Monday, January 29, 2007

Banging for Molly

We all need to go out and bang some pots and pans for Molly Ivins -- because she can't.

Katrina money

Two reports investigate the funding for Hurricane Katrina relief:

In the Wall Street Journal, In Katrina's Wake: Where Is the Money?

In the Times-Picayune, Understaffed and Overwhelmed.

Both stories focus on Louisiana's Road Home program, which has had considerable problems getting relief money to the people who need it. The T-P story is a long investigation of the program and its finances. The Wall St. Journal article covers a broader area, including the problems in Bay St. Louis, MS, where the mayor is personally affected by recovery delays:
In the aftermath of Katrina, Mr. Favre promised constituents that until the city was rebuilt, he would forgo long pants and instead wear shorts, just as he had the day Katrina hit. Now on his fifth pair, and facing his second chilly winter, the mayor concedes he may have spoken rashly.
"At this rate, it looks like I'll be buried in my shorts," Mr. Favre says.


Fadely on journalism

Via Roy Greenslade's Guardian blog on news media (and Common Sense Journalism), a link to Chuck Fadely's blog, NewspaperVideo. Chuck has great tips on how newspaper journalists can make the transition to video online. But there's a lot more than just tips: there's also serious discussion of the future of newspapers and print media. For example, commenting on writer Michael Browning, who died recently, led to this:
Right now, we've got another problem with language. Newspaper editors in general don't speak the language of multimedia and images. They can't wrap their minds around the possibility of telling a story in some other way than words. They don't know how to take a great story and make an interactive graphic out of it. They don't know how to visualize a video that will tell all the emotion and character of a story without words. They don't know how to look at a photo and find a thousand words in it. They don't know how to make a web page that sings. They don't have the visual language skill.

Chuck Fadely, a Miami Herald photographer for years, has been a pioneer in transitioning to digital and now online. He's had a website for several years. It used to be devoted to digital photography, now features videos. The subtitle: Life doesn’t stand still. Neither do pictures.
And this, on the cost of doing journalism:
We had the belt-tightening meeting yesterday. No layoffs, though, they promise. Me, I'm still pushing to get a broadcast camera in the hopes of having marketable footage. Ain't gonna happen, but we can dream, can't we?
At least us new media folks will be the last ones out.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Guide to Miami

Besides the MiamiBeach411 guide (linked the other day) to things to do in Miami if you're visiting for the Super Bowl, of course you can't miss Dave Barry's latest:
Do not be alarmed; Miami isn't so weird.
If you've read a lot of Dave Barry over the years, nothing new here. Except some useful Spanish phrases, including:
`¿Dónde está la playa con la gente desnuda?'' (``Where is the beach with the naked people?'')
``Discúlpeme, pero usted ha parqueado en mi pie.'' (``Excuse me, but you have parked on my foot.'')

And a reminder that Miami is not your usual city:
...the airport is under the control of Miami-Dade politicians, who traditionally fall into one of three categories: (1) incompetents; (2) criminals; and (3) incompetent criminals.

People have been known to spend their entire Miami vacation waiting for a table at Joe's, and yet they always come out happy, because the stone crabs are that good, plus they contain (Don't tell anybody!) heroin.


Friday, January 26, 2007

World opinions: what you expected?

Some interesting recent polling reports on World Public Opinion:

Most Iranians think their country should be allowed to enrich uranium, but that it should comply with Non-Proliferation Treaty requirements that it not be used to build nuclear weapons. As well, a majority of Americans agree, as long as UN inspections are allowed.
Majorities in both countries have negative views of each other, but most say they would encourage discussion between the two nations.
Nearly three-quarters of Iranians have a negative view of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, and large majorities consider international terrorism a threat.

Not so surprising, the world view of America is getting worse. 73 percent oppose our policy in Iraq. Majorities also disapprove of our policies on Iran, Korea, global warming, Guantanamo, and Israel.

Also, Cuban approval of the Castro government is down to 47 percent. Most Cubans are not happy with their personal freedoms (only a fourth approve). But three fourths are proud of their educational and health advances. (The percentage of those that think their personal freedoms are acceptable is the lowest of 100 countries surveyed.) A very interesting survey with lots more stats.

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Opposing the law

Two very interesting cases are highlighted on Jurist today:

In North Carolina, Gov. Mike Easley has been forced to postpone two death sentences because the state medical board passed a new policy banning doctors from participating in executions.

