April 28, 2003
Odds & ends & life is war

I was curious about this site, which purports to be an unbiased evidence-based compendia of consumer health and drug information dedicated to empowering blah blah blah: DrugDigest.

Mainly because I was curious about what it had to say about SAM-e, which I take for a couple of weeks when my osteoarthritis (knee) flares up. I take it because I friend suggested it when nothing except massive doses of aspirin alleviated the pain and I did not want to be on any of those expensive pharmaceutical drugs they've cranked out for osteo.

SAM-e is the ONLY thing that works when my knees get really painful, and it work fast. It's expensive, but I usually only have to take it for a couple of weeks and it usually keeps the pain at bay for a couple of months at a stretch.

But this site doesn't really give much helpful information. It cites some studies, but not the conclusions. It hedges worse than my AMA-entrenched doctor. Maybe, but. It has links to sites which no longer exists (such as the FDA's adverse event report site). There are no freshness labels on the info, so no way to judge if it contains the latest available findings. The experts are a bunch of pharmacists and one MBA. (Why he ranks as an expert, I have NO idea.)

The whole site is owned by Express Scripts, bills itself as pharmacy benefit management company. So my guess is the drug/herb info site was built to make it look like there is a there there for the health insurance member sites -- all of the info is canned stuff, and there are NO rare conditions, such as Wegener's Granulomatosis, dealt with. Ah well.

Maybe I'm wrong about the dogwoods being late; maybe they were early last year. They're starting to show signs of opening. The wildflower seeds I planted a bit ago are growing, and I have some plants to get into the ground and I was itching to get outside.

But I'm also working on something that interests me: making a ebook to sell on Puppet Press. It's a digital reprint of a book (Life is War) that did very well when it was published, written by Tony Anthony, and is a book that is aimed at veterans with PTSD. Or anyone that's endured a trauma. So the content interests me, and what I'm really looking forward to do is creating the surrounding "marketing" webpages -- but I can't get to those until the ebook is at least ready for editing. So even though I was itching to work in the garden this afternoon, this was consuming me.

Meanwhile, I ALSO really really want to do the spring cleaning. I started to yesterday, and have a lot to go, and I WANT to do it, but have been working on the ebook and didn't want to stop.

I need about four more daylight hours in a day.

I'm just glad winter seems to be finished.

Posted by Lee at 08:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 26, 2003
ephemera: another place to get lost

alaska_brochure.jpgGraphic Design from the 1920s and 1930s is David Levine's collection of travel-related ephemera. Levine says he's been collecting this stuff since 1992, when he lived in Prague.

I agree with him that some of the best design ever was done in Europe in the 30s and 40s -- though I think graphic design in Europe and the US during this time reached levels not seen since. I can spend hours happily going through graphic design examples on this site and others, for example, but can't say the same about spending time going through, say, coolhomepages.com or any other collections of graphic design over the past ten years or so. Not that it's bad -- it's just boring.

But I might have a different opinion of it all in ten or twenty years. Who knows? All I know is I tend to get my inspiration from designs from the first half of the 20th century rather than from any other time period, and this has been true for about three or four years now.

Right now I'm very frustrated because I got a good start on the layout of an ebook we're publishing -- decided on the heading fonts, got the style the way I wanted it, the right leading, the right margins, etc. etc. A good start. Then Word crashed and not just crashed, but corrupted the frelling file to boot. It's very disheartening to have to go in and recreate it all -- kinda dropped me right out of the zone I was in all afternoon (I had to process the illustrations that are going into this ebook -- took some time because I had to do stuff like get rid of moire patterns and crap like that).

Anyway ... [/blah blah blah]

Posted by Lee at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 25, 2003
Review: Identity

Last week we saw A Mighty Wind and Holes. Both were excellent movies I highly recommend even at full ticket price. Identity, however, is another matter. See this as a matinée or wait for it to hit the dollar theaters or video. You can wait, trust me.

Roger Ebert gave it three stars, though I don't know why. It was a dark and stormy night. In Nevada. I lived in the desert for a few years and don't remember torrential downpours that lasted hours and hours, so that struck the first weird note for me. The characters are also pretty much clichés. Some reviewers have hinted that it has elements of the supernatural. Here's a real hint: it doesn't. It's not scary either.

The premise that it all hangs on is pure bullshit: I won't spoil it by stating why but anyone that's ever spent any time working or studying psych will spot the bullshit pretty quickly (unless they're purveyors or "victims" of this particular version of psychocrap). We figured out what it was all about long before the "revelation." It was an okay escape for a Friday afternoon -- I love John Cusack in just about anything -- but just as I was settling in to a good old serial-killer-on-the-loose movie -- standard fare, but well acted -- it switches gears into illusion land. The premise, once it's unveiled, makes all the characters meaningless and there is no point to going back to the motel scenes. Who cares who dies or lives at this point? End of mystery.

Ah well. Next week we'll go see X-Men 2 (or whatever it's called) and then, May 15th, probably at the first available showing, Matrix 2 or whatever it's called.

