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:: Thursday, April 15 2010 ::

So, having spent three days surrounded by nothing but the highest of high tech moviemaking equipment, here's my predictions for what you will be subjected to in the coming few years: 4K HD (yes, even higher high-def TV). 3D televisions - I don't know whether the glasses will be involved or not, but 3D was everywhere. Mobile content - one way or another, you will watch movies on your phone. More obviously, LCD screens are going to get prettier. Oh - and Apple will make a lot of money off the iPad - I saw one guy using it as a clipboard, of all things.
:: David (1:43 in Arkansas, 8:43 in Paris) - Comment

I've been thinking a lot about Vegas and wealth, and what I'm going to call 'performance of wealth'. I'm sure this has been researched to death, but here's what I see: Vegas has various levels of wealth, and different ways of signaling that you are wealthy. Example: bottle service and specially sectioned off areas for high stakes gambling. But these are also aspirational - conspicuous consumption type things. And I wonder how much of the behaviour of the young wealthy (or perhaps the wealthy in general) is shaped not by how they would ordinarily behave, but by how they understand they are expected to behave. Which leaves the question: who is actually deciding how they behave? Is it them? Is it the casinos? Is it marketing people?
:: David (0:01 in Arkansas, 7:01 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, April 13 2010 ::

I'm in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters' 2010 conference. It's interesting seeing how wide a swath of professions it covers, especially these days where IT gets its grubby little paws into everything (which, by the way, makes me feel like I can talk sensibly about crap I know nothing about). I saw an interesting talk that had not much to do with broadcasting by Ray Kurzweil - mostly it was about how tech just keeps getting better, faster. Other than that, it's been primarily talking to vendors, looking for new tools for work. I apparently will also be seeing the Blue Man Group downtown this evening, so it's overall a busy life!
:: David (17:17 in Arkansas, 0:17 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, April 4 2010 ::

This is why we can't have nice things!

(graph lifted from mint.com)

:: David (16:10 in Arkansas, 23:10 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, March 22 2010 ::

Good lord! A whole month since I last wrote here! That's amazing. It's been interesting to see the way all of my updates online have moved to Facebook - and a little scary, considering how Facebook is a private company, and the whole reason I wrote my own blog software was to protect myself from having all of my data owned by a private company. Resistance, it would seem, is futile - despite the fact that my friend Derek was locked out of FB for several weeks, apropos of nothing.

So what have I been up to? Well, there was a week to see my folks up in Michigan (my dad has been unwell, and I wanted to help out a bit if I could), and then two weeks of work, then a week off for Spring Break (we headed down to the Florida keys - photos forthcoming, I'm sure). We got back on Sunday, so I'm still a bit talkative about the trip (everyone at work was subjected to the tale).
:: David (21:05 in Arkansas, 4:05 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, February 26 2010 ::

The news this evening on Marketplace was that the weather was making it difficult to tell what the economy was doing. Seeking Alpha also recently did a weather post. What was not mentioned was 'global warming', or, if you prefer, global weirding. If you accept the idea that we will see more frequent weather anomalies as the earth heats up, the implication is that we can expect economic forecasts (already hazy at best) to be even less reliable as extremes of weather affect all sorts of industries. If you don't accept it, well, then, carry on.
:: David (20:06 in Arkansas, 3:06 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, February 24 2010 ::

The discussion over the guy who flew a plane into an IRS building has been on my mind for several days now. It's fascinating that some people are calling him a hero. Fascinating because these are many of the same people who are first to label almost anything done by foreigners as 'terrorism'. But the fact is that attacks of this nature have to be viewed in context. Don't get me wrong - people who kill innocent people are, each and every one, crazy. But the question of what made them crazy (however you want to define the verb 'to make crazy') remains.
:: David (13:21 in Arkansas, 20:21 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, February 23 2010 ::

At home with the family - it's amazing how time just seems to roll back when you come home, or at least when I come home - it feels an awful lot like being in high school again.
:: David (14:00 in Arkansas, 21:00 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, February 17 2010 ::

Went to the horse races down in Hot Springs over the long weekend. They made it through five of the ten races before calling the whole thing due to cold weather. This actually worked out well for me, as I had managed to predict the winner of the first race, and thus walked away having broke even, rather than lost it all plus some.
:: David (9:28 in Arkansas, 16:28 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, February 12 2010 ::

Google started a new social networking service, called Buzz, and I am experimenting with it. You can visit my profile here. One of the interesting things it seems to be doing is posting the last entry from my blog once every three hours. So I figured I should at least update the blog to see if that helped....
:: David (14:36 in Arkansas, 21:36 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Monday, February 8 2010 ::

It's not me, it's the evolution of technology:

In 2006, 28% of teens wrote on blogs and 76% regularly commented on their friends' blogs. Within three years, those numbers had dropped precipitously: In 2009, only 14% of teens were writing blogs and only 52% were regularly commenting.
And yes, I too was embarrassed by the title of the article. BTW - for this analogy to work, I have to count myself as a teen. Which in some ways I do - my work / hobby of keeping as close to the cutting edge as possible means I'm often aware of new trends before 'adults' (and one presumes that the article associates 'adults' with digital immigrants). And in some cases, teens. But against two-year-olds, I don't stand a chance!
:: David (11:12 in Arkansas, 18:12 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Saturday, February 6 2010 ::

I spent pretty much the whole day today fiddling with a new home storage server I picked up. The idea was to have a backup of my new 2TB drive (or rather, have 2TB of storage available so I could make a backup). That did not succeed - it seems I know less about high level storage than I thought. But I had fun doing it, at least the first six hours or so, which hopefully counts for something!
:: David (15:53 in Arkansas, 22:53 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, January 31 2010 ::

We had a giant winter storm here this weekend - Thursday night it started raining, and temps dropped below freezing, and then it snowed all evening on Friday. We ended up with about a half inch of ice and two inches of snow. Work was closed on Friday, for both Sasha and me, and the grocery stores even closed on Friday night, leading to a wild run around town looking for drink mixers (given that everyone was off work, many social events occurred instead). By Saturday things had cleared up to some degree, though the drivers around here were still going mighty slowly. Over the weekend we mostly stayed in the house, with the exclusion of a couple runs to the store, once for little items, once for artwork and curtains (we decided to pretty up the music room, making it a bit more livable). Lisa and her David (to keep the confusion to a minimum, we usually identify to whom the David belongs) came over for dinner this evening, which helped to round out a pleasantly social weekend spent mostly indoors.
:: David (22:48 in Arkansas, 5:48 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, January 24 2010 ::

Lots of random times out and about - dinner with a friend and her (recently returned from deployment) husband, a charity concert at the local bar where friends (and random people I'd never seen before) rocked the house, a tasty alcohol-laden brunch followed by, of all things, furniture repair. It looks like the table we bought with the intention of having big dinner parties may someday (soon!) be able to host big dinner parties. All I need to do is a little carpentry. Which I am feeling more and more comfortable with every day. Crazy stuff!
:: David (21:41 in Arkansas, 4:41 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Wednesday, January 20 2010 ::

