Friday, August 31, 2007

"Hello, Daily Delaware"

The person (or persons) blogging on Daily Kos as Delaware Dem has started a new, Kos-style Delaware political blog: Daily Delaware.

This should be interesting.

I've been toying with going back to more political content here, but I can't find much interest in myself to write about political things. It may be that we're too far from the actual primaries. And yet, I'm growing sick of the partisan bickering that has taken over so much of the political blogosphere in Delaware of late.

There's still a sense of camaraderie among the red and blue bloggers in the First State, but I'm seeing cracks. It feels like we're starting to stray from examining and solving problems towards "gotcha-style" stories and name-calling. Maybe I don't trust myself to rise above it?

In any case, I do take an interest in what's being said, even if I'm reluctant to wade-in very much myself. So I'll add Daily Delaware to my blog-roll and to my Google Reader and see what develops.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Season Ends

This evening, we attended the final show of the 2007 season of the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre. We saw a delightful performance of their version of The Wizard of Oz.

It was a special occasion for a few reasons. Not only was it the last night of the Theatre's 26th season in Rehoboth, but it was also the final performance in the basement Fellowship Hall of Epworth United Methodist Church on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach. The Epworth congregation is building a new sanctuary, pre-school and other facilities just outside of Rehoboth, off Route One. It's likely that the Theatre will move many of their performances there next summer, though they are still looking for space within Rehoboth; they'd like to maintain some ties to their history in the beach block.

And we were treated to a rare performance by both of the founders of the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre: Steve and Elise Seyfried, who founded the Theatre in 1982. Because the young actress who usually performs this show with Steve has headed back to college, Elise (who co-wrote the play and originated the RSCT version of Dorothy) joined her husband on stage.

Coincidentally, the Wizard of Oz was the first show performed by the two Seyfrieds when they started the Theatre.

They still get to play together this way every once in a while; it's always fun to see. Steve and Elise have an ease, a rapport, a spark that only comes from sharing a life, raising a family, and nurturing a theater together.

The experience left Karen and I reminiscing. We've known Steve and Elise as summer friends for some 15 years (maybe more). We first saw them perform together when Elsie was pregnant with her youngest child; Julie, a delightful young lady and good friend of our youngest. I spent about a decade on the Theatre's Board of Trustees. And I still maintain the Theatre web site as a favor to Steve.

We're sad to see them pack up their stage and head home to the Philly area, but we're glad we know them and their impressive kids. Remind me to tell you some time about the Chamber Music Festival Elise and her oldest son founded some years ago here in Lewes.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Random Images, and Music

Here's a neat art project: a randomized music video that draws imagery from the whole of flickr.

The fellow who created ASTRONAUT -- Felix Jung -- has taken a music track by a friend and used keywords based on the lyrics to fetch semi-random images from flickr, based on tags given to those images. He has built a web-movie, using Flash, that incorporates those images into a simple music video of the song.

Flickr users can add tags to their images as a way to organize them or categorize them. For example, I have quite a few photos tagged with "Vermont." There are even more tagged "Vermont" by other users. Using tags, I can quickly see all of my Vermont photos or look at photos of Vermont from other users.

Felix Jung has taken this a step further, as he explains in his post about this project:
Each time the Flash file is loaded, new images are randomly pulled from Flickr. I've hard-coded 53 keywords at set points in the song, and when the page is first loaded... calls are made out to Flickr to retrieve these keywords. With each call, I vary the parameters a little bit.
The song includes either the word or the concept "distant" towards its end. Jung has taken that as a keyword and called flickr photos tagged with "distant." There are 4,664 photos so-tagged as I write this morning. The parameters Jung refers to are changing ways to randomly sort and select from the found images. That way, different images are chosen each time the movie is played. This morning, my playing of it turned up this image.

It's a simple thing, but makes nice use of the many images that flickr users are adding to the public face of flickr each day.

