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.

Monday, September 13, 2004

And I have to be Very Very Quiet...

So. I'm in Austin, Texas, for a national conference of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). This is a group of people who do sort of what I do in Delaware in all the other states. There are 48 states represented this year, which makes for a crowded, but exciting meeting.

I'm up for election to the Board of Trustees this year. My candidate speech this morning included a request from Karen that no one vote for me. It would be neat to be on the board, but it would be added work and one additional trip each year and that's a hardship on her. So. If I am not elected, it will not be a major disappointment.

Meanwhile, I cannot gloat that the Reskins won on Sunday and the Cowboys lost. Nor can I be as open about my political leanings as I would really like.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Three Seconds, Three Firsts

Colleen practices jumping on Cagney. Posted by Hello

Colleen took part in a horse show at the Milton Equestrian Center today. She took second place in the three "Equestrian" classes she rode in; she was the only person, and therefore first, in he three jumping classes. She rode well and had a good time.

Mahaffies at Tyler Place, 2004

Mahaffies at Tyler Place, 2004
Because I am migrating old links over to this new site, that's why.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Face of Tomorrow

The Face of Tomorrow: the Human Face of Globalization, photographs by Mike Mike
A fascinating site that presents composite faces created from many individual face photographs in different cities around the world. The main page has a cool face-to-face-to-face morph image.
Reminds me of the old Michael Jackson Video; the only one I ever liked. What was that song?

Sweet 16th!

Today is Karen and my 16th wedding anniversary. Wow. This is evidence of Karen's remarkable patience and kindness.

We married in an Orthodox Catholic Church in Potomac, Maryland. Lots of kneeling.

Our reception was a drunken revel, near as I can tell. I think Karen and I were the only sober adults when we rolled out of there to our wedding night at the Admiral Fell Inn, in Baltimore.

We flew off to Switzerland on our honeymoon the next day. We took a Swissair flight and when we plugged in the headphones and dialed up pop music we had a pleasant surprise: music we hadn't heard (endlessly) before. We found music from the first album from Fairground Attraction. It was their one real hit "Perfect." This led us, eventually, to Eddi Reader.

This was the first music discovery of our married life together; it hasn't been the last. Music is a major part of our lives and Karen has brought me great joy with her knowledge and love of music.

I was pleasantly surprised to come across a music-blog entry about Fairground Attraction and Eddi Reader this week on WomenFolk (a well put together blog focused on women in music). I was inspired to look for the latest Eddi Reader recording at the music store in the local mall here in Dover where I work. Nothing in the bins, so I checked with the young man behind the counter, who consulted the computer:
"Eddi Reader? Oh yeah, we don't have any of his stuff in stock. I can order it for you..."
Never mind. I did find a copy of Art Garfunkel's EVERYTHING WAITS TO BE NOTICED which features Garfunkel with two other singers that sounded interesting. Worth a listen, part of our ongoing journey of discovery. Karen took it on her commute this morning, we'll see what she thinks!

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Cool! Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Finds Delaware Smoking Ban Works

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine - Abstract: Volume 46(9) September 2004 p 887-905

So, according to this study (Respirable Particles and Carcinogens in the Air of Delaware Hospitality Venues Before and After a Smoking Ban), Delaware's ban on smoking in indoor public spaces has worked:
This air-quality survey demonstrates conclusively that the health of hospitality workers and patrons is endangered by tobacco smoke pollution. Smoke-free workplace laws eliminate that hazard and provide health protection impossible to achieve through ventilation or air cleaning.

We sort of already knew this, but it's nice to have scientific back-up!

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Gravity Monuments!

I posted a query yesterday on MetaFilter about where there might still be (or have been) any of the Gravity Monuments erected on college campuses in the 1960's and (maybe?) 1970's by the Gravity Research Foundation. We had one at Colby College when I was there (1980-84) and it was a constant source of goofy joy.

Turns out there were others. A little searching before I posted turned up one that had been at SMU and another at Emory. The MetaFilter discussion turned up mentions of such monuments at Hobart College, Tufts, and Middlebury College. It seems very likely that there was/is also one at Babson College, which was founded by The Foundation's own Roger Babson.

So far, I've seen two different texts for the monuments:

" remind students of the blessings forthcoming when science determines what gravity is, how it works, and how it may be controlled."

" remind students of the blessings forthcoming when a semi-insulator is discovered in order to harness gravity as a free power and reduce airplane accidents."
I think this may be the start of an on-line collection.

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Back to School

Colleen (l) and Christina (r) Mahaffie head off to their first day of school for the 2004-05 school year. Posted by Hello

Colleen is starting 7th grade and Christina 3rd at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts. Karen (Mom) is working half days as a special education assistant. All three were up and ready in plenty of time, though the girls did some moaning and groaning about the early hours. Pro-forma, of course; they were excited.

Monday, September 6, 2004

Uh-Oh, Guess I Shoulda Googled First

Google Search: "mike's musings"
So, there are nearly 700 other Mike's Musings on-line. We can't all be musing the same things, can we?

BBC - North East Wales Weird Guide - Weird

BBC - North East Wales Weird Guide - Weird: "Sightings map
A map of UFO and ghost sightings as posted by contributors in NE Wales. Click on the points to find out more. Plus, we're now receiving stories from around the world."

I found this by chance while jump-surfing this evening. Somehow, I was on a web site dedicated to the government of Wales, in the United Kingdom and stumbled across this section. I was struck at first by the use of a clickable map -- geospatial intelligence -- to navigate among paranormal sightings. I was hooked, however, when I found comments like:

Kristle from everywhere
I've had visions and things for years, since I was born... of various places throughout England and the surrounding areas. I know they are true. They haunt me on a daily basis. You are not crazy, my dear, you have an old soul.

Test of posting a photo

This is Christina on Rehoboth's Boardwalk, in Fall 2003. Posted by Hello

This was to test the ability to post photos using "hello." More, I would guess, to follow.

Well, I had to start somewhere...

This is the starting point. I've been meaning to start a web log for some time now. I was just waiting for my ego to catch up with my intentions.

I'm not sure what form this will take, or what it will ultimately be, but It'll be fun finding out!