Professional Wrestling

Love & Sexuality

Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 27% on nerdiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 40% on geekosity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 76% on dork points

Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

Sentential Links #14

Bumper crop of good stuff this week. Click for Context!

:: The Bard is loved for many reasons, none of which I would ever seek to contradict, and yet I’m most drawn to his ability to find grace and beauty in imperfections, in flaws. (Gotta read this blog more; wonderful post.)

:: This argument of universal sin, then, is an argument almost built entirely for cynical use. It has very little to do with morality as such. Instead, it has everything to do with power, with legitimating one's own power and right to debate and trying to strip that way from others.

:: The family was held up at airport security when something in
Madge's hatbox started vibrating.
(The picture that this sentence captions is the joke. Click through and scroll down to the post dated August 26th -- I couldn't find a direct permalink.)

:: What the Presbyterian Church (USA) Has in Common With al-Qaida (That's a headline to an article by James Lileks that made my jaw literally thud to the floor. My God, that man is insane.)

:: My father was forty-one when he died. His death was utterly unexpected. He was there one day. The next, he was not. He was survived by a wife and three daughters. (Read the post preceding this one, too. This is really a good blog, the kind of blog that, in a just world, would have a million hits a day while InstaPundit struggled to get a hundred.)

:: Revere of Effect Measure agreed to be both subject and part of my learning curve to present e-mail blog interviews - bloggerviews. (This seems like a neat idea -- a direct exchange between bloggers, taking place on a blog. Whoa!)

:: Teaching 5-year-olds, I have discovered, is hard. (NOOOOO! Seriously, I think folks who voluntarily teach Kindergarten should either be awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom, or tossed into the asylum with the guy who thinks he's Batman.)

:: The problem with ID is that, unlike real revolutionary science, it doesn't lead to any normal science. There are no ID-based research programs. Nothing has never been accomplished by applying the ID paradigm to a question in biology. All ID's scholarly (and "scholarly") proponents do is try to offer half-assed refutations of Darwin. You can quote Kuhn all you like, but you're not doing revolutionary science unless your purported revolution leads to some normal science. Intelligent design does not.

:: What is fucking her up is the desperation, and the fact that she worked herself to death for over a month, and she still didn't really save anyone. Now that she's gone, it's like she was never there. Even the ones she helped keep alive, she didn't save. You try dealing with that reality. (Swearing in the original)

:: It's getting down to the wire, and Mark and I are pretty excited as we face this big, huge, gaping unknown. (Sometimes you don't know just how much that unknown is gaping.)

:: A couple of things I've learned, that I offer up, free of charge, to anyone parenting a teenager, or about to parent a teenager: (There follows, after this point, a list of things that really could also apply to a six-year-old. Trust me. I know.)

:: Just today, I was notified that I've gotten a sweet job clerking for a presitigious Camden County judge. (Congratulations to Drew!)

:: Is a virgin still a virgin if its hyphen is not intact? (As of this writing, this sentence is from the lead entry on this permalink-less blog headquartered at RogerEbert.com, but written by Jim Emerson, the editor of RogerEbert.com. It's a confusing and counterintuitive set-up, as are most attempts by major news organizations to harness the power of blogs while still maintaining their distance from down-and-dirty Blogistan, but it's still an interesting blog. And you wouldn't know it was even there if you didn't scroll all the way to the bottom of the RogerEbert.com front page. Come on, guys.)

:: For me, the working definition of a chickenhawk is--a chickenhawk is a cheerleader. A cheerleader for war. And not necessarily just the war in Iraq, or regional war in the Mideast, but war in general. A chickenhawk glorifies war as an enterprise, enjoying the heroics inside his or her head, mocking those less enthusiastic military aggression as pacifists, appeasers (Michael Ledeen's pet word), even traitors.

Tune in next week for more good stuff. (Well, and tune in before next week for good stuff. Uh...yeah.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Look at all them zebras!

I never watch much preseason NFL football, because the games don't count and the second halves tend to be excruciating as I watch sixth or seventh round picks try to beat out undrafted free agents for the bottom of the team's depth chart. But another reason that I'd forgotten about is the officiating. You can almost read the refs' lips every time a flag is thrown: "So, how does that new rule for this situation work again? Is it a five-yard penalty or a ten-yarder? Anybody got the rule book with them?"


Oh, and this is the first time I've ever watched a game at the Bears' new Soldier Field. Nice stadium, but it gleams a little too much to be called Soldier Field. I look at this facility on TV, and I just don't see the spirits of Dick Butkus or Walter Payton. I wish some NFL team would, in the course of building a new stadium, construct a good, old fashioned rock pile.

Axl Rose, Axel Foley, and other great Axles....

Michele at ASV writes in detail about the evolution of her relationship with Guns-n-Roses:

It was then I realized that GnR was the equivalent of the girl who teases you with her perky breasts for years and when you finally manage to get under the hood, you grab hold of three inches of padded bra. All that music before Use Your Illusion II was just a ruse to get us to this point. They gave us the good stuff first so they could later on sit back and make this pretentious, melodramatic drivel that they called art. There was nothing left to them. Empty D cups.

I never held a grudge against the rest of the band like I do Axl. He was - and is - a self indulgent monster whose posturing bravado could never hide the fact that he was really nothing more than a wimp, a nancy boy, a withered soul of a human being who couldn't handle criticism or competition

I'm starting to think that Michele is the Lester Bangs of Blogistan. But anyway, I never liked GNR in the first place, for one big reason: Axl Rose's voice is just plain awful. He's got this screechy whine of a voice that in my ears has all the musicality of that super-loud girl in your fifth-grade chorus. You know the one I mean. Ugh. I liked GNR when it was just the band playing, but sooner or later Axl would step up to the mike, and there I went. To this day I've never owned a single GNR album.

(I have the distinct feeling I wrote this same post a couple of months ago, but I don't feel like searching for it.)

A body blow, avoid'd

According to a sketchy news item run as a hasty crawl across the top of the screen during a Bills preseason game, the Air Reserve Station in Niagara Falls is remaining open, albeit with a few changes.

In an economically troubled place like Western New York, the closure of a large military base would have been a body blow, so color me happy.

Ann Coulter is a revolting piece of human shit.

