Thursday, October 29, 2009

How quickly we forget... Susan Boyle

Remember Susan Boyle? The matronly sleeper-hit of some British sing-song show?
I do, but barely. She doesn't get the headlines, or the eyeballs.
I was so moved by her performance that I became a fan of her on Facebook, and I've been steadily losing interest and caring less and less about her exploits, even though I think she's great and I'm happy I know about her.
And it's interesting to see the numbers of people commenting on her FB messages generally decreasing, as if she's become someone we invited to a party on impulse, and is slowly losing their appeal by trying to sell us shower curtain rings....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

VISA Application question: Ever hang around any Nazis?

Thanks Mel for the tip off here - I think this is just incredible. She lives in Brazil, and passed on this VISA Application questionnaire (click to enlarge).
I guess The Boys From Brazil wasn't that off after all.... except for the whole cloning Hitler's brain thing....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Muliye Gurmu, I'm sorry

I wasn't suprised when I heard that the woman who placed first in DC's 22,000 Marine Corp Marathon was Ethiopian, since it seems that East Africans have this stuff in the bag. However, the Post's comment that Muliye Gurmu:

"...usually only competes in races with cash prizes, but entered Sunday's race as a favor to [her trainer] Bozgoz, who was in the Army"...

left me feeling... petty. My mature reaction was, "Ohhh... thanks so much for honoring us with your presence, Ms. Gurmu. I know you usually only do this for the money, so thanks for brining your $100,000 feet onto the road with the rest of us plebians." (Well, not me since I didn't run it, but the actual athletes)

I brought this up to an active runner friend of mine, and she told me that for many Ethiopians races are their sole source of income. So, like, they need to run to survive, to eat and to pay bills. I found this pretty shocking.

So, Muliye Gurmu, I'm sorry I talked some trash aboutcha.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chirp chirp

This incredible video by the great folks at TED shows up how good and bad sounds effect and impact our lives.
Most interesting to me if when he says that bird song calms us physiologically because we have been trained for thousands of years to equate birds singing with the absence of danger. It's when birds stop singing that we get nervous. "It's quiet... too quiet..."
If this is true, than this might be the best thing ever - streams of bird song, 24 hours a day.
I actually feel like I'm sitting in a park when I hear this...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ted Kennedy at Arlington Cemetery

I'm really, really lucky to live within walking distance of Arlington National Cemetery, America's most famous resting place for members of the Armed Forces. I went recently with friends, and I checked out the recent gravesite of Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Growing up in New England, to me Ted was almost like a political superhero. I didn't really know too much about him or his policies, but I knew we were really, really lucky to have him in our backyard.
And now, strangely, he's in my backyard again. Is that a grim observation, or poetic? I can't tell.
In any case, here are some pics of the gravesite. He's buried at the foot of the hill where JFK is buried. Robert F. Kennedy is at the foot as well, and both his and Ted's graves are identical and understated - a simple white cross and a floor marker (click to enlarge the bottom photo).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Prostars, Biyatch

Thanks Colleen for making me crack the hell up about this.... Good ol' childhood cartoons. I love it how the come out of the lockers to fight crime. If I recall this show - starring the voices of Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky and Bo Jackson - actually rocked.
Bonus: Some of the comments in the Youtube clip are fantastic, including:

abergeron (1 week ago) WTF why did Bo Jackson have to kill the dude in the saw truck he's just making a living

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Scary Convention - Value Voters Summit

Normally when people say, "I'm all for freedom of assembly," they immediately follow with something they wish would never assemble again.
That's exactly what I'm gonna do, too.
Observe the Value Voter's Summit, which took place last month (OK, I'm late). The event was put together by a variety of conservative orgs, including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and American Values. ( Fun tip - create your own conservative lobby by just including as many of the following words in your title as you can: Family, American, Values).
It's the schedule of the event that gets me. Most of the events are just conservative economic and policy discussions. That's fine.
Then there's this:

Dr. Calvin Beisner, National Spokesman, Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation

Huh? How the hell did this get tossed in there? Can you imagine a liberal lobby event where a Kaballah teacher taught about why recycling was God's will, or a Rastafarian taught about the economic and religious benefits of growing weed???
It continues:

Ultimately, climate change hysteria rests on an unbiblical view of God, mankind, and the environment. Come and hear how the Cornwall Alliance is pushing back--producing ground-breaking studies on Biblical environmentalism, educating pastors and churches across the country, and activating thousands of Christians to rally against the hype through the Campaign...

And another one:


Casey Smith, Jr., Executive Assistant to the Chairman and President, American Family Association

Americans are at a greater risk of losing their basic freedoms today than ever before in the history of this nation. Political correctness and the voice of the liberal minority are undermining the morals and values of main-stream America. Christians are being silenced all across America: in the political debate, the public square, the schools, the workplace, and even in the sanctuary of their own churches....

And finally

Mark Bucher, Bucher & Palmer, LLP; Lila Rose, President, LiveAction


Monday, October 19, 2009

Photography tips

As a former professional photojournalist for 6 years, I know a few things about cameras. I thought this graphic about artificial light projection would be helpful for the neophyte.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fashion victim?

What is the deal with these cuffs, and are they really appropriate for a stroll in Arlington National Cemetery? Or, really, a stroll anywhere outside of Eastern Europe?

Friday, October 16, 2009

A blight upon my eyes

Sometimes, a music video is so bad, we become confused:
Was this artistic nightmare intended? It is a self-parody?
Or is this the first salvo in a vengeful, merciless Judgment Day? Because I feel like I'm being judged by a divine and angry being whenever I see Shakira's She Wolf video..
Also, now that she did away with her curly hair she looks like one of the Desperate Housewives or something....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is not funny

.... OK, now it is.

Should internet access be a human right?

I thought it was ridiculous at first but now I don't know....

By Saeed Ahmed

(CNN) — Finland has become the first country in the world to declare broadband Internet access a legal right.

Starting in July, telecommunication companies in the northern European nation will be required to provide all 5.2 million citizens with Internet connection that runs at speeds of at least 1 megabit per second.

The one-megabit mandate, however, is simply an intermediary step, said Laura Vilkkonen, the legislative counselor for the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The country is aiming for speeds that are 100 times faster — 100 megabit per second — for all by 2015.

“We think it’s something you cannot live without in modern society. Like banking services or water or electricity, you need Internet connection,” Vilkkonen said.

The country is one of the most wired in the world; about 95 percent of the population have some sort of Internet access, she said. But the law is designed to bring the Web to rural areas, where geographic challenges have limited access until now.

“Universal service is every citizen’s subjective right,” Vilkkonen siad.

It is a view shared by the United Nations, which is making a big push to deem Internet access a human right.

In June, France’s highest court declared such access a human right. But Finland goes a step further by legally mandating speed.

On the other hand, the United States is the only industrialized nation without a national policy to promote high-speed broadband, according to a study released in August by the Communications Workers of America, the country’s largest media union.

Forty-six percent of rural households do not subscribe to broadband, and usage varies based on income, the study found.

In February, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected to submit a national plan to Congress. The FCC says that expanding service will require subsidies and investment of as much as $350 billion — much higher than the $7.2 billion President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package has set aside for the task.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I've heard of Toastmasters for some time. It's a group where they help you with public speaking, nice and simple.
The meeting was like a mix of AA, the Masons and a Spelling B. The meeting was held in my building. I walked in and there was this podium with all these award ribbons hanging off it - weird.
They started with an invocation asking God to help us speak better. I guess that's a reasonable request.
Toastmasters is big on honorifics - the Daily Toastmaster, Toastmaster Analyst, the Toastmaster Timekeeper, etc.
They were also big an applause - anyone who went up to the podium to do anything got a hearty and sincere applause. It was odd at first, but I came to understand that every action was practice at public speaking, so they tried to make it real.
Everything was evaluated. Two people gave prepared speeches that had to last 5-7 minutes, and these were critiqued by two volunteers and the Master Toastmaster, or whatever his title was. All of these were done earnestly, with kindness but also helpful and frank suggestions. It had that unique camaraderie where you could give people feedback but not feel like you were attacking them.
I wasn't spared just because I was new. They asked me to talk about a recent decision to make buses safer by slowing them down. Every time I said "um" or used another pausing device, they dropped a penny in a jar so I'd get some recognizance of the slip. I talked for about 55 seconds about what I thought about the decision and only "earned" two pennies. I even wove in a joke and talked about my busing experience in high school and college. My goal was 2 - 2.5 minutes, and I knew I fell short, but I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I wrapped it up.
I'd like to go again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Love it: Finnish rappers who are 4 years old

If this doesn't make you smile you are most likely a robot / born without lips. I'm talking about Ella ja Aleksi, a duo of Finnish children who rap about living on a train.
Here's the video. Watch it first, then, if you want the translation, it's below:

Yöjuna Rovaniemelle

by Ella ja Aleksi

The beds are made for us
This night train is heading towards Lapland
Lower bed to you, the upper bed for me
Now is time for 'elfing' around
take out the toys, papers and markers
The train is better than cars and busses
here you can play, let's make a cottage
Even dad smiles when he is not driving
(even dad smiles when he is not driving)

So let's head towards Rovaniemi ( This is nighttrain 865
there's a circle of elves of us out here
Keep good care of us conductor

Could it be possible to move into a train
our home would keep moving all the time
the conductor would protect our dreams
a new locality every morning
We found jars that say
'This is Helsinki's tapwater' ( when you push the pedal in the toilet
soon you can see your pee in the rails
(soon you can see your pee in the rails)

So let's head towards Rovaniemi ( This is nighttrain 865
there's a circle of elves of us out here
Keep good care of us conductor

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

GSA and Rhode Island

GSA continues to surprise me. It's everywhere. It has almost eerily followed me throughout my life, too. Observe:

5 years ago today

Conimicut Light becomes the 18th lighthouse in the nation, and the second in
New England, to be transferred from federal to local ownership. Officials of
the Department of Interior, the Coast Guard and the General Services Administration came to Warwick to formally transfer title to the city, which
intends to restore the structure and eventually open it to visitors interested
in local history. The 58-foot light marks Conimicut Shoal, in the northern
reaches of Narragansett Bay at the entrance to the Providence River. The
119-year-old light -- directly off Conimicut Point -- is instantly recognized
by just about every Warwick resident.