Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I should've called it: "Robert Jordan" faces death

I am a Wheel of Time reader. I have no shame in admitting that I read this plebian, indulgent, overly-wordy and exceedingly long fantasy series. And part of why I am so comfortable admitting that I read the books is because I started reading them when I was 14, back when I was a socially crippled high school geek with no greater sense. I can't be blamed for having started to read the books then. And anyone who's read the books can attest to the fact that they're like crack - once you start, you have to plow through to the end.

But there's a problem. There may be no end to the storyline, because there may soon be an end to the author, "
Robert Jordan," aka James Oliver Rigney, Jr.

When I started reading the WOT series, there were six books in the series. They all clocked in near 1000 pages in paperback edition (and those paperbacks were notorious for falling apart after one reading). I figured the series had to be near done. Any sensible person would realize that a coherent narrative couldn't stretch much longer than 6000 pages... But no. The books kept coming. I eagerly purchased and read the seventh book at the age of 15 - I had budgeted my reading of the sixth book, allowing myself only two chapters per day in order to ensure that I wouldn't have a long, WOTless wait before the release of the seventh book. Then I waited another two years for the next book. Then another two or three for the next. (I should note at this point that the release dates of the eighth and ninth WOT books synched up exactly with those of the second and third Fatboy Slim albums - creepy...) I bought these books with due dilligence, read them when my schedule and overtaxed memory allowed - re-readings of the prior books were often necessary in order to keep the immense character list and convoluted plot straight. I even, in a true geek moment, attended an author's signing once, though this was more indeference to the fact that 14-year-old Zac would never have forgiven 19-year-old Zac for missing such an opportunity.

But as I read on, things changed other than my age. The sprawling books, which had once covered time periods of approximately six months, slowed to a crawl of one week to one month per book starting with book seven. The plot grew increasingly convoluted, the cast of characters expanded exponentially, and Jordan's already indulgent wordiness grew even worse. Many accused Jordan and his publisher, Tor, of milking the fans with the slowed pace of the books - rarely was a WOT book released without it shooting to the top of the NYT bestseller list as the unwashed, MMORPG-playing masses shuffled out of their parents' basements and into the sunshine to drive their AMC Gremlins down to the local Barnes & Noble to buy the latest installment of the addictive series. In light of this, fellow Tor author Mercedes Lackey even went so far as to accuse Robert Jordan of being a construct, insisting that the books are written by a council of ghostwriters.

Yet I stayed loyal, because I was addicted. I still am. I have to find out what happens. What exactly will Tarmon Gaidon, the Last Battle, look like? Will
Rand's blood really be shed on the steps of Shayol Ghul? Will the stick ever be removed from Nynaeve's ass? Will Rand, Mat, and Perrin all finally learn that they all think they are clueless with women, yet attribute a great skill with women to the other two? Will Bela the pony ever make it to her home pasture? I know it sounds absurd if you're an Outsider, but if you've read even one of the books, you probably know what I'm talking about...

Now, as I forged ahead with the books - I'm currently in my third re-read in hopes of being able to read and comprehend the tenth and eleventh books - I maintained my faith. Yet my fellow geek friends did not. One turned away from the series indefinately, distracted by his own tumultuous life and his own writing career. Another insisted that he wouldn't touch the series until it was completed, because he was tired of the necessary re-reads. As he said this, it occured to me that the author might not even live to finish the series - he appeared to be of upper-middle age (mid-late 50s) by his press photos, and the photos, and later my own eyes, revealed him to be a rather large man. I easily imagined him encountering heart troubles or the like within a very short time-frame, and him dying with the series unfinished, and myself and the legion of fans left waiting for a fulfillment that would never come.

That doomsday scenario may now very well come true. Rigney/Jordan has been diagnosed with some uber-rare blood disorder, and will have to undergo chemotherapy and stem-cell treatment. Under this treatment, there is a 25% chance of remission, and a 10-15% chance of death. Whatever the case, he's still likely to die from it within four years.

