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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

america buys more crap—and the usual end-of-the-year blah blah blah

Interesting entry by Todd Dominey in his blog What Do I Know "Down is Up, Up is Down". He points out that retail sales are expected to be 1.5% HIGHER than in 2001. So why all the bitching and moaning about retail sales being so crappy this year? Because they didn't grow as much as expected. We didn't buy as much crap as the retail industry wanted us to buy.

end-of-the-year blah blah blah
Two-oh-oh-two wasn't so great: my sister got very sick and I was laid off from my part-time gig.

Well, getting laid off wasn't that bad, really, though I would've liked more notice. And more severance. But I've suspected for a while that the company is doomed (when the chiefs outnumber the serfs, it's a good sign that something not good for the serfs is afoot) so I wasn't totally shocked (though it was pretty shitty of them to lay me off while I was on vacation -- something this company is prone to doing).

My big plans for 2003? Finish the redesign of our company website. Grow our business some more. Pay the bills, feed the creatures, learn something new as often as possible, talk with Stanley more. Lose weight, reupholster the chaise, paint the bathroom, get more sleep, read more, get back to my silk ribbon embroidery, finish writing my book, garden more, work less, watch as many movies as we can, go with Stanley & Ginger to Sherwood Island at LOT more than we did in 2002, see as much of my family as we can manage, take our entire vacation this year. Protest against the war. Get more involved in protecting our Consitutional rights. Get rid of crap. Buy less crap.

No big plans for New Year's Eve. We're going to try to see The Two Towers this afternoon. I'll make a good dinner for tonight. We don't drink, so have no desire to go out and party and would rather avoid the drunk bores and the drunk drivers.

I wish for a peaceful 2003. I wish I would win the Powerball, too.
posted by lee on 12/31/02 at 11:37 AM

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Monday, December 30, 2002

Fascinating exhibits

picturing_the_century_90.jpgThe National Archives & Records Administration has a pretty fascinating series of exhibits on its website. Go here: List of exhibits and check them out. The Depression-era photographs, in particular, are amazing. There are four pages of exhibits listed -- enough to keep you busy for quite a while. I stumbled upon this in my quest for more information about 1920s and Depression-era kitchens. Yep, that's what we're shooting for in fixing up the kitchen -- may as well go with the flow.
posted by lee on 12/30/02 at 05:49 PM

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Sunday, December 29, 2002

Christmas Pictures!

Stanley and I went up to visit my sister and family in Natick, Massachusetts for Christmas. It was a great couple of days, laid back, no stress, fun. The storm didn't start until we'd been there for hours, so we didn't have to deal with traveling in it.

The tree was pretty:


Ben, Jeff, and Kate are looking at the new alarm clock Kate got. She swears THIS will be the thing that will make her actually get up on time for school.

Ben, Jeff, and Kate

Stanley and I got a cool cd player/clock/radio to match our kitchen-to-be, which will be a kind of late 20s/early 30s/Depression era decor. Stanley gave me an antique Hoosier Cabinet for Christmas -- and this player will match perfectly!


Maureen got her annual Swarovski Crystal snowflake ornament from Mom and Dad -- it is beautiful:


We had a great dinner of prime rib and Maureen's marinated scallops and shrimp on lettuce, and other stuff. Everyone helped cook the various components, so it was a pretty easy dinner to prepare.

The power went out. Stanley and Maureen theorized the power would come back on at midnight because that's when triple-time pay for the power workers ended -- and they were right. We played Tri-Ominos by candlelight (Stanley won) and it didn't really matter if the lights came back on or not. A pleasant evening -- and no tv!

Boxing Day was beautiful. Stanley took this shot through the patio door:


The dog was insanely happy playing with Ben in the snow. Jeff and Stanley faced digging out, though:


Fortunately, a neighbor with a big, old snowblower bopped in to help out. Thank you Good Neighbor.

We hated leaving -- I miss them -- but we had to work on Friday. At least the roads were good, even if Stanley did have to shovel our own driveway when we got home. The dog immediately started moping for her boy. She's still looking for him.
posted by lee on 12/29/02 at 12:20 PM

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Saturday, December 28, 2002

Paper, paper everywhere

Piles of paper are on my desk(s). I've been feeling a little frustrated by them all: why do I have so many piles when my work 95% is digital? Feeling kind of guilty, too. But this book review is very interesting, and explains a lot about our desktop towers: The Social Life of Paper by Malcolm Gladwell. (The New Yorker). [I found this in Boxes and Arrows, in a comment by Dan Saffer. What? I actually read the discussion comments?! Of course--they're usually much more informative, or have more sense, than the article under discussion.]

I am not alone:
"The consumption of uncoated free-sheet paper, for instance--the most common kind of office paper--rose almost fifteen per cent in the United States between 1995 and 2000. This is generally taken as evidence of how hard it is to eradicate old, wasteful habits and of how stubbornly resistant we are to the efficiencies offered by computerization. A number of cognitive psychologists and ergonomics experts, however, don't agree. Paper has persisted, they argue, for very good reasons: when it comes to performing certain kinds of cognitive tasks, paper has many advantages over computers. The dismay people feel at the sight of a messy desk--or the spectacle of air-traffic controllers tracking flights through notes scribbled on paper strips--arises from a fundamental confusion about the role that paper plays in our lives."

