Saturday, December 11, 2004

skeleton man

Two times I’ve tried to write a review of this book, and two times the browser crashed before anything was saved. The first time, the cat stepped on the “off” button on my laptop. The second time, clicking a link in just closed everything. I don’t know why. But I don’t, right now, have the energy to write the complete review yet again. It’s like there’s a ghost or something. Weird.

Tony Hillerman’s latest book, Skeleton Man (SM), was half good, half disappointing. Starts out great, unravels. Loose threads: so what IS that figure on the pouch? Who was that old Indian?

I love Hillerman’s Navajo novels. I love it when legend and lore and investigation are combined with thinking things through and solving a case—as most of his novels do. This is not one of those. It’s like he was pushed to finish the book just to get it out rather than taking his time to get it written properly. Leaphorn disappears. Bernie Manuelito is kind of forced into becoming the lead character, but not because of her police skills. The ending is implausible. A character appears out of nowhere, in one instance, and wrecks it. This book is more in the Perils of Pauline genre than a mystery/detective novel, that’s for sure. Anybody could’ve been in it.

Will I buy Hillerman’s next Leaphorn/Chee novel? In a heartbeat—I have hope that he’ll return to his usual standards. But SM, and Sinister Pig from last year, are not among Hillerman’s best. I think what happened is Hillerman lost his touch for providing a sense of place in these last two novels—and that’s what I cared about, rather than the story itself. Hillerman used to be able to write so that I felt I was there, that I was lost in the story and seeing the landscape. But not these last two.

posted by lee on 12/11/04 at 10:57 PM

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Friday, December 10, 2004

save money on drugs

Consumers Union launched a Consumer Reports website for prescription drugs. Best Buy Drugs only has a few reports right now: statins, arthritis meds, and heartburn / acid reflux meds. It’s a start. I’ve always been shocked at how much a friend of ours pays for Lipitor—I’ll print out the statins article for her and see if it will help her save some money.

Maybe they’ll cover drugs for psoriasis one of these days. The last prescription I had was for Dovonex and, had I bought it at Walgreens, would’ve cost me more than $100 for a tube of the stuff. So I got it from Canada for about 60% of the U.S. price. I’m glad I did that—saved myself mucho dinero. And the damned stuff doesn’t even work for me. It makes my skin feel like I dropped battery acid on it. The Canadian pharmacy I used is Canada Drugs—I liked them. They were very careful, even calling my dermatologist to make sure they understood what the hell she scrawled on the Rx slip.

Speaking of drugs, I think this brouhaha about baseball players and steroids is a bunch of crap. Who the hell cares what some athlete does? He, or she, is an athlete, not a brain surgeon or a bus driver or someone working at a job that actually matters. They’re entertainers, nothing more. Stanley gags on the hypocrisy of all the moaning and groaning about athletes and steroids as we watch prime time television with four ads per hour for drugs. So do I. Especially since the pharmaceutical companies seem to be spending more money on marketing than they do on research and development.

Too tired to rant any more. Off to play Vaults of Atlantis on Pogo ...

posted by lee on 12/10/04 at 04:53 AM

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

comment spammers should all die

It was not my intention to launch this version of neurotwitch until I had all the templates set up and everything working the way it should be.

However, comment spamming on Movable Type blogs—for those of us still stuck on 2.6x versions because 3.0+ versions are either too expensive or inadequate—has gotten so out of hand that today some comment spamming moron hitting a MT blog on our webserver caused our server to go down.

So, I decided I can’t risk using MT any longer and, while I COULD just turn off comments, I really don’t have the time to shut down comments on more than 600 entries. Adam ripped mt-comment.cgi right out of his configuration. Because I had already exported everything to Expression Engine, I knew I wouldn’t lose any comments if I just turned off MT and turned on neurotwitch v2 and THEN ripped mt-comment.cgi out of my configuration.

Comment spamming isn’t supposed to be a problem with EE because a human has to enter the letters they see in order to post. If, for some reason that stops being enough of a barrier, I can choose to require registration or to moderate comments, or both. There are also controls where I can set the interval required between comments from the same source (which I did). So we’ll see how it goes. It’s not like I get a lot of comments, anyway.

Will just have to work faster on getting this all working right. I hadn’t planned on it until the weekend since I have a lot of work to do. dammitall.

posted by lee on 12/08/04 at 12:55 AM

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Ok, the first step is done

I managed to figure out a basic layout that works in both IE and Foxfire. Now I just need to apply the template to the other pages, get the search stuff working, clean up some of the old code. And then twitch and twitch the stylesheet until I get it all right.

black beauty oriental lilyWe managed to steal an hour and get some more shrubs and bulbs in. Stanley planted some forsythia (sticks) and a lilac. I got a bunch of bulbs in. I put in some Black Beauty oriental lilies.

