MsGeek.Org v2.0

The ongoing saga of a woman in the process of reinvention.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

From the "By the skin of my teeth" department:

I found out today that I passed that Math test I was worried about! I got a 70% grade, but that was enough to get a C on the test. Fractions are a bear for most people, so I shouldn't feel too bad.

Anyway, this was also my first day back at school for classes. I think I'm going to enjoy the hell out of Sociology 22, I think I'm going to survive Math 113, and I think I'm going to like Linguistics 1. Sociology 22 is "Sociology Of Women" and is taught by a wonderful old-school Feminist who really doesn't give a damn what people think of her anymore.

Math 113 is the first part of Elementary Algebra. Yes, I know I have work still to do in Math 112, but the work I have to do in Math 112 dovetails nicely with the work in Math 113. My professor, Ms. Hito (Yes, I think of her as Hito-sensei...I have been thoroughly Otakunized!) is really good, in spite of English being her second language. She definitely has a Japanese accent, but unlike the unfortunate Mr. Elakodiakal and his thick Mediterranean and/or Eastern European accent she is thoroughly understandable. She is also happy to slow things down and explain things in more detail when necessary.

And as far as my Math Avoidance/Anxiety...I am not the only person in the class with it, and I am not the worst case by far. There are a few other students with it, including one who was completely in tears in Prof. Castillo's office when I was getting the good news about my grade. I think that I am going to try and get a study group going outside of could be very helpful for not only myself but my fellow-sufferers as well. I have learned a lot about the psychological and sociological aspects of Math Avoidance/Anxiety, particularly among women, from reading these books:

Conquering Math Anxiety: A Self-Help Workbook, Cynthia Arem, Brooks/Cole, ISBN 0-534-18876-1
Mind Over Math, Kogelman and Warren, Mc Graw Hill, ISBN 0-07-035281-X
Overcoming Math Anxiety, Sheila Tobias, Norton, ISBN 0-393-31307-7

The first of these books might be one to have everyone use in this study group. It's simple and breezy and has some great exercises. The Tobias book is also quite good, although it has a few confusing exercises inside which might do more harm than good.

As far as the Linguistics class goes, it looks good too. One of my Education 203 classmates is in the class this semester, so it's likely I'll have someone to pair up with if necessary. It's also a fascinating subject.

Speaking of Education 203, I think I want to get in touch with Dr. Rosow for two reasons: one, to see if maybe she has some theoretical insights that might help me with my math this semester, and two, to see if she might need someone to help with some of the next batch of Edu 203 students as far as tutoring or whatnot. I'll be going to Valley tomorrow...maybe I can cross paths with her there.

Have I mentioned before that I really feel like LAVC is my home-away-from-home?

Anyway, a good start for Fall 2004. Hope I can keep the pace up.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Putting down the begging bowl and celebrating for another year:

I went over to the Financial Aid office this morning. I got there at 8:30am and it was already ninth circle of Hell hot. And the funk of all the people waiting in line with me was almost too much to bear. Ugh.

However, I *did* get good news when I finally got to the head of the line. My secondary appeal has been approved, I should be getting my award letter very soon. I should be getting money soon after that. I can actually relax a little. That is, until I wind up in math class tomorrow...[shudder]

Sunday, August 29, 2004

A very full weekend is fast coming to an end. I had one cousin's Bar Mitzvah to go to yesterday, and a bridal shower for another cousin today.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how conflicted I am about my Jewish background. I have tried to put it into words a few times this weekend, and backed off in disgust every time. Let me try to sum up some things I've been thinking about.

1.) I am culturally Jewish, but I have to agree with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and say that, as a person who subscribes to the radical notion that women are human beings, and furthermore that every human being has as their birthright an essential dignity no matter their ethnicity or gender, I cannot be religiously Jewish. The segment of Deuteronomy that was the specific Torah reading for yesterday was particularly obnoxious in regards to the treatment of women.

2.) Israel, or a land like it perhaps in a different region, was necessary. And it continues to be necessary. However, I cannot support the current actions of the Israeli government, and believe that Ariel Sharon is, frankly, batshit crazy. Not only that, he has people in his cabinet even more crazy than he is. And there are folks on the other side who are as certifiably insane as the current Israeli government, or moreso. More of us who are culturally (or religiously) Jewish need to stand up and say that something is very rotten there and needs to be fixed. And it must be fixed on the Israeli end of things, with or without the Palestinians doing likewise.

Suggestions: The wall needs to be reconsidered, scrap the current plans, and if it needs to be built let it be built along pre-1967 borders with the exception of Jerusalem. Jerusalem needs to become an international city, accessible to both Muslim and Jew alike, intact and free and peaceful. Perhaps demilitarize the entire weapons allowed within its borders except those carried by an international peacekeeping force. The settlements need to go, period.

