Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Delaware Blogs

Today was gray and rainy and, aside from a run to the bank and the library and the normal kid-carting, perfect for some on-line loitering. I spent some time, therefore, poking around the web in search of more Delaware blogs to add to my ever-expanding list.

I use to track, categorize, and blog-roll a variety of blog-links over on the left side there. I keep a list of Delaware blogs in general, a list of (mostly Delaware) political blogs, and a list of other blogs I enjoy.

Sometimes I wonder why I've let myself get sucked into so obsessively tracking the blogs here in Delaware. The web is meant to be a global community, and much of what I do on-line aligns with my communities of interest -- geospatial data, music, the Dead, blogging itself. Yet I still like to track those blogs that focus here on the 2,000 square miles of the First State. It is where I live, I suppose, and these are the people I see most often.

So here are some Delaware blogs I found today (and a few days ago too). In no particular order. A few are just-started; an early New Year's resolution or a Christmas present to the self. Others are a months or more old and have been hiding in plain sight.
  • Bring Me Up -- A series of music reviews.
  • Frank's Ramblings!! -- Frank posts things he finds on his daily travels.
  • Creative Rants from Nerissa -- She says it is "her page; her rants." But there's more than ranting here.
  • Blog Avenue -- "Jen's City Blog." About life in Wilmington, I think.
  • Clockwork Jalopy -- "...where I park my many ideas and weird views." We all need that.
  • Bienvenue Chez Seals -- A transplanted Frenchwoman in upstate Delaware.
  • Just Purge -- "Clear your mind. Cleanse your soul."
  • On Transmigration -- "Gay, Happy, not quite Ecstatic, and moving on to a new life and responding well to therapy."
  • Jenny Q -- A mom From Newark, Delaware. With a teen. Bless her.
  • katielynn -- Newlywed woman in Delaware.
  • Everyday Hustle and The Fine Print -- These appear to be two young friends upstate. They each have their own blog, but there are cross-references.
  • Useless Entertainment -- Music reviews, from Milton, Delaware.
  • Another Gun Blog -- "...a 22 year old law clerk / college student and a gun nut."
  • Blue Hen Hash House Harriers -- "...announcements and write ups for the Blue Hen Hash House Harriers, a Delaware drinking club with a running (stumbling) problem."
  • Object of Complacency -- A young man. I think a Delaware high school student.
  • Shoreman -- Keeping an eye on the shore from the Delaware side of Delmar.
  • It's All Greek To Me! -- A teacher at a (Delaware?) Greek charter school.
  • along the way -- She is "a writer, a minister, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and a wanderer" who also "manage[s] a church camp and conference grounds" in Bethany Beach, Delaware.
  • VibrantPolitics -- A young man in Newark closely following the Democratic primaries.
  • Average Girl In Average World -- An average person. Who blogs.
  • Delaware Venable -- Fairly tightly focused on religion. Right-leaning Christian variety. A retired state trooper.
You may notice that most of these are Blogger blogs. My cheat for today was to surf the "Delaware" tag in Blogger's profiles. I like to do that every once in a while. This time of year is usually a good time to find new blogs.

I will, of course, continue my practice of checking all of the blogs I link to each month to see if they are still active. Those with a month or more without new posts are moved out of the blog-roll and onto the inactives list. I do track their RSS feeds to try to catch them and re-add them when they come back to regular posting.

There are a small number of Delaware-based blogs that I find that I choose not to link to. These tend towards the virulently racist and anti-semetic. As a general rule, I don't link to blogs that feature collections of fascist iconography. Call me intolerant. It's my blog-roll.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Getting Ready for a New Year

There's a "2008" sign posted on Legislative Mall, in Dover. It is next to a white-painted telephone pole topped by a chicken-wire and Christmas-light ball that will drop on New Year's Eve.

Things have been somewhat quiet around state government this week. Some of us took Wednesday off to return from holiday travel. Others took the week itself; for travel or extended family time.

The time between Christmas and New Years is a great opportunity to get concentrated work done. There are fewer calls and fewer meetings.

I've used my few days this week mostly to review draft data as part of the statewide aerial photography project we've undertaken. I'll continue that work on Monday.

Then we return to a new 2008 on Wednesday.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Merry Christmas to All

Let It Snow (Repeat)

Yesterday was unseasonably warm (despite the wind and the rain) and I found myself wishing for a white-Christmas snowfall here in the Mid-Atlantic region.

It doesn't seem likely, though, so I went back to my "making snowflakes" posts of December 2004 to find a link to Lookandfeel New Media's Make-A-Flake site. This is an on-line site for e-cutting e-paper into e-flakes. And I e-did.

I'm not sure whether or not this site has been maintained in the intervening years. The download your flake and e-mail your flake applications don't seem to be working (or maybe not with FireFox).

So I had to grab screenshots. which led me to notice a grammatical error that I'd missed in my younger days (of three years ago).

The site numbers the flakes that are made. According to the dialog-box that popped up when I was done, my flake was number 16409992. Or perhaps I myself am flake number 16409992. The box does say "You're flake #..."

And while I was taking a closer look at this site, I read the "be nice" small print to find:
Please help us keep the snowflakes clean. Report offensive snowflakes when you click the snowflake.
I suppose it must be possible to cut a paper snowflake to resemble a naked person or something otherwise untoward. But I myself lack that creative talent.

I can cut spiny, sparkly snowflakes though. And all I need is to create about 3,485,824 more!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

In Troubled Times, Where Shall a Bruised Nation Turn for Soothing Ironic Distance?

I found myself drawn to this recent headline from The Onion: Nation's Crumbling Infrastructure Probably Some Sort Of Metaphor.

The satirical "newspaper" recounts recent infrastructure failures and notes that these failures are "forcing many to question whether the nation's rapidly deteriorating roads, contaminated drinking water and groundwater, and run-down schools could perhaps be a metaphor for something."

"Everywhere you turn you see improperly maintained railways, structurally deficient bridges—not to mention billions of gallons of untreated sewage flowing directly into our groundwater," said Adam Perry, a representative for the ASCE. "Is there an underlying message here? There are so many layers, and each one is so subtle and nuanced, that I'm hesitant to make any kind of blanket statement about what this means 'for America.'"

"I think our overstretched and increasingly obsolete infrastructure might symbolize something important," Perry added. "But what?"

I find myself missing that sort of irony-heavy satirical commentary now that the TV-writers' strike has darkened the nation's airwaves. I wonder where to turn for the acerbic commentary I once depended on The Daily Show to provide.

As it happens, commercial television is not the only place to find such content. As we turn away from reality-TV, we are rediscovering thoughtful, written cynicism in all manner of formats, from traditional printed books and magazines to on-line blogs and, for the more adventurous, personal conversation.