In Maine, the state legislature (both houses) has passed a joint resolution refusing to implement the Federally-mandated national Real ID. Apparently legislatures in a few other states are considering this, too.

Good for them.


Presidential candidates

Here are a couple interesting thoughts about candidates for 2008:

Right Wing News took a poll of conservative bloggers about who would be their best candidates for the Republican nomination in 2008. Leading the pack with the most votes: Newt Gingrich (!) Least favored: Chuck Hagel (closely followed by John McCain).

And, the Times (UK) discusses Hillary Clinton's candidacy and doesn't find much to like: The vaulting ambition of America's Lady Macbeth. In it, Gerard Baker says:
...the Clinton candidacy is a Grand Deceit, an entirely artificial construct built around a person who, stripped bare of the cynicism, manipulation and calculation, is nothing more than an enormous, overpowering and rather terrifying ego.

Also, Media Transparency has a backgrounding research piece on Tom Tancredo and his political and financial influences.

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Carbon footprint redux

Bak to my posting of the other day, here's more. Note the comment from Jade who says she found another carbon footprint calculator at and determined that her footprint was 6 tons a year (actually British tonnes).
I did mine there, a bit easier than the manual calculation in the Guardian article, and found it is 11 (two-person household). That's much less than the U.S. average but a bit higher than the British average. What puts mine high is the need to drive everywhere here, where the closest supermarket is 15 miles away and everything else we use requires 15-30 mile car trips. The heating fuel calculation is probably high since woodburning reduces our gas use. But at any rate, it puts us in Mark Lynas' 'overconsumer' range. Thanks, Jade.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Democrats, Conservatives, and other things

I didn't watch Jim Webb's speech following the State of the Union the other night. I have liked Webb since reading a couple of his books and was pleased to see he was chosen to represent the Democrats' point of view. But now I'm sorry I missed it because I'm seeing some really positive comments about it. The text is good but there must have been something in the presentation that led, for example, Michael Froomkin to link it with the comment "Now that’s a speech." (Video and text also available here.)
In another example, Dave Winer says:
I stood up and cheered, tears running down my cheeks. This is the kind of person that the founders imagined would be our leader. By the end of the speech I found myself hoping that Webb runs for President, although I think it unlikely that he will. But he would make a good President. I haven't felt that about anyone in a very long time.

On the conservative side, I've been getting a new set of political emails over the last couple weeks, maybe somehow connected to the Colorado Progressive emails I've been puzzling over for the last year or so. But these are from a group connected to Richard Vigurie, and several of the emails have his name on them. They express huge concern with the Democrats in Congress and how they will destroy -- with Bush's help -- the agenda the conservatives have been trying to accomplish. The latest, this morning, links to a site called Conservatives Betrayed. Betrayed? Shouldn't it be, rejected?

Speaking of conservatives, Huffington Post carries Eric Williams' report on reading and listening only to conservative news in newspapers, radio and TV for a week: Right Like Me. His conclusion? It was mostly depressing and negative:
I'd be hard pressed to give examples where Rush, O'Reilly, Hannity and the rest said anything remotely optimistic or constructive. Their entire arsenal of arguments could be boiled down to "If it's Democrat, it's crap!" Based on this week's sampling, one could come to believe that, on every single important issue of our day, Republicans have the correct answer and Democrats believe something absolutely antithetical and are therefore wrong and scheming to destroy America.

There was only one case in which he had to switch off: after three minutes of Ann Coulter, saying things like this:
...she even found a way to slam a dead Republican - specifically, Gerald Ford! She wrote him off as a "milquetoast", but softened her criticism by stating that "even the worst Republican is better than any Democrat".

In other browsing:

Columbia Journalism Review's CJR Daily has this, from Liz Cox Barrett: A Girl's Got the Gavel! But What's She Wearing? over the really annoying coverage of Nancy Pelosi's wardrobe. Anybody remember what Newt Gingrich wore? Tip O'Neill? Carl Albert? Any of the rest of these guys?

Here's a great discussion on Boing Boing over how to disinfect your kitchen sponges. The dishwasher plan, which I use, is rejected because it doesn't really disinfect (are they sure?); so the preferred method: nuke 'em. But make sure they're wet when you put them in the microwave. Dry ones will burn. Oh, and they'll smell bad either way.