Posted by Lee at 08:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
lunatic news

Total Lunar Eclipse Coming May 15-16 (that's a Thursday night/Friday morning). And, according to Space.com, it will be entirely visible here in Connecticut -- assuming there's no solid cloud cover.

The last total lunar eclipse was June 9, 2001, and the next one is November 8-9, 2003. Yep, you read that right: there's another one this year. There will be two more next year, then, after the October 28, 2004 total lunar eclipse, no more until March 2007.

Oh I hope hope hope there's no cloud cover that night.

Posted by Lee at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 23, 2003
daddy bush shilling for money

It's a pretty sad state of affairs when a former president of the United States lends his name to a direct mail marketing campaign. Daddy Bush lost whatever shred of dignity he may have had by sending out letters inviting people to the 2003 President's Dinner. Which, by the way, he and Barbara will not attend. Oh, and for just $150 more on top of the $2,500 cost of the ticket, you can get an individually numbered and matted limited edition photo of Shrub accompanied by a note from his Shrubship. Which, I guess they think, attendees can promptly sell on eBay.

I would call 202-478-4425 to find out more information, but I don't want to run up my phone bill because I have to be careful about my money since I was LAID OFF from my job last September. Since ex-President invited me and didn't say word one in his invitation about MY having to PAY anything to attend this dinner, I should be able to attend without paying the $2,500, which I can't afford since I was LAID OFF. So I will send back my RSVP in the postage-paid envelope without enclosing a check since I can't afford the price of the ticket. Maybe they'll send back a nicer invitation than the cheesy piece of crap enclosed with the begging letter from Daddy Bush.

If I were to attend this dinner, it would be kind of strange because I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Republican. So why I got this exclusive invitation, I have no idea -- I guess the person who makes the list is the same person who suggested that I'm a good candidate for the Leadership Award (that I wrote about in the entry titled 800-650-8375 SCAM).

I wonder where they got this mailing list? Maybe my name is on it because I subscribed to Forbes (which I can't afford any more since I was LAID OFF).

On a side note, Paul Krugman wrote an interesting column in the April 22 New York Times: "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" Here is a snippet:

Republican politicians are obviously under instructions to push that job number. On the Sunday talk shows some of them said "1.4 million jobs" so often that it sounded like an embarrassing nervous tic.

Of course, there's no reason to take that number seriously. Basically, the job-creation estimate came from the same place where Joseph McCarthy learned that there were 57 card-carrying Communists in the State Department. Still, let's pretend that the Bush administration really thinks that its $726 billion tax-cut plan will create 1.4 million jobs. At what price would those jobs be created?

By price I don't just mean the budget cost; I also mean the cost of sacrificing other potential pro-employment policies on the altar of tax cuts. Once you take those sacrifices into account, it becomes clear that the Bush plan is actually a job-destroying package.

Not that the budget cost is minor. The average American worker earns only about $40,000 per year; why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created? If it's all about jobs, wouldn't it be far cheaper just to have the government hire people? Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration put the unemployed to work doing all kinds of useful things; why not do something similar now? (Hint: this would be a good time to do something serious, finally, about port security.)

The answer is that we can't have a modern version of the W.P.A. because, um . . . because tax cuts are essential to promote long-run economic growth. Yes, that must be it. Just look at a new study by the Congressional Budget Office, now headed by an economist handpicked by the Bush administration. It concludes that the Bush plan may have either a positive or a negative effect on long-run growth, but that in any case the effect will be small. Wait, that's not the answer we wanted. Quick, find another expert!

Posted by Lee at 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 21, 2003
so dizzy ...

The dogwoods are already a week late -- there are buds, but they're not open yet, alas! I posted pictures of them last year on April 18th, and they'd already been open a few days. No sign of the magnolia blossoming, either, though others in the neighborhood are starting to open up. Very late spring, I guess. I hope that means we'll have a very late winter.

The dog has been moping all day. I know Ginger's a little tired because she got a lot of exercise yesterday, but mostly she's missing her boy. She's crazy about nephew Ben and was so happy to see him over Easter weekend I thought she was going to dislocate her back from wagging so hard. When we pull up in the driveway in Natick, all I have to do is open the car door just a little and she bolts up the stairs to the door barking at the top of her lungs -- doesn't matter how long it's been since we were there last., it's the same routine She starts getting extra happy about the time we pass the fire station in Natick.

How do I know she's moping? Well, she's been upstairs a good portion of the afternoon -- not like her, she's usually under our feet in the office. She's not sick (I checked). And there the very meaty bone from the ham that's sitting there virtually untouched (other than for her dragging it onto the rug from the plate, naturally). And she didn't care when the cat started chewing on it. So I know it's mope city. She'll be over it tomorrow.

We had a pleasant Easter, good conversation, good food. It reinforces how much I miss my far-flung family. I know it's abnormal, but I actually LIKE my family, including my parents!! I hate having them spread out across 1,000 miles.