Since it’s supposed to snow tomorrow, and be wet and cruddy on Tuesday, the next chance I’ll get to plant more pumilim asiatic lilybulbs is on Wednesday when it’s supposed to be sunny and get up to 50 degrees or so. I thought at a certain point in the fall you couldn’t plant bulbs any more, but I was told by the gurus at Dave’s Garden that most bulbs can be planted until the ground freezes—and the ground is a long way from that here. When I do get back out there, I’ll plant the other lilies, such as this pumilum siberian lily, plus some glad bulbs and lots of allium.

posted by lee on 12/06/04 at 02:57 AM

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

Mystery Image


Guess what this is ...

Actually, it’s probably pretty obvious.

Just kicking the tires of this installation of Expression Engine. First, get it all working and, so far, it hasn’t been too very painful. Next step is to do the style I have in mind and get rid of this default template.

The import from Movable Type went fairly well once I realized I had to split the import in two since a 1.2 MB text file was too big for PHP to process all at once. At least, as it’s configured on our server.

But for now, I’m hitting the hay.

posted by lee on 12/05/04 at 07:18 AM

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Friday, December 03, 2004

coming up for air

First, thank you to Candy for the birthday wishes. I did put photos up from the party--they're here. Have a zillion more to get processed and up -- sooner or later.

Been busy busy busy. Launched Westport Benefits Group a couple of weeks ago and have more to add to that site. Working on Time and Timing, which is scheduled to launch very soon. Also working on another huge site, which I had hoped would have launched by now but it has mushroomed a bit. Need to launch a placeholder page for an artist. And more. Feeling very overwhelmed, but mainly because I have this nasty cold that makes me feel like I'm encased in cotton and very stupid. But the cold will be over soon. And I love the stuff I'm working on now, so that helps.

My youngest sister bought a tiny house in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. I guess you would call it a starter house. It's a nice, solid house built in, I think she said, 1928. Two bedrooms, one bathroom. Stanley and I stayed with her the week we went to Michigan for my parents' golden anniversary shindig. So, it was a tiny house filled with my sister, her son, Stanley, me, two dogs, and three cats. One of the cats loomed larger than life. My father named it Uday, as in Saddam Hussein's evil son, because the cat is vicious. A beautiful cat, but the meanest creature I've ever encountered.

Cat Two is my nephew Brian's kitten Little Bit. Little Bit is tiny, yet ferocious. When our golden retriever got too close to Little Bit, the silly little kitten hissed at the dog and tried to swat it away. After my dad's birthday party, we had leftover prime rib, green beans, and carrots -- I had set the box down on the counter for a few minutes. Little Bit attacked the box, getting it open, and gobbled the green beans, most of the carrots, and then began working on the prime rib. It was amazing to see this little thing go to work:


My sister has a wonderful bedroom. It's lavender and very restful. One evening all of the cats and Stanley disappeared, so I went looking for them. Here you can't see the third cat, Uday, but he is also in here:


Below is a picture of my nieces. Kate is on the left, and Kristine on the right. It was great to see them hanging out -- Kate lives near Boston and Kristine lives near Detroit, so it's rare that they're together. Kristine is in college majoring in , I think, criminal justice. Kate is in high school majoring in getting through high school. She'll be 16 on the Winter Solstice, which means she can learn how to drive, which makes me very, very nervous.



Kristine is engaged to Matthew. Matt is in the Michigan Air National Guard and currently stationed in Iraq, in Baghdad. He was home on leave in October for a too brief couple of weeks. We're hoping he'll get to come home in February, if not sooner, since that will be about a year he's been deployed Kris is nervous that they'll extend his stay. This is a picture of them on his last day of leave, taken by Matt's parents.

Back to work ... after "ER," anyway.

Well, maybe back to work tomorrow. Watched "ER," -- I think I've seen every episode of this series. Carter doesn't seem to be grieving too much any more over his now-departed back to Africa girlfriend. This show jumped the shark such a long time ago I'm amazed it's still on. Now the war is on Nightline. We need to see more of the war during Prime Time, maybe it'll get real again.


Salon had an interesting though disheartening article, "The New Pentagon Paper," about what it is we're not doing re: the war on terror. A Pentagon committee released a report about it all in September, but somehow, it's just getting out now.

"There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies -- except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends. (Original emphasis.)" Rhetoric about freedom is received as "no more than self-serving hypocrisy," daily highlighted by the U.S. occupation in Iraq. "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies." The "dramatic narrative since 9/11" of the "war on terrorism," Bush's grand justification, his story line connecting all the dots from the World Trade Center to Baghdad, has "borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars." As a result, jihadists have been able to transform themselves from marginal figures in the Muslim world into defenders against invasion and attack with a growing following of millions.

"Thus," the report concludes, "the critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim World is not one of 'dissemination of information,' or even one of crafting and delivering the 'right' message. Rather, it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none -- the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam. Inevitably therefore, whatever Americans do and say only serves the party that has both the message and the 'loud and clear' channel: the enemy."

If I remember, I will upload the report, which is named "Report of the
Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication," and published in September 2004, but until then you can get it from the Pentagon website.

posted by lee on 12/03/04 at 03:18 AM

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