Now, on the official Tor site, Jordan has a
statement on the situation in which he expresses his every intention to fight through this and continue on with his life and his writing. And I'm behind him 100%. I hope he makes it out of pure humanism. But hell, I'm scared that he'll die and never finish the goddamn books. And then all my effort will be for naught. We're only one book away from the conclusion of the storyline, and here he is going into treatment with a 10-15% chance of immediate death. I don't think even Mat would bet on those odds...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Stanizlaw Lem, 1921 - 2006

Zac's Blog o' Death returns today, this time to honor this man:
Polish science fiction author and favorite of mine
Stanislaw Lem died today. He left behind an expansive body of work, and his legacy is assured. His works were among the most cerebrally witty, cunning, and outright bizarre I have ever read. My life has been thoroughly enriched as a result of this man, and I am thankful that he had what time on Earth that he did have.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

What happened to sonic booms?

As a child growing up in Siskiyou County during the '80s, I remember hearing sonic booms frequently. We're talking on a weekly basis here. I heard them all the freakin' time. And after conferring with some Siskiyou natives around my age, they also recall hearing them with a similar frequency through that time period. However, something has changed...

Sometime in the early-mid '90s, I stopped hearing sonic booms with any regularity. In fact, I can say with some significant level of certainty that I haven't heard a sonic boom in 10 years or more. Not in Siskiyou County, not anywhere. I ran this by Brenda, and she says the same. So, what happened to them?

Thinking on this some more, I wonder why the heck I heard so many sonic booms back in the day. Siskiyou County was nowhere near any military bases, so I don't even know what super-sonic jets would be doing in the area. Maybe I just heard the sonic booms more often because I was outside more often as a child. But then I have trouble believing that in all the time since the initial decline, I've somehow managed to hear no sonic booms, despite living much nearer military bases for the past seven years. Hrmmm, perhaps this is all part of some government conspiracy...

Anyway, I'd like to get to the bottom of this. Initial internet searches have turned up very little information. Do any of you out there reading have anything to say on this? Have you noticed the same drastic downturn in sonic booms that I have? Let me know in a comment...

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Mosquito is Swatted

Yes, that headline has probably been used a thousand times already today, but I am not a Domanech - that headline occured to me without any outside prompting.

So, the
Mosquito," a high frequency siren-type device designed to be audible only to younger folk (thanks to hearing damage in those of us over the age of 22 or so) and used as a deterrent for loitering youths (dastardly!) has been challenged by a human rights group. How this will hold up, I don't know (especially in the UK, the origin of the "NEET" concept). And concerns so far are, in fact, about unexpected issues:
A concerned NCSP spokesman told the BBC: "If the noise upset a baby in a pram or caused a dog in a neighbouring house to bark incessantly then these are issues we would have to address."
Hrmm... I'm more concerned about it being deliberately and disgustingly ageist and abusive. Not to mention indicative of a deep societal distrust of youths. And regardless of whether or not the behavior of youths is indeed undesirable, I think a more appropriate action is to work towards the reincorporation of youths into modern society, rather than pushing for their further marginalization... But, of course, pro-active action is never in vogue.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


A bit more of the jovial, lighthearded content I'd like to see here:
Two things I love: Jeopardy and 1337n355

Another Winner...

So another day has passed, and yet another person has left comments on one of my CA-04 posts, attacking and insulting me. This time the perpetrator didn't even have the balls to post non-anonymously. And though I should be able to say "oh well, just another internet crazy," I'm having trouble getting past this one. It's extremely bizarre as "farm-league" blogger as 5C11 put it - though I'd say I'm actually more of a backyard garden league blogger, or even an herb-garden league blogger... nay, I'm a friggin' Chia-Pet league blogger - to be the subject of such vehement attacks. And though I do get past the initial spike in heart rate and adrenaline when I read such attacks, and I eventually "wax-off," I'm quickly realizing that I just don't want this sort of thing to be happening on my blog. I want this to be a place for my friends, as well as for whatever passers-by might enjoy the content. I don't want to be a target for some crazies out there, emboldened by the anonymity of the internet to unload their frustrations on me. It's just not what this is supposed to be about.

So, a couple of changes... I'm no longer allowing anonymous comments. I'm also not going to be blogging about CA-04 very much, as it seems to make me a target for some very troubled people out there. I don't want their negativity here. That doesn't change how I feel about the situation, and it certainly doesn't change how I'm going to vote come June. Am I caving to the crazies? Maybe. But I've been in many internet flame-wars throughout the past, and it's just not a pleasant thing to be involved in. I'll be happier if I just remove myself from the situation and move on with my life and the blog...

