Wednesday, June 30, 2004

These are the Days of Miracle and Wonder, This is the Long Distance Call...

In a number of scientific disciplines, the principle benefit of research is that successful research gives us a greater understanding of how stuff works -- an understanding that (we hope) becomes the next drug, the next procedure, the next policy.

Spaceflight differs from other engineering sciences, since whatever the benefit of the technical understanding it creates via research, its principle benefit is that it periodically reminds us of the mind-blowing wonder of the universe -- a universe in which we eke out a fragile existence, blind to the immensity around us.

Tonight, I'm completely awestruck that some of my fellow humans are bright enough to know how to send a spacecraft on a 2.2 billion mile journey to Saturn, and then put it in orbit around the ringed planet. Congratulations NASA and ESA!

Kerry/Clinton 2004?

It's a good idea to liberally apply salt when reading the Drudge Report. Matt Drudge is a John Birch charlatan, a reckless yellow journalist whose journalistic standards bear unfortunate resemblance to the Washington Times.

That said... his wild predictions can be fun.

Matt Drudge is predicting that Hillary Clinton will be John Kerry's running mate.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Free At Least, Free At Least...

I'm tickled pink that something resembling sovereignty has been handed over to the Iraqis, and I hope that conducting the handover a little ahead of schedule sucks some life out of the insurgency.

It looks like I'm not the only one who is excited about these proceedings. Look at the note that Condi sent to our President in the middle of the night -- and the excited comment he wrote on it (to whom?):


My question is this: Is Let Freedom Reign a Bushism, a garbled cultural mistranslation of Martin Luther King's epic Let Freedom Ring? ...or did W really mean to write that comment and coin that phrase?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Sinister Dexter at the Lost & Found Saloon

Sarah Garmisa took some beatiful pictures of my band, Sinister Dexter, at our show at the Lost & Found Saloon. I particularly like the shots she took of the band in L&F's basement, getting ready for the show.



Sunday, June 20, 2004


I keep a small stash of art supplies around the house, just in case the feeling strikes me to throw together a little project. I'm far from an artist, but I love the feeling of when an idea strikes and I can drop what I'm doing and just make something.

This afternoon, I had to drop everything to construct a project that suddenly occurred to me. 30 minutes later, I had:


I got into baseball card collecting in 1986 and discovered girls in 1991. During the time between those bookend dates, I purchased thousands and thousands of baseball cards. As my collecting approached obsession, I constructed a rationalization to convince my parents that spending all this money on pieces of paperboard was worthwhile: In the distant future, I was going to sell these cards to pay for college.

With college in my rearview mirror, I decided a couple years ago to pick up the cards from my parents' home in Nebraska. "Maybe," I thought, "I'll sell them on eBay."

Well, I should have realized that there are a lot of grown-up little boys who have flooded the almost-nonexistent market for late 1980's baseball cards; thus, my investment has not appreciated at all. In fact, a quick tour of eBay showed that the cards I spent so much $$$ on as a kid were worth less than when I bought them. For example, I remember very clearly buying Don Mattingly's 1984 rookie card for $24 back in 1987. Sadly, this same card is available today via eBay for roughly the same price.

Well, part of my collecting included leaving a handful of packs of baseball cards unopened. In 1987, I envisioned selling them at a king's ransom to some future speculator. Given the lack of a market, I've decided to turn them into art.

PACKRAT Close-up

I glued 14 packs to some black foam core, then used 9/16" staples to further affix the Score packs to the backing. I wanted to have a little fun with the capitalist hopes of a younger me -- these packs won't ever be sold, but I'll put them to an artful use.

There are so many items that I keep around me that I don't need -- that I'll never need. I keep books I'll never read, clothes I'll never wear again, other gear that serves no purpose other than to provide evidence of my bourgeois existence. These packs of baseball cards no longer need to worry about being shuffled from one box to another and eventually forgotten. They are now art, and in being art [even bad Andy art ;)] they are made great.

Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins With a Single Trip to Goodwill

I do my utmost to attain emptiness.
Tao Te Ching -- XVI
About a year from now, Steph and I will be moving to Manhattan -- and from a 3 bedroom house to what will surely be a much smaller apartment. Today I begin a personal journey to get rid of stuff.

My goal: To get rid of at least 10 lbs. of gear every week for the next year. Ebay, Goodwill, Craigslist, recycling, trash, garage sale -- they're all fair game.

The first steps on this banal journey are fraught with danger: my wife is working from NY for the summer. I just know that I'm gonna toss something she wants.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

To Many, Osama Bin Laden = Cobra Commander

The standard American view of Al Qaeda is straight out of G.I. Joe.

Those of us that grew up with G.I. Joe toys, action figures, and comic books are familiar with Joe's shady nemesis: Cobra, an international terrorist organization led by the mysterious Cobra Commander. The motives of the Cobra Organization and its members were all but unknown from Joe's (...and our) point-of-view. For Joe, it was enough to know that Cobra was The Enemy and that it/they threatened American interests.