This is a fan site devoted to Hitchcock's Vertigo. I think it's by M. C. Oldenburg, though it's hard to tell. At any rate, it's a well-done site and makes me remember how much I like a lot of Hitchcock's stuff. I'll have to check this movie out of the library so I can see it again -- it's been way too long since I watched it. Nice flash intro, too.

And that's all for now. I'll get back to the war and the crimes perpetrated by that ignorant, greedy, and evil man in Washington DC tomorrow. Or Tuesday -- I get so worn out from getting so angry at it all.

Posted by Lee at 08:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 19, 2003
a mighty wind in the holes

We couldn't decide whether to see A Mighty Wind or Holes today. So we saw both of them. Loved them both, for different reasons and I wouldn't even begin to try to decide which was the better one. It's too late and I'm too sleepy to write reviews -- for now I'll just leave it at "Go see these movies as soon as you can."

Meanwhile, Twitch has a new perch. It's only within the past couple of weeks that he's been hanging out on top of my monitor. Don't know why he never did before. It's kinda weird sometimes -- to feel his stare while I'm trying to concentrate on getting the coding right or lost in something I'm working on. Like he's reminding me that I work to keep him supplied with those shrimp and salmon Friskies kitty treats.

I am the king here, and don't you forget it.

What is that stupid dog DOING? She woke me up, dammittall ...

Ah, spring, all those birdies [sigh]

Posted by Lee at 01:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 18, 2003
American Mavericks website

American Mavericks is a website developed by Minnesota Public Radio to feature a new series about "maverick" music composers. Interesting interesting interesting topic -- but what a badly designed website -- yuck. It's confusing, very hard to read and too many elements of the worst of what grunge already did to death. At least the pages of black on white are readable, and the text size is changeable. It's badly in need of some intelligent navigation / indexing / architecture.

But, dive in -- there's a lot to explore here. Just be patient about finding the good stuff, such as the Online Rhythmicon. The listening channels are very cool, and if you choose to download the 365 player, it's easy and unobstrusive.

Posted by Lee at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 17, 2003
Strange sounds and haircut woes

Tonight the family room started making weird noises -- it sounded like someone was banging on the radiator with pots and pans. Made the dog panic. Not only could we hear it (the neighbors could probably hear it), but it made the whole room vibrate. Stanley disappeared down into the cellar to check it out since it was obviously coming from the heating pipes. I tried to approach to see what was up, see if I could help (I knew it was unlikely, but one never knows ... ), but was snarled at so I went back to watching the telly. Later he emerged to tell me that the pipes were overfilled. Stanley's theory is he must not have closed something tight enough so there was a very slow drip that culminated in our cast iron symphony this evening. Okay, whatever. (There is so much about old houses I just don't know.)

So, when I stumbled upon this website later, I just though it was a continuation of tonight's theme: Oddmusic. A site devoted to experimental music , odd music, unique music, weird musical instruments, etc. Site owner John Pascuzzi has not only the sounds of a LOT of odd instruments (some are not really odd, just rare in this day and age, such as the dulcimer), but photos of them. A very cool site to poke around in. Some of the sounds annoy the cat, so I will play those often. (The weird creature attacked my computer speaker the other night -- I forget what I was listening too, or maybe it was just that he was annoyed at the music on Skippy's Obsession at GeckoPlex.)

And on to hairy matters. We had disappointing news today: the woman who's been cutting out hair for years retired. We like her a lot, so we're happy for her, but damn it how are we going to find another stylist even half as good as she is? Has to be in either Norwalk or Westport. I know of good hair salons in the New Haven area, but not really around here. Well, there are a couple that have a good reputation, but I really don't want to pay $100 for a trim, thank you. Ah well, the quest begins. Glad my hair grows so fast in case our first encounter is a bad one.

Posted by Lee at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 15, 2003
web designer's cornucopia

Web Design References is an amazing resource site -- it lists about 3000 resources for web designers, organized by topic (annotated too!) It's maintained by Laura Carlson in the Information Technology Systems and Services Dept. at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. There's also a link to a webdev list. Saw this today in the Webdesign-L list.

Posted by Lee at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 14, 2003
stove burner collections and images of jobs long gone

Stoveburner.com features an artist's collection of stove burners. A very odd thing to collect? Maybe not -- take a look at them: some of them are very beautiful pieces of sculpture.

Artist Raymon Elozua also has another beautiful and fascinating site: Lost Labor. It's a collection of photographs of workers, factories, and machinery in jobs that no longer exist -- or if they do still exist (as far as I know, there are still assembly lines and steel mills), maybe they don't manufacture products in the same way now. A fascinating collection.

On the assembly line at Chrysler in 1940 (Detroit)

Posted by Lee at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
4,097,000 births per year

Boomer Baby is one of those sites with no purpose other than fun seeing if your favorite childhood memories are there somewhere. Oh, the title? That's the number of births per year for the year I was born. Yep, I was born smack dab in the middle of boomerism. Brought to you by Octane Creative, which has created other sites for your amusement (some more successful than others).