We sometimes forget about the potential for the web to be a global, interactive, collaborative marketplace of ideas. We add content -- through blogging or posting photos, sound or video -- partly to satisfy our egos and be "published." But we also should remember that we are adding small bits to something larger that grows in ways we cannot forsee.

This is what is at the heart of the philosophy of the Creative Commons.

At least part of our pleasure in this Internet thing should be to see to what unexpected use other folks put our creations.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reaching the Edge of the Place

Last night I drove to the edge of the continent and had to turn around and head back inland.

I was driving in to Rehoboth Beach to pick up Colleen, who had attended a show at the Rehoboth Summer Children's' Theatre. Rather than try to make what can be a difficult left from Rehoboth Avenue, the resort's main drag, I followed that road to its end at the boardwalk and made the circle around the Rehoboth Bandstand.

View Larger Map

It's a route I've taken hundreds of times in the last twenty years. For some reason, though, last night it felt clearly like I was just reaching the end of the continental US and had to turn around because I could go no farther.

It was startling to see that spot in a different clarity for a moment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Count Me in the "Reader" Column

The AP is reporting a poll that found that a quarter of US adults read no books in the last year.
The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year -- half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven.
That's not good. In an era in which we worry about our nation falling behind others economically, this slide away from knowledge and culture can only hurt us.

I am a reader. It is an activity that has given me joy, comfort, knowledge, and peace for almost 40 years now. (Assuming I date the start of my reading to around First Grade.) And I am probably ravenous reader. I probably average about one book each week.

It works for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Costs of Education

We're just about to head back into the school year here in Delaware. I know some other folks around the nation are already into their 2007/2008 school year. Two timely headlines caught my eyes yesterday. Here are two facts to bear in mind about the re-start of school.

The News Journal ran a story yesterday (Teachers spend out of pocket on kids) on the costs borne by teachers as they prepare for the first day of school.
Teachers nationally spend an average of $475 of their own money on classroom supplies and materials each year, according to a study prepared by Quality Education Data Inc. for the last school year.
Meanwhile, the Marketing to Moms Coalition has released a report (Back to School 2007 [WORD]) that found that parents are also slapping down some cash at this time of the year.
"School Age Moms" (mothers with children aged 7-12) will spend nearly $450.00 on average on Back to School 2007. School Age Moms with two children between 7 and 12 will spend nearly $600.00.
As a parent of school-age kids, and as the spouse of a teacher (and friend to other teachers and parents), I can attest to the truth of each of these reports.

Monday, August 20, 2007


My brother Matt and his family have adopted a cute puppy. This is a photo of Lynn, Shelby and Grace with their new pet. Matt is off to the left with his camera.

The puppy is a mix of Lab, Cocker Spaniel, and Beagle; a Labracockerspeagledor.

Our neighbor's son brought his family and their dog, who is busy with nine (yes, nine) puppies, for a visit to Lewes this past week-end. Each of my girls had a friend over on Friday evening when we discovered a yard full of puppies next door. Immediately there was a yard filled with girls cuddling puppies.

We were sorely tempted, but ours is not the sort of life into which one should bring a young puppy. Karen and I both commute 45 minutes in different directions, the girls have school, and their evenings are filled all week long. We are not set up to properly raise a puppy. They are damn cute, though.

So we called around. My brother Matt and his wife Lynn had been toying with the idea of a dog . They've been spending some vacation time down in Bethany. When Karen called to suggest a puppy, they were immediately interested.

We set up a family visit to the puppy yard. Matt and Lynn and their girls came up Sunday along with my folks. Another brother, Bob, was in town as well. He and his wife Karen are experienced dog-raisers. So they came along with their two sons. At last we had more people than puppies.

It didn't take long for Lynn to find the puppy that fit her; Grace and Shelby agreed and the deal was done.

We stayed around a bit longer to allow Todd (the puppies' human) to share some basic puppy info with Matt. E-mail addresses were exchanged.

Some tears of farewell were shed, but they were shed by the humans. The puppies were all too tuckered out. They lay down in the grass where-ever they happened to be playing and went right to sleep.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Seagull + Apple Core


"Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine!"

