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The personal site of Ryan Olson


Thursday, September 30

The Iraq War and Mrs. Johnson 

I was surprised to hear President George Bush mention meeting with Mary "Missy" Johnson during tonight's presidential debate. I wasn't surprised by the president's reaction by meeting her.

Staff Sgt. Paul "PJ" Johnson, the first U.P. native killed in the Iraq war, was killed in action during an ambush in Fallujah last October. Johnson left a strong mark in the Upper Peninsula where he grew up.

Although I've only spent a few moments in touch with the family and friends of Paul Johnson, I was very impressed with the determination, strength and warmth they displayed in the face of losing someone so loved. This impression is supported in reporting for the articles I wrote and an article I read in The New York Times.

To provide more information about the Johnsons, here is my article The Ultimate Sacrifice about PJ Johnson's passage and the reaction.

Statistical Abstract 

At the end of the month, I wanted to thank everyone for visiting the Web site. Hits on my Web site are up about fifteen-fold since February. Of course, there were only about 15 hits in February and about 270 this September.

It's worth noting that my stats show that Macs running OS 9 account for 12 percent of the site traffic. So, I'm assuming that's me (that and the fact stats also show that accounts for about 15 percent of hits). So the remaining 85-88 percent of hits are all you guys and gals. Thanks.

I know that a lot of people are landing on old blog posts through Google searches. I hope everyone is finding what they're looking for.

I'm not going to post my miniscule stats every month -- I just wanted to express my appreciation for your traffic. If you like what you're reading, I hope that you'll stick around and let me know what you think.

Comments or questions? Please drop me a line -- rtolson -at- Thanks again.


Wednesday, September 29

The pre-debate debate 

The pre-debate regarding tomorrow's debate is the post debate, specifically how each party and the media tackles its response after W and Kerry stop talking. Today's edition of The Daily Howler spells things out pretty nicely.

I've been wondering for a while if the tomorrow's debate will be a repeat of 2000. I was astounded then seeing a debate that I thought Gore won be transformed into a seeming Bush victory. This was after polls and other immediate response supported that assumption. I'm afraid that this might happen this year.

There's been a lot of talk about the spin and the media coverage of this election. There hasn't been much out there to assure me that this year's coverage will be much better than 2000.

Anyway, there's a lot of other political blogs out there if you want enough rhetoric to satisfy the most rapid of partisans.


Sunday, September 26

_Random_ eye movement 

This blog is part of a rather impersonal personal Web site. It's got no pictures, sounds (until recently) or much mention of my personal life. The (ahem) intimate details of my life are just not anything that I'd delve into, least of all on a blog.

So, in a small change of pace, I'm going to talk about some dreams I had recently. Unfortunately (for you), my dreams aren't intimate -- they're more situational where I find myself doing something totally random. They're almost snapshots of things happening.

There were three dreams in three days. The first one involved my bathtub. Water from the shower (which doesn't exist in real life) soaked through the unprotected walls and it was peeling away taking the insulation with it leaving only tile beneath.

Yesterday, I dreamt that I was living with my family in a big modern city (with boutiques lining the street). Much of the city was having a holiday and I wandered around. I walk through the row of shops, underneath the subway line. I note many people standing in line outside a building with the NASA logo. It turns out that people are waiting to ride some sort of space-related roller coaster that zoomed around the neighborhood. I didn't ride the coaster.

This morning, I dreamt that I was in a TV station somewhere. There were meetings going on and I was in a maroon-painted room with several others (including comedian Rick Mercer for some reason). After small talk with Mercer and others, I went back to the kitchenette. After I go into a meeting room, I run into a guy who spills a bowl of chili over my clothes.

I don't know what 99.9 percent of my dreams mean, including these. I just wanted to note how bizarre they are -- especially three days in a row.

Where'd this 'doctor' come from? 

I don't know if this is a sign that I've been in newspapers for too long, but I got concerned watching the short film "The Font Doctor." The "doctor" is a guy who formats fonts for Hollywood pitches.

I nearly jumped out of my seat when he criticized two poor authors of using the Arial font (which is a clean, sans serif font). I don't know what font it really was, but it was totally a serif font (maybe Times or Palatino).

I guess we now know what sort of accuracy to expect from an outfit like MocDocs.


Friday, September 24

Finding hockey's roots 

I went to the expo for the Professional Hockey Centennial Celebration Friday. It was really neat seeing all of the history of the game. I was also impressed to see some of the hockey historians that had traveled so far to attend the event.

The sights of the expo were cool as well. There was old equipment like hockey sticks on display and some old ice skates that looked pretty painful. The Hockey Hall of Fame had some displays of the Stanley Cup and the Original Six NHL teams as well as some skills tests. The kids really had a ball (puck?) with the games.

