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9/20, 9PM





Friday, August 15, 2003
4:56 PM      

23.5 Hours Later...
(3:31pm) power came back. We were sprawled over the couch in the living room, and heard a cheer go up in the street. Somebody broke into song: "Where were you when the lights came on in Brooklyn?..."

It was a bit surreal moving around town earlier today. Power had been restored in Fort Greene and Park Slope earlier. As we circled around Grand Army Plaza, we went from traffic-light-free anarchy to a zone where the power was back on one side of the street, and still out on on the other. We stepped into a Chase branch where people stood in line waiting for the ATMs to come back on line. The room was fairly cool, an indication that the power had been restored for some time, but I guess brining the ATMs back would take a bit more effort. Folks were content to quietly stand in line, eyes fixed on the ATM displays. I can imagine a wild rush the moment the machines flickered back to life.

We'd heard that Fort Greene had gotten power back around 10am, and began to wonder if itwouldn't be restored in our neck of the woods soon. Nearly 6 hours later, it was... Returning home from our little outing, the bodega across the street still didn't have power, but decided to open for business anyway. Folks were buying lots of ice. I grabbed a newspaper, bread, soda, and a couple of beers. Surprisingly, they were still pretty cool. Earlier, we'd passed a Pathmark, where employees were at work ringing out large piles of potentially spoiled dairy products.

I had more than a few thoughts of Baghdad in this powerless state. We don't have small arms fire or bomb damage to contend with, but it's amazing how much is affected or even endangered by the loss of electrical power. Refrigeration is obvious, but the piezo-electric starters on our stove and many hot water heaters are examples of nearly invisible parts that become a big problem when they don't have power. That butane barbecue lighter came in very handy when it came time to cook last night and this morning.

My Mac had a little trouble coming back. It had been sleeping when the power went, and when the power came back, I couldn't get it to start up. I called Mac Connection support, and an extremely good and patient tech helped me locate the tiny switch on the motherboard that resets the PMU. One press, and back in business...Big props to the lady from Mac Connection Support!

I took a few pictures when we were out and about. Maybe I'll post more later.

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Thursday, August 14, 2003
11:29 AM      

Get your eyes on mars
The last time Mars was this close to earth was somewhere between 5,000 and 60,000 years ago. It won't be this close again until about 2287. I don't know about you, but that means this month is my best chance to see the red planet up close in this lifetime.

On 8/27, Mars will be the second-brightest object in the sky; the only thing brighter will be the moon. A 75-power scope will make Mars seem as large as the moon does to the naked eye. As the 27th approaches, Mars will rise from the east earlier and earlier. At its closest approach, Mars will rise at sunset and reach its apex by 12:30 am.

Thanks, Denise and Nelson.


Yesterday was another good day for a creativity stroll. It seemed to be a good day for pets, especially pets in windows with signs. I grew up with dogs as pets, but my cat radar seems to be especially strong now.

"The important thing is to infuse everything with as much drama..."

A passer-by told me that this cat's name is "Wednesday." She was given that name by her new owners, who found her on a Wednesday. Our cat is named "Friday," because he was born on that day of the week.

A film version of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" opens with a shot of a rooftop bristling with TV antennas, the kind of antenna you almost don't see anymore. This is the 21st Century version, at least until another technology replaces it. The cable companies were slow to build infrastructure in this part of Brooklyn. The result dots the faces and roofs of buildings all around. A competing company's satellite is in a completely different part of the sky. Sometimes you see buildings with dishes aimed in opposing directions.

A water-quality testing station in Manhattan. Scribbles like this are appearing more and more frequently around the city.

Still, it's not as if New York has an exclusive... Austin, TX, September 2002.



Isn't it ironic?

With public confidence in the economy falling and the job market stagnant, the president called his economic team down to Texas on Wednesday to show the world he's on the case.

I'll get back to the CBS News article that this line came from in a second. First I want to focus on how Bush called folks down to the ranch ("Prairie Chapel") during his month-long vacation to put on another photo-op. Yeah, that's being on the case.