Aside from The Onion, there are other goofy-news sites such as ScrappleFace, McSweeney's and the (somewhat NSFW) Daily Mash over in the United Kingdom. There are sites featuring humorous writing in general, such as Francesco Explains It All. And the TV writers are creating new on-line video content in their own cause at Speechless.

So, as the writers' strike drags into a new year, and we resign ourselves to television without great wit, people around the nation are re-discovering the joys of literature, learning about alternate media, and indulging in conversation.

And some -- a brave few -- are starting to express their own, very personal, satire.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Delaware Photo Blogs

I've been thinking about posting an item about Kevin Fleming's Wild Delaware blog ever since I ran across it back in September. I did add it to my blogroll, but I am lazy and easily distracted and eventually other Delaware bloggers made note of Kevin's blog and started spreading the word.

Kevin is Delaware's premier photographer. His are the coffee-table books we give when we want to give the gift of Delaware-ness. I had the privilege of meeting and being photographed by Kevin back in the spring of 2006; I'm a fan.

But Kevin is not the only one taking cool photos in our state. I've collected links to at least eight other Delaware photography blogs and even more Delaware photography web sites. So I thought I'd present a selection of those sites too. In absolutely no discernible order.

Tony Pratt also photographs nature in this area. Tony is an old friend I worked with at DNREC many years ago. He works in beach preservation and spends much of his time on the shoreline, in the dunes, and working with property owners. He is also a former Lewes leader; he helped write the City's first comprehensive plan, which I have now been part of updating.

Remind me to tell you the story sometime about working down the Delaware Coast with Tony and Mike Powell early one morning in January, 1992, during a major Nor'Easter. We were taking pictures (pre-digital cameras, unfortunately) of storm damage. It was an adventure.

I ran into Tony at the Dover Safeway one day recently. There's a decent salad bar in there and I often see colleagues wandering through at lunch time. Tony told me he'd started his own photo blog. He has been joining Kevin for early morning photography visits to area marshes. I think he's had pretty stunning results.

There are several other professional photographers with blogs. Laura Novak and Lance Lanagan both have studios and specialize in portraiture and weddings and such. There's also a blog for, by and about the Delaware Professional Photographers group.

And there are semi-pros.

Photodee blogs about her "adventures in knitting & photography." I don't know anything about knitting, but her photography is pretty cool.

Dave Wolanski has both a personal photoblog, Things I See, and a new Dave's Photo Tips blog where he offers advice and guidance on shooting with digital cameras.

And So That Happened... was a photo-a-day blog that was active from late 2004 through this past spring.

There are also bloggers who, like me, making photography a part of what they post, if not the main focus. These include, and I'm sure I'm leaving somebody out, Delmar Dustpan, Elbert (with an "E"), and The Happy Hippie.

And finally, many of us also post Delaware photography to one of several flickr groups focused on the first state or to the collection of photo collections.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Delaware State News: Off-Line

Independent Newspapers, Inc., wants me to pay $145 a year to view the contents of the Delaware State News on-line. Up until today, INI had offered a limited selection of local news stories in an ad-heavy, if not terribly exciting, web 1.0 format.

No longer.

This morning, their old "news" link led to a statement that one can now read the ENTIRE newspaper on-line. If one subscribes. And that some local news will still be included in their Newszap forums.

I didn't see any news in the forums, so I sent an e-mail to the auto-contact link they have. Here's what I got back (in part):
Thanks for your email. To be honest with you, we reached the conclusion that we could no longer give away our newspaper content for free. We are proud of the work our staff members are doing and believe we’re making a difference for thousands of people every day.

We hope you will consider purchasing an e-Subscription, which will give you every page of every edition of the newspaper in an easy-to-read format and with full search capabilities. To make this option more attractive, we have an introductory offer of 2 years for the price of 1, which we think is a great deal!
I think it's a form e-mail. I sent my question in to two separate contact links and got the same e-mail back each time. I followed the link they sent and, after a bit of searching, and working my way through a name and address data collection page (Harrington J. Millworthy, IV, at your service), but eventually I found the Subscription Rates page (above left).

I guess that 2-fer offer means I could get two years of the e-paper for $145. That's very generous, but still probably not of interest to me.

As part of my job, I scan a variety of news sources for items related to land-use planning and to geospatial data uses. Until now, the State News has been one of those sources. But given the low volume of news I usually found, I don't know that it is worth it to subscribe to an online version of the printed paper. Someone who gets that paper the old fashioned way is likely to let us know if there is ever anything worth looking at.

I don't think this change will do the State news much good. The News Journal offers a relatively complete edition on-line each day. I think they have too many ads, but understand they have to pay the bills. The Cape Gazette also offers a paid "full content" version but does post the main news of each week for free.

The New York Times tried a pay-only premium portion of their site for a while, but scrapped that plan this fall (remember Times Select?). In part, I think, they ended Times Select because people simply ignored the content that they would have had to pay to see. As a result, no one referred to it. No one linked to it. It ceased to be a main part of the discussion.

So, for now at least, I say so-long to on-line content from the Delaware State News.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Participation Generation

The old-photos blog Shorpy has had a few pictures up lately showing everyday folks making music back in the 1940s. The one at left shows a pick-up band at a Florida trailer park. An earlier entry shows "boys in the bunkhouse" gathered around a stove and a guitar.

These resonated for me with parts of an interview with Levon Helm I heard this morning on my commute. It was a rebroadcast of the December 11 edition of Fresh Air. Terry Gross was working through Helm's history and talking about his new album, Dirt Farmer, reflects the influences of his early life.

Levon Helm, once the drummer and a singer with The Band and a solo artist of some repute, has established a new tradition of regular in-studio house parties featuring a variety of great musicians at his place up in Woodstock. They started as a kind of rent-party a few years back when he was working through bankruptcy and recovering from throat cancer. They echo a style of house-party that was a part of his Arkansas childhood back in the 1940s and 50s.

Helm, musing on those sorts of parties and the fact that his father used to perform at some of them, used the phrase "participation generation" to refer back to a time when anyone might pick up a guitar, a fiddle, a washtub, or a beat-box and join in a pick-up band.

That's part of what I see in these photos.

Update: Here is an even better view of the jam session shown above.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Gee, Thanks for the Help

About.Com has an entry this week-end about our little state of Delaware from Jenny McKinney & Patrick McKinney. Jenny McKinney is a certified retirement coach. She and Patrick McKinney, a manual auditor for a major insurance company, take a look at Delaware, this week's state in their "Where to Live After Retirement" series.

Retirees are often vibrant and interesting people. But I'd like to think we can attract some young folks too.

9 10 88

My car celebrated our anniversary on Friday evening as I drove home from work. It was a few months late, but I appreciate the thought.

I knew on Thursday evening that this would roll up on the odometer. When I parked that night the digits read "91011." With the spacing of this style of number-graphic, it grabbed my attention as 9 10 11. I knew 9 10 88 was only a day' driving away.

