May 31, 2003
Of salmon and storms and multi-colored roses

Farmed Salmon Looking Less Rosy by Marian Burros, New York Times, May 28, 2003

THE images of salmon farming that the industry promotes seem pristine and natural, of fish frisking in icy cold clean waters, of wise management saving an endangered species while providing shoppers with the fish they love. But critics say that image of the regal salmon, America's most popular fresh fish, is not the whole reality. Recent lawsuits accuse the industry of polluting the ocean, endangering dwindling stocks of wild salmon and failing to tell shoppers that they use artificial colors to make the fish red.

The criticisms echo many of those leveled at huge corporate farms on land.

"We've come to the point where we view these farms as hog lots or feedlots of the ocean," said Jeff Reardon, the New England conservation director of Trout Unlimited, which has worked with salmon farmers in Maine to reduce the number of fish that escape, to protect wild trout and salmon. "They breed disease and parasites. Like other big animal feedlots there are lots of problems. Some of their practices are beginning to improve, but over all the impact is not lessening."

Salmon Color selection chips[Sigh] I love salmon, and we eat it, or brook trout, at least once a week. I had to idea salmon farming created pollution or environmental hazards. I was surprised to see that salmon farmers can select the color they want their farmed salmon to be. Wild salmon, according to the article, are pink because of the krill and other stuff they eat (like flamingos), but farmed salmon don't eat krill, they eat fish feed, and salmon farmers are given a choice of what additive they want in the fish feed to turn the fish their favorite color of pink. But I guess I shouldn't be that surprised since I know the reason Perdue chickens are that weird yellow color is from what the company feeds them (I think I heard it was marigold seed that does that, but I might be nuts ... ) I wonder if it's a Pantone palette ...

STORMY WEATHER
Poor Ginger--she's so frightened of thunder. Here she is, looking at me and worried that I won't come in and the thunder will get me:

Ginger looking very worried

Right now she's wrapped around the bottom of my chair--I'm afraid to move lest one of the wheels catches her fur and yanks it out.

NEW ROSES
We haven't had a chance to put our new roses into the ground yet; either it's been raining like crazy or we've gotten home too late to do it. I wanted to do it this weekend but, as you might guess from the above, it's raining AGAIN.

But they're blooming! And they're gorgeous! I know pretty much where I'd like to put them, though it might involve getting rid of some raspberry bushes (Stanley doesn't like raspberries and I don't care enough about them to care if the bushes get yanked. They're pretty scaggy-looking things anyway). They're climbing roses, so I'd like to put them on a trellis in the sunny part of the yard, with a clematis on the other side.

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The old climbing rose bush off the patio is just loaded with buds this year--when that one blooms, it's going to be a sight to see.

I did some experimenting in PhotoShop, working on a shot of the roses I took this morning. I like playing around with the filters and effects and seeing what I can come up with. In this triptych, the first shot is the original photo, the second is kind of an old faded color photo look (kind of), and the third, well, just moody.

copyright 2003 by Lee Fleming, InfoPulse LLC. If you want this for some reason, just ask me by sending email to lee at infopulsellc dot com

It's very weird--Ginger is snoring so it feels as if I have a chair with Magic Fingers. Ah well, time to throw dinner in the oven; maybe Stanley will make it home sometime soon. He's off in Pleasantville, NY doing a job there that he did not know he had to do when he left this morning. Hope he's charging weekend rates.

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May 29, 2003
Loooong day -- sheesh!

Doing some work for a client in Branford, about a 45-minute drive each way. Today I parked in the middle of I-95 for nearly two hours while they cleared up an accident. Sucked--WSHU was doing it shill routine (pledge drive), WFUV wasn't coming in right, and the rest of the stations around here are crap. I forgot to lug my book-on-cd along.

After getting home from work, rushing to walk the dog, then rushing to work out, then rushing to take a friend grocery shopping, I finally made it home for the evening at about 9:15 pm. Only ... Stanley was still working, and didn't get back until the 11pm news was on. Bummer--I knew it was a job he didn't even want to take on, and I wanted to jib-jabber to him about the new project I started (a corporate website redesign), which looks like it's going to be pretty interesting.

It's supposed to rain all weekend. I was kinda hoping to finish planting stuff, and especially get tomatoes in. Plus, the lawn is literally up to my butt (yeah, I'm short, but not THAT short!), and awesomely needs to be mowed. Or scythed. I would just throw wildflower seeds over the half acre and call it a meadow, but I doubt our neighbors would go for it. Besides, I keep losing the dog in the high grass ...