While I think much of the information in the article is interesting (e.g. the respondents' assessment of the economy is the most negative response seen in 10 years), it's all based on polling, which has a lot of problems.

Notice that the sample size and margin of error (plus or minus 3 percentage points) are never cited in the article. There is also a tendency to use a technique called "push polling" in news organizations. Questions are deliberately skewed to support a particular point of view. The abstract of a Stanford Business School research paper takes this point further:

Standard polling questions do not provide information on strength of intent. Instead they force respondents into either a preference or an undecided category, with no variation of response in the preference category.

In other words, take your polling numbers with a grain (or two) of salt.


Meanwhile in Iraq, morale is bad, and the story's getting out in spite of the spin machine.

Somewhere down the line, we became an occupation force in [Iraqi] eyes. We don't feel like heroes any more ... The rules of engagement are crippling. We are outnumbered. We are exhausted. We are in over our heads. The President says, "Bring 'em on." The generals say we don't need more troops. Well, they're not over here.

- Private Isaac Kindblade of the 671st Engineer Company


Professional Politesse
After several earlier failed attempts to upload my resume to the Bertelsmann site (they insist that you use their online system to apply), I managed to post it in response to a web job – essentially building HTML e-mails – something that I could practically do in my sleep. Considering how my resume seems to come across as "overqualified" in many cases, I tried to pare it down to the relevant essentials this time (I won't say I tried to dumb-it-down, even though at moments it seemed that way). I figure, if I can get my toe in the door, I can worry about moving around to a better position down the road.

A couple hours after I posted the resume, I got the first message:

Date: Wed Aug 6, 2003 1:11:42 PM US/Eastern
Subject: Acknowledgement of receipt

Dear Louis

Thank you very much for your application to Bookspan.

It will take a while for us to evaluate your application within our
organization's decentralized network. Your patience is greatly appreciated.
If we find that your qualifications match our needs we will contact you for
an interview.

Thanks again for your interest in employment with Bookspan.

Regards,Human Resources

This response is more than I usually get. Most of the time, it's a black hole – you just hear nothing. Apparently it wasn't just an automatic response from the server, either. If it had been, the response would have been in my mailbox almost as soon as I'd posted my application. Some anonymous person may actually have had to fire up the ol' form letter generator in response to reading my application. Still, notice how they don't want to associate a specific person's name with the process. Also, they don't commit to a time frame to get back to you. I was in limbo for a week:

Date: Wed Aug 13, 2003 10:34:37 AM US/Eastern
Subject: Thank you for your interest in Bookspan

Dear Louis,

Thank you again for your interesting application.

We have carefully examined your qualifications and have checked the
availability of a suitable possibility for you at our organization. We
regret to inform you that there is no match at Bookspan at this time.
We appreciate your interest in our company and wish you success in your
future career endeavors.

Regards,Human Resources

A friend who saw the job description figured I'd be bored out of my brain in a couple of weeks, so it's probably just as well. All things considered, I'll apply for other jobs there if I see any. Form letters or not, this level of follow-through is above the norm.

Another friend of mine was a finalist for a high-level position in a national organization. When they eliminated her, she didn't get so much as a thank-you note. After she hadn't heard from them in a month, she stopped waiting to hear. Wonder if that's indicative of how that organization treats its employees.

Even though my application was "interesting," it didn't make the cut for an interview. I assume everyone gets a response, and everyone's application is "interesting." Again with the generic "Human Resources" signature. They could leave it a little mysterious and add a number – like those little slips of paper that say things like "inspected by #4" that we used to find tucked away inside a brand new packet of underwear.

I'm old enough to remember the days when that department was called "Personnel" – as if they employed persons. Now we're just one of many categories of resources, and you know what happens to resources... but I digress!


The Search Continues
As they say so often, searching for work is a numbers game; but then, so are slot machines.

"... Then you find you're back in 'Vegas with a handle in your hand, yeah. You go back, Jack, do it again..."

All of this anonymous search stuff makes me think of the TV series "The Prisoner":

Where am I?

In the Village

What do you want?


Whose side are you on?

That would be telling. We want information. Information.

You wont get it.

By hook or by crook, we will.

Who are you?