Yeah, that's a bold statement, but I can't think of any other way to phrase it. Ann Coulter is completely without worth as a human being. Were she to walk into Buffalo's Botanical Gardens, I have a feeling that the plants therein would choose to suffocate rather than breathe in the carbon dioxide that she exhales.

hy do I say this? Because of what the lovely Ms. Coulter said here, on that FOX News show Hannity and Colmes:

COLMES: Is that what that is? You certainly don't feel that New Yorkers are cowards?

COULTER: I think they would immediately surrender [to terrorists if attacked].

God, what a sickening person Coulter is, and how black her heart must be. New Yorkers would surrender? Upon what does Ann Coulter base this statement? Certainly not on how New Yorkers responded when they actually were attacked.

New Yorkers ran into fire and smoke and dust and debris to save others, and many New Yorkers died doing so. New Yorkers stood in the upper floors of those burning towers, knowing that they were doomed, and many of them called home to say goodbye before choosing their deaths rather than having their deaths forced upon them by jumping from those heights. New Yorkers didn't surrender; they faced it head-on while the rest of America looked on, horrified and amazed, via television screens and radios and computer monitors.

In Casablanca, Rick Blaine responded to Major Strasser's speculation on a German invasion of New York thusly: "Major, there are certain sections of New York I wouldn't advise you to try to invade." That's still true today -- but not for Ann Coulter, who wants to be able to use 9-11-01 to justify all of her insane right-wing hatred but who also wants to curl up with her hatred of everyone to her left like a warm blanket.

There are few persons in American public life of whom I can honestly claim to feel hatred. Ann Coulter is one of them.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

One year ago (minus one day)

I probably won't be posting tomorrow, because it's Friday and the family wants to go out and it's Little Quinn's birthday and all, which is why I'm posting so much about him today.

This is what he looked like the night he was born. Even though his birthday is the 26th, we didn't get to see him until after midnight on the 27th, which explains the datestamp on the photo. (Our doula, bless her, brought a digital camera for the taking of post-birth photos. She didn't have this kind of thing in mind, obviously.)

Happy Birthday, kiddo....

G-tube feedings, revisited

I wrote some time ago on the details of performing Little Quinn's G-tube feedings. This process has been aided recently by our acquisition of an electric pump which takes the bulk of the work out of it and frees us up to do other things while Little Quinn is eating.

Here is a Flickr photoset where I perform one of his feedings from last night, using the pump. The prep work is mostly the same, as is the completion; the main change is that we no longer hold him and pour the milk/formula into his belly by hand, little by little.


For the vast majority of parents, buying a stroller is a one-time thing -- you pick one that fits the "baby bucket" car seat at first, and then you remove that when the kid is old enough. To pick one out, you look in the Consumer Reports magazine, or you do some searching through online testimonials, or you talk to other parents; and then you go to Target or Toys-R-Us and find one in the right color. And then you're on your way, no fuss, no muss. And when you have your second child, unless you do this while the first one is still in the stroller, you get to re-use the first one.

For us, though, it's a bit different.

I'm sure most of us have been in public somewhere -- a mall, a grocery store, a park, wherever -- when we've seen a stroller that looked a bit different, somehow. At first it looks just like a normal stroller, but then we realize that the thing is quite a bit larger than usual for a kid that size. We notice that the child within is buckled in much more securely, perhaps with ankle harnesses and a chest harness and we see that his head nestles into this fabric-covered head-brace. And we see that this stroller's wheels are much larger, and that it looks like not so much a stroller but a stroller/wheelchair hybrid.

That's exactly what it is.

It's exactly what we have for Little Quinn. Currently we have a loaner from a local medical supply company while the insurance approvals and such go through for our own, and that medical supply company has the word "wheelchair" in its title. (What we currently have is pictured in the first photo in this post.) It's big and heavy and it takes up a lot more of the back of the car than a normal stroller.

Little Quinn turns one year old tomorrow.

It's been quite a year. Parts of it have been amazing and I wouldn't change them for all the world; other parts of this past year I'd jump at the chance to have never have happened at all. Problem is, I'm not sure which parts fall into which category. Things which seemed hellish then feel OK now, while others that felt OK at the time fill me with sadness to think of them today. And there are the hellish moments that stayed hellish, and the good moments -- all too few -- that still feel good. It's sort of like that scene in City Slickers, when the three guys are describing the best days of their lives, and one of them describes the day he finally stood up, as a teenager, to his abusive father (if memory serves). One of the other guys then says, "That's your best day? What's your worst day?" And the first guy, says, "The same day."

Well, that's what I think about when I think about strollers these days.

Get with the program, fellas!

A local Buffalo magazine, Buffalo Spree, has launched a new blog, called SpreeBlog. It's very new, so I'll go easy on them for now, but come on, guys -- this is the real Buffalo blog. Right here. And it's been that way for ages. Sheesh.

Do I not write enough about Buffalo, or something? What constitutes a "Buffalo blog", anyway -- is it a blog like mine, where I live in Buffalo and blog about whatever I want, or is it a blog like Alan's, where he mostly blogs about Buffalo? What gives, here? I don't want to fall through the cracks of Buffalo Blogistan!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Captivation, in progress

I don't know anything about the upcoming film Memoirs of a Geisha, other than that it has a score by John Williams and what might be the most beautiful poster ever:

I just may get a copy of this poster someday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Flickr Stuff

I've had a Flickr account for a while, but I haven't used it for much. I've decided to start using it a bit more, and today I uploaded a number of photos. Some are from the Erie County Fair, while others are older photos that I really like, mostly of the family and kids. I haven't done any organizing into sets yet, really.

Anyway, my Flickr photostream is here. Man, the Web rules!

(BTW, was it just this week that Flickr was acquired by Yahoo? And for Yahoo users, is it allowed to have more than one Yahoo account? I already have one, but I don't want to blend that one with my Flickr account.)

Heh. Indeed.

I have little to say about Pat Robertson's call for assassination today, except to note that this guy played a big role in the current conservative ascendancy in this country. Ralph Reed was his protege, and the Christian Coalition, which in part spearheaded the Republican electoral triumphs in the 1994 midterms, was his baby. Pat Robertson isn't some marginal conservative nitwit, like Fred Phelps. He's a mainstream mainstay for the Right in this country, and a major leader for George W. Bush's evangelical base.

