Thursday, December 30, 2004


It occurs to me that I have written nothing about the Tsunami that struck people all around the Indian Ocean this week. The simple fact is that the fact of this tragedy is so permanently in our minds this week that it seemed un-needed to point it out. Also, the scale of this loss of humanity is so huge that I have not really felt able to get my mind fully around it.

I could offer links to news feeds about the situation. I could offer links to sites gathering donations to help the people of the region. All that is available elsewhere. You don't need my help to find information or opportunities to help.

After several days with the story, however, I think it's time for a moment of reflection. I can't help thinking back to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. I found myself wondering this week whether our reaction to this disaster measures up to our reaction to those attacks.

The loss of life is so much larger in this case, but the September 11 attacks were here, in our land. The dead in 2001 were victims of attacks by other human beings, while the Tsunami was an act of nature, an impersonal fact of life on a planet with tectonic plates, earthquakes and oceans.

That someone could willingly act to murder several thousand people still seems a larger fact than the reality that when the oceans rise, tens of thousands die. I mourn more for the larger group of victims, simply because there are more victims of the Tsunami. But my grief over the fact that the ability to murder on a mass scale exists among humans is just as large.

Finally, we should all remember to be humble in the face of the power of nature.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Work, Work, Work

I've just republished my main work web site, the web site of the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination.

I've been working on transferring the content of the site over to the new page design all this week. This week, the slow time between Christmas and the New Year, is always a great week for me to do the sort of job that is best done when the phone is not ringing quite so much. I can multi-task, but some jobs are best done with a single-minded sort of craziness. This is one of them. It's dull, head down, locked to your PC, slog-through-it work, but satisfying when you come out the other end with a newly updated and fresh-looking site.

For this update, I have adopted the "common look and feel" web templates created by the folks in the state's Government Information Center. They manage the state's web portal and have tried to come up with a standard web page design that gives visitors a sense that they are on a web site that represents the whole of state government, while maintaining a sense of individual agency identity.

I have long designed my own sites, and I take pride in creating sites that look professional and work for the visitor. There comes a time, however, when pride should be set aside. In truth, I'm only setting aside my pride as a graphic designer, which is not my greatest skill-set anyway. I still take pride in providing a site that is rich in content and constantly updated.

Using Blogger, and its perfectly workable templates, have helped remind me over the last few months that it really is all about the content, more than the design. It's a lesson I learned early in my career, but often forget. Bells and whistles really only serve to deafen us and block out the important things. Heaven knows there are enough web sites already that prove this true,

So. I have tried to maintain the most useful pages, and to improve several pages. A site redesign is a rich opportunity to prune and reshape and I'm working on that part now that the main pages are up and functioning.

Hopefully, when everyone else comes back to work, they'll have a pleasant surprise.

Monday, December 27, 2004

I'm Very Proud of My Nephews

Jimmy and Andrew Mahaffie have published a tale of martial arts magic on the webpage of Yong Studios. My favorite part?
They had never seen a dog teaching class before, so all of the parents fell on their backs and fainted.
Jimmy and Andrew are cool.

Tale From a Christmas Eve

Karen, the girls and I spent this Christmas Eve in what has become our traditional fashion. We were in Rehoboth Beach for the Christmas Eve services at Epworth United Methodist Church. And we met our Friends the Southmayds at Nicola Pizza for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner (Nicobolis, of course) between services.

This year, Christina is part of the Children's Bell Choir. They performed at the earlier service. Colleen filled in to help out. They played very well. Another feature of the early service was the smaller children of the church presenting a puppet show version of the Christmas Story.

Here we have Shepherds, sheep, barn animals, Joseph and Mary, and a trio of Angels as the Baby Jesus (a Little Bear Doll) lies in the Manger. I have to confess that when Mary and Joseph first appeared, I had this vision of Joseph, as Sesame Street's Count von Count, saying "now I vill count the mangers here in Bethlehem. Ah-Ah-Ah. One! One manger here in Bethlehem! Ah-Ah-Ah!"

Yes, it sounds sacrilegious, but I mean it in the kindest way. This was a very cute version of the Christmas Story, the kids were great, and everyone got a charge out of it. It was a wonderful way to involve all ages in the service.

After our Nicoboli break, we were back in church for the later service. Both Karen and Colleen were playing with the adult bell choir. Colleen has graduated from the kids group to status as a frequent stand-in for the adult group. There's a real shock of pride, as a dad, to look up and see your daughter standing among a group of adults, almost their equal in height, almost a full adult, holding her own in that social setting, and playing music with great skill.

Christina and I contented ourselves with belting out traditional Christmas carols from the congregation. That's one of my favorite parts of the season.

The Epworth service, like many others I'm sure, ends with a quiet singing of Silent Night as the lights are dimmed and a flame is passed from person to person, all holding small candles and singing together.

I treasure the tears on Karen's face at this point each Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I Find Myself Thinking About...

Summer, in Vermont. Here's a shot from a hike Karen and I took this past summer on our annual stay at the far north end of the Green Mountain State.

Each summer, we spend a week at The Tyler Place, in Highgate Springs. We've already planned our summer 2005 visit, and I've been thinking back on our stay in 2004.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Los Super Seven Return!

Here's exciting news: Los Super Seven will have a new album out in March.

According to an article on, the new recording will hit the stores on March 22 and will feature guest appearances by some of my favorite artists, including Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, John Hiatt, Delbert McClinton, and the core members of Calexico.

This will be the third Los Super Seven album. The second, Canto (short samples available here in real Audio and Wave formats), has been a favorite of mine for some time. Los Super Seven play Mexican-American rock, blues, folk and country music -- sometimes all in the same song. The rhythms of Canto have proved perfect for intense typing sessions when I want to hammer our a document at work.

I am particularly excited by the addition of the guys from Calexico to the new album. They have been a great new find this past year. Their sound is classic, but their approach is fresh and challenging and I like that.

According to a news update on the Calexico web site, the new recording focuses on "Border Radio" music, from the 30's to the 70's. This was an outlaw style of radio that brought great new sounds into American music, supported some classic acts and inspired others.

This should be interesting. There's a great debate on in this nation about the changing demographic of America, the addition of so many Latinos, and what that means for our national identity. I say, if it means more of this sort of music, then I'm all for it!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I Should Hesitate to Complain, But....

Several Delaware papers have run items this weekend about what's described as a "new" e-government service from the State of Delaware. The Sunday News Journal Article, State info can come in e-mails, is fairly typical. The Department of Technology and Information (DTI) now offers e-mail listservs of state information.

This is a great idea, but it's not a new idea and certainly not unique to Delaware. What bugs me a little is that several state agencies, including mine, have been offering this sort of service for years, but we are not mentioned in the story and are not listed as options on the web site set up by DTI.

In State Planning, we've worked through DTI to take full advantage of e-mail listservs to offer updates about land use planning issues, and to help create the community of GIS professionals that is the Delaware Geographic Data Committee.

One might say that the difference here is that a press release went out about this "new" service. That seems likely, though I have not been able to find it on-line on the state's portal, on the Governor's web site or on the web site of State Representative Bob Valihura, who is quoted in the News Journal story. I am fairly certain that I also sent out a press release, but it was a year or so back, and I haven't archived those on my site.

I am hesitant to complain because any increase in public access to government information is good. Any increase in public awareness of public access to that information is also good. I do wish that the news coverage could have included all of these services, though. I also wish that the site set up by the GIC and DTI included all of the services that the DTI listserv system offers. That part worries me; who isn't talking to who?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

In My Little Town...