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May 27, 2003
Zeldman wrong--a rethink? Sort of.

In my comments section, Alexander Johannesen had this to say about my opinion that Zeldman is wrong about the IE/Win lack of support for PNGs:

No, he is right; MS does not fully support PNG, not even in the latest IE incarnations. What you are referring to is the MS-only way of putting an Aplha on images through CSS, and has got nothing to do with PNG in itself which has got Alpha support in its native format. Netscape, Opera, Mozilla all have better PNG support, and in this case Microsoft should be ashamed of themselves.

I see what they're getting at: MS should be fully supporting PNGs without the need to resort to CSS hacks or proprietary DirectX filters, etc. They're right, MS SHOULD be ashamed.

But still, the lack of native IE/Win support for the complete PNG format doesn't mean you can't use them because there are DirectX hacks to support them. So you CAN support those lovely alpha transparencies in IE.

Yes, we should continue to bitch and moan about IE not being standards-compliant--maybe MS will get it and make my job a lot easier. But in the meantime, since IE is not 100% compliant, and IE is the browser used by the vast majority of surfers and probably will be for some time to come, my advice is this: "Deal with it." The bitching and moaning can be pretty offputting without the "but ... "

Aaron Boorman of youngpup has a script called Sleight that he says makes PNG graphics work as normal in Win32 IE5.5+. I haven't tried it yet, so I don't know how well it works. I saw this link on Evolt, where there is a semi-useful article about and useful discussion of PNGs.

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May 25, 2003
"collateral damage" in iraq: the truth is slow in coming

Surveys pointing to high civilian death toll in Iraq (Christian Science Monitor, May 22, 2003)

Evidence is mounting to suggest that between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi civilians may have died during the recent war, according to researchers involved in independent surveys of the country.

These are the victims of a war they did not want, did not ask for. Are we going to provide the families of these victims of this immoral and unnecessary war the same kind of financial assistance we gave to the families of those killed on 9/11?

Tell me how Bush is any less a criminal than Hussein? Is it a question of scale? Bush killed at least 5,000 innocent people in one month, for what?

Posted by Lee at 01:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
What is Zeldman Testing?

In Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: The Daily Report Opera and PNG, he wrote, "It also emphasizes that IE/Win is alone among modern browsers in its lack of true support for the 199596 PNG image standard." Wrong, wrong, wrong. Boyo is he wrong.

In the US, go to your local BMW dealership and ask to see their Virtual Sales Center (BMW's name for their kiosk). The navigation interface graphics are done entirely with PNG images BECAUSE IE/Win supports PNG alpha transparency. And I built this interface a couple of years ago, so it's not something new.

You can see an example of how to apply the alpha filter here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/samples/author/filter/Alpha.htm. The html / CSS looks something like this:

‹DIV ID="oFilterDIV" STYLE="position:absolute; top:50px; left:10px; width:240px; height:160px; padding:10px; font:bold 13pt verdana; background:green;
filter:progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha( Opacity=100, FinishOpacity=0, Style=1, StartX=0, FinishX=100, StartY=0, FinishY=100)"›
This is the DIV object content.‹/DIV›

I don't know if Netscape 6+ or Opera supports MS filters now or not--I haven't had any reason to experiment and find out since I haven't needed them for web work, just for a kiosk interface where the browser is absolutely controlled. Now I'm wondering: I wonder if they do ... I'll just add it to my list of things I want to experiment with ... (I need about four additional hours per day with no corresponding need for additional sleep!)

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May 24, 2003
here & there & so on

Check out this Flash movie by interaction artist / student Danny Gomez. Be patient, get through the early stuff, wait for the interesting stuff, the peyote trip. Not recommended for those on dialup, unless you can let it run while you do other things.

If aliens are controlling your mind, you might wanna check out how to make a helmet to block them. Stop Alien Abductions tells you how--but you MUST use velostat and only velostat will do.

REVIEWLET:
We finally watched Panic Room last night. It kept our attention. It was exciting at points. But I found the whole premise VERY implausible: if the thieves discovered people in what they thought would be an empty house, why didn't they just wait until the people left and break in later? Or, barring that, the nephew coulda just claimed his inheritance and pay the damned inheritance taxes. Or the schmucks coulda just knocked on the door and offered to split the booty with the new homeowners. But no. If so, there would have been no movie, right?