I'm reminded of the last few episodes of The West Wing's second season, when President Bartlet was dealing with an attempted coup d'etat in Haiti at the same time that he was coming clean with his multiple sclerosis. At one point, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry says this:

Mr. President, there will never be real elections in Haiti if the military thinks it can simply kill the winner.

The relevance of that quote to Mr. Robertson's suggestion as to how to deal with a democratically elected leader of another country, and the following implications this has for our current (and, in my view, half-assed) attempts to create a democracy in Iraq, are left to the reader.

Food for Thought

I've long wondered why the pro-life community isn't more interested in pursuing policy initiatives that actually reduce abortion rates, rather than just constantly using the "blunt hammer" approach in insisting that abortion itself be made illegal. Here's an interesting post from The Rage Diaries:

Maybe, just maybe, abortion rates would drop if we had stronger social safety nets in place and workplaces that didn't penalize women for being mothers. I say this after looking at Russia's abortion rates for last year....

For the Russian experience, and what it might mean for us, read the whole post here.

Dragging people, kicking and screaming, into Blogistan

The original Mr. Erratic Poster, Aaron, has finally cajoled his sister Amanda into blogging, so say hello to Dirigiblog. She only has a handful of posts up, so it's nigh impossible to prognosticate her level of success with the form, but this bit from her very first post seems to augur well:

Why have I done this? Because I am exhausted and I should be sleeping; however, blogging is apparently way more important.

By George, she's got it! By George, she's got it! Now once again, where was that plain!

Returning to an Old Favorite

I often sing under my breath while working at The Store, and other times, if I'm not outright singing some showtune or Celtic ballad, I'm humming film music or classical themes to myself. Over the last week, for some reason, I've been humming one of the big motifs from the last movement of Brahms's Symphony No. 1, which I finally broke down and listened to this evening. (Well, I didn't exactly "break down" so much as finally had a perfect opportunity for a bit of Brahms.) It's probably been over a year since I last heard the Brahms First, maybe shorter, maybe longer -- but that's not important. What's important is that it has been sufficiently long that I had forgotten just how good it is, and what I love about it.

(For those interested in such things, I listened to Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, on the Deutsche Grammophon label. These are live performances that, if memory serves, were also telecast on PBS years ago.)

I'm always struck by the symphony's opening. For all of Brahms's reputation as the holder of the classical flame while musical Romanticism raged all around him, Brahms could more than hold his own with the others in creating musical tension. Those opening bars, with the orchestra's soprano voices playing a line that rises chromatically while the lower voices counter with one that sinks chromatically, and at a different rhythm, with the tympani pounding away on each beat as those two lines pull at each other, just grab me from the very first beat. And it seems that the tension of that movement is never going to let up.

The two middle movements are finely crafted by Brahms, but it's the epic final movement that always leaves me breathless. It starts off with more tension, but quieter tension: there's something foreboding in the air, and we don't know what it is. But soon enough Brahms dispenses with the tension, in a remarkable passage that has the French horns pealing out this wonderful motif from the heavens. (This is the motif I've been humming at work.) And then there's this incredibly nifty brass chorale theme that won't be heard again until near the very end of the movement. And then there's another quiet passage before we reach the real meat of the movement, a long theme that is the likely source of von Bulow's comment that Brahms's First is really Beethoven's Tenth. (The theme is said to sound remarkably like the "Ode to Joy" theme from the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth, but I like to hear different things in music, so in the Brahms theme I actually hear more Elgar than Beethoven, which is good because Brahms lived before Elgar.)

There's a lengthy, and masterful, development of that theme, culminating in another sounding of that wonderful horn motif, and then Brahms switches to a doubling of the tempo late in the game before getting back to that brass chorale theme, and then he wraps things up with a thrilling coda.

Man, reading that description makes the damn thing sound so clinical, but I don't like to try to talk about what music means when I write about it; I expect music to make me feel something, and if I can convey just a bit of that, then I'm good. Musical metaphors are always dangerous, too often sounding completely out-of-left-field at worst, or just plain treacly at best, but the Brahms First is one of those pieces that creates in me the same kind of feeling I get when watching a good planetarium show, or reading some Carl Sagan. Is saying that the Brahms First makes me think of the Cosmos a little too broad? Do you get what I'm talking about?

The hatching of bad plans, already in progress....

I really can't endorse this sort of thing, on two grounds: first, it seems like a possible incitement of some sort, and second, well...that's meringue, and meringue doesn't stick worth a damn.

OK, moving on....

Nope. No dissent here. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

If you read quite a few liberal blogs, as I do, you occasionally run into a recurrent meme about why conservative blogs tend to not have comments threads. I never comment on this, because I don't find it terribly interesting; I mean, there aren't any comments threads on quite a few of my favorite blogs, and to be frank, the only comments threads I tend to follow are the ones on this very blog. My main reason for not reading comments a lot is that I'm attracted to specific blogs because I like the voices of their writers; comments threads tend to obscure that a bit, except on the lesser-traveled cultural blogs, where comments threads can be quite interesting indeed. But the biggie political blogs? Fuhgeddaboudit. I'm forever amazed, quite frankly, that anyone can bother to wade through one of those 200+ comment barnburner threads over on Kevin Drum's blog, and I find the fact that over on Atrios's blog, the number of open comments threads sometimes seems to outnumber actual posts (as of this writing, there are nine open threads over there, with the front page containing posts only as far back as two days ago).

So, maybe the fine folks of Right Blogistan don't have comments because they want to stifle dissent, or maybe they don't much want to spend time doing moderation and fighting comments spam, or maybe they figure it's a cool way to drive up their incoming linkage, since the only way to comment on their posts is to post in a blog yourself. Maybe it's some of all three, or maybe the whole thing's bogus anyway and it's just that the most notable citizens of Right Blogistan don't have comments and thus they are skewing the perceptions. I don't really care.

But I have noticed one particular strange habit of Right Blogistan. Well, habit is the wrong word, perhaps, since I've only seen this done by a small handful of blogs over there. The fact remains, though, that I've never seen this done by a member of Left Blogistan. It's the redirecting of inbound links from specific blogs. Example: go to this post on Pandagon, and click the link to this post by LaShawn Barber. If you merely click the link from Jesse and Amanda's site, you won't get to Ms. Barber's post; instead, you'll end up...well, I'll let you find out. It'll only take a second, and it's actually slightly more interesting than the usual way I've seen this done in the past, redirecting the link-followers to a 404 page. But if you cut-and-paste the link into your browser, or use the "right click/new tab" thing in FireFox, you get the post, right as rain. Isn't that clever!