Since 9/11, an uncritical view of Al Qaeda has emerged that oddly parallels G.I. Joe's cartoon melodrama. Al Qaeda's leader and its members are portrayed as so utterly different from us that they are not subject to human frailties or impulses felt by the non-fundamentalist.

I bring up this simplistic view of Al Qaeda because the 9/11 commission has recently released findings that paint this foe in a more human -- but not a more sympathetic -- light. Since yesterday, the infighting among 9/11 hijackers has been widely reported. Moreover, it seems that Bin Laden ignored concerns raised by his advisors and by the Taliban that the attacks would bring a US military response.

As findings like these trickle into the consciousness of the news-aware American, the people and the press will find it easier to address more difficult human questions in a thoughtful way. 10 years from now, it may be that the majority of Americans will be able to describe how US foreign policy at the close of the Cold War played a role in arming Islamism and building a current enemy. Such a cultural awakening is only possible through baby steps that -- in our minds -- transform our violent opponent from automaton to human.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Wrong Answer.


Even with a front page article announcing that the 9/11 commission has found no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States, more than 30 percent of CNN's online poll respondents answered "Yes" to the question, Do you think al Qaeda and Iraq cooperated to attack the U.S. on 9/11?

A New Look at a New Problem

Just for grins, my company has connected its Honeycomb software to Google's search results. Now you can see 100's of Google search results on one screen.

The application would be a lot more interesting if Google sent over more interesting data with its XML feed. That said, I've still found it fun to play around with this tool. Google yourself -- you might be surprised by a result that would otherwise only appear on page 30.

FYI, you'll need Java turned on and your pop-up blocker turned off for the demo to work.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Underground Underground

In case you're wondering (as I have been on this trip to New York), the deepest New York City Subway Station is the 1/9 station at 191st Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. It's 180 feet beneath the bedrock that holds up New York City's sidewalks.

The deepest subway station in the world? That honor belongs to the Park Pobedy station of Moscow's Metro. Its platforms are is 318 feet below ground level.

If learning about New York subways is your cup of tea, you'll be blown away by the awesome stories and pictures available at Forgotten NY. No one does a better job detailing platforms below platforms to subway lines that no longer go anywhere.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

(from phone)
Flying jetBlue tonight. First night from SJC to JFK, so they're throwing a calorie-laden "cheesecake party" for the passengers.

I find it a little amusing that the cab from JFK to Manhattan is almost as expensive as the flight.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Bush decided to subtly incorporate Reagan's passing into his own re-election message.

Here's our President's official re-election campaign site at this very moment.

What Does Contempt of Congress Sound Like?

John Ashcroft decided that Congress doesn't get to learn about the process of determining appropriate (quasi)-torture measures for recalcitrant terrorism suspects.

I encourage you to listen to his testimony. (RealPlayer) Bear in mind that people don't just say "no" to Congress like this.

Disclaimer: NewsHour redacted the Senate Judiciary Committee's audio to reflect only those questions asked by Democrats, who are in the minority on the committee. Some Republicans on the committee were less confrontational.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

People Researching What You Already Knew

In a shocking discovery (gasp!), The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press have determined that American news audiences are increasingly politicized.

Some tidbits:

  • Republicans now trust Fox News more than CNN ( was the other way around in '00)

  • Almost as many people regularly listen to NPR (16%) as regularly watch ESPN (20%) (...a stat that I found surprising)

  • More Republicans (16%) listen to Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, than listen to NBC, CBS, or ABC Evening News (15, 13, & 15%, respectively).

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Yuck ...on so many levels

These days, without starting your own religion, it's hard to hit it big financially in the religious game.

On the other hand, diet business is big business, with companies like Atkins Nutritionals earning money hand over foot.

In an effort to bring some of these diet dollars under his steeple, Rev. George Malkmus has started the Hallelujah Diet. Malkmus follows in the footsteps of Dr. Don Colbert, author of What Would Jesus Eat? and Jordan Rubin, who penned The Maker's Diet.

Now if only low carb manna would fall from the heavens.

Poor Quality Control or A Sign from Above?

It is good luck or bad luck to get two fortune cookies in one little fortune cookie bag?

Saturday, June 05, 2004

On Ronald Reagan's Passing

My heart goes out to Nancy Reagan during her husband's passing. She's put forth a brave face, even to the point of breaking party lines in support of stem cell research, during what must be the most difficult time in her life.

Before Bush's handlers co-opt Ronald Reagan's image into W's re-election campaign, they should consider Reagan's own words:

Whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. And may all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never, never lose your natural, God-given optimism.
Has President Bush appealed to our best hopes, or has he capitalized on the public's worst fears?