Had a crazy 3-day weekend last weekend, including a night out to the Oxford American party in Little Rock, which was some of the best live music I've seen in quite a while. The next day we headed down to Hot Springs for some honest-to-goodness horse racing at Oaklawn. The betting was fast and furious (and in our case, quite small, as were the winnings). Now it's back-to-work week for Sasha, and busy as all get-out for me. I'm still trying to get the local pedestrian's association off the ground in a meaningful way, and we have our first meeting of the new year this week. It's also getting towards time to sign up for Spring language classes, or to decide whether I'm going to. Overall just busy!
:: David (22:31 in Arkansas, 5:31 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, January 13 2010 ::

I have spent the last few days fighting with my cell phone. I ran right out after the Nexus One (the Google phone) was announced and bought one. It arrived Monday, courtesy of T-Mobile, who in exchange for a two-year contract subsidized the incredibly expensive phone. By Tuesday morning I knew it wasn't going to work - I had no internet anywhere, and most of the time wasn't even able to connect to T-Mobile's phone network. So I decided to return the phone. But as I had gotten my name engraved on it, they wouldn't take it back. And there was the well-publicized three company cross finger pointing. Then, suddenly, a guy at T-Mobile simply ended my contract. Boom! Ten minutes later my number had been disconnected. Which wasn't really how I had hoped things would turn out, but would do (amusingly, another Google service, Google Voice, makes it OK that I lost my phone number). Now I'm waiting for any of the other shoes to drop. Like a bill from (somebody) for the phone that they won't take back. Which I'm frankly not really willing to do - selling me a non-working, non-returnable phone with a $350 surprise penalty is not acceptable. In the meantime, I bought a cheap pay-as-you-go sim card so I would have some phone service. In under five minutes it spent ten percent of the initial balance I had put on the phone, doing whatever internetty things smart phones do when you aren't looking. I have since managed to turn that part off, so the card should last longer than an hour....
:: David (21:47 in Arkansas, 4:47 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Wednesday, January 6 2010 ::

Back from my New Year's trip home to Michigan. Drove through a blizzard going and coming, along with flights on United, the airline that not only breaks guitars, it also randomly decides to take your gate checked bags and stuff them in with all the actually checked bags, then understaff the luggage people so you have to wait a half hour or more for your frickin' carry on. But I'm not bitter.

We seem to have brought serious winter weather with us, as Arkansas is in the grip of a winter storm the likes of which have never been seen before. Well, lately, anyway. Around here. I'm holding out for a snow day. If we only have an inclement weather day, where we can go in two hours late (if need be), I'll miss out as I'm scheduled to have a tooth put in tomorrow - a legacy of the Christmas trip.
:: David (22:14 in Arkansas, 5:14 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Sunday, December 27 2009 ::

Christmas came and went, and so Sasha and I headed up to upstate New York to see her family. The first day I was there I managed to break a tooth, so the trip was somewhat marred, as I would usually be intent on the food and drink, but eating, at least, required a bit too much concentration. Hopefully this will all be fixed tomorrow.

Outside of that, it was a fun trip. We went sledding, something I've not done in years, and I don't know why, although, to be fair, Sasha's parents have the best sledding hill I've ever encountered, so that may have some influence on how much fun was had.

Now I'm playing bachelor for a few days, and I have a rather extensive list of things to do, including fixing various and sundry items about the house (our food disposal unit, for example, died) and, of course, fixing various and sundry items about me (the tooth). And there's the squirrels, who have returned with a vengeance. Argh!
:: David (23:55 in Arkansas, 6:55 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

:: Tuesday, December 22 2009 ::

OK - so now schools in the US will be evaluated on how many kids they send to college and how well they do. And at the same time we have a problem with colleges that have lower and lower quality programs. By my reckoning either (a) the improved results from increased oversight will lead to more well prepared students who then raise the quality of the colleges they attend, or (b) some clever duck will realize that if the students go to the lowest of low quality schools and get good results (honestly or not) it will look like the school is doing its job when it isn't. Now, I'm an optimist, so I assume (a). Right.
:: David (23:27 in Arkansas, 6:27 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, December 21 2009 ::

Local fun: a few days ago I was driving, and I heard a report on the radio about a local school district. It so happened I had heard folks talking about this district earlier in the day, so I paid attention to the story, which was about how a local school district had chosen to cease their recognition of the teachers' union. Obviously, a strike was called in response. Today I saw a friend had joined the facebook group supporting the teachers' union, so I went digging a little deeper (my instinct is always to support the union, but the facts need to be investigated). Digging in, I found a letter sent by the president of the board of education for Pulaski County special School District, and a counter-letter from the head of the union (the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, or PACT). This blog post, clearly biased in favor of the union, links to the letter (which is worth reading - it's really something of a joke, propaganda-wise), and also indicates how complicated the issue is - in the comments, it seems clear no one quite knows what happened. Needless to say, lawsuits have now been filed.

The one thing I have learned from all this, which I can say with certainty, is that substitute teaching in Arkansas is a fast road to poverty: "Regular substitute pay is $55 a day for non-certified and $75 a day for certified teachers. At a special meeting Friday, the board raised pay for substitutes working strikes to $100 a day." And if you read the letter, they're actually proud of that $100 figure.
:: David (22:23 in Arkansas, 5:23 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, December 19 2009 ::

I spent the last two days being trained by the state of Arkansas on how to be a better manager. Needless to say, I am happy to see Friday arrive (and the Friday before Christmas, no less, which means next week is a short work week!)

The holidays themselves are going to be punctuated by massive amounts of air travel for both Sasha and I, which should be a laugh riot. I'm flying out of and into Little Rock twice over the next two weeks. What could possibly go wrong?

I am looking quite forward to the holidays, though, despite my utter lack in (consumer) holiday spirit - I have purchased exactly zero presents so far - it doesn't really seem like a year for giving people stuff they don't need. I expect cash might be the gift of choice this year. Many smart people are insisting that next year the economy will pick up and start creating jobs. We'll see. Regardless, it won't happen before the new year.
:: David (0:04 in Arkansas, 7:04 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, December 10 2009 ::

A whole week spent ill. Blech. I got a sore throat and stuffy head last Saturday, and it has gotten, on some level, progressively worse as the week has gone on. At no point has it really been bad - just not good. And of course to top it all off we have scheduled a holiday party for tomorrow evening. At least I'll have all weekend to lie in bed and rest!
:: David (21:46 in Arkansas, 4:46 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, December 6 2009 ::

After several days of working away at getting my pictures from Portugal sorted out, I think I have them more or less in order. I'm still playing with things, but I think I can at the very least tell you that this is the link - everything else is either me captioning them, or adding ways to make Facebook play nice with them, just in case anyone actually wants to share any of the pics.
:: David (1:16 in Arkansas, 8:16 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, December 1 2009 ::

Whew! Safely back from Portugal, and back again into the fray that is my work and life! I'm quite excited at work as I've managed to bring on another staff member (or will be soon) and that means (hopefully) a little less running around like a crazy person for me. Outside of work, there's piles going on, with the pedestrian group here in Conway needing attention, as well as holiday plans (flying to two places over two weekends, and nary a plane ticket purchased as yet) and various other this-n-thats. It's pure crazy!