All in all a rewarding, educational experience. I'll be back Sunday to see the Stanley Cup in person as well as checking out some more local hockey history. Tonight, the Red Wings alumni team faces off with an alumni team from Michigan Tech.


Wednesday, September 22

Indiana Jones and the Tickle Trunk Treasure 

I frequent from time to time. Sometimes there are DVDs there that haven't been released in the United States (like Made in Canada), plus there are added features on the Canadian release and sometimes the exchange rate is in my favor.

Anyway, I was reading through's Essential Canadian DVDs and this interesting combo came up. Apparently, people who bought classic children's TV show Mr. Dress-Up also purchased the Indiana Jones Trilogy. decided to make it a "Great Buy" where people can save $20CDN by purchasing the two together.

I'm guessing that many purchasers are buying for families. It might explain the purchase of a kiddie show and an adventure flick.


Sunday, September 19

this is an audio post - click to play


Tuesday, September 14

Giving props 

I must say that I'm impressed with the singing ability of Robert Pomakov who's been singing the national anthems in Toronto during the recent World Cup of Hockey which is ending tonight.

Part of it is his incredible dedication that he displayed while singing all these national anthems from Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia and Canada. He tilts his shaven head forward slightly and stares ahead as he sings -- which sounds so fluent even though I can't understand a word he's saying. I wish he was allowed to sing "O, Canada" tonight, but they gave it to someone else.

By far the best performance of "O, Canada" that I've heard is Mark Donnelly before Game 7 of the Vancouver Canucks playoffs last year. It was electrifying, especially when he stops and lets the crowd sing along (and they're in tune!). I have a recording of it that I still listen to from time to time.

Missing link 

Living in a battleground state means that we get a _ton_ of commercials. Despite the fact that the U.P. is fairly rural, every vote apparently counts.

Tonight, there was an ad from George Bush promoting his health care plan and his Agenda for America. There was a lot of interesting proposals there ranging from savings accounts and allowing small businesses to group together.

What was notably missing was anything about lowering the cost of prescription drugs. There was nothing at all, compared to the one or two things that might -- might -- reduce the price of health care.

To be honest, I don't know what Kerry's plan entails, but this seems to be a critical oversight.

BTW, I'm really doing my best to avoid commenting on this upcoming election. Part of it is that, professionally, it shouldn't matter which candidate I support. The other reason is that there's probably millions of blogs out there that dispense political blather like it was liquid gold.

As the election nears, I'm probably going to delve more into the political realm. In the end, I'll try to keep it to a dull roar.


Thank you, internal combustion engine. I needed to get my car fixed today to tackle some wheel and axle issues. Since it was a nice day, I walked from the repair shop and back.

I didn't know that it would take me about an hour and 20 minutes to walk and that it was just over 3 miles from the shop to my house. It was extremely pleasant with the gentle breeze keeping things mostly cool and I got to walk near the creek as it drifted toward the canal. But, dang, blisters stink -- especially after nearly 7 miles of walking.

While it was to nice get a new perspective on the city, I gladly turned on the A/C and put my feet up when I got my car back. The topper on my afternoon was free burgers from Hardees -- the restaurant was packed to the gills as they did a promotion.

I think they're investigating... 

I'm reading more newspapers online these days. It's interesting reading stories from around the country, especially some of the different writing styles. There was one story from down South that caught my eye today.

The story was about a recent search at a college that may be linked with another criminal probe. Obviously it seems like a confusing matter, but the story didn't clear things up until the background portion toward the end. I'm not going to name the paper or the college, but this is the fourth graf:

Why the (...) investigation is being investigated and who is at the center of the investigation is unclear.

I know I'm new to this story, but with two cases centered around the college, this sentence was a roadblock in the story. I had to stop for a bit and puzzle out what the writer meant. I also reflected on the repeated use of the word "investigation."

As I understand it now, I think the writer was trying to say it's unclear why investigators have launched this new probe and who is being targeted.

I'm sure that my writing has been less than clear on occasion over the years, and I think this shows there's always room to be clearer and more concise.


Saturday, September 11

It's Edible Incredible! or Incredible Edible! 

People who have read my blog know that I write a bit about the CBC from time to time. It's pretty much my network of choice right now. What people may not know is that the official name of this blog is "Ryan's incredible, edible blog" in tribute to the American Egg Council's "It's the Incredible, Edible Egg" ad campaign.

Now it seems like the two things have collided, in a sense. In the past year, I look at what Google searches people use to access my site. One phrase "CBC Edible Incredible" came up several times. I scratched my head, like I'm sure many people did when they clicked through to my site.

As it turns out, the CBC has a new children's program called Surprise! It's Edible Incredible! which started airing last month. I saw the first episode -- it's kind of interesting. Although the Web site calls it "Iron Chef meets Fear Factor," I think it closely resembles BBC series "Can't Cook, Won't Cook" in terms of presentation except with kids.

So anyway, Google search mystery solved.


Tuesday, September 7

The next big thing? 

Personal video recorder company TiVo has a great product, but has been facing pressure from competitors (including former partner DirecTV). This coming reality has led to a lot of critics and analysts to be down on TiVo's future. Much is the same as NetFlix, which has been touted for its system of delivering DVDs to homes through the mail. There have been many questions raised about NetFlix's future as technology advances.

As I read on TV Barn, Newsweek has an article detailing a possible alliance between TiVo and NetFlix. This alliance supposedly includes the delivery of movies over broadband to your friendly TiVo.

Company reps deny this as rumor for now, but I think this deal has the possibility of offering an easy-to-use package for home users to pick movies they want from the comfort of their couch. It gives both companies a unique advantage to survive and thrive in the developing marketplace.

I just got a TiVo this year. For all of its touted advantages as a digital video recorder that efficiently slices and dices your viewing, a superb recorder can only record what's availble to watch -- and I've got basic. If I went to an expanded cable package or switch to satellite, TiVo's competitors stand ready with PVRs of their own (they're just not as good as TiVo on the whole).

This proposal gives me a great reason to stay with TiVo in light of increased competition.


Monday, September 6

Dialing blogicide 

I was thinking about the different forms of the suffix "-icide" today. One of my favorite TV shows (and books) is Homicide.

There's a lot of wacky variations of the word out there -- regicide, fraternicide, et al. I recalled Issac Asimov penning the phrase "robocide" to describe the murder of a robot.

All this got me thinking that what if someone tried to commit a murder or death through a 'blog? Doing a Google Search of the word 'blogicide' comes up with 185 hits. The phrase seems to refer to the death of a blog, which I suppose is appropriate.

I, myself, have a dead blog out there (I wiped it when I created this new site). Two Scooby points to whomever can figure out/remember what it was. I could rebuild it in Blogger, but I have no interest right now.

BTW, any form of "-icide" I didn't mention, I'm not thinking about. That includes cyborgicide.

(Not so) Great Expectations 

One of the greatest lessons my parents ever taught me is not make assumptions. I do have a nasty habit of trying to deduce something based on a limited amount of evidence and -- yes -- make a judgment based on an assumption. I'd like to think that I've gotten better at keeping an open mind (and be able to revise my judgment) after I graduated high school and moved on in life.

I don't know where it would fit, but I think it's worth also not making unrealistic expectations. I guess I don't know what I was hoping to accomplish this weekend, but I have only myself to blame for the fact that reality fell short of my expectations.

I guess I'm trying to say that I didn't make it to the bridge walk today.


Sunday, September 5

Caution: Bar Humor 

This audio post reflects the sort of humor that amuses those at a bar late at night.
this is an audio post - click to play

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the post do not necessarily reflect those of myself or anyone really.


Friday, September 3

Safe travels 

I'm eagerly anticipating the Labor Day weekend. We've had some really nice summer days recently, and it looks like it will continue for a while yet.

Also got the house ready for a mystery guest (not to me, but to you -- my reading audience). Actually, it's an old co-worker so we should have a good time remembering all the laffs we had and roaming the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula.

BTW, if you're in the area and looking for something to do. Labor Day Monday typically marks the Mackinac Bridge walk on the other side of the Upper Peninsula. To get people off their duffs, Portage Health System and the cities of Hancock and Houghton are having a bridge walk of their own -- over our very own Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

Registration starts at 8 a.m. Monday at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at Michigan Tech University. They're expecting a few hundred people, and I hope to be there.

Schoolyard terror 

I'm chilled seeing the siege of the Russian school earlier today. It's horrific that these rebels (apparently from Chechnya) took over a school on the first day of classes, taking up to 1,000 children and adults hostage. Now there's reports of around 200 dead and 400 injured as the hostages tried to flee the building during an apparent siege by Russian forces.

CBC was airing coverage from BBC News. I'm not an expert, but I don't see how taking children hostage helps anyone -- not the rebels and not the Russians.

When I was going through old papers, I came across the story on the hostage situation at a Moscow theater in 2002. BBC News story. During that incident, 129 hostages out of 700 were killed along with the 41 Chechen fighters when Russian troops used high-power knockout gas while they stormed the theater.

