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.