This is 1812 Park, in my town, Lewes Delaware. A battery of cannon was located here in the war of 1812. Now it is a lovely green spot overlooking the town dock and the Lewes/Rehoboth Canal. This is a shot from early fall, a beautiful time of year here.

A Bird, by M. Mahaffie

I always wondered what my art would look like among that of the great masters. This was created using Art.Com's ArtPad.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Someone Just Not Happy With Anybody

Driving in Delaware this morning I saw a car with two hand-lettered signs in the back window. On the left-hand side, a sign read "Ban Bimbo Ruth Ann." On the right, "Bush is a Murderer."

I don't think I've ever seen any car with both anti-Bush and anti-Minner signs before.

For those outside of Delaware, "Ban Ruth Ann" signs are a protest against Delaware's law against smoking in indoor public spaces. Governor Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, supports that law, as do a number of us here in the first state. Why "Bimbo" was added to this particular sign mystifies me.

It is usually the case that cars I see with "Ban Ruth Ann" signs also sport "Bush/Cheney '04" signs. Opposition to the smoking ban tends to come be from libertarian and anti-government "interference" circles, traditionally supporters of Mr. Bush.

As I drove on this morning, I found myself wondering: is this a sign of a change in that trend, or simply evidence of one very unhappy motorist.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Dredging Up History, an Update

News Journal reporter Molly Murray, a Lewes resident, has two follow-up articles in the December 13 edition of the News Journal on the mass of 17th century European artifacts dredged from the Delaware Bay floor and spewed onto Lewes Beach this fall.

In one -- Beach artifacts boost preservation -- Molly explores the mistakes that appear to have led to a dredge ripping through the site. In another -- Discovery excites, intrigues experts -- she looks into the level of excitement and interest this discovery has generated.

These are two important sides to the story. I'm glad to see the Journal taking a continuing interest.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Three Cheers for Skipper!

Skip Purnell has been given the second annual Governor's Heritage Award by Governor Minner. It's a well-deserved award for a man who, in a quiet way, has been an important leader in Delaware.

Skip and his wife Til are among the first civic leaders Karen and I got to know when we first came to Delaware. Til is a leader in the environmental community and has been active in community theater. I covered her environmental efforts as a reporter and worked with her on theater projects. We met Skip, a less public leader than his forthright wife, through Til.

As I settled in as a state employee over the years and became more aware of the larger governance and public data-sharing issues, I've come to realize how much of a force Skip has been. His has been a constant, strong voice for sharing data and information with the public we serve and for taking full advantage of technology to do so.

In person, Skip is a craggy, bemused, and intense presence. His interest is always piercing. A conversation with Skip is a fascinating seminar on whatever you are talking about, but without being all long or tedious.

I'm glad for Skip. I have long held both skip and Til Purnell in high honor. It's good to see the rest of the state agrees.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Could This Be Our Lost Colony?

A dredge working the Delaware Bay off the Roosevelt Inlet hit something this fall and, according to a story in today's News Journal, ended up spewing out slightly chewed bits of history onto Lewes Beach. Could this be the long-lost Swanendael settlement that made Lewes the "First Town in the First State?" Or is it another of the many shipwrecks that lie on the bottom of our bay?

UPDATE (12/10/04): A follow-up story in the News Journal now suggests that the artifacts pumped onto Lewes Beach are likely from a bit later in the 17th century than would indicate the Swanendael settlement. Still, whether this is a shipwreck or another early settlement, it's a fascinating story. I hope we make a careful study of what's been pumped onto the beach, find the off-shore site and study that, and present what's been found -- and what's been learned -- somewhere like the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Thinking Snow, Making Flakes

It's about 60 degrees outside this evening, but stormy and cooling down. I'm thinking about snow. Seems like a fine time to make a few snowflakes!

I made the flake at left (Posted by Hello) at the fine Make-A-Flake site by Lookandfeel New Media. That's also where I made the one posted on 12/5 (below), which I played around with in PaintShop as well.

I found that site through MetaFilter last winter. This year, I thought I'd poke around and see what other flake-maker sites are out there.

Snowflake Designer is a nice little flash site that shows you the changes to the flake as you cut from or add to the folded "paper."

Snowflake and Snowflake II are freeware Windows 32 applications provided by AM Software, a programmig outfit that appears to be in Russia. I'm not sure I want to download these, but there they are.

Make a snowflake pattern online is a more scientific sort of site, but fun to play around with.

My favoriate of the crop I've found so far is SnowDays, by PopularFront. It is similar to Make-a-Flake, but with a cooler way to cut the flake paper.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

I made a flake, and I learned some photoshop tricks!
Posted by Hello

Saturday, December 4, 2004

2004 Lewes Christmas Parade

The Lewes Christmas Parade, by tradition, rolls off at about 5:00 p.m., usually on the first Saturday of December. It caps a festive day that features tours of Christmas-decorated homes in this historic town. It's usually followed by carols around the town Christmas tree. Small town life.

This year, our daughters marched in the parade in costume to promote next weekend's performance of The Nutcracker, by the Sussex Dance Academy. There were also the usual other suspects, the car club, the Nur Temple mini-car guys, and Punkin' Chunkers too!

Geoff Walker (as the Nutcracker) and Rachel Southmayd (The Mouse King) in the 2004 Lewes Christmas Parade.
Posted by Hello

This, of course, is Bob.
Posted by Hello

One of the British Car Club members in the 2004 Lewes Christmas Parade.
Posted by Hello

2004 Punkin' Chunkin' champ Joe "Wolfman" Thomas rolls down Savannah Road with his trophy as part of the 2004 Lewes Christmas Parade.
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Naming a Theater

I'm on the Board of Directors of the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre. At a Board Meeting the other night, we started a (long term) discussion on the idea of coming up with a new name for the theater. It has been the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre for more than 20 years. I had a clean sheet of paper, and a pen, so I started power writing to see what came out.

I decided to post the list that a 15 minute scrawl produced. Then I thought to google those names; some seem to be taken.

Rehoboth Family Theater
Beach Family Theater
Teatro Famiglia Del Mar
The Family Theater at the Beach
Beach Theater Bingo
Beach Theater for Kids
Culture, But Cool
Theater of Sand
StageBob SquareKids
Seaside Stages
We Stage Sea Shows
Playhouse Beach Side
Playhouse Seaside
Coastal Playhouse
Theater at the Cape
We Stage Kids' Shows by the Sea Side
Cape Kids' Shows
Shows for Kids
Cape Regional Theater
Summer House Stock
Rehoboth Summer Stock
Cape Kids' Stock
Cape Kids' Summer Stock
Cape Henlopen Summer Stock
Kids' Theater at the Beach
Kid-Focused Theater
The Children's Theater at Rehoboth
A Young Person's Guide to the Theater
Plays for the Young (at Heart)
Rehoboth Kids' Theater
Kid Stages
Kids, Theater, The Sea
Theater for Kids, by the Sea

I doubt any of these will see the footlights of day, in the end, but it was fun....

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Vaguely Troubling: Covert X-Ray Screening on the Cape May/Lewes Ferry

A story in Saturday's Boston Globe on using covert X-rays scans as security tool notes that such a system has been in a testing phase in the last month on the Cape May/Lewes Ferry.

The story explains that many experts feel that these x-ray scans are not of a high-enough intensity to cause any ill effects, and that they may be an important security tool.

Granted. But that doesn't change the fact that just a mile or so down the road from where I sit, folks driving onto the ferry were hosed with x-rays, without their knowledge or consent.

Where are we going with all this?