On the Brad Blog: How to hack a voting machine, easily. Someone made a key copied from a photo of a voting machine key on the Diebold website: and it worked! Nice security. (Also linked on Make's blog.)

I'm sure I've linked this before, but it's worth another: GetHuman has a list of phone numbers you can use to talk to a real person at major U.S. companies.

Lastly, on MiamiBeach411: 101 fun attractions in Miami. Useful for visiting Chicago and Indiana fans next week, and one of the best lists of this kind I've ever seen. (Fort Lauderdale and Broward included too.)

And, speaking of giant knitting projects, Make blog shows an American flag knitted on 20-foot needles....


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

E. Howard Hunt

For those of us who are still Watergate buffs, E. Howard Hunt's death was big news last night and this morning. The Miami Herald, thank goodness, put Nicholas Spangler on the obituary, and Nick did Hunt proud.

Not many left in Miami who remember much of the Watergate connection there but it was huge. When I went to work at the Herald I was transfixed reading all the clips of the coverage then. Arnold Markowitz, who I sat next to for years, many years later, wrote the first. At the Washington Post, there was no access at the time to the Herald's stories; I wish I had had them then.

Among the people Spangler got quotes from: Eugenio Martinez and Bernard Barker, two of the original burglars. They're all in their 80s now. A lot of history is going away.

(Added later:) For more, Carl Bernstein will be talking about Hunt at 3 PM today on Washington Post obit here. It mentions a Hunt autobiography, coming out in March. Can't wait.

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My carbon footprint

The Guardian's Newsblog points to an article in the paper by Mark Lynas, who has written a book, Carbon Counter. In this summary, It's carbon judgment day, Lynas gives us the formula for calculating our own carbon footprints.

Although written for British readers, most of the calculations will work here too. If you heat with gas, as we do, get the total number of kilowatt hours from your gas bill (add up the year) and multiply by .19 then divide by number of people in the house. (Well, that won't work for me since we use propane and just get the number of gallons refilled.) For electricity, multiply annual kilowatt hours by .43.

For people who heat with wood, or supplement their other heat with wood fires, as we also do, there's great news:
There is a degree of local pollution from wood smoke to worry about (it smells nice, but many of the particles in wood smoke are highly carcinogenic), but in terms of greenhouse gases, any effect is countered by the regrowing of the trees that were cut down for the logs in your fire...

(As far as that local pollution, there's a lot more around here winters from people clearing forests for development and burning the limbs in huge bonfires. When will that stop?)

There are figures for transportation use, too, and some additional calculations like shopping habits. If you're really good:
I mostly grow my own organic food, shop locally, reuse and recyle, and wouldn't touch out-of-season green beans with a bargepole: add 600kg.

I hope my total doesn't come out in this range:
G 18,000-21,000kg You live like an American.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The Academy Award nominations are a topic I'd never mention normally. But, can't ignore these, which are just a trip: For best documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. For best song in a motion picture: Melissa Etheridge's I need to wake up, from...An Inconvenient Truth. The song made the movie for me.

And then there was one blogger's comment (In Pensito Review)....
This is the first time an elected president has ever been nominated for an Oscar...

Not enough

Lots of comment about the new health plan Bush will be proposing in tonight's State of the Union.

Bloggers are posting to Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times (behind the paywall but available at Tennessee Guerrilla Women, among other places): Gold-Plated Indifference:
What's driving all this is the theory, popular in conservative circles but utterly at odds with the evidence, that the big problem with U.S. health care is that people have too much insurance — that there would be large cost savings if people were forced to pay more of their medical expenses out of pocket.
...What's really striking about Mr. Bush's remarks, however, is the tone. The stuff about providing "incentives" to buy insurance, the sneering description of good coverage as "gold plated," is right-wing think-tank jargon. In the past Mr. Bush's speechwriters might have found less offensive language; now, they're not even trying to hide his fundamental indifference to the plight of less-fortunate Americans.

Why Now? comments too: Perpetually Stupid.

Tax cuts for health insurance premiums? You have to be able to afford the premiums first. And the deductibles, and out-of-pocket limits.

I found out about this after taking retirement with what I thought would be an affordable insurance carry-over plan. Yeah, it was affordable. For the first 4 months. Then it went up. This year the already high deductible and out-of-pocket limits increased -- by HALF. Added to the premiums, if both of us were to require enough health care this year the total cost would be about 2/3 of our income. As it is, just routine checkups and testing have cut into our savings the last two years.