3.) George W. Bush and his administration are NOT Israel and/or Judaism's friend. Nor are the Christian Theocrats. Read the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ carefully. The only reason why they are so friendly to us is that they believe that we are necessary for the events that will bring about the "Second Coming". That is the ONLY reason they want us Jews around. I'm sure they would rather see us all dead (as well as anyone who does not believe as they do) but they tolerate us because we are a necessary ingredient in what they see as a recipe for the events of Revelation to take place. Others didn't see it that way, people like Martin Luther, who not only put the Reformation into motion but wrote some lovely anti-Semitic propaganda that the Nazis later effectively used. Don't be fooled. Fool me once, won't get fooled again, as the saying has been mangled.

So basically let me sum up. I cannot embrace the faith of my ancestors. The misogynist and xenophobic nature of its world-view is something that really turns my stomach. I also, as I have said here before, cannot buy into the idea of a personal deity, a deity who is intimately concerned about any and every detail of our lives on this insignificant speck in the universe. It is the height of arrogance. If some being created the vastness of the Universe, that being has far more important fish to fry than a human's petty concerns. If such a being exists, we are like straw dogs to such a being, as the Dao Deh Jing puts it. That such a being would favor one tribe of humanity over all others is even greater arrogance. Such a view needs to be put into historical context -- the folk beliefs of a 2,500 year old culture -- and then put on the shelf along with other myths of its sort. Universalizing such a belief is a big mistake.

A stateless people needs to do one of two things: assimilate into a more vital culture or have a state where their culture can be preserved unmolested. Ask a Kurd what it's like to be stateless. Israel is necessary. However, one can criticize the behavior of Israel without questioning its necessity. There needs to be more, not less, criticism of Israel by American Jews. We cannot just blindly say "United We Stand" without considering some of the absolutely horrendous things the IDF has done to Arabs living on both sides of the pre-1967 borders of the country in the past couple of decades or so. Israel must be allowed to exist. However, it must also be held to not only the standards of International Law other countries must live under, and furthermore should be held to a higher standard than any other. When one says "Never again the Holocaust" one must take that as a pledge to hold such a standard for their own actions. When Israelis do unconscionable things, things that (Godwin notwithstanding) smack of the actions of the Nazis against the Jews of Europe, it cannot be ignored. Social injustice and the trampling of human rights is something we must call Israel on.

Friday, August 27, 2004

A mixed bag is being opened for this post.

1.) Looks like Grand Ayatollah Al'Sistani has told Al'Sadr to back off. I suspect his instructions are under penalty of excommunication if not followed. The rapidity of Al'Sadr backing down and sending his private militia home without their weapons suggests that this was done under very grave penalties. The image of the Sorcerer dressing down his apprentice after cleaning up the mess the apprentice made in that segment of "Fantasia" comes to mind.

Would you blame Al'Sistani for being pissed off? I wouldn't. Imagine if the current troubles in the Episcopal/Anglican Church escalated to a shooting war. Imagine if a group of traditionalists against the ordination of gays as bishops occupied Westminster Abbey, complete with guns and rocket launchers, and used it as a base to lauch attacks against their progressive foes. Imagine if a similarly armed group of progressives laid siege to Westminster Abbey to try to dislodge them from the holy place. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury finally intervenes. The progressives and traditionalists cease fire as the leader of their denomination enters the building. The Archbishop of Canterbury informs the traditionalist leader (perhaps that bishop in Uganda, maybe) that unless they lay down their weapons and come out of the sacred building peaceably they are going to be excommunicated from the Anglican Church. These traditionalists don't feel like they are under the authority of the American Episcopal Church, but they certainly consider themselves Anglican. You bet they'd back off.

2.) MIT has picked a woman to be its next President. The woman really seems like the perfect candidate, regardless of her gender. Her credentials are sterling.

Predictably, the Slashdot story about her selection has descended into simian feces-throwing over the issue/non-issue of "Affirmative Action." The Slashdot writeup is partially to blame for this, but still and all this is yet another reason why I tried setting up a female-friendly geek news site a few years ago. Slashdot is a hostile environment for techie women wanting to discuss tech issues as they relate to them uniquely as women. I still visit and I still enter the fray, but I am sure a lot of women give up on the site. I think I'm going to submit this story to Plastic and see what happens there.

3.) A Congressional staffer, identified only as The Integral, apparently enjoys playing with Sony's (formerly Sonic Foundry's) ACID or Apple's GarageBand, because he's put out a freely-available album full of remixed campaign ads on the Archive.Org site. Regardless of what you think of his politics (and actually if one didn't know that Integral is on Team GOP you'd not be able to pick his biases out by virtue of his remixes alone) the mashups are pretty damn cool and are issued under Creative Commons terms.

