Friday, January 30, 2004

manipulating the herd

Robert Reich wrote an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times yesterday: The Dead Center
The dismal fifth-place showing by Senator Joseph Lieberman in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday serves as both reminder and motivator to the other Democratic presidential candidates on what it will take to win in November. For so long now, everyone has assumed that recapturing the presidency depends on who triumphs in the battle between liberals and moderates within the party. Such thinking, though, is inherently flawed. The real fight is between those who want only to win back the White House and those who also want to build a new political movement one that rivals the conservative movement that has given Republicans their dominant position in American politics.

Senator Lieberman's defeat on Tuesday could be a good indicator of which side is ahead. To their detriment, Mr. Lieberman and the perennially dour Democratic Leadership Council have been deeply wary of any hint of a progressive movement, preferring instead an uninspired centrist message that echoes Republican themes.

On the other extreme is Howard Dean, who could be called the quintessential "movement" Democrat. His campaign is both grass-roots and reformist, and is based on the proposition that ordinary people must be empowered to "take back America." Similar threads can also be seen in the campaigns of Senators John Edwards and John Kerry. (Full disclosure: I've been helping Senator Kerry.) It was no accident after last week's caucuses in Iowa that a beaming Senator Edwards told supporters they had "started a movement to change America."

I think Reich is correct. What's always bothered me about the Democratic Party is that there's never been a long-term, consistent platform that identifies the core of the movement and for which members consistently and stubbornly work to achieve over however many years it takes. The Democratic Party disappears between national elections, and, at least around here, has no visibility at the local level. Not even now, in the month or so before the Connecticut primary.

This nation runs on branding. Branding governs everything from our toilet paper to our breakfast cereal to the college we aspire to send our kids to. Republicans long ago recognized this. They are never off message. They market relentlessly.

Because their brand is so strong, people who have gained nothing from Republican programs, or who have fallen behind as a result of Republican con jobs, proudly proclaim, "I am a Republican." My blue-collar brother, my unemployed brother-in-law, each staunchly proclaims his Republican status and citing the three hundred dollars per kid tax break while ignoring the death of a thousand cuts as local and state taxes and fees rise astronomically.

The Republicans view Americans as sheep that can be easily led -- and they are right. They've become masters at manipulating the herd. So the only way Democrats are going to be able to convince the herd to go off in a new direction is to offer them a great money-off coupon to try a new product. Let them know that repealing the tax cuts might lose them that $300 per kid deduction, sure, but that would also mean that they no longer have to pay $600 each for Jilly and Johny to participate in school sports or $250 each to ride the school bus, or pay $20 to renew Fido's dog license or $5 per bag to get rid of your trash or that new $250 sewer "fee."

I don't yet know which of crew running I would vote for. I lean toward Kucinich, but he is not a viable candidate. Lieberman is a Republican and someone I despise (Stanley says since he's not doing his job, he shouldn't be getting paid for being our Senator. The pay should've stopped the day he rented a place to live in New Hampshire.). Kerry strikes me as someone as out of touch with the reality of the everyday life of most Americans as the senior Bush. I like Edwards, but don't trust relentless good cheer -- I want my president to be able to get angry when necessary. I like Dean, but his health care platform doesn't go far enough (I want to see national health care, like they have in the rest of the developed world.) Sharpton is fun to have in the race because he has a knack for puncturing pomposity. And I think Clark is too much of a lightweight and suspect he's only running because Billary asked him to. I also think he's a little too nuts. So I don't know--right now, for me, it's a toss-up between Dean and Edwards.

But the sad thing about it all is that nobody but Dean is attempting to win my vote. And email I get from Dean is generally a plea for money and not something such as an intelligent response to the latest daily outrage or a discussion of an important issue. There is no local Democratic club trying to get me involved. Nobody has inspired me enough to call headquarters and get a sign for our lawn or attend a meetup or send a hundred bucks for the campaign chest. Nobody has shown me how electing him will affect my bottom line. All I know right now is "anybody but Bush," especially since I am much worse off than I was before he was appointed to office. But I wonder if that's enough on which to base an entire presidential campaign.
posted by lee on 01/30/04 at 09:52 AM

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

ontari-ari-ari-ari-o

From CBC - Rick Mercer's Monday Report, a reason to move to Ontario. I've always liked Toronto. People are so mellow there. Now I know why.

I got this from my ex-pat friend Dale. It will be interesting to hear her accent when she gets back to Connecticut!
posted by lee on 01/29/04 at 11:18 PM

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

An absurd Conspiracy Club (Kellerman’s latest novel)

conspiracyclub.jpgLast night, or rather, early this morning, I finished The Conspiracy Club, Jonathan Kellerman's latest novel. It was not one of those start-it-and-read-until-your-eyes-fall-out books. But then, Kellerman's books over the last five years or so haven't been, either.

This book is not an Alex Delaware novel, for which I was glad because I've grown increasingly bored with Delaware, his lady friend Robin, the dog, but not Milo Sturgis, the detective. No, instead, this book is about psychologist Jeremy Carrier (what an awkward name) and is set at a municipal hospital somewhere in the Midwest, in a city located on a lake. The city didn't really evoke Chicago--more evocative of Pittsburgh or Detroit though they don't fit the criteria (the unknown city was very disorienting because it forced a focus on it which detracted greatly from the plot).

The story opens with Jeremy going through the motions of life after his girlfriend, a nurse, was murdered. I almost wrote, "brutally murdered," but realized that all murders are brutal and I'm lately hyper-aware of clichs -- mainly from watching the evening news.

Back to the story. Jeremy, of course, was considered a suspect by the loutish-but-sharp detectives (Kellerman's male cops are all loutish, stoutish, on the crude side, but sharp). When more women are murdered and carved up in the same manner as Jeremy's girlfiend, the cops focus on him even more. But, naturally, Our Hero is innocent, it seems. And for someone who is the focus of a serial killer investigation, his life sure wasn't hell. More like chance encounters with Det. Lout.

Then, the mysterious retired pathologist, Dr. Chess, takes an interest in Jeremy and begins dropping clues about the girlfriend's murder. Chess takes him to a fancy dinner at some kind of club, where Jeremy meets other mysterious people such as a judge, a retired diplomat, a brilliant scientist, etc. The whole dinner scene was quite unbelievable and rather pointless. A lot of this book is rather pointless. The premise is extraordinarily weak -- if Chess knew who the frelling killer was, why did several more women have to die, why didn't he just work with the cops instead of feeding Jeremy these abstruse clues and hoping the shrink would get a clue? This wasn't exactly one of those dinner and a mystery evenings -- women were being sliced and diced for real.

Anyway, the Good Shrink Carrier gets involved with another woman, a resident name of Angela, and of course he's all reticent and guarded with her and so forth. Problem is, I never believed Carrier gave a rat's ass about Angela as much as I believed his was just going with the flow. So the romance didn't work for me.

Finally, at long last and after many, many, many digressions and a singular lack of what could pass as a clue about how to use the Internet to find out information about people, Jeremy figures out Chess' clues. Or does he?

The ending is one of those ultra-convenient "Smedley Saves the Day In the Nick of Time" devices and the whole thing is not, repeat NOT, worth the time invested in reading it. The book is hackwork. There are theories by Amazon reviewers that this is one of Kellerman's very early works dusted off and offered as an antidote to recent Delaware novels. I can buy that. This book certainly is amateur enough to be an early attempt. One of those books that gets published only because the author has enough clout, and is enough of a rainmaker, to get the publisher to go along with it. Either that, or there's some serious slippage going on here.

It's not nearly as awful as my all-time nomination for worst book ever by a normally good writer, Patricia Cornwell's Hornet's Nest. Not by a long shot. But compared with Kellerman's best, it's bad enough that it will make me think twice before investing much time (let alone money) in his next book.
posted by lee on 01/24/04 at 10:45 AM

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

notes from the road and other things

Bananas and the Botanical History of the Antilles sounds dry, doesn't it? It's not. It's interesting. And it's gorgeous. I look forward to getting Eric Guager's newsletters.

Meanwhile, I was looking over the entries for the bloggies, and came across ANTIPIXEL, a blog by some guy in Japan -- I dunno, I didn't really read much of it. Yet. What caught me was this photo:
"Another view to Komazawa" It's stunning. As is the other one of the same view he links to in his entry. I really like the design of his site. I voted for it for "Best Asian Blog." I'll go back and read through more of it soon. Oh, wait, I can add it to Feed Demon!

Today was an expensive day, but a good day, nonetheless. Something we thought was going to end badly for us probably won't. Our attorney managed to show us our bogeyman has no fangs. But it took longer than I thought it would, which means I couldn't get as much work done as I wanted to.

On another front, WestportNow.com now has classified ads, which are free for a while. Check them out!

And happy birthday to my sister Maureen. I won't say how old she 'cause she's younger than I am.
posted by lee on 01/21/04 at 08:43 PM

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Sunday, January 18, 2004

blasting bikini

A blast from the past, literally, you can view the 1946 movie Atom Bomb [Joe Bonica's Movie of the Month] at the Open Video Project. It's an unbelievable collection of movies, mainly ephemera, some dating back as far as 100 years!

The site is sponsored by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. It's definitely worth poking around.

MEANWHILE ...
Stanley returned from his mission yesterday around 5:00 pm. You can view installment one of his tale in his journal, Puppet Press Journal. The best part is the next entry, which he hasn't posted yet.

WEATHER WOES
We were supposed to get 2 inches of snow followed by rain this afternoon. So far, we have about 8 inches of snow and, as far as I can tell, I don't think rain is in the picture. It's still snowing as of 2:30. It's a heavy, heavy snow and I think, sadly, we'll lose at least one more branch of the huge, old pine tree since the branches are already bowed almost to the ground.

And with snow like this, we generally lose power, at least for a while (but we haven't yet).

It's kind of disappointing since we were looking forward to brunch with friends--we changed it to dinner, but we'll have to see if we can even get out of the driveway. No snowplows yet. School is closed for the holiday tomorrow so we haven't even seen them shoveling out the school next door yet. The dog loves it, though.

I got the dreambook from White Flower Farm a week or so ago. It's been soothing my soul, looking through it and planning what to add to the garden this year -- maybe heathers? The Brigadoon Collection is especially enticing ...
posted by lee on 01/18/04 at 12:15 PM

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

35000 feet

According to Jet Blue, as I write this Stanley is 35,000 feet over Nebraska, traveling at a speed of 421 knots. He's supposed to land in Denver in about 45 minutes or so. Then to spend the night downtown Denver, then take the gray dog in the morning to Goodland, Kansas.

It was a busy, busy day today--mainly getting stuff ready for Stanley to be able to leave on such a short notice. I didn't get any actual work done until after the limovan picked him up.

It's very strange not having him here--his cat certainly is not happy about it either and the dog is pretty mopey, though she's more edgy than mopey because it is so windy out. The dog is really only happy when we're both here. And the cat is used to his evening dose of attention from Stanley while they read the newspaper together. Rather, Twitch sprawls across the newspaper, ransoming it a paragraph at a time in exchange for being brushed. And I can't really concentrate until I know he's landed safely--I hate flying, even vicariously. And I miss him. Stanley, I mean--the cat is right here sprawled on my lap.

A RANT
On another note, I've again run into yet another print graphic designer who represents that she knows what she's doing when it comes to making websites, but really doesn't know squat. It's pretty appalling, the vastness of her ignorance about setting up and running a website. What is it about graphic designers, that they can't admit they don't understand a different medium or ask for help when freely offered. I would never presume to claim to know how to set up files for print runs, or claim I understand bleeding and color separations or which Pantone color is what, and have no problem telling our clients that we don't do print or, if we do set up a file if they insist, it's with minutely detailed, step-by-step instructions provided by someone who does know what he or she is doing.

What shocks me most about the web-ignorant graphic designers I've encountered, besides the whiny arrogance most of them (not all of them!) exhibit is the amount of damage they do to a client, both financially and in terms of wear and tear and loss of productivity. I suppose some would say, "Well, you can make good money fixing the problems wrought by these maroons," but truth be told, fixing bad websites is both boring and aggravating. Plus you're dealing with gun-shy clients who don't know WHAT to believe--and who can blame them?

If a web-ignorant graphic designer--and there are way too many of them even now, more than ten years after the birth of the public web--would just recognize his or her limitations and call in a web pro to work with the actual implementation of the design in a manner appropriate to the medium, clients would save millions of dollars, I'm convinced. I don't know if the reason they don't is greed or hubris.

All I know is if you're looking for a web designer, find out if that person, at the very least, can make a decent-looking webpage using nothing but Notepad. He or she should be able to sit down at your computer, using your copy of Notepad or whatever text editor you have, make a page, save it on your desktop, and open it with your copy of Internet Explorer or whatever browser your stuck with using--and it should go much farther than black on white "Hello World." I kid you not. And if you want a site that gets ranked highly in the search engines and the so-called web designer starts talking about Flash, or even worse, a Flash splash page, run far, run fast.
END OF RANT

Damn, it's cold out--my Weatherbug is chirping away, telling me that's it's way colder than even a New England January is supposed to be. Ten degrees with a wind chill of -2 degrees. Whether that's the "good" wind chill or the "bad" wind chill--in terms of the good and bad ways of calculating it now--I have no idea. Bed beckons--at least a one dog night. Hope she doesn't snore--though she never snores louder than Stanley does.
posted by lee on 01/13/04 at 08:58 PM

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Monday, January 12, 2004

journeys

Tomorrow, Stanley is headed to Denver, Colorado. From there, he has to get to Goodland, Kansas (by bus, there is no other way) to rescue a couple of dogs and a Subaru and drive them back home to Connecticut.

I wish I could go--I would if I didn't have so much work to do.

When I drove from Arizona to Connecticut by myself, oh, 12 or 13 years ago, it was an amazing trip, and I'm glad Stanley gets to take a road trip across half the continent.

I think everyone should take a long, long car trip by himself or herself at least once--I learned a lot about myself and resilience and coping (I had a shitbox car that broke down once in Grants, New Mexico and again in Akron, Ohio) and being alone and comfortable with it.

Some day I'd love to get a Winnebago or a pickup with a camper on it, grab the dog and the cat and Stanley and just do the blue highways from here all the way to Alaska and down the coast and back again. No deadlines, no haftas, no pressure ... just see what's over the horizon. We will do it sooner or later.
posted by lee on 01/12/04 at 08:59 PM

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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Rowland: “I lied”

John Rowland, our governor, admitted that he lied. Oooh, big surprise. He asked for our forgiveness. Sorry, Johnny, I don't forgive you.

This guy, who admits he's a liar, wants us to believe him when he says, "But I want you all to know that I have never - not once - provided any favors or taken any actions in exchange for gifts I have been given."

So these cronies just give you big presents because they like you?

Johnny boy is trying to escape being thrown out on his ear by doing what people said Clinton should've done when he was caught schtupping Monica. But screwing around with an intern is a whole different category from screwing your constituents--where's that Enron money, hey guv? Is that what my $300 tax increase is paying for?

Even if the feds completely exonerate him of anything illegal, Rowland can't possibly focus on governing properly (like he ever did) while this is all going on. It could take a long, long time for the investigation to be over. It would be better for the citizens of Connecticut if he would resign and find a job where he can't damage us any further.

Johnny, do the honorable thing: Let Jodi take over. Go fix yourself and your family and leave us out of it.
posted by lee on 01/07/04 at 04:00 PM

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Sunday, January 04, 2004

the shoemaker’s kids finally have new shoes

At long last, we put up a new version of our company website: InfoPulse LLC. Been working on the overall design for quite some time but we've been too busy to actually just do it.

infopulse_old_t.jpg (This is the version I just replaced.) I decided to just get it done. So, I consider this the beta of infopulsellc.com v. 4.0, or at least I THINK it's version 4.0. Could be #5--it's been more than five years since we formally founded InfoPulse and the site has been evolving ever since.

I originally wanted to make this a table-less site as hawked by so many standards evangelists--or at least just use tables as whomever created the markup for tables allegedly intended (displaying data). But it would've taken too long to build it out and I had limited time in which to get it done and, mainly, I don't really see the point. I read all the buzz about eschewing tables, but I've never seen a succinct explanation of why structuring pages with tables is a BAD THING.

infopulse04_t.jpg(The new version.) I also though about making it liquid, but hated the way it looked liquid, so I decided to center it. I want it to look like it's floating there. I want it too look light and calm and quiet--the eye in the hurricane of so many sites, especially web developer/designer sites--that are so gee-whiz that they just overwhelm the visitor.

It's definitely a work in progress. I need to re-do the "enlarge this image" stuff we had in our portfolio in the last version. I want to add a biz blog, and add more resources. I think, over time as I have the chance, I will remake the pages to eliminate tables if appropriate. I want to experiment more with CSS. I would like to add the ebooks we have for sale on other sites to this site. I need to add the ads and animations we do to the portfolio, and some of our rare print design stuff ...

So, I'm exhausted as I usually am when launching our newest creation. But I'm looking forward to the four projects I am currently working on: a coporate site, a news site, and two sites for wonderful artists.
posted by lee on 01/04/04 at 11:25 PM

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Friday, January 02, 2004

banished words hit parade
Lake Superior State University releases 2004 “winners”

Michigan's smallest state university, Lake Superior State, released yet another excellent list of words they hereby declare banished from the English language. See Banished Words List: 2004 for the details.

Some highlights:
Place Stamp Here - Dennis K. McDermott of Oneida, New York, asked, "Can we legitimately claim to be a superpower if we need to be reminded to put a stamp on an envelope?"
Companion Animals - Hurray, someone else besides me thinks this is a really stupid way to say "pet."
Metrosexual - these guys are so vain they need their own word? I can think of better ones that have, for years and years, adequately conveyed what it means to spend way too long primping.

A banishee from last year was restored: Frozen Tundra. It had been banished because, LSSU said, frozen and tundra are redundant. No true, as many pointed out. I'm impressed that the judges not only admit they screwed up, but include it in the press release as well.

So, enjoy the 2004 List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness and go ahead and look through the entire list (they've been doing this since 1976!) While there, you may as well read about the regulations for Unicorn Hunters, and even get your own license.
posted by lee on 01/02/04 at 02:18 PM

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