Saturday, December 31, 2005

Wicked. Wicked Good.

Karen, the girls, and I traveled over to Washington DC yesterday for a matinee performance of the touring company of Wicked. It was in the Opera House at the Kennedy Center.

The Opera House is a palace of a theater. Very nice.

Our seats were well up into the sky, but the view was fine. We were in the second row of the highest tier. There was a family of boobs sitting in front of us, several of whom insisted on leaning forward on the railing, thereby blocking parts of the site line for everyone behind them. This was a particular problem for Christina, the shortest among us. At the intermission, Karen traded seats with her, so that she and I were the ones behind the leaners.

I did ask, politely, if they wouldn't mind sitting back. The woman told me, rather nastily, that if she sat back she wouldn't be able to see. Perhaps. She was short, but not that short. She and her husband were the only people leaning forward like that. Boobs.

That glitch to one side, the show was wonderful. Strong cast, great music, great story. I had read the novel on which the show is based. I think the musical version does it justice.

The role of Glinda was played by an understudy, Emily Rozek. She was wonderful. Several times now we have seen understudies in lead roles on Broadway and in touring shows. There's something about the energy that these folks bring to the roles on the few occasions that they get to play them. Somehow it adds a little extra sparkle.

I like that.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Minor Housekeeping

I've set the site to allow anonymous comments again. I had set it to require Blogger registration for commenting some time back in response to a series of nasty comments. I guess it's time to open up to the world again. Hopefully, no one will be creepy this time.

Of course, I can always ruthlessly delete any poopy-ness anyone tries to drop on the site.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

When a Door Opened

Matt Haughey is creator of MetaFilter, one of the better group-blog sites. His personal site today includes an anniversary remembrance of his entry onto the web:

Ten Years | A Whole Lotta Nothing
In spring of 1995, while using a borrowed computer (I didn't own one myself) in the undergraduate lab, I noticed a new icon in the main window. It was a blue globe with a snake-like S shape around it. It was labeled Mosaic.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Accordion 2
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

My nephew Nick brought this lovely old Accordian to my parents' house for Christmas this year. I'm not sure where he found it, but he's taught himself to play it well enough; he's rather a decent musician of the pick-it-up-and-figure-it-out-enough-to-play-it sort. I loved the details on this instrument and tried a few macro shots up close.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Chrismakwaanzakah

Merry Christmas!

Happy Chanukah!

Good Festivus!

Happy Kwaanza!

Does the Flying Spaghetti Monster have a Winter Solstice Holiday?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

What's In A Name?

It seems that the New York Times has the perfect reporter to cover the newest New York Yankee. There's a story in the Times today (REG. REQ.) about Johnny Damon's having hacked off his famous long locks and full beard in deference to the sartorial law laid down by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.

The byline is"Damon Hack."

My first thought was that it had to be a joke. Maybe a hacker had attacked the Times' web site?

But no, Mr. Hack has written almost 600 stories for the Times. So far.

Now he has a Yankee all his own to focus on.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Let's Hear It for The British Medical Journal

The British Medical Journal special Chistmas Double issue is a treasure. They've published a great collection of scholarly papers. Here are just a few.

There's a study that shows that people tend to put less alcohol in drinks mixed in tall glasses than in short glasses. It's called Shape of glass and amount of alcohol poured: comparative study of effect of practice and concentration (PDF).

Then, there's Epidemiology and prognosis of coma in daytime television dramas (PDF) which found that "The portrayal of coma in soap operas is overly optimistic. Although these programs are presented as fiction, they may contribute to unrealistic expectations of recovery."

And another that found that regular playing of the didgeridoo is an effective treatment for sleep apnoea. That's Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomised controlled trial (PDF).

Maybe my favorite, though, is Harry Potter Casts a Spell on Accident Prone Children (PDF), which finds a reduction in the incidence of traumatic injuries in children that coincides with the release of new Harry Potter novels.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It Doesn't Take Much to Make Me Happy, Sometimes

I had the great pleasure yesterday of watching the Washington Redskins dominate the Dallas Cowboys, win a game 35 to 7, and sweep the season series between the two teams.

I am a life-long Redskins fan. I grew up outside of Washington DC and became fully aware of football when I was 10 years old. It was 1972 and the Redskins were good enough to get to the Superbowl, in January of 1973, and lose to the perfect 1972 Dolphins.

That season was a fitting introduction to the emotional reality of being a 'Skins fan. There were hope, pride, excitement and disappointment. This is not unique to 'Skins fans. True fans, in all sports, know these feelings if they find a single team and maintain their relationship with that team over time.

If you stay with your team long enough, there will be seasons of hope and pride. This year, after many years of disappointment, the Redskins are showing promise. It's fun to be a fan again.

Among the positive signs has been the emergence of new young stars with talent and personality. Stars like Chris Cooley, who caught 3 touchdown passes against the Cowboys.

I was reading a story on Cooley in today's Washington Post (Cooley Shakes (Off) Cowboys All Night Long) and was tickled by this quote:
"This is the funnest game of my career," he said, unconcerned that funnest is not a word.

"I never scored three touchdowns before. Not at any level. This rates number one in my career. All time. Ever. Best ever."
Cooley is a bright spark, if not a Rhodes Scholar. He's fun to watch and fun to read about.

And he led the Redskins in a victory over the Dallas Cowboys. I grew up a Redskins fan. That means I grew up loathing the Cowboys. I still feel that way.

Yesterday's football game made me happy. At least a bit.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

In Old New Castle

Bike Ride
Our Office Christmas Lunch on Friday was at a small restaurant in the oldest part of the City of New Castle, on the Delaware River. After we ate, a few of us took a brief stroll around the town. It was another bright, though cold, day and I wanted to get some photos of the town for possible use in our Livable Delaware web site. And, of course, I love to take pictures of places like this.

New Castle is a gem. It's very colonial; it was one of the first (European) places in the first state. There are old buildings, the river, a sense of history, a village green, and cobblestones.

The photo above is from Battery Park, which fronts much of the town along the Delaware River and features a scenic walk, piers, and a beach. This is how cities and towns should grow.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I Have The Name, Now I Just Need The Rest of My New Band

I heard the phrase that will be the name of my famous rock band this week. I was listening to NPR's story, (The Secret Court of Terror Investigations) when the three words I've been waiting for my whole life were uttered, as part of this sentence: "While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR's failure to let us use the tools given to us."

"Radical Militant Librarians"

Just picture it. Me, backed by a band made up of slender, severe- looking women dressed in gray wool skirt-suits (with skirts reaching at least mid-calf), accented by combat boots and bandoleers bristling with books.

Now appearing, Mike and the Radical Militant Librarians.

A Basic Question

Yesterday on the road from New Castle to Dover, I was behind a sedan at a red light. On the back deck of the sedan was a baseball cap, with the following slogan: "God is my Boss."

It must be tough, figuring out what to get God for Boss's day.

It got me thinking.

"God is my Co-Pilot"

Does that make you God's superior officer?

"As God is my Witness."

How do you swear God in?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fear Can be a Good Thing

I stopped by Beebe Hospital's off-site Lab Express this morning and left behind a fist full of vials of my blood for a variety of you're-approaching-middle-age-man-just-deal-with-it tests. This afternoon, Doctor Robinson called with some of the results. Generally good news.

My cholesterol, which had been running a little bit high over the last few years, is down. Just slightly, but down. Further, my good cholesterol is slightly up from my last test and my bad cholesterol is slightly down.

This is the result of improving my diet and increasing exercise lately. I'm finally getting serious about this and I owe it all to fear.

Over the last few weeks, I let myself think too much about my health. I'd had a few aches and pains and decided that they meant a return of a blood clot, more pulmonary embolisms,
heart problems, stroke, cancer, etc. It turns out that if you think about this stuff too much, you can generate a serious level of anxiety. Which makes your heart race, and makes your blood pressure rise, and makes your chest hurt. Which feels like it might be.... You get the point.

I had various tests that have satisfied me that I'm actually fine. This summer's blood clot is shrinking on schedule. I don't have a new one. My heart is fine. My lungs are clear. I'm fine. Relax.

But I'm also convinced that if I don't make some changes, I may not be fine next time. So? Less salt. Less fat. Less food. More exercise. More relaxation. Proper priorities.

Seems to be working. I think I'll stick with it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Lewes City Dock

Lewes City Dock
This is one of my favorite spots in Lewes. The City Dock is just off the main part of town. It floats along the bank of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal where the canal widens out into a harbor.

I once caught a filleted flounder here. I dropped a line on a hot summer afternoon and snagged a flounder that had been caught by someone on one of the head-boats that sail from Fisherman's Wharf, across the water from this spot. It had been cleaned on the dock over there and the remains dumped overboard into the canal.

That may have been the biggest fish I ever caught in my brief fling with fishing. Even without most of its flesh.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Another Loss for Lewes

I was saddened this week to learn that Howard Seymour has passed away. Howard died at home on December 4. He was 79.

Howard was a member of the Lewes Board of Public Works and sat as an ex-officio member on the Lewes Planning Commission. So, for the last several years I've spent about one evening each month with him. He was a cranky-seeming guy, but he knew all about the city and the utilities that serve the city.

He liked to appear crusty and cantankerous, but at heart he was a sweet, kind, wise man. He will be missed.

We're losing too many of our city's characters. Howard was one of the people who made Lewes unique and special. We've lost Howard. We lost Mayor Smith. It's been a rough year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

British Car Club?

British Car Club?
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

I couldn't help noting that the British Cars in the Lewes Christmas Parade this past week-end was led by... a Japanese truck.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Arts in Education in the News

Two stories caught my eye in today's News Journal. Both touch on issues around the Arts in Education.

The state leaders from around the US gathered in Wilmington this weekend for the Council of State Governments meeting heard about the importance of Arts Education from Daniel H. Pink. Pink is the author of A Whole New Mind, a guide to navigating the shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. He told the group of the importance of teaching students to take advantage of their artistic and creative strengths as well their ability to read, write and calculate.
The challenge, he said, for state governments -- especially in an era of federal- and state-mandated academic accountability tests and graduation standards geared toward English, math and science mastery -- is to make room for and encourage students to take part in arts programs that hone those skills.
What pleased me most, though, was to see Delaware's Governor picking up on that theme.
Pink's arguments rang true to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who said she's been toying with the idea of adding an art requirement for high school graduation.

"It's not something I've really discussed with my staff yet," Minner said. "But I've always thought that the arts were important to be a well-rounded person."

Karen and I have been supporters for many years now of a choice school -- the Southern Delaware School of the Arts -- that was set up to use a focus on the arts to support the academic goals of students in first through eighth grades. Both of our girls are students there and Karen is a part-time teacher. The last few rounds of state testing I think have borne-out the efficacy of the school's approach; SDSA students are among the leaders in test scores.

The sports section of today's paper had a profile of Darnerien McCants, former Washington Redskins receiver and now a back-bencher for the Philadelphia Eagles. McCants also attended Delaware State University, in Dover. I became a Darnerien fan when he joined the 'Skins partly because he had been a Delawarean, partly because he was an underdog, and partly because when he did get a chance to play, he exceeded expectations.

Darnerien never did quite fit into the current plans of once and present Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. I like to think that that is just because of the bigger-named receivers that have been brought in this season. He was released by the Redskins and picked up by the Eagles. His playing time for the Philadelphia team has also been limited.

And yet, as the newspaper profile makes clear, Darnerien McCants has more to do in life than just catch footballs.
When it was mentioned to Darnerien McCants that he's an athlete who also is an artist, the Eagles wide receiver smiled and shook his head.

"You got that backward," he said. "I'm an artist who's also an athlete. My football career could end at any time, but I'll be creating art as long as my hands and my brain are working. Art is forever."
He credits his teachers in the arts program at Delaware State with awakening the artist in him. And he's not limited to one medium, as his web site makes clear. Darnerien McCants paints, draws and sculpts, he writes poetry and music, and he sings.

I was interested to note, though, that it wasn't until he got to Delaware State that McCants found an arts program to engage his native talent. There'd been no support in the schools he attended growing up in Maryland. This is no knock on Maryland; I grew up there myself. I think it's more a function of the times than the state.

Now, McCants is looking ahead to the inevitable end of his football career.
McCants is thinking about his life after football, but he knows trying to make a living off his art would be difficult. So his goal is to become a high school art teacher and also coach at that level.
If he follows through on that idea, I'll be a fan of Darnerien McCants for a long long time.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Irony, Thy Name is... Irony

Life is good. The Village President of the suburban Chicago village of Justice has been charged with fraud.