So the message of this movie was very Republican: do away with inheritance taxes so homeowners uwittingly now in possession of hidden safes in their hidden safe rooms are safe in their beds. Don't be a nice guy thief because you'll lose out in the end. And, it's okay to be a home-invading thief because you're such a nice, compassionate guy and you really really need the money so you can win your custody battle.

It's worth watching because Forest Whitaker and Jodie Foster are damned fine actors. Kristen Stewart as the daughter was no slouch herself--she's one to watch.

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May 23, 2003
book reviews for real people

I did a search for Carolyn Knapp earlier this evening because I read that she died last year and was shocked and I wanted to know why she died (lung cancer, at 42). I read Knapp's Drinking: A Love Storyseveral years ago. The book meant a lot to me.

At any rate, when I googled Knapp, I came upon Booked, a blog by Cynthia Crossen. I began reading through it--she's a very good journal writer (she either wrote or still writes for the Wall Street Journal, and has two non-fiction books: Tainted Truth and The Rich and How They Got That Way. I had actually heard of, if not read, the latter.)

Booked is the web companion to her (print) newsletter about books, wherein she writes her reviews of various and sundry books, mainly fiction, and with a few entries here and there about her life.

So far, based on what I've read, I think I'll start reading the books on her "Fiction 50" list that I haven't already read. Mainly because it does NOT include Cold Mountain (which I thought was a nasty piece of work and not good literature at all, let alone Pulitzer-worthy) and because her reviews appeal to me.

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May 22, 2003
post-war iraq

The Mark Fiore: The War Planner is pretty apt. Depressingly apt.

Meanwhile, Tony of Beneath Buddha's Eyes is posting his stories and photos from his trip to Baghdad on an AmeriCares relief mission.

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May 21, 2003
orsinal has a new game

Orisinal added Rainmaker. Orsinal is up for a Webby.

The Webbys are going to be presented online on June 5. How lame is that? I guess IDG didn't want to spring for the meeting space.

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May 18, 2003
origami for your cd

Make a paper cd case (or jewel case) complete with tracks, or mailing address, etc. Takes html form data and converts into a PDF file, which you then print out and fold by following the little lines ... might be useful, I dunno for sure. Via Kevin Smith at Centricle.

Posted by Lee at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 15, 2003
and behind this door lies ... matrix2

MorpheusYep, we played hooky again, went to see The Matrix Reloaded, 12:15 pm showing. Good choice since, as we were leaving, the teenies were already starting to line up for the late afternoon showing.

Before I forget: be sure to stick around through the credits, 'cause after the credits is a trailer for Matrix3.

Did I like it? Yep. As much as Matrix1? Nope. It suffered, I think, from too much money. M1 was tighter, every scene and every prop meant something. M2 is bloated. But that's okay--the boys really like it.

Things I liked: Morpheus, of course. Zion, maybe because it is so familiar (quick, name five SF movies and/or TV shows that feature vast, underground cities). The first five minutes of the sex/dance scene. The Geiger-esque machines and those wraithy twin things. The first ten minutes of the MultiSmith fight. The first hour of the car chase. Trinity & guest's motorcycle ride (I was worried about the guest, until I remembered that there is no way he would fall off because his purpose in life had not yet been fulfilled.) The way the plot is shaping up. The cliffhanger. I really like the plot twist(s)--it will be very interesting to see how it resolves--whether the resolution is predictable or if this is truly a unique piece of SF or just another big-budget comic book.

Zion

I'm wondering if Niobe is going to be in M3, and what the point of the strife between Lock & Morpheus is, unless that, too, is supposed to be resolved in M3 (it added absolutely nothing to the plot, at least in M2).

KeymakerWhy is Neo wearing a cassock? I kept wanting to say, "Bless me father for I have sinned ... " Wouldn't it be hard to do those kicks in an ankle-length skirt? His costume is unbelievably stupid--I can't believe the costume designer dressed him as a priest. And the patent leather or vinyl stuff Trinity was wearing in the matrix--what's with that? Looks like somebody's rubber fetish and looked incredibly uncomfortable. The Zion clothes are weird, too--half ratty looking sweaters and half some filmy stuff that lets the nipples show through. Where did the cloth come from? Where is the food coming from? What do people do all day? (I'm a sociologist by training--it doesn't always stand me in good stead when it comes to the suspension of disbelief, alas.)

The sex scene had the usual fifteen or twenty candles burning. I don't know, but I somehow think that two people really hot to get it on don't stop to light fifteen candles before jumping each others bones. Where did those candles come from, anyway? There have been no bees for more than a century.