We were married on a lovely September day in 1988. Our marriage will turn 20 years old next year. Our marriage will soon be old enough to drink. It was old enough to vote in the last election.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Too Much Weather

This is what we found when we returned home on Monday evening, after a day of gale-force winds.

This is the second of two Bradford Pear trees in our front yard to split and fall. The trees were planted by the previous owners. They bracketed the front yard and lent a symmetrical prettiness to the yard.

But these are not good long-term trees. They are a variant cultivated to be pretty. And they most certainly are. As they age, however, they outgrow their ability to hold themselves up. Eventually, without constant care and (I think annual) trimming, they split and often don't survive.

I did not keep ahead of this tree. It was due to be severely trimmed back; it was starting to brush against the house. The wind-storm came before I could contact a tree service however.

The first fell a few years back. It wasn't nearly this large. We had some trouble getting rid of the stump. The folks we paid to grind it out did a poor job, and I was left with more root mass than I could get rid of by myself. Eventually I got smart. I built a low, loose-stone wall around it and back-filled to cover the stump with rich garden soil. I planted a mess of lilies that seem to love feeding on that stump.

We had a fellow come and clear away the fallen portion of the tree on Monday. It looks like the tree will not be able to survive on its own. I'm waiting for an estimate from the tree guy to remove the remainder, but the weather has been wrong for that kind of work. After that, I'll have the winter to think about what to do next.

There is one positive note; a small dogwood that had been struggling in the increasing shade of that tree will now likely start to thrive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How I Spent My Week-End

A few lines drawn on my forehead and from nose to mouth. A touch of eye-liner (but only on one eye). And a liberal amount of hair-white.

An eye-patch, black top-hat and voluminous black cloak. And a completely cool tail-coat with a rich-looking pattern and scads of gold braid all over it. I really liked that coat.

This picture is the MySpace-style self portrait that I couldn't help taking while in costume just before the first performance of the Nutcracker.

In the days before children (BC), Karen and I were active with the Possum Point Players, a local theater group. Karen played in the orchestra and I took small character parts or worked backstage doing sound, props or other crew work.

I sometimes miss doing shows. I hope to get back on stage more when the girls are driving themselves and off to college. It was fun to be out in front of an audience again, if only in a small part.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Blue-Collar Village

I slept-in a bit this morning. We were all up very late rehearsing the Nutcracker Ballet, which goes before an audience this evening. I was awakened at by the 7:00 o'clock horn that sounds automatically each morning (Sundays excepted) from downtown. I believe the horn is mounted on the old power plant that used to provide all of our electricity and still serves as a power distribution point and shop for the Board of Public Works.

That horn reminds me that my small city -- Lewes, Delaware -- has very blue-collar roots. It blew each morning at seven to call the workers from their small frame houses in several neighborhoods of the old town, through mercantile downtown, past the busy fishing port, and to their jobs at the fish factories that once lined the Delaware Bay shore out towards Fort Miles and its shore defenses batteries.

The horn still calls out each morning. I sometimes hear it as I head out for my commute to Dover. On week-ends it occasionally calls me from my bed to my jobs around the house. The small frame worker's houses have been restored as mini-Victorians. Downtown's hardware store, five-n-dime and grocery have become a series of lovely boutiques. The working fishing boats have gone from the port, replaced by sailboats, tourist head-boats and the sleek powerboats of recreational anglers. The fish factories that once gave Lewes its distinctive odor have been plowed-under for a new crop of large beach-front and near beach-front homes. Some with full-time residents; many as vacation homes for people whose working life is hours away. Fort Miles lives on as a museum piece within Cape Henlopen State Park.

Lewes has changed in the 20 years I've lived here. Change is a constant in all life, of course, but my town has changed profoundly, I think. And not all for the best.

I remember when I first discovered Lewes. I had just begun working at a local radio station and was sent out as part of a remote broadcast from Lewes' Second Street. I loved it. It had high-end shops and a five-n-dime. The hardware store had hardwood floors and a hammered tin ceiling. The street was busy with both vacationers and local farmers and workers. It felt to me like what a small town in America should feel like. Rich and poor, white and black, workers and retirees all going about their several different sorts of business.

I knew that this was the sort of real town I wanted to be a part of. I was more familiar with Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach; resort towns I had visited each summer of my childhood. I love both of those towns. But, in looking for a place to settle, I wanted a year-round small town, not a busy summer resort. That was the Lewes I found.

Now, I find, my year-round working town filled with folks from all walks of life is becoming a place for wealthy people. Some are retired here. Some are here in their second homes as often as they can be and are looking ahead to retiring here.

Many of the shops are marketing to retirees and vacationers. There is still a small grocery, but for most day-to-day shopping I must leave town. The hardware store is gone. The five-n-dime is gone.

Work in Lewes is now largely retail. But retail workers can't afford to live here. There is still a hospital and medical professions abound. But, except for the Doctors, most who work in that part of Lewes' economy can't afford to live here. We're losing our economic and racial diversity. And we are losing our age-range diversity. At 45 I am often one of the youngest people at public meetings in town.

These changes hit me in the heart the other day. I was on the phone with a part-time resident who has become active in efforts to control growth around Lewes (a laudable effort). I am a part of the Lewes Planning Commission and so often find myself in conversations of this sort. I can't quote exactly what this woman told me, but it was something along the lines of "we must protect our lovely Village." I know she used the word "Village" because I remember thinking, "it's a city, dammit, please don't turn it into a quaint little retirement Village."

That's not who we were and not who we should be.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ooh! Ooh! Media Attention!

It probably won't be there for very long, but as I post this (Wednesday at lunch) there is a partial cast-photo of the Sussex Ballet's Nutcracker on the front page of website of the the Cape Gazette. This photo ran along with a story on the production in last Friday's print edition.

I took that picture at the Dance Studio on a recent weekend. We took photos of several different groupings of cast members. It was fun, but a challenge. It's tough to get large groups all aligned, standing straight, smiling and with eyes open. Their being trained dancers helped, of course, but I will say I took about 10 versions of each pose, just to be sure.

For my post on the performance, I used a family shot from last year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yet Another Lighthouse for Sale

The Point No Point lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay is up for sale. The Washington Post has the story this morning of a recent visit to the lighthouse by prospective buyers. It's a pretty beat-up looking lighthouse.

This is the third lighthouse for sale I've learned about this year; I think there may be a theme developing here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

In Which I Take to the Stage in a Ballet

Now that we've reached Thanksgiving (and may yours be happy), it is appropriate to start thinking about Christmas. Thus, it is time for you to call (302) 855-9282 to get your tickets to the Sussex Ballet's presentation of The Nutcracker on either December 1 or December 2.