It would have been even cooler if he had released his remixes as .ACD-ZIP files (with encapsulated loops) or as whatever Apple's GarageBand native file format is to allow others to remix his remixes, since the CC licence he's chosen allows for derivative works. Imagine a debate about politics, framed as a battle of DJs! That would be so cool.

BTW on further examination of these remixes it seems this guy has Paleo-Conservative/"libertarian" leanings politically. I can live with people like that.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

From the "old game, new twist" department:

There now seems to be Pyramid/Ponzi schemes popping up on the Internet where you supposedly can get a free iPod or a free flat-screen TV if you sign enough people up. Watch out, folks...this is indeed a Pyramid/Ponzi scheme and wildly illegal. While at this point it seems people are getting their iPods, common sense suggests that eventually the pyramid will be struck, leaving a bunch of unhappy people at the bottom.

What is distressing is that in this current scam, lots of otherwise legit sites like AOL and Ancestry.Com are in on it, and they've managed to get some really positive ink in places like Wired Online.

And of course, you know if you buy into this, you will get tons of spam, and you won't have even a shred of recourse against it because you will have an "existing business relationship" with the spammers, so they can blast away at you scot-free.

Give it a few months...the whole damn thing will collapse, and a lot of people will feel pretty silly having sig files with "get a free iPod" in them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

OK, one other thing. My friend Beep is very into Astrology. I am fairly skeptical about it, but notice that sometimes it is eerily synchronous with things that happen in my life. Perhaps the reason why is because so many people throughout the world believe in it. All that mental energy might be at the core of it.

Which brings me to a bit of news from this astrology site that Beep pointed me to, which explains a lot about my current (bleah) state of affairs:

Neptune square Sun: Temporarily paralyzed

7 August 2004 until 5 January 2005: This can be a period of confusion and uncertainty in which your life direction becomes unclear. Even if you have previously felt that you knew what you were doing and why, now you may encounter circumstances that force you to question your assumptions. Your will may seem to be temporarily paralyzed, and you won't have your usual energy. In fact, this influence can coincide with times of low physical vitality and low psychological energy. For this reason you should avoid unnecessary physical stress and follow good health habits to maintain strong overall resistance to illness.

But it is much more likely that this influence will result in disorientation, as alluded to above. You may experience disappointments in your work, career or even in your home life that make you feel defeated and dispirited. Certainly you may suffer defeats during this time, but these defeats occur only when you do somethint that is not a true reflection of yourself. Because your total energy as a human being is not behind your actions, you don't push through with the vigor that would guarantee success: hence your failure.

Yeah, that sounds about right. :(

There is so much up in the air right now...I don't know if I have been approved for financial aid or whether the "approval revoked" status is permanent. I don't even know how well or how poorly I did on that math test. All will become clear on Monday when LAVC opens its doors again. Until then, this uncertainty and these setbacks are driving me nuts. Financial weirdness doesn't help either. And this environment, if this "information" (or speculation based on the way the planets appear to us in the sky) is to be regarded with anything other than total skepticism, will last all through Fall Semester 2004.

I don't need this, man...I really don't. Bleah.

Apparently there are other people pulling George W. Bush's strings, because apparently Dick Cheney doesn't pull all of them. The Vice-President was confronted about his views on Gay rights in a Town Hall meeting in the battleground state of Iowa today, and sang a different tune than the one in the official W hymnal. Quoth Cheney:

"With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone.... People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.

"The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage,"

This puts Cheney directly at odds with the GOP Party Platform, which is being hammered out in advance of the GOP convention, to begin this coming Monday in New York City.

Meanwhile, Max Cleland, a man who lost two legs and an arm to the Vietnam War and an Senatorial election to a salacious GOP smear campaign in 2002, is now challenging W on the notorious "Swift Boat Veterans" ads. Understandably, he takes the current controversy seriously...and personally.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The consequences of 9/11 keep on piling up. Submitted for your approval:

1.) 14 search-and-rescue dogs which served at Ground Zero have died. Eight of these deaths were from cancer. Others have died from strange fungal infections and hepatitis, amongst other causes. In total, 97 dogs were part of the search and recovery efforts after September 11th, and hopefully plans are in the works to monitor all of them until they die.

2.) In a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA, the agency admits to misleading the NYC public on air quality after the 9/11 incident.

Taken together, these two bits of sobering news suggest that another wave of victims of the incident might be coming.

Monday, August 23, 2004

A few thoughts...I need to get these down quickly, though, Richie's taking me out for an inexpensive "Happy Anniversary" dinner.

One, W finally denounced the Swift Boat Veterans ads. Or did he? This controversy never seems to end.

Two, it looks like George Lucas is talking about the "third trilogy" of Star Wars films again. For those who aren't familiar with this: the original three Star Wars films were initially designed as the middle of a nine-film series. Then, after Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released, he basically backed off on his ambitious idea, stating that he'd be too old to think about more Star Wars films after the making of Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.