I'm anticipating M3. I want to see how it all turns out. If the plot holds, and it's as unique a finish as the beginning, then all the bloat and the lazy conventions won't matter. It is a pretty ballet, though, no matter what.

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May 13, 2003
an ending, a change, and more photos of the yard

Prince of Wales Antiques was our fourth website. We closed it down today because the store owners want to retire for real--they had come out of retirement when their children, for various reasons, did not want to continue running the stores. Though it was sad to close it down after running the site for several years, we're happy for the owners: they deserve to take a break from the hectic day-to-day operations of a very busy store in addition to buying trips to Europe. We wish them a happy, long retirement.

Meanwhile, Interland is busy changing all the IP address of all the webservers they acquired when they bought the managed webserver farm from Interliant (which is now, I think, officially out of business? Or maybe not)--which includes ours. The guy from tech support told Stanley it's not going as smoothly as they thought it could because of the thousands of websites registered with all these weird, obscure registrars--not exactly like running a script at Network Solutions and changing everything at once. So we now have a new IP address, which of course I'll never remember. But, fortunately, that's Stanley's job!

jack_in_the_pulpit1.jpgI did manage to get some more pictures of the yard yesterday--even though it was kind of gloomy. I figured if I waited for sunshine, the flowers would be gone since we're not due for the steady glow of the sun until Thursday.

The jack-in-the-pulpits and trillium seem especially beautiful this year. The jacks have bloomed, but the trillium have not.

jacks_and_trillium.jpg

jackalone.jpg

The Japanese dogwood seen through the window.

dogwood_and_cedar.jpg

The American dogwood just seems to glow this year.

dogwood_back.jpg

This is looking down on it from the balconey.

dogwood_back_all.jpg

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May 11, 2003
an explanation of what's happening
to the economy that makes sense

Contrary to popular belief, what's happening to the economy isn't entirely the fault of anything Shrub has done (or not done). What WILL happen to the economy will be affected by his policies, but not the current downturn, at least not completely.

I've only partially understood what's been happening, economy-wise, and have been looking for an explanation that fills in the gaps for me. When I saw an article about it in In These Times, I almost didn't bother reading it because I didn't want to wade through a far-left polemic that offered a lot of sound and fury, but no real answers. But gave it a shot, anyway. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. (Well, as pleasantly surprised as one can be reading what is, essentially, a bad prognosis.)

Below is a clip. The entire article is definitely worth reading, if only to understand what's going on and to maybe to get a handle on figuring out what to do about things, at least on a personal level.

Bursting Bubbles: Why the economy will go from bad to worse, by Dean Baker (In These Times, 5.9.03)

In 2000, President Clinton could legitimately boast of the "best economy in 30 years." Unemployment was low, wages were rising at all income levels, and the poverty rate was headed downward at a rapid pace. But after President Bush took office in 2001, the economy fell into recession, shedding jobs and causing real wage growth to slow and eventually stop altogether.

A convenient story explains this sharp economic reversal. According to the script, Clinton eliminated the deficit through progressive tax increases and spending restraint. This deficit reduction lowered interest rates and spurred an investment boom, which was the basis for the extraordinary growth of the late '90s. Then Bush came into office and quickly squandered the surplus with his tax cuts to the rich and military build-up. As a result, the deficit skyrocketed and the economy tanked.

It's a good story, but the reality is quite different. The Clinton boom was built on three unsustainable bubbles. One of them, the stock bubble, has already burst. The other two bubbles--the dollar bubble and the housing bubble--are still with us. The dollar bubble is starting to deflate, and the housing bubble is perhaps just now reaching its peak. These bubbles created the basis for the 2001 recession and the economy's continuing period of stagnation.

I just wish Dan Baker offered some opinions or suggestions on solutions, or what do do to ameliorate what he thinks is coming. But the article makes a lot of sense to me, and I never even thought about that third bubble.

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May 10, 2003
that good kind of tired

Finally, we had a real chance to work in the yard today. It was lovely out, and perfect to get a good start on the yard cleanup and gardening. We're both exhausted and filthy right now--but it's that good exhaustion that comes after working hard and getting a lot done.

threateninglook.jpgStanley shredded a lot of the branches and leaves that we should've shredded last fall, but never got around to. I worked on getting the bedding plants into the gardens and pots. This evening, when we sat down in the office to check messages and take a break before cleaning up, Stanley looked like such an exhausted wild man I had to take a picture--in this shot, he is threatening me with no more planting if I post his picture.