"Just which part of 'Mine!' did you not understand, pal?"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sometimes Jon Stewart Isn't Funny

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed author Stephen Hayes who has just published a biography of Vice President Dick Cheney and is an admirer of the Vice President. He makes an argument that Mr. Cheney is a straight-shooter and the kind of honest leader America needs more of. (I don't know how to avoid this awkward sentence ending)

Jon Stewart, as most folks know, is not an admirer of the Vice President. For most of the interview, he maintained his usual act of the polite, but sarcastic skeptic. Towards the end, though, when he asked why Cheney and the Bush team as a whole insists on attacking and denigrating those who question their war, rather than engaging in open and honest debate, Stewart drops his act and speaks from the heart.

"...stop making the rest of us feel like idiots when we question their strategy in the war on terror..."

"They've seemingly gone out of their way to belittle people..."

"They keep saying that we don't understand the nature of this war. And critics keep saying 'we understand the nature of it; you've been doing it wrong.'"

"I think there is a real feeling in this country that your patriotism has been questioned by people in very high-level positions. Not fringe people."

By this point Stewart is simply speaking as himself. At the end, he makes an attempt to return to his usual persona and goes out of his way to thank Hayes for his appearance.

Media Matters has more on this interview. There were several issues involved and they have more details on some of the personal attacks that Jon Stewart has faced.

But to me, this is one of those wonderful moments when John Stewart drops his clown act (which I like) and speaks with devastating honesty. He did it when he nailed Crossfire back in 2004.

I realize that the Daily Show satire is informative and affective, but I'd like to see him speak this way more often.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Sunday afternoon, I took Christina down to Bethany to have some beach-time with her cousin Shelby. Christina and Shelby are about the same age and have become good friends. They particularly enjoy wave jumping.

It was a beautiful, blue-sky beach day.

I enjoyed the time chatting with my brother Matt and his wife Lynn (along with my folks) and had the opportunity to take more photos of their angelic youngest child Grace.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sometimes You Just Want to Get Away From It All

The federal government's General Services Administration is selling Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse and I think it would be nice if someone bought it and let me stay there when I want to.

Sure, I could buy it for myself, but I have enough trouble with the upkeep on my land-based house.

Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse is in the Delaware Bay about three miles off Bowers Beach. Somewhere out here.

It was built in 1876 and lacks modern everything. But it is damn cute.

The current bid stands at $40,000. Bidding closes on August 17. C'mon people...

When I first saw this, I sent an e-mail (half-serious) to an old friend who works in State Parks suggesting that the State buy this as a part of our Parks system. I was not surprised to learn that the folks over there gave this property serious thought, but have decided to pass. That probably makes sense; the maintenance challenges and the difficulty of making it "visitable" outweigh the coolness factor.

Of course, if someone does make the opportunity available, I'd love to spend a day and a night out there.

Wouldn't that be neat?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Saturday Evening, Early August, Bethany Beach

Saturday evening, we walked out onto the beach north of Bethany, just at sunset. There was a large puddle forming.

The puddle was formed by waves breaking over a build-up of sand at the front of the beach and washing back down towards the dunes. The kids were charmed.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Here's Some Good Advice

The zenhabits blog has a post up this morning that includes some good, simple advice on staying happy. In Five Great Ways to Achieve Happiness Through Serving Others, guest blogger Stephen Smith of HD BizBlog 1.2 writes about lessons he learned working in the service industries. He writes that he found something truly rewarding in serving others:
I remember going home after many 12- to 16-hour days, having served hundreds of people their meals and watched them dance and celebrate a special day with family and friends. At these times I felt tired, of course, but also invigorated and gratified by the display of human connection.
From his experiences he offers five ideas to consider as a way to increase our level of service to others and thereby increase our own happiness:
  1. Show respect and courtesy.
  2. Listen more than you speak.
  3. Give genuine praise.
  4. Keep your promises.
  5. Practice forgiveness.
These seem very simple, and they are, but they are often lost in the rush of our busy days. It might be worth taking a moment to consider trying each of these as we make our way to and from work, deal with issues at the office, and struggle with the challenges of being good spouses, partners and parents.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Why I Read Jasper Fforde