The New Number 2.

Who is Number 1?

You are Number 6.

I am not a number, I am a free man!


There were only 17 episodes of "The Prisoner." It was an amazing show; worth seeing again for its unique vision. I think I even saw vids available for rental at the local shop... at $5 a pop to rent, that's $85... might be able to buy the set for less. Hmmm...

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, August 12, 2003
10:34 PM      

A Salute With Style
Denise just walked in and asked what my browser's default start page is. I said "Earthlink." She said "Go to – I think you'll like what you see." I did, indeed:

Fitting, and understated. Definitely not business as usual.

Around the City
We spent some time bouncing around the city with Warren on Sunday. We had a great brunch at Agave. They describe themselves as "Southwestern cuisine served with style and a smile." If you're ever looking for a nice place (i.e. great decor and ambiance) that does Arizona/New Mexico food well, this place may be just what the doctor ordered. While you're at it, be sure to try out some of the novel mixed drinks. Ever had ginger beer with tequila? It's what ginger beer was meant to be. The prickly pear margarita is pretty special, too.

We wandered into the Village. I don't think a day goes by that I don't see at least one elaborate, fascinating tattoo.

With a little coaxing, Warren got me to hit some balls at the driving range on Chelsea Pier. The experience wasn't half bad. I haven't been bitten by the golf bug, but there are much worse things to do and places to be. There was no pressure to leave, so we hung for a while. It was almost like a mirage when this beautiful sailboat floated by. I think Chris would agree, that's good living.

Later that same night...

I sometimes like the vibrant, somewhat Pollock-like images that arrive when I hand-hold my camera in low light with no flash. I was inspired to squeeze off a couple of shots as I walked up 6th Avenue. I think this one works pretty well; taken as a couple approached.

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, August 11, 2003
2:33 PM      

Gregory Oliver Hines
I had no idea that Gregory Hines had cancer. He will be missed. Just last week, I laughed at a bit on "Will and Grace" where Jack has been competing incessantly with Hines' character Ben Doucette. Jack hurts himself doing a tap dance number, and has no idea that Ben can dance rings around him. While Jack limps off to recompose himself, Karen eggs Ben on to a fantastic tap improvisation. When Jack returns, Karen and Ben allow jack to believe that he's beaten Ben.

It was a thrill to see Mr. Hines walking around the Javits Center for the MacWorld Expo, the year that the iMac was introduced. I stood a few feet away from him, and listened while he asked a bunch of technical questions about the machine. He seemed to be interested in buying one for his son. I wanted a chance to speak to him, but he wasn't in that mode. It was good to see him out in the world as an ordinary guy – no entourage, no bodyguards, just him and his kid. I think he preferred it that way, and I was happy to grant him his privacy. In spite of what people might think, fame does not grant the rest of the world 24/7 access to a person's life.

I'd seen him around New York before that, too, but I never got to see him perform live. That was the realm of his greatest magic. Gregory Hines was known as a man who could command an audience. It's as if he almost single-handedly kept tap alive so that people like Savion Glover could get into the game.

Thanks for giving us such brilliant memories, Gregory. Thanks for preserving an art form. We'll miss you.


Red-Red Wine...
We've had some really nice wines lately. Next time you want something a little out of the ordinary, try looking for Le Mandorlae Morellino di Scansano, or Alberice Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso. Both of these use grapes that are produced in a very limited number of places, and they're worth looking for. The Morellino is a bit tighter than the Refosco. You might want to let it breathe for a couple of hours before drinking it. In fact, we put some back in the refrigerator over night (capped it and used a Vac-U-Vin to remove most of the air), and it had opened a good deal more the next day.

Both have a good amount of body, not a lot of tannin, and big fruit. They're tasty, stand up well to food, and are a nice change from the Merlot and Zinfandel we drink so much.

If you're interested in a nice, every-day drinking, not too expensive red, Hogue Cabernet-Merlot is very nice. If you're a Chianti fan, we've recently had two bottles of Ruffino's basic Chianti. It's got some very nice oak, drinks very well, and costs so little, you might think it's a mistake.

[ link | e-me ]
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