Saturday, October 30, 2004

Writing encouragement

I love this bio. At age 37 I still harbor fantasies about writing a Great American Novel, but with no writing background, literary degree or published credentials, getting published appears to be the sort of thing that will really require some kickstarting, even in the unlikely event that I make it to the end of the story. But this story is the kind that gives me fresh hope. Congratulations, Mr. Cunningham, and good luck with the writing thing.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Forthwith, my endorsements for Monroe County candidates.

Maybe not all of them. There's a voter's guide in the paper today. What gets my endorsement?

(1) A response. Candidates here and there didn't respond at all to the questionnaire from the League of Women Voters. What are they, too good for them? Kevin Enright gets my vote for surveyor. Richard Bray in the 37th and Vi Simpson in the 40th for State Senate.

(2) A non-incumbent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of incumbents didn't bother to respond. Put these first two items together and you'll know why I endorse David Sanders (D) over Steve Buyer for US Representative in District 4.

(3) Libertarians, and lost causes in general. Mike Englert is running for County Comissioner in district 2; I understand he used to go by the name "Moss" and protest logging by sitting in trees. You got to love that! Endorsed.

(4) You must know how to *write*. Al Cox is the Libertarian running against Baron Hill (D-9th), and so I would ordinarily vote for him. But he didn't even run a spellchecker over his answers to the surveys. Hill didn't bother to respond. Mike Sodrel? You get my vote by process of elimination.

(5) Reputation. Or in some cases, the lack of one. I've never met Jeff Ellington, but it seems like I've been hearing sleazy things about him my whole life. Iris Kiesling gets my vote for Monroe County district 3. I've always liked the work Paul Hager has done for small government, even if he did ditch the Libertarians. He gets my vote for State Rep in district 60.

(6) Skillz. The paper endorsed Sandy Newmann for Auditor, citing her experience with computers and accounting. Her opponent, the incumbent, is someone who seems like she's been in local government in one position or another forever. Time for a change.

There you have it. If the candidates want my vote in the next election, they should now know how to get it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Winter exercise

It really gets tricky this time of year. Of course there is always the weight room, and my company provides a decent one that I'll probably end up using once a week or so, but I really need a little competition to get the heart pumping properly. I have a strong preference for field sports, primarily Ultimate Frisbee and soccer, but I like volleyball too. It looks like the pickup soccer group I play with will be able to play indoor again - man, I still really want some training - but I don't know about indoor ultimate. I've just this summer started monitoring the Indiana University and Indianapolis frisbee mailing lists again, and I went out and scrimmaged one night with the IU co-ed team. It was fun, but I only had about half an hour in me to keep up with the kids. I'll probably take a shot at the Riverside Indy game sometime too, if they have any more this year. For volleyball, I tried to put together a Bloomington city league team a few years ago, but it never really got off the ground, and I don't have the skills to try to muscle onto a team. I'll check their schedule anyway.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


It's an odd thing that it seems to be really hard to find topical blogs to read. There was an article in Forbes, I think, a while ago that listed the Ten Best Sports Blogs and the Ten Best Economic Blogs and things like that, but every so often I get a wild hair and decide, "I'm going to go subscribe to some Science Fiction blogs." So off I go to Google and search for them, and a few minutes turn up blogs by ten or so SciFi writers, but that wasn't quite where I was going. I wanted a blog about Science Fiction. I wanted book reviews, discussions of classic series, thoughts on the physics of Star Trek. Maybe it's different for books. I love to read Arnold Kling, the econ prof, but when you get right down to it, I don't suppose he really produces much other than words, so his blog ought to be good. Anyone who wants to talk about Star Trek probably doesn't output all that much. Same with soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, and a few other things that don't draw many professional writers.

I suppose what it comes down to is that the best blogs are just written by good writers, rather than topical ones. Wouldn't it be cool if you could aggregate blogs by topic rather than by author? Maybe that's the next big thing; of course we don't get topic listings here at blogger. Something to look forward to.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Added Haloscan trackback

I've noticed that my page doesn't look as cool as most of the pages out there. I suppose that's a bad thing, but somehow I don't care; the most distinguishing feature of a cool looking page seem to be really small text in light letters on a dark background. I can't bear reading most of them without my Bandit.

