August 2005 Archives

Evolved from Sheep

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Can you believe it? 42% of Americans "hold strict creationist views"... my head explodes at the mere thought that 42% of my fellow Americans believe "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.".

The Power Liberal: While P.Z. Myers Sleeps...

Australia Slides, picture 3

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And here is a small kangaroo that we met in a park after leaving Canberra.

Our No Great Drama road trip was a nice drive after all. And the ranger was right - it was, in general, a pretty easy gravel road through to Canberra, the national capital. The trickiest part was a stretch under construction, where there were some pretty big rocks to be negotiated. But after going across the Bumaroo Bridge, we made it into Canberra, which was a fun city. Don't listen to the natives, who loved to put down Canberra. We had a blast and found it a fun city with a great central area for parties.

Then it was down to Melbourne, where we stayed three more days. It was only supposed to be two days, but we enjoyed the city so much, we stayed an extra day. It reminded us of our home city, Boston, with lots of charm and personality.

Make a stand on Sept. 24th

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Speaking of politics

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As a wise (and vastly underrated) man once said:

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." - John Adams

I was watching Tom Brokaw Reports: Deep Throat, The Inside Story last night on Sundance. It was about the Deep Throat, who he was and, in general, about the Watergate scandal, and, as Robert Redford mentions, it sure seems like we haven't made much progress as far as the President lying to the public, have we? Redford said that Nixon resigned for two reasons, really - getting caught in a big lie, and shame, whereas today the former doesn't lead to the latter, never mind resigning for it.

I was such a Watergate weenie as an early teen. I read everything I could on it, and wrote reports, etc. The movie was great. My favorite book at the time was one written by a consortium of British BBC reporters, but I forget now what the title was. I think I'll go back and read All the President's Men again (I have a remainder copy from long ago), given that it is just past the 41st 31st anniversary of Nixon's resignation. It's an important lesson that I think is getting lost again...

Time To Vote

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We have a very interesting primary here in the Second Middlesex District. Our state senator, Charlie Shannon (D), died in April due to cancer complications, so we are having the Democratic primary vote today. I'm not even sure there's a Republican candidate, although I'm sure there must be a sacrificial lamb, as this district is, like much of Massachusetts, heavily Democratic and this primary is also almost certainly choosing our state Senator.

It has been pretty heavily contested by all four candidates. Lots of leaflets, a couple of televised debates (see the latest one here) and plenty of discussion on the various mailing lists (medfordmass Yahoo list) and web sites (see esp. Blue Mass. Group). There's two pretty progressive candidates (Jehlen and Mackey), an entrenched Democrat (Callahan), and somewhat of a more conservative wildcard (Casey).

I think I'm going to be voting for Jehlen, although I was more impressed with Mackey in the debate. Both have very similar positions that match mine:

  • Pro-marriage and against any sort of Constitutional or otherwise anti-same sex marriage proposals
  • Anti-capital punishment
  • For a women's right to privacy and choice
  • Work hard for education
  • Increase local aid from the state, instead of hoarding it for the Treasury in order to make a case for income tax reduction
But I'm going to go for Jehlen because I think her track record is more recent and solid, and because Robert Reich endorsed her. Mackey has been out of government for a bit, and I think Jehlen has worked more closely with the current members of the government to get stuff done.

I still weep for Massachusetts because we didn't elect Robert Reich as the governor, and instead went with a conservative religious fraud in Mitt Romney. Mr Reich didn't even win the primary, as entrenched Democratic interests went for the more centralist candidate, instead of going with a true liberal. I even worked for the Reich campaign, the only time I've ever gotten involved at that level. It wasn't much - I just helped out with some technical stuff, supported the web page, and held a sign up at the polling place (which impressed my girls to no end!). But I felt like Mr. Reich spoke for me, a true-blue liberal, without all this centralist waffling that Democrats try to do, even in a liberal state like mine. I can only imagine how much nicer it would have been to have Robert Reich as governor in these progressive times, and how he would have been front and center in supporting two people's right to marry, instead of trying to find every blockade and loophole to halt progress. But irregardless of your leanings, I sure hope you all get out to vote. I like to bring the girls when we go, as they get a real feel for the process and I hope we're turning out two more committed voters. Edit: Fixed formatting

Australia Slides, picture 2

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These are the Three Sisters, in the Blue Mountains. Aboriginal legend had these three sisters turned into stone. You also get a good idea why they are called "Blue Mountains" - "mist" in the air from the every-present eucalyptus trees gives everything a blue hue.

After our 3 days in Sydney, we drove out to the Blue Mountains and stayed the night in Katoomba. After getting up the next day, we drove to the Jenolan Caves, which were only moderately interesting - seen one cave, seen'em all really. Plus they kept hounding us to keep our hands off things. We tried to find out if a road marked on our maps as only occasionally passable would be drivable in our little Toyota hatchback. Finally, one of the guides said "No great worries - an easy drive!", so we headed off our our "No Great Worries" roadtrip.

Australia Slides, picture 1

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This is a group of Australian school kids playing "Guards and Prisoners" - only in Australia! They were exploring an excavation of some early buildings right in downtown Sydney. We spent our first few days in Sydney and had a great time, although Sydney didn't have nearly the charm of Melbourne. We did plenty of exploring, went to the zoo and had some excellent dinners.

For a great book on Australian history, the clear choice is Robert Hughe's The Fatal Shore. A definite "Can't Put It Down" book, for sure. What an amazing story, the history of Australia is.

Australia Slides

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Gabrielle and I took an amazing trip to Australia in 1995. We were gone nearly an entire month, and we did about as much of the country as you could do in that time. A quick rundown of our trip:

  • Fly from Boston to Sydney. Travel time, approximately 24 hours
  • Sydney
  • Blue Mountains
  • Canberra
  • Melbourne
  • Adelaide
  • Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Ayer's Rock (Uluru)
  • Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef
  • Sydney and back home

We had a remarkable time and I took about 10 rolls of pictures, using high end Velvia slide film, much to Gabrielle's chagrin. We carried around an "eski", a styrofoam carrier with ice and the film cannisters in a bag, as that kind of film can't get too hot or too cold. I have two holders of pictures, and if you ever come over, we'd be glad to show them to you!

As I said earlier, we are painting our hallway, and Gabrielle picked out 6 pictures to have blown up to 16x20 and framed. Unfortunately, the Ayer's Rock picture didn't come on a CD, but the other 5 we recently had done and got a CD with them on it. So I will be presenting them here.

Bush Joke

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Q: What's the difference between Iraq and Vietnam?

A: Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam.

Thanks to Joho the Blog: Harsh!!

Coevolution

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As the concerned father of two young daughters just beginning to make the long journey through our educational system, I have very strong opinions about religion and politics getting mixed up with a good strong secular education. The whole creationist / ID fad has luckily stayed far away from our home here in eastern Massachusetts, but it has me worried more generally about the future of the US.

One thing that drives me most crazy is idiots who can't enjoy the beauty of how nature evolves to solve specific problems. The latest doofus to express uneducated blather about evolution is the PBS snake oil salesman, Deepak Chopra. Once again, he falls back on the hoary old "If we can't currently explain it, it must be God" "theory" of ID. One of his main talking points is the very specific evolution of flowers and bugs to pollinate them, and how there can be one single moth capable of pollinating one single type of flower. Somehow, this is "proof" for ID, rather than an amazing case of natural evolution.

Here's a great article explaining the simply stunning symbiotic relationship between a fly and an orchid. It is called "Coevolution", and is simply beautiful:

The Beauty of Deceit

Also, be sure to check out the book The Botany of Desire, by Michael Polan. It is an amazing book examining the interactions between people and plants, and how each species adjusts to make itself more enticing to the other. The chapter on apples is most amazing. Did you know that apple seeds do not grow up to be the same kind of tree as the apple originally came from? I forget what it is called, but if you take a bunch of seeds from a single apple, and plant them, you will get many different kinds of plants, from bushes to trees. Everywhere that you see an apple tree in an orchard has come from one single ancestor tree, grafted onto a growing apple tree. Strangely beautiful, wouldn't you say?

Busy busy weekend

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I wrapped up a busy weekend by watching the news of Katrina (of course), sitting in bed with the whole family, discussing weather, eyes, wind, floods and the like with Adrienne and Rhiannon. They were both fascinated, and really enjoyed the weather radar pictures. Rhiannon especially had some great questions, about past hurricanes, what is the difference between a tornado and a hurricane, how high will the water be, there must be quite a traffic jam, etc. While we don't generally watch the news with them (it is usually just too depressing), we figured that Nature is okay:

Katrina makes landfall, moves north - Hurricane Katrina - MSNBC.com

Otherwise, I was face deep in paint - I am repainting the upstairs hallway and spent virtually every daylight hour doing just that. It is important to paint in the day, as artificial light tends to cast harsh shadows that make it very hard to see what you are doing. By Sunday evening, I was feeling woozy and light-headed, I think because of all the fumes, although they didn't seem to be too bad. But it is coming out pretty good, and I should have some good before and after pictures.

I also got to watch some movies for the first time in a while. I picked up a new remote (a friend said that it must be a guy thing to want a $60 remote:-) from Woot, a Universal Remote Control Inc. Home Theater Master MX-500. While Woot deals are often not quite the amazing bargains they first seem to be (for instance, the MX-500 had an original list price of US$190, but can now be bought new for about US$80, and I paid US$60 for one), this seemed like a good deal, and I've wanted a more powerful remote, so I picked it up. So I spent some time programming it, and to test it out, I popped in my rental of The Station Agent, just as a test mind you. But it was so enthralling I watched the whole thing, even though it meant I was up until 2:30 in the morning! By the way, kids don't care how late you were up - they still wake up at 6:30am and insist on you joining them in their early morning revelry:)

You can view my movie watching log on my home theater review site, Incredible Brightness of Seeing. I usually try to post more complete reviews, but unfortunately have let it slide for awhile. I do try to keep track of everything I watch in the Log entries, anyway. I hope to do a ful review of The Station Agent though. I will also add a review of the MX-500.

Skating on the thin edge of life

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I'm freshly back from my second morning of hockey, and it was a bad morning at that. Well, any morning playing hockey is better than most, but when you are a goalie, as I am, and you get beaten like a rented mule, like I did, it gets a little frustrating. It's just pickup hockey, and it's with a great group who's roots go back for 30 years or more. Luckily, we just go back on the ice next Tuesday morning and start over.

By the way, have I mentioned just how bright my girls are (hey, if I can't brag on my own blog, where can I?-)? The other evening at dinner, Rhiannon, the oldest (just turned 6), wanted to know what the word "chicanery" meant! I almost spit out my burger! Turns out, the characters on their favorite kids show, Cyberchase, were worried about "Hacker's chicanery" - and who says watching TV is bad? Anyway, we've all been practicing using the word. Very funny to see Adrienne (almost 5) talking about "falling for my chicanery" - I think the kindergarten teachers might be pretty impressed:-)

Speaking of an impressive Adrienne, in order to keep up with her big sister, she works very hard at doing the same stuff. So she's reading the simple books and doing very well at it. Last night, we were reading Dora's Picnic, a book written like a rebus, but with plenty of words. In one case, she was reading about "The bread is filled with blueberries and nuts" and instead started to read "full of blueberries". When she backtracked and reread it correctly, she explained that if there was only one kind, it would be "full" and with two things, it was "filled with" - too funny!

I hope the new blog works out. I upgraded my server to use the brand spankin' new MovableType 3.2. And I was glad to see that the free version has really been expanded. Now you can have as many blogs as you want, but only one author. Before you were limitted to just 3 blogs. And the price for the full, Personal version has dropped to US$39, which lets you have up to 5 authors and tech support.

Funny animations

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Some excellent and very funny animations on this site. A couple of caveats though:
  • You need to have Flash enabled. Seeing as how I haven't been able to get it to work with Firefox, I need to open it in Internet Explorer. Of course, given the nice loophole in Flash that will open up new windows for you, maybe I'm in no hurry to get it to work in Firefox.
  • Conservative or religious zealots will be wildly offended. Myself, I found them very funny.
Homeland Stupidity 7/27/05
Supernatural 8/24/05

Batteries

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As a family with two little kids, we use alot of batteries. I made the move to rechargable Ni-MH batteries a few months ago and it has been working out pretty well. I came across this page that has a nice overview of the types of batteries and reviews of some of the recharging systems. I don�t see mine (the Panasonic), but it has been working out pretty well for me.

Rechargeable Batteries Reviews

Moved again

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Okay, I moved again. This time, it is to my own machine, hosted by my very own self. I will be pointing out the other blogs that I either run or help out at. Many of them are hosted here on my colocated machine, which runs FreeBSD 4.x on a 1.4ghz AMD. You can see more system info here:


Amazing Dev System Info

By the way, a big shout out goes to MV.com, my friend Mark's ISP in Manchester NH. They not only maintain my hostnames, but graciously allowed me to colo my machine there. Thanks again!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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