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Saturday, December 20, 2003
10:36 AM      

Happy Hanukkah to you. Christmas is speeding at us like a bullet, so is Kwanzaa, and the new year is little more than a week and a half away! How convenient that Earthlink lets us send e-cards so easily...

I wish the rituals of Kwanzaa weren't so similar to those of Hanukkah. It makes it feel like a clone of somebody else's holiday. I like the genesis of the idea, but I can't get into the expression of it.

Maybe I ought to start celebrating Festivus, like George Kostanza – now that's an original holiday!


Happy Chance Meeting?
I met an artist from Canada by the name of Jaret Vadera at Starbucks the other day. He was incredibly open and candid about the work he was doing and his interests. He gave me a link to his portfolio, which blew me away. His series called “After a Glimpse Over the Top” has a fascinating framework and process.

Detail from After a Glimpse Over the Top 6

You don't have encounters like this if you stay home all the time, and you don't have them, if you're not willing to talk to people, with no particular agenda in mind.

From one point of view, meeting Jaret was just a happy accident. From another, there are no such things as accidents.


Third Time's the Charm
Saw Lord of the Ring – the Return of the King last night. Peter Jackson is a master of his craft. The Matrix Revolutions, and even the Star Wars trilogies demonstrated how tricky it is to maintain momentum and interest through a sequence of three films. So often, the second installment feels like a slump, and it's up to the third installment to pull the series out of a hole. Not so with Jackson's trilogy.

The Marquee at the Court Street movie theater read “L O T R 3.” From bits of conversation that I heard in passing, not everyone was familiar with the acronym, but they had no problem finding their way into the movie, anyway. The screening room was probably not the biggest in the complex, and they weren't running overlapping screenings. Still, the 8:40 show was a sell-out, so were the two preceding screenings, and there were two more shows after that. The last show of the evening would let out at something like 5 AM.

At the end of the movie, a kid stood up and told his parents “it wasn't that good.” From a kid's perspective, I could see how he'd come to that conclusion. This is a story that has been a powerful inspiration for several generations of young adults, now. It wasn't designed as a means of pandering for kids' toy sales. The point was the overall story, not creating a “wow” effect.

I've never read the trilogy, but I might now. Warren tells me that the ending isn't so faithful to the book. I wondered whether the changes were the will of the Hollywood production machine, or Jackson's sensible efforts to distill the story into a format compatible with the big screen. We agreed that the bonus footage on the next DVD might hold answers to that question. Or, like the DVD version of The Two Towers, some of that footage might actually be added.


The Lady and the Bandit
I took another jaunt over to NJ today. Rather than having to go fishing in my pockets for crisp cash coming and going, I opted to purchase a round-trip a farecard from a machine at the beginning of my trip. The process did not go without a hitch.

I fed three bucks into the slot, and pressed the button to dispense a card. No card appeared, but the display cleared, and my money was gone. I reached inside the dispenser slot, and felt nothing.

Seconds later, I watched nervously, as someone standing at the machine next to me fed their money into the slot and pressed the button. Without a hitch, a ticket appeared. Looking around, I began to realize there were no PATH representatives stationed in this cavernous expanse. I was beginning to feel screwed.

I spotted a hard-hatted construction worker across the way, walked over and asked him where I could find a staff office, and he started to indicate that there was one on the other side of the turnstiles – meaning I would have to pay a fare before I could talk to anyone. Just then, though, he pointed out a woman in an orange vest, and said that she was a staff person. She was coming through the turnstiles into the main area. I made a beeline for her.

I explained that the machine had taken my money, but no ticket appeared. She walked up to the machine, and deftly struck it with a single hammer-fist to what would have been its solar plexus. The machine seemed to reflexively spit out my ticket. The visual, and the elegant low-tech simplicity of the solution tickled me. She must have read the expression on my face, and said “they get stuck sometimes.” She handed me my ticket. I said “thanks very much,” and she walked away.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2003
11:48 AM      

On the hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight (today), the new JFK airtrain goes into service. There's something poetic about that.


I think a computer just called me a bonehead.
I haven't used my Brother HL1470N printer for a few months because it had gotten to the point where all of the indicator lights would come on, and the printer would stop printing. Turning it off and on would fix it sometimes, but not always.

At first, I thought it was because I was out of toner, but when I replaced the toner cartridge and the problem persisted, I began to wonder about the drum unit. That really didn't make sense, because the drum unit should last about twice as long as the the toner, and I hadn't changed toner before.

So, I decided to check the Brother web site, to see if I could figure out the nature of the problem. I did a couple of searches, but seemed to be getting nowhere fast, so I sent an e-mail to support. To send an e-mail, you use their forms-based web interface. I suspect the entire thing was parsed and fed right back into their knowledge base.

The response wasn't bad; they got back to me in less than 24 hours. The message doesn't quite sound like it was touched by human hands, though:

Dear Brother Customer:
Thank you very much for submitting
the request. Our search engine
indicates that your problem
descriptions can be matched with
1 solution(s) identified from
our Solution Database.

[i.e. don't you think you could have found this yourself?]

------ Summary of solution-[500000015423]

HL1470N PS
4606 Resetting the printer should clear the
flashing leds (flashing lights.)

How to Perform a Factory Reset:

Turn the printer off.
Hold in the circular button on the front of the printer.
Turn the printer back on.
When the Drum light is lit by itself let go of the button.
Hold in the circular button again.
Once the Alarm light comes on, let go of the button.

Well, I did the factory reset. Let's see how it goes. It'll be nice to have the laser printer back online, if that's all it was.


