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.