We put in nine shrubs along our property line: three arborvitae, four dwarf alberta spruces, and two Japanese pieris. We hope they grow fast and help block out the ugly house next door since the weasel that owns it does not believe in things such as foundation plants: we have a view of his basement wall, atop of which sits his ugly house. I hope they grow well; some time we head back to Home Depot and get some more (they were cheap enough: $3.33 each!) We still have to get the junipers in, though.

We also put in a rose bush, something called Towne & Country Manhattan (whatever that is) that's a pretty color called China Red. The roses are small, and the whole bush isn't supposed to get much bigger than three feet tall.

There is an old, old white rose bush in the mint garden that doesn't seem to have made it--maybe it just got too old. There is one strong branch left; tomorrow or Monday I'll go take a cutting to see if I can get it to root so we can start a new one.

dogwoodoffporch.jpg



The dogwoods bloomed; the Japanese dogwood wasn't very inspired this year. The leaves started coming out before it actually bloomed. But it's still very pretty. I hope it lasts a long time before it succumbs to whatever blight is supposed to have hit the Japanese dogwood in this part of Connecticut.

 

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The American dogwood is very pretty this year--it's hard to see in these shots, but tomorrow, if I can, I'll take one from the upstairs balcony.

 

 

 

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appletree.jpg The old apple tree is pretty spectacular this spring! It still gets loads of apples, though they're wormy. There is something we're supposed to do in the spring to avoid the worms, but we won't because we don't really harvest the apples--the birds like them.

 

 

timetoplay_st.jpgDIGRESSION

 

Stanley took some pictures of the beasties that rule our lives. I've been meaning to post these pictures. This one shows Ginger playing her favorite game: tug & growl with the ring.

 

 

 

But this is what she does most while we're working:

gingerworking_st.jpg

This is one of Twitch's 47 favorite places: Stanley's office chair. Twitch gets annoyed when Stanley tries to actually USE the chair, so Stanley usually sits on the edge of the chair until Twitch decides to move. It always amazes me how much control a cat has over one's life.

twitchonchair_st.jpg

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Tony is headed to Baghdad

Tony of Beneath Buddha's Eyes wrote this morning from an airport in The Netherlands--he's on his way to Baghdad on a humanitarian mission for AmeriCares. He told us he would try to post when he could while on his journey, but that he isn't certain about being able to get an internet connection while there. We hope he can--it will be interesting to hear about what going on there from someone we know and trust rather than having to see everything filtered through they eyes of the media or the military. At least we will be able to ask Tony questions!

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May 09, 2003
of scams and suckers--lots of suckers

Quatloos! Cyber-Museum of Scams and Frauds is a great place to check out if you encounter a financial or tax plan that seems like a really good deal. Or if you just want to spend some time looking at all the ways crooks come up with to scam the greedy and the dumb.

Posted by Lee at 06:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
May 08, 2003
visual design odds & ends

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about presenting information visually (vs. text, as in "a good chart is worth a thousand words). Part of it has to do with a PowerPoint done recently (how to describe, visually, what a particular software program does without having the presentation look like zillions of other "value proposition" PowerPoints), and part of it has to do with the InfoPulse website redesign (how do I adequately describe a kiosk and what it can be used for?)

So, of course, I headed for the Ask E.T. "forum." Which is great if you want to browse through it and stumble upon gems now and then--but HORRIBLE if you're looking for something specific. I wish Edward Tufte and Dariane Hunt would figure out how to ORGANIZE the site so locating the abundant and wonderful information contained therein would be easy. I guess it's a case of "Do as I say ... " I'm looking forward to receiving his new essay, "The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint." Due off the press on May 12th, I think.

Next, via XPlane (still one of my favorite blogs, both the design blog and the business blog), I headed to visualjournalism.com, which has a graphics gallery. It's very new, so not too much is there yet though I anticipate it could turn into a rich resource for learning about graphic design for presenting information. Viewers can rate and comment on the graphics that have been uploaded by designers and others.

Then, on the Design/Graphics section of Poynter Online (the Poynter Institute is a journalism school). This is where I got lost: there are SO MANY interesting links in just this section alone!

I'm not too much closer to solving the two problems mentioned above. But that's because I wandered instead of looking for stuff relevant to why I started poking around in the first place.

Another reason I keep thinking about visual displays is because of the Shrub's May Day speech. (Stanley wrote about it today.) About camera angles and how they can alter perceptions (such as making the ship look like it was in the middle of the Pacific instead of offshore from San Diego). About the power of a uniform (the flight suit Shrub wore) and the symbolism behind the choice to wear it. Say what you will about the slimy regime in Washington, they sure know how to manipulate the media. (Of course, the media allows it.)