Posted by Lee at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 13, 2003
sunshine and betula and Miller needs a retread bad

Pollen.com reports that maple, birch, and cedar / juniper is high today. Just barely high, and boyo is it socking me. Some years hay fever bothers me a lot, some years barely at all. I fear this is a year of bothers me a lot. The only things that really work for me are Benadryl and Comtrex -- but both leave me feeling stupid and out of it. Cure worse than the disease kind of thing. So I tend to avoid allergy pills unless it's so bad I can't keep my eyes open (and thus can't work even less than I can't work on Benadryl).

What's bad is my dog has hay fever too. This afternoon, while we were working in the garden (well, she was digging me a nice hole I didn't need), we were BOTH sneezing.

But it felt good to be outside, finally. I got one bed cleared out, planted verbena and rubeckia and threw in lots of wildflower seeds. Last year things in the garden were horrible -- just not enough rain. Maybe we'll have a normal summer this year.

The dogwood should be in bloom within the week!

We went to Home Depot on Friday and got some very nice looking dwarf Alberta spruce, some juniper ... my goal is to get this stuff in the ground over the next couple of days. It was actually a pretty good time to go to HD, which Stanley refuses to go to on weekends unless it's very late (not a crowd lover, he, not at all). But he took me on Friday, late afternoon. It was raining, you see, and I figured it was a good time to go to a garden shop because there would be very few idiots shopping in the rain. I was right!

I also want to get the climbing rose bush trailing around the trellis we put up last year, but I'll need help with that since the trellis is a lot higher than I can reach without a ladder. And I don't do ladders ... oh Stanley ...

A sort of peaceful weekend. I got my personal taxes done -- just have to finish the business tax form and get that off plus the new "entity tax" the State of Connecticut is demanding -- I don't know if we have to pay it or not, need to check that out -- but I assume we will. Another bit of our money to send off to Rowland so he can mismanage it. But, no tax ranting today. No. I had a PEACEFUL weekend, I did ...

Speaking of rants, check out what Stanley wrote in Puppet Press Journal about Dennis Miller's show on HBO Saturday night. Here's a clue for Miller: the well has run dry. It's drought time in jokeland for you. I've been a Miller fan for years, but this last show, and his appearance on Bill Maher last month -- geez. Maybe he should take a longer hiatus or whatever he was doing. I don't care if he's turned into this nasty reactionary as long as he's amusing about it. But there was nothing amusing about this HBO special -- it actually offended me, especially the racism. I'm glad I didn't pay money to see it. His delivery was way off -- during the first twenty minutes or so it was almost as if he was slurring his words or, if he talked any faster, he WOULD'VE slurred. I started doing the crossword puzzle during about minute 21 or so, kind of listening for a change of pace or at least a heckler, but no luck. Just killing time until the news came on. What a shame. The studio audience was pretty tepid too -- he had to have noticed. Some of the jokes, such as the ones about priests, have been done to death already -- old news. It's like he's so busy trying to find all those esoteric references he forgets to look for the humor in things. If he doesn't find anything funny right now, he should just find some more shitty acting roles he can screw up. Or do Bordello of Blood II. I guess it bothers me a lot more than I thought because I was looking forward to the special. Hey Miller: your audience has moved on -- catch up, buddy. Or find a new day job.

Posted by Lee at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 12, 2003
what happens dicks [try to]
run the world by themselves

Knock. Knock. Who's There? Same Ol' Editor-Guys by Caryl Rivers, Women's Enews, April 9, 2003

From opinion pages to brainy magazines to journals of opinion, women's voices are more muted than they have been in years. As columnist Alicia Mundy writes in Editor and Publisher, at The Washington Post, "Op-ed pages are bulging with deep 'insider' pieces on foreign affairs to the near exclusion of more immediate issues. Second, these pages are almost entirely devoid of women." She notes that if you did a cursory search of the last two year's opinion pages, "you would be alarmed at the lack of diversity among writers and among subjects beyond foreign affairs."

At The New York Times, the same situation generally prevails. In the month between November 4 and December 4 of 2002, for example, an online search revealed that of the non-regular columns on the opinion page, 60 were by men and 14 by women. (Three bylines featured names that were androgynous, so hard to quantify.) Two of these pieces by women could be called very light, one about the perfect Christmas gifts, another by Miss Manners on etiquette. When all opinion page bylines were counted, of 92 writers, only 19 were women. And as the nation lurched into war, the situation has not improved.

Maybe that's why there's been so little coverage, in the U.S. media at any rate, of the civilian casualties during this "liberation." Maybe that's why there is so little coverage of events of real and immediate concern to Americans -- such as not being able to find a job, running out of unemployment benefits while still having several mouths to feed, not being able to pay for health insurance, schools running out of money, pensions headed for the toilet, the true cost of this phony war ...

