Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Still Love David Ortiz

Despite his awful showings at the plate recently, I still have a very soft spot in my heart for Big Papi. And he gives good quote, this one about the this close grand slam he almost had on Friday:
"All I can do about myself right now is laugh," he said. "Because I ain't going to cry. Laugh. Keep on swinging. ... I can't swing the bat no better than that."

Friday, May 29, 2009


The Virginia DMV has just banned smiling on your license photo, ostensibly to help institute some awful - and doubtfully effective - facial recognition system. As they put it: "To prepare for the possibility of future security enhancements, we're asking customers to maintain a neutral expression." Further, "Naturally, the new software is programmed to reject attempts at exuberance or human warmth. "It will send an error message if it detects a non-neutral expression."

To add insult to injury, "State residents can no longer get their licenses and identification cards on the same day as their visits."

Unbelievably, it's not parady

This Young Conservatives Rap is hysterical. The Brooks Brothers wigger moves are priceless.

Actual lyric:

The terrorists we used to keep in Guantanimo Bay/
Now they're in our neighborhoods planning out doomsday

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Brandon Graham

Good news! Looks like Brandon Graham will be coming out with new versions of Multiple Warheads soon. Until then, i'm going to have to pick up this King City line. LOVE this dude's artwork.

Inserting Humor in your Online Training Tests

I've heard arguments like this one before: use humor and fun, hip formats to engage and liven up your training. However, I've found there to be several big drawbacks to this:

1. Humor is subjective. You have to be careful when deciding what is funny, especially for training with a large audience. For example, if your audience is international, any humor you interject might not survive the translation process or, if it does, may not be funny in another culture.

2. Corporate humor isn't funny. Jokes rarely survive the review process. If you need to get approval for your course, jokes that survive past a panel of reviewers are typically the least funny of the bunch. In my experience, the most you can hope for in these cases is a hip irreverent tone that many might read as funny.

3. The format may not fit. The article uses the "Who Wants to be a Millionare" game show as a good example of a quiz, but, if memory serves, the only way to keep playing is to answer all of the questions correctly. The main purpose of an elearning quiz is to get the user to demonstrate that they know the material they've just covered, and you're not going to know if this is true or not unless they get to answer all of your questions.

I'm a big fan of humor and fun formats as much as the next guy, but when it comes to business training, you have to be very careful how you use them or you may find that it decreases the effectiveness of your training.

NBA Officiating

Like a few others, I've been sucked back into the NBA playoffs by the Celtics excellent team play in their 2008 championship, and the fantastic Celtics/Bulls round one series this year. Most of the other games, however, despite their potential, have sucked, because of too many missed shots and HORRIBLE officiating. The Sports Guy surveys the scene, documents the damage, and offers some possible solutions.

Until something changes, i'm not watching any more games. At this rate, the Orlando Magic will win the championship, and i'm just not ready for that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green Day, Music, and Corporate America

Digby has a typically eloquent post up about A) how good the new Green Day album is, B) how admirable it is that Green Day continues to be one of the few popular liberal musical groups that actually put their politics in their songs and C) ties all this into the sad state of the recording industry, namely that Warner Bros. used the popularity of 21st Century Breakdown to sell bonds that sold like hotcakes. Actually, she pulls mainly from this post, that contain the following great quotes:

U.S. Treasury bonds, for the same time span, are offering a modest 3.4% return while the Warner Music bonds are offering a juicy 9.5% annually. Some people never learn but unless Green Day puts out an album like 21st Century Breakdown every year between now and 2016, my guess is that the suckers who bought the bonds-- or, more likely, the poor saps they get unloaded on-- will wish they had stuck with the Treasuries... or invested their retirement funds in autographed Green Day memorabilia.

And this, on the sorry state of selling physical CDs (if anyone actually buys them anymore):
The American record industry allowed itself to be bamboozled into giving WalMart and similar operations a near monopoly over their music. It was a catastrophe for them and their artists, especially emerging artists who now have no place to sell their CDs. But it should be no problem for a superstar act like Green Day, right? Well, no. Green Day won't self-censor their songs, which WalMart demands of artists, even platinum-selling ones.

Thank god all those WalMart shoppers are protected from Billy Joe's evil shits and fucks.

Read to the end of Digby's post to read her optimistic take on what's fueling the liberal political resurgence and how you can help.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tweeting your Hike?

The last few paragraphs of this article are fascinating, if rather sad. Essentially, the dude couldn't relax while exploring and hiking in Yosemite because of anxiety of being offline. Money quote:

I have this sense that experiences need to be shared in a much more mediated way to register to myself as having happened. ... But since online sharing has become a way of translating my own experiences to myself, without that process readily available to me, I felt dulled at times, alienated from myself to a degree.