Joe Rocks the Boat
I read yet another account of what's wrong with Howard Dean, according to Joe Lieberman, who makes it sound more and more like he thinks Bush's policy is the right policy. In between all his digs at Dean's ideas, I don't hear any ideas that are uniquely Joe's.

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman sharpened his criticism of Howard Dean on Tuesday, saying the front-runner's foreign and domestic policies would erode national security and cost million of Americans their jobs.
- A.P.

Considering that one of the key questions is electability, I think Dean is clearly an alternative to more of the same. But Lieberman raises doubts – I don't think anybody ever got elected by validating the incumbent's policy. If the Democrats blow this, the next four years will make these four look like a cakewalk.

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, December 15, 2003
11:29 AM      

Congratulations, Anna and Mark
Some friends of ours got married last week, and Denise and I went to their new apartment in Jersey City yesterday to join them in a little celebration. The event was wonderful, and brought together a diverse mix of Anna and Mark's relatives and friends, many of whom had never met. Visual artists and musicians were abundant. There was, of course, the essential jam session. One friend helped transform what had looked like a warehouse full of boxes just 24 hours earlier, into a beautiful space complete with nicely-hung pictures and cut flowers. The food was magnificent – all of the main courses lovingly prepared by a guy named Spirit. The desserts, especially the passion fruit mousse, were also exceptional.


Revisiting G-Zero
We used the newly re-opened WTC PATH station to get back and forth from Jersey City, and the experience was eerie. The outer structure looked a bit like a World's Fair pavilion. The entryway is covered by a large steel structure that resembles a pair of wings when viewed from the side. The layout of the station is essentially the same as it was when the massive twin towers were standing over it. Now, there are exposed steel beams, corrugated steel open walls, and unadorned concrete everywhere. It feels a bit like walking around inside a skeleton.

The large escalator bank leading to the PATH platforms feels a bit scaled-down now, and the massive advertising posters for Bloomberg and other companies, that used to cover the walls, have been replaced by aerial architectural photos. At the bottom of the escalator, Hudson News has once again opened a store.

The most striking part of the experience though, was riding the train back into WTC on our return trip. It was night time, and the train literally circles Ground Zero as it pulls into the platform. The central pit is bathed in light, and you see the ramp that was used to haul all of those remains and all of that debris out of the pit from three sides as the train slowly rolls to a halt. It was one thing to stand just across the street from the fences that quickly surrounded the WTC site a couple of years ago. Circling inside the crater that was left behind is something completely different.


Semi-Happy Camper
I upgraded to OS X Panther this weekend. So far, it's pretty cool. The enhancements to the Finder are subtle, but do streamline navigation a bit. I like the way the open and save dialogs have been upgraded, too.

One thing I thought Panther would fix, didn't work. I'm having trouble playing DVDs on my G4 machine as well as Denise's iBook. I took the culprit DVD down to the Apple Store just after the Panther release, and had no problem playing the disk there, and mistakenly figured that Panther made the difference. Looks like more research is needed.


Weasels from Brazil hacked

“In addition to "defacing" the site our Brazilian friends also wiped out our email and may have had access to our database.”

Well, they say secure shell isn't all that secure... NYC Bloggers is now in the market for a more secure host.


I'm a bit numb
to the significance of capturing Saddam. My first thought is that the raid and the announcement were carefully timed to coincide with the Sunday news cycle. All the presidential candidates are carefully positioning themselves to take maximum tactical advantage of it. And the war's legitimizers are busy reminding us all of how bad this guy was, and reasserting associations (if not actual connections) with the September 11, 2001 attacks. I even heard mention of the dreaded Al-Qaeda for the first time in a while.

I wondered how this was landing in Baghdad, so I checked out the Baghdad blogs.

He looked like a tramp getting a physical and for some reason you expected him to bite that soldier's finger à là Hanibal Lecter. But he just sat there...he sounded like he has totally lost it.

I want a fully functioning Saddam who will sit on a chair in front of a TV camera for 10 hours everyday and tells us what exactly happened the last 30 years. I do not care about the fair trial thing Amnesty International is worried about and I don't really care much about the fact that the Iraqi judges might not be fully qualified, we all know he should rot in hell. But what I do care about is that he gets a public trial because I want to hear all the untold stories

- Where is Raed?

Well, I doubt that Saddam is going to say a lot. This is all starting to remind me of Milosevic. I suspect we'll be hearing Saddam stories for years. Yes, I know he was a vile, evil despot. Iraq is probably better off without him; certainly specific people within Iraq are. But we don't hear about the rest of the world's despots, because it doesn't advance anyone's major agenda.

Saddam's capture hasn't shown up on Baghdad Burning yet, but there are these items:

...Iraq no longer feels like a country- it feels like war spoils: the winning team gets the pickings. So how is the world supposed to be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq when they are being deliberately excluded?

It's a decision like this one that brings to light the complete uselessness of the Governing Council. Why is Washington calling the shots on the reconstruction issues? This means that even after a military occupation, we'll be under an economic occupation for years to come. Why aren't any of the new ministers or GC members saying anything about this?...

The electricity has been terrible lately- it comes in fits and don’t want anything to be turned on when the power comes back either too high or too low. That's why I've been blogging less often. Every time there's electricity, we remember a long list of things that can only be done in an electrical world… like vacuum.

Salam Pax also speaks about electrical problems. People are buying their own generators and selling amps to their neighbors. Sometimes, they appear to be gouging their neighbors.


“Well I'm one RoveHo breathing a heck of a lot easier tonight, what with no longer having to cower in the scruffy face of terror... I love my Rovey, and just because his family is a little bit nutty doesn't mean I have to hold that against my little piggly wiggly cuddle lumpkins...”

You have to read I Love Karl Rove for yourself. It's amazing.

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