That said... Were a political candidate to basely attack a small time blogger, make numerous grammatical mistakes while doing so, and then enlist others to go and do the same, I'd say that political candidate would indeed be unworthy of your vote. I would say that political candidate might be characterized as a "loose cannon," and would not at all, through those actions, be demonstrating the level of professional behavior that we, as voters and constituents, expect of our elected representatives. I would even go so far as to say that a person behaving thusly would be demonstrating such an utter lack of common sense that I would not want them to be working in any position of authority. Additionally, calling someone an "ass" is certainly a helluva way to get them to vote for you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Beerlog: Russian River Redemption

For the purpose of this post, I'd normally just link to my review on Beer Advocate, but they're now requiring a login to view reviews...

So, anyway, the FedEx people brought me a package today. This package contained four beers from Russian River Brewing Company, aka, my favorite brewery in the whole wide world. For those of you who don't know, Russian River is sort of coming to the forefront of American craft brewing right now due to their explorative approach to beer and their much-lauded line of Belgian-style and Belgian-inspired beers, all having names ending in "tion" - Damnation, Salvation, Supplication, Temptation, Erudition, etc. One of the beers I was recieved was Redemtion, which is Russian River's interpretation of a Belgian "single" - as opposed to a "dubbel," "tripel," or "quadrupel," - a low-alcohol "session"-style beer that rarely makes its way outside of Belgium. IMO, it's a style of beer that's massively underdone - there should be way more of it available in the US...

The beer itself is lightly golden and hazy. There's a lush head and high carbonation from the brettanomyces in the beer - brettanomyces is a kind of wild yeast that, though avoided in other beers, is embraced in a few Belgian styles for the "farmhouse funk" that it lends to the mix. The aroma is all apple and pear, with a hint of sweaty-funk and tartness from the brett. In the mouth the beer is amazingly light, both from the low overall alcohol content (4.8%) and the fact that the brett has eaten away any and all residual sugars. Falvor-wise, the beer breaks from style some, with no hop presence, depending entirely upon the esters and the funk. This isn't unpleasant, it's just unexpected... The beer leaves a lingering metallic twang, oddly enoughy.

So, in the end, it's a worthy beer, but were you to make a purchase from Russian River, I'd recommend Damnation or Salvation over it. Or better yet, wait until the summer and order up a case of the lovely chardonnay/blonde ale chimera that is Temptation...

Lessons Learned in CA-04

Somebody put significant effort into replying to one of my most recent posts claiming to be CA-04 candidate Michael Hamersley (that's one M, mind you...) Wow, I had no idea that little ol' me held so much sway.

I just want to clarify a few things:
  • I am in no way associated with the Brown campaign! I like what I know of the candidate so far and I chose to put his banner on my blog. (I thought I was entitled to do that...)
  • I am simply a lowly blogger, one of tens of thousands. I have barely any readership, so far...
  • I am not an "ass," as the commenter (I've no proof it's really Hamersley) said. I am a constituent of CA-04 and I am a registered voter.

So, to close, I just want to thank the commenter for putting me in my place. I've learned my lesson. A citizen and a constituent should never express their opinions regarding political candidates.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My car has been de-virginized...

Today, upon arriving home and pulling in to a parking space, I hit this:
Which did this to my car:
The estimate? An astounding $2100. Amazing. I am thankful I have good insurance...

Lesson learned: be not hasty and do not let the commuter life rush you.

The odd thing is, I think I'm actually somewhat relieved by this episode. I was feeling so rushed and harried by commuter life - it seemed like I couldn't get anything done because I was always on the road and/or working during business hours. Now that I'm forced to take a day off to handle this, I'm strangely at peace. Yes, part of my car that should be up near the front has been ripped off and now rests in my trunk, but I'm forced to pull away from the grind and deal with it. I'll be going to an auto-body shop and a rental-car place in the town in which I live. I'll take some time to, *gasp*, wash my car. And yes, I may even get to the post-office too, which was what I was intending to do when this whole mess began...