HBOs were supposed to cut health care costs by providing care before you needed it. Now the health insurance business has been turned around, and we can't afford care until we're too sick to do anything else. And anyone with a pre-existing condition can't change plans if they want to. From what I hear, people still in full-time jobs are finding the same increasing costs.

Stay healthy. The current administration isn't going to help you if you're not. And you won't be able to afford to find out, either.

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Politics, research and knitting

Some interesting things this morning worth pointing at:

The Politico launched this morning. Who needs another new political news site? This one, from Allbritton and staffed by former Wash. Post political reporters and lots more, may help provide some balance. We'll see. Attytood reviews.
I didn't know there was a print version too.... links to a comment on a study on the value of research. Does anyone dispute that? Well, according to the Free Exchange on Campus site, some would rather 'researchiness':
And of course the best part of researchiness is that you can refer to other researchiness reports as evidence of your own findings.

Are you a 'wikipediholic', or 'cheesepodder'? a 'cyberchondriac? Fun study from the New Scientist on types of Web users: Just can't get e-nough.

And, just can't pass this one by, since I mentioned knitting: Boing Boing points to instructions on how to knit a tree hammock.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Vegetarian yet?

The question of meat-eating seems to be getting lots of attention lately. Note a long post with lots of links on Boing Boing, from Xeni Jardin, prompted by an expose in Rolling Stone on Smithfield's hog farming operations: Boss Hog. Some of the scary statistics:
Hogs produce three times more excrement than human beings do. The 500,000 pigs at a single Smithfield subsidiary in Utah generate more fecal matter each year than the 1.5 million inhabitants of Manhattan. The best estimates put Smithfield's total waste discharge at 26 million tons a year. That would fill four Yankee Stadiums.
...A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure.

Worry about North Carolina's hog farms is not new news, since the Raleigh News & Observer did an Pulitzer-winning expose on the hog waste lagoons several years ago, and regulations were tightened. But a simple Google search still finds a lot of concern about environmental impacts.

Others, like this Metafilter post. and Vegetarian is the new Prius at Huffington Post, are linking to this worldwide report, Livestock's Long Shadow, a downloadable PDF from the UN's Livestock Environment and Development Virtual Centre. Conclusion:
Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency. Major reductions in impact could be achieved at reasonable cost.

When I was young, everyone was reading Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet. Many of us tried to live with less meat and more soy or other proteins in our diets. It seemed to be a reasonable way to help save the environment, among other benefits.

I eat more meat now, although I don't consider it a major part of my diet, and I'm perfectly happy without it. When I do buy meat I try to find a local or natural producer, and am usually sorry when I buy meat from the supermarket. I may never buy Smithfield products again.....

It seems Lappe's lessons still have a lot of relevance today. Her Small Planet Institute seems to be continuing the education, and Lappe's latest books cover a wider range of ideas as well.



For an appreciation of Art Buchwald's extraordinary life, worth reading Dave von Drehle's essay in the Washington Post: Art Buchwald's Moveable Feast. Some more links on Poynter's E-Media Tidbits, as well as on Romenesko, of course.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Still here

Posting should get back to normal soon. The new computer is pretty much set up although I have found that some files I'd synched on the backup drive turned out corrupted, and recent files never synched. Was that because of the virus(es)?
Chris at the computer repair shop found the old computer riddled with viruses including one deeply embedded in the Norton antivirus as well as in the startup system files. I guess my careful surfing habits weren't careful enough. And I will certainly never let an antivirus subscription lapse again.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dell shock

Yesterday morning I broke down and ordered a desktop from Dell. I'd tried several times Monday but couldn't get a connection to last long enough to do it. Tuesday the connection was close to normal, so I went ahead. The site said this computer could be shipped on the 23d, a long time to wait, and 3-5 day shipping would be free. So I expected a week and a half.

This morning a call from UPS said the computer would arrive today and we have to be here. A check of email revealed a confirmation notice from Dell, and said the computer had been shipped. UPS tracking says it left Greensboro yesterday and arrived in Franklin, the local UPS depot, overnight, and went out on a truck this morning.

I'm in shock. My other computer is still in the shop...after 8 days. I expected to get that one back within a few days and then think about buying a new one, which I've been knowing I'd need to get within the year.

With my luck I'll be spending the next few days configuring two computers. Hmm.

At least when all this is done I should be able to get back to posting more regularly. I'm working at a laptop and it's not comfortable to spend more than an hour online, so not up to speed. Haven't seen much I want to post anyway. The news is just too depressing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

DC from the outside

I really enjoyed this posting on the Washington Post's Close to Home section about how journalists and readers in various parts of the country think about Washington, DC: What 'Washington, D.C.' Means to Them.

As someone who lived and worked in DC for several years (many years ago), I've seen both sides. It's a fascinating place, both for the government activities and the real life of the residents. But it's also a puzzle and an embarassment, sometimes, to Americans in the rest of the country. There are some gems here (I wish they'd gotten a Florida opinion). Among them, Brian Dickerson from Detroit:
...we think of you whenever we step onto the Detroit subway.
Hey, wait a minute. We don't have a subway!
...when those of us who've visited our nation's capital think of Washington, it's with a peculiar combination of pride and resentment, the way you might think about an especially well-turned-out deadbeat dad.
But we do think of you -- you and your spotless Metro, delivering you from the heated bowels of the center city to the suburban parking lots, where your imports wait to convey you the last mile of your commutes.
Not, as I say, that we're bitter.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Weekend thoughts

No new research links this week. That might be a first.
Maybe next week...especially if the computer is fixed...

Have been enjoying being here in really nice weather. Warm weekend this week after a blustery one last week and a couple freezing days early. But today it got up to 72 and I've been working inside with doors open to air out the house. Cooling down now, but....this just isn't right. I know there are warm spells occasionally in January in this corner of western North Carolina, but this is crazy. It's been warm most days this month. Meanwhile people in the Midwest are struggling with cold, snow and ice.

This morning I watched An Inconvenient Truth (thanks, L&J) and I continue to wonder why everyone doesn't care more about this. I've been recycling for years, as much as I can (South Miami had the best recycling program so far of anywhere I've lived). We buy energy-efficient appliances, have replaced almost all light bulbs with energy-saving ones, drive small fuel-efficient cars, insulate and weatherproof, keep the heat and AC low....Why doesn't everyone?

On another topic, I've gotten back to knitting after about 25 years and am getting hooked. There are plenty of knitters out there and knitting bloggers, too. So if I start a knitting blog, it'll be a poor contribution to the genre. I'm tempted, though...


Friday, January 12, 2007

Guantanamo again

Just a couple more things 'celebrating' the detention camp's fifth anniversary...

In the Financial Times: Guantánamo inmates ‘driven insane’:
Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, says the five years of the Bush administration’s detention policy and related practices may have “done more to reverse 200 years of democracy than any other government act in US history”.

In The Nation: Gitmo Turns Five:
Guantánamo should not be viewed in isolation but as part of a larger regime fundamentally at odds with American law and values. The detention system at Guantánamo operates according to the same fundamental principles that led to Jose Padilla's three-and-a-half-year imprisonment, without charge, in a South Carolina naval brig under conditions so horrific that Padilla may no longer be competent to stand trial.
...As they seek to repair the damage and recast the future, America's leaders should look beyond the last five years at Guantánamo and remember the commitment to justice that made this country great for more than two centuries. The question is not whether America should imprison terrorists. It is whether America will treat all accused persons consistently with its Constitution and values.

(links via Cursor)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Guantanamo and Iraq

On the Guantánamo front, a plea from Amnesty International to get involved: Top 10 things that you can do today to CLOSE GUANTÁNAMO. After 5 years, isn't it time?

The Guardian's Newsblog posts on an online video appeal.

Reaction to the 'surge' speech and plan: Lots and lots, of course. Sheila Lennon points to Hinessight, 'the anti-drudge', for links to reactions. The headline? Americans cry: Stop Bush Now. Lots more, too, on Memeorandum, of course.

Crooks and Liars has the transcript of Keith Olbermann's latest special report on Bush's changing Iraq justifications and policies. 'Mistakes were made....'

Attytood reminds us that yesterday was also the 40th anniversary of 'e-day' (for Escalation), when Lyndon B. Johnson made a State of the Union speech announcing escalation in Vietnam. Will Bunch compares Johnson's and Bush's statements line by line...starting with:
LBJ, Jan. 10, 1967: We have chosen to fight a limited war in Vietnam in an attempt to prevent a larger war--a war almost certain to follow, I believe, if the Communists succeed in overrunning and taking over South Vietnam by aggression and by force. I believe, and I am supported by some authority, that if they are not checked now the world can expect to pay a greater price to check them later.

GWB, Jan. 10, 2007: Tonight in Iraq, the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror – and our safety here at home. The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.

Speaking of this, points to a great graphic on Jesus General's site. So scary, especially to those of us who still remember...

Here's one, a surprising column from Sally Quinn, who grew up in a military family: The least immoral choice. In it, she remembers flying back to the U.S. in a plane full of wounded soldiers...

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Search engines, blogs and worms

A difficult week as I decided there wasn't much I could do to combat the infection my computer seemed to have. So it's in the shop being cleaned up. Luckily the laptop is no worse and got a clean scan when I replaced the antivirus software.

I did discover, after searching and getting advice, that you don't have to buy expensive antivirus...there are other alternatives that some say work even better. Panda Software has one, that can scan your computer online using an ActivX process. Computer Associate ('s antivirus is the one I went with since the shop had a copy for sale...that will install on three computers, just what I needed.

So, moving along....yesterday Blogger was reacting as though I never got the New Blogger working, so I couldn't sign in. But that lasted only a short while. Back to normal, I hope.

I'm really enjoying Danny Sullivan's new Search engine land site, lots of interesting news and helpful hints. A couple things I noticed today: A mention of a new beta metasearch, Zuula. Once you search it gives you tabs to see results in Google, Yahoo Search, MSN, Ask, Exalead, and Gigablast. Pretty handy, I'd say. It's useful to compare, too: I'm a bit surprised when I put in the name of a character I've been looking up lately and really the only engine that finds a number of hits is Google. It doesn't have Clusty, which I think is the only other engine that found a lot.

And here's another search engine with a twist: is billed as a search engine for the over-50 crowd. (Seems like an awfully large population to be labelled 'cranky'). It's from a senior centered-website called Don't know about this search engine, since it seems to be searching a small universe. People my age don't want a smaller universe, we want bigger! The 'top search' for today seems to be 'brain builders' but most of the top results go to's sites. Wonder what Ronni Bennett's Cranky Old Lady thinks of this one?


Monday, January 08, 2007

Weekend update: More research links from the week

This past week I was stymied by computer problems, possibly some sort of virus. My viruscan reports a trojan horse and says it's deleted, but I got the same report two days in a row, and today it found two different ones. At least I've been able to get some work done as long as I don't connect to the Web on that computer.

My laptop computer has been having trouble staying connected to websites, but I can get it to work for a good while if I'm patient. Thinking it may be time to switch to Wild Blue, but that will need to wait on availability of a new satellite.

I tried to post this yesterday but just couldn't make it work.

So, posting is erratic, to say the least. I may have to take a couple days off to get and reinstall a new computer...or reformat this one. Crossing my fingers.....

The links:

  • SIPRI Yearbook 2006: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. This is the 35-page PDF, Summary Edition.
  • Best Free Reference Sites, 1999-2006, compiled by American Library Assn.
  • Rock Timeline, an interactive timeline of Rock and Roll, from the R&R Hall of Fame.
  • Most Popular lists for 2006 from Nielsen Research.
  • Counterinsurgency , U.S. Army field manual.
  • The A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science, from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

  • Health Care Spending in the United States and OECD Countries, latest report from Kaiser Family Foundation.

    Governments, Politics:
  • New Members of the 110th Congress, PDF from House Clerk. Also:
  • Unofficial phone directory of the House, 110th Congress

  • Calendars: Resourceshelf collects links to online planning calendars of events.
  • Also on Resourceshelf: Links about finding searchable audio, podcasts and more, from audio search engines like Podzinger; including links to NPR radio programs for free download, lots more.

  • Thursday, January 04, 2007

    And just for fun....

    Did you see the story about the post card that was delivered to its designated recipient in a small town on the north coast of Cornwall, addressed with only the name and a map of where the town is? The Sun has the map and the story. Nice to know Her Majesty's Post Office still works...

    On the first day of the 110th Congress, Metafilter links to a wonderful section of the U.S. Senate website: Senate Chamber Desks. Sometimes the inanimate objects tell a story, too. Ever hear of the 'Cherokee Strip?' or the Candy Desk? Some great stories here.

    From the House, not so entertaining, but useful: New Members of the 110th Congress, PDF from House Clerk. Also:
  • Unofficial phone directory of the House, 110th Congress. But there's lots more stuff of interest on the House Clerk's site.

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  • Browning and the Herald

    Well, I wasn't going to mention this, but since Daily Pulp has reprinted the letters...


    Old traditions

    As one who looks with dismay at the annual (now, pre-) Thanksgiving rush to decorate for Christmas season, I enjoyed seeing a post on The Guardian's Newsblog about Twelfth Night. The twelve days of Christmas ends Saturday, and, according to the Newsblog, it's bad luck to leave your decorations up after midnight tomorrow, but traditional to keep them until then.

    I have some years left a tree up until then. This year and the last three years we had living trees so couldn't keep them inside so long. We took ours outside Tuesday (it was losing needles) and planted it yesterday. Previous years' trees are happily growing around our mountain home, although we may not be quite high enough -- or Northern enough -- to sustain them to full growth.

    As far as other decorations: I haven't turned outside lights on the last two nights, but may do it tonight and tomorrow, before taking them down. I thought I'd leave greenery inside a bit longer but....

    According to a site from a school in Kent, in earlier times it was traditonal to leave decorations (greens, etc.) inside until Candlemas, in February. I guess houses were cold enough then that they wouldn't dry out. Yule logs were kept burning til twelfth night, and a traditional fruit cake was served.

    Fascinating stuff. It's hard in these days of new traditions to remember the old, especially ones like this that are dying in this country. Worth doing.

    And, the Guardian blog also mentions ways to recycle all that Christmas stuff we accumulate. The links are mostly UK links but there are similar things we can do here.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    Update on Browning

    Just to add a bit to the story below: The Daily Pulp notes that the Miami Herald did add some new material to the PB Post obit it ran, so it was not totally ignored.

    But, as Pulp's Bob Norman says, the Herald should at least put some of Browning's greatest writing for The Herald online. They quote a few paragraphs from one of his best pieces, a few-days-after assessment of the devastation from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

    Yes, this was one of his best pieces. But the segment quoted doesn't have my favorite paragraph from this story, (entitled A Stupendous Desolation), which pointed out one of the things that struck me most in this horrific new landscape:

    Indeed, southernmost Florida is one of the most astounding landscapes on earth right now, a stark mix of lunar desolation and solar intensity. It widens your eyeball, just to look at it, to behold the shorn Norfolk Island pines, notched and nude, with their last, few, "went-that-a-way" branches sticking out like signposts, pointing west where the storm departed.

    And so much more: "...the destruction is so immense, the blizzard of rubbish so wide-swept and deep-drifted. How many maids and how many mops, the Walrus once asked the Carpenter, would it take to scour the seashore clean of all its sands?" and "The trailer camp looked as if each vehicle had been carefully, invisibly dynamited. Trailers, you discover from this inside-out wreckage, are nothing but a stout steel bed carrying a frail box of make-believe" and "There are no more roofs or right angles. Life is slantendicular now."


    A sad loss

    What a way to start a new year, learning of the death of a respected long-time collegue: Michael Browning died Saturday.

    He'd been gone from the Miami Herald since 1999 (after 20 years there), at the Palm Beach Post since then.

    He was an amazing writer, possibly the best I've ever read in daily journalism. Editors used to say that Browning made a point of getting at least one word that no one ever heard of before in every story.

    He was such a shy man, but always was appreciative and grateful for help on stories. He usually expressed his thanks in notes. I wish I'd kept them all. But there's one that I copied down because it was so typical:
    You are a Parnassus of pearl-bright and proficious advice. I depart awed and enlightened. Have a nice weekend. Allbest.

    I wish the Miami Herald had been able to run more than the Palm Beach Post's obituary. But I guess all those who knew him there are gone, too. Too bad.

    Let me post part of one more message Michael sent last year when I downloaded Gene Miller's online tributes for him:
    I still remember that vy funny cartoon you had pasted up near the door to the library. A mouse is speaking to his lieutenants: "Get me everything we have on cats," he says. I squooked with laughter.

    SQUOOKED? How typical. Actually it was probably Gay Nemeti who posted the cartoon, but I'll treasure these communications from a dear colleague forever. And reading those tributes to Michael, now.