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May 07, 2003
a different take on design

Doors of Perception is "a conference and website at the forefront of new thinking on design and innovation."

It's definitely a different take on design issues -- fascinating and there's a ton of stuff here to get through.

Posted by Lee at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 04, 2003
our national disease?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the difference between self-reflection and self-absorption; about when self-absorption becomes pathological, both for individuals and for nations. I'm still a long way from any conclusions, but the overwhelming evidence is, I think, that in America self-absorption has become pathological for the nation as a whole as well as for many, many individuals. A disease of the well-fed person, the healthy body, the free citizen, the rich nation.

By pathological I mean that self-reflection has reached the point of self-absorption and created sort of a "black hole," if you will, where no outside stimuli gets in to alter behavior or thought patterns or extend knowledge. Self-absorption is pathological when it paralyzes a person, or a country, locking in self-defeating behaviors. It's also pathological when self-absorption damages others, whether it's others within one's local community or others globally.

We watched Beyond Rangoon last night, which is a movie about the political upheaval in Burma, about the massacres that took place there, about Aung San Suu Kyi and her bravery and how her bravery affected the American doctor in this movie. About how the doctor was on a vacation in Burma to try to find relief from her suffering brought about by the murders of her husband and son, and how she found release--not by dwelling on herself, looking only inward and "reflecting" on her pain, but by noticing and trying to help heal the pain and suffering of the people around her.

One of the points it brings out is how little Americans know about what's going on in the rest of the world unless it's featured in living color on TV.

Which reminded me how shocked I was when I learned that the war in the Congo has killed more than three MILLION people in the past five years. I try to be aware of what's going on in the rest of the world, but I missed how horrific this war is until I read about it a couple of months ago in, I think, the New York Times and in an article about conflict diamonds. Three MILLION. No TV coverage of it--but there is no oil in the Congo and these are not "people like us."

On an individual level, I've watched an acquaintance spend the equivalent of half a work week--each and every week--attending various self-help groups and therapy. For years. And become more and more paralyzed, looping constant "what ifs" and afraid to take a chance that might be the wrong decision for her. Not living. She finally, after nearly seven years, made a decision (hedging even this one), but has lost so much in the process that she is worse off now than she would have been had she not stop drinking and binging. I suppose self-absorption can lead to self-addiction--lord knows I've seen enough of it. There's a thin line between recovery and pathology, I think. Recovery from anything is paying as much attention as you have to in order not to relapse or become ill again, but not more attention than you have to. Part of recovery should be moving on. I've seen too many people make recovery a hobby, an excuse for not fully participating in life. It's nice to have support, but birds never learn to fly until they leave the nest. The over-examined life is not being lived.

And then there's the self-absorption engendered by our white, American culture. Where children have it drilled into their heads that they have rights, but where there is no corresponding emphasis on the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with these rights. The dissonance between the notion that we're a nation of individualists and the relentless drive to have the same possessions and look the same and blend in with everyone else yet be unique. Where parents are too self-absorbed to rear their children and instead pay lip service to some perverted notion of self esteem, throw as many baubles as they can afford at their offspring, and call it "good parenting."

In "It's Emerson's Anniversary and He's Nailed 21st-Century America," (New York Times, May 4, 2003), Adam Cohen concluded with:

Individualism run amok, transformed into a cruel self-absorption, is a good description of much of American life right now. Republicans, using the rallying cry "It's your money," are promoting a $550 billion tax cut that would take health care from sick children--a modern echo of Emerson's "wicked dollars." In foreign policy, the rhetoric is equally self-regarding: "You're with us," we tell the world, "or against us."

In the private sector, the self-absorption is every bit as naked. Enron and Tyco executives seem almost unable to see their shareholders--or to conceive that assets that belonged to them cannot be shunted into private partnerships. Wall Street analysts gloat in e-mail about sending out bad stock recommendations that mislead the public --people who, they might say, "do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong."

Emerson liked to call his essays "lay sermons" and, defrocked or not, he was a minister to the end. But his writings on individualism speak not only to our highest natures, but to our lowest. Two hundred years after his birth, Emerson the secular preacher still matters not because he has all the answers for how we should live, but because he so intriguingly reflects who we actually are.

