Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami

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 Billboard.com, 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

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
SunStock
Rehoboth Summer Stock
Cape Kids' Stock
Cape Kids' Summer Stock
Cape Henlopen Summer Stock
YoungStock
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....