Lemon-Scented Bivouac  

Fatherly and, eventually, teacherly blather. Also: graphic design, baseball, synthetic fabrics, jug band music and, lord help us, the occasional politics.

Saturday, November 09, 2002  

Had my first blog dreams last night. I kept revisiting this site and finding I had posted and posted and posted and, stranger still, that the site was packed with comments -- 12 shout outs, 7 shout outs, etc. The problem was that most of the comments were junk that had drifted in, seemingly, from some other site; most of it was about building codes, with an implication that I hadn't complied.

It all went along with the lefty paranoia I'd worked up last night. Then I woke up and read this in the New York Times. If you don't have a login, I think you can use metafilter/metafilter -- or you can just trust my ability to excerpt:

The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe — including the United States.

As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant...

In order to deploy such a system, known as Total Information Awareness, new legislation would be needed, some of which has been proposed by the Bush administration in the Homeland Security Act that is now before Congress. That legislation would amend the Privacy Act of 1974, which was intended to limit what government agencies could do with private information...

"They're conceptualizing the problem in the way we've suggested it needs to be understood," said Philip Zelikow, a historian who is executive director of the Markle Foundation task force on National Security in the Information Age. "They have a pretty good vision of the need to make the tradeoffs in favor of more sharing and openness."

Obviously, the emphasis is mine in that quote. Please supply your own astonishment at how these words have been applied here.

How is this happening?

  posted by Andy @ 12:00 PM §

Friday, November 08, 2002  

More long articles. Dan Savage speaks up for the sinners in a book excerpt from this week's Stranger. None of what it says should be particularly alien or uncomfortable to most of you, my friends, but sometimes even preaching to the choir is worth doing if the preaching is good.

I truly believe that much of the slow walloping the Democrats have received over the last 20 years outside of America's cities has come from their association with the unpopular crowd, the pariahs -- especially The Gays. I bet if you went to the places where Democrats are all but extinct -- the Deep South, say, or places like Eastern Washington -- you'd find plenty of people who, more than any reasoning about smaller government and the like, think, well, those Democrats, they stand for The Gays, and I don't like The Gays. More polished suburban types might go on about "values," but I'd bet they despise The Gays too -- and the crack-addicted welfare mothers, and the weirdo environmentalists, and did we mention The Gays?

Well, I like The Gays -- I'm glad they're finally gay, instead of secretly suffering, and I like what they bring into breeder life. They certainly don't damage my marriage -- and pot smokers don't damage my mostly-sober world, either. I would put a pox on the Democrats' house for not being willing to say what I just said and say it with conviction -- but that pox has already been put on them and they can't be made to see it. The Democrats have glossed themselves into oblivion and live as terminal cases, and they can't see where they went wrong. Something is gnawing at their roots, but the trunk is too dead to feel it.

Honestly, although I'd rather keep my temper even on such things, I'm thoroughly terrified of what will come of two years of Bush-Ashcroft-Cheney-Armey. These are men with deeply conservative agendas and an unbridled wish to impose them. In their hearts they believe that civil rights and constitutional protections are just excuses criminals and effete liberals make up; they believe that a balance of power is "micromanagement"; they believe that America is a Christian nation and must be codified as such. I have no expectation that, as Bush et al cut civil rights and freedoms past the nailbed, the press or the Democrats will do much.

If someone disagrees with me and can be convincing, I'd rather not feel this way.

  posted by Andy @ 11:27 PM §

Thursday, November 07, 2002  

This is one fine, and very long, article on The Physical Genius. Very much worth reading. The author tries to analyze what I would guess we've all seen a few times in others: That otherworldly sort of composure and visionary ability that people get when performing a physical task to perfection.

Sure wish I could have it. I spent the whole article thinking about soccer and how far I am from physical genius and what it would take to get there, including the odds that I never would. I think there have been a few times when I've been locked-in with some design software, say Photoshop, and I've been able to work at exactly the same pace as guessing, with my fingers actually telling me the next thing before my mind can form it. Maybe three or four times I've been there. Aside from that, I'm reading this article from the outside.

Our friend Jim -- you know, the Professor -- talks about reaching that state in painting a French door, with all the molding, with a good-sized brush and no masking tape, just rehearsing each movement mentally until the whole work is perfect in every motion. Sounds lovely.

Anyone had a sustained practice of physical genius they can relate to this article? Don't be humble.

While you're thinking, this is a good quote, from a supervising surgeon on interviewing candidates:

In my interviewing, I began to develop what I thought was an indicator of whether someone was going to be a good surgeon or not. It was a couple of simple questions: Have you ever made a mistake? And, if so, what was your worst mistake? The people who said, 'Gee, I haven't really had one,' or, 'I've had a couple of bad outcomes but they were due to things outside my control'--invariably those were the worst candidates. And the residents who said, 'I make mistakes all the time. There was this horrible thing that happened just yesterday and here's what it was.' They were the best. They had the ability to rethink everything that they'd done and imagine how they might have done it differently.

  posted by Andy @ 11:35 AM §

Tuesday, November 05, 2002  

Pheeeewww. Just got home from manipulating election-night graphics. I get the distinct feeling that tonight my poor little mind, in lieu of sleeping deeply, will struggle with matching "Maryland" to "undecided at press time" or some slanted grid of democrats and initiatives and changing numbers and square Western states.

Reality ain't much better. As it turns out, it's getting no easier, even with time, to watch the vile Tim Eyman's initiatives pass over and over again. Seems like people are voting with the same brains they use to buy products off QVC -- "30 dollar tabs -- why, that's a deal!" And remember -- all of this comes at no cost to you because all of the lost revenue will be made up by cutting waste and firing bureaucrats and de-funding Child Protective Services and allowing our infrastructure to crumble.

Still, one of the graphics I laid out tonight reminded me that, according to the survey behind the graphic, many of the supporters of I-775 earn less than $25,000 a year -- which is tough. But wages don't rise when the government sector disintegrates, people.

Anyway, your political thoughts are encouraged if you can share them. Mine, at this point in the evening, are barely thoughts.

  posted by Andy @ 11:43 PM §


  posted by Andy @ 2:30 PM §

Monday, November 04, 2002  

That Helen Keller was on to something:

"I believe that every child has hidden away somewhere in his being noble capacities which may be quickened and developed if we go about it in the right way, but we shall never properly develop the higher nature of our little ones while we continue to fill their minds with the so-called basics. Mathematics will never make them loving, nor will accurate knowledge of the size and shape of the world help them to appreciate its beauties. Let us lead them during the first years to find their greatest pleasure in nature. Let them run in the fields, learn about animals, and observe real things. Children will educate themselves under the right conditions. They require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction."

  posted by Andy @ 9:55 PM §

Tuck this in your pocket for the time when you need to bring to mind a good definition of irony. This is from a presentation on good instructional design. Really, all of the pages are terrible, but some are worse than others.

Seriously, what makes people think that labeling triangles or writing words in overlapping circles has ever taught anyone anything at all? And PowerPoint ... I don't know where to start.

Phew. I gotta lay off the italics.

  posted by Andy @ 9:17 PM §

Some remarkable visual diaries kept by a recent art grad going by the unfortunate handle of INDIGO. (Oddly enough, INDIGO is a man and not an exotic dancer with an artsy bent; more interestingly, there's nothing either masculine or feminine, near as I can tell in his artwork). If you can't make your own visual compost, borrow someone else's.

  posted by Andy @ 12:37 PM §

Sunday, November 03, 2002  

While looking for something else about stand-up comics, I found the home page of Carmen Ciricillo, the Construction Comic. So if you're shopping for laffs about the construction industry, for example:

My Dad bought me a bib that doubled as a reflectorized safety vest for when he took me on night jobs and I got hungry. He also bought me safety approved clothing like OSHA KOSH overalls.

then this is the place to look.

  posted by Andy @ 10:45 PM §

Saw the documentary Comedian last night. Poorly photographed, bad audio, good movie anyway. What would make people want to work for thousands of hours to get barely a half-hour of talk down to such mechanical perfection that audiences always laugh? Usually not funny people, whose basis is almost always being relaxed.

Jerry Seinfeld, the main subject, is funny, and occasionally relaxed, but he mostly comes off as a machine running on neurotic energy -- this need to kill or be killed (comedians talking about "killing" when their gig goes well, "dying" when no one laughs). The other main figure in the movie, a would-be star named Orny Adams, comes off as one of the world's most irritating pukes, a egoistic self-hustler who is not redeemed by, underneath it all, loathing himself (is anybody?). They're both interesting -- not because they're full-blooded humans with depth and a past (as some critics, cluelessly I think, have wished they were), but because they're so monomaniacal. There's almost nothing to them except their need to get every joke perfectly and maximally phrased. Why? Interesting stuff.

  posted by Andy @ 9:41 PM §

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