Still, when I get a chance I fiddle around with the settings and add stuff here and there. Today I turned off Blogger comments and put in Haloscan instead. Trackbacks are way cool and I can't understand why Blogger doesn't have them natively.

Windows automatic reboots

Scoble talks about Windows machines rebooting automatically. My company has a story to tell about this too. A server that runs the almost-nearly-practically production versions of our software, driving our phone systems, suddenly rebooted itself. It took us a long time to figure out what exactly had happened; we thought our software had caused a serious machine blowup, and a good chunk of the company was without phone service for several minutes. Our IT guys were aware of the automatic reboot possibility but didn't think that option was set on the machine. How it got set remains a mystery.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Bush / Kerry again

The three-year-old is usually working on bed between 8 and 9, so I keep missing the first parts of these debates. Here's some thoughts on the ending, though:

9:27. Kerry just said he doesn't care if an idea is a liberal idea or a conservative idea, as long as it's a good idea. That was one of Clinton's strengths, to pick up good conservative ideas like balancing the budget. It's a shame neither of these candidates have any good ideas, though.

9:22. Bush is claiming that America was divided in the 2000 election and in the 90's, too. Not true, certainly not like it is today.

9:18. One thing I've always liked about Bush is that he's always talked a very tolerant position for other religions. He's talking about everyone's right to worship or not to worship as they choose. This is in contrast to his father, actually, who said he didn't think atheists should be granted full rights.

9:13. It's amazing how far apart these two are. It seems like every response by Bush starts out with, "That's just not true!" Kerry mentioned Bush has never met with the NAACP, but the president ignored that. Might as well, it's not like he's going to get any black votes anyway.

9:09. Is it just me, or is the President looking really flustered? ...nice response by Kerry on assault weapons; managed to sneak terrorism into it too.

9:04. Good grief, the moderator brought up the draft. I really hate when they ask questions where the answer is, "Yes, I oppose that. Now about Iraq...".

8:58. Minimum wage. The whole debate is silly, really, as minimum wage issues are like public schools, the only thing they're good for is political posturing. If anyone was serious about fixing the minimum wage, they would peg it to the inflation rate like social security is.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Play Review: Pride and Prejudice

We went up and saw this at the Indiana Repertory Theater in Indianapolis. I wrote a review of Emma a while ago, but I prefer P&P, and in the last six months I've read the book, watched the A&E miniseries, watched a movie, and now gone to see the play. So I think I've got a handle on the plot now.

Of the three "acted" performances I've seen, the A&E miniseries was my favorite, I think because it was the one that had the length to stay truest to the book. Most good stories can't be told in video in less than five or six hours, so the movie I found pretty disappointing. The play was in a category by itself, though. There was a fair amount of slapstick in it; not many serious scenes at all. The acting was certainly fine, I had no issues with the skills of the actors at all. Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Collins were especially good, probably because they camped up the characters pretty heavily. The girl who played Lydia Bennett gave her a very thick nasal accent, which I didn't really see any reason for. What bothered me the most, though, was Mr. Darcy during the first hour of the play, when it was very clear that what he was doing was courting Lizzy. This is certainly not true to the book. In the book, Darcy's pride would never allow him to court anyone as low-born as Lizzy, and even when he paid her compliments, they wree usually done as an attempt to fend off Caroline Bingley's advances. So to have him up there actually making googoo eyes at Lizzy, I found a bit odd.

One reason why I shouldn't be writing play reviews is that I don't see enough of them. This is a case where I want to say, "Oh, but in the London production Darcy was acted most excellently." I can't say that, though, because I haven't seen any other production, and for all I know the courting is part of the play, not something the actor does. Maybe they need to play up Darcy's attraction to keep the plot moving? I wasn't sure, but if I had been directing I would have told Darcy to act the part more as the proud, arrogant nobleman he was.