The trip back from Portugal was long, long, long - three hours from Lisbon to Amsterdam, then ten to Memphis, then another four, I think, by car back to Conway - in the rain, of course. And all while completely exhausted. But we made it back, which was really all that mattered. Next time I think we book a hotel in Memphis if that's where we're flying out from.

Portugal itself was a hoot - our friends Sarah and Antonio actually gave us their apartment, which meant we got to pretend we actually lived in Portugal for the week, complete with a daily commute by boat to Lisbon, albeit to play tourist instead of to work.

As I type this, I'm playing with various and sundry programs to get the photos up online - it's always time consuming to get the photo stuff and web publishing stuff set up on a new machine, and Windows 7 x64 makes it just that touch more complicated, as there are still some programs that behave badly.

But now I must stop typing, as it is time for my Japanese class. This week or next will be the last one, I believe, which is happy and sad at the same time - I wish I could find some easier way of learning a language than taking classes. One thing I do miss about Ann Arbor - it was easy to find people to talk to, regardless of the language you wanted to do it in!
:: David (18:46 in Arkansas, 1:46 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, November 25 2009 ::

So we're in Portugal this week - Lisbon, actually, and it doesn't look like we're going to roam too far from the city. That said, it's a great city and we've been super busy seeing all the local sights. We've acquired some clothes, which was another goal - Sasha discovered, in what can only be a cruel joke by the fashion gods, that jackets with patches on the elbows are currently the in thing. So she can be both a stereotypical professor -and- at the cutting edge of fashion. We've walked our legs off the past few days, taking in lots of old buildings and random this-n-thats. Today was the first soggy day we've had (and it was quite soggy), but we were able to take in the aquarium and other indoor fun.
:: David (16:06 in Arkansas, 23:06 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, November 18 2009 ::

Recently Sasha and I were discussing the purpose of prisons - are they intended to reform, or to punish? Two recent articles addressed this, the first, which I found, of all places, on Slashdot, talks about the fact that, in Germany, after you have served your sentence, you can't be named as the perpetrator of a murder. Which fits perfectly the idea of prison as place of reform. The second article, in the New York Times, talks about how Wesleyan University, a private liberal arts school, is offering classes to people in prison. This also supports the idea of prison as a place of reform. But, of course, American prisons aren't in reality places of reform - they are designed, and thought of, as places of punishment. And I think we are all torn - people who do something bad should be punished, shouldn't they? But how much, and by who, and if they get out, only to commit another crime, why did we let them out at all. But if we don't, don't we end up with a Jean Valjean type situation, where the smallest of transgressions leads to the harshest of penalties?
:: David (19:23 in Arkansas, 2:23 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, November 11 2009 ::

It's been funny, watching the way my blogging has fallen off as my Facebook/Twitter use has increased. The fact of the matter is, it's easier to post a quick 'here's what's going on' than to take the time to write something more thoughtful. Of course, each form of posting is completely different, but unfortunately they don't really go together. I think if I were re-writing my blogging software now I would include a way to subscribe to all of my updates and re-post them here. Of course, doing that would be insane in terms of the layout... I think....

It's been another quite busy week, with the local green drinks on Monday, a friend coming over to plan our spring trip, and ... well, today was quite relaxed, actually, though I do have another big day tomorrow. The job, while not actually taking much more time out of my day (I still generally leave at half past four) does require a great deal more mental energy, and I find I have less time for other things because of that. I don't mind that much, as I am enjoying the work, but I am definitely looking forward to a little time off!
:: David (22:27 in Arkansas, 5:27 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Wednesday, November 4 2009 ::

We had a big wine and cheese party last night - a random group of guests, which was fun, and a random group of wines (Malbecs all). A very nice way to spend an evening. Though, being in bed by 9pm, as I am this evening, is also nice. Is this a bad sign?
:: David (21:06 in Arkansas, 4:06 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, October 31 2009 ::

Another crazy week - we went out with friends Wednesday night, Thursday night (well, actually Thursday night they came to us), and Friday night. Add in my Tuesday night Japanese class and things were quite busy!

Thursday night was the big Windows 7 party, and since I had been sent a box containing streamers and balloons and so forth, it seemed silly not to use them, even though we hadn't really invited very many folks over. As it was, the party ended up being dinner with friends and drinks, which is honestly a perfect evening anyway. I have photos of the decorations, which I'll post soon-ish.

Friday night (last night) we headed over to Lisa's house for pumpkin carving. Lisa is one of the new profs here, and happens to also be a graduate from my alma mater, Albion College. She acquired some massive pumpkins for us and also had a set of pumpkin carving tools, which made the process significantly easier. So now our house is guarded by giant pumpkin guardians
:: David (13:16 in Arkansas, 20:16 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, October 27 2009 ::

I noticed last night that it had literally been over a week since I last posted - we have simply been insanely busy over the last week or so - I honestly have no idea where the time goes sometimes! The big part of last week was eaten up by a trip to Austin, Texas. Sasha had a conference and I went along for the ride. It was a good trip - I took my camera (and my swanky new memory card, which is replacing my swanky old memory card, which is AWOL), so there will be lots of pictures.

Outside of the trip, there's just been a lot of socializing - I often convince myself that I am anti-social, and can only take a certain, limited, number of nights out. Then I have a week where I go out every night (followed by a weekend when I do the same), and I realize that so long as I don't mind not knowing where my head is at, I can go out a lot.

This week is actually also chock full of crazy, what with Hallowe'en and all that - many a party is planned, some of them two deep, which is a bit of a problem - we're working on the details of that. We're going to try to throw our re-scheduled Windows 7 party (seriously) this Thursday, I think, although I'm not sure how many of the potential guests are aware of this! My ability to communicate outside of work is apparently inversely proportional to how often I am forced to write emails and schedule meetings inside of work, and lately that number has been quite high.
:: David (17:53 in Arkansas, 0:53 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, October 19 2009 ::

Argh! Site hacked! We're restoring from backup - may lose some days blog...
:: David (22:17 in Arkansas, 5:17 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, October 18 2009 ::

My colleague Darbi had a birthday party over the weekend, and as she is a big Rock Band fanatic, the cake was something memorable. The party itself contained much mayhem and random faux-guitar playing, immortalized here.
:: David (18:27 in Arkansas, 1:27 in Paris) - Comment

Had a bit of an adventure with the blog today - seems they did some support and didn't bring my site back up. This is a post to double check it's kind of working, as they had to restart lots of services to bring the server back up. As a side note, my hosting is 3essentials, and while the server did go down, customer service responded quickly to my notes.
:: David (17:59 in Arkansas, 0:59 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, October 17 2009 ::

In anticipation of my Windows 7 Release Party this coming week, I wiped my laptop and installed the release version of Windows 7 (I think the idea of the people behind the party may be to install windows at the party, but that strikes me as... insane. And lame. So it's not going to be how I do it!) As I was going through getting my laptop back up to speed, it occurred to me that a post I should probably make (or perhaps a web page I should make) is a list of the software I use on my computer to make it ready for business. Since almost everything I use is open source, it might be useful for some people to know how to set a computer up from start to finish for free. So I think I'll post that sometime this weekend, probably in the technology section.
:: David (14:31 in Arkansas, 21:31 in Paris) - Comment

Good golly was -that- a busy week! We went out literally every night last week, and during the day I had meetings on some days nearly every hour of the day. By Friday I was just done. Thankfully, outside of a party this eve and a fun brunch tomorrow the weekend is empty. Rest for me!
:: David (14:18 in Arkansas, 21:18 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, October 11 2009 ::

This week was kinda crazy. On Tuesday night Art Spiegelman came to speak at Hendrix, so I had to skip Japanese class (I've started a Japanese class here in town) to see him. Then Thursday night we chalked about a mile of sidewalks in preparation for ArtsWalk on Friday, part of ArtsFest here in Conway. Then, of course, Friday morning early it rained like a mad fool, washing away all our work. Friday morning Sam set out cones along the path, and then Friday afternoon the Chinese Dragon Elephant wandered up and down the walking path, as did we. It was cold and wet, so turnout was fairly low, but we had a good time. Once Friday wrapped we came home and slept until noon (and then I did it again today). Now it's back to a normal, less stress version of life for a while.
:: David (16:48 in Arkansas, 23:48 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, October 4 2009 ::

When we moved down to Conway, the first house we visited was in an obviously African-American part of town. The Realtor told us there were a lot of 'renters' around, and we assumed that was code down here for 'African-Americans'. As it turned out, more than likely, it simply meant 'people who rent', which translates into 'take care of their property less well' and 'lower your property value by association'. Now that I've been here a year, with rentals on every side of me, I understand better the qualms people might have about renters (especially in a college town). Then I read this article in the New York Times, and I discover that 'renter' can mean a lot of things to people. The article tells the story of St. Bernard, "a quiet, insular suburb just east of New Orleans", which has been fighting tooth and nail to prevent an influx of... something. And here's where things get murky. Maybe it's low-income families. Maybe it's rental units. Both would be something people might do to protect their home values. But maybe, in a parish which is ninety-three percent white, people are also concerned about keeping out someone else. It's hard to say - things get mixed up in these conversations, especially in the south, and there is certainly the possibility that classism, rather than racism, is the (main) cause. The article points out that "A development of 35 single-family, lease-to-own homes in the black middle-class neighborhood of New Orleans East was blocked by the New Orleans City Council in August. The arguments against it — that it would damage property values and quality of life — were similar to those heard in St. Bernard."
:: David (22:08 in Arkansas, 5:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Saturday, October 3 2009 ::

Sasha's folks are in town this weekend, so it's busy, busy, busy!
:: David (22:50 in Arkansas, 5:50 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, September 30 2009 ::

Yesterday I woke up at what can only be called an absurd hour and drove to a little town in Northeastern Arkansas, to have a meeting with some folks with the educational co-op located up there. At this point you might be asking 'what's an educational co-op', which is a fair question, and one I can't really answer, though I do know it's some sort of grouping of schools. I think it may be the highest level of administration of schools in the state, but I'm frankly not positive. And thinking about the question led me to realize how completely crazily complex the world is. Despite the fact that I was a student in school for nearly two decades, I have no idea, really, how they work. For example, school teachers now, here, create lesson plans with an eye towards which areas of learning they apply to - I believe they are even required to document how they apply. And I think that means there are other people, somewhere, whose sole job is to figure out what areas there are, and what areas kids should study. Etc. It's crazy. On the other hand, I'm not really sure I want to go back to hunting and gathering, so I guess I have to put up with a little complexity....
:: David (22:05 in Arkansas, 5:05 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, September 24 2009 ::

Got some good news at work today - my application to become, effectively, my boss' boss was successful. So now I get a pay raise, and a whole lot more work to do. It should be interesting!

Interesting trivia: this is the first time I've ever gotten an internal promotion. Usually I move up by changing organizations.
:: David (22:32 in Arkansas, 5:32 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Wednesday, September 23 2009 ::

With the money we had saved up to refinance the house, which we ended up doing more cheaply than expected, we decided to have some work done to shore things up a bit. One of the windows in the sunroom gave us the impression that the floors might be settling, so I called in a couple foundation people, one of whom came in at the right price (give or take several thousand dollars that I probably could have as easily spent on toys). So, after a few months of hemming and hawing, we decided to have it done. This coincided with some other work we had decided on more recently - having insulation put in the house. There were a couple areas with none, and many areas with not much, so today they came by to blow stuff in. I came home to meet them, and found my house under siege by construction vehicle. The cats, who had just gotten used to the fact that during the day the floor spoke Spanish (no joke), were now further treated to the indignity of being locked away while the insulation people tromped around upstairs. Weird noises above and below did not make them happy.

So now most everything is done, except for the next round where we call in the electrician to look at the wiring under the house, and the duct people to repair the ducts. I can't believe I ever thought this would be cheaper than renting (though, to be fair, I was never really under that impression).
:: David (21:29 in Arkansas, 4:29 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, September 21 2009 ::

We had all kinds of crazy fun over the weekend - a big party on Saturday to celebrate the various and sundry events taking place (three years! Who knew?!) Then on Sunday, we did a little walk around town to help assess the state of sidewalks near one of the elementary schools (the short form: not great).
:: David (22:12 in Arkansas, 5:12 in Paris) - Comment

One of the people in the walking group pointed out to me that there was an article in the local paper about our house, which included such fun details as the original owners and the fact that there used to be a well in the house (I'm sad it's gone, though I'm not sure what the water would have been like these days...).
:: David (22:08 in Arkansas, 5:08 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, September 18 2009 ::

I was excited to see all the newspapers gearing up for my birthday: Arrrrrr You Ready for International Talk Like a Pirate Day? asks Wired, while the Christian Science Monitor turns it around - Talk Like a Pirate Day 2009 - arrrrrrr you ready?. International events are planned from Australia to the UK, while in the US, Pirate magazine lists several - it appears if you are on a coast it would behoove you to look for the jolly roger. And, of course, if you can't pull yourself away from the computer, apparently World of Warcraft will also have pirate themed events.
:: David (23:42 in Arkansas, 6:42 in Paris) - Comment

I went road tripping for work this week, up to the Northeast of Arkansas. It was... memorable. We managed to land quite the dubious hotel, with random people leaning on the balcony drinking beers the entire evening, and late night loud conversations of a very dubious nature literally right outside my door. Then the next day serious rains made us think we'd be flooded out before reaching our destination. I returned late Tuesday evening and had to immediately brace myself for an 8AM interview the next day (I've applied for a promotion at work, and because it's the state we have to do the full interview process).

Actually, requiring the full interview process for all jobs is an interesting way to avoid bad feelings if someone internal doesn't get the job - I was thinking about it, and I could see lots of situations where you might not want to promote someone, and having this rule in place gives you an out. It might not prevent bad feelings, but it certainly has a better chance than if you have to tell the people 'there is no way we're giving this to you, so we're gonna talk to some other people!'

Anyway, so now I'm just waiting on word as to whether I'll be becoming my own boss (as it were) or not. And in the meantime, planning a giant party for Talk Like a Pirate Day.
:: David (23:16 in Arkansas, 6:16 in Paris) - Comment

I was thinking today about the strong reaction Arkansans have about anything that would be government run - there's a pretty strong streak here of anti-government feeling. And it occurred to me that the government they see, by and large, is their local and state government. And frankly, they don't always see the best stuff - one doesn't have to look very far to find corruption, and in some places it seems endemic. So it occurs to me, when you get this vitriolic reaction to some of the schemes currently being put forward at the Federal level, it might be a logical reaction by a group of people who have very solid reasons to mistrust government. If you told me there was going to be a national health care plan, but it was going to be run by certain groups of politicians from this and neighbouring states, I would... hesitate. A lot. And since, at least as I read the census data, most people tend to stay close to home, most folks in this area will not have seen any government but the local ones (people tend not to move from region to region, generally speaking). So they are terrified of the idea of the government they know being given, well, pretty much any power at all. And it might be a very logical reaction. Of course, another logical reaction might be to clean up your local government, but I expect that's a tougher task than mistrusting, which is easy.

I should add a disclaimer, that local locally, all the politicians I've met have been great. But I do have the impression that as one moves up the rings towards the governorship that becomes less true.
:: David (22:54 in Arkansas, 5:54 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, September 15 2009 ::

I'm sure you all know this already, but in case you'd missed it the Consumerist pointed me to an article in the Wall Street Journal about how some people prefer UK chocolate to the American version. I will not comment except to note that I brought back several pounds of Cadbury and Galaxy bars from my trip to the UK. I have resisted, so far, turning to the internet for an expensive fix, but living in Arkansas is making me pine for luxury goods, so a purchase may happen once my stash runs out...
:: David (23:47 in Arkansas, 6:47 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Sunday, September 13 2009 ::

Holy mackeral what a weekend! Saturday morning was the Conway EcoFest, and since I run the pedestrian group here I wanted to be sure we had some folks out recruiting. Our friend Meg was good enough to make a sign, and plastic wrap it in case of rain (it was predicted to rain, but ended up just being overcast). When we got over there, we found we had overlooked a step (registering) and therefore we had no table. So I headed back home and grabbed our patio furniture and brought it back. It was a really fun day, but really tiring, probably because there were lots of people to talk to and cranking up my energy levels when I had to get up early and didn't get enough coffee really takes it out of me! So today we did very little, though I did manage to get a haircut. Next week is jam-packed, with a business trip, meetings, and a huge party planned for next Saturday!
:: David (23:07 in Arkansas, 6:07 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, September 12 2009 ::

Sometimes I run across a store for the home that simply makes me pause. This is one of those stores. I once wandered in to a mall store that carried some of the same items, like the crazy ceiling medallions, and I was quite simply at a loss - I had no idea what one does with a house wishing to emulate Michelangelo. Now that I own a house, I begin to understand the attraction of, for example, crown molding, but even there one can go over the top.
:: David (0:37 in Arkansas, 7:37 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

:: Friday, September 11 2009 ::

Good: making the news. Bad: making the news for something bad. Worse: being named in the article personally for something bad. I give you the story, which was on the front page of the Arkansas section of the big Little Rock newspaper. It's the second half of the story which interests me.
:: David (8:40 in Arkansas, 15:40 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

:: Monday, September 7 2009 ::

Some thoughts on labour day, via the Economist's View: Robert Reich notes that the media has missed the key lesson from the economic downturn - "the skewing of income and wealth to the top has made our economy far less stable" - and is therefore watching the wrong numbers in their reporting of the 'recovery'. This drove me to head over to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and browse around, looking for a smoking gun, pointing to a dire future. There isn't one. But every report I looked at pointed to a rough ride ahead. Take for example this report, looking at monthly hires and fires. In May and June there were 3,942 and 3,776 (thousand) hires, respectively. During those same months there were 4,356 and 4,337 (thousand) separations. Notice the second set is larger than the first - that's not good for the worker. And a lot of the data 'feels' that way - just not great. We'll see - I've had bad feelings in the past (for example, housing prices), and they came out differently than I thought. Maybe all this will just blow over. Or maybe, in honor of labour day, the proletariat will rise up and smite the bourgeoisie. And in that vein, I offer you the Party for Socialism and Liberation's take on why we're now in a depression, despite what the media might say.

When mainstream people (the author of the first article was secretary of Labor) start to read like the PSL, things are a little topsy-turvy!
:: David (1:59 in Arkansas, 8:59 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, September 4 2009 ::

So Microsoft is offering a free copy of Windows 7 if you agree to host an (Obama style?) house party for the release of the OS. Free software, and a party? I'm there! The media might even get invited (MS would do the inviting - not me). In filling out the form to apply, I was required to sign a waiver, which contained some fun bits: "I understand and agree that alcohol may be served during the Activities, and that my decision to serve and/or consume any alcohol is my own decision for which I shall be solely responsible." There was also something about if people fall down at my party they won't sue (and I won't sue) MS. I have to admit - on some level this is bizarre enough to be good marketing!
:: David (23:14 in Arkansas, 6:14 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, September 2 2009 ::

As part of a math program we're doing at work, I pretended to be an airline pilot today, blathering on about how pilots need math. The fun part was the location - we headed over to the Conway airport, and I stood in front of this jet and did my spiel. Then the actual pilot fired up the nav systems etc. and we did some more filming with me in the pilot seat! Very entertaining way to spend a morning!
:: David (23:50 in Arkansas, 6:50 in Paris) - Comment

I can't decide which part of this story is the most entertaining: the fact that some random guy in a supermarket slapped the crud out of someone else's crying baby, or the mug shot of said random guy, which simply looks like someone who at any moment will yell at kids to get off his lawn. Oh, and of course - it all went down at a Walmart in Georgia.
:: David (23:19 in Arkansas, 6:19 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, August 31 2009 ::

So the plan over the weekend was to go see an animatronic Johnny Cash. Apparently such a beast exists down in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, at least according to the Pine Bluff Convention Center web page. Sadly, it turned out the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame was closed (open 9-5 weekdays? really?!), so we had to settle for The Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center (I kid you not - that's what they call it - look at the web page! Frankly I'm surprised the URL isn't www.TheGovernorMikeHuckabeeDeltaRiversNatureCenter.com!). There we watched them feed the alligator and fishies. Then it was back for a night of Pizza and 'Dazed and Confused', before heading off to the Dandy Warhols concert on Hendrix's campus.
:: David (23:39 in Arkansas, 6:39 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, August 28 2009 ::

Image by
I got my copy of Mac OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard) today. Sasha asked me what OSX 10.5 was called, and I said 'Leopard', and she responded that calling the upgrade 'Snow Leopard' was really lame, and wondered if it wasn't much of an upgrade. I responded that while it was a serious upgrade, all of the changes were 'under the hood', so to speak, so maybe they picked the name to reflect that. The back of the box certainly indicates they had no idea how to sell what was essentially a massive tech upgrade with few visible elements - the three column sales pitch was divided into "Better. Faster. Easier.", "Next-generation technologies.", and - and this was my favourite - an entire column trying to make people excited about Microsoft "Exchange support." Woo. Hoo.