Well, no, it's not. It's obnoxious and stupid.

I don't really think that not having comments on one's blog implies that one is trying to stifle conversation or muffle the dissent or whatever. But I frankly find it hard to read the redirecting of inbound links in any other way, and I further find it objectionable because it reinforces the echo-chamber nature of Blogistan. It's "You link yours, and we'll link ours, and never the twain shall meet." Linkage is, in my opinion, a very large part -- perhaps the very large part -- of what makes Blogistan the place that it is. It's like a city: you may not like it that the same roads that make it possible for you to go to the movie theater and the supermarket also allow the crack dealers from the wrong part of town to come into your neighborhood, but that doesn't mean you get to erect roadblocks on your own. Longtime readers will recall that, even though I disagreed with him strenuously on many topics, I kept Steven Den Beste on my blogroll for a long time -- until he started doing the same thing. If "No betting on games" is the unbreakable rule in baseball, I think that likewise "No mucking with linkage" should be the unbreakable rule in Blogistan.

If you write a blog, and you maintain it in public fashion, then "ya takes yer chances". Not everyone is going to like what you have to say, and some are going to link it in the process of telling you how full of crap you are. Using a technical trick to try to thwart that process is, simply, intellectual cowardice. Does that mean that LaShawn Barber is an intellectual coward? I'd say it does...especially since she herself comes over to Pandagon and leaves this comment on the post she's blocked:

In a perverse way, I'm flattered that you libs read my blog when the only time I read yours is when you link to me, which you seem to do with increasing frequency.

Ms. Barber, I submit, is not in the least bit interested in any kind of exchange of ideas; she is interested in agreement with her worldview, and agreement alone. That's intellectual cowardice.

(Oh, and looking at the rules for trackbacks that she establishes in the post Pandagon is mocking, I note her Rule #5:

5) If a trackback leads to a non-offensive post, but you allow commenters to libel me, the trackback will be deleted and habitual offenders permanently banned.

Huh. Does that mean that bloggers actually are in some way responsible for the words left in their comments threads? Well, I wonder if Ms. Barber would think that the same applies to Charles Johnson and his merry band at LGF. I wonder, indeed....)

(And yes, if anyone cares to point out any liberal bloggers who have done this, I'll excoriate them just as strongly.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

New Sunday, new chapter

I have, as of this writing, just completed posting Chapter Sixteen of The Promised King, in which our heroes race against time through a wood where some dark things lie. (I know, I know, a standard epic fantasy trope, the dark wood where dark things lie. Sue me!)

Go forth and read; and if you need catching up, all of the other chapters are available there as well. Look under "Contents" at the left, and all shall be forgiven.

(As usual, this post is being maintained at the top of this page by the magic of TimeStamp Technology. Keep scrolling down for newer content.)

UPDATE: I have just completed the task of removing the blogroll from the sidebar and into a post inside the blog itself. The blogroll post is dated yesterday, August 20, so you can just scroll down to see it; but the link to tbe blogroll is here and you can also find it linked in the sidebar, in the section just under the self-photos.


Longtime readers will remember that I spent the first winter of this blog's existence living in Syracuse, which is, among other things, the future home of DestinyUSA. This is supposed to be a gigantic mall combined with a bunch of hotels and indoor entertainment venues, that will rival that Mall-zilla in Edmonton, Alberta in size. I still follow the development of this project at Syracuse.com (affiliated with the Post-Standard, Syracuse's newspaper), and today I found mention of an already-existing location, in Europe, that is one of the few entertainment/retail locales in the world that rivals what is planned for DestinyUSA in size. It's called Xanadu Madrid (site in Spanish), and here are some photos I found of the place.

This is Madrid Xanadu from the air:

That big gray thing sticking up into the air is a giant indoor snowhill.

And here's part of the indoor, retail area:

Part of me -- the part that looks at the Coruscant scenes in the Star Wars prequels and wants to live there -- really wants to see Destiny built; but the other part, the more sceptical part, continues to wonder if Syracuse is really the right place for it. Madrid is one of the world's great cities; Syracuse is, I'm sorry to say, something of a backwater in upstate NY, which is already backwater enough. I still don't know.

But if they do build it, I'll be there. Maybe my scepticism is really just jealousy that they aren't building it in Buffalo.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

I love giving greeting cards to people I care about; it's just a nice way to express my appreciation for them, I think, and I put a lot of thought into what I write in them. I generally don't get bent out of shape over the price of cards, although there's always some older person willing to gripe that a birthday card used to be less than a buck. (Yeah, and so was a gallon of milk. Deal with it!)

Over the years, of course, the card industry has exploded so that every holiday or event has a card associated with it. But here's something I didn't expect: cards you can send to your soulmate...

(wait for it)

...when you're married to someone else.

Yup, it's the Secret Lover Collection:

The Secret Lover Collection is designed to capture and express the unique emotional bond and intensity between lovers involved in this type of relationship, allowing them to express their feelings for the first time through inspiring, emotion-driven, "me-to-you" greeting cards featuring distinctive original artwork.

Looking through the collection, they've put quite a bit of thought into the emotional realities of extra-marital affairs -- witness the Goodbye card, which you apparently give when the affair can no longer go on. Wow.

I don't want to seem like I'm picking on these folks, because I guess it's nice that someone is trying to acknowledge that this kind of thing is often driven by some very complex emotions (as opposed to, you know, those "special needs" we all have now and then), but...well, I don't really know what to make of this. Hence the weirdness.

What say you, Constant Readers? Good idea, or one more indication of the reduction of American emotional life to soundbites and morsels of feeling?

My new name is "Quirky Q. McQuirkster".

It's been a while since I swiped a blog-meme thing from Michelle, so here's a new one: we're supposed to list five of our personal idiosyncrasies. OK, then. (Here's Michelle's post.)

Now, there are some habits that might strike the casual observer as idiosyncrasies, but are really quite easily explained. For instance, a non-classical music lover -- or a person who likes it but isn't really into it -- might think it weird that no fewer than six different recordings of the Berlioz Symphonie fantastique grace my collection, and two different Lohengrins, and a handful of Beethoven Sevenths and Ninths, and so on. But to people in the know, this is not only not unusual, it's expected: in fact, if I did not have multiple recordings of various works (not always all of them; gotta prioritize, money being what it is), it would be a substantial checkmark against my Classical Music streetcred.