Late November, in the woods of a mid-atlantic state.
Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 25, 2004

No more complaints; give someone reason to be thankful

Al Mascitti's Thanksgiving Day column in the News Journal makes a point we should bear in mind: no matter how much we may have invested in the rancorous red/blue arguments of this past election, the biggest positive influence any of us can have at this point is to pitch in, and help out, our fellow folks.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

In Memoriam: Bob Smith

I'm sad to learn that Bob Smith died last week. Bob was a salesman at WGMD FM, in the resort area here in Sussex County, Delaware. He had been a radio announcer, salesman, and station manager. His final 25 years in the business at were at WGMD. He was the station's first employee.

I met Bob when I first started working at that station back in Spring of 1986. He was what a salesman should be, in an industry too often represented by folks who demonstrate what a salesman should not be. WGMD owner David Schoumacher puts it very well, I think, in his memorial to Bob:

He never lied ... never exaggerated. If Bob said something, you could be sure it was true. Businessmen planned their weeks around Bob's schedule and Bob was always there right on time.

Apparently, the editors at the Cape Gazette agree. They have honored Bob today with an editorial column in his memory. I have the sense that this is a rare honor; one he deserves.

Bob sold commercial time, wrote copy, and recorded commercials. He had the classic radio sales voice -- a bit syrupy but solid and dependable. You always knew his work within a word or two. I was only in the radio business a few years, but much of what Bob taught me in that little station has served me well in the several jobs since that time.

I remember the first time I recorded an ad at WGMD. Bob watched me closely and, when I was done, said something like: "Good. You pronounced 'jewelry' correctly.' It was that sort of attention to detail that stays with me.

I lost touch with Bob after leaving the station; I still live here, but that has never been the sort of station I take to as a listener. I do want, however, to say a late, maybe lame, "thanks" to Bob.

He was a good man to have known.

Monday, November 22, 2004

I Can't Help You With The True Meaning of Christmas Just Now

But here is a wonderful take on the true meaning of Thanksgiving. News Journal columnist Harry Themal provides his personal take on the holiday, as an immigrant to these shores at the time of the holocaust.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Accidental On-Line Irony

A story in today's Seattle Times documents the discovery of an ancient Native American village during excavation for a transportation project. This is a serious issue for all of the folks out in Washington state, and I do not mean to make light of it, but I was struck by the odd irony of the advertising on the Times' web site.

The ads rotate, so this is not always the case, but when I first clicked to this story, there, above a photo of boxed remains of some of the earliest Americans -- and above details about how those remains will have to be relocated -- a graphic of cardboard boxes and text offering ways to "make your move easier." Posted by Hello

The Election May Be Over...

... But the issues remain, on both sides.

During the recent election, I was closely tracking the race for the seat on Sussex County Council that serves my area. After a squeaky close race, challenger Jud Bennett conceded to incumbent Lynn Rogers. Last week, Jud published a letter to the editor thanking his supporters, suggesting that he may be back, and outlining his immediate plans: going fishing.

Maybe the fish weren't biting. This week, Jud is back in the paper with a letter critical of the County Council on the issue he made the main focus of his campaign: development. What's wonderful, as an observer, is that Jud's letter this week immediately follows Lynn's "thank you" on the Cape Gazette Letters to the Editor page.

Lynn Rogers is a very nice man. He is a business leader and a leader in the local volunteer fire company and a true gentleman, from all that I have observed.

His letter to the editor ("Thanks to Sussex Countians for support") is a fairly well-written thank you, with appropriate credit to supporters:
I would like to thank all the people who worked hard in my re-election over the last several moths. Your hard work and kindness will be ingrained in my heart and memory for the rest of my life.

He reflects on the wonder of our democracy:
Our democratic process has proven to be still functioning after 200 years. Many times during an election people get the attitude that one vote will not make a difference. I believe my race has confirmed that every vote counts, that the majority rules and that your voice can be heard.

And he looks towards the future:

I am committed to following the laws of the land, continuing to improve the quality of life for Sussex Countians and protecting your property rights. While we may have many tough decisions to make in up coming years, it is time for all Sussex Countians to join together and work towards a better future.
Immediately following this is a letter from Jud Bennett ("County council is paving over Sussex") in which he takes County Council to task for approving a rezoning of the old Three Seasons Campground [PDF] to high-density, with duplex units and townhouse units. Ironically, Lynn Rogers recused himself from the vote, one of the engineers for the project having solicited campaign contributions for Rogers in the recent election.

Bennett argues that the Council should have followed the recommendation of the Planning Commission and kept the property zoned for single-family homes:
This is what the existing AR 1 zoning permitted and this is only what should have been allowed. The Council however chose to permit a zoning change which allows the maximum coverage of this property and the maximum profit for the developers.
He goes a step further and the barbs come out:
We cannot blame the developers because they are in business to make as much money as possible and move on to the next enterprise. We can only blame the elected officials who allow these abominations. Soon you will see a Lynn Rogers sign advertising the development and see the Tyvec application advertising Dukes Lumber covering the buildings. It is "business as usual."
Things are heating up here in eastern Sussex County. Issues do remain.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Harmonic Personal Convergence on West Wing

This evening's episode of The West Wing featured a story line which neatly encapsulates two of my current interests -- weblogs and the Toyota Prius.

In this episode, as the West Wing web site notes, "Josh (Bradley Whitford) test drives an oversized SUV and crashes into a hybrid car resulting in bad publicity for The White House." What does he hit? A Toyota Prius.

The episode starts with Josh car-shopping and discussing the Prius with a salesman. I was interested to note that this (fictional) dealer admits to marking-up the cost of the car by several thousand dollars and justifies this by pointing out that other dealers are jacking-up the price even more. I'm fairly sure that my dealer (CF Schwartz, Dover, DE) resisted that temptation. I was also amused at the notion of only an eight month waiting list; my wait was almost eleven months.

There was much discussion of the possible motives for buying a Prius -- environmental holier-than-thou-ism, monetary economy tied to fuel economy, "striking a blow" . . . For me it's more simple. The Prius is a cool car, with lots of hi-tech fun built-in. It was cool in 2001 when I bought my first; it is even more cool now.

The story line continues with Josh running afoul of a fictional Capital Hill gossip blog that takes up the issue. I think that blog was likely based on Wonkette, the tart DC blog that has become a cultural icon of late. Like the real bloggeur, the author of the West Wing version is also a woman.
This all got me thinking: there must be some Prius Blogs out there. And there are, but only a few. There are plenty of blog posts about the Prius.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Mocha, in a (rare) pensive mood

I'm not sure who snapped this shot of young Mocha, but I like it. It was either Karen, Colleen or Christina, but not me.Posted by Hello

Mocha is our newest family member, and she's a klassic krazy kat. She was born on or about Earth Day last April and came to us several months later. Her mom was a stray taken in by Nurse Kate, the combination school nurse and advanced dance instructor at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts. Kate (Kate Walker) also owns the Sussex Dance Academy and has been a positive influence on the girls.

Mocha joined Shoe, who has been with us for some 9 or 10 years now. Shoe, himself a former jet-cat, was not thrilled by the advent of his jazzed-up new partner, but they seem to be settling in together.

Aafter an initial descent into a resigned weltschmerz, Shoe has perked up and now gives about as good as he gets. He has also started to generously pass on to Mocha some of his more interesting habits, such as gleefully romping in wet bath-tubs after we shower.

I keep telling these two that cats don't like water, but they just won't listen.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Back? Not Back?