All of that said, of course, I'm very excited about it, because I really like when my technology works better and faster.
:: David (23:39 in Arkansas, 6:39 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, August 26 2009 ::

Had some fun today - we're making a video at work of people with certain professions, and today's profession was 'rock star'. I provided the guitars, which meant my various guitars were arranged behind the person speaking as props. I took a couple photos of the setup. Overall it took, to my mind, an amazingly long time, but I was informed that it was about standard for a shoot. The only other time I've been in TV type stuff was last year's quiz bowl, which was a live event, so much faster paced.
:: David (22:25 in Arkansas, 5:25 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Sunday, August 23 2009 ::

I discovered this morning how out-of-shape I am these days, as we headed over to Pinnacle Mountain for a quick hike up one side and down the other. At the top, a photo was taken, showing Sasha and Jeff relaxing and looking over much of central Arkansas. I am now enjoying my sore muscles, which serve as a reminder that if I did this more than once a year, it wouldn't hurt so much!
:: David (23:18 in Arkansas, 6:18 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Thursday, August 20 2009 ::

Today was the first day back to school for students at the University of Central Arkansas, on whose lovely campus my job is located. It was raining, so I decided to drive, which I should have remembered from my days proximate to the University of Michigan was a bad idea. There were literally police at every intersection waiting to either (a) deal with accidents due to terrible drivers and heavy traffic, (b) catch stupid drivers suffering from road rage and/or impatience, or (c) some random combination of those and others. It was a train wreck, although fortunately not a literal one - the tracks are happily some distance away from the school.
:: David (13:32 in Arkansas, 20:32 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Tuesday, August 18 2009 ::

The upstairs shower drain has been running a bit slow, filling the tub with a couple of inches of water over the course of a shower. So as I was getting ready for work, the crazed splashing which came from the tub, followed by the dripping kitten racing through the house did not really surprise me. Merely amused me greatly. Moses has hopefully learned his lesson (he already learned not to walk into the shower when it is turned on, which also gave me a morning's chuckles).
:: David (11:17 in Arkansas, 18:17 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, August 17 2009 ::

Courtesy of News in the Rock, an article in the New York Times about Senator Blanche Lincoln, one of our AR senators. The headline is somewhat misleading, as they call her a Democrat, but she's really something else - whatever a centrist party in the US might be called. And it's interesting, because there is very little doubt in my mind that if you took a poll in Arkansas, they would overwhelmingly reject free health care, even though they need it more than the US as a whole (51 percent of the people here have employer or private health insurance, as opposed to 58 percent for the US as a whole, according to the Kaiser Foundation). Interestingly, I don't necessarily put this down to stupidity - the US government has a horrible track record of running things, in large part because of our ambivalence to public funding of, well, anything. We get the worst of both worlds (and, it might be argued, Arkansas more than most).
:: David (17:23 in Arkansas, 0:23 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

I hate it when I write a blog post, then forget to actually post it! It's back-to-school season here in Conway, and it feels really odd to have all the 'getting ready for the new year' activities going on with us now being 'old-timers', as it were. Rather than running around trying to get ready, we watched movies this weekend - 'Star Trek' and 'Harry Potter'. Both were pretty good - nothing special, but pretty good. Actually, I thought the Harry Potter film was quite well done, for what it was - I'll put in the comments how I thought it could have been better (spoiler alert!)
:: David (8:43 in Arkansas, 15:43 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Friday, August 14 2009 ::

So today/tomorrow is V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered in World War Two. As always, this brings many war stories out, and one on the BBC caught my attention, about the many African soldiers who fought in the Pacific campaign. The numbers are actually shocking - according to the BBC, "only two in 10 of the soldiers who fought in Burma were white." But just like the 'whites only' liberation of Paris, when we see the 'history' of the war, we see a white history.
:: David (23:53 in Arkansas, 6:53 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, August 12 2009 ::

Sasha is finally in Memphis. Even if Northwest Airlines continues their tradition of not doing their job, I can drive to Memphis and get her, so at least she gets to come home today, even if it isn't until late. To review, her final flight path was London - Detroit - Minneapolis - Memphis - Little Rock. Assuming the flight to Little Rock happens. It's been a crazy couple days. I look forward to some serious groveling from NWA, but I frankly don't expect any.
:: David (18:36 in Arkansas, 1:36 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, August 11 2009 ::

So Northwest Airlines failed completely. Sasha's flight was cancelled. They offered to fly her down tomorrow evening on the same flight, but for obvious reasons she was dubious of their offer - if that flight also managed to be cancelled, she'd be in Detroit another day. So instead they're routing her through Minnesota, then Memphis, then to here. What could possibly go wrong? She'll actually have more flights tomorrow than she was scheduled to today. Hopefully at some point all this will work out. And to say Northwest will be getting a piece of my mind does not begin to describe it.
:: David (22:52 in Arkansas, 5:52 in Paris) - Comment

I spoke to Sasha earlier today, once she made it to Detroit from London. I mentioned I wouldn't be heading to the Little Rock airport to pick her up until after I got off work at 4:30. Her flight, according to the ticket, was due to arrive at 4:20 or so, but I said not to worry, the flight would be delayed. Sadly, I was even more correct than I'd hoped, and it's now unclear when she'll be getting in - I'm guessing around 7pm. So I guess I'll head down to Little Rock and get a drink or something....
:: David (16:26 in Arkansas, 23:26 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, August 6 2009 ::

I posted the photos from London and Ireland this evening. In addition to all the usual stuff I would ordinarily take, there are a number of photos from a photography tour of London I took with Hairy Goat tours. I had decided since Sasha had to work it might be fun to do a tour, and the idea of the 'mystery tour' they offered, where you didn't know ahead of time what you would see, seemed like fun. I also liked the fact that there was no commitment - just show up at the appointed time. It was great to see bits of London I hadn't seen, and because the guide had an eye for details I often overlook, I ended up looking at some things - and I mean really looking - that I might otherwise have missed. It was also fun because the company is just getting rolling, and so my interest in how businesses are run was engaged. So have a look - I had lots of fun shooting these, so I hope they have some interest for you.

Also, as a side note, there's a Princess Bride film location, as well as a Harry Potter one in the photos. I've tagged them in the captions.
:: David (23:30 in Arkansas, 6:30 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Wednesday, August 5 2009 ::

I read a fascinating article about the question of intentions today. A & L Daily pointed me to the article, which begins with a detailed description of the book The Ugly American, which contains within it the idea that it is very easy to assume that one's good intentions forgive one's errors. The setting is pre-Vietnam, but the article then brings that forward, to examine the way in which Iraq, by dint of being, in the end, 'successful', forgives the manner in which we got there.