So what is the prognosis? I don't know. I don't even know if pathological self-absorption is truly a widespread problem, or if it just appears to be. I do know that part of the answer doesn't lie in becoming a monk or retreating from the world, but in becoming more aware of the world and the part we play in it. At least giving equal time to the "what can I contribute?" aspect of living our daily lives as to the "what's in it for me?" aspect. Balance.

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May 03, 2003
book burning Republican style

seasonsoflifebookcover.jpgThis book: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, is threatening to Republicans. So much so that Republicans have the allegedly apolitical Smithsonian running scared -- very disheartening since I always thought of the Smithsonian as a bastion of integrity in Washington DC.

It seems that a scientist and photographer, Subhankar Banerjee, spent a year in the Arctic refuge taking photos of what Republicans characterize as a "barren wasteland" and clearly demonstrating that it is neither barren nor a wasteland. Which threatens the Republicans' plan for drilling for oil in the Arctic refuge. The Smithsonian was planning to mount a major exhibition of Banerjee's Arctic photos, but instead shoved the exhibition into a basement gallery and truncated the photographer's captions, providing lame excuses for doing this and demonstrating that they, too, are running scared of current government. Two articles explain what's going on better than I can:

Book on Arctic refuge gets a chilly reaction, by Eric Sorensen, Seattle Times.

Last month, Subhankar Banerjee's book on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge got the kind of publicity money can't buy: an endorsement on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

But after U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., used the book to argue against oil and gas leasing in the refuge, the Bellevue photographer saw the Smithsonian Institution relocate an exhibit of his photographs and drastically trim the pictures' captions.

Meanwhile, the Office of the General Counsel has written The Mountaineers Books, Seattle-based publisher of "Seasons of Life and Land," asking it to remove from all future editions any references to the Smithsonian or a Smithsonian-sponsored traveling exhibit.

"It is perceived the book has been politicized," a disappointed Banerjee said yesterday.

From the New York Times, May 2, 2003, by Timothy Egan:
Smithsonian Is No Safe Haven for Exhibit on Arctic Wildlife Refuge

"I want the world to see the caption of the little bird that the Smithsonian says is too controversial for the public," Mr. Durbin said. "There was political pressure brought on this exhibition. And it's a sad day when the Smithsonian, the keeper of our national treasures, is so fearful."

Smithsonian officials are angered and embarrassed at being in the middle of a Congressional fight over whether to open the refuge to oil and gas drilling. "We do not engage in advocacy," said Randall Kremer, a museum spokesman. "And some of the captions bordered on advocacy."

Documents from the Smithsonian give an idea of the changes. For a picture of the Romanzof Mountains, the original caption quoted Mr. Banerjee as saying, "The refuge has the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen and is so remote and untamed that many peaks, valleys and lakes are still without names."

The new version says, "Unnamed Peak, Romanzof Mountains."

This year the Smithsonian is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the national wildlife system; the first refuge was created by President Theodore Roosevelt, on Pelican Island in Florida.

But perhaps no other refuge has received as much attention as the Arctic domain, which was first protected by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and enlarged by President Jimmy Carter.

As the centerpiece of his national energy policy, President Bush wants to open about 1.5 million acres of the refuge's coastal plain to drilling. It is, supporters of the move say, a potential motherlode of oil.

Led by Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who heads the Appropriations Committee, drilling supporters have derided the refuge as largely barren, frozen and lifeless for nearly 10 months a year. Most pictures of the refuge show the vast caribou herd that migrates to the coastal plain, or the birds that fly in to feast on the fecund grounds in the refuge's brief but intense summer.

Mr. Banerjee's breakthrough was to record four seasons of life on the refuge, particularly around the area where drilling would take place. Mr. Banerjee used his life savings and cashed out his retirement account to pay for the 14 months he spent in the refuge with a digital camera.

Banerjee's website, World without Borders, contains a gallery of his work. Here are just two of the amazing photos of the "barren wasteland" that is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

90-91CaribouFog35mmBig.jpg

PORCUPINE CARIBOU AND CALVES ON THE COASTAL PLAIN

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AUTUMN ON THE SOUTHERN TAIGA AFTER A RAINSTORM

You can find links to other articles about his work, and links to conservation organizations, on Banerjee's site. Buy the book, write to your congresspeople (House of Representatives, Senate), support conservation efforts, write to the Smithonian (it's OUR museum).

Posted by Lee at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 02, 2003
X2 - yeah, we saw it, it's good

Well, we did it, we actually played hooky and went to the 12:30 showing of X2. It was fun. It was interesting seeing what it looked like in the bowels of a dam. The scenery is gorgeous. I liked Nightcrawler, though he was much too religious for my taste -- I guess I mean I like his superpower, which is teleportation. Yep, I think I'd like that one even more than I would like having Storm's power.