Guess what, folks...we might see Episode 7: The Lure of the Lucre, and an Episode 8 and 9 too, if some reports filtering around the Star Wars fan sites are to be believed. The only chance that it might not suck is if they got This guy or maybe this guy or maybe even this guy to write the screenplays, and maybe even direct too. Lucas has botched too much of my childhood memories with this prequel trilogy...Fox should not trust him with more.

Lastly, I don't know why this article got to me, but it is yet another symptom of a screwed up economy, and another local company biting the dust. Great.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

War Buddies: Kerry and Rood

Kerry: case closed.

One of the two other Swift Boat captains who were part of the incident that won Sen. John Kerry his Silver Star for exceptional bravery under fire has come forward and spoken out. William B. Rood, who is now Metro Desk Editor at the Chicago Tribune, was that commander, and very reluctantly has allowed a Trib reporter to tell his story.

He apparently is not doing this because he is a Kerry supporter or has a political axe to grind. He's doing this because:

"What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did...."

Anyone who has any lingering doubts about Kerry's status as a war hero need only read the linked article. While it does not dispel all the FUD slung by the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" (heh!) and others with a mission to win the White House back for George W. Bush, no matter what the cost, it speaks to Kerry's credibility versus the credibility to those who are involved in the current round of Dirty Tricks.

Friday, August 20, 2004

One last thing...three posts in one day...


Today marks my 17th wedding anniversary. I'm a pretty tough person to live with, and it is nothing short of remarkable that Richie has stayed with me this long. He deserves sainthood, or at least a medal.

Considering that most marriages last a year or so in Los Angeles, it's likely we will be stuck together for life. :)

I'm glad I'm with T-Mobile for my wireless service.

From the SOCALWUG list:

T-Mobile USA Inc. in Bellevue, Wash., which provides paid Wi-Fi hot spot service with several large national chains, offered free service in Florida through Monday. Its chain partners include bookstores operated by Borders Groups Inc., coffee shops run by Starbucks Corp., and copy centers run by FedEx Corp.'s Kinko's Office and Print Services Inc.

That is mighty decent of them. I'm sure a lot of people wanted to communicate with the outside world and T-Mobile helped. Granted, they weren't the only people rising to the occasion for the people who were affected by Hurricane Charley, (thumbs up also to Panera Bread and Cingular Wireless for providing more wireless bandwidth and/or the ability to make emergency voice calls!) but they are worthy of applause nonetheless. Especially considering that other people were taking advantage of the emergency situation...:P

OK, it's time for Kerry to go after Bush on his draft dodging, party-boy days. Because the continued debacle over "is he or isn't he a war hero" has dragged on for far too long.

I understand that Kerry has wanted to play "above the fray" and not dignify the mudslinging from the W camp with any sort of acknowledgement. Unfortunately, that has not worked. However, I believe I said something a few months ago in this blog about how anyone who challenges Bush needs to match him punch for punch and maybe even counterpunch harder. This is how Bill Clinton won in 1992, and not doing this is how Dukakis lost in 1988 and how Gore "lost" in 2000.

If there's one thing most Vietnam veterans hate, more than the men who came back from the war and criticized it, it's the priveleged people who were able to weasel out of service by one stratagem or another. This is precisely what W seems to have done, Fortunate Son that he is. Not only did he manage to weasel his way into a stateside National Guard post, he even blew off most of his commitments while in the National Guard. (Yes, the pun is very much intended.)

If Kerry makes good with his pledge to start going negative on Bush's adventures in the National Guard, there is more than enough evidence put out by helpful folks all over this great country of ours to back him up. The fact of the matter is that George W. Bush has plenty of skeletons in his closet to go around. It's time to take the gloves off.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Can't resist putting this up here:

Link to photo, which opens up a new browser window

Photo credit: (c)2004 Chad Page. I'm the one on the left, the girl on the right is a Go-Go Yubari cosplayer.

Too bad I couldn't just post this...too big. Makes the page look really funky.

Feeling a little "bleh" today...then again, I've been feeling like this all week. I'm not feeling sick or anything...just very low energy.

I finally succumbed to peer pressure and set up a LiveJournal account. I do not intend to move this lone post on my LiveJournal is a link back here. However, I needed to do this to participate in other people's LJs. So yeah, if you absolutely, positively want to see my LJ, here's the link: As you can see from the links back to friends' blogs, all of them are on LJ. I still like Blogger infinitely better, though. Nicer interface, a more stylish result, and the ability to control a lot of things I cannot at LJ.