The other fault I found was with the Bennett sisters' costumes. They looked like they were all wearing nightgowns for the whole play. I suspect this was due to a lack of available period underwear; if you want to make a gown like that look right, you need to be buttoned, strapped, belted, and tied in properly.

But I enjoyed the play, overall. Definitely worth seeing, and, although I suspect the Indianapolis audience isn't overly critical, they gave a standing ovation.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bush / Kerry debate

9:29. Asking Bush what poor decisions he's made. That's a softball for any experienced politician. They used it to make their usual points about flip-flopping and war mistakes.

9:24. Wow, a very blunt abortion question. If someone asked that at a confirmation hearing they'd be booed right off the committee. Bush's straight-up pro-life position is an advantage here - Kerry has a more subtle point to make.

9:21. Bush put out some nice generalities on the Supreme Court issue. Kerry is hammering back with specifics, pointing out that Bush said Scalia is one of his favorite judges. Scalia is the worst judge on the current Supreme Court.

9:16. President Bush is talking about his stem cell decision, which is a pretty political balance - not going out too far on the pro-life agenda to alienate the moderates.

9:10. Senator Kerry is wearing a red tie. The President is wearing a blue tie. OK, maybe it matches the background better, but c'mon! Got to have the power tie!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Book review: Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

There's a little blurb on the cover of my copy from Hemingway, saying that all American literature springs from Huckleberry Finn. Maybe it's true, maybe not, but it's clear there is a style about Huck Finn. The language is exceedingly simple, the plot consists of a series of more or less unrelated scenes. But the dialect rings very authentic; Jim's voice as a slave, and Huck's voice as an uneducated Missourian. I think the most intriguing thing of all about the book is Huck's certainty that stealing slaves is an unethical thing to do. He goes back and forth, anguishing over whether to turn Jim in or help him escape to a free state, eventually deciding that, since he was born a bad person, he's just going to help Jim escape and chance the eternal flames. Now, if this book had been written in 1983, this would have been the absolutely predictable decision that the character would have made. We all know slavery is, and was, evil, and for a book in 1983 to come to any other conclusion would have been either (a) unthinkable, or (b) Literature. But I wonder how inevitable the conclusion was to readers in the early 19th century.

Huck Finn makes a lot of banned books, of course, and let me see if I can get my blog on any available banned blog lists by revealing why: the constant repetition of the word nigger. I suppose it's less likely now, though, due to its relatatively common usage black-on-black. So I'd guess anyone Googling for that word will find my blog pretty low down on the list. In the book, the usage is absolutely authentic; Huck uses it, Jim uses it, every character in the book uses it. At any rate, I distinctly remember reading a letter of Abraham Lincoln referring to "Darkies", and I haven't heard anyone suggesting that his books be banned.

The flak over banning of books is really a tempest in a teacup, though, IMO. The only true definition of censorship is when the government disallows the book entirely. To claim that a book has been censored just because a single school library has decided not to carry it is disingenuous, especially in these days when pornography is available for free and books can just be downloaded. I don't buy into the NRA-style slippery-slope arguments. Things that are right, are right, and a library's freedom to make its own decisions about what books to carry is right.

I suppose the key question about Huck Finn, though, is how relevant is it, really, today? I can't answer that. For literary critics it's probably important as the Book That Spawned American Literature, but I find that analagous to playing Pong, The Game That Spawned American Video. It was a great game then, but today's games are a lot better.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Broadcast censorship

Howard Stern is moving to satellite radio. More power to him - I'm a Sirius subscriber myself, not that I would ever listen to the man. But the articles I'm hearing seem to be focused mostly on why satellite radio isn't censored, while the airwaves are. But there's a very good reason for that. Broadcast signals are a limited resource, and the government in its wisdom, has decreed that they are a public resource. Stations that broadcast are given a license by the government to use a certain frequency, and in return they promise to do certain things, like not swear, and run public service announcements. But satellite and cable transmissions are not a limited resource. In theory you could have as many as you wanted, and the government has absolutely no legitimate interest in any kind of regulation. So the FCC should not be regulating cable or satellite broadcasts.