I've been tracking, for several posts, the (maybe) return of DelaTacit, which was at one point a humorous and irreverent look at issues in Delaware. The original site went down in October, with several different theories out as to the reasons for its demise.

Last week, DelaTacit seemed to be back, but this morning, the new URL returns a "Not Found."

What gives? I have a slight suspicion that the "new" site was that of a pretender. It seemed to lack the intelligence that redeemed the original. There were only two posts, and one included a link directly to a pornographic site, which seemed ... questionable.

Meanwhile, the more likely heir apparent has been DelaVoice, which arose to fill DelaTacit's place in the pre-election debate. DelaVoice seems to mostly fill the bill, providing an acerbic right-wing commentary.

I will say that I am disappointed with some of the anonymous comments posted in discussion threads on the site. Many of these folks seem determined to simply take adolescent pot shots at Delaware Governor Minner. I have thrown in some counter-balancing thoughts, mostly asking for a more reasoned discourse. It has earned me some pot-shots of my own. Such is life on-line.

So. We have DelaVoice. Do we have DelaTacit? We'll keep watching.

UPDATE (11/15/04): As of 7:31 a.m., site back up, but with the message: "Gone again. Sorry."

Well, it Was a Film Festival

This week-end was the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival and we celebrated by going to the movies on two consecutive days! Of course, instead of the art-house classics that most Festival patrons were there to see, we saw (among the four of us) the mainstream films The Polar Express, After the Sunset, and The Incredibles.

On Saturday, Christina and I went to The Polar Express while Colleen saw After the Sunset with several of her friends. Polar Express is a visually stunning film, with a sweet "the true meaning of Christmas is in your heart" plot. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I will admit that I am a sentimentalist -- have been since the girls were born -- so I am a sucker for this gentle sort of film with a deep but not preachy or too treacly message.

And the visuals of this film are gorgeous, using innovative new techniques to capture the craft of great actors such as Tom Hanks and liberate the film from the constraints of film reality. The characters in the movie are clearly animations, but the performances are true. What most impressed me were the fore- and backgrounds, they were deep and rich and imaginative. They brought to the screen that wonderful visual version of a story that we all saw on our inner movie screens as young children, sparked by book illustrations but sparkling to a life of their own.

On Sunday, Karen, Christina, Colleen and I all went to see The Incredibles. This film is all that we have come to expect from a Pixar production. Visually interesting and challenging, funny, with a strong plot and plenty of adventure. Good stuff, and enjoyed by all in a crowded theatre.

I had felt bad about not going to see any of the hundred or so movies featured at the Film Festival. The truth is, though, that as much as I love The Cinema, what is more important at this point in my life is sharing that love with the girls and helping them build their film-going experiences up to a point where, when they are grown, they will be able to draw full enjoyment and value from all types and genres of film. For that purpose, the films we saw this week-end were the right sort of Festival.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Look Back at Family History

I'll give some credit this evening to Microsoft and the beta version of their new MSN Search. Though it looks for all the world like an imitation of Google, it did turn up something of great interest to me when I tried the obligatory vanity search on "Mahaffie." The regular search returned the usual plethora of Mahaffie House and Stagecoach Shop hits, so I tried an Image Search on "Mahaffie."

The search returns gave top ranking to a JPEG copy of an old (and unfortunately undated, but likely from 1958) newspaper obituary of Ella Mahaffie, my great-great-aunt (I think). To be fair, this image also turned up in a Google image search, but lower down the page.

The obituary features this photo of the Mahaffie House in Olathe, Kansas, apparently taken before the house became a managed historic site. Posted by Hello

I was already, of course, aware of the Mahaffie House and of its status as public property in Olathe. I had also heard mention in the family of "Aunt Ella". I'm not sure I'd seen this clipping, however -- at least not as an adult -- and it has been a pleasure to read through it.

Ella Mae Mahaffie was born in 1869, on the Mahaffie farm at Olathe, one of eight children of J.B. and Lucinda Mahaffie. She apparently grew to be a well-rounded woman and served as an educator all of her professional life. She taught in a "country" school in the last part of the 19th century (one-room schoolhouse?), she taught 3rd and 7th grades in the public schools and served from 1913 until her retirement in 1939 as principal of Park Elementary School, in Kansas City. She also served on the Kansas State Board of Education.

The obituary mentions no college degrees, but notes that Ella Mahaffie continued studying at various universities throughout her career and traveled extensively in the US and Canada and somewhat in Europe as well.

One of Ella's brothers left the farm and took his family, including Charles D. Mahaffie (my grandfather), to Oklahoma. Charles grew up in Oklahoma, studied there and in England and became a lawyer out west. He came to Washington DC for a government job in the early part of the 20th century and eventually gave the world a son, Charles Jr., my Dad. I'm damn glad he did too!

The clipping is part of an on-line collection, History of the Public Schools of Wyandotte County, Kansas - 160 Years Enriching the Minds of Children. There's plenty of good stuff in there, including a set of images of Park School that includes the Plot Plan of the school. Note the careful separate of the girl's and boy's out-houses.

Delatacit Returns

"Oh yeah... hiya... I'm back... so say goodbye to all the poser knock-offs. ::muah::"

This could get interesting. I wonder who the "poser knock-offs" would be? DelaVoice?

And...MUAH? Or short for "Muah ha ha..." [an evil laugh]?

And finally, I strongly caution against clicking on the link in DT's Paris Hilton post: pornography.

Frank Rich On 'Moral Values'

New York Times columnist Frank Rich takes on the notion of the "moral values" vote in a column (On 'Moral Values,' It's Blue in a Landslide) set for publication on November 14 (NYT, registration required).

He makes many good points, which I don't plan to get into here. One thought stood out for me:

Excess and vulgarity, as always, enjoy a vast, bipartisan constituency, and in a democracy no political party will ever stamp them out.

But maybe we can get together on a bipartisan basis to at least ease them?

Maybe They Weren't Kidding?

After the re-election of George W. Bush last week, there were rumblings from various quarters along the lines of "The hell with it, let's just move to Canada." It looks like some folks at least looked into the idea.

According to a November 8 story on Independent Online, "The average of 20,000 people in the US logging onto the website [Canada's main immigration website] rocketed to 115,016 on Wednesday and settled down to 65,803 the next day."

Meanwhile, the Sorry Everybody web site continues to grow as folks post photos to the apology gallery. Some of these include requests for asylum. What I find most interesting are the responses back from around the world.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Election Update: Bennett Concedes

Down by 3 votes, Sussex County Council Candidate Jud Bennett has conceded defeat to Lynn Rogers. Apparently, a week-end worth of reflection led Jud to decide to end his challenge.

I enjoyed this part of the story, a reminder of the civilizing fact of local elections:

Rogers, a Milton Democrat, and Bennett ran into each other Sunday over breakfast at a Rehoboth Beach restaurant. Bennett said he told Rogers that he was going to concede and wished him well.

I have to wonder which local eatery's Sunday Brunch drew both Lynn Rogers and Judd Bennett this week-end. This is why I am glad to have moved to a small city.

In a related note, an editorial about this election in today's Cape Gazette calls for the incumbents, some of whom had closer-than-expected reelections, to address some of the concerns that fueled their challengers and their voters:
Sussex is in the position of being a highly attractive place to live. With great natural and financial resources available to create departments and hire excellent personnel, we can maintain and enhance our quality of life while protecting property values.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Is Someone Trying to Revive...


UPDATE (11/9/04): Not yet.....

Speak, Computer, Speak!

Speegle is a fun new site over in England. It provides a synthesized voice to read the title and description of sites returned in a Google-like search. Of course, this means we have to provide readable metadata so that, when searches hit our sites, Speegle has something to speak.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Gay Marriage?