Yesterday I talked to my Cousin Brad and the hard drive came in. This is the hard drive for my faithful ThinkPad. I will pick it up a week from Saturday, when I attend my Cousin Jack's Bar Mitzvah. Jack is Brad's son. (Pity the English language doesn't have enough nuance to differentiate the term "son of my cousin" from "cousin.") I am not sure whether I will install this myself or whether I will chicken out and find a tech to do it for me. I also need to decide whether or not I want to have more than a 7GB space for Windows 2000. I do want Linux to be the main OS on the machine, but I need sufficient room for Windows. Why? Woodbury University wants me to.

(beware, there be geekspeak ahead...)

There is a "gotcha" about the ThinkPad will only boot an OS that it finds in a partition that is smaller than the 1024 cylinder limit. Using the Int 13 BIOS calls, that limit is reached at roughly 8.4GB. To be safe, I am going to make the first partition of the HD 7GB to give enough room for Windows, and still allow a boot partition for Linux under the 1024 cylinder limit. What happens with the next partition is under consideration. I could put a second VFAT (FAT32) partition there for Windows, or I could just let Linux colonize the whole rest of the HD, giving me 33GB of Linux goodness. It would certainly be easier to do the latter, and all my Linux fanboy friends will love me for it, but it might limit what I can do in Windows.

Then again, the old 10GB hard drive currently in the machine will be usable from a bay module, and that will be 100% formatted in FAT32. So maybe that will work for extra Windows storage space. I don't have to always have the CD-ROM in. That would give me 17GB of Windows space and 33GB of Linux space. That wouldn't be too bad. That might be the way I'll run things.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

From the "No duh!" department:

A Republican Congressman from Nebraska, Rep. Doug Bereuter, has stood up and said what about half of the US already believes and what the other half is in denial about. The Iraq War was a mistake.

I'd call this a ballsy move on Rep. Bereuter's part, until you get to the rest of the story. You seem, Bereuter is retiring next month after 26 years of service, and some are saying this is all sour grapes because Bereuter didn't get the appointments to leadership positions in the House of Representatives he wanted. Sour grapes or not, Bereuter really doesn't have very much to lose as someone who is giving up his seat in a month.

However, I hope that this might be a sign that some people on the GOP side are beginning to rethink the war. Maybe someone with some real cojones will stand up and say something. You'd think John McCain would be the one to do it, but apparently he's now gotten religion or something and is actively campaigning for W. Someone come forward and mention the nakedness of Emperor George! Please!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now Rodney "Largo" Caston has his very own web comic, Uberclocked. (I refuse to put a link to's that bad!)

For those who don't follow web comics, Rodney Caston, along with Fred "Piro" Gallagher, started Megatokyo four years and a few days ago. Somewhere down the line, they parted company, and now Fred Gallagher does both writing and artwork for the "manga/doujinshi" as it is described on the site.

Anyway, it really does look like Uberclocked is Caston's attempt to cash in on his notoriety as the former co-writer of the web comic and as a still-occuring character in it. The problem, though, is that it's simply not funny or involving or anything else. Unlike Megatokyo, which is funny, involving and as addictive as Pocky. Also whomever is drawing Uberclocked is definitely not in Gallagher's artistic league, because it's just...bleh. I think his name is Lawn.

There is no style nor soul in Uberclocked. And I just don't care about any of the characters.

Monday, August 16, 2004

OK, I'm now fully covered for my books for Fall 2004. I would like to thank Tom Reed, Cousin Wendie Goode and Cousin Brad Goode, for all their help in getting me hooked up with the stuff I need for this Fall. I am still waiting on word from Financial Aid about this coming school year. Have to keep my fingers crossed.

I'm breathing a little bit easier now that the books have been taken care of. On the Community College level, books are the worst expense. I suppose if I hadn't gotten my fee waiver the per-credit expense would be about neck-and-neck with book fees. And some money can be shaved off of the cost of books by going through places like Amazon.Com and eBay.Com.

Now comes the hard part...making the grade. I did well the last two semesters but I can't get complacent. Then, in a year, I will be transitioning to Woodbury University and upper-division undergraduate work. Even after that, I won't be through. The credentialling process can take as long as two more years.

Reinventing yourself takes hard work.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

With all my concern about Hurricane Charley and our family friend Tom I didn't comment on a development I wanted to talk about and would have sooner had circumstances been different.

Julia Child. Talk about someone who reinvented herself in midlife! At the age of 37, she went to France's Academie de Cordon-Bleu to study traditional French cookery. I'm sure that she was probably either the only woman in her class, or maybe one of only two or three. Haute Cuisine in France was a man's game, and remained so even when Ms. Child returned to America in 1961 with a massive manuscript, "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking," in her hands.

Two years later, she became a national icon and put Public Television on the map in one grand gesture when she began her "The French Chef" cooking show series. Until "The French Chef" Public Television was thought of as boring and pedantic. "The French Chef" actually gave people a reason to tweak their rabbit ears and strain to get their local N.E.T. (National Educational Television, which became PBS) affiliate tuned in.