Here's how Jasper Fforde begins his latest Thursday Next novel, First Among Sequels:
The dangerously high level of the stupidity surplus was once again the lead story in The Owl that morning. The reason for the crisis was clear: Prime Minister Redmond van de Poste and his ruling Commonsense Party had been discharging their duties with a reckless degree of responsibility that bordered on inspired sagacity. Instead of drifting from one crisis to the next and appeasing the nation with a steady stream of knee-jerk legislation and headline-grabbing but arguably pointless initiatives, they had been resolutely building a raft of considered long-term plans that concentrated on unity, fairness and tolerance. It was a state of affairs deplored by Mr. Alfredo Traficcone, leader of the opposition Prevailing Wind Party, who wanted to lead the nation back onto the safer grounds of uninformed stupidity.
I am not ashamed to declare that I like absurdity. And Mr. Fforde offers inspired silliness in all of his novels that I have read so far. I plan to read more.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Our Beaches Are Expanding?

Well. They are expanding at least in the sense that real estate agents are greatly expanding the area that they market as "at the beach." The News Journal has a story this morning on the growing tendency of the real estate industry to market western Sussex County as beach lands.

In Marketers offer beach living in Bridgeville, Rachael Jackson looks at Heritage Shores, the large 55-and-older subdivision that has been tacked-on to Bridgeville. She notes that, while the development is about 45 minutes drive from the beaches, it is marketed as a beach development. She notes that this is a growing trend, not only here but nationally.
"It's definitely something that we're seeing going around nationally," said David E. Johnson, chief executive of Strategic Vision LLC, an Atlanta-based public relations and marketing agency that works with developers. Johnson said that in Florida, it's not uncommon for "beach" developments to be as much as an hour away from the sea.
I've been thinking about this trend lately. I touched on it last fall in a post that started out as a look at trends in development-naming. I was annoyed then by a development named " Rehoboth" that is a good 10 mile drive west of Rehoboth Beach. This isn't a large urban area, where you can go 10 miles and still be in the same place. I counted at least five named places between Rehoboth Beach and " Rehoboth."

What's going on is fairly simple. The land that is actually at the beach is just about completely developed. There is still room of course, but as it becomes less and less, the value goes ever higher and the new places at the beach rise out of the price range of most of the market.

So we build farther away from the beach. But "The Beach" is the main marketing tool for this area. So we have to redefine what constitutes "The Beach."

Vicki York, Realtor at Millville-based At the Beach Realty, said that beach boundaries have been redefined. Today, with an office as far west as Dagsboro, she said only 25 percent of the properties she works with are east of the Assawoman Canal, the traditional marker for the beach property area.

"If you get five minutes away from the beach, some people are like, 'What's another 10 or 15 minutes?' " she said.

Well, I'd say that it's another 10 or 15 minutes in a car, burning fossil fuels, adding air pollution, and clogging roads that are not designed to handle the load.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Our Beaches Are Popular

We spent the middle of the day today at the beach at Cape Henlopen State Park. It was very crowded, as one might expect on the first week-end in August.

According to Park Rangers I know, there are week-ends during which the Cape ranks as one of the most populated places in Delaware. People come from all around the region to camp there or to spend the day on the beach.

There is a long stretch of traditional beach, where people spread towels or blankets, unfold beach chairs, plant umbrellas and erect pavilions. It can be a challenge to find a few square feet for your family.

Further up the beach is one of the several surf fishing areas that we have in Delaware. These are places where by tradition and state law those who have fishing gear out and available for use -- and who have purchased a surf-fishing tag for their vehicle -- can drive out on the beach and park along the high-tide line.

The water was very nice, with a few large waves but not too many. The girls amused themselves body-surfing. I joined in for a few rides and floated contentedly just off-shore from the breakers for much of the rest of the time.

There were also the usual parade of tankers, ferries and other craft in and out of the Delaware bay shipping channel. I added a few to my "Distant Ships" collection.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Stepping Back Into the Walkability Discussion

A post on mileage in my Prius earlier this year sparked a discussion about the relative walkability or non-walkability of our lives. I was just thinking about that when I wrote my latest mileage report a few days ago.

I had a sense of irony, therefore, when I saw a link this morning to a web site called Walk Score which asks "How walkable is your house?" The site uses Google maps and geospatial data on the locations of things you might need to get to to determine how close things like schools, grocery stores, restaurants and other destinations are to your house and to determine the extent to which you could get by without a car.

Not too surprisingly, even though I live within the City of Lewes, the score for my house is a lowly 34 out of 100. That's in what Walk Score calls the "Not Walkable" range; "Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must."

Downtown Lewes itself is a fairly walkable place, but we are on the outskirts. Of course, I do want to point out that there are schools, a grocery store, doctors, restaurants and the library all within half a mile of my home.

The site is pretty open about what its limitations are. It is not set up to include in its measurement my commute, which is longer than it should be. On the other hand, I do make my drive to and from Dover in a very clean car.

My work location is more walkable, scoring an 84 out of 100. I'm lucky enough to work in the historic center of Dover and can do almost all errands, once I'm there, on foot.

Today, for example, I held a walking meeting with a colleague, on our way to a downtown restaurant, then walked over to DNREC to confer with a few of the IT folks there before walking back to my office to end the meeting. Very pleasant.

So. How walkable are your life's locations?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I Was Getting Bored With My Layout

I thought it was a good time to change the look of this blog. I have been planning to add a new element and looking at my 3-column layout for a place to put it led me to the thought that my blog was too busy-looking.

So I have gone a bit more "simple" and I have cut away some things that weren't quite working. I have also changed the photo thumbnails from "latest" to "random" selections from my photo collection. I like to blog about my photographic habit and so it was sometimes the case that the thumbnails on the sidebar duplicated the photos in the blog posting.

The new thing, a bit down on the left, is a list of things I am thankful for. It's a feed from a mini-blog I've started called "Gratitudes." I've heard a few thinkers, religious and secular, say that a daily act of gratitude, a regular practice of thankfulness, is good for one.

So I thought I'd try it as a blogging exercise.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Could Crowdsourcing Work Here?

There's an interesting article up this morning on the Annenberg School for Communication's Online Journalism Review on the subject of "crowdsourcing."

In A journalist's guide to crowdsourcing, Robert Niles defines crowdsourcing as using the web to organize the public at large as another source of information for a news organisation.
Crowdsourcing, in journalism, is the use of a large group of readers to report a news story. It differs from traditional reporting in that the information collected is gathered not manually, by a reporter or team of reporters, but through some automated agent, such as a website.

Stripped to its core, though, it's still just another way of reporting, one that will stand along the traditional "big three" of interviews, observation and examining documents.
There are drawbacks, and cautions, and plenty of effort needed to make it work, but the idea is one that I think we've all been moving towards, if not particularly smoothly or directly, for some time.

This article helped me bring into focus thoughts I've been having lately about two related phenomenons in Delaware. One has been the growth of an increasingly self-aware Delaware Blogging Community. The other has been the News Journal's so far uneven Reader Comments system.

Both show the energy and interest that exists among Delawareans about the news and issues of the state. Both also, however, show the tendency of "regular folks" to give-in to their prejudices and preconceived ideas.

Obviously this is worse among an unfortunate minority of the commenting readers on the News Journal site, but Delaware's bloggers also can fall into bad habits and habitual rants. The bloggers tend to be a bit more disciplined in their writing and the community that has grown up among the regular bloggers has started to act as a form of editorial board. But we could do better.

A news organization's "crowdsourcing" could be another facet of the work that we've been doing. If properly designed, and maintained, and edited, it could add many more voices to the mix.

And that might be a very good thing.