Another (Uninspiring) Candidate for CA-04

Michael Hamersley has thrown his name in for CA-04. A quick look over his website made me want to, as I did with Rea, run screaming, though for different reasons. Whereas Rea comes across to me as just weird and mildly creepy, not to mention an unabashed senior-panderer, Hamersley is seemingly lifeless. Completely stiff, completely uncharismatic. He and his people attempt to sell him as an ethical man, a whistle-blower, etc. I don't care how "ethical" this guy is based on the whistle-blowing incident, he will fall flat with Red county voters. Someone without charisma, without even the sense to put a photograph of himself on his campaign website, will never win in Red territory. And with all the talk about his ethics, it's amazing how cold and scientific it seems. See below:
"I find it exceedingly difficult to fathom that no illegal quid pro quo existed when John Doolittle 'earmarked' millions of dollars for a Department of Defense contract that was awarded to a man he calls his 'close friend,' Brent Wilkes, who contributed $85,000 to Mr. Doolittle's campaign coffers and political action committee in close temporal proximity to the awarding of this contract. At the very least, this conduct is highly unethical." Hamersley said.
All his ethics talk is wrapped up in cold, legal jargon... There's no humanity to it. There's no outrage. Ultimately, there's no value-appeal - which should be easy with a topic such as ethics - and there doesn't seem to even be a sense amongst him and his people that values appeals should be made.

In the end, I want to hit Hammersley over the head with a copy of Don't Think of an Elephant. But then, I'm not sure I want him to even be in the race. I don't want him to steal the candidacy from under
Brown. I don't want to run the risk of the idiotic Dem establishment running an uncharismatic stiff over an inspiring candidate, as they did in '04.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Labor for Brown...

New press release from the Brown camp:

Mar 16, 2006
Democratic Congressional Candidate Charles Brown (Lt. Col., USAF Ret.) announced that the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, endorsed his campaign at the organization’s pre-primary endorsement convention on March 8th. The California Labor Federation is the umbrella group for labor in the state, representing more than 2 million workers in health care, manufacturing, service, retail, construction, public sector and private industry.

“I am honored by this endorsement because working families are the backbone of our economy and our communities,” noted Brown. “Unfortunately the Republican Congress has shown that it cares more about corporate CEOs and wealthy campaign contributors than ordinary Americans. Retirement security, access to quality healthcare, well supported public schools, good paying jobs and fair trade are not special interests---they are the people’s interests, and will be among my top priorities as the 4th District’s next Congressman.”

“In the military, as a teacher and as a law enforcement professional, Charlie has stood up for hard working Americans, and we are proud to stand with him,” added Sacramento Central Labor Council Executive Secretary Bill Camp. “It’s time for new direction in Washington that puts the needs of working Americans first---and his name is Charlie Brown.”

Charles Brown, Lt. Col. USAF Ret., spent 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, and is a former public school teacher. He is currently employed by the Roseville Police Department, and is a Democratic Candidate for California’s 4th Congressional Seat. www.brown4congress.org.

Military, education, and law enforcement? Anti-corporate, pro-populist? Can we get some apple pie with that? Things are looking up for CA-04...

We're not the only ones...

Protests in France over a youth labor law? And the NEET phenomenon in Japan? Seems that youth are simmering across industrialized countries, and the Boomers are universally bullheaded. Is another '68 on the horizon?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Burdens of Youth?

I am concerned about the welfare of my generation, Generation Y. I am concerned that so many of my peers, despite college education, seem unable to find stable and appropriate employment. Oh yes, they may find some service jobs, and they may find some temp work, but overall the wages are lower than expected, and benefits are scant. And for those living in California, housing costs are prohibitively expensive. All this, faced with the troubles posed by the impending boomer retirements, and we're looking at a very bad situation.

I recently discovered the work of Anya Kamenetz, a blogger and columnist hailing from my own Generation Y, who takes on the economic issues surrounding twenty-somethings, especially with regards to (student loan) debt, in her book. Intrigued by the buzz surrounding the work, I have ordered it. Perhaps that's an example of the impulsive consumerism to which some attribute my generations debt, but I see it as a positive step to grow more informed about the issue and plan a course of action. And if nothing else, I'm contributing to the income of at least one 25-year old with my purchase...

Overall, I'm very frustrated with the political lot of youth in this country. I think that the twenty-somethings of the US should be pissed off about their marginalization. I think they should be pissed off that this country is eating its young. I think they should be pissed off that their parents and their grandparents are mortgaging their future. And I think that if this anger is channeled into political action, the youth vote could be a force to be reckoned with. As for how to get youth to vote at a higher rate than they do (a shockingly low 10% of those eligible) I don't know what to do yet. Perhaps they know. I'll be mulling this one over...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Are you a good man, Charlie Brown?