Why, you ask? Well, aside from this ballet's status as a holiday tradition, and the fact that it is being staged by the estimable Kate Walker, proprietor of the Sussex Dance Academy and a truly fine teacher, and the fact that it features some of the most talented and dedicated youngsters Sussex County has to offer, this production of the Nutcracker will include the entirety of the Delaware branch of the Mahaffie family on stage at the very same time!

Actually, that convergence of Mahaffie's has happened before, in last year's Nutcracker. This year, however, both of our daughters will dance in featured roles and I have moved up from the role of stout-man-standing-stage-right-in-party-scene. The Lovely Karen will reprise her role of lovely-tall-woman-in-green-dress which drew such rave reviews (from me, anyway) last year.

Both of our girls are part of the corps de ballet and will have featured roles. Christina will be featured in the roles of the Columbine Doll, Lead Soldier, and a Candy Cane. Colleen will be featured in the role of Dream Fairy, and plays a key part in the opening party scene.

This year, I have taken on the role of Herr Drosselmeyer, the mysterious party guest who delights the children with magic toys and presents young Clara with what turns out to be a magic nutcracker doll.

This may be a ballet, but I won't be dancing this part. Drosselmeyer is an acted role and its main function is to set up the story and help the young folks shine in their dancing roles. I plan to play Drosselmeyer as a kindly magician, with the barest hint of Groucho Marx thrown-in. I'll have great fun, but we'll keep the focus on the dancers.

It really is a remarkable group of kids. They range in age from about first-grade to high school seniors. They are the daughters and sons of local teachers and doctors, police and builders, doctors and judges, government workers and clergy, and all walks of life. Many of these kids have been dancing alongside my daughters for many years now. We've watched them grow and develop a variety of talents. I'm proud to know them.

The New York Times featured a story on The Nutcracker recently. It focused on the fact that there are countless Nutcracker productions in every city and town at this time of year. The story quotes a 1972 British reviewer who wrote "Well, we are one more Nutcracker nearer death." The Times counters, though, that even in its ubiquity, The Nutcracker is an important part of the Christmas experience.
One more Nutcracker nearer death, though? No classic ballet is less death-haunted than The Nutcracker (though tucked into its narrative is a little mouse-scale revenge tragedy). The danger of watching too many Nutcrackers — as opposed to too many Swan Lakes or Romeo and Juliets — is that they may bring you sooner not to death but to second childhood.
I think that captures the function of this ballet, even for those who are not ballet-o-philes: it is an annual expression of wonder and joy and light. And whether you celebrate a pagan winter solstice, or a Jewish Festival of Lights, or Kwanzaa, or Christmas, or something in-between, this season is all about light, and lightness, and joy.

So call (302) 855-9282 and get tickets to see the charming and talented Colleen and Christina, the lovely Karen, and me on stage at the Little Theatre at Cape Henlopen High School, in Lewes, on December 1 or December 2.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Some Things I Like (#567)

Getting Back to Basics

Artist Jason Salavon has created a new work based on the 2007 Ikea Catalog.

He has reduced it to its most basic elements, page lay-out and color.

(Via information aesthetics)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jud Bennett Got Me Thinking...

Note: This is a re-posting of a comment I made this morning over at First State Politics. Jud Bennett posted a Jud's Rant that touched a chord and led me to get some ideas out that I'd like to share here as well. I have done some slight re-writing, and added links, to help this stand on its own. Thanks for the inspiration, Jud!

I mostly agree with Jud Bennett's post this morning at First State Politics: How to make Blogging truly legitimate?
Frankly, I hate published anonymity, especially when people take mean spirited shots at others or about any significant issue.
I have made similar arguments in the past, but I have come to think there may be a legitimate place for what I think of as "somewhat anonymous" blogging.

The problem with forcing people to blog as themselves all the time is two-fold. First, it is forcing people to do something, which I'm not crazy about. And, second, the cloak of anonymity may, in certain circumstances, work to our advantage as readers.

I am not a Libertarian, though I place value on some libertarian precepts. I don't think we should have complete personal freedom tempered only by common sense and decency. Let's face it, some people are assholes. Some people are stupid. Some people are violent. Some are all three. There should be some laws and societal controls to help us temper our nasty habits.

This is part of why we have religion. This is part of why we have government and laws. This is why we have etiquette and shame.

But speech is not violence, or fraud, or thievery. Yes, there are many many anonymous dickheads on the internet who spoil discussions, deface news stories, and probably could use a good thumping. But we are not really hurt by their actions. Annoyed, yes. But not substantially harmed.

Meanwhile, there are people who can say things anonymously that they cannot say as themselves. Often these are things that are important and useful. Some may fear to speak before their employers or families. Some may also be so painfully shy as to be unable to participate fully as "themselves." And a little fogging of on-line identity helps us remove the old filters of race, sex, and nationality that can sometimes stand between a person's words and our understanding of those words.

There is an honorable history of anonymous (or pseudonymous) publication; the pamphlet Common Sense and The Federalist Papers spring to mind. There are others.

Also, while I may not know exactly who "Disbelief" is when he is at home, or who "LetMyPeopleKnow" is (though I have some suspicions), I have come to know them through their comments on blogs and the News Journal web site. There are many people I have "met" in this way on-line. When I see their comments they fit for me into a pattern and a history of discussion, and so I can make sense of their ideas (or know to discount them).

Some of these folks are people whose comments I read with interest; while I may disagree with them, I have respect for their thoughts. Some others I know, from past experience, to be trolls, fools, or jackasses. The point is, I can make a judgment, based on past knowledge. So, while I couldn't pick them out of a crowd, I do know who they are, on-line.

This is different from those who comment as "Anonymous." The postings of these people, who lack even the courage of a consistent nom-de-web, I hold in lower regard. Except, sometimes, an "Anon" will throw-in a very funny one-off line that makes me smile. (An exception? That rule must true)

I've written before about my personal credo, distilled from years of thought and study: "Try not to be an Asshole." (It looks like I tempered my language a bit in that posting) I try to let this guide my time on-line. I also use it as a yardstick against which to measure the comments of others.

We all have to make a choice about how to handle our on-line identity. I have chosen to always post and comment as Mike Mahaffie, or mmahaffie. Across all of the web. And, despite temptation from my dark side, I have not broken that vow since I made it (to myself) several years ago. Others have chosen and stuck with usernames (handles) and have established on-line identities under those names. I think there is a legitimate place for this approach.

I spend time on an on-line community called MetaFilter, where there are more pseudonymous users than not. The community of users, as it grows to know these people, learns who to trust, who to ignore, and who they should bother to argue with. When someone tries to "troll" a thread (start a fight, derail the discussion, etc.), they are fairly quickly quieted, either by being ignored (the best approach) or by comment-moderation (a fairly rare, but sometimes needed, form of policing).

Sometimes, they succeed in starting a fight and the community relearns an ancient lesson: "Don't feed the trolls."

We are human, and there will always be name-calling, mean-spirited insults, and deep, deep stupidity. It’s part of who we are. When we come together in communities, though, we tend to temper what is worst in us through all of the ancient mechanisms of community: mutual support and understanding, deference (and challenges) to wisdom, and the power of shame and disapproval. These mechanisms are different, on-line, but they are there.

So, while we should deplore the trolls, we should also avoid getting into needless fights with them. We must expect better of ourselves, and of others, but we lead best by example. Try not to be an asshole.

Our politics just now are very contentious. There will be fights. Let us try to make them about issues of substance. Here’s a rule we might try to agree on: any posting that uses pejorative terms about a political opponent (personally or as a group) should simply be ignored.

Think of all the blogs we would no longer have to read.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Guess Everything IS Bigger in Texas

The old-photo blog Shorpy has a post up this morning showing a 1914 photograph of a municipal Bat Roost in San Antonio, Texas. It took me a few moments to notice the man standing on one of the cross-timbers of the structure and to realize just how large the thing is. We don't see timbers that large much anymore. Certainly not in utility construction. Have a look also at the close-up of the posted explanation and anti bat-slaughter ordinance.

Update: According to Dave, over at Shorpy, the supports that I took for timbers are in fact poured concrete. I'm disappointed to have been wrong, but still impressed at the size of the Bat Roost.

Friday, November 16, 2007

It Has Been a Colorful Fall

With the return of some sunshine today, I made an effort to capture a photo of one of those bright red or yellow trees that we've been seeing the last week or so.

Somewhere, there's a tree with leaves that have turned so deeply they shine like rubies. It stands alone in a field or someone's yard with darker-hued and taller trees ranged behind. The sun hits it square causing the leaves to flash crimson against a deep green background.

I know it is out there, I just need to find it.

On my way to Dover this morning I was ahead of schedule. I took the opportunity to turn right at Milford Neck and head towards Thompsonville and South Bowers. I found a few spots that hinted at what I was looking for. But not quite.

I took a walking lunch in Dover. When clouds were out, the wind was cold and raw. The sun came out, though, and made a brisk walk comfortable. I found a few street trees that came close.

The yellow tree at one end of the old Green (right) might also be a candidate.

I didn't find the exact tree I wanted, but had a good photo-walk. I met a squirrel who suspected me of planning to steal his winter stash of nuts. I finally got a shot of the cross atop Wesley United Methodist Church; I've been looking for the right angle for some time. And I caught a nice image of the flag that flies at the memorial at the junction of Kings Highway and State street, just off of Loockerman Street.

I'm still looking for the shot that means "Fall, 2007" to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Philosophical Posts

A couple of philosophical posts out on the Delaware blogoscape have me thinking this evening.

Delaware Libertarian Steve Newton has a thoughtful and well-written post that I think outlines one of our national challenges rather neatly. Steve has found a new thing to say about the issue of immigration.
When I see a mass of illegals running for the border on CNN, that’s one thing.

When I see a fellow parishioner hold up a baby for christening, that’s another.
Exactly. We don't want uncontrolled immigration, but how can we not find fellow feeling with families who only want to live, work and worship here?

Meanwhile, Reverend Tom Starnes has a sad piece posted on the News Journal's Delaware Talk Back site. Tom had long resisted the often-repeated thought that "9/11 changed everything." But our nation's use of torture, of domestic spying, of imprisonment without trial have changed his mind.
So, yes, I concede the point: 9/11 has changed us, and not, I fear, for the better. My hope, and, yes, my prayer is that we haven't crossed too far over that line that has, except for a few blotches on the record, distinguished us as a free people and a moral leader for the whole world.
As for me, I will confess that the news of late out of Pakistan, where military ruler General Musharraf has recently suspended democracy and imprisoned his rivals, has me wondering "could that happen here?" I think not. I think that that would be fairly unlikely to happen here, and I take some comfort in that thought.

But a few years ago I would have said that the idea of that happening here was completely absurd. Now, I think, it is just unlikely.

And that change, from "absurd," to "unlikely," is a sad measure of how we have changed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tenth Golf Game in 2007

This should probably be subtitled "A Rainy Day on the Golf Course." It was a damp morning, with rain falling for at least three holes. This photo gives an idea of how the day looked, but it's actually this dim because I took it with my cell phone. I didn't want to take my good camera out into this sort of weather.

Earlier this year, Karen bid on a set of greens passes to Baywood Greens for me at a silent-auction fund-raiser. I should have used them during the summer. I failed that, but wanted to make sure to use them before it gets too cold.

This was the seventh different course I played this year. It is a very nice course; well-maintained and challenging.

I asked Andy and my work-friends Sandy and Mike T. to join me. Andy, Mike and I had the day off for Veteran's Day. Sandy took a vacation day and we met first thing this morning at the pro shop.

We made a good group. Andy and I often play together. Sandy has joined us in the past. Mike and Sandy and I work together on a lot of projects and I was fairly certain Mike and Andy would get on well. I was right.

I had worried that it would be too cold, but it was in the mid-40s already by the time we started. I was comfortable in a mid-weight sweater. It did start raining at one point, but not to hard and it only lasted for a few holes.

I wish I could say I played better. I had fewer blow-up holes, but maintained a steady, dependable mediocrity and carded a lamentable 121. It is a harder course than I'm used to, and it has been more than two months since I last played, but why make excuses? I enjoy the game and the occasional well-played hole. I hit some drives I am proud of and I had a par.

And I spent a few hours with friends. You can't ask for much more than that.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I reached 88,888 miles in my Prius today. I was on my way home from dropping the girls off at the Sussex Dance Academy for a Nutcracker Ballet rehearsal.

It has been 145 days since I reached 77,777 miles, back in June. I averaged more than 76 miles each day over that stretch. I had calculated an average of almost 87 miles a day during the run from 66,666 to 77,777.

The difference, I think, is that the 4 months between the 6s and the 7s was all during the school year, when I do a lot of driving running the girls back and forth from dance classes in the evenings. About half of the nearly five months between the 7s and the 8s was in the summer, when I don't do quite as much girl-running.

And, yes, I do realize how sad it is for me to be so obsessed with this stuff. But I treasure my silly habits.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lighthouse Update: "Honey, I'm Home!"

Michael Gabriel had his first look this week at the Delaware Bay Lighthouse he bought from the federal government this fall. According to a story in the News Journal this morning, the California lawyer made the trip out to Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse on Thursday, accompanied by a Delaware man who once helped run the lighthouse for the Coast Guard.

News Journal photographer Gary Emeigh was along for the ride, and it's likely that reporter JL Miller made the trip as well, though his story properly reads as if there was no reporter along. It's a well-written piece. The News Journal offers a nice little slide show of Gary Emeigh's photos; there are some neat shots in there.

It looks like there might be a bit more work involved in making the Lighthouse habitable, but it does look possible. He had his contractors (Delawareans, as is right and proper) along with him and they're already planning repairs and improvements.

One question that I think may yet be unanswered is will Mr. Gabriel pay property taxes on the lighthouse? And, if so, to whom?

This may seem overly bureaucratic of me, but the question came up earlier this fall in a discussion with some of the folks who manage parcel mapping for Kent County. Their job is to maintain property maps for all parcels in the county. And they wondered whether or not they would need to add a new, small, perfectly round parcel out in the Bay.

It looks fairly clearly like this lighthouse is within the Kent County portion of the Delaware Bay; the county doesn't end at the shoreline, it extends out to the state line which runs down the center of the bay at that point. The Bay has traditionally (I think) not been parcel-mapped because it is state or (in parts?) federal public subaqueous land.

It might be the case that the lighthouse will be treated as an owned structure on leased or public land. In that case, does Mr. Gabriel pay a land-rent to the state or the feds? Or does he own the small portion of Bay bottom that his lighthouse rests on?

If it is the case that this is a private in-holding out in the Bay, and a parcel needs to be added to the Kent County Cadastral database, I can see the Kent County parcel data stewards having to answer endless questions from data-users about a "mistake circle" outside of the County.

One of the things I love about Delaware is the never-ending series of fascinating challenges and puzzles presented by a state with such a long and complicated history. We're a funny little state, but we're never dull, not if you keep your eyes and ears open.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Walk on Rehoboth Beach

I had a chance to spend an hour on Rehoboth Beach this morning. I took a walk along the beach the length of the boardwalk. The beach wasn't as deserted as it will be later in the winter, but it was clear enough of folks to make it attractive to me.

The beach was broad and flat, with a fair amount of pebbles exposed. Both, I think, the result of the recent passage of the remnants of hurricane Noel. There was a smallish surf, and one surfer.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It's Great to Know that Lewes Still Includes Some of its Originals

I have sometimes wondered what my old neighbor John Ellsworth is up to lately. According to the News Journal this morning, John is now building a land-speed record style racer in an attempt to break the 200-mph barrier.

That's pretty cool. And it is in keeping with what I know of John. It also means that my town has not yet completely become just another retirement village for wealthy folks from up-state and elsewhere. We still have some of our uniqueness.

Back in the late 1980s, when Karen and I were first married, we rented a small apartment above the shop next door to John and Hope's place on West Third Street. John owns the town blacksmith shop, but has always done much more than smithing. He was one of the founders of Punkin Chunkin, but left that sport when it went from a collection of individually designed rotary-arm flingers, trebuchets and John's own truck-sized cross-bow style punkin shooter to a contest of ever more-powerful compressed-air cannons.
"You couldn't see the pumpkin flying," he said. "I didn't like that at all. The fun was watching the pumpkins, and with the air cannons, you can't see them. You don't see it go through the air. Just a big whoosh, and that's it."
I agree with him completely. While I still think Punkin Chunkin is cool, and I'm proud that my state is still its home, it lost its charm for me when the air cannons took over.

But throwing pumpkins was never all there was to John Ellsworth. He created marvelous ironwork gates, fences and other items for homes around the area. He ran a herd of small, hand-carved cattle in front of his shop. He had a cement plant there as well; stalks of rebar topped with cement-chunk foliage. In the spring, the cement plant bloomed with small, pretty, yellow cement trucks.

And one year, for the Lewes Christmas Parade, he created a giant, house-tall metal rocking horse for his wife, Hope, to ride down the parade route.

Now there's long, open wheel, lakester-style racer under construction on West Third. John has exceeded 100-mph and hopes to top 200 next year.
"If you ever wanted to put your right foot down and hold it down, it's a hoot," he said. "The parachute coming out was probably the neatest part. It wasn't a jerk of any kind. It was like 'Star Wars' when they came out of warp speed and everything just slows down. You can't tell when it was deployed or anything. You just all of a sudden felt a deceleration."
It's great to know that John is still finding new challenges and ways to have fun. He was a pleasant neighbor; always interesting, challenging, and inspiring.

I moved to Lewes in the mid 1980s in part because it was a real town, with wealthy and modest homes, with folks from different races, with working fisherfolk and factories and with a certain amount of hustle and bustle. And with originals.

Over the years, we've lost much of our diversity, but I'm thrilled to find we still have some of what makes our town special.

Floor it, John.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why Think, Explore, or Ask Questions When You Can Echo?

There was a storm on the right-hand side of the internet echo-chamber this week about a "residence life" program at the University of Delaware. A group called "Foundation for Individual Rights in Education" (FIRE) posted an article claiming "University of Delaware Requires Students to Undergo Ideological Reeducation." They appear to have taken bits and pieces of a program in place at UD, combined it with some examples of the program poorly implemented, and arrived at the conclusion that the University is a new part of the "axis of evil."

The story was picked up by a large number of blogs. They seemed to compete to see who could write the most extreme headline. Here are just a few examples.
  • Indoctrination At Delaware
  • U of Delaware student indoctrination teaches that all white people are racist
  • University of Delaware Requires Students to Undergo Ideological Reeducation
  • The U. Of Delaware: Made In North Korea
  • University of Delaware's Orwellian system
  • University of Delaware: No Free Thoughts Allowed
  • Welcome to the University of Delaware. Check Your Brain at the Door.
  • University of Delaware indoctrinates dorm residents in mandatory anti white dogma
  • University of Delaware Operating Student Thought-Reform Program
  • Intellectual Cancer: Political Indoctrination At The University Of Delaware
  • Is the University of Delaware Violating the Federal Law on Human Subject Research?
  • Ideological Reeducation Camps at University of Delaware
  • "Mandatory" "Treatment" of University of Delaware Students
Our own Southern Delaware talk-radio outlet featured a version on its blog. Morning host Dan Gaffney posted his take as All White People Are Racists. He wrote:
The University of Delaware is one of the worst brainwashing institutions in America.
Totalitarian socialist liberals have taken completely over. Time to withdrawal [sic] the children and your tuition payment, and end any Government funding the school receives. I’m serious.
I know my approach to blogging is usually meant to be one of moderation and calm reflection, but what a load of crap.

Did no one think to check with the University about this? Doesn't this sound so extreme as to be highly unlikely? Is it really a good idea to simply and uncritically accept the judgment of some web-based outfit?

I was most disappointed in the News Journal, which posted an AP version of the story which only quoted from the FIRE account and made no attempt to check with the University or to verify whether of not the FIRE report was accurate.

What is worse is the headline the News Journal used: Civil rights group rips UD dorm policy.

Civil rights group? Please.

I took some time to check out the UD web site this evening. The University has responded to FIRE (rather politely, I thought) and addressed the issue in a posting linked from their front page.

The University explains that the program is not, in fact, mandatory.
The program is designed to encourage students to think about and to consider a number of issues, but all make their own decisions about the outcome of this reflection. FIRE’s assertion that students are told what to think is inaccurate. In common with FIRE, our institution values free speech, active voice, and open dialogue. We believe that students learn and grow in part by engaging in significant discussions on both sides of the classroom door.
The University does note some problems with the program. They express a desire to make improvements and thank FIRE for their interest and input. But they take exception with the idea that UD students can be "indoctrinated."
You have examined many internal and public documents in your search for concerns. I invite you to explore our web site more fully to get a better picture of the capacity of a University of Delaware student. You will find that they are highly intelligent and capable to assert their viewpoints and to face challenges from a variety of areas. Our students are fully able to encounter multiple values and perspectives and remain true to their own identity.
An interesting notion, this idea of encountering "multiple values and perspectives." Maybe when we report on these sorts of issues we should open ourselves up to other viewpoints instead of just echoing back what someone else wrote.

I'm not just speaking to the right-leaning among the bloggers, by the way. Some of the left-handed writers are just as guilty of this sort of thing too.

Surely we can all do better than simply repeating whatever line our particular party has put out?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall Down, Go Boom

I found this fallen gas pump canopy in Rehoboth Beach this morning. We've had high winds and rain the last few days. I assume the wind did this, but I've seen nothing about it on the news.

We were in town for the Sea Witch Festival. This annual Halloween-themed festival features a parade, costume contests (for people and pets) and Sunday morning performances at the Bandstand by the many Dance schools in the area.

Our girls were dancing at 11, so we got into town in time to see a few other groups. Whenever I do, I am grateful that their teacher, Kate Walker, concentrates so much on classic ballet, lyrical and modern dance. Other groups I've seen feature what I can only describe as "hootchie-cootchie" dancing.

The sight of a troupe of 9- and 10-year old girls in tight spangle-y outfits, spastically shaking their hips in a weird imitation of a go-go dancer in a seedy 1960's nightclub is, well, disconcerting.

This photo is an echo, by the way, of one I took in January of 2006 when a wind-storm brought down a Hooter's billboard outside of Rehoboth. That shot is my most-viewed photo on flickr. I think it has something to do with the word "hooters" and the phrase "top heavy" appearing in the description. That must rank high in a few google searches.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Finally, A Place to Put My Stuff

This is the Mahaffie Warehouse (PDF), on Mahaffie Circle, in Olathe Kansas. It showed up in one of my ego-search feeds in a space-for-rent listing from bizspacekansascity. (Photo Credit: The Tutera Group [I think])

It looks like there's about 12,000 square feet of space available right now. Other tenants are Pump It Up ("The Inflatable Party Zone") and Center Point Community Church. I need to think of some business to place there; something related to history or to mapping?

As I have mentioned here before (endlessly), two of my great-great Grandparents, JB and Lucinda Mahaffie, were among the first settlers at Olathe. They established a prosperous farm that included a hostel, of sorts, as a way-station on the Oregon Trail. Several of their children stayed in Olathe and had businesses. The family name has stuck there, adhering to streets and buildings.

Of course, at the center of my family history in Olathe is the old Mahaffie House, now an historic site and park.

Aside from the Mahaffie Warehouse, you'll find the Mahaffie Retail Center on Mahaffie Circle. It has a Quizno's and everything. Elsewhere in town, there is Mahaffie Elementary School (home of the Knights) and the Woods of Mahaffie subdivision (the web site seems to be down).

I found an interesting (to me) coincidence as I researched this post. The headquarters of Garmin International is in Olathe. It's mailing address is on 151st Street, but I note that both Mahaffie Circle and Mahaffie Place run through the Garmin Campus.

Here's the coincidence: Garmin makes GPS tools and is a part of the geospatial industry. A major part of my professional life is coordinating the use and sharing of GIS tools and geospatial data. It's not a major, earth-shaking sort of coincidence, but it does suggest to me that I should seek out the Garmin booth at the next GIS conference and say "howdy."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fun With Flag Graphics

The web site We Are Multicolored has a nifty little flash tool up that lets you choose three nations and mash-up the elements of their flags. I chose the flags of the United State, the United Kingdom, and Trinidad and Tobago. The site includes information about the symbolism of each element. It's educational, but I was just having fun with art.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

As The Phrase Turns

On a conference call at work today, a colleague coined a phrase that stuck in my ear. I had to write it down, bring it home, and share it here:
You don't know what it is really going to be until it really is.
This is grammatically suspect, and sounds redundant. But I like it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Welcome Back, Jack

Jack Renault is returning to WGMD, an FM radio station outside of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach here in coastal Sussex County Delaware. Jack was a sales guy at WGMD when I worked there back in the mid-80s. He's apparently about to take on the job of General Manager of the station.

Jack always seemed a classic radio "voice" to me, and a salesman of the old school. He and Bob Smith, who unfortunately passed away three years back, taught me a great deal about that business.

Over the years, I've seen Jack around here and there. He was sometimes selling for WGMD and sometimes focused on his Jack Renault Advertising Specialties business.

I'm not a WGMD listener, but I wish Jack well in his tenure running the place. I always enjoyed spending time with him.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

''Oh, my god, the fan fiction.''

StumpJumper, over at Denied Intervention, points us to a story in the New York Times about the sexual orientation of a major character in the Harry Potter books: J.K. Rowling Outs Hogwarts Character.

At a reading and Q&A session, author Rowling was asked by a young fan whether Albus Dumbledore, the powerful and positive grandfather figure who leads the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Magic, ever finds "true love."
"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded to gasps and applause.
I don't think Ms. Rowling intended to imply that being gay precludes finding true love. She went on to explain that the great wizard had had a tragic love affair earlier in life. I think that puts him into the "only one great love" category of fictional folk.

My take on elderly deus-ex-old-guy characters like Dumbledore is that they exist beyond the age of any romantic entanglement. And for the span of time covered by the Potter that seems to be the case.

Of course, any good writer will know the back-story of all of her characters. And given that a percentage of any group of humans is gay, it makes sense that there should be some gay folks in Harry Potter's world.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tell It To The Judge(s)

The US Supreme Court today ordered (PDF) that lawyers for Delaware and New Jersey appear before the Court in November to present oral arguments in their long-standing dispute over who controls a portion of the Delaware River.

I've written about this case before. There is a proposal to build a Liquid Natural Gas terminal in New Jersey. It would include a pier into the Delaware River in a portion of the river that, by century-old treaty and by early 20th-century Supreme Court decree, is part of Delaware. Such a pier would require a permit under Delaware's Coastal Zone Act.

Delaware said "no" back in 2005. New Jersey was not pleased. They threatened a boycott. They blustered a bit. And they took us to court; they asked for this case to go right up to the Supreme Court.