It seems so simple and normal. What's all the fuss? Why not support solid relationships?

So Close...

I love this photo. It is from the November 5 edition of the Cape Gazette. It shows Jud Bennett (left) and two supporters as the final results came in on election night. At that point, the count had him losing his bid to become a member of Sussex County Council by 12 votes. Posted by Hello

Jud Bennett ran for Council from the district we live in, so we've been tracking this race. He's also a former Lewes City Councilman and someone I've dealt with some as a Planning Commissioner. He ran hard, stepping down from City Council and focusing all of his energy on the race. He made growth and planning for growth the main issues of his campaign. He's a Republican, but stayed away from the national and state-level issues of this campaign season, concentrating instead on what seems a major issue in this fast-growing area.

As of this morning, after two recounts, he is three votes behind and facing a decision whether to carry on in the legal realm or concede defeat. Even if he does concede, he can be proud. In Delaware, incumbents almost always win. To come this close against an entrenched and popular councilman is an accomplishment.

There were two other council races in Sussex County. In both of those, the incumbents won handily, but by margins that were closer than one would have expected. In all three races, the challengers spent a great deal of time talking about the need to better plan for growth. I think there is a message here that the Council needs to hear. And, while the voters chose not to turn them out of office, it was very close.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

295 Days Later: A Prius

Today I took delivery of my new 2005 Toyota Prius. This replaces my 2001 Prius, which I traded in at 99,617 miles (if I remember correctly). I am thrilled with this new car.

Of course, I was very happy with my first Prius, which was one of the first to arrive here in Delaware. In that car, I averaged about 48 miles per gallon. It was comfortable, fun to drive, and had enough gee-whiz geekery to satisfy my techie soul.

This car promises to be even more fun. I've only driven about 100 miles in it, so far, but here are some first thoughts.

It's bigger and "stouter" than the 2001 Prius. It is somehow more solid-feeling than the '01. I had heard that this was a bigger more powerful car that got even better mileage. We'll see about the mileage; today was a very wet and windy day, so I would expect lower mileage results. My average today seemed to be about 47 MPG, so I have high hopes.

This car is very comfortable and seems a tad roomier. The girls were pleased with the back seat and reported that they had more room as well. The "Smart Key" is very cool. It's a key fob that I can simply leave in pocket. When I approach the car, the car reads a signal from the key and the door unlocks; when I get in, I can leave the key in my pocket and simply press the "start" button. Very cool.

I had hoped to post a photo, but today was too gray and rainy. I'll take a snapshot when the sun returns and add it in.

I placed the order for this car on January 14, 2004. I took delivery today, November 4. That's 295 days. Or, 10 months and 3 weeks (I think). That's a long wait, but appears to be the norm for ordering the Prius these days. With my first Prius, I think I ordered in November of 2000 and had the car by the end of March 2001.

That earlier version of the Prius was a hit. This version, which was a new redesign starting with the 2004 model is an improvement and it has been very popular. The wait is not likely to shrink. The dealer told me that many folks waiting for their Priuses to come in are getting antsy and a little upset with their dealers. He was grateful that I'd been so patient.

This is a nice treat. It's been a disappointing week otherwise, and I have been looking forward to having this car. Tonight, I'm starting to feel happy again.

After A Day of Reflection?

Still "poop."

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

But We Didn't Get an "I Voted" Button!

Karen and I voted this morning. We went at about 10:30 and found relatively short lines. We were in and out fairly quickly and now have the rest of the day to take care of a few errands and await the TV news marathon of tonight, maybe tomorrow, and (heaven forbid) the rest of the month.

We live in Election District 01 of Representative District 37. We're in the Lewes part of the District, which I think was pretty severely gerrymandered after the 2000 Census. Note the long reach from the rural, conservative area south of Georgetown up to grab Lewes and Edgewater Estates -- home, at that time, to Representative John Schroeder, a democrat, who lost his reelection bid in 2002. John lost a close vote to a Georgetown-area Republican fixture, former Georgetown Mayor and Indian River School Board member Joe Booth. But that's another story.Posted by Hello

We parked about half a block away from the old Lewes Middle school (now the Ninth Grade Campus of Cape Henlopen High School), where we have voted for most of the last two decades.

As we walked up to the school, a Lewes Fire Company ambulance came up the street, with lights and sirens, and pulled into the driveway. Not a great omen. In the end, however, the lights and siren were cut off and the ambulance turned around and left again. A false alarm? Election-day mischief? Who knows.

We circled around the entrance to avoid the electioneering out front. Joan Deaver -- local activist -- was there; she knows me and so called out to encourage me to vote for Jud Bennett. Jud's running for County Council as a Republican but sounding like a democrat. Elections can be fun. I assured Joan that I planned to vote for someone, but I prefer not to get into details.

Just up the sidewalk, I saw George Elliott, a Lewes retiree who appeared in the "Swift Boat Vets" add attacking John Kerry. I hadn't seen him around much since that all flared up. I had no desire to talk to him today, but I at least have a story to take away from the day.

We voted. For myself, I can say that I voted for some Democrats on our ballot and for some Republicans. Here in Delaware we are generally somewhat bipartisan and we have sent a few good Republicans to Washington and Dover and will continue to do so.

But we didn't get "I Voted" buttons! Oh Well.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

A home in Lewes, Delaware, October 31, 2004. Posted by Hello

Wow! We're Famous Here in Lil' Ole Lewes

The great city of Lewes, Delaware, is mentioned in a recent edition of the Quad-City Times Newspaper in Milwaukee. Of course, from their perspective, we're just a tiny burg somewhere on the east coast.

The story reports on a recent conference -- Urban Waterfronts 22: Gathering By the Waters -- put on by The Waterfront Center. Officials from Davenport , Iowa, were on hand to try to earn about how to spruce-up their waterfront.

One the case studies presented, apparently, was the story of how Lewes' old Boatyard Property is becoming a canal-front park. The Waterfront Center was, I think, among the consultants on the project. John Mateyko, of Lewes, who worked on this project and continues in a leadership role, appears to have been in Milwaukee for the conference and is quoted in the story. It caught my eye as a member of the Lewes Planning Commission; this story was the first big, controversial issue I faced as a newcomer to the Commission.

Our story, as presented at the conference, is how Lewes' citizenry "managed to outmaneuver a high-powered developer" whose development proposal included "a hotel, parking ramp and commercial space on the town's last remaining large piece of open waterfront." I don't remember a hotel as part of the proposal, I'm thinking it was residential units, but no matter. I also question whether it was the last open waterfront land.
"The developer was a big-league guy in town who knew everyone, and everyone thought his project was politically greased and would go through," Mateyko said. "All that was true, except that it didn't go through."
Hmmm. I don't know whether the project was politically greased or not, but it was appropriately zoned, which meant that our only decision point was whether or not to recommend approval of the site plan to City Council. That approval was supposed to be based on whether or not that site plan met all of the technical requirements in our code.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend denial. Council went along with that recommendation and we were all served with papers in a lawsuit.

That is the point at which the lobbying went into high gear. Eventually, the citizen organization collected sufficient pledges from area residents, and from the state government, to allow the city to buy the property and satisfy the property owner, who dropped the suit.

This has been a positive outcome for the City, but I argue that we cannot get into the habit of buying our way out of situations in which projects can legally proceed, but are politically unpopular. This could get very expensive.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Small World, Small World

I recently finished last week's New Yorker magazine. As most New Yorker readers will attest, one is often finishing one edition even as the next is stuffed into the mailbox out front each week.