And in Buffalo, it's more of an idiosyncrasy to not have some piece of autographed Buffalo Bills memorabilia than to own one. (I have a baseball cap signed by former Bills kicker Steve Christie.) Anyway, here are my five:

:: Like Michelle, I too count steps on nearly every staircase I encounter. I don't think this is terribly odd, really -- in fact, it comes in pretty useful sometimes to know that the stairs in my apartment building hallway number thirteen. Believe me, when you're carrying something large and heavy and you can't look down to see what your feet are descending upon, stair-counting is of immense use.

:: Whenever I eat chicken wings, I usually consume the "drumsticks" first, leaving the "forearms" for last. This isn't ironclad, really, but I never finish up with a drumstick: I leave at least one forearm for the very last one. What's weird is that I used to do the exact opposite, leaving the drumsticks for last. Why, I don't know, since I'm honestly not sure which portion generally contains more meat. (As a sub-quirk, I use an entire mature Ponderosa Pine's worth of napkins in the course of a meal of chicken wings.)

:: I have to peel oranges by using a knife to cut through the peel in quarters and then remove the cut peel. I hate doing it in any other way, and I especially hate digging into the flesh with my nails to get the peeling started. That leaves chunks of orange peel under my nails, which drives me crazy.

:: Sticking with food: when eating pancakes or waffles, if a large pool of syrup is not still on the plate after I've consumed the final bite, I haven't used enough syrup. Pancakes and waffles are, to me, little more than a Maple Syrup Delivery System.

:: Last one, and the obvious one, I suppose, given my photos here: if the daily temperatures are in the mid-60s or lower, and I'm not either working, in church, or in any other situation requiring Wrinkle-Free Dockers, I'm wearing overalls. I think that counts as a quirk, since I never see them on any other men outside of the livestock pavilions at the Erie County Fair.

That's me: I'm just a weirdo. How about all of you people?

Sentential Links #13

Here we go again: click for context.

:: If your side starts to hurt on, say, Monday and you lose your appetite and all you want to do is sleep and you're dizzy...don't wait until Friday to mention it to your immediate family. (TBogg's been on fire -- I nearly went with "So if you've got a script where a cartoon family of rich eccentric hockey players take on Hollywood only to be horribly tortured and crucified...you may already be a winner!", but the personal usually beats out the snark when all other things are equal.)

:: That's what this war has given us: a situation where the best option is pretty bad.

:: "Amanda is in denial," Jim Kulick said. "She said her father promised her he would come back from the war, and she still believes that."

Amanda Kulick doesn't understand what happened to her father.

Neither do we.
(OK, folks, if you couldn't tell, I'm slowly getting more and more angry about Iraq. Link via Drew Vogel, in the post linked in the preceding Sentential Link.)

:: "Women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there, I think they will be there, but I think we need to keep this perspective." (God Almighty, what in the hell are we doing?!)

:: In other news, I tore some skin off my upper lip eating a popsicle last night. Go ahead, laugh. I would, if it didn't freaking hurt so much. (Well, she said we could laugh!)

:: Strange that someone who was only a virtual presence can be such a force in our lives and that his sudden absence can come as such a blow. Maybe we do have souls after all. (A fine tribute to a blogger whose blog I only learned of when the blogger passed away.)

:: Many people would be thoroughly creeped out by it but I have grown quite fond of The Face. (You won't believe what she's talking about. It seems to me that the perfect name is Wolfgang, but that's just me.)

:: Today, while walking and listening to my husband's recording of "Russian Easter Overture" I came home insisting to share an entry on Ilkka's blog. I think a wife deserves that much, don't you? (Ach, these wimminfolk...next they'll want blogs of their own! Kidding aside, it's a nice tribute.)

:: This ends the family of motifs associated with the inspiring power of woman. Although few, they are extremely powerful. (I think that Mr. Himebaugh may be misreading the quote -- Mr. Cooke is referring to the motifs as being "few", not the women. But then, you can't always tell with Mr. Himebaugh, who's one of the most "tongue-in-cheek" bloggers out there.)

:: (Y)you can only hear your town called "the armpit of Iowa" so many times without getting rude right back. (Geez, what's wrong with Waterloo? I always thought it a perfectly nice town. I mean, it's no Buffalo, but then again, sometimes I wonder if Buffalo is even a Buffalo, so....)

All for now, folks. Check back next week. (After, you know, checking in every day between now and then, because I blog more than just on Sundays. I'm just sayin'.)

"Once and Again": Initial Thoughts

I'm about three-and-a-half episodes into the Season One DVD set of Once and Again that I bought a short while ago, and I'm really enjoying it. This is one of the few TV shows I want to own on DVD (Scrubs being the other big one, with Millennium's season two also on the list). No, I'm not watching Once in a great hurry, because...well, I want it to take a while. I don't want to plow through the whole thing in as short a time as possible. So I'm rationing it, a bit at a time. Kind of like how Rick and Lily have to ration out their romance at the outset, a bit at a time. Complete with interruptions.

For those who don't know what Once and Again was all about -- and given the show's anemic ratings when it was on and the fact that it was cancelled three years ago, that's probably most of you -- it was a one-hour drama on ABC, lasting three seasons before the final descent of the axe, which took the basic idea of The Brady Bunch and then also took that basic idea seriously. It took a divorced father with two kids and a divorced mother (well, not quite divorced yet) with two kids and had them fall in love. And then it followed not only the tale of their burgeoning romance, but also its effects on the other people involved, who also tended as real people do to have problems of their own.

I didn't start watching Once until, oh, two-thirds of the way through the first season, so all of the episodes I've seen thus far are totally new to me. What strikes me in these opening shows is the way the typical cliches in romantic dramas about divorcees are present: the woman's ex is a cheater and not the most reliable father, and the man's ex is a hyper-anal control freak. Yup, got it. Only Once doesn't allow things to lie like that. We quickly see that Rick and Lily have problems of their own, and that Jake and Karen -- the ex's, who are major supporting characters on Once -- may have had good reasons of their own to wish for their respective marriages to end. Once and Again just doesn't take the easy way out, whether it's showing Rick failing to really come to grips with his son's increasingly apparent academic troubles, or Lily's cringe-worthy attempts to convince her self-esteem-challenged daughter Grace that she actually is pretty.