When U.S. policy goes awry, therefore, the culprit might be bad luck, bad planning, or bad tactics, but American motives lie beyond reproach. Thus, the reassuring take on the Iraq War, now emerging as the conventional wisdom, is that - however mismanaged the war may have been early on - the "surge" engineered by General David Petraeus has redeemed the enterprise: a conclusion doubly welcome in that it obviates any need to revisit questions about the war’s purpose and justification, while meshing nicely with the Obama administration's inclination simply to have done with Iraq and move on.
It's interesting, because it is very easy to buy into the 'good intentions' argument, and very easy to suggest that any omelet requires the breaking of some eggs....
:: David (15:10 in Arkansas, 22:10 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Tuesday, August 4 2009 ::

One of the things we did while in London was made a visit to the National Portrait Gallery, which was playing host to the 2009 BP Portrait Award. There were a number of amazing portraits, one of my favorites being this portrait of a football fan. You can see more of the paintings by browsing the shop.
:: David (11:05 in Arkansas, 18:05 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, August 3 2009 ::

I'm back from the UK and Ireland. The journey back was long, and not very interesting (and did I mention long?) and being back at work was tough. It's now something like 4AM according to my body's internal clock, so I'll be turning in soon. Now I'm trying to get into the swing of things, being back home. I hope to post all the pictures I took while I was abroad soon, but given all the other stuff I need to do, like getting back into the various stuff I do locally, it could be a while. It's tough ramping back up after a nice holiday.
:: David (23:25 in Arkansas, 6:25 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, July 30 2009 ::

We're in Ireland now, near the Aran Islands, and hanging out with Sasha's family. We have done a bunch of low key trips, most recently to a little town called Lisdoonvarna, which happens to have a song named after it that Sasha's nephews wanted to hear. The young trio singing were quite good sports about it, and many laughs were had by all. Now we're contemplating some further pints at the local pub, though with the amount of sun I got today, courtesy of several boat rides, I'm not sure how long I'll last!
:: David (15:36 in Arkansas, 22:36 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, July 27 2009 ::

Safely in London. Nothing amazing to report, check the twitter feed for some pics, but mostly I've just been wandering the streets. Probably see a museum this afternoon, and this evening... I dunno, actually. Wifi is pretty easy to find, so I've been playing with my phone (in the rain, which I'm sure is good for it).
:: David (6:39 in Arkansas, 13:39 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, July 25 2009 ::

The stuff is prepped, and so am I - I'll fly out tomorrow afternoon, at which point my sporadic internet connectedness will become even more sporadic. In the meantime, I give you a story about a bear who is single-paw-edly forcing a redesign of so-called 'bear proof' containers.

Mr. Hogan is working on a prototype of a new model, the 550, for next year. State officials have agreed to test it by filling it with aromatic food and depositing it on Yellow-Yellow’s [the bear's] turf. "She's the whole reason we’re doing this," he said.
The description of how campers' food stashing tricks have been systematically defeated is quite amusing.
:: David (1:49 in Arkansas, 8:49 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, July 22 2009 ::

I was reading an article this morning in the NYT about how Target is building a niche book business, and thinking about how other businesses could so easily do something similar. For example, Kroger has all the information in the world about me, so much so that they send me their custom coupons and I use every single one. With that amount of info they could build some amazing niche businesses within their stores. Interestingly, I recently heard a podcast by a guy who claimed that Wal-Mart employees have a high degree of autonomy to create displays that draw business - I think something similar would have to be done with big box stores that want to really drive these little niche 'stores within the store'. Target does it to a limited degree, promoting themselves as arbiters of taste for only slightly more money. I bet it could be done even more effectively, hiring enterprising department managers to create brands within the store.
:: David (9:18 in Arkansas, 16:18 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, July 21 2009 ::

A little bit of excitement today - big storms in the morning, and then a tornado in the afternoon. Additionally, it seems a local bar was naughty (which just makes me happier to go there on Fridays). Overall nothing of import - just prepping to run away at the weekend!
:: David (18:38 in Arkansas, 1:38 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, July 20 2009 ::

Finally, all the tickets are purchased. I'm ready to head to Europe. Now all I need to do is make it through the week, and figure out how the heck I'm going to pack everything into the space I have allotted myself. It's only a week, so in theory I could do it with a carry-on. But since my camera will take up half the bag, there's clearly some planning to do. In fact, gadgets alone could fill my carry-on, if I took the phone, the flip cam, and the real camera. Hopefully, I can resist the gadgetasticness of all that crud in my luggage, but it's always hard to tell when the mood will seize me.
:: David (23:39 in Arkansas, 6:39 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, July 17 2009 ::

I was reminded today that my problems aren't so bad, and that there are always worse things that could happen. If I have health and happiness, everything else is irrelevant.
:: David (17:23 in Arkansas, 0:23 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Thursday, July 16 2009 ::

Bummer of a day today. They're posting the job of my boss' boss, and I, quite naturally, had planned to apply. Sadly, I discovered state law won't allow my salary to increase by more than a certain percentage of my current salary. This means, if I got the job, I would make significantly less than the minimum salary listed for the job. Even if they bumped me up to the minimum starting salary for the job, it would be about 20K less than I would expect to make in a job of its nature, even here. Minimum. So now I have the choice of being even more dramatically underpaid than I already am, or of passing up on a job that is much more in line with my skill set. In short, it was a very frustrating day. And revealing - I realized how much I really care about what I make. Of course, I asked the HR person if I quit my job, would I then be eligible for the higher salary? Her response seemed to indicate yes, but that it wasn't really a course she recommended, for obvious reasons (what if I didn't get it?)
:: David (22:37 in Arkansas, 5:37 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Tuesday, July 14 2009 ::

The third and final public comment meeting was held by the firm tasked with coming up with a plan for a bus system in Conway, Arkansas. One of the local TV stations sent some reporters, and about a dozen other folks showed up to take a look at the proposals. There was an exciting powerpoint presentation, and at least two folks who thought the bus system should pay for itself. I've a sneaky suspicion this will move forward regardless of any opposition (and I, of course, hope it does).
:: David (14:35 in Arkansas, 21:35 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, July 13 2009 ::

Well now this will be interesting - apparently swine flu affects obese people more severely. According to an article on Bloomberg (via Slashdot), "obesity stands out as a statistically significant factor involved in the seriousness of the disease". Given our fear of fat, this could lead to some very strange reporting - gleeful and self righteous. While I'm not ready to believe our high fructose corn syrup overlords that there's no problem (especially with our food!), I think we've allowed some curious attitudes and beliefs to shape our treatment of the question of who is 'fat'. And this news could pull it all out into the open.
:: David (0:48 in Arkansas, 7:48 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Sunday, July 12 2009 ::

I learned vaguely useful words today, in an article in Le Monde on the subject of how Sarah Brown (the wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown) has become a whirlwind of Public Relations, it was explained that she was also on Twitter
Mais c'est sur Twitter qu'elle a trouvé toute sa place. Pas un jour désormais sans qu'elle raconte à ses presque 345 000 "suiveurs" le sel de ses journées. En 140 signes maximum, à toutes les heures du jour et de la nuit, elle leur dit son goût pour l'Eurovision, commente la dernière émission de "Britain's Got Talent" qu'elle a pu voir, ou fait état de sa visite au zoo de Londres avec ses deux fils.But it's on Twitter she has found her place. Not a day goes by that she doesn't tell her 345,000 'followers' about her day, at all hours of the day and night - about her taste for Eurovision, about the last episode of 'Britain's Got Talent', or her visit to the zoo with her two sons.
So if you ever need to explain twitter to a French person, there's the words you need!