For the rest of her second career (her first was in Espionage and diplomacy) she familiarized America with good food, prepared with panache. She helped Americans unlearn decades of bad practices in the kitchen...practices which had American cuisine lumped in with British cuisine for its blandness and questionable edibility.(To be fair, Britons are now learning how to cook with a lighter hand. When my husband went to Britain to play some gigs this year he noticed that food there had markedly improved over what he ate there during his last visit in 1965.)

A week from today Food Network will be saluting the doyenne of French Cuisine in America with some of her shows. It looks like there will be two blocs of in the morning, the other in prime time.

One cannot exaggerate the importance of what Ms. Child did for American cuisine. Ms. Child taught us the joys of fresh food, prepared with a light hand and conscientiousness. The fact that she allowed her audience to see her flubs in the kitchen as well as her triumphs was courageous in the extreme. By letting us in on the occasional missteps, she broke through the intimidation some felt when facing the kitchen. Hey, if Julia Child could mis-flip an omelet, sending pieces of it all over the stove, then somehow the mistakes and missteps one made in the kitchen didn't seem so bad.

It is worth repeating that Ms. Child was almost 92 years old when she died. She was not a believer in food fads, and insisted on using ingredients like butter and red meat and other no-nos in our health-obsessed age. She certainly believed in of her series that she won Emmy acclaim for was "Baking With Julia." She endorsed moderation in all things, and caring enough about yourself to feed yourself high-quality food. American diet doctors are still trying to figure out "The French Paradox." It was no paradox at all to Ms. Child.

Bon Voyage et Bon Appetit, mon ami...

Saturday, August 14, 2004

I talked to Tom Reed about an hour ago. Yes, he's fine. The only effects he can see so far of Charley's visit were some shingles ripped off the roof and no power. I caught him napping at the TV station he works at in Orlando...he took refuge there and has been hanging out there since. Considering that he usually spends his weekends there things are actually fairly normal for him.

It's funny...when you come from a region that is known for some kind of recurrent disaster and someone from somewhere else hears about something happening out your way, you get the kind of "Oh my god are you OK?" calls that I made to Tom. In fact, I seem to remember one frantic call after he found out there was a quake nearby. "It was only a 3.1, I barely felt it" takes a while for someone from somewhere else to wrap their brain around. For me, a hurricane is a non-reality in the same way an earthquake is for someone from somewhere other than the Pacific Coast. Theoretically we could get affected by the tail-end of a hurricane coming up from Mexico, but I can't remember that happening to us in my 40 years of life.

Anyway, there were a bunch of people far more affected by Charley. I suppose they deserve our prayers, our good thoughts or whatever. It's just good to know that my personal connection to that region is fine and by and large unscathed. I don't envy him the task of going through his fridge to throw out spoiled food, but I've been there before, a little more than 10 and a half years ago.

Oh yeah, one last thing...the Orlando Sentinel just archived their storm blog. I suspect that the next time there's a big quake, our local papers will do the same. It's an interesting way to cover an ongoing "situation" like that.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Oh. My. God.

My friend and colleague Tom Reed, whom you may remember me mentioning in connection with my adventures in San Diego during Comic-Con, is directly in the path of Hurricane Charley. This is no wimpy "big wet rainstorm" briefly raged at Category Four before being downgraded to Category Three.

When last I spoke to Tom he said that he had a strategy for what to do if the worst happened...he works at the local ABC affiliate in his hometown of Orlando, and apparently their facilities are fairly well designed as proof against even a monster Hurricane. Supposedly he will take refuge there.

I'm hoping he'll be OK.

The Orlando Sentinel is keeping a storm blog. If you have a registration with the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune or other Trib newspapers it will work there. If not, you'll just have to deal with the soul-sucking registration. I'm monitoring it for sure.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I have been vindicated! Yes!

Read this, all you "keep the 'puter always on" partisans. The article basically says that the "powercycling" argument about keeping computers on is no longer as true as it used to be, and what's more keeping a computer powered on, even in sleep mode, wastes megawatts of electricity.

I always keep my computers powered down when not in use. I was always scolded by geeky friends about this. However, let me tell you two stories from the Northridge Earthquake.

One friend had a crappy Packard Hell 386sx. It was turned off when the quake hit. This friend lived about 2 miles from the epicenter of the Northridge Quake.

The other ran a BBS, and had several computers up and running during the Northridge quake.

The first friend's 386sx flew off the table it was sitting on and landed on the floor. Basically everyone thought it was a goner. Just for grins, after the power came on and stabilized, he set the computer back up and plugged everything in. It booted up flawlessly, and lasted for another couple of years. Remember, this was a Packard Hell hunk 'o junk computer. Dude has great computer karma.

