Saturday, April 30, 2005

Serenity, now!

Surely you watched "Firefly" in its brief run on television, right?

And surely you bought the awesome DVD set that included unaired episodes, right?

Then surely you'll agree that September is a long time to wait for this.

Video footage of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Here is a link to a video news release about the rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker which contains a brief glimpse of the bird itself (as well as archival footage from over 60 years ago). (Hat tip: Laura Erickson's Birder Blog, which also has a number of entries on the find.)

The video is really rough . . . like seeing fuzzy pictures of Nessie or Bigfoot or UFOs. But it was enough to identify this flying object.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Obsolete Again

I still haven't fully embraced the MacOSX, and though I now spend more time in OSX than I do in OS9, I'm still more comfortable with OS9, having worked on Macs since the days of OS6. OSX was such a departure from the usual way of doing things that I was (and to an extent continue to be) reluctant to let go of the known and take a leap of faith into the unknown.

My Mac has the ability to start up in either OS9 or OSX -- a feature Apple has since discontinued. And for the longest time I kept it in OS9, only conducting small experiments with OSX. The only thing that kept me in OS9 was that I hadn't upgraded to OSX versions of QuarkXpress and Photoshop -- and that running these programs in Classic Mode was often a dicey proposition.

And then I got a project which required me to have the latest version of QuarkXpress, which also required me to go one step further into OSX and upgrade to Panther (OSX 10.3) And now I've slipped even further from the safety of my moorings.

One of the reason I've never been fully satisfied with OSX is that it's far too much like Microsoft Windows for my tastes. The navigation is Windows-like, and though you can set it up so it looks like OS9, it still operates like a web browser. Can someone explain to me why navigating through your file system should act like a web browser? Navigating the file system should not require a "back" button.

Moving files and folders in OSX now requires me to have two finder windows open at the same time. This goes against the logical construction of a file system. Think of it in physical terms. Let's say you have a desk drawer with two folders in it. You want to move a document from one folder to the next, so you open both folders, remove the document from one folder, and place it in the other. You close both folders and then you close the drawer. That's how it worked in OS9.

In OSX, the equivalent actions requires that you summon up a second desk that is an exact duplicate of the first desk. You open the drawers in both desks, remove the document from the folder in one desk, and transfer it to the equivalent draw er in the second folder in the second desk, which causes the exact same action to happen in the equivalent drawer in the first desk. You then cause the second desk to vanish in a puff of binary code.

This makes no logical sense, and it's one reason OSX never struck me as particularly friendly.

I upgraded to Panther less than a month ago, and as often happens to me, the moment I upgrade, the upgrade becomes obsolete. Today, Apple releases the next version of OSX -- nicknamed "Tiger," and I'm only just getting used to Panther. I suspect my computer is old enough and slow enough that upgrading is probably not a wise idea. So is it time to get a new computer? Probably. But my affinity for OS9 makes the prospect of a new computer less appealing. Curse you Steve Jobs! I want my dual startup! I want the freedom to start up in OS9 if I feel like it!

Granted, there are some awesomely cool features in Tiger that I can't wait to try out. But . . . but I like my OS9! (Besides, I still have some very good games for OS9, and what the heck am I supposed to do about them? Give them up?)

Maybe there's a hack somewhere that will allow the latest and greatest G5 to start up in lowly OS9 if so desired.

If not, I'm sure I'll end up buying a new computer eventually anyway, but I'm hanging on to my current one . . . just like I hung on to my even older Mac, . . . the one with the SCSI interfaces by which I can operate (among other things) my elderly but quite useful scanner.

I shouldn't need to have three computers to get my work done.

But at least none of them are running Windows.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker -- Found!

Well, this is cool news.

Once a dominant creature of great Southern hardwood forest, its numbers dwindled as logging increased. The woodpecker inspired one of the first conservation efforts in the nation's history, but its seeming failure turned the ivory bill into a symbol of loss. The last documented sighting was in Louisiana in 1944.

But the ivory bill lived on as a kind of ghost in rumor and in numerous possible sightings. Despite lengthy expeditions, no sighting was confirmed, until Feb. 11, 2004.

On that date Gene M. Sparling III sighted a large woodpecker with a red crest in the Cache River refuge. Tim W. Gallagher at the Cornell Lab saw the report from Mr. Sparling on a Web site where he was describing a kayak trip.

Within two weeks Mr. Gallagher and Bobby R. Harrison of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., were in a canoe in the refuge, with Mr. Sparling guiding them.

Mr. Gallagher said he had expected to camp out for a week, but after one night out, on Feb. 27, he and Mr. Harrison were paddling up a bayou bounded on both sides by cypress and tupelo when they saw a very large woodpecker fly in front of their canoe.

When they wrote down their notes independently and compared them, Mr. Gallagher said, Mr. Harrison was struck by the reality of the discovery and began sobbing, repeating, "I saw an ivory bill."

Mr. Gallagher felt the same. "I couldn't speak," he said.

Once Mr. Gallagher convinced Dr. Fitzpatrick of Cornell, the effort to confirm the sightings began in earnest, and the result, published in the online version of Science, carried the names of 16 people from seven institutions who participated in a search that turned up seven confirmed new sightings and a blurry bit of videotape.

Actually, I'm not surprised that the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has been "rediscovered." There have been a number of suspected sightings in recent years. And though pedigreed researchers from universities never turned up any Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers, locals always insisted that they had seen the birds.

Very cool. I guess they'll have to put it back into the field guides now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Serve your time or surrender your season tickets!

Now here’s creative sentencing, and I’m tempted to say that this could only happen in Wisconsin where season tickets to Packers games are jealously guarded.

Sharon E. Rosenthal, 59, of Appleton will decide whether to donate her family’s Packer tickets for the next season to charity or serve 90 days in jail as part of her sentence for one felony count of theft. She was sentenced in Winnebago County Circuit Court Friday.

The criminal complaint states that Rosenthal had taken money totaling more than $3,000 from labor union accounts prior to leaving the organization’s membership. The check transactions were later discovered. When interviewed by police, Rosenthal said the money was taken and later reimbursed from her husband’s retirement fund. She withdrew money from the union in order to help pay household bills, according to the complaint.

While Rosenthal told police financial hardship was an issue, she and her husband managed to maintain the cost of four tickets to the Packers’ three-game season package.

Rosenthal argued that the tickets were her husband’s rather than hers. Judge Scott Woldt nonetheless offered her the decision to either serve the jail time or donate the 12 tickets for the upcoming season to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A geek and his money are soon parted

The link doesn't have an image -- yet -- but I saw one of these lightsabers at our local Borders, . . . and my geek-o-meter red-lined. The link doesn't have a price yet, either. But the one I saw was over $100 bucks. And it was very, very cool.

I mean, really . . . what else are you going to spend that $100 on?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The internet brings people together

Football Fans for Truth (hey, wait . . . they're not "Football Fans and Beyond" anymore? When did that happen?) points to proof that where two or three fans of something are gathered together, there a webpage will be in their midst. I mean, how many members could the Poseidon Adventure Fan Club actually have?

Okay, the truth is I was deeply affected (damaged, more likely) by all the disaster movies I saw in the 70s. Where some people blame their nightmares on horror movies or slasher flicks, mine are rooted in "The Towering Inferno" or "Earthquake" (in Sensurround!) or one of the assorted "Airport" movies. But "The Poseidon Adventure" really spurred my imagination. I remember reenacting the movie with a Fisher-Price Little People Village, flipping it upside down and forcing all the wooden peg-people who were stuck on the ceilings of their plastic businesses to escape doom -- somehow.

Whoa . . . sudden flashback. I now have "There's got to be a morning after" running through my head.

Blogkeeping stuff

Okay, so I finally changed the "Mp3 of the Week" which turned into the "Mp3 of the Month," but hey, it was Don Chaffer of Waterdeep, and how can you go wrong?

I've actually been listening to a lot of Waterdeep lately, and even purchased Sink or Swim as a download from their online store, and it's spent more time in my car's CD player than any other CD in recent memory. I think I blunted the laser playing "And" over and over until I figured out the meaning of the title. Besides that, it's a lovely song. And so is "Lonely Sometimes" and "18 Bullet Holes." The entire album is worth purchasing if only for these three songs. But you can download single songs at their website, too.

But the new "Mp3 of the Week" is "Summertime" by Mae. Actually, that link takes you to a page with about four downloads on it, so go and partake.

I also added a few blogs to the blogroll.

First, there's "Hook and Crook" by a friend who is crazy into crocheting. Plus she links to me, so she's obviously got good taste in blogs.

Then we've got "Nehring the Edge," a fellow Badger Stater who brings us movie reviews and nothin' but. But I like his take, even if he didn't care for "Sky Captain." C'mon, sometimes you just have to let art wash over you.

I also added blogs by Mark Lee of Third Day and Jeremy Thiessen of Downhere. Go, read, and support those rock stars.

Aslan is on the move; his website is not

Jeffrey Overstreet says the new website for the Narnia movie is fantastic. I wouldn't know, since it's so overloaded with animated graphics my computer bogs right down.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Why I am switching to Coca-Cola. Forever.

Was this ad campaign developed by Pokemon-saturated high fructose corn syrup-addled tragically hip first graders? Because I do not get it.

Happily, this means I am not the desired demographic.

But, . . . who is? Thirsty robots on a diet?

Friday, April 15, 2005

The inertia of slack

Sorry sorry sorry. It's been a busy week. And when it wasn't busy, it was far too nice outside for me to spend it sitting in front of the computer. But a change is on the horizon, and within the month I may be back up to my regular posting level, because there's no way I'm giving up this blog. But in the meantime, y'all may have to put up with these extended absences, and plain ol' boring entries.

Part of the problem (and part of the solution is admitting it) is that the longer I stay away -- for whatever reason -- the easier staying away becomes. When you're uninspired, it's easier to stay uninspired than to expend energy in the search for inspiration.

But here's what's been inspiring me this week:

Wonderfalls was a television series that aired briefly on the Fox network last year. Though it launched to critical acclaim and quickly gained a strong following, it wasn't strong enough, and the series was cancelled after only four episodes aired. But 13 episodes were produced, and they're now out on DVD.

Though I've only seen about half the episodes so far, I'm really enjoying the series. The premise is certainly original. The protagonist, Jaye Tyler, is a twenty-something slacker who attended Brown University and earned a degree in philosophy, but then returned to her home in Niagara Falls where she works in a souvenir shop and lives in a trailer park, much to the chagrin of her affluent, successful family.

Though Jaye's main personality trait is an ironic detachment to life and the people around her, everything changes when a lion figurine at the souvenir shop begins talking to her. The lion (and a wide assortment of knick-knacks and chotchkies) start commanding Jaye to commit random acts of kindness. Though these acts don't always seem like kindness, no one is more surprised than Jaye when obeying the voices brings about good consequences for those around her.

On the surface it sounds like a one-gimmick show, yet over the course of just the seven episodes I've seen, I'd say the show works on multiple levels. On one level, the show perfectly captures that angsty post-college period of finding your place in the world. The snappy dialogue and ironic sensibility fit the wacky situations that Jaye encounters. But on a deeper level viewers will notice existential questions about God and life and "the meaning of it all." This other level isn't readily apparent in the four episodes that aired, but start to color the series in the episodes viewers will only get to see on DVD.

Jaye, the slacker philosophy student who hears voices and reluctantly accepts her role as "Joan of Niagara Falls" find a fitting foil in her brother, an atheist theology student who first thinks Jaye is going crazy, but begins doubting his belief that nothing is out there.

Christians will probably be a little put off by prime-time-level obscenities ("bitch" or "ass" for example) and the frank talk of sex (the series is not appropriate for children in spite of having the occasional talking puppet), but may find much to embrace in a tale of a woman who regularly hears a still, small voice and obeys it. In being forced to connect with other people -- in spite of herself -- she changes both their lives and her own.

The show has also has me reflecting on God's providence, and passages such as Jeremiah 29:11 or Romans 8:28. The objects that speak to Jaye do not explain themselves, and at times their instructions seem counterproductive (in one episode she is told to smash the taillight on a car) but there are always good results.

And sometimes following God means doing things that just seem . . . crazy. Or sometimes things seem like they must be outside of God's will because they don't make sense from a human point of view. But everything works out for the good anyway.

In that sense the show strengthens my own faith and has me listening a little more carefully for the still, small voice.

Drew says "check it out"

Friday, April 08, 2005

Doyle to Reject Cigarette Tax Increase

What? Diamond Jim Doyle rejecting a tax increase? A tax increase proposed by Republican lawmakers? What is this? Bizarro Wisconsin?

Hoping to reduce the number of smokers while shoring up the financially troubled Medicaid program, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced a bill Wednesday to raise the cigarette tax by $1 a pack.

But lawmakers on the Legislature's budget-writing panel, as well as Gov. Jim Doyle's administration, might have snuffed it out before it gains momentum.

Doyle's top deputy, Department of Administration Secretary Marc Marotta, told the Joint Finance Committee that Doyle doesn't support any tax increases, including those on tobacco sales. And some committee members added that they wouldn't back it, either.

Okay, first of all, let's all have a chuckle at the claim that Gov. Doyle doesn't support any tax increases.


But, okay, you want to cut down on the number of smokers? Raise the tax 2 dollars. No, make it 5 or 10. Heck, make 'em cost 20 bucks a pack. Not only will that cut down on smoking, but think of the money you'll raise from the poor souls who are so addicted that they'll spend their last dollar just for a jolt of nicotine.

Why doesn't the state simply outlaw cigarettes altogether if the goal is to reduce the number of smokers? Because there's good money to be made from people's vices. So they'll pretend that they're doing it for our health, while brazenly making money off it. I think there's a word for these kinds of people: hypocrites.

But Jim Doyle's against it? I think I just stepped through the looking glass. Granted, Doyle claims that his budget has no tax increases either.


We also have State Rep. Carol Roessler, who claims that the $1 tax increase isn't a tax increase at all. It's a "user fee." And Rep. Curt Gielow says that it's an insurance "co-pay."

Perhaps these semantic gymnastics are their way to try to get Gov. Doyle to sign it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Group opposes lowering flag for Pope

This week I'd noticed that a number of flags around Our Fair City were at half-mast, and I couldn't figure out why. Then it occurred to me that it was probably for the Pope. Rather unexpected, given that he wasn't an American, but on the whole I think everyone would agree that it's a nice gesture.

Everyone except these people.

An anti-religion group is denouncing Gov. Jim Doyle's executive order to lower flags to mark the death of Pope John Paul II.

Doyle's directive appears like "an endorsement of Roman Catholicism over other religious viewpoints," according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

On Saturday, the governor praised the pope as both an inspiration spiritual leader and a man who has made "a significant impact on social justice." Doyle cited the pope's fight against communism, his opening of dialogue with other faiths, and his fight for peace around the world.

The governor's office today noted President Bush had directed that flags be lowered to half-staff at all public buildings. The governor's directive matches the president's order.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, saw the pope in a different light from the governor.

"The pope was the world's leading sexist," Gaylor said in a statement issued today. "Why should Wisconsin women be expected to revere his anti-woman, antediluvian teachings?" The pope also had been critical of gay marriages, the statement noted.

"Let's reserve the honor of half-staff for true American heroes," Gaylor said.

Hmmmm. How did she feel about flags at half-staff for Ronald Reagan? I wonder . . .

Anyway, here's a link to the group's statement. Oh, look! Reagan is mentioned!

Has there ever been anything like this media adulation? Whole front news sections were devoted yesterday to "His Holiness," as if the whole world were Catholic. It is hard to imagine the death of any world leader summoning the same kind of uncritical coverage, with the possible exception of an assassinated U.S. President. Former Pres. Reagan's death last summer certainly rated nothing like this.

Go to the link for the whole ridiculous thing. I shouldn't be giving these guys any more attention than they're already getting, because I know they just love it.

Nightmare fuel

(Hat Tip: Ghost of a Flea)

On the whole, I think bats are pretty cool. They're also fantastic bug-eating machines, and so as far as I'm concerned, if having a lot of bats around means fewer mosqitoes, I'm all for it.

Vampire bats, on the other hand, are like mosquitoes in mammalian form. And if the very idea of a bat swooping down to have a little nip at your jugular creeps you out, then don't click here, because you don't want to read the following:

Vampire bats' thirst for blood has driven them to evolve an unexpected sprinting ability. Most bats are awkward on the ground, but the common vampire bat can bound along at more than 1 metre per second.

One meter per second isn't that fast. But while you should be able to outrun them easily, the fact that you have to outrun them sends me over the edge.

Researchers made the discovery at a ranch in Trinidad, with five adult male vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus), which they caught using cows as bait.

Whoa, . . . stop right there. Cows as bait? There aren't many animals for which you'd use cows as bait. (A Tyrannosaurus Rex comes to mind.) And those animals who would see a cow as "bait" are not the sort of animals I want around me.

We continue:

They put the bats on a treadmill inside a Plexiglas cage and recorded their movements with high-speed video. . . . After one short walk on the treadmill the bats mastered both the dynamics of the machine and recognized the purr of the motor. "Vampire bats are ridiculously smart," Riskin says. "As smart as a dog."

Okay, the idea of bats on a treadmill is a hilarious image. But take a look at this and tell me if that doesn't completely creep you out. And remember . . . "vampire bats are ridiculously smart." (And also remember that you have to outrun them.)

In the wild, vampire bats feed on the blood of large animals such as cattle, horses and pigs. They sneak up over the ground and make small incisions in the skin (usually the heel) of sleeping prey.

"Bats take a long time to feed," explains Colin Catto of the London-based Bat Conservation Trust. "If they were trying to hover for all that time they would expend an awful lot of energy."

See, there's nothing to fear from a bat on the wing. It's the bat that's loping along the ground at you that you've got to worry about. Let's go to the video again.

That's enough fuel for more than a dozen nightmares.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Euthanasia and Co-Dependency

The Pope wasn't the only person who passed away while I was taking a blogging break.

This third attempt by the courts to end Terri Schiavo's life succeeded. And as a result I can't help but think that we as a nation failed. The polls that showed that nearly 70% of Americans supported the removal of her feeding tube utterly astound me. This was not, as some seemed to think, an issue that followed the usual political divides. Conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, supported ending her life.

I commented earlier that I thought the reason so many people supported removal of her feeding tube was because we fear that we may one day be in that state ourselves, and because we don't think we could handle it, we don't really want her to handle it either.

Rachel Rose, guest-blogging for her daughter at The Dawn Patrol, says this is an issue of co-dependency. (Now there's a psychobabble phrase I haven't heard in quite awhile. I think it's fallen out of vogue.)

It must have been about 15 years ago. The concept of co-dependency was just making the rounds at the time. A friend of mine was interested in learning more about it. She decided to attend an open Codependents Anonymous meeting. When I met her afterwards, I asked her how it went. "Ridiculous", she replied. "There was a woman there who described her mother as saying, "Here, take a lozenge. I have a sore throat."

"What's wrong with that?" I playfully rejoined.

This funny episode became a sad object lesson to me today, as I began to see my American brethren as (maybe) fitting into the roles of just "co-dependent" people, good people, compassionate people, but pathologically overidentifying with how they thought they would feel in Terri's place. It is, of course, impossible for anyone to know how they would really feel. Any student of elementary logic knows that A cannot be B unless all the attributes of both are equal. This is one of the big rational problems with relativism. Yet, these moral relativists were in so much pain looking at Terri and thinking about how they thought she must be feeling. There had to be a way to stop those intolerable feelings. "That's it!" they concluded.

"Here, Terri. Let's have your feeding tube. I have a sore psyche."

Sure it's darkly amusing, but I think there's something to this connection between co-dependency and our cultural support of euthanasia and doctor-asssisted suicide.

The power of forgiveness

A couple weeks before the Pope's death, I started writing a post about him, but never got around to finishing or posting it. What I was going to say is similar to what my colleague Mark said over at Stones Cry Out. This Pope's firm stance on moral issues made him a stong ally of evangelical protestants --an alliance that is, perhaps, unprecedented in the history of Christendom. And let me echo what Mark said here:

At a time when theological liberalism was as likely to take over the heart of the Catholic Church, he was called by God to be a bastion of support for orthodoxy.

But the image that may stay with me the most is of the Pope meeting with Mehmet Ali Agca, the assassin who gravely wounded the Pope in a 1981 shooting. During the meeting, the Pope forgave Agca for the attack.

Recently, Mehmet's brother Adnan Agca reported that Mehmet was in deep mourning for the Pope.

"He is extremely saddened, he is in grief. He loved the Pope," said Adnan Agca. "They developed a personal friendship while Mehmet Ali was (imprisoned) in Italy, and they had announced their brotherhood.

"The Pope showed my brother and the rest of our family closeness. He was a great man," Adnan Agca said, adding he and his mother were received by the Pope six times at the Vatican over the years.

Forgiveness is really just a small, simple act, but the reverberations echo for years.

Now is the time at Darn Floor when we dance!

Why? Because it's time to send out invoices!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Gene Robinson hints that Jesus was gay

Greg at What Attitude Problem says "Gene Robinson is a goiter on the body of Christianity."

A goiter? Why a goiter? Well, while you're pondering that, ponder this: in recent comments, Rev. Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church of the U.S. whose ordination made headlines not too long ago, seemed to be hinting that Jesus was gay.

Bishop Robinson, whose consecration in 2003 triggered a schism between evangelicals and liberals in the worldwide Anglican Communion, was giving an address entitled "Homosexuality and the Body of Christ: Is There a New Way?"

In answer to a question from the congregation about how the acceptance of homosexuality could be squared with the scriptural emphasis on redemption for sins, the Bishop replied: "Interestingly enough, in this day of traditional family values, this man that we follow was single, as far as we know, travelled with a bunch of men, had a disciple who was known as 'the one whom Jesus loved' and said my family is not my mother and father, my family is those who do the will of God. None of us likes those harsh words. That's who Jesus is, that's who he was at heart, in his earthly life.

"Those who would posit the nuclear family as the be all and end all of God's creation probably don't find that much in the gospels to support it," he said.

While Robinson certainly doesn't come right out and say it, he does seem to be strongly suggesting it, while at the same time severely downplaying the importance of the nuclear family. (Maybe this can form the plot of a new Dan Brown conspiracy thriller. "Oops! I was wrong about the whole Mary Magdalene thing.")

More here.

Commenting on this post at Stones Cry Out, Greg says:

I consider Gene (I refuse to endow him with a title) a goiter and not a cancer. A cancer is potentially fatal. A goiter is a growth that is not life-threatening, merely ugly to look at and a nuisance to live with. The condition can be treated with a combination of diet and surgery.

Heh. Okay! A goiter it is!

There are, I suppose, two responses to the discovery that you no longer believe what your church teaches. One is to find another church -- and this is the usual method amongst us evanglical protestants. The other is to try to change your church. I guess I never understood why Robinson chose the second method. His desire to be ordained Bishop threatened an Anglican schism. One might wonder why he felt it necessary to put the stability of the entire worldwide Anglican communion in jeopardy just because he wanted to be Bishop. If you no longer believe what the church teaches, shouldn't you resign your post? Isn't anything else dishonest? If your role is to defend the position of the church, it seems that you have to actually hold to that position.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Anyone here?

More apologies for such a long absence. I'm sure I've lost the three readers that were trying to stick it out.

By the time Blogger finally started cooperating last week and allowing me to post, I got handed an emergency composition project that kept me occupied for the rest of the week. So it was work at the office all day, work at home all night, collapse into bed, . . . wake, rinse, repeat.

Tonight I was really hoping to get some writing in, but the phone just rang, and here we go again.

We are glad to have some freelance projects at last -- it's what we've been praying for -- but it's taking its toll.

Of course, the week of my absence is the week where a few big things go down, and I can't get around to commenting. Not that I'm anyone worth listening to, anyway. But still . . .

So apologies again. I may find time to squeeze out a post later, but don't bet on it.