I was interested to read the magazine's profile of ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin, who as had a part of some of the election '04 kerfuffle. Halperin is publisher of The Note, ABC's influential on-line political tip-sheet.

More importantly (to me), he is also the brother of David Halperin, who was lead singer of the 1970's rock group The Ramblin' Beach Guys (RBG's) and is no mean commentator himself. I had the pleasure of playing guitar with the RBG's during the band's heyday, when we were highly influential among a small cadre of our classmates at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda Maryland.

It got me thinking ("where are we now?") and googling...

David, as linked above, is involved with the Center for American Progress. He was also a part of the Dean campaign and worked for a time at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

Our drummer was John Heilprin. I've been thinking about John lately; partly because of the confusion between Halperin and Heilprin that we always dealt with and partly because, as I spoke with a colleague recently about helping kids choose colleges, I reminisced about John and my week-long college-visit road trip through New England our senior year of high school. John's a reporter now. The most recent work I've found suggests he's working for the Associated Press.

Danny Miller played lead guitar. I think Danny became a film editor. I haven't been able to track him as well as I'd like.

John Krivit played bass, then switched to singing and playing a little guitar. I knew that John had owned a recording studio in Massachusetts for a while. My latest search finds him on the faculty of The New England Institute of Art. Or maybe on the faculty of Bay State College. Maybe both?

Our bassist was Steve Stavros. Of Steve, I have found nothing so far. There was also Gene Mage (I think that was the name) who played occasional saxaphone. A quick Google turned up this guy. He feels like the Gene I remember; he was a go-getter. But that was a long time ago and Gene was only partly a part of the band.

So that's what I've found out, so far. Now, if any of these fellows use Google Alerts to capture mentions of their names (and the Google spiders crawl through this blog) , maybe I'll hear something and will update this memory.

This Is My Congressman

UPDATE (12/23/04): I just revisited the archives here and find that the great photo of Congressman Castle in costume is gone from them State GOP website. Luckily, this nice portrait of the Congressman as a congressman replaced it. I'm guessing someone thought that having a shot of Mr. Castle as Frankenstein's creature on-line was a bad idea. I guess I can understand that. I stand by my opinion, though, that even in that costume, Mr. Castle's good-guy-ness shone through.

Delaware has only one seat in Congress. Our incumbent is Michael Castle, seen here in a Halloween Parade in Newark recently (Photo thanks to the State GOP website). What struck me first about this picture, and what stays with me, is how nice Mike Castle's smile looks, even surrounded by a goofy costume and floured-up with pancake make-up. This is, oddly enough, a great picture of the Congressman. It captures his innate "niceness."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Vote Is In!

Hooray! Someone voted in Meaningless Poll #1 (at last), bringing the vote total to a nice round 10. Now we can analyze the data.

According to our latest not very scientific polling, readers of "Mike's Musings" prefer to eschew obfuscation by a possibly significant majority. Seventy percent of our readers choose to eschew, while only a thirty percent free thinking minority choose to endorse.

No respondents chose to encapsulate obfuscation. Our analysts speculate that this may be due to the fact that to encapsulate obfuscation may not be physically possible, though scientists at the Defense Department reportedly may or may not be pursuing something that may or may not be related to this concept.

Credit for the idea behind this poll should go to my brother John, who on the occasion of my taking a job as a radio news reporter many years ago advised me to "Eschew Obfuscation" at all times. This phrase has become my own personal mantra in my developing career as an information pusher.

At all times, I try to eschew any and all forms of obfuscation. Unless I want to employ obfuscation for comic effect.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

One More Vote....

We need one more vote on "Meaningless Poll #1" so that we can present the statistical results. So far, nine votes have been cast. One more will make it really really easy to do the math....

Friday, October 22, 2004

Sometimes Things Just Line Up That Way...

I had a nice reminder this evening that the universe does indeed have a sense of comic timing all its own.

I am pitching in as part of the stage crew for my local community theater group (The Possum Point Players) and their production of Noises Off. This is a very funny show by playwright Michael Frayn that requires two complicatedly complete set changes. Several of us join in with the entire cast in rotating three large, two-tiered platform/wall units, two pair of stairs, two rooms of furniture and assorted theater flats -- twice -- to enable the players to present first a cast rehearsing a play, from the front, then performing the play, from backstage, then performing the play again from the front. A comedy in three acts.

The show itself is hilarious and the players do a fine job. Our set changes, however, are chaotic enough to provide drama and humor themselves. Tonight, as I dragged a staircase from stage right to stage left, I heard two theater patrons chatting in the front row.

"I had heard that this was the best part of the show," said Theater Patron One to Theater Patron Two.

"Why yes," Two replied, "We can always rush out to the snack bar right before the Act Two curtain."

But all that to one side.

This evening, as I left the house for my new exercise routine of flat-dragging, I happened to snatch up the latest edition of the New Yorker magazine, which came in today's mail. During Act Two, I was standing backstage paging through the magazine and planning which articles to read and in what order. I came upon a full page photo of a dapper looking man sprawled on a garden seat. It was a profile of the man who wrote the words wafting through the teaser curtains to me.

As I scanned the profile -- "A Dry Soul Is Best; Michael Frayn and the drama of betrayal" by Larissa MacFarquhar -- I was struck by how balanced life can seem.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Book Preview: The Unfinished Twenty-First Novel in the Aubrey/Maturin Series

Great Scott, what a cruel tease this may turn out to be.

W.W. Norton this month is publishing the start of what would have been the 21st Aubrey/Maturin novel. Called simply "21", the book is three chapters left unfinished on Patrick O'Brian's desk at the time of his death. In 144 pages, it begins the next chapter of the series, with newly promoted Aubrey, now a Rear Admiral of the Blue, under orders to sail to the South Africa station.

I know I shouldn't, that it will not do justice to what O'Brian may have been able to do with the material had he lived longer, but I will likely buy it, and read it, simply because of the great pleasure I have had from the Aubrey/Maturin books over the years.

For the uninitiated, the first novel in this series was Master and Commander, which leant its name and some of its substance to the movie starring Russell Crowe. If you haven't delved into this set of books, start here. Read. Repeat.

By the way, I note that this is being published along with a new collection of the full series. Who pulled Matt's name in the Mahaffie family Christmas drawing?

Book Review: Prairie Nocturne

Prairie Nocturne is the latest "Two Medicine Country" Montana novel from Ivan Doig. I came across the novel in the "new books" section of the Lewes Public Library the other day. Doig is on my internal list of authors whose books I will check out, or buy, almost automatically (others are folks like the late Patrick O'Brian or Bernard Cornwell). I first found Doig through his novel English Creek and I have, I think, read most of his stuff.

Prairie Nocturne is not Doig's best. It's a fairly slow novel and I found it hard to follow in places. The story is a bit melodramatic. Still, Doig's great skill is in drawing strong characters and evoking a rich mountain and prairie landscape for them to people. As soon as I'd read his first, I knew that some day I would have to spend some time in Montana. I have not yet had a chance, but I know that I will.

Prairie Nocturne takes an interesting turn in exploring racism in the American west at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries. It also follows the process of schooling, rehearsing, and performance in the realm of theatrical singing that I found interesting.

In the end, the story resolution was strong enough to leave me feeling pleased with this book, and I can recommend it, though I also more strongly recommend several others, notably English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and Ride With Me, Mariah Montana all of which explore this place and these people over several sections of time.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

John Stewart Fires on CROSSFIRE

John Stewart, host of the Daily Show, slammed the hosts of CROSSFIRE yesterday ( - Transcripts). The Daily Show, of course, is a satire of television news that airs late nights on the cable channel Comedy Central. Oddly, it has become a preferred source of real information for a whole generation that feels that this satire of the news is more to be trusted than the "real" news shows.