The Supremes assigned a "Special Master" to hear arguments from both sides. He ruled (PDF) in April of this year that Delaware can indeed deny permission for the pier. New Jersey was not pleased. They took exception (which turns out to be a legal term) and so the two states will send lawyers to Washington DC on November 27 to argue the case.

That should be fascinating. My interest is mostly in questions about the state boundary itself. I take a professional interest in that boundary as an elemental geospatial data Framework item. There's also the rich and goofy history of those lines, the politics behind them, and the colonial surveyors who drew them. Richly goofy, political, and historical stories always interest me.

The oral arguments are more likely to focus on things like the differences between Riparian Rights and Riparian Jurisdiction. But when you get in front of the whole group of Supreme Court justices there's no telling what might get discussed. The Delaware/New Jersey boundary is unusual; it might spark some Supreme interest.

I'd love to be there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I'm in Washington, DC, for few days for a conference of the Census State Data Center Network. We're meeting at the Census Bureau's new headquarters in Suitland, but staying at a hotel in northern Virginia, just across Key Bridge (left) from the District.

We took buses from the hotel to Suitland this morning. We were dropped at the main entrance where we all had to make our slow way through security. That took a while and the conference started late. Ultimately, we managed to make up the time and by lunch we were back on schedule.

In the afternoon we had break-out sessions. I was in a conference room trying to understand the higher (for me) math needed to make sense of the Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) when the fire alarm went off and we had to join hundreds of Census workers in an orderly evacuation and a less orderly milling-around outside for about half an hour.

I don't think it was a drill, but I never heard what caused the alarm. I wouldn't be surprised if it was my brain short-circuiting when I tried to understand PUMS data.

We got back to the hotel around six this evening. I had time to wander across Key Bridge and take a short photo-walk along the Canal.

Tomorrow, we'll be back out in Suitland. I'll try to keep my brains from shorting-out again.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Memories From a Lighthouse-Keeper

The News Journal has located one of the men who once served on Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse in the Delaware Bay. Matthew Lomot was part of a Coast Guard crew that kept that light in working order in the late 1960s. He seems saddened to learn that the Lighthouse has been sold, but willing to offer advice to the new owner.

I can't help my continuing fascination with this story. The idea of a house perched out in the middle of the Bay is just so cool.

According to this latest story, Lighthouse-collector Michael Gabriel is thinking about buying a third east-coast lighthouse. I suppose his being a wealthy lawyer means the things he collects can be large and rusting and fascinatingly concrete. My more modest collector's urge is towards images of odd things.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Hot. Humid. October?

This is what Dover looked like at the start of this week. Blue, clear skies with a selection of fluffy clouds. This is what we expect from Fall; low humidity and comfortable temperatures.

So, what has gone wrong? The rest of the week has been too warm and too humid. Sure it led to a few fog-delays to delight my school-age kids. But I've been running the AC in the Prius again, just to cut the mugginess.

Of course, a cool-inside car cutting through a fog-bound landscape is going to gather condensation, obscuring the view of a dank, gray, misty commute. So I run the wipers. Which just makes it worse.

This isn't the October we ordered.

Hartly's Happy Hippie has a post up this week lauding the arrival of fall. She's a young fashion-plate and looks forward to being able to "layer" this season. I think she's being a bit optimistic. I'm still trying to find some sort of justification for wearing shorts and sandals to work at the Office of Management and Budget.

Meanwhile, the forecast for tomorrow is for temps in the mid-80s. There's talk among my girls of going to the beach tomorrow. The beach?!? This is October, we should be haunting the Punkin' Patch, looking for carvable and chunkable gourds.

Oh well. This too will pass. The temps will fall and the humidity will lift. Maybe this day-long sinus-ache will leave me as well.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Here's (Hopefully) Good (State) News

Delaware.Net President John McKown has a post up on his Building Better Web Sites blog announcing that his company has won a contract to re-do the web site of the Delaware State News.

It's about time. I'm not a huge fan of the News Journal's site (too busy, too blinky, and with too flashy-move-y thingies, though it is getting better). But the Journal's site is head and shoulders above the current State News site. At least the News Journal posts its stories by day and by section and provides archives and some sense of order.

The current State News "News" section for Central Delaware, for example, includes a headline and teaser that suggests that Milford has a CompPlan meeting "tonight."
City looks at comp plan
MILFORD — City planners will meet in special session at 7 tonight to begin revising Milford’s comprehensive plan.
It's only when you click through that you realize that that headline has been up there since September 12. That meeting is already over.

That's just one of several gripes. But what's important to note is that the State News is not a terrible newspaper. They have some decent reporters and do a respectable job covering Downstate Delaware.

I'm hoping that Mr. McKown and his team can bring some on-line order to the News.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Time to Turn the Page

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman makes a good point today: 9/11 is over.
9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.
I think he's right. We cannot forget, but we mustn't endlessly dwell on 9/11. It's starting to change who we are, and not for the good.

Banned Books Week

The week of September 29 through October 6 is Banned Books Week. This is a week when those of us who read should remember those books that folks, for a wide variety of reasons, have tried to take out of our hands.

The list is long and diverse. Would-be censors right, left and center have all challenged books. The urge to stifle thought that we don't agree with is universal; we all have a duty to combat that urge within ourselves.

It is interesting to note that more than "banned" books, we now speak of "challenged" books. These are books that someone is trying to keep us from reading, either by banning or by raising an un-holy stink about them.

The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom points to this quote from Ray Bradbury (author of Fahrenheit 451):
You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
Thus we see campaigns that complain loudly about certain books. They may or may not call for book-banning, but they all can lead librarians, teachers, parents and readers to shy away from certain books. And that is not good.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rainy-Day Tourism

I'm amazed to find myself at Thursday evening with no blog posts since the start of the week. The NSGIC Conference can be a brutal week, with days filled completely with meetings and information. I've had little time or energy left to post.

It is important to break away if possible and get a stretch. A small group of us took a few hours Tuesday afternoon to visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens here in Madison.

It was raining fairly steadily, but we took the umbrellas provided by the Botanical Society and wandered around the gardens until the rain grew too heavy. The gardens boast a variety of landscaping styles. There is a sunken garden, a rose garden, and a formal garden. There are pathways and trellises.

In one corner, a close-packed collection of small plants rests on a pedestal. Two kaleidoscopes focus-in on the plants.

Toward the back, across a bridge, a traditional Thai Pavilion sits serenely among reflecting pools.

It was very pretty. But after a short visit we gamely headed back to the Conference hotel and into more discussions of geospatial data and IT coordination.

Now it is Friday evening and we have just completed our final meeting: the first gathering of a new Board of Directors. Tomorrow morning I have an early flight through Chicago and back to Baltimore. I should be able to get back to Delaware in plenty of time for Sussex Tech's football game against Cape Henlopen High. I'll get to sit with Karen in the stands and watch our daughter play bass with the Tech marching band.