Today I got to thinking about this coming Fall's election. Now, that'll be a gubernatorial election for us Californians, and though Angelides is already running a substantial campaign, I think Arnold's reformed policies will net him another victory. But I'm not really that concerned about the gubernatorial race - it's odd how at ease some of us lefties are with Republican governors (see Massachusettes with Romney). But what I am concerned with in this election is the House seats. And I'm concerned in a big way. Changing the face of the legislature will go a long way in terms of steering this big, slow, and stupid ship back onto course. And it's the only ground on which any gains can be made, what with Bush having another three years as a lame duck, and the rest of the Supreme Court appearing rather healthy...

I decided to look up the candidates for my own district, California's fourth. This district, stretching from the affluent, commuter-based suburbs of Roseville and Rocklin (both heavily Republican), up to the Oregon border in bass-ackwards Modoc County. Aside from Oroville, Susanville, and the towns of Nevada County, there's not much in that swathe of land aside from a SETI reasearch facility, a lot of ranch land, and a rather good
meadery. According to one source, this is the sixth most Republican district in California. It is "Red California" - the affluent white-flighters and the good rural folk (who the Dems have done a damn good job of outright ignoring for decades...) It's a helluva district for a Dem to try for, and it's exactly the kind of district the cancerous DC Dem establishment has chosen to ignore and/or throw. And it's exactly the kind of district I think the Dems should start fighting for.

So, anyway, the current Democratic cantidates for CA-04? Well, there's
this woman, Lisa Rea, who makes me want to run screaming. Exactly the kind of unfocused, mildly batty, and downright uninspiring candidate that excells at losing in Red districts. An example of her half-baked and oh-so-strangely strategized policies?

"'We need to hold criminals accountable to their victims,' she said, noting her program goes beyond financial restitution. Criminals need to face their victims, apologize for their misdeeds and make right, she said. As an example, Rea said a person convicted of graffiti might be required to actually paint over the graffiti he painted."

Hrmm. That's an odd stance, seeing that it's standard practice with graffiti to A. photograph it for evidence and then B. paint over it immediately so as to deny the perpetrator an audience for their crime. What's up next for the first contender? Cue the pandering to the senior vote:

"Rea strongly believes in honoring 'our parents.' 'I don't think the lives of our seniors are well respected or represented,' she said. 'I want to reach out to the seniors in the region.'"

The lives of "our seniors" aren't well represented? Senior citizens are one of the most mobilized voting groups out there! Politicians pander left and right to seniors! Those who aren't represented are the young folk. The twenty-somethings struggling to establish careers and unable to buy houses due to a rampant, intetest-rate induced bubble.

Anyway, enough with her. I shouldn't be too concerned about Rea, as I'm certain she'll be soundly stomped in the primary by contender number two, Charlie Brown. An Air Force veteran and Acadamey grad, he's recieved some good buzz from Kos as a "Fighting Dem," a strategy of which I don't wholly approve (remember how well Clark did?) but I suppose Brown's military credentials could be quite an asset in this district. Reading over his site, I'm fairly pleased with what I see. Sound policy stances, general political finesse. And Brown might well have enough charisma to fare well in CA-04. Is he the "real thing?" I don't know. Does he have a chance of winning against entrenched, Abramoff-linked Republican heavyweight Doolittle in a solidly Red district? More of a chance than I'd ever expected to see. So for now I'm throwing my support behind Brown, hence the new banner below. As the election picks up, and I learn more about him, I hope he continues to prove himself "a good man."

The Theocratic States of America

From the Christian Science Monitor:

"Currently, Florida, Mississippi, and Utah have laws that ban gay adoption explicitly, although a few other states - including Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, and New Hampshire - have de facto policies or laws restricting gays from adopting or becoming foster parents."

Sweet Jesus. I wasn't aware I was living in a theocracy. How the hell do those laws hold up? Where are the challenges? Where's the ACLU on this one? And why the hell are so many Americans so bloody afraid of homosexuals?

We've got a long way to go...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Big Brother in New Jersey

So a New Jersey legislator has decided that internet exchanges, such as those made on message boards, are uncivil (they often are - I'm a veteran of flame wars and know firsthand how uncivil people can be behind a mask of anonymity) and that legislation is required to make such exchanges more civil. This would be done by requiring posters to use include their real name and address. Wow. In addition to being nearly un-enforcable, such a law is A. damn creepy, and B. just plain stupid. At least it seems that my opinions, uncivil as they may be, are shared by many others, and the bill is now stalled. Let's just hope this bizarre censorship doesn't gain any traction... Read more here.