Tucker Carlson (right-wing CROSSFIRE yeller) and Paul Begala (left-wing) brought Stewart on expecting light-hearted banter about the presidential candidates. What they got was an earnest, if bemused, plea to stop making an unintentional mockery of democracy.

The audio is here (in MP3 format) and there are several sites offering video files (I used this one). The heart of it, I think, is here:

STEWART: . . . I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.

BEGALA: We have noticed.

STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America.

CARLSON: But in its defense...

STEWART: So I wanted to come here today and say... Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.


STEWART: Stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.

It's interesting. It started out looking like the sort of comedy bit that Stewart often undertakes on his own show. He tends to play a wide-eyed naive role sometimes to point out an issue, but eventually let's on that he's playing a role and pushes the joke to absurdity to underscore the point. In this case, he stayed with it to the point where I was not sure whether he was kidding, or serious. Ultimately, it started to become clear that he was, more than usually, serious. Don't get me wrong, he held on to the role of "jester," but he had a serious message to bring.

This appearance is discussed in great depth on several big-time blogs (notably on MetaFilter) and some of that discussion is worth a look. I guess what struck me was that here was a guy saying to these clowns just the sort of thing I've wanted to say for a while now.

I have a rare form of "faux-Tourette's" disease that only appears when I'm alone in my car, listening to the news, and something truly asinine comes across the airwaves. It manifests itself in a sharp expletive and a stabbing motion of my right fore-finger towards the "change-station" button. More and more, watching the mainstream television coverage of politics, I feel that same urge, but can't give in to it while in the presence of impressionable young minds (the girls are doing fine, by the way).

This made me feel better. For a while.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Self Censorship

I was thinking about posting something about the sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly (Boston Globe story, to pick one of many) . But then I remembered that,
  1. My Mom, my Wife, and my Daughters might read it,
  2. The plaintiff seems to have had a tape recorder and a reporter's ear, and
  3. The suit itself (which is available on-line) reads like something that I wouldn't want anyone listed in item 1 (see above) to read, at least not on my weblog.
So. Never mind.

What's Wrong With Massachusetts?

Is it just me, or does it sound to the rest of you like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are running against the state of Massachusetts rather than against John Kerry and John Edwards?

I haven't exhaustively Googled this, but I keep hearing sneering references to the state, to "a Massachusetts Senator," to "judges in Massachusetts," and the like, from the incumbents.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think that they drive way too fast in Massachusetts and I understand the strong passions stirred up by the eternal debate over Manhattan vs. New England Clam Chowder, but is Massachusetts really that bad a place?

I am surprised that there's not more of a clamor against these attacks in the Bay State.

UPDATE: I Googled, but I forgot to look at Slate, where there was an article on this subject yesterday. The article (Lay Off Massachusetts: George W. Bush doesn't get to choose which United States he's president of) helpfully collects many of the quotes that have bugged me lately.

Saturday, October 9, 2004

POS = Parent(s) Over Shoulder - Acronyms, IM, Text Messages, E-Mail Shorthand

Colleen challenged us tonight with "POS", a small bit of Instant Messaging (IM) shorthand that she was convinced we, as old old old people, would never figure out. Her reasoning, as a teen, was sound; Mom and Dad are in their just-70's, Karen and I are in our early 40's, and Bob and Karen are in their late 30's. None of us are IM-users.

But she misunderestimated her old man, the Google-junkie. As soon as we got home, I tried Googling "im+shorthand+POS" and learned that POS means "Parent(s) over Shoulder."

Of course, Colleen contends that I cheated. But with the collected (if un-collated) knowledge of all of society at my finger tips...

The link at the top of this entry, by the way, though most useful, was not the source of the solution. It is, however, a large lexicon of IM shorthand so I have book-marked it for future reference.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Who Knew?

Well. It turns out that there is a World Rock Paper Scissors Society and the world championship is later this month in Toronto! I always knew I qualified for at least one world-class sport!

Monday, October 4, 2004

My Commute

Some time back, I was interviewed for a local publication on the subject of commuting. I commute about 45 minutes each way, from Lewes to Dover, in Delaware. Asked why that didn't bother me, I explained how low-impact my commute is, in terms of traffic, and added an off-hand remark about the "zen" of the commute. Maybe this is what I was thinking about...

Dawn, Delaware Route 1 Posted by Hello

This is a shot from a slightly foggy morning the other day. Delaware is a flat place, but it can be beautiful.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Coast Day, 2004

Christina and the fish-petting tank. Posted by Hello

We took a few hours today to enjoy Coast Day, at the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies campus in Lewes. Karen was there to help premier The Piping Plover Suite as part of the Cape Henlopen Community Band. The girls and I were in the audience for that, then wandered around a bit.

As you can see, checking out the fish -- closely -- is a favorite for Christina. She seems drawn to biological sciences, though she would deny it. She particularly enjoys the small sand sharks in the fish tanks at Coast Day.

The Kalmar Nyckel, Delaware's Tall Ship. Posted by Hello

After the fish tanks, Christina and I visited the various ships that were open for tours in the harbor. The photo above is the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of the ship that brought some of Delaware's earliest settlers, from Sweden, in 1638. Ironically, this is the one ship that we did not visit; the line is always too too long, and we've been on her before. This photo is from the bridge of the Delriver, an oil skimmer.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Another Sign of the Seasons' Change...

This is how I always think of Steve Seyfried! Posted by Hello

Today I re-edited the web site of The Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre to remove specific references to the summer of 2004 and start planting seeds for the summer of 2005.

That's Steve, one of the founders of the Theatre, onstage in The Wizard of Oz this past summer with Monica Moran, a wonderful performer who works for the Children's Theatre in the summer and for Steve and Elise (his wife and the co-founder) and their Duet Productions and Family Stages, in the off-season.

The Children's Theatre web site is one of my pet projects. I'm also the Chair of the Theatre Board of Trustees (anyone want to take over the chair? Please?). It's a rewarding activity.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

I'll Defer to Josh Marshall's Analysis of the Debate (For Now)

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

Marshall is a good analyst and he's been watching this stuff critically for a while. My gut reaction was that the debate was a big win for Kerry, but I'm biased.

Josh Marshall's first-reaction analysis was that, given that much of Bush's lead lately has been from tearing Kerry down and making him look foolish, the fact that Kerry looked so strong -- and kept the initiative -- means that this debate may make a big difference to Kerry.

I hope so.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Book Review: Good Omens

Good Omens is a novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett that follows the efforts of a motley crew angels, devils, apocalyptic horsemen/bikers and witchfinders to (variously) avert, cause, take part in, or figure out the apocalypse. It has good and evil, lots of biblical references, and a total screw-up of Armageddon. Funny.

The book came out back in 1990. I stumbled on it at a book wholesaler and decided to take a look. I'd read and enjoyed books by Gaiman (American Gods and Neverwhere) and had heard of Pratchett (I may have read some of his stuff; I have a leaky memory for light novels), so why not?

I have also found word that Good Omens is a movie project, if on hold, for Terry Gilliam, the Monty Python alumnus and director of Time Bandits and Brazil (two of my movie favorites). I like what Gilliam had to say in an interview with SCI FI Wire about why the Good Omens movie has been hard to get financing for:

"Unfortunately, I think our timing was rather bad, because we turned up in Hollywood in November of 2001 talking about a comedy film about the apocalypse. That was just bad timing."