Once and Again also uses a nice storytelling device of intercutting the action with "interviews" of the characters, in a one-on-one basis. In this way we get to know the characters even better than we normally would, as they express thoughts and feelings in their "confessionals" that they then work hard to conceal in their real-life moments.

And yes, I'll probably babble more about Once and Again as I go through the episodes. Because what's a blog for, if you can't beat a single topic into the ground?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Voices of Byzantium

This is the blogroll for Byzantium's Shores. Feel free to peruse any or all of the blogs on this list, for they are all worthwhile.

Those Who Have Shared My Campfire

A Blog of His Own
In a Shameless World
Mark, Fourth Earl of Cuthbert
A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

Voyagers from Neighboring Lands

Against the Grain
Ramblin' with Roger

The Voices in the Tavern

Adventures in Juggling
All Things Jennifer
Animal Spirits
Aurora Walking Vacation

Back of the Cereal Box
Because the Alternative is Unthinkable
Bigger than a Breadbox
Blog from OUR kitchen

Blue Girl in a Red State
Buffalo Pundit
Buffalo Roots
Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness

Clarence Grad 1972
Cold Antler Farm
Confessions of a Half-Breed Prince
The Dragon's Tales

Electronic Cerebrectomy
Erin Go Blog
The Far Green Country
Fillyjonk's Progress

A Fool in the Forest
Grateful Dating
The Gray Monk
Guiness and Cream Cakes

Hunter at Random
I am a Butterfly
Imaginary Bicycle
In Java, Literally
Incurable Insomniac

Jen's 14,221 Thoughts
Judith Heartsong
Ken Jennings
Lance Mannion
Life in Shades of F-Major

Life, Yarn, and Baby Poop
Maniacal Hooting
Mental Multivitamin
Michele is a Buffalo Broad

Mind Muffins
The Modulator
Nancy Nall

Outside Counsel
Pratie Place
Quiet Bubble

Randy McDonald
Royal Word
Search the Sea
Separation Anxiety

The Sheila Variations
Shephard's Alley
Short Fat Guy
Some Kind of Scrapheap
Stilettos and Sneakers

Tosy and Cosh
Twenty Sided
Unwelcome Return to the Single Life

Violins and Starships
Where Life Takes You....
Yarns and Yarns
...You are a Tree

The Voices of Faction

Balloon Juice
Brad DeLong
Ezra Klein

Glenn Greenwald
If I Ran the Zoo
Kevin Drum

Lawyers, Guns, and Money
No More Mister Nice Blog
Political Animal
The Poor Man Institute

The Republic of T.
Roger Ailes (not that one)
Sadly, No!
Shadow of the Hegemon

Think Progress
James Wolcott
Matthew Yglesias

The Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Silver Quill

Adventures in Fiction
Antick Musings of GBH Hornswoggler, Gent.
By Ken Levine
A Distant Soil

Filling the Well
Neil Gaiman
Gossamer Obsessions
I Am a Cheeseburger

Kung Fu Monkey
Making Light
Me, My Muse, and I
Michael May's Adventureblog
Miserable Annals of the Earth
Musings of an Insomniac Writer

No Fear of the Future
Notes from Coode Street
Paperback Writer

Shipwrecked Poetry
Simple Tricks and Nonsense
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Charles Stross
Warren Ellis

Wil Wheaton
The World in the Satin Bag

Harpers, Pipers, and Voices Raised in Song

The Fredosphere
Iron Tongue of Midnight
Jessica Duchen

Musical Perceptions
Notes from the Kelp
Of Music and Men
On an Overgrown Path

Alex Ross
Greg Sandow

In the Temple of the Muses

Art, Movies, Wood and Whatnot
About Last Night
Adventures in Reading
Asking the Wrong Questions

Book Moot
Chris's Invincible Super-Blog
City Comforts

Comics Curmudgeon
Elegant Variation
Eve's Alexandria
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Hotlist

The Frodo Franchise
The Galaxy Express
Geek Orthodox
Hobo Trashcan
The House Next Door
Howling Curmudgeons
I'll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book

Living Between Wednesdays
More Words, Deeper Hole
The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films

No Smoking in the Skull Cave
Roger Ebert
SciFi Scanner

Self-Styled Siren
SF Signal
Siskoid's Blog of Geekery
Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep!!
Something Old, Nothing New

The Thrilling Wonder Story
Tor Books
The View from the Foothills
Walker of Worlds
Wolf Gnards
Written World

The Children of Copernicus

Amused Muse
Bad Astronomy
Blog Around the Clock
Cosmic Variance

Look Out, It's Evil!
Open the Future
Sentient Developments

The Temple Mosaicists

Francis Tsai
The Main Art Blog @ 1968

Artisans and Guildsfolk

Cool Tools
The Hardware Aisle
Stu's Shed

Tool Snob

The Chroniclers

the art of memory
Bits and Pieces
My First Dictionary
passive-agressive notes
Strange Maps

The Wearers of the Sacred Garment

Blahwg! Life on the Farm
Bless Our Hearts
The Creager Studios
Creating Art in the Burbs
Farmgirl Fare

Gratitude Journal
Not Quite June Cleaver
Tallahassee Food Gardens
...this time tomorrow...

(Last updated 9 April 2010: Many deletions.)

My blogroll policy: This blogroll is more intended as a resource for myself, since I still prefer to do my blog reading the "old-fashioned" way -- i.e., by visiting blogs directly. I do use BlogLines as a feed aggregator, but I don't subscribe to very many feeds as I mainly use that site to follow blogs quickly when I'm on break at work.

I tend to be fairly reciprocal in linking blogs from here, since most times a blog that links me turns out to be one I'd like to read anyway. I don't keep this list on the main page mainly for space reasons; it's become so long over the years that it would simply make the sidebar on the main page way longer than it needs to be. Plus, editing the blogroll is much easier within the body of a post than on the blog's master template.