Boy is this movie preachy.

I had a good time watching this movie, even though I am a comic book moron. Comics never floated my boat, the same way cartoons and videogames never interested me, I guess because I can't make the leap from seeing a cartoon rendering to imagining it as a living, breathing whatever. I think at least a decent dose of naturally occurring testosterone is required for that, or maybe a special gene sequence that is usually found only in the XY combo. But I digress.

Stanley enjoyed it a lot. He kept poking me and saying things like "that's the Beast" and other stuff that was totally meaningless to me. He explained it all later (my eyes are still a little sore from the spinning), so I'll know next time.

You won't get this movie if you haven't seen X-Men. No way. There was a lot in this movie that parted my hair because I never read the comic books, but it was okay since the plot was pretty straightforward. Left enough unanswered questions so you KNOW there's gonna be another one.

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I liked the special effects. But what I liked most (besides Wolverine, of course) was the car. I think it would look much hotter if it were red -- I went to the Mazda RX-8 website to see what it looks like in red -- VERY nice. I want one! I don't know why they used the blue -- it's such an M&M shade of blue, yuck. And it was nice to see a movie that DID NOT feature a BMW (which are among the most boring-looking cars out there, EuroFords if you will).

I also really like the kitchen at the school -- loved the cobalt tile! Though I couldn't figure out why they 1) stocked Dr. Pepper -- it's not exactly what people north of the Mason-Dixon Line drink -- and 2) didn't keep it in the fridge. See, it's the stupid stuff like this that bugs me about movies like this, not stuff like being able to walk through walls or create impenetrable ice walls with a touch.

Well, I'm looking forward to the next installment. Just because I want to know what Wolverine's past really was (but no, not enough to wade through the comics, uh uh, no way ... )

There were seven previews before this movie started. All but one related to comic book stuff or boy hero fantasy stuff. So I guess I know what I'm going to be doing on at least six days over the next three months! What I'm really looking forward to is Matrix 2 -- I hope like hell they didn't screw it up.

Posted by Lee at 06:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
May 01, 2003
happy may

There were times last winter when I thought May would never get here. The dogwoods are starting to bloom, the wisteria is leafing out (and maybe it will even bloom this year since it's been five years since it was hacked back to paint the house). The wildflower seeds are growing like crazy, most of the astilbe is back and the lilies and coral bells. The lavender doesn't look like it survived the winter, but that doesn't surprise me since it was such a horrible winter.

I decided to spend the next three months getting my life under control. Work, house, health, personal. I've been frustrated and depressed because there are a lot of things I want to achieve but have not been able to accomplish anything other than work stuff -- and I realized that I let work take over my entire life. Time for some balance. Time to stop rationalizing not getting my other goals accomplished because I'm too busy with work. So each day, one day at a time, I'm going to try to give balanced attention to each of the four areas.

For health, I joined Curves and had my first workout and decided to get strict about Atkins again. For work, I organized what I need to do over the next few days and, when that's caught up, I will focus again on the stuff I'm trying to write and will tackle some training. I also dug out my desk. For house, I worked on my plants a little and dusted and cleaned the office (well, all except Stanley's desktop), did a bit of decorating. For personal, we went to the library, I played with Ginger for a while, read some and will read some more later, and am writing this.

The Curves workout was hard, but only lasts 30 minutes and you don't do one thing long enough to get bored. I felt pretty good afterwords and I'm actually anxious to get back there (only three workouts per week on this program). It's hard to explain, but I'm sensing this faint itch I get when I'm about to become obsessed with something -- god I hope so; I hope it doesn't go away. I like Curves because the women there are just women like me, many who were like me but aren't any more thanks to Curves, and NO BARBIES! And no men.

Tomorrow I have a workout, we're going to play hooky and see X2 in the afternoon, and I know exactly what I need to get done, workwise, and how long it will take me, plus I plan to spend an hour or so on spring cleaning. And we might have thunderstorms tomorrow, which I love though not as much as I used to since Ginger is so frightened of them and I feel sorry for her.

Plus I also have to deal with our health insurance renewal stuff -- it's been less of a nightmare this year than last but still not easy, especially since our carrier, MedSpan, was acquired by Oxford. It's pretty obscene that we have to pay $7,000 per year for minimal health coverage for just two people. But I won't go off on a rant about this -- not tonight.

Posted by Lee at 11:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack