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Friday, December 31

Some thoughts on the tsunami 

There's an interesting commentary from the CBC's Rex Murphy calling on the people of the "First World" to help those stricken by the disaster (who are typically from the "Third World").

Some interesting thoughts and I think helps illustrate some of the differences between action and deed. I was especially struck by his last words -- "And if an earthquake and a tsunami can't wake us out of the slumbers of complacency and prosperity, well then there's nothing that can."


Wednesday, December 29

Staggering loss 

The news about the aftermath of last week's earthquake and subsequent tidal waves just continues to get worse. BBC News is reporting that more than 68,000 are confirmed dead and the Red Cross is saying that the toll could be more than 100,000 soon.

Seeing the video of the waves crashing into the resorts is sad -- no one on holiday would've anticipated such a life-altering disaster. Hopefully, relief organizations can help alleviate the situation soon.

If you'd like to help the recovery effort, this BBC News story links to 10 care organizations.


Monday, December 27

Busy busy busy 

SAN DIEGO -- It's the Monday after Christmas and most of the stores are packed with shoppers and those seeking to make returns. My family went to Fashion Valley Mall and I naturally went to the Apple Store.

I was very surprised about how many people were at the Apple Store. The line for returns seemed pretty long (for mostly iPod accessories, it seems), But there were big crowds looking at all the shiny new Apples. It's a wonderful sight.


Thursday, December 23

this is an audio post - click to play


Monday, December 20

Seasons Greetings 

I hope I'm getting in the holiday mood -- I've been listening to the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas for pretty much a whole month now. There's snow on the ground and I'm desperately trying to think of last-minute gifts for the family.

Since it's probably my last season in the Copper Country, I'm working on something with a local appeal. I think I've got an idea, but it's going to require a bit of a drive. We'll see if it pans out.

Until later, have a happy holiday!


Thursday, December 16

Serial Diners Rules 

There was an interesting story on CBC News: Morning about a Toronto-based group called the Serial Diners. Their goal for the past 15 years has been to eat their way through all the restaurants in the phone book -- from A to Z (or Zed, for the Canadians out there).

It's a very interesting idea -- I just wish I thought of it. If variety is the spice of life, they're certainly zesty. At the same time, they apparently have never utilized back-up fast-food restaurant Harvey's in case their restaurant doesn't pan out (they've just gone to other restaurants).

I'd write more, but my computer crashed twice already trying to play a RealMedia link through an extremely outdated version of Mozilla.


Wednesday, December 15

Yea snow 

I know I'm a few days late, but this whole area got socked with a huge winter storm over the weekend. There were over 18 inches of snow.

Of course, tis the season to feel full of the winter spirit. And I definitely felt that walking to the bar Sunday night for a little bit of exercise. I thought about how neat it was that the roads hadn't been plowed yet and how my car was buried in. The drifting snow being blown about by a gusting wind as Christmas lights blinked on and off as they were draped atop neighbors' houses.

Then I started walking through the drifts of snow that sunk when I tread on them. The wind started to push past my toque as I passed by the site of the condemned house that was torn down a few months ago. On Main Street, the sidewalks paid the penalty of a clear road as the plows pushed the snow piles on the sidewalk ever higher. Truly, I felt I had "earned" the drink when I arrived at the bar.

Walking back was a much nicer experience, the mini-tractor had cleared the Quincy Street sidewalk.

Now, it's great because the area is now covered with beautiful white snow. Aside from the stuff alongside the road, things generally stay pretty white and beautiful until spring rolls around.


Wednesday, December 8

Too much tube 

Awhile back, I got into a little debate with my friend Steve about television. I argued that it's all right to have some TV as long as it doesn't overrun your life and that includes spending a little extra to get basic cable in the home. Steve took another position essentially that letting the TV into the home _is_ going to overrun your life -- especially because the glowing box is practically begging for attention.

Well, we parted ways and I was inclined to think that a little TV is all right. However, I was at the House of Blues in Chicago last Thursday listening to Big Al and the Heavyweights. It's a great venue with the friezes of blues legends gazing downing from the ceiling and a great Louisiana blues band, but I was constantly being distracted by the bloody TVs in the venue. I can understand why one might position TVs in a bar area (or even a whole sports bar), but it's sooo distracting to have my attention diverted by needless glowing screens during a concert (publicizing upcoming events at the venue).

Perhaps I'm like a moth being drawn by flame, but some television has got to go.


Tuesday, December 7

Paging Hollywood scheduling 

Tis the season ... for a vampire thriller. I thought it was weird when the Ben Affleck film Surviving Christmas was released Oct. 22 -- more than two months before Christmas. It's equally puzzling how Wesley Snipes' Blade: Trinity is being released today -- more than a month after Halloween and firmly entrenched in the holiday season.

Did they get their release dates switched in the mail or something? This is almost as puzzling as when Affleck's Reindeer Games decked the theater hall in late February 2000. While not a holiday movie, Reindeer Games had some holiday things -- like a store getting robbed by people in Santa suits.

Who knows? Maybe Hollywood knows something that I don't. I just know that my entertainment dollars will probably go elsewhere this holiday season.


Monday, December 6

Getting into the holiday spirit 

While I'm clearing things from around the house, I decided to decorate my online persona for the holidays. I think it was due in part from my visit by the ghosts of Christmas past, present or future. Or maybe it was the avatar discussion on my favorite discussion board.

This is me before: before

And this is me imbued with the holiday spirit: after

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Radio journey 

While driving through Chicago, I played around with the radio dial and found WXRT Radio. The Infinity-owned rock station was like a breath of fresh air compared to the stale satellite stations played over the local airwaves in Houghton.

While I was listening, they were airing their new music show which actually played albums released that week. I really enjoyed listening to the new tunes.

Although I find it hard to listen to music during extended car trips, I had this station tuned in until it faded away.


Sunday, December 5

Where's the outrage? 

Tongue-in-Cheek Theater proudly presents...

HANCOCK -- Given the tremendous and mostly unjustifiable uproar over people seeing a woman's nude back on Monday Night Football, I'm curious about where our self-appointed guardians of virtue are to protest the promos for the upcoming film, "Meet the Fockers."

Clearly, the name is meant to inspire people to think of the word "fu--er." And everyone knows that "f-ck-r" a naughty bad word that shouldn't be used in polite conversation because it refers to something sexual. Outrage! After all, if you're going to be offended by implied nudity (the woman with the exposed back was wearing pasties and cut-off shorts), you should be up in arms by implied swearing -- heck implied anything.

And if you think that people won't think of that word during the promos, you haven't heard Pat O'Brien nasally say "Focker."

On a related note, I'm anxious to start seeing woman on television to start donning veils and other coverings. We, the American public, can't handle seeing any exposed female flesh at all.

Also, what right does that woman have to be seen in public without being escorted by a male member of her family? She's just asking for trouble going around without an escort, especially because men can't be held responsible for their actions when they're whipped into a frenzy of passion.

Disclaimer - I wouldn't recommend any of the measures in my post -- including veils, escorts or being outraged about "focker." I also ordinarily wouldn't have any problem using the F-word but I don't want any Web censors to block my site simply because I used profanity.


Friday, December 3

Navel gazing 

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As I was leaving Lambeau Field, I tuned into an interesting discussion about the rise and importance of blogs on Wisconsin Public Radio's MediaTalk. Host Dave Berkman was speaking with Henry Farrell, an assistant professor at George Washington University.

The conversation seemed to be hitting all the right notes, with some interesting points about political blogs, starting and following blogs, etc. I wanted to ask a question that's becoming a concern for many people trying to find information on the Internet -- the increasing prevalence of blogs in search engine results.

I asked my query in three different ways before Farrell tackled my real question. Based on the conversation, it seemed that he thought I was asking how important content filters to the top of blogs -- which is an important point. However, I was more interested in how someone searching online for something specific can sort the wheat of solid content from the chaff of secondary blogs.

I did appreciate his response and his perspective about the state of search engines in the era of the blog. My phone connection was understandably cut before I could thank Farrell for his response. After all, I don't think many people usually get to ask so many questions on a radio talk show.

Ultimately, I think the discussion was quite fascinating -- especially for those who may not visit blogs all that often or else visit blogs but not even know it.

BTW, Farrell and others contribute to, a site dedicated to philosophy and other discourse. Farrell pointed out that, despite the name, the site does not discuss wood. For that, you'll have to go here. ;)


Thursday, December 2


MUNSTER -- One of my regrets living in Houghton is that I didn't travel enough. Well, I've been doing driving during the past two months than I have in the past four years.

Since my early October trip to St. Paul, Minn., I've visited six states and one Canadian province. I'm on the verge of driving around Lake Michigan for the second time in as many months. Seeing the country from the highway can be frustrating at times. It's like sampling a buffet of geographic destinations when I want to the full course meal. Sorry, but I'm just continuing a tortured analogy I made earlier today.

At the same time, I've gotten to explore rural Michigan to the urban cores of Detroit and Chicago. Things have certainly been exciting. At the same time, I noticing that the whirlwind pace that many of these places are moving at is a dramatic change from the more sedate pace of my life over the past few months. Part of me is excited for the opportunity to race with the pack, but part of me is afraid that I can't keep up.

The weather's certainly gotten cooler as the glowing embers of fall have faded to the early twinges of winter cold. I've gotten to see a lot of neat places and I just want to keep going as far as my car can take me. Unfortunately, the pocketbook is the tightest leash on my travels at this point.

Tomorrow, I want to visit Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Like seeing the Stanley Cup in person, I'm awed to see this place where history was made, but I'm also saddened because I'll never be in a condition to win a physical contest like the Super Bowl. Still, perhaps glimpsing sports history will encourage me to strive to be a more physical person and to bust out those leg warmers. Just kidding about the leg warmers part.

End of the rope 

While driving around during the past few days, I've listened to many stories from This American Life. When I'm not listening to a CD, I try to find a local NPR station.

For some reason, all of the frustrations of the election flooded back as I drove through southwest Michigan. I think it was the old Bush-Cheney billboards touting such slogans as "Remember it's your money" and something about national security being a top priority. I guess it was frustrating because I know that Bush's record isn't as shiny and satin-y white as some (apparently, a lot of) people believe.

Listening to Talk of the Nation and the debate on Congressional efforts to reform the federal government's intelligence apparatus was just excruciating today. I had to pop in a music CD of klezmer music just to get my mind off the matter.

This, too, shall pass and I'll be right back to being in the thick of it. For now, sometimes I want to get off of this crazy carousel.

Time's awastin' 

MUNSTER, Ind. -- On one of the many online bulletin board's I frequent, there was a discussion of how many TV shows we all own on DVD. It started getting scary when I added up all of hours of TV I own.

If I watched all the DVDs in one sitting, I would have nearly 12 days of consecutive viewing ahead of me. And that's not including sleep.

Here's what I've got:

1. Babylon 5 (syndicated) - Season 4, In the Beginning
2. Coupling (BBC) - Series 1-3
3. Doctor Who (BBC) - various stories
4. Farscape (Sci-Fi) - 1.1
5. Futurama (FOX) - all seasons
6. Homicide (NBC) - Seasons 1, 2
7. Made in Canada (CBC) - Season 1
8. The Newsroom (CBC) - Seasons 1, 2
9. The Office (BBC) - Series 1, 2, holiday special
10. Saturday Night Live (NBC) - The Best of Phil Hartman
11. The Simpsons (FOX) - Seasons 1-4
12. Stargate SG-1 (syndicated)- 1.1
13. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (syndicated) - all seasons
14. Yes, Prime Minister (BBC) - Series 1, 2
15. Tuning In (a series of specials about the CBC's 50th birthday)

I've really tried to focus on getting a few series complete (collecting a UK/Canadian series is far easier and cheaper than a U.S. show) and then cherry-picking the rest where possible.

Totaling everything up was a bit of a pain, but I currently have 485 episodes of television programs. If I were to watch them entirely non-stop, I would have ~11.5 days of TV viewing ahead of me not counting sleep and any other non-essentials. Let's not talk about how much all of this cost.

The 176 episodes of Deep Space Nine account for roughly half of my collection (~5.3 days).

I don't watch them all at once. It's nice having shows that you know are going to be good on my shelf. It's a guaranteed good time. I don't go out of my way to buy a TV show that I don't really want to watch.

Fun with Yahoo! Mail 

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Although I initially loathed the squiggly red lines, I've grown accustomed to programs checking my spelling as I go along. I just sent an e-mail from Yahoo! Mail without hitting the spell check button first. I double-checked after the fact and thankfully there were no errors. Still, I think I was a little quick on the trigger.

Another thing about the computer checking your spelling is that I've grown lackadaisical in my vocabulary when I'm not at a computer. I've recently purchased a book to help me improve my word power. I hope it helps in my future work.



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