Silence on the Left...

So, that enigmatic Dem, Senator Russ Feingold, has proposed a censure of President Bush regarding Spygate. Since the initial announcement, support was anemic, the Republican response was vitriolic, and the Dems have withdrawn the motion. Why exactly this was done, I don't yet understand. Reid implied that the withdrawal was in response to the Republican threat for a quick vote without debate - "To try to limit debate on this most important matter that Senator Feingold is going to put before the Senate is not appropriate." Hooey I say. No amount of debate would lead to this motion passing.

Did I expect the motion to pass? Hell no - the Republicans have a solid control of the legislature. And while the ports fiasco has eroded Republican support for Bush some, this doesn't transfer to Spygate, the subject of the censure. Would there be value in putting forward the censure motion and having it fail? Some symbolic value, yes. Especially if the Dems voted solidly for the motion. This may indeed have as much value as a wholesale passing of the motion, as even a passed censure motion is nothing more than a public admonition, with no actual weight or accountability behind it. I think a Democratic Party united behind this motion would send a message stronger than any we've seen in recent years. And it might be rather well received by the general public, especially considering that Bush's approval ratings are hovering in the mid to low 30s. With the retreat, I think the Dems come across as weak, divided, and unprincipled (which they are - at least the ones on Capitol Hill...) and Feingold has been painted a fringe extremist - no good for anybody involved.

But what's really bugging me about this whole thing is the silence of the Lefts 900-lb blogorillas such as
Kos and Jerome. At the time of this writing, neither had commented on the withdrawal. I am very anxious to see what they say (or don't say). In the meantime, we shall wait...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wasted Weekend

As I bolted out of bed this morning, frustrated that I didn't get a better night's sleep - largely because I was lying awake anxious about getting a good night's sleep, 'tis a vicious cycle - I couldn't help but feel that I'd wasted the weekend.

Oh the weekend stared fine, with a quasi-date involving Indian food, an attempt to see a movie, and an explorative drive throughout the area on which we discovered that we live alarmingly close to a casino. But then Saturday came. And nothing happened. I slept in some, and I know I ate some food, and I know I ended up falling asleep at the astonishingly early hour of 9:00 PM. But I don't know that anything else happened. I think all that time was wasted watching re-runs of Project Runway and other indulgent and wasteful television programs. Oh, occasionally I might have contemplated actually doing something, but I never did. Sunday was much the same, though I ended up shopping for groceries and washing/ironing several loads of laundry. But that was all requisite stuff. Stuff that, had I not done it, I simply wouldn't have been able to get through the following week.

Why did this happen? Going into the weekend, I was exhausted, largely because the previous weekend had involved the highly stressful, two-day speech tournament. By the time Friday rolled around, I was desperate for some respite. And I largely think I did as I did on Saturday and Sunday because I was too damn tired to do anything else. But now that Monday is back upon us, I feel profoundly unsatisfied with the weekend. I feel angry that I should grow so tired in the course of a week as to fall into such a slump during the weekend. That I should find myself not using my weekends for pleasure and recreation and living my own goddamn life. From here on out I resolve to strive to use my weekends for good. I shall not succumb to the urge to be a lump. I shall not let my job and modern urban/suburban life wear me down to that point. I shall be vibrant and alive, and use my own time to fulfill my wishes, not just to recover so that I can make it back to work on Monday. I shall work to live, not live to work.

Yes, I have said as much before, and I have slipped back. But the overall progress is, I think, positive. With this reaffirmation, I set myself back on course.

Now I just need to make it through this week, and through the two-day debate tournament on Friday and Saturday without growing, once again, tired, cranky, and sour. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You want cultural divide? I'll show you cutural divide...

While browsing Wonkette, I learned of this. Now, I don't read Arabic, but sources lead me to believe it's basically a Hamas-related recruitment site targeted towards young children. Now, as horrifying as that is in and of itself, while browsing the site I found something more disturbing. What, you ask? Just look below...

What, you don't see it? Look a little closer... Still don't see it? Okay, I'll just point it out...