The review is about the book The Myth of the Paperless Office, by Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper.

So, the truth is, those piles all over the place make me more efficient, they serve a purpose, and those pieces of paper we print out and spread out when we're making a website or a kiosk interface are the right way to do it. So there.
posted by lee on 12/28/02 at 08:51 AM

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Friday, December 27, 2002

the year in review

Unhappily ever aftermath in the Phoenix. Barry Crimmins reviews 2002 -- "the middle of a fairy tale"

About Enron and Senator Gottagetmyfacetimeinevenifisoundlikethemoroniam:
"The best thing Enron did for its beloved GOP was spread money around on both sides of the ever-narrowing American political aisle. Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman's former chief of staff was a lobbyist for Enron. Lieberman also received campaign and PAC contributions from the corporation that he later gently poked and prodded at some Capitol Hill hearings.

"Responding to calls for him to recuse himself from the Enron investigation, the indignant Lieberman sputtered, 'To say Enron owns me is absurd. Anyone who knows me knows that I am first, last, and always a pawn of the insurance industry!'" Ah yes.

Earth Day:
"Bush went to New Yorks Adirondack Mountains on Earth Day. During the week preceding his visit, the area experienced a heat wave, torrential rains, an earthquake, and finally, while he was there, a blinding snowstorm, making him the first president so environmentally unfriendly that an entire mountain range refused to appear in a photo-op with him. The Adirondack Chamber of Commerce asked W. to keep his stay short because it feared that if he hung around and kept lying about the environment, the Bowels of Hell would open."

"Court-appointed president Bush underwent a colonoscopy, in late June, during which doctors successfully located his head, but only after performing an emergency procedure to remove the entire Fox News Network."

Iraq & N Korea:
"The difference between IraqҒs alleged desire to possess weapons of mass destruction and North Koreas admission that it is well on the way to having them is simple: should something go wrong with IraqҒs weapons, it could damage oil fields, whereas North Koreas weapons most likely would harm only Asians."

The Democrats -- whatever that is:
"A lot of people say the Democrats didnҒt have a message this fall, but they did, and here it is: we support the same things as the Republicans, it just takes us longer. We are bought by the same concerns as Republicans, just for less money. We are as silent about issues that matter to working families as Republicans, its just that our silence represents betrayal of our purported core values whereas Republicans are merely being consistent."

About Senator Ineverletmyreligiousbeliefsinfluencemyjob-psyche again:
"To close out the political year, Al Gore announced he would not seek re-election in 2004 and made a very gracious bow from the presidential arena. If only his old running mate Joe Lieberman would also do the right thing and challenge Bush for the Republican nomination, we might have a chance at having a semi-progressive Dem on the ballot in 2004."

Read the whole thing -- made Stanley (who sent it to me) laugh out loud many times.
posted by lee on 12/27/02 at 09:43 PM

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clone clowns rant

NPR had an inordinately long piece on the big announcement today about the alleged first human clone: The First Human Clone? I figure it must be a slow news day or something since an announcement by a lunatic fringe group, with no proof or even one shred of evidence, generally doesn't command more than a passing glance by a news editor. Yep, must be a slow news day. No hard-hitting analysis of what's going on in North Korea and why Bushie isn't threatening to blow them off the face of the earth like he is Iraq (could it be NK has no oil? Hmm.), no reports on the strike in Venezuela and the impact it's having, no media analysis of the Iraqi weapons report (guess we're relying on the gub'mint to give us the truth about what it says), nothing much about the real impact of the unemployment extension cutoff, which will affect several hundred thousand people ... nope, a good 20 minutes devoted to some dippy cult. Embarassing fluff. Definitely what I want to spend my pledge dollars on, right ...

Actually, now that I think about it, NPR has been very fluffy lately: a long piece on a guy who wrote an book on the anthropology of the rich, another too long piece on a book of photographs of girls at self-conscious points in their lives, etc. etc. It's not that I object to NPR covering these topics -- I love quirkiness and trivia and things like that -- it's just that 20 minutes is entirely too long to devote to weightless topics. Especially when the journalists covering them are, ah, less than incisive. I think the dippiest was the long piece on how states ranked on some charitable giving scale put together by some organization. The scale wasn't even indexed, so it means nothing. A guilt trip I suppose, just when people are worrying about how they're going to pay for heating and food and health insurance for their kids when their unemployment extension runs out.
posted by lee on 12/27/02 at 08:38 PM

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Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Feeding the Fetish ... the Solaris soundtrack ... and heading out sooner or later

Top 10 Space Science Images of 2002 -- very interesting, though the images of the Leonids are pretty weak. Except for the one of the Leonids and the aurora borealis (click the links, go ahead!)

Great Music
The soundtrack CD for Solaris by Cliff Martinez (who did the scores for Traffic and The Limey, among other movies) arrived this morning ... it's GREAT. Minimal and rich at the same time, ambient like Eno's stuff. I'll make a lot of webpages to this soundtrack.

Merry Christmas and all that blah blah blah
We're heading to Natick sooner or later. Since Stanley and I have a lot to do, we're surfing, naturally. We will be spending a couple of days with sister and family. We'll pack up the dog, cat, presents, goodies, and oh yeah some clean clothes, probably about two hours later than we expect. I have only one more thing to get, then I'm finished with everything.

I know it's sort of un-American to hope for no snow on Christmas -- but I hope it doesn't snow tomorrow. It's supposed to be wet sloppy dangerous stuff here (Connecticut) and in Massachusetts and we could do without it. I could do without snow all winter -- we've already had enough.

I like giving loved ones gifts. I like hanging out with family and cooking a great meal and all that. But I hate the pressure that goes along with Christmas. Have to have to have to ... yuck. But I'm not quite ready to resign from society, so I go along with it. I prefer Thanksgiving -- no demands other than good food.
posted by lee on 12/24/02 at 09:23 AM

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What is this fetish with lists?

Jakob Nielsen lists his once-in-a-while roll call of things that bug him when he encounters them on the web or in email: Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes of 2002. Nothing new here.

I have to admit: I don't read his Nielsen's Alertbox column very often any more. His stuff has become repetitive, or irrelevent, or more often than not a marketing come-on for one of the reports his company writes that are much too expensive for the vast majority of web designers/developers.

Besides, I'm tired of looking at uglyand hard-to-use sites -- and I don't think his site is ugly because it's supposed to be the embodiment of usability (too many large blocks of ugly type, unorganized lists) -- I think it's ugly because he's either too lazy or too cheap to make a beautiful and usable site -- or maybe he's just unable to put his money where his mouth is.

There is no reason Nielsen can't make a site that embodies the principles he's been blabbing about for years and is also beautiful. Edward Tufte does it with both his site and his books -- maybe that's why he has so many people acitvely applying what he teaches while Nielsen is becoming something of a joke. Tufte demonstrates what he's talking about. Nielsen just blabs.

When Nielsen fixes his site, maybe he'll be relevant again. But until then, yawn.
posted by lee on 12/24/02 at 08:16 AM

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Sunday, December 22, 2002

spam blocker blocks spam blocker

It's just funny. CoffeeCup, a software publisher that makes stuff like html editors and ftp clients, sent me an email announcing a new spam blocker. Only I didn't get it right away since I always forget to check my bulk mail folder on Optimum Online. Seems the new spam blocker software Optimum recently launched decided the spam blocker software announcement is spam. Which I guess it is. I don't use CoffeeCup software (I looked at it once, for about twelve seconds. Why do I need another html editor when I already have Dreamweaver and Arachnophilia?), and don't trust spam blockers, so I won't go to the trouble of figuring out how to unblock CoffeeCup's spam, er, marketing messages. Maybe they shoulda left out the part about winning a bar of gold in the subject line. If CoffeeCup isn't smart enough to keep it's messages out of the spam folder, why would anyone ever trust the software to do a decent job of filtering spam. Like, duh.
posted by lee on 12/22/02 at 10:47 PM

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Are the drug companies running our country?

First, Rep. Scum Dick Armey sneaks a provision into the Homeland Security Act preventing pharmaceutical companies from being sued due to harmful effects from vaccines, which are suspected of causing disorders such as autism. And he's proud of the fact that he protected companies suspected of maiming children. He claims the White House made him do it.

Now our government is also killing babies and the poor in the rest of the world in the name of protecting pharmaceutical patents. This is unspeakably obscene.

US blocks cheap drugs agreement, BBC News:

"The United States has blocked an international agreement to allow poor countries to buy cheap drugs.

"This means millions of poor people will still not have access to medicines for diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis. US negotiators say the deal would allow too many drugs patents to be ignored." [Emphasis added]

"The United States said the proposed deal would mean that illnesses that are not infectious, such as diabetes and asthma, could also be treated with cheap, generic drugs.

"The US negotiator, Linnet Deily, said her country 'could not meet the consensus on the issue.'"

Deily is a deputy trade representative, from Texas, appointed by the Compassionate Conservative pretender.

Deily said Washington could not support the proposals before World Trade Organization members, saying they would undermine the pharmaceutical industry's attempts to battle disease. "By threatening patents for all pharmaceuticals, for almost all countries, (they) destroy the incentive for the research and development that create new drugs, that save lives and help people cope with critical ailments around the world," Deily said. Which means that, according to the Republicans, drug companies won't develop drugs unless they're so profitable they make zillionaires out of a few executives and stockholders, rather than getting just a decent return on investment.

It's so depressing. Especially at this time of year. When you eat your Christmas dinner, think of all those babies dying of diseases we can prevent, cure, or at least ameliorate -- this allegedly Christian nation of ours.
posted by lee on 12/22/02 at 10:31 AM

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