The article also notes that she never talks politics, and, in passing, damns the Prime Minister, noting "Elle veut connaître les pensées et les sentiments du plus de gens possible, aussi vite que possible, alors que son mari n'est pas très bien informé en la matière" - "She wants to know the thoughts of the people, even if her husband doesn't". (loose translation)
:: David (12:27 in Arkansas, 19:27 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Friday, July 10 2009 ::

Because it seems popular to be a Uighur these days, or at least it's popular to beat and torture Uighurs these days, I thought I would do a little background reading on the subject. The council on foreign relations had a nice overview of the Uighurs' situation in China. It's pretty much what you'd expect, although the levels to which China seems willing to go to integrate the region seem extreme. I did some further digging to figure out why China cared, and ran across this data sheet from the UN, which noted "Xinjiang is sparsely populated but is rich in resources" including minerals, coal and oil, and large amounts of arable land.

There seem to be quite a number of comment trolls out on this topic - it will be interesting to see if I get hit.
:: David (23:01 in Arkansas, 6:01 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, July 8 2009 ::

I finally managed to close on the refinance of our house. It saved us a couple hundred bucks a month (well, not counting the first few years, when we'll be paying back all the fees we had to pay to refinance), but it was an ordeal - a good percentage of all possible screw ups that could be made were made in this transaction, right up to the part where I called this morning and said 'why didn't we close yesterday - why didn't you send the documents?' and my bank responded 'oh - you didn't close yesterday?' If I thought the mortgage people dealt with the rest of my money, I'd be switching banks as fast as I could. Then, of course, the person doing the closing was working in a different building, so in addition to the proverbial run-around, I got the real thing too. I'm so glad it's done!
:: David (0:37 in Arkansas, 7:37 in Paris) - Comment

Spot the unhappy passenger in this music video, written about a (now deceased) guitar that flew on United Airlines. For bonus points, explain the sombreros.
:: David (0:32 in Arkansas, 7:32 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[5]

:: Monday, July 6 2009 ::

Bonus points to Ken Clarke for his comments concerning the new head of MI6 showing up on facebook, as reported in the The Mail on Sunday:

"I suspect that the enemies of this country do not wholly rely on The Mail on Sunday and Facebook for their information," Mr. Clarke told Sky News. "So I, personally, would get a little more calm."
From reading the article in the Times, it sounds like there may have actually been more personal information available than the head of a spy agency might want revealed, which is an interesting reflection on the age we live in. Hopefully with enough incidents like this more thought will be given to keeping private data private on these sites (though it is hard to protect people from themselves).
:: David (7:16 in Arkansas, 14:16 in Paris) - Comment

Juan Cole has a handy compilation of Al Jazeera's special on Iran and Mousavi. With today's reporting that Iran's religious leaders have openly split, we could be in for a long haul, so sit back, pull up youtube (where the vids are posted) and get yourself informed.
:: David (0:39 in Arkansas, 7:39 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, July 5 2009 ::

A friend pointed me to a great article on the health care debate as seen from the Canadian point of view. Since the Republicans in congress, on a daily basis, drag Canada's health care system through the mud, it seems fair to see what Canadians have to say about it. It's a good article, with some excellent points, like noting that the people fighting hardest against reform 'represent' the people most likely to benefit from the reform.
:: David (11:04 in Arkansas, 18:04 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, July 3 2009 ::

I worked today - my boss was kind enough to let me save the holiday until the end of the month, when I will use it in concert with my vacation days to head to London for a week to see Sasha. In my fervor to eat the leftovers I forgot to inject some variety into meal planning, so I've had Thai three days in a row (which is not all bad). Happily I've also had our tomatoes, which are now coming in quickly enough to make me start thinking about who I can give them away to. Tomorrow, of course, is the fourth, and I believe I will be heading over to some friends for grilling and somesuch.

As it is the fourth, of course, one must talk briefly about politics (or patriotism, but I talk better about politics). Sarah Palin is resigning as governor of Alaska, and North Korea is firing missiles. And, of course, we're all broke - especially if we live in California. That's probably enough to last us a long weekend!
:: David (23:31 in Arkansas, 6:31 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Thursday, July 2 2009 ::

Sasha headed off to London this morning, and so for the next six weeks I'm playing bachelor (minus the week I hope to be in London). It's very strange to find so much time on my hands - when I got home I cleaned part of the house, mowed the lawn, went shopping for cat things, visited the kitties we're watching this week, and closed with The Daily Show and Colbert Report while I had dinner. Now I'm trying to resist the urge to play with my computer until all hours (and trying to make the kitten stop chewing on my feet). Since I've been dangerously productive today, I'm afraid the rest of the week is probably shot. Or maybe this will be a trend, and when Sasha gets back she'll be horrified by the military efficiency with which I now live my life. But I doubt it.
:: David (0:05 in Arkansas, 7:05 in Paris) - Comment

:: Monday, June 29 2009 ::

Over the weekend a group of us were discussing the question of religion (well, Christianity) as it permeates Southern culture. There's no question it does - people here seize on religion as an opening conversational gambit, and the question of whether one has found one's 'church home' is reportedly oft-asked.

Being a fairly serious cultural relativist, I took the position that the assumption of one's religious affiliation had to be viewed as a way of affirming your membership in the group - a virtual equivalent to 'sure is hot out today!' where the expectation is that we are both in the same boat, and opening with this topic will allow further conversation. The basic assumption is inclusive in nature.

Our friends did not seem to agree with this understanding of the question, and rather felt it was problematic and invasive. Upon further discussion, we wondered in part if that was because, if viewed by people who do not consider themselves part of the group (perhaps they are not Christian, or perhaps they prefer not to talk about religion), the topic seems exclusionary, rather than inclusive. And if you feel the topic excludes you, perhaps your assumption is that that was what it was designed to do.

It's a tough topic, as trying to see past both your own cultural assumptions and those of the folks you live amongst can lead to some very muddled chains of logic. I think the question is further complicated, here in the US, by the association of conservative Christians with the Republican party. Now we might have the added assumptions of, for example, militarism or intolerance.

When we moved down here, I commented to Sasha that even though we weren't moving to another country, we were certainly moving to another culture. Sometimes I forget how true that was. And sometimes I am reminded.
:: David (23:19 in Arkansas, 6:19 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[5]

I bought a new cell phone today - a Palm Pre. It's very nice. As an added bonus (well, sorta), it required me to get the unlimited text message plan, which means I can now text to my heart's content. It will be interesting to see if it changes the way I communicate.
:: David (22:57 in Arkansas, 5:57 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, June 25 2009 ::

The supreme court clarified when and how a student may be searched at school today, in a ruling that produced the wonderful phrase "nondangerous school contraband does not raise the specter of stashes in intimate places". The short form of the ruling is that you better have a darned good reason for strip searching kids. Bonus points to Stevens for noting "It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude." Clarence Thomas, of course, disagreed, noting that "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments.... Nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."
:: David (13:10 in Arkansas, 20:10 in Paris) - Comment

I hadn't heard about this until recently, but apparently the legislature, in a demonstration of why everyone thinks the government wastes our money, has voted that the possessive form of the state name, "Arkansas", should be written with an extra 's' - "Arkansas's". I have been asked a few times about the quality of education in the state, because the state has an image problem in that regard. I can't imagine how it developed this image problem, when the state government demonstrates such high regard for grammatical rules.
:: David (10:36 in Arkansas, 17:36 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

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