I'm not super-rigorous about culling my blogroll for blogs that have gone inactive, but I do go through it maybe once a month or once every two months. With few exceptions -- i.e., I know the blogger personally -- if a blog has been inactive for more than two months as of the date I'm checking it out, I remove it from the blogroll. However, I do maintain a folder in my bookmarks for inactive blogs, so if I remove your blog from this list due to inactivity and you subsequently resume posting, feel free to e-mail me that you're active again. I do go through my "Inactive Blogs" bookmarks occasionally, but it could take a while. However, if blogs remain inactive for a year or more, I tend to delete the bookmarks from the folder, so if it's been that long before you resume blogging, you'll need to e-mail me to let me know you're back.

Finally, I should probably explain my blogroll categories and what they mean:

1. Those Who Have Shared My Campfire: These are blogs by people whom I knew in person before they launched their blogs, or before I learned they had blogs. (This does not imply that people whom I met through blogging can't become personal friends as well. This category refers simply to the order of how things went.)

2. Ships Flying the Flag of Buffalo: As of 10 June 2008, I've removed this category. For good or ill, I don't read too many Buffalo-based blogs anymore; the sense of community in the "Buffalo blogosphere" is long gone and it's not coming back, so this category no longer seems useful to me.

3. Voyagers from Neighboring Lands: Upstate New Yorkers but not from Western New York.

4. The Voices in the Tavern: "Personal" blogs. These blogs can be about anything and everything.

5. The Voices of Faction: Political blogs. Almost exclusively liberal.

6. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Silver Quill: Blogs by writers, either professional or aspiring.

7. Harpers, Pipers, and Voices Raised in Song: Music blogs. Mostly classical at this point.

8. In the Temple of the Muses: Blogs which are focused on general commentary on the arts or popular culture, with all the requisite overlap therein.

9. The Children of Copernicus: My final category gathers blogs whose content is primarily based on science.

10. The Temple Mosaicists: The newest category, as of May 2007. Here I'll put blogs by visual artists.

11. Artisans and Guildsfolk: Blogs about stuff you learned about in shop class.

12. The Chroniclers: These are blogs that specialize in the gathering of examples of a specific type of thing.

13. The Wearers of the Sacred Garment: These are bloggers who proudly wear their overalls. We few, we happy few!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Doink doink doink doink doink doink

Funny how lots of blogs have mentioned the hoax Christopher Walken for President site, but only one has made what I think to be the obvious joke about it.

What this country needs is...more cowbell!

Decisions are made by the people who show up.

In one of Buffalo's southern suburbs, a town named Eden (which is, in fact, so far south of Buffalo that it might not even really be fair to call it a suburb at all), a freelance writer and blogger named Christina Abt has decided that the democratic process of the town needs a bit of shaking up. So she's running for office, and blogging her run. Talk about grassroots, eh?

(By the way, here's a weird thing that I just remembered: the first time I ever voted was in the 1992 Presidential Election, in which I voted by absentee ballot for Bill Clinton. But what really struck me was that in my town, there were Democratic and Republican candidates for coroner. Are there really partisan differences in how a Democratic coroner would approach that job, as opposed to a Republican one? "He's dead." "No he's not, you lefty idiotarian liberal America hater! He's just sleeping really soundly!" "His heart's not breathing. I know this, because I'm reality-based." And so it would go....)

(Link to Ms. Abt's blogs via Ali, who e-mailed this to me a few days ago and about which I promptly forgot.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Unfortunate Mnemonic Stuff

I'm following this "Able Danger" thing a bit, but I have to note that every time I see the words "Able Danger", I think of the Richard Scarry character Able Baker Charlie (whose name, I've just found out, also constitutes the first three letters of a WWII-era phonetic alphabet).

No point here, just makin' an observation.


I have no idea to this day what
them two Italian ladies were
singin' about. Truth is, I don't
want to know. Some things are best
left unsaid. I like to think they
were singin' about something so
beautiful it can't be expressed in
words, and makes your heart ache
because of it.

I tell you, those voices soared.
Higher and farther than anybody in
a gray place dares to dream. It was
like some beautiful bird flapped
into our drab little cage and made
these walls dissolve away...and for
the briefest of moments -- every
last man at Shawshank felt free.

-- Red (Morgan Freeman), describing a duet from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, from The Shawshank Redemption.

Sometimes the Universe sends us a sign or two -- or maybe more -- that we've gone ever so slightly astray, and that a course correction of some sort is called for. The signs can be giant, glaring ones of the "You are about to plunge off a Really! Big! Cliff!" variety; but more often they can be small ones, so small as to be not even noticeable as signs in the first place, unless you're willing to be attuned to them in the first place. This, of course, is a double requirement: you have to be not only willing to listen to what the Universe is trying to tell you, but also you have to have enough knowledge of yourself to know what the Universe is getting at in the first place. Both are pretty hard to get a grasp of. Call it Zen, I suppose, or whatever.

You know, you remind me of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. And that all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me." The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted, "Hey, hey you! You in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety." But the man shouted back, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me." A helicopter was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, "Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I'll take you to safety." But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety. Well... the man drowned. And standing at the gates of St. Peter, he demanded an audience with God. "Lord," he said, "I'm a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?" God said, "I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?"

-- Father Cavanagh to President Jed Bartlet, "Take this Sabbath Day", The West Wing

Today I helped some people stain a fairly large wooden fence. It was part of a charity-based volunteer day in which The Store took part, but that's not important -- I keep thinking about the fence. You see, of all the work I do these days, it suddenly occurred to me as I was driving home, after I'd dropped my friend off at her car, that that fence and its coat of stain is the most permanent thing I've done in, well, quite some time.

Our work is so damned ephemeral these days, isn't it? If we work in an office, shuffling papers back and forth and analyzing numbers, there are always new sets of numbers to study. When I worked at a pizza joint, I'd often have to close the restaurant and then open it the next day, so I'd mop the floors and then mess them up again myself eight hours later. In the sales job I had, the glow from a good sale lasted roughly from the time you hung up on the buying customer until the time you dialed the number of the next one, and the happiness of a really good sales day was gone the next morning when you walked in and saw the number next to your name on the big sales tracking board reset to zero.

But that fence, barring a disaster, will still be that pleasant shade of redwood stain for years. So what does that mean?

Well, I don't know, really. But in the course of reading blogs and watching stuff on DVD and thumbing through books lately, I'm coming across some kind of recurring theme.

More and more I question the ultimate value of any criticism whose immediate purpose is not to bring its readers into direct contact with beauty (or shorten the amount of time they spend in contact with ugliness). The purpose of my professional life is to make people happier, and I try not to let myself forget that my way of bringing it about can never be anything more than an imperfect means to a blessed end. C.S. Lewis said it better than I can: "If we have to choose, it is always better to read Chaucer again than to read a new criticism of him."

-- Terry Teachout

So what does Mozart have to do with Chaucer, a fictional President being scolded by his parish priest, and a freshly-stained fence? Maybe it's that art, real art, has most to do with our attempts to create real, genuine beauty, and not of the sort one sees in a starry sky or the autumn hills, but in the way we perceive those things and help others to perceive them. And maybe that's what's so permanent about our best art. Maybe that's why we still listen to Mozart: because he, along with many others, helps to remind us that, in Andy Dufresne's words, "there are places in the world that aren't made of stone".

Or maybe I just spent too much time inhaling stain fumes.

"If at first you don't succeed...what's that? We succeeded? Wow!"

Simon's wife is pregnant. And when he catches the bastard who did it --!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Revisin' stuff....

I've started streamlining the contents of the sidebar a bit, with a bit more to come. The "Writings Elsewhere" section has been removed, with the links therein relocated to a post within the blog archives (dated to August 1), and with a link to that Index post appearing in the "About the Author" section toward the top (the section with the two photos of Your Humble Narrator).

I have also created similar posts, also dated August 1, to contain the Move Over Britney! roster and the Poetical Excursions; look for these links toward the bottom of the "Notable Dispatches" section (which isn't going anywhere). I'll be likewise condensing "Exploring the CD Collection" and "Great Love Dialogue" sometime soon.

I'm undecided on whether I should do the same with the master blogroll, however. But for now, the sidebar should appear a bit less cumbersome.

On Libraries

There's a columnist for the Buffalo News named Mary Kunz Goldman who, in my opinion, writes well on exactly two topics: classical music, and libraries. On every other topic, she is almost completely nonsensical. She has a column today in which she strenuously objects to the impending closing of more than twenty of the Buffalo and Erie County Library's fifty-two branches (due to county budget problems). Alan objects to her objection, accusing Goldman of missing the point and basically boiling down his position to this: "If you want it, you’ve got to pay for it." The thing is, I'm not really sure that Goldman really misses the point; it's just that she's arguing in favor of the first part of the conditional. She's trying to argue that yes, we do, in fact, want it. That's no small thing, I fear; I think that the view that libraries are still essential in this day of the Interweb and the like is somewhat battered these days. I myself argued otherwise a few months ago. (I also object to Alan's insinuation that the people complaining about libraries closing are rich senior citizens or urban yuppies, but that's another kettle o' fish entirely.)

I'm about as strong a supporter of the libraries as there is, but I do concede that the Buffalo and Erie County system really needs some streamlining. However, the type of streamlining doesn't seem to be debated much: it's either "Keep all the branches open", or "cut the system nearly in half". But are those really the only alternatives?

Consider: As I note above, there are fifty-two libraries in the system, which according to 2004 population figures boils down to one library branch for every 18000 citizens. By contrast, in the Syracuse region, the twenty-eight libraries in the Onondaga County Public Library system provide one branch for every 16,421 citizens. The difference, though, assuming I read things correctly, is that the Onondaga County system only has eight actual branches being operated by the Onondaga County Public Library system directly, while the other twenty member branches are operated by the individual municipalities in Onondaga County. Of course, Onondaga County's population isn't trending downward the way Erie County's is, but it's also an upstate county that has seen massive population loss due to a lot of the same types of factors that have driven Erie County's population downward. And if you compare the number of city branch libraries on a per capita basis between the two cities, you get the following:

Syracuse: Current population, 147306. City branch libraries: 11. Per capita: one branch library per 13,391 persons.

Buffalo: Current population, 292648. City branch libraries: 15. Per capita library service: one branch library per 19,510 persons.

This is using 2000 Census figures, which are almost certainly lower five years later. But even if we assume that each city has lost 10,000 people, you still get a wide disparity: Syracuse, a city almost exactly half the size of Buffalo, still serves fewer people per capita with its libraries than does Buffalo. So why, in all the talk about what to do about Buffalo's supposedly bloated library system (which might not even be as bloated as we're often led to believe), do we never ask what Syracuse and Onondaga County are doing right in managing their library system?

The answer may lie, in part, with all of the member libraries outside the City of Buffalo. Looking at just one example: the South Cheektowaga Library and the Julia Reinstein Library, both in Cheektowaga. Here's the map of where these two libraries reside:

The South Cheektowaga Library is at the far left, where the little Google Maps marker is. The Reinstein library is at the right, on Losson Road, right about where I placed that italic 'X'. And the distance between the two, spanned on this map? About three miles. Depending on traffic and red lights, these two libraries are within ten minutes of one another. Two branch libraries that close might make sense in the densely populated City of Buffalo, but not out in the suburbs. I suspect that this kind of thing occurs quite a bit in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system. I'm loath to close libraries, but given its proximity to the fairly new Reinstein Library, it seems to me that the South Cheektowaga library may be expendable.

It would also be helpful, in this debate, if a clearer picture could be had of just how the whole B&ECPL system is funded. Does the County fund the whole thing? No -- but what roles do the constituent towns and municipalities play? Could we have the benefits of a shared-collection, county-wide system -- and believe me, those benefits are legion -- while streamlining its operation? These questions don't seem to come up. It's "Close two-fifths of the system or shutter the whole thing!"

No wonder nothing ever gets done around here. I'm not sure what I'm proposing here, if I'm proposing anything at all. But I don't much like the scorched-earth kinds of policies that are currently the only policies being discussed.

A question....

I see a recurring meme amongst folks on the Right who are attacking Hillary Clinton, along the lines that it's wrong for her to seek the 2008 Presidential nomination on the grounds that if she wins re-election to the Senate in 2006, winning the nomination would, in effect, mean that she'd be saying "Screw you" to the folks in New York who would have elected her to be their Senator. Senator Clinton would, in effect, be betraying her constituents.

My question is: did not the fine people of Texas endure just such a betrayal when the man they elected to a second term as their Governor in 1998 began seeking the 2000 Republican Presidential nomination almost before the ink was dry on his winning of that second term?

If your answer to that is "No", then with respect: Shut up about Senator Clinton betraying the people of New York.