Yes!!! The scroll-bar is on the LEFT. I realize that based on the top-right to lower-left dynamic of Arabic script, much graphic design within the Arabic-speaking world actually runs opposite to what we're used to in the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabet-based portions of the world, mirroring our standard design formats based on the opposite-diagonal being the dominant one. I just have never before seen it as an influencing factor in web-design, and it just caught me off guard. I spent a minute just staring at the page, wondering how the hell I was to navigate it without the scroll-bar, before I finally realized it was on the left. It just comes across as, well, damn freaky. An affront to my sensibilities, more so than the cultivation of preadolescent martyrs.

Update: Al-Fatah.net appears to be down momentarily.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bloody Luddites and Debate Geeks

Little in this world angers me more than technology resistance and ignorance.

I am currently trying to figure out some of the specifics regarding the logistics of our upcoming National Forensics League national qualifying tournament, and I can't find the appropriate information on the
website. Sure the site looks pretty nifty, with lots of mouse-overs, but the overall architecture of the site is Byzantine and confusing. And in the end, a lot of the information that I would expect to find either just isn't there or is impossible to find. This is, I believe, symptomatic of a larger problem amongst those born pre-1975...

So many of the pre-computer, pre-internet generations - yes, they've been around the technology for certain, but unlike those of us born after 1975, they weren't steeped in the technology throughout their formative years - have a steadfast resistance to modern technology and/or a critically limited understanding of it. For those few that do decide to delve into modern technology a bit, there seem to be several recurring problems. The first, as illustrated by the above example is the "'Good Enough' Website."

Yes indeed... So many businesses and organization owned and/or run by boomers and the like, or by luddites in general, tend to, if and when they do put up a website, do the minimal amount of work. This means a poorly designed page, with perhaps one grainy image, a horrendous logo, and little to no content. No substantial information about the business, poor site architecture, and no means of contact outside, perhaps, the listing of a rarely-checked e-mail and a telephone number. It's as if they think by simply putting up a website, business will come to them. Though some sites do end up with more polish, as with the NFL site, there are still the content and architecture problems.

Then there's the e-mail issue. It seems to me that many luddites, young and old alike, seem to think that they are less accountable for e-mail than they are for telephone or direct inter-personal contact. Send an e-mail to someone? No imperative to reply. Call someone? Well, there's a little more there. Talk to one of the old fogies in person and they finally feel the social pressure to actually acknowledge you and address your problems. Worst offenders on this front? The bloated mass of mid-level administrative staff at my district.

Oy. The structure of this post is getting lost, and it's really just a bunch of complaining on my part, but what I really want to get to is this... Perhaps the worst offence commited by Luddites against me would be the decision on the part of my debate league to tab tournaments by hand rather than use the software that is increasingly becoming the standard throughout the rest of the debate world. The steadfast resistance of these Luddite dinosaurs, their insistance that a well-tested computer program is not to be trusted over emotional, tired, and fallable humans infuriates me. It infuriates me because their insistance on doing everything by hand, on paper, makes tournament days arduous and hectic, when things could be greatly simplified by the use of the software.

I'll be glad when the boomers retire and the dinosaurs die. I really will.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dialing it in...

Oy vey.

Apologies for the absences/slowness as of late. This weekend I had to take my speech & debate team to a two-day tournament, and the work-week leading up to it was busy and stressful. After the tournament, which was a byzantine and political nightmare, I have at least one student who has a guaranteed spot at April's state tournament. And while that's a great success, especially considering that my team is a first year team at a low-SES urban school of under 400 students, and that I had absolutely no speech & debate experience before beginning my stint as a coach, and it's going to do a lot to curry favor both for me with our administrator and for our school with our district, and that it's just stinkin' cool for the kid, I can't say that I'm all that excited. What with this tournament having been so goddamn stressful, with tab-room errors being made, and one team making a big and ugly ruling protest, and with the league administration getting stressed-the-fuck-out and being generally unpleasant to be around, I kinda had no energy left with which to be excited following the awards ceremony. And quite frankly, I think I'd rather just sleep in on the weekend of the state tournament. At least I can be thankful that the tournament will be hosted at Sierra College, which will be, quite literally, across the street from me...

Anyway, hopefully I'll recover some from the trauma of this weekend and soon begin writing/completing the several big and insightful posts that have been percolating in my head over the past week. We shall return to form. I guarantee it...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Where I've Been

A map of the US states I've visited, generated

And another map of the countries I've visited, generated here.

Kinda pathetic. Especially the second one. I need to travel more. My ideal map would look something more like this...

I've got some work to do...