No doubt. Still, I hope the film gets made. There's not enough of this sort of silliness around. I think silliness might be a help, or at least a relief, right now.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

We Really Should be Ashamed of This

"NOTICE," the first few lines of the sign read, "This business is 100 percent American owned. Unlike some businesses we pay ALL taxes including Social Security."

This is from a story in today's Salisbury Daily Times (mirrored in the Wilmington News Journal) about a sign in the window of the State Line Cigarette Outlet on Route 13, in Delmar. According to the article, the sign appears to refer to a competing store that was recently purchased by a family of American citizens of Indian extraction.

The State Line folks said they were frustrated that "some businesses get exemptions from certain taxes because they employ people from other countries. " Yet, according to the article, that's not an exemption that applies in this case.

So, what's going on here? I think the bottom line may have best been expressed by this guy:
"I think it's great," Delmar resident Jim Shuler said. "A lot of businesses around here are being bought out by foreigners and if I know if a business is being run by one, I won't spend a dollar there."
But these are American citizens. None of us, except folks of Native-American extraction, would be here if "foreigners" hadn't come here.

We need to call-out this sort of behavior and show our disapproval. It's not a legal issue; it's an issue of integrity and respect.

The owners of State Line Cigarette Outlet have let us all down.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Good, Good, Good Vibrations

So. I'm sitting here listening to a free audio stream of Brian Wilson's Smile album, which is due for release on 9/28/04. Thanks go out to Ryan Cormier, of the News Journal, for the link idea. It's pretty clear that I'll be snapping this record up as soon as it gets to the stores.

There was a report on the (re)making of this record this afternoon on NPR. I remember Wilson's work with the Beach Boys of my childhood, in the 60s and 70s. I never, at that time, had a clue as to what was happening in the background. Brian Wilson is a fascinating figure.

If you have missed the Brian Wilson story, the Cliff Notes version is that Wilson, the musical force behind the Beach Boys, came to feel trapped making poppy surf-music for a very commercial franchise-band. He'd started breaking out of the mold and managed to record some gems (Good Vibrations) and had made real progress on Smile. The record company and his band-mates didn't dig it and it was shelved. Wilson shortly there-after slide into a breakdown and was out of commission for quite a while. Over the last almost 40 years, the Smile album has become a legend; the lost album that promised so much.

I remember when Brian Wilson started to come back into focus. In 1994, Wilson and his Daughter Carnie were featured on Rob Wasserman's Trios album on a haunting track (that I think Wilson wrote) called "Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness." Remember, at this point he was just starting to reappear after a long struggle out of serious mental illness.

Since then, Brian Wilson has been rising back to a spot fairly high on the scale of serious pop music. He's gained the respect of a new generation of music lovers who heard his early work as "oldies" or "classic rock." Now we know how much more he can do.

A while back, he presented a concert version of Pet Sounds, the album that gave us Wouldn't It Be Nice and Sloop John B. Earlier this year he did the same with Smile and soon it'll be in the stores!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Downtown Dover is a Good Example

So I had my camera with me in downtown Dover, Delaware, this evening and had a chance to snap a few shots of some of my favorite spots. I was helping staff an event at the Schwartz Center with Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner. She signed an executive order approving the State Strategies for Policies and Spending that I've been working on the GIS mapping side of for the last year or so, and released a guidebook called Better Models for Development in Delaware that goes nicely with the Strategies. It was a satisfying event and brings a close to a long, hard, but fascinating chapter at work.

This is a sidewalk on The Green, an historic town square in downtown Dover. This is just a block from the Schwartz Center.Posted by Hello

This is Wesley Methodist Church on State Street, in Dover, as seen from the stairway in the Schwartz Center. Posted by Hello

Of course, a major point of the Strategies and the Better Models book is to show that -- as Ed McMahon, who wrote Better Models for us, puts it -- we have hundreds of years of examples of how to build places to live. They are called towns.

We should build more like this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I'm not sure what this is, but I like it

The Color Synth Axis appears to be a flash-based (?) interactive color-mixing tool. I think that, with several years and some help from my more graphically inclined relations, I may eventually make some interesting use of this. Maybe.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Thank Goodness We Can At Least Laugh

"The Glorious Revolution: A Look Back" by Jeff Greenfield
Let's be honest: this has been a dreary election so far. It promises to get worse and worse and, if 2000 is any indication, it probably won't end in November. This is one of 16 What if Bush Wins? essays in the September edition of The Washington Monthly. Thank you Washington Monthly!

More on the Smoking Ban Study : The News Journal : LOCAL : Study measures smoking ban effects
This is essentially an update to an earlier posting, but I thought it worth a quick note. I am encouraged by the positive response from the bar owner and the bar manager noted in this article. It shows that the ban not only works as measured by scientists, but is gaining acceptance by business folks s well. I have noticed that, Frank Infante's one-note candidacy not withstanding, the ban has not really been an issue in the Delaware Governor's race.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Book Review: The Librarian

Larry Beinhart has come out with The Librarian: A Novel (Nation Books) which is another in his line of political thrillers. Beinhart was the guy who wrote American Hero, which became the movie Wag the Dog.

In The Librarian, a relatively hapless college librarian stumbles across a GOP plot to steal an election. The characters are thin washes over the players in our current election and the level of apparent prescience in this novel is astounding. His August Scott is clearly George W. Bush and Scott's minions are a familiar cast. The issues and arguments played out in this novel are troubling reflections of the 2004 election.

The publication date is September 2004, so it may be the case that Beinhart has been able, in last-minute polishing, to add recent color to his manuscript. This is no roughshod effort, however, so it seems more likely that he wrote these details some time back.

Bottom line: it's a good read. Your political leanings may color your reaction to this novel; it smacks the Bush people rather firmly. It is worth noting, as well, that Nation Books has rather a long line of Bush-bashing tiles.

I liked it, however, and I recommend it.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Fear of Public Speaking?

This is the crowd at the NSGIC meeting, during the roll call of states. That's Richard from Alaska in the lower right (sans tie) talking with Milo, from the FGDC (with tie).

I snapped this while waiting to give a short update on GIS Coordination activities in Delaware. I also got to give a short speech as a candidate for the NSGIC Board (I lost) and two longer presentations. It was fun; the NSGIC crowd is attentive and intelligent and supportive. Posted by Hello

Sunset over Lake Austin

As a social event for the NSGIC conference, we had dinner and a sunset at a huge place called The Oasis. It had all sorts of decks all overlooking the lake from great height and all featuring sunset dining. The sunset was pretty good. The food was so-so. Posted by Hello

Friday, September 17, 2004

Heading Home

Well. The 2004 NSGIC Annual Meeting has come to an end. It's a Friday morning and I'm getting ready to check out of this Hyatt Hotel and head for the Austin airport and a Southwest Airlines flight to Baltimore.

I'm ready to go. NSGIC is a fairly insane group. We started meeting at mid-day on Sunday and continued from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day through Thursday. Last night, I sat as part of a selection committee interviewing prospective Association Management Firms. We went until 11:15 p.m. This is not to mention two social evenings arranged by the group.

Side Note: If you find yourself in Austin, I strongly recommend that you check out Esther's Follies, which features the best George W. Bush impersonater I have ever seen. The guy's name is Kerry Awn and he is apparently also a local graphic artist of some repute.

But now it is time to head back home. Hurricane Ivan has become a major rain event around the Mid-Atlantic, but I should have no trouble getting home by this evening. Knock wood.