The second friend lost half his hard drives in the quake. And remember, this was 1994, not 2004. Hard drives were nasty expensive then and didn't store a hell of a lot. The BBS was kept up and running, although reconstruction was a bitch.

Basically the take-home message is this: a powered down computer is less vulnerable in an earthquake. Living in California, this *is* a consideration.

There is also another good reason to keep your 'puter powered down when not in use, particularly with an "always on" connection. A powered-down computer can't be h4x0r3d. That's three good reasons, counting the one in the article I referenced. Now turn your damn computer off! Thank you and goodnight.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Uh oh... the "Japanese Paradox" (highly violent popular culture, low incidents of real violence) seems to be breaking down. Here's more on the seems now that the kid who killed her classmate is now a bit of an Internet celebrity on .jp websites.

As if this blog hasn't taken a gloomy enough turn, here's more from what is apparently a fairly in-depth piece from AP on the sad state of the Silicon Valley.

This does not bode well for the future. Perhaps the only hope for the area is an infusion of new defense/Homeland Security-related technology spending. And of course, fighting Silicon Valley for that business is the area which used to dominate defense production: the Greater Los Angeles area. (sorry about the brain-sucking registration required for that link)

I've seen this kind of slump before. Right after the Berlin Wall fell and defense spending plummeted, a lot of high-paid, well trained people got shown the door at all the major defense contractors. I had a friend go for several years without work because there were no jobs available for someone with his background.

I suppose that the defense spending run-up during the Reagan era could be considered another economic bubble, and the collapse of that bubble after the end of the Cold War was as inevitable as the collapse of the Dot Com bubble. The bursting of the defense bubble is something the Los Angeles economy has never quite recovered from. That's not a good sign for our friends up North.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Let's face it, folks, the Dot Com Bubble of the mid to late '90s ain't coming back.

Silicon Valley isn't going to end up sharing the fate of the Rust Belt, but I suspect that the 17% office vacancy rate is going to remain stable there for the forseeable future, and a lot of people who got jobs in those go-go days are probably going to have to retrain for something radically different or settle for McJobs for the rest of their existence.

I was at a party today, and a DJ was hired to play "oldies" and mind the laptop set up to do Karaoke. (Neat little trick...I've no doubt my ThinkPad could handle such a task...could provide some fun) The big shock was that some of those oldies dated only as far back as the 1990s. I was just getting used to whiny British "Rock Of The '80s" bands as "Oldies But Goodies" but hey, it's only 2004, dammit! And to add insult to injury, the '90s music he chose was the stupid Macarena and "Achy Breaky Heart." Where's the Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth, dammit?

Damn right I am nostalgic for that "One brief shining moment" when even misfits like me could get steady employment, full health coverage, a 401K plan with full dollar-for-dollar contributions from HR, and, most importantly, a living wage for working building websites. I feel like a freakin' bum now, especially in Summer where there's neither financial aid nor work study available and we are barely clinging to the roof over our head and food and whatnot and squabbling over every last cent we spend. I don't like the fact that I am basically trying to panhandle spare change on my site to help me get by while I try to get through the additional schooling I need to become marketable again.

Perhaps people like me were supposed to basically lead lives of quiet desperation, as some poet or another put it. Perhaps the whole "Irrational Exuberance" period was a time when even Darwin was put on hold for a while, and even the unfit, those who are natural prey for the fittest among us, were allowed a glimpse of what Upward Mobility tm felt like. I remember one of my fondest memories of that period was when I could go to the family Chanukah party and give gifts like a macher, not quietly take family members aside and hold out my schnorrer hat for holiday alms.

The laws of physics and of the jungle cannot be mocked for long. The bubble had to burst. The geeks could not inherit the earth, that simply doesn't happen. With computer hardware and software a commodity, of course they're going to outsource commodity manufacturing to third-world sweatshops -- more properly, their IT equivalent -- in Shanghai, Moscow, Bangalore and Taipei.

The typography shops that thrived during the time before Pagemaker and QuarkXpress blew them all away aren't coming back. Letterpress is making a slight return as a printing technology as a niche "artisan" process, much like engraving did when modern photographic platemaking arrived, but it won't return for the applications for which xeroxing and offset printing is perfectly adequate.

The jobs I had between 1996 and 2000 have almost completely vanished, as websites are built by faceless drones overseas, or by secretaries wielding copies of MS Front Page. (GAH!) The only way innovative software designers can do their work the old-fashioned way is if they get involved in Free/Open Source "community" software projects, because the big for-profit, largely closed/proprietary software companies are getting a lot of their work done overseas.

Slashdot ran an article yesterday about perks returning in some workplaces. What resulted was a very depressing slog through tales of IT workers who are permanently displaced, and people who still clung to their jobs with a feeling that the Pink Slip was right around the corner. No, perks aren't back. Perks in 2004 terms is the boss saying "see you Monday" on Friday. Perks is your job not being outsourced to a code sweatshop in Calcutta, or a help desk mill in Bangalore where people working for pennies an hour are given lessons to "brush up" their American English skills.