The Time has Come

Sign Jason Bay.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Condos vs Houses

An Ashland resident sees a lack of community involvement from condo owners and ponders if perhaps the town should curtail building more condos for that reason:

Long ago, an earlier Board of Selectmen and residents who participated in Town Meetings came to the conclusion that condos were good for Ashland because people who live in condos don’t use our schools as much as residents who live in private homes. This was a decision based on dollars and cents at the time. I think it is time to challenge that decision.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Death of the Guitar Solo

The Financial Times, of all places (and in the context of a Clapton tour), writes about the death of the guitar solo, claiming that the most popular rock guitarists favor "more textural, less showy style" exemplified by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood who, while "capable of cathartic bursts of action, as on “Paranoid Android” ... more often seems content to hide himself in a wide range of tones, as if wielding multiple shimmering guitars rather than a single shrieking one."

They hedge their bets by claiming that Guitar Hero may mark the return of guitar heroics, which is an interesting point, but I don't know enough about it to make a prediction. All I know is that A) there are lots of musicians out there that can rip out a good solo without thinking and B) I don't think I could live in a world without a Townshend, Davies, Church or Sonic Youth solo occasionally shredding up my ears.


Now Playing

My go-to music for putting Hunter down is Under the Missouri Sky, by Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny. Really mellow, smooth jazz guitar. Particularly beautiful are "The Precious Jewel" and "the Moon Song". Give 'em a listen the next time you're relaxing!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alternatives to AAA

Like many, many americans, I joined the Automobile Association of America (AAA) for one main reason: protection against the fact that if my car broke down somewhere, I could easily and cheaply get my car towed and fixed. Pretty simple, right? Well, like many things that seemed simple in my youth, the truth is more complicated then that.

It turns out that a good chunk of AAA's time and money goes towards lobbying the US Congress for more roads, and policies that promote more pollution and sprawl. This was detailed pretty extensively in a Harpers article published in May 2002. (As an aside, Harper's may be the best magazine in America. Seriously.) As a firm believer in "Think Global, Act Local" this fact upset me, but for the longest time I didn't believe I had an alternative. After all, towing your car can be very expensive!

Recently, though, I heard of the Better World Club, which is basically AAA but without the short-sighted policies. In fact, their website states that they "...act as an advocate on behalf of the consumer and demonstrate our social and environmental commitment by donating an amount equal to 1% of our annual revenues toward environmental clean-up and advocacy and by providing unique, eco-friendly travel alternatives." They offer roadside assistance, towing, hotel and car rental discounts, travel information, etc. And they even offer memberships that cover your bike!

In short, I signed right up. One immediate benefit is that they waved my activation fee because I drive a hybrid car (Civic). It's pretty sweet knowing that my money won't go towards things that I don't believe in, and i'm looking forward to seeing what the Better World Club service is like. Believe me, if there's any issues with it, i'll let you know all about it right here.

Subway Maps

I've seen this a few times, and it's pretty neat: maps of train lines around major cities, drawn to scale. Most of them look like evil spider webs.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If there's Global Warming, why is it so cold?

I love people that respond to a cold winter, or even a cold day, with the title of this post. The phenomenon is unfortunately titled, because, as Matt Yglesias points out, what climate change - or "global warming" - really means is much more extreme temperature.

The Moments that Make it Worth While

When I pick up Hunter from daycare, we have to pull out onto a road with a fair amount of traffic. When I do find an opening and start driving, Hunter cheers and yells out: "Daddy - you did it! We're going! Good Job!" and generally is all excited about his Dad's awesomeness for a few minutes until a truck or school bus drives by and distracts him.

The Hidden Hard Liner

Yikes. This article - about how hard-line conservative Chief Justice Roberts is - is not all that surprising, even though this is the absolute opposite of how he sold himself in his hearings. The supreme court nomination process has become so much theatre that I think most intelligent people assume that the candidates are lying through their teeth - telling congress what they want to hear to get nominated - knowing that once they're nominated, that sweet, sweet lifetime tenure is worth it all. (Another reason to change lifetime tenure to a single 10 or 15-year term, methinks.)
In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Pure Late-Date American

As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way.

My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way—hostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all.

To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful:

As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.

- David Foster Wallace

First Line of Duma Key

"Start with a blank surface. It doesn't have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing."
- Stephen King, Duma Key.

About halfway through this typically long novel, I declare it a success.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
- John Muir

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First Lines of "The Trees in My Forest"

I'm not much of a hiker of paths, either in a park or elsewhere. Being encumbered like a beast of burden by carrying a pack of goods and tools, and being confined along a trail that leads to some predetermined destination, makes me dig in my heels.

- Bernd Heinrich, The Trees in My Forest

Monday, May 11, 2009

Multiple Warheads

If you see a copy of Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham, pick it up immediately. You will like it. With luck, we'll see more of them soon.

Political Cartooning

I love good political cartoons. Here's a good one by Ed Stein for ya.

Progressivism and Star Trek

A much better take on the inherent optimism of Star Trek being part of its enduring appear then what I attempted here. Summarized:
Instead of taking our ideal of society in an unattainable past, as conservatism does and as mythology has usually done, Star Trek views the ideal of society in an as yet unattained future, ala progressivism.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Those of you who haven't had the pleasure, listen to "Stones" off of Sonic Youth's Sonic Nurse album. This song unfolds, giving the melody a real chance to shine, until all of a sudden the song's a-rocking hard and ends on a real head of steam. Probably one of the best things they've done, a-and that's saying something!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Quote of the Day

My karma tells me
You've been screwed again.
If you let them do it to you
You've got yourself to blame.
It's you who feels the pain
It's you that feels ashamed.
- Pete Townshend, "The Dirty Jobs" off of Quadrophenia.

(It's much more moving when sung by Roger.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Epigraph of Ghosts of Spain

"In Spain the dead are more alive than the dead of any other place in the world: their profile wounds like the edge of a barber's razor."
- Federico Garcia Lorca

Ghosts of Spain
is turning out to be a fantastic read, entertaining and informative.

Mixed Usage

Ashland is already unfriendly enough to walkers (lots of hills, no consolidated downtown) so the fact that town meeting required that the Village of the Americas condo complex to remain mixed usage is good news. At least someone won't need to hop in the car to get basic stuff!

the big news at the meeting was that the Village of the Americas (the new condos going up on the way to Shaws next to the cemetary) needs to remain mixed usage, which is great news. Ashland's already a walking unfriendly town, so at least these foax will have something.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

First Lines of Books

I've been remiss at typing in the first lines of the books I've been reading. Here's two for you:

"Charlie Asher walked the earth like an ant walks on the surface of water, as if the slightest misstep might send him plummeting through the surface t obe sucked to the depths below." - A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore. An absurdist author, he reads like a poor man's Tom Robbins.

"Call me... Captain James T. Kirk or Sergeant T.J. Hooker or Denny Crane Denny Crane or Twilight Zone plane passenger Bob Wilson or the Big Giant Head or Henry V or the Priceline Negotiator or..." - Up Till Now, by William Shatner. This book is hysterical.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Buh-bye Clear Channel

It sure is nice to see Clear Channel struggling so much. They are one of the main reasons why the radio sucks so much these days.

Quote of the Day

Travel narrows the mind. - G.K. Chesterton

There's much more here, although I've really only read the first paragraph.

Never thought of travel as he describes it. He makes staying in one place and becoming intimately familiar with it sound extremely noble.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Going along for the Ride

I, too, simply enjoy the ride while watching some of the intricate TV shows out there (Lost, X-Files, etc.) I think that's its only when the demands of TV (endless shows for endless profits) interact with the story (need a defined beginning, middle, and end) that these formats run into trouble, as we're seeing right now with Lost, as characters start to do things that just don't make sense so that the plot moves along.

The Problem with Buddhism

This post summarizes the biggest problem I see with Buddhism:
its implication that detachment from ordinary life is the surest route to salvation

The biggest joys that I've had in life have arisen from my attachment to things. A Buddhist would tell me that's that why I suffer, but I think the pros outweigh the cons here. You have to love before you can suffer from love's loss, and I also believe that loss and suffering makes us stronger.

Having said that, there's a lot of good things about Buddhism. Its the one religion I feel that speaks to me in some ways. However, as expressed in Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse's Shambhala Sun article What Makes You a Buddhist?, if you have a problem with any of the four basic truths, then you are not a buddhist.

Since I can't subscribe to them, i'm not a Buddhist, but like a true American, i'm taking the good aspects of the religion for guidance and disregarding what I don't agree with.

UPDATE: An interesting take that sez that "non-attachment isn't the same thing as detachment." I still am clinging to my attachments, however, esp. to my wife and son.

Friday, May 1, 2009

DFW's commencement speech

Although the publishing layout is ridiculous (one sentence a page? Really?) DFW's commencement speech really is worth reading. I just wouldn't shell out for the book - i'm certain you can find it online if you look hard enough.

Update: here, for example.

Writing is Easy... isn't it?

For all of those people that think technical writing is easy, this article is a good summation of all of the other unseen tasks that occur under the surface of any writer worth their salt. With bonus full-color graphic!

In short, even though technical writers are often dismissed as a luxury (and often the first to be let go), the work they perform is indispensable. Try figuring out a non-intuitive application with a help system written by a non-writer and you'll see what I mean.