It's been awhile, but the fighters in both cases claimed they would destroy the buildings if their demands weren't met. Simply horrible.

On a related note: It's interesting seeing CBC's noon newscast today. They didn't use their own reporting staff during the majority of the broadcast (aside from the anchor). The show included siege coverage from BBC, an interview with a Canadian Press reporter, a live report from Florida by an NBC reporter about Hurricane Frances. The anchor cited a report from ABC News about Clinton's chest pains.

Toward the end, they shifted to business news. We saw our first story from a CBC reporter 26 minutes into the broadcast.

I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing -- I'm sure CBC would like to use their own resources, but I'm happy seeing detailed coverage regardless of the source.

Also of note: BBC News has an analysis of the Russian TV coverage of the siege. It's interesting reading how completely state-owned media covers such a tragedy.


Thursday, September 2

A blessing and a curse 

I've generally had mixed feelings about Caller ID. Using it on my cell phone, I can definitely see the advantages of the technology. Still, I've objected since the beginning about forcing everyone to participate in the system where individuals are instantly identified.

I may seem like an old-school fuddy-duddy, but I think there's some merit to being able to personally identify myself on the phone. What if, in the course of doing my job as a journalist, someone won't answer the phone because the newspaper's name is emblazoned across their display?

I've never heard of it happening before, but I do employ a combo of calling methods to reach a source that's hard to get ahold of. I always identify myself as a reporter, but I'd like the option of doing it personally as a human being instead of an electronic switch shutting me out.

It is possible to block your outgoing ID on many calls except law enforcement and emergencies. Some states allow total ID blocking (like California), some require users to block their number during every call (like Michigan).

And it is worth acknowledging that Caller ID blocking has the potential for abuse from cretins like telemarketers and stalkers. Still the technology is neutral, it's the human application of the innovation where the potential for abuse is introduced.

Case in point, there's some new Caller ID spoofing technology being launched this week. The Detroit Free Press' Mike Wendland has more details on e-mail spammers resorting to landlines, and spoofing their ID, to spread their message. The technology is apparently geared toward helping private investigators and creditors to do their jobs.

It will be interesting to see if spammers who like to pretend they're from the bank will try their tricks out on telephones. If anything, I suppose it's another reason to be certain we know who we're talking to and not merely rely on the technology on hand.

Stay on target 

Not to name names, but I think this blog should be updated more often. :p

Brave new world 

Internet has long been touted as a medium where many different senses will collide -- including visual, aural and sometimes tactile. While I've often used the visual medium to express myself, I've decided to take advantage of the Audioblogger service to express myself using sound. Here's my first post:
this is an audio post - click to play

It's a brief, and inconsequential, account of my activities tonight. As things develop, I want to post audio messages that take full advantage of the medium. Tonight's post serves merely as a test of the things to come.

If you have any ideas, please drop me a line at ryan -at- Thanks.


Wednesday, September 1

My next computer 

All-in-one iMacWell, not for a while yet anyway. However, Apple Computer announced the new G5 iMacs in Paris yesterday, and they look pretty snazzy. The new computers are up to 2.2 inches thick and pack the new G5 processor.

It's true that this is Apple's consumer CPU so it's missing a lot of the horsepower the professional machines have (on the system bus, expandability, etc.), but I think the simple, elegant design is a winner. Other PC makers have tried this type of form function before (including Apple's 20th Anniversary Mac), but it's always looked like a monitor with CPU guts attached. The new iMac brings monitor and CPU together in a very svelte manner.

I was thinking about buying an eMac (essentially a grown-up CRT iMac) as my next computer, but seeing this new machine makes me want to aim higher.

Step by step 

After many hours, I've finally finished one of my long-term projects. I've been working to clip all of my articles out of old editions of the newspaper. There were a lot to go through, but it's done.

From slowly whittling down massive stacks of paper to just getting through the last few editions, I pulled it off earlier this morning. The entire second series of The Office was there to pull me through.

It was interesting pulling through all those newspapers. As I delved deeper, I saw old events, headlines and bylines from years past that brought many old memories back of happenings and friends who have since left the paper.

The stories ranged from the mundane or typical, like meetings, and localizations to the facinating and bizarre, like the story Steve did about the guy who drank antifreeze. I found sections that I paginated, but completely forgot about doing. The same with photos.

Many of the more memorable stories were there in my clips. It was fun seeing where the stories began and where some of them ended.

So all of my work for the past three-and-a-half years has been reduced to a single box that I'll probably carry around for the rest of my life. It's funny, but I thought there would be more but I'm probably being foolish.

In the end, I'd like to think I did good work. I hope to do even better the next time.



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