Wake up. The geek Camelot of the fin-de-siecle is not coming back. Go back to school. Get into the Health Care field, because all the old baby boomers are going to need people to wipe their asses in their nursing homes. Oh wait. Maybe that might be outsourced, too, eventually.

Note from 8/8/2004, 8:53am: a decidedly less rosy Slashdot article appeared early this morning, confirming my most pessimistic thoughts.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Merci beaucoups, Henri.

Another obituary to report on, alas. The man who was my hero back in the day when I wanted to be a photojournalist died Tuesday at the age of 95. Henri Cartier-Bresson was perhaps not a well-known figure to most, but as far as people in the field of photography and especially photojournalism go, the man was a giant.

"Your camera is the extension of your eye."
"Seize the Decisive Moment."

Those were aphorisms I lived by when I was studying and practicing photojournalism back in the '80s. If the Decisive Moment meant going into a mosh pit to shoot at a punk rock gig, so be it. His amazing reportage from all over the world was a continuous inspiration.

He put down his trademark battered Leica camera in the 1970s, never to pick it up again. The last decades of his life were spent drawing and painting, his first love.

Au revoir.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I can't use it where I want to (Broadband Reports) so I guess I'm just going to have to put it up here and wait until I can use it on some forum somewhere.

Somehow it reads your user-agent info and spits it back at you. It's cool and also a wee bit scary.

if you can read this it didn't work

And now, here's the Bush League report for August 4th, 2004.

We start with a weird little tidbit sent to Buzzflash.Com. For those who don't want to click the link, basically it's about what is purported to be an official Florida Republican Party flier sent to registered Republican voters. It suggests Republicans order an absentee ballot "to make sure your vote counts." Seeing is believing, though.

Next, is part three of the "Ron Reagan Jr. Pisses Off The Bushistas" saga. In a very interesting little essay, the son of the President the Right Wing Loves the Best lays out a convincing case which can be summed up as "W, I knew President Ronald Reagan. He was my Dad. You're no Ronald Reagan." First the pleas for unfettered stem cell research, now this. How about a Reagan/Clinton ticket for 2008 or 2012? For this kind of Reagan, I could vote.

Monday, August 02, 2004

I had a math test of the tests I need to make up for Math 112, the course I got an Incomplete on. I don't feel very confident of the results. I didn't get time to finish two of the questions and the anxiety was just through the roof. I have to learn this stuff...I'm going to be a freakin' teacher, I should be able to handle this. They are giving algebraic stuff to kids earlier and earlier...I suppose that's a good thing but it still doesn't feel comfortable for me. I did some really intensive work with tutors to prepare for have already heard of my "math army" and I intend to keep on working with them until I'm done making up stuff for this class and passed Math 113 and Math 114. It looks like the rest of my math stuff will have to be done at Woodbury, thank you very much LAVC Financial Aid.

If I flunk this go I get one more chance. If I flunk that third chance I just move on and hope the rest of my test grades carry me through. If it's any consolation, Professor Castillo told me "fractions gives most of my students headaches, it's not just you."

I'm just going to take it as easy as I can tomorrow. Then Wednesday I get back into the groove. I think what I want to do is maybe do half review on fractions and half get into new material. I told Prof. Castillo to email me when he grades me. I don't know if I'm going to like what I get in the email from him.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Help came too late for Marjan, symbol of Afghani resistance.
Help came too late for Marjan, symbol of Afghani resistance to tyranny.

One of the rarely reported-on aspects of war are the consequences to both wild and captive populations of animals. At the height of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the resulting Gulf War, some of the most distressing stories came out of the Kuwait Zoo, where Iraqi soldiers tossed smaller animals to big cats and other predators for sport, and used monkeys for target practice. The genocide between rival tribes in the country of Rwanda has pushed the Mountain Gorilla to the brink of extinction.

Now Uday Hussain al Tikriti's pet lions, who had suffered for years from maltreatment, are in the process of being relocated to the Baghdad National Zoo from the compound that used to be Uday's private retreat. The Baghdad National Zoo in Iraq, as well as the Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan, were symbols of the desperate, war-torn state of those two countries. Now American Zoos and animal welfare agencies around the world are pitching in to help get those Zoos up and running again with more modern facilities to care for their charges.

Marjan, a lion given as a gift to the Afghani people by West Germany 25 years ago, became blind, enfeebled and died before he could get the help he needed. However, his survival, first under the Soviet invasion, then the Taliban regime made Marjan a symbol of hope for Afghanis. Perhaps Uday's lions could serve as a similar symbol of hope and endurance for the embattled Iraqis.