The administration has done an effective job of diverting established media away from the real problems -- and what passes for mainstream media in this country has fallen for the propaganda hook, line, and sinker.

This cartoon, by Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Telnaes, pretty much sums up what's been going on in not just the U.S. media, but the administration as well:


Posted by Lee at 02:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 10, 2003
yup -- flashy stuff

whitehouse animation inc. presents "KUNSTBAR" a "film" by THE PETRIE LOUNGE--- 2002.

From Mark Hurst of Good Experience.

Look at some of their other stuff -- it's just as weird. Interesting animation though.

Posted by Lee at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 09, 2003
a joke from an expat

A friend living abroad forwarded this today:

One night, George W. Bush was awakened in the White House by the ghost of George Washington. Bush asked the ghost, "Mr. Washington, sir, what is the best thing I can do to help the American people?"

"Set an honest and honorable example, just as I did."

The following evening, the ghost of Thomas Jefferson appeared before Bush in the dark bedroom. "Mr. Jefferson, sir," George W. asked, "what is the best thing I can do to help the American people?"

"Preserve the land for future generations and stay out of foreign affairs."

Bush wasn't sleeping well the next night, and saw yet another figure moving in the shadows. It was the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. "Mr. Lincoln, sir, what is the best thing I can do to help the American people?" George W. asked.

Lincoln thought for a moment. "Go see a play."

I hope the war is truly winding down. I fear that it isn't. I still want to know where the rest of the Iraqi troops are: how can a couple of hundred thousand soldiers just vanish? And with the looting and mayhem going on in Baghdad today, it's clear that nobody, not even US troops, is in control. It's telling that the Red Cross (or Red Crescent as it's called there) will not enter until SOMEONE is in control.

Posted by Lee at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 08, 2003
crusader wins round one

Ruling Backs Anti-Spam Activist (TechNews.com)

By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2003; Page E01

"An Internet site that provides personal information about an alleged purveyor of mass e-mail is not harassment and does not need to be removed, a Maryland district court judge ruled yesterday."

Sounds like an enlightened judge.

Now we just need some judges in Connecticut who not only toss out frivolous lawsuits, but fine those trying to file one. We'll see ...

Posted by Lee at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 07, 2003
Are real bullets next?

Mercury News | 04/07/2003 | Police open fire at anti-war protest, longshoremen injured

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Police opened fire Monday morning with wooden dowels, ``sting balls'' and other non-lethal weapons at anti-war protesters outside the Port of Oakland, injuring at least six demonstrators and six longshoremen standing nearby.

Most of the 500 demonstrators at the port were dispersed peacefully, but police opened fire at two gates when protesters refused to move. The longshoremen, pinned against a fence, were caught in the crossfire. ...

Whatever happened to ARRESTING people blocking a facility during a demonstration?

Using rubber bullets or pellets or whatever the hell they are? Police terrorism. What is this country turning in to -- Iraq? Since when do we fire upon peaceful demonstrators?

I predict this action by the Oakland PD will have some very bad consequences. At the very least, I suspect there will be massive demonstrations in Oakland in the near future.

Posted by Lee at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 06, 2003
New Haven-area bloggers in the News!

Cyberspace is loaded with local logs, blogs and journals by Jim Shelton, New Haven Register, April 6, 2003

Way to go Adam:
"It allows people to express themselves in their own way," says Adam Gerstein, 30, a Milford father of three who has a blog entitled, "A Life Less Interesting."

"Part of it is about feeding your own ego, but another part is the frustration of thinking you're the only person with this set of opinions," Gerstein says. "It's like having your own '˜Dear Diary' thing, but you can share it with other people."

This is interesting -- now I know what to do with my side links: support other CT bloggers. I need to replace the suddenly boring (Dog Door of Death), the dysfunctional (13th Parallel), and the irrelevant (Jeremiah Long Band) with more GOOD CT blogs (in addition to Puppet Press Journal, Adam Gerstein's A Life Less Interesting, Beneath Buddha's Eyes, and Szilagyi's Weborama, for example). I'll do this today or tomorrow, I hope.

Here is the entire article, before it rolls off the New Haven Register page into archiveland:

Bridget Jones and her famous diary have nothing on Rob Rummel-Hudson of New Haven.

Like the fictitious Brit Jones, Rummel-Hudson writes about his daily travails with large splashes of sarcasm and humanity. Nothing is too big or small for his radar screen, from tenacious tooth pain to geopolitical power plays.

Week to week, he writes about headaches, friendships, road trips, snowstorms and the unexpected side effects of parenting.

"An interesting thing happens to you when you are a parent of a small child, unless you’re one of those very serious New Age parents who makes your kid play with little hand-carved wooden toys from Germany and listen to Raffi tapes instead of watching television," he notes in his entry for Jan. 13.

"If you watch TV with your kid, you start to care about the characters on the shows," he writes. "It’s weird, and sort of embarrassing. During the break, while I was home from work, Julie took Schuyler to day care, and after they left, I watched Clifford, the Big Red Dog Who Craps the Himalayas in Your Yard. By myself. It wasn’t a proud moment."

But it’s just the sort of thing that makes an online journal thrive.

"I’m either a big fish in a very small pond or a tiny fish in an enormous pond," says Rummel-Hudson, 35, one of thousands of people around the country who write running commentaries about their lives in Internet journals.

Thousands more people create weblogs, or "blogs," which feature personal online entries along with comments from readers and links to other Internet sites of interest.

"It allows people to express themselves in their own way," says Adam Gerstein, 30, a Milford father of three who has a blog entitled, "A Life Less Interesting."

"Part of it is about feeding your own ego, but another part is the frustration of thinking you’re the only person with this set of opinions," Gerstein says. "It’s like having your own ‘Dear Diary’ thing, but you can share it with other people."

Indeed, there are logs, blogs, journals and diaries of all kinds dotting the digital universe. They represent every political viewpoint, every style of humor and every hobby and interest imaginable.

The online search engine Google recently created a seismic stir when it bought Pyra Labs, a company that runs a network of 200,000 active weblogs through Blogger.com.

Dozens of journals and blogs originate in Greater New Haven alone. Their creators include college students, married couples, technology geeks and aspiring writers.

"It’s turning a lot of people into armchair journalists," says Joe Szilagyi, 27, of Ansonia, who has a weblog with his wife, Andi. "It’s an extra avenue to use your freedom of speech."


In Rummel-Hudson’s case, it’s also darn literary.

His journal began in 1995 — a Jurassic period of online journaling — as a site called, "Pages of Goo." That effort evolved into "Kalamazoo Days," when he lived in Michigan, and then the more formal, "The Book of Rob."

In 2001, he changed his journal name to "Darn Tootin’." It’s located at www.darn-tootin.com.

"I have a subscription list of 700 people, which is a lot of readers for someone who’s writing online," Rummel-Hudson explains. "There’s more of a relationship between the writer and reader than in traditional publishing. That’s part of what may be appealing about it to people."

He writes about his quest to buy a pair of Converse All-Star Chuck Taylor High Tops on eBay; he confides his fondness for Spanish-language TV shows; he rails against the eating habits of Yale students ("For a bunch of smart kids, they sure act like freaks when they are drunk and eating falafel.").

On Sept. 24, 2001, he wrote about visiting Ground Zero in Manhattan with his wife, Julie, and daughter Schuyler: "You wonder what it’s like, you wonder how it feels to be in a city that has been through this and yet still has to keep being a city. We needed to see it. We needed to know, although we weren’t sure what it was that we needed to know."

Most often, Rummel-Hudson writes about 3-year-old Schuyler. In February, after extensive testing and evaluation, she was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified.

"So there it is," he wrote Feb. 11. "It’s not as bad as autism. It’s bad enough, though. I need some time to process this. I’ll write more soon."

On Feb. 18, he wrote: "Don’t think of it as Autism Lite. If autism were a song, PDD-NOS isn’t that song turned down low. It is a single phrase of that song. It is a slice of the autism pie, perhaps. It is a very localized issue, but the fact remains (and don’t think this hasn’t been weighing on me all week) that Schuyler might not speak for years. Or ever, really."

The day after that posting, 120 readers e-mailed Rummel-Hudson in response.

Although he doesn’t hide the fact that he writes an online journal, he doesn’t advertise it, either. Also, there are some things he won’t write about, such as his job, which he doesn’t identify, and personal aspects of his marriage.

Still, because he posts photos of himself with each entry, he’s been recognized in public by readers. Once he was at a local grocery store and another time he was on a trip to Washington, D.C.

"I was in front of the White House, having my picture taken," Rummel-Hudson says. "Suddenly, a high school-aged girl came up to me and said, ‘You’re Rob from The Book of Rob!’ I was terrified. But she bought me a hot dog."


Another superstar in the land of digital diaries is a sassy lass from New Haven named Dana.

Her journal, www.bobofett.com, is alternately profane and profound, leading to several online journaling awards. In fact, Dana (who keeps her last name under wraps) may be the only 32-year-old senior administrative assistant in New Haven who has her own Internet fan site.

"I have a good eye for absurdity," she explains, over a beverage at a downtown coffeehouse. "I remember I wrote an entry once about a guy I used to date and it won an award. It became this anthem for people who were screwed over in love. I still get mail about it."

Since 1999, Dana has focused her digital wit at annoying coworkers, psycho cleaning ladies, bad hair days and the random high jinks of her beloved grandparents, Angelo and Eleanor.

On March 19, Dana wrote about taking her grandparents to the emergency room after Eleanor took a fall on the ice:

"Long story short: We sat in the ER for five long, long long hours. Know what was on TV? Go ahead, guess. You won’t even be able to. However, if you guessed CURLING, you’d be right. Curling. Also know that the other people in the waiting room went out and brought back DONUTS and PIE and CAKE and there were KIDS and giddy laughter and coffee and families were meeting and greeting like they were at a CLUB or something. I spend the time whispering to my grandmother. ‘That woman has bugs in her hair. Also, she’s totally faking it for drugs. THAT guy? Tripped and fell running from the cops. Don’t let his sad face fool you. Everyone in here is sad.’ "

A Brooklyn native who moved to New Haven seven years ago, Dana reveals enough personal information in her journal to give her readers a sense of intimacy. Longtime readers know she’s married to Nick, she’s never met her father, and she has two dogs, two rabbits and a tortoise named Johnny Shutup.

"It’s like holding your underwear out there, for everyone to see," she laughs. "Everybody thinks I’m their best buddy because I say what I think and I stand up to people."

If they read her March 31 posting, they’ll know she tried a yoga class recently:

"I knew things would be bad when we got there and everyone had their own mat," Dana writes. "I knew it would be VERY BAD when the Yoga Instructor started lighting candles and incense. I knew it would be VERY VERY bad when Nicole leaned in and whispered, ‘Doesn’t Yoga make you fart?’ "

Dana stresses that her online presence is a journal, not a weblog, and puts more emphasis on good writing than on random thoughts.

She also says that any online journal writer who claims not to care about the size of their audience is lying.

"Believe me, you want as many hits as you can get," she says.


One way to get a lot of hits is to write about Iraq.

"Most anyone with a blog right now is talking about the war in Iraq," writes blogger Andi Szilagyi, 25, of Ansonia, in her March 27 posting. "Some people have their own opinions, and some people just post the news as it comes out."

Andi and her husband have a blog called, "Andi and Joe Szilagyi’s Weborama," at www.szilagyi.us. The site includes dozens of links to media outlets such as CNN and the BBC, as well as other blogs, including www.blogsofwar.com.

She and Joe say having a weblog gives them a forum to collect and disseminate information from an array of sources.

"You get news the minute it happens," Joe says, sitting upstairs in front of the couple’s computer.

"For the first time ever, you get to see the average Joe’s opinion," Andi adds. "Pretty much all our close friends already had their own site."

Their blog includes comments and links about books, movies, TV, politics and daily life.

"Why is it that when you clean the house, your body sucks up ALL THE DIRT?" Andi writes on March. 26. "I am FILTHY right now. And, of course, I don’t want to take a shower because the bathroom is pristine."

"President Bush can’t seem to catch a break, can he?" Joe writes March 23. "The BBC broadcast him live, prior to his press conference, getting his hair done."

Meanwhile, other local bloggers continue to type.

Stephen Minutillo of Hamden, at www.minutillo.com/steve/weblog, blogs about everything from video games to favorite restaurants in Taipei.

Another Hamden resident, Jim Kenefick, talks conservative politics at www.right-thoughts.us.

In Milford, Gerstein has a blog called, "A Life Less Interesting," at www.adam.gerstein.net. He writes about trips to the mall with his three young kids, his love of chicken nuggets from Wendy’s and the tribulations of being unemployed.

"So I managed to make it into the Big Apple for my job interview, despite the impending doom and gloom of the snow," he wrote on March 6. "I feel that I did well during the interview, and I’m supposed to find out either way tomorrow, so cross your fingers and think good thoughts for me, OK?"

In subsequent postings, Gerstein notes that he didn’t get the job.

"My mom sent me a comment, saying, ‘Too bad, but keep trying.’ And then she called me," Gerstein says.


No matter what format they’re using, local bloggers and online journal writers predict their ranks will continue to grow.

"Some of the best writers out there are using their everyday experiences," Rummel-Hudson explains. "They aren’t people who necessarily live in exciting places, but they have a perspective on what’s going on in their lives. You can read about what they’re trying to do in their lives, and it gives you a new perspective on your own life."

Of course, that’s not to say every detail of life needs online documentation.

"Hey, sometimes you have a day when nothing happens," Rummel-Hudson says.

Posted by Lee at 04:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
April 05, 2003
Review: Prey

I've read many of Michael Crichton's novels. Some are much better than others. The Andromeda Strain, for example, I think is very good. Disclosure is not. Timeline was just okay.

I finally got a chance to read Prey. Prey starts out well. It's told from the perspective a brilliant programmer who'd been booted and blacklisted for whistleblowing and is now a full-time father. His equally brilliant wife works for a hi-tech company developing nanotech products. Wifey, however, had grown erratic, distant, and lean. She comes home late one night, decides to change the baby, gets annoyed with the baby, and slaps the kid hard enough to leave hand marks on baby's skin -- and Our Hero, who witnessed it, did nothing. Didn't even say anything to wifey.

Okay, sure, unbelievable -- but I was willing to give Crichton the benefit of a doubt. So I pressed on. The story starts out interesting, sort of building dread, limning things that are not all as they appear in the Happy Nerd Home. A sister and brother constantly at war -- that definitely worked. Baby gets a mysterious, painful rash that is cured when she's put in an MRI machine. Son reports there were men in silver suits in the house while Our Hero Jack had baby at the hospital. Wife doesn't come home one night, doesn't call, just shows up the next day peeved that Our Hero was annoyed about it. Wifey seems to have a dual personality.

Wife gets into a car wreck and the next day Jack gets called by his old boss, the one who blacklisted him, to rescue Wife's company by working for old boss as an onsite contractor. Got that? Seems they used Our Hero's predator/prey distributed computing code to program nanobots to stick together and do whatever it is they want the nanobots to do. Only, they nanobots don't. Not only that, a bunch of them escaped the lab set deep in the Nevada desert; they're swarming, learning, and generally doing Bad Things. Our Hero Jack is supposed to figure out and fix the problem -- though -- never mind, I don't want to include any spoilers in this. Let's just say the story falls apart pretty quickly after Our Hero's arrival at the Nevada lab.

There were a number of directions this plot could go, and Crichton managed to choose a stupid one. As in implausible. I'm no expert in nanotechnology -- I know just a bit about it, and just little bit about distributed intelligence and a little bit about biotechnology -- but things didn't seem to hang together very well. I didn't buy it. Swarm behavior only goes so far. How to the nanocritters manage to extend their power supply? How can a decontamination shower, blower, whatever, manage to get rid of the nanobots within body tissue? How could anything injected kill every single one throughout the body. How could anyone be stupid enough to build these thingies without a dead man's switch?

But, say, you can swallow the story. There are more problems with it than just implausible technology. For one thing, nothing is EXPLAINED. You don't find out what happened, or why it happened, or how it happened. Believe me, you figure out the plot line pretty quickly, and will go along with it to see what the explanation is -- but there is none. Pretty sucky. Also, the character development is very weird -- more like the characters are described as though they were being cast in a movie, but all this character description is rather pointless and SOME of it is presented after the characters are already dead. Not only that, the interactions don't always ring true. Oh, wait, it IS supposed to be a movie! Sony already bought it!

If you can manage to get past Crichton's uncharacteristically boring and awkward information dump at the beginning of the book (and at several points throughout the book -- sheesh he managed to make nanotechnology dull), and ignore the implausibilities that keep cropping up, it's a decent read -- an escape. It didn't make my top-200 list of good science fiction novels -- but it kept my attention. It's a quick read. Just be ready to have the questions start cropping up after you've finished. The movie will have to get mighty good reviews for me to go see it since I already know there are no explanations for the events of the book.

Posted by Lee at 06:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 04, 2003
Bush is an economic terrorist

More Than 100,000 Jobs Cut in March (Associated Press via CTCentral.com)

About 8.4 million workers are unemployed, with the average duration about 18 weeks.

I wish the 18-week average duration were true in my sector.

Analysts are saying the war is making the economy much, much worse. So, we "liberate" the Iraqi people -- a fat lot of good that will do an American who can't pay the bills because there are just no jobs to be had.

It makes me ill to think of all of that money being wasted on bombing buildings and killing children when all that money could be spent here in the U.S. on education, job training, infrastructure development, and more.

Bush & his fellow criminals are hurting the United States more than Hussein ever could. Bush is obscene. He is a more serious threat to America than any foreign terrorist -- he is harming millions.

Posted by Lee at 06:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
April 01, 2003
brain scatterings

It's snowing right now. Heavy thick gloppy stupid snowflakes. Very depressing. I went to Weather Underground to look at the "norms" for this time of year ... about twenty degrees colder than it normally is. Weather Underground is a great weather site for weather info junkies, which I am. A LOT better than weather.com.

I turned off the news for a while. I had to.

Has been mostly firefighting so far today -- I'm anxious to get going on a new design (well, two new designs, one for the main InfoPulse site) but there have been a bunch of little things I've had to take care of. Kinda like as soon as one thing is dealt with, another pops up in its place. Stuff that needs taking care of so it doesn't grow up to be a big thing. So this is, I guess, a "clearing my palate" entry.

One of the little things had to do with listing in the open source directory (DMOZ). I'm an editor for one category (just one out of 460,000-plus categories). It's a volunteer thing -- I was tired of waiting for a listing to appear, checked, found this category needed an editor, so I volunteered. Better to light a candle kind of thing. I take great care with my category and I am scrupulously fair about the listings since that's the only way this can work.

At any rate, I got a message from a listee wannabe whining about why his site isn't listed yet. This guy is trying to gain an advantage by getting his site listed in the exact same category more than once by having two different websites for the exact same business. Like I don't check these kinds of things? My first inclination was to deny him both listings since he's trying to cheat. But I gave him a choice: this one or that one, not both. I want to assume he just made a mistake and that he's not a weasel. I want to.

Okay, palate is clear, I have another cup of coffee, the dog is happy, and it's too cold to work in the garden dammitall, so back to work ...

Posted by Lee at 02:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack