Friday, October 31, 2003

In need of perspective

Perhaps you've seen the photograph.

Yes, it's a wordy sign. On the other hand, it's far better grammar than the average English-language sign you expect to see on the streets of Tekrit, or Tehran.

Except that it wasn't spotted on the streets of Tekrit. It was on the Mall in Washington D.C.

Constitutionally protected speech it is, of course, and rightly so. It is precisely the most outrageous speech that requires the most diligent protection. The irony that the country he wishes to destroy protects his right to think and say such things is, I'm sure, lost on him. Such thoughts almost drive me to despair.


But it's hard not to smile at a bunny, and I am no exception.

The Friday Five

This week's questions:
1. What was your first Halloween costume?

The first one I remember was a store-bought Casper the Friendly Ghost.

2. What was your best costume and why?

I suck at costumes. It was all downhill from Casper.

3. Did you ever play a trick on someone who didn't give you a treat?


4. Do you have any Halloween traditions? (ie: Family pumpkin carving, special dinner before trick or treating, etc.)

Only a deep and abiding hatred of the holiday. It's irrational, I know.

5. Share your favorite scary story...real or legend!

"They", by Robert A. Heinlein. It's in "The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein".

Tom Selleck is Dwight Eisenhower

Yahoo! News | Selleck to Play Eisenhower in A&E TV Movie
A&E senior vp original programming Bob DeBitetto acknowledged the scant resemblance between the hirsute actor and the follically challenged general, but defended his casting decision.

"The fact that he isn't an obvious choice is a good thing," DeBitetto said. "What we wanted to avoid at all costs was a caricature or an impersonation. It's a character piece, and Mr. Selleck has the acting chops to bring out the complexity of the man."

Hey, I do radio theater. I'm well aware that sometimes the right actor doesn't look right.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Thursday Threesome

:: Cheap wax treatment ::
Onesome: Cheap - Cheap thrills? Are you and yours doing anything for Halloween? Parties? Trick or treating? Staying home with the lights out and an axe visible in the window?

Well, I considered putting in an electric fence, but I think there's something in the neighborhood covenant (if not the zoning regulations). I hadn't thought of the axe thing, though. As it is, I imagine I'll fend them off with Hershey's miniatures and a fistful of free comic books liberated from Oxford Comics. I'm not a party person.

Twosome: wax - Hey, are you a 'candle person'? I mean, is that one of your decorating motifs? ...or does this fall under something like the "No Sharp Objects" rule in your life?

What is a "no sharp objects" rule? Candles are useful if the electricity goes out and the flashlights are all dead. Otherwise, I have no use for them.

Threesome: treatment - Speaking of treatments: do you decorate for Fall? Halloween? Thanksgiving? ...or just pretend that deceased plant in the corner really just lost its leaves for the winter?

Decorate for fall? Do I look like Martha Stewart?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Character assassination in 30 seconds

Have you seen Bush in 30 Seconds? This contest to create a television ad that "tells the truth about George W. Bush"? Probably so. I found it on Popdex' RSS feed, which means that thousands of people have already seen it and commented on it. I try not to join pile-ons.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what the appropriate reaction has to be. Take this statement of purpose from their Why we're doing this page:
For the last three years, President Bush's policies have ransacked the environment, put our national security at risk, damaged our economy, and redistributed wealth from the middle class to the very wealthiest Americans.
Now, relax. Take a deep breath. They can't help it, all their friends at Starbucks all say the same thing, they think everybody believes that. You can't accuse them of avoiding disclosure. They've even put their names on it. But take that and add this, from their Rules and registration page: Voter Fund is a so-called section 527 political organization, and is prohibited from expressly advocating for the election or removal of specific candidates for federal elections. In other words, your ads can say lots of different things about George Bush and his administration, but you are not allowed to say that people should vote for or against him.
(I wonder why the "so-called" section 527 political organization?)

It's obvious.

Submit pro-Bush ads to this campaign.

They're obviously don't want them: They're looking for something good and embarrassing they can pay to have run in proximity to the State of the Union address (that's their grand prize). But the nature of the group and the laws that regulate it prevent them from outright banning such statements from the contest.

I mean, look at the judges list. Michael Moore. Donna Brazile. Janeane Garofalo. James Carville. How can you resist the temptation to send these people a 30-second film explaining why supporting the President is the right thing to do...that they have to watch?

And if all I got back for my trouble was an e-mail from Janeane Garofolo explaining how I "don't get it", well, I would treasure that. Wouldn't you?

Don't you hate when that happens?

I just discovered that my permalinks were broken. They're fixed now, I think. If you've pointed to a specific post, you will not need to change that link.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

What is civilization?

Lileks | The Bleat 10-27-03
I’m not crazy about “The Rite of Spring.” I find it fascinating, like a strange insect, but I don’t like it. I’m not sure I’m supposed to. It’s so alien, so primitive, yet so instinctively understandable: hello, here’s your pagan past! Here’s your club for killing the sacrificial victim, here’s your body paint, here’s your spear. Now you’re going to be in the crowd that stomps the ground to bring the rain, okay? Fine. Next!

I can see why people rioted. But there’s something else in "Rite of Spring" that unnerves me - the implication that we are just a hair’s breadth away from this sort of tribal madness, that all our civilization counts for nothing. Here is our true horrid heart! Speak for yourself, mac. Just because you can find modern events analogous to ancient rites doesn’t mean we haven’t progressed along the way. Evidence: Orchestras, recording studios, animation companies, continental distribution networks, electricity, high-power light emitting movie projectors, climate-controlled theaters, ushers in mass-produced uniforms, and critics for newspapers who type in skyscraper offices their bemused dismissals of a film that takes Stravinsky’s masterpiece and gives it to overgrown lizards.

It works better for lizards. Lizards have no soul. The music of “Rite” is the music of animals.

Of course it is. That's why it unsettles you.

Human beings are animals. We are "just a hair’s breadth away from...tribal madness". On the infrequent occasion I visit a mall department store and observe women "trying on" perfume, I can't help it, I think about naked savages mixing mud, getting just the right color blue before they smear it on their bellies.

Perhaps the mall is not the right place to look for proof of the innate superiority of civilization.

And don't get me started about men and professional sports.

Civilization is a new invention, and in some places the veneer is very thin. Some tribes are closer than others. I don't think I can be faulted for feeling superior to a tribe that has convinced itself it's OK to target another tribe's babies on purpose.

Civilization is worthy of celebration precisely because it is fragile.

So we need Stravinsky, who can throw our bestial heritage back at us and make us see that this, too, is what it means to be human. That while we can be proud of what we aspire to, we need not be ashamed of what we are. Hands that hold clubs are capable of building pianos and playing "Clair de Lune". Isn't it miraculous? Isn't it awe-inspiring?

Monday, October 27, 2003

I've been spotted

The Philadelphia Daily News mentioned my Nude Calendar Watch page in their article about the Women of Northern Liberties Calendar. And the crowd--well, the hit counter--goes wild.

Movies that should never have been made

Titanic: The Animated Movie. No kidding.

While I'm talking about cartoons, here's more than you ever wanted to know about the color-coding to the background rings used to introduce Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. What, you say? Color coding?

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Just like Disney

Forbes | Entertainment assets of NBC-Vivendi merger
The merger of General Electric Co.'s NBC network with Vivendi Universal's Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE) creates a new entertainment industry giant encompassing a movie studio, cable and broadcast television networks and theme parks.

When did this happen?

Well, that's not what I mean, the article says when it happened, I mean, how did I not hear about this before now? Disney got crucified for buying ABC, AOL Time Warner got crucified for whoever bought whoever, but the NBC / Universal deal is passing without a whimper.

Maybe people thought they already owned each other.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Just what the music industry needed

More bad publicity.
Hollywood Reporter | Music Licenses Affect TV-To-DVD
Studios frequently have to replace the music heard during the original broadcast for the DVD release, largely because of the prohibitive costs associated with licensing the music, studio executives say.
...Warner is sitting on two TV series, which Baker didn't name, that were slated for release next year, all because of the cost of music clearances.

Now, I knew about Miami Vice, and I've read reliable reports that WKRP in Cincinnati is in the same boat: These series will likely never be released on DVD because the popular music used is too expensive to license and too ubiquitous to replace. In WKRP in particular, the script often refers to the particular songs being heard. The episodes being aired in syndication now have had their soundtracks "fixed", music replaced and dialogue redubbed by not-very-sound-alike actors. You young people discovering the series now might well wonder why anybody ever thought this show was any good. (Trivia: WKRP was MTM's first videotaped series. It was done that way because music clearance was less expensive for videotaped broadcasts than for film.)

The current rights-holder to the series is Fox (having acquired MTM's assets), so I suppose it's possible they might decide it's worth the expense of licensing the music in order to release the series in its original form. But the odds don't look good.

I'm just appalled that (1) this happens, and (2) more importantly, the packaging doesn't bear a disclaimer when the content has been edited from that which originally aired.

Home video simply wasn't an issue when these programs were produced. I had no idea this could affect series as recent as Dawson's Creek, Felicity, and Smallville.


Try the Dolphin Stress Test. You'll understand why I passed it along.

Diana Rigg's taste in clothing has changed since The Avengers.

Will somebody please run down to the corner drugstore and refill whatever prescription Garry Trudeau has just run out of?

Whatever happened to the Elongated Man? It's about time DC issued a trade-paperback collection of the Gardner Fox / Carmine Infantino run that started in Detective Comics #327.

(There's no Friday Five this week.)

Thursday, October 23, 2003

purple cow Wonk note

Those of you whose browsers support it (that is, current versions of MSIE, NN, and Mozilla Firebird) will now see my friendly Purple Cow icon in your saved favorites and in the destination window. I think it's pretty cool.

Those of you who can't see it, well, never mind.

(You could upgrade...)

The Thursday Threesome

:: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner ::
Onesome: Breakfast - It's the most important meal of the day. Do you eat it every day? What's your favorite breakfast?

I eat it most days. My favorite breakfast is Shoney's breakfast bar--but I shouldn't do that very often. Usually, as I think I've said, it's a bowl of store-brand Cheerios, a couple of microwave link sausages, a glass of milk and a glass of V-8.

Twosome: Lunch - Where's your favorite place to to go out for lunch? Or do you brown bag it?

When I go out, it's usually to Long John Silver.

Threesome: and Dinner - Do you cook at home or prefer to grab burgers on the way home from work? What's your favorite meal?

We cook at home whenever possible. These days, with five work/social calendars to synthronize, it often isn't possible. I don't really have a favorite meal.

Gee, just like the real one | Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure
Below are only a few of the 14 different phrases that the Ann Coulter Action figure says when you press her button.

I, on the other hand, am speechless.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

I know just how she feels

Reuters | Bored to Tears, Woman Hurls TV Out Window
A 25-year-old German woman enraged over another Saturday night of boring television programs and dull re-runs hurled her TV set out the window of her fifth floor apartment window, police said Monday.

"There was nothing decent on so I just threw the thing out the window," the woman identified as Veronika K., told Bild newspaper.

...She later calmed down and watched another television with her children.

Fun's fun, but Jerry Springer is on...

Labor-saving devices

The Bleat by Lileks | 10-22-2003
I banged out the column on the Mac, saved to Word, transferred to laptop, edited, saved to flash memory card, and now I’ll transfer it to the PC laptop, open in PC Word, convert to the ancient ATEX program, and send it to the office, where they’ll edit it in ATEX, convert to PC, send to the design people, and lay it out on a Mac.

How many of those steps could we eliminate? Why, NONE, of course.

Of course.

Well, you could work on a machine that's actually compatible with the network you work on, I suppose. How primitive. What an absurd suggestion. We shouldn't have to do that.

Some days I find myself in awe of the things we're able to do. Other days I notice the hoops we make ourselves jump through to do them. It happened gradually, one step at a time, and each step is perfectly reasonable taken on its own merits.

But is there any other machine we would tolerate the Blue Screen of Death from?

What if your windshield went opaque blue in mid-drive (general car fault), and the only fix was to turn the car off and start it again? No way to find out what happened: No way to prevent it. You know whatever caused it is still there, waiting for the proper alignment of circumstances, but the necessary conditions happen at such a fast pace, on such a small scale, that you cannot possibly see it coming.

Some days, I'd rather walk.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Some assembly required

This set contains all that you see here.

The philosophy of inclusion

AP | Atlanta Airport to Honor 1st Black Mayor
Atlanta's airport will be renamed to honor the city's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson.

The city council voted 12-2 Monday to name the sprawling complex Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Jackson's widow, Valerie, told reporters, "This proves that Atlanta is living by the philosophy of inclusion."

Funny, I thought it proved that the Atlanta City Council is still being held hostage by the Jackson family.

The effort to add Jackson's name to the airport began almost immediately after his death in June.

"Not yet cold in the ground," I believe, is the cliche...

Ah, I'm not that upset, really. But you know that only the press will ever call it Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

AJC | ...Jackson blocked the airport expansion until 25 percent of the construction contracts were awarded to minority-owned businesses.

Atlanta Business Chronicle | ...From Maynard Jackson's ex-wife to the widow of former Mayor William B. Hartsfield to the ex-husband and grown children of mayoral candidate Shirley Franklin, the relatives of Atlanta's leading politicians have done business at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

It started in 1980, when Tollie Hartsfield, Hartsfield's second wife, opened a video arcade in the airport's main terminal. In fact, one of her partners was Maynard Jackson's ex-wife, Burnella "Bunnie" Jackson Ransom.

Later, in 1994, Jackson and his daughter, Brooke, founded Jackmont Hospitality Inc., a food service company that operates a T.G.I. Friday's at Hartsfield's Concourse B. The term "Jackmont" stands for "Jackson's Mountain."

Today, the woman who very well could be mayor after the Nov. 6 city elections
[Note: she was elected] has an ex-husband, David M. Franklin, and two grown children, a son, Cabral, 27, and a daughter, Kai, 29, working in the airport concession business.

What am I trying to say? Just that the airport has been a political football for as long as it's been there, and this latest field goal for the Jackson team really isn't a ...departure.

Jeez, talk about mixed metaphors.

Here's an interesting document about the history of the airport, originally named Candler Field after Coca-Cola's Asa G. Candler, on whose land it was built.

Monday, October 20, 2003

A new traffic magnet | Atlanta's tallest new building in 11 years to begin construction
With financing in place, the site at 14th Street and Peachtree has been fenced off and demolition work has begun.

...At 198 metres, Symphony Center Tower will be the tallest building built in Atlanta since 1992, when Atlanta's two tallest buildings, Bank of America and SunTrust Plaza, were completed. Plans also include a new symphony hall for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and a possible second building of 12 stories.

Just what Midtown needs: Another skyscraper.

This picture says it's "looking northwest from Colony Square", but that's wrong: Colony Square is itself visible at the right. We are indeed looking northwest, but I'd say the point of view is actually from the 14th Street Playhouse, at Juniper. The street that curves away to the left of Symphony Center Tower is 14th: The cross street just visible in the lower foreground is Peachtree.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Want to feel old?

Electronic Gaming Monthly sat nine kids down (age 10-13) and made 'em play the games we wasted quarters on. I laughed until I cried.

Pong: "It takes this whole console just to do Pong?"

Tetris: "This is boring. Maybe if it had characters and stuff and different levels, it would be OK. If things blew up or something or—"

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: "[Points to lava lamp on TV stand] That thing's more interesting."

Space Invaders: "But you can get this game on a cell phone. Why would you want to pay for it in an arcade?"

The Friday Five

This week's questions:
1. Name five things in your refrigerator.

Milk, Coca-Cola, iced tea, cream cheese, and leftover Chinese dinner.

2. Name five things in your freezer.

Pizza, ground beef, tater tots, chicken thighs, and Hallowe'en candy.

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.

An ant, another ant, another ant... No, wait. Dishwashing detergent, powdered cleanser, liquid soap, extra pot scrubbies, and a small sink plunger.

4. Name five things around your computer.

Not counting peripherals? Cascading Style Sheets for Dummies, alarm clock, pencil sharpener, clipboard with legal pad, and a 128mb USB drive. (It's not currently attached to the computer, so it counts.)

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.

Too easy. I'll even handicap myself and leave out the pills I take every day (which, come to think of it, are on my bedside table and not in the medicine cabinet at all). Aspirin, petroleum jelly, cotton swabs, acetamenophen, and panty liners.

Any more personal questions?

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Thursday Threesome

:: MT Blacklist ::
Onesome: MT - So, are you running Moveable Type? ...and have you had to deal with comment spam? If so, Jay Allen's MT-Blacklist Plugin is one cure ....and did you know T-3 regular Shawn has written a scripting hack to allow it to work with the comment notifier script? Ah, the geekiness of it all...

I'm not running Moveable Type. I realize that for some portions of the blogging community, Blogger has become AOL. (That is, it's the tool that the neos use until they learn better.) Perhaps I'm just not as demanding a user as some. I've had no compelling reason to switch.
And if I do switch, well, I already use CityDesk for my non-blog pages.

Twosome: Black - Hey, can you do "basic black"? ...or does your wardrobe consist of everything but black? Inquiring minds want a look into that closet!

Sounds like a chick question to me. :) Yes, I often do black.

Threesome: List - Are you a "List Person", one of those people who cannot make it through the day with out a to-do list? ...or maybe "listfull', with yellow sticky notes all about you? ...or are you "listless" and wandering about randomly getting things accomplished?

I can do lists, but I don't feel compelled to. I am alistic.
I don't like lists. But I have to face facts, I get more done when I have a list.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

It's off to the office supply store for me

Getting Ahead | Want Happy Employees? Break Out the Purple Pens!
TRUMBULL, Conn. -- For Charlie Brown, happiness was a warm puppy. But according to a new survey of 645 American workers, happiness on the job is having a dozen or more pens crammed into your desk drawer.

In fact, 85% of American workers with six or more pens at their work station said they found their job to be a satisfying one, compared to just 74% of Americans overall, according to the survey, conducted by Pilot Pen Corp. of America.

And the more pens the merrier. While 21% of the work force overall is out looking for a better job, only 12% of those with more than one dozen pens at their beck and call are out job-seeking.

For companies looking to hire, the world belongs to users of purple pens (the color of the ink, not the pen itself). That's because, when asked to say whether their boss was 100% happy with their work, 85% of employees who use purple pens -- or use them at least occasionally -- said their boss is 100% satisfied with their job performance compared to just 73% of the work force overall. And helpful? Fully 82% of workers using purple pens say they try to help their bosses even when not specifically asked, compared to just 67% of workers overall.

"We don't quite know what all this means," admits Ron Shaw, president and chief executive officer of Pilot Pen. "Frankly, we're quite flummoxed. But overall, we think it's all good."

Does that mean I can edit my purple blog at work?

(Found it at Purple Pen, of course.) (Not to be confused with this Purple Pen, which isn't even purple.)

The most famous man in Chicago

Yesterday it was somebody else. Tomorrow it'll be somebody else yet again. But today it's a man with no name. Here's his face, though.

Just another fan at Wrigley field, enjoying a post-season Cubs game--a rare enough event. The Cubs had won three of the previous five games in the championship series, and were ahead in this one, 3-0 in the eighth. The Cubs were bound for the World Series. Their first National League championship since 1945.

But no.

The Marlins' Luis Castillo fouled to left, directly at him. He stood and reached for the oncoming ball. He reached up, not out, the umpire ruled. He didn't reach over the fence into the field. The ball was headed into the stands, out of play, directly at him. He didn't see Moises Alou charging in from left field to try to field it: Alou didn't see him. Alou ran, leaped--and his gloved hand hit the fan's hand.

Here's the moment.

The ball was deflected: Castillo was still "alive". The at-bat ended with a walk. Followed by two singles, a double, another walk, a sacrifice fly, a double, and a single.

Before the inning was over, it was 8-3 Marlins.
"I don't know about the fan robbing them," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "I don't think that was the turning point of the game."

He might've been the only person in the ballpark who felt that way.

Even though the Marlins are the team who beat the Braves, at this point I want the Cubs to win. They're due.
"Anyone that thinks this is over - they're not a Cub fan," [Cubs manager Dusty] Baker said.

Political columnist George Will once wrote that "Cubs fans are 90 percent scar tissue."

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Now I understand

...why my hit counter went crazy Monday.

The Today show did a feature on the "Men of Long Tom Grange" charity calendar, which USA Today and CNN both picked up on. This in turn inspired a surge of Google and Yahoo! searches. (I can't say for sure since I didn't see the articles, but mass media outlets that mention web sites often don't mention the URLs. Even when they do, viewers' memories are short.)

And since my Nude Calendar Watch is one of the first things that comes up if you Google for "nude calendar", and since I do mention the Long Tom Grange calendar, well, there you go. Happy to have been of service. There's a tip jar to the left...

(I should be glad my site didn't crash. The calendar site felt the strain to the extent that they're asking people to come back later to place their orders, after the rush has subsided.)

The only way I'll ever see one

Who's on the $100,000 bill? (Here's a better shot.)

How about the $2? (A surprising number of people don't think this is legit.)

And here's an overview of odd and unpopular currency from Money magazine.

We're number one

AJC | Atlanta is cellphone capital
Metro area leads U.S. in popularity; report cites traffic
Metro Atlanta leads the nation in the percentage of households with mobile phones.

Three out of four households here have one, according to a survey released today by Scarborough Research, based in New York City. Nationally, two out of three households have one.

One reason for the heavy penetration here is metro Atlanta's lengthy rush hours, said Alisa Joseph, a vice president at the research firm.

Jim McGean, president of Verizon Wireless' Georgia/Alabama region, agreed. "Rush hour often lasts from 3 o'clock to 7 o'clock at night," he said. "Business people need to remain productive, and families need to stay in touch. Wireless helps solve this need wherever you are."

At $20/month (and the phone is free), it's hard to escape cell phones. But the difference between "two out of three" and "three out of four"--or, to put it a little more straightforwardly, 66% vs 75%--isn't all that dramatic. Apparently it's a slow news day: CNN, the Macon Telegraph, and the Miami Herald have all jumped on this too.

I suppose it's true. There are three mobile phones in this household, and we're looking at a fourth, now that our daughter's high school has decided to allow her to carry one.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Degrees of separation

Bill Tush and I are on the same page: Photodude's list of "Fellow Atlantans".

Well, that was fun

I just got an e-mail from Bigfoot informing me that my mailbox had exceeded its quota...but for only $9.95 per quarter, they would increase the quota for me. How thoughtful.

It's spam. I mean, all of it. I've never received anything at that address that wasn't spam.

And for an additional additional charge, they'll run a spam filter on it for me (something Yahoo! does for free).

I can think of another way to solve this problem. I'll bet you can, too.

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking

Today is my birthday. It is also, effectively, the two-year anniversary of this blog. I was too distracted last year to make note of that.

I know, from my referrer logs, that most of my readers Googled in here because of either the Nude Calendar Watch (which I just updated, by the way) or the Julia Sawalha page. That's fine: They're there to be read.

But I also know that some of you are here because you're regular readers, and you have me bookmarked. I'd just like to say, briefly and simply, that I appreciate you. Thanks.

UPDATE: Exactly what I needed to see on my birthday: Janet called me a "young father".

Friday, October 10, 2003

An unadvertised toy sale?

What th...?

KayBee Toys lost a class action suit (having to do with artificially inflated "regular" prices to make their "discount" look bigger than it is), and from Oct 8-14 they have to ring a 30% discount on all sales over $30.

This is on top of whatever sales they were planning to have anyway.

The Friday Five

This week's questions:
1. Do you watch sports? If so, which ones?

I have been known to watch Atlanta Braves baseball. Past that...

2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes?

Well, I guess by default...

3. Are there any sports you hate?

I don't have enough bandwidth.

4. Have you ever been to a sports event?

I've been to Turner Field once. No, twice. Before that, you'd have to go back to high school, when I was in the marching band and we were required to go to every football game.

5. Do/did you play any sports (in school or other)? How long did you play?

Not just no...

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The old school

AJC | Atlanta considers closing pair of schools with falling enrollment
Two Atlanta elementary schools with dwindling enrollments may close next spring, canceling the planned construction of a new building to replace one of them.

...McGill, in the Summerhill neighborhood near Turner Field, had seen its enrollment cut in half over the last three years, to 130. It is now the district's smallest school.

That's come as a surprise to school officials, who expected McGill to both serve growing Summerhill and relieve crowding at nearby Parkside Elementary in Grant Park.

The old McGill building was demolished this summer to make way for construction of a new $12.9 million building with room for 612 students. The old school was deemed expendable because it was too small and was saddled with an out-of-date "open classroom" design.

However, the projected school-age population boom has not taken place in Summerhill, and Parkside has seen its enrollment drop.

School officials stopped construction at the McGill site two months ago, when the district began to seriously evaluate the school's future.

The AJC mentions that McGill's building is gone, but doesn't explain how the school can still be open. McGill is currently occupying a facility recently vacated by Anne E. West Elementary, one of three schools closed two years ago when the new Parkside Elementary opened. They had been anticipating moving back into the newly renovated (rebuilt, actually) McGill next school year. (Ask the Fuller kids about Anne E. West, whose name Thomas used for the pageant in "An Atlanta Christmas".)

The second of the three, Slaton Elementary (my children's old school), was rented by a start-up charter school. A recent fire shut them down. The shell of the building still stands, vacant and unusable. The third, Guice, remains empty.

My son's middle school, King, is down at 75% of capacity. Parkside (my zone's elementary school) is also significantly below its expected enrollment.

There is a lot of new housing going up in the area, but it's all townhomes. It's hard to tell from the outside if the floor plans are kid friendly, but there's no denying the public housing being torn down was packed with kids. We're seeing a lot of new residents, but not so many with school-age kids.

What the AJC doesn't say is that when Atlanta Public Schools starts holding hearings to close a school, it means they've already decided to do it, and it'll take a monumental groundswell of opposition to change their minds. And with 130 kids in a building designed for 300, and McGill not being the only school in that situation, it only makes sense to look at consolidating, if only to save money on facilities upkeep.

And let's not forget those state and federal grants that only kick in if enrollment is above 450, encouraging larger elementary schools. In theory, school systems are locally controlled--but they will do anything, jump through any hoop, to get that matching federal money, so in practice you tell me who actually sets policy.

But I guess this is good news for the charter school people, who are about to see a couple more decent facilities hit the market.

The Thursday Threesome

:: Saturday Morning Cartoons ::
Onesome: Saturday - Is Saturday a day to relax, maybe do something fun, or is it a day spent on the run, chauffeuring kids to activities, yourself to the gym and getting the errands done before it's back to work on Monday? Do you need a day off to rest from your day off? Tell us about your day!

One day's pretty much like another here. Only the destinations vary.

Twosome: Morning - What's different about your weekend morning routine than the other days of the week?

We sleep late... almost 8 am. :)

Threesome: Cartoons - Do you have a favourite one? Do you still watch it and/ or other cartoons?

I have kids in the house: Of course we still watch cartoons. Batman. We'd probably watch "Justice League" if we had cable. And Jackie Chan Adventures is a hoot.

EXTRA: The topic of the week at the Back Porch:
Hey there, what do you think about the Fall Sports Cavalcade? Do you get into the baseball playoffs at all? How about the NFL? ...and hockey is just starting! It sounds as though there's a little something for everyone!


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I feel your pain, Mr Arafat

The Guardian | Arafat has suffered heart attack, admits aide
Officials tried to hide condition of president threatened by Israel
Yasser Arafat has suffered a mild heart attack but the Palestinian leadership has sought to keep his health problems secret for fear it will "create panic".

The 74-year-old Palestinian president, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, disappeared from public view last week and re-emerged at the weekend looking extremely ill. His face was pale and pinched, he had lost weight and he was almost inaudible. He had trouble standing for more than a few minutes at a time.

The Palestinian press said he was suffering from flu. But Palestinian officials told the Guardian that Mr Arafat had suffered a heart attack last week. "Although he has had a slight heart attack, the doctors say he will make a full recovery. He is in full control. There is nothing to worry about," said a close aide to Mr Arafat, who did not wish to be named.
Well, which is it? Is he still in control, or is there nothing to worry about? Can't be both.

We can say with some certainty that the answer to the question "will he transition power gracefully to someone else?" is not in doubt, if it ever was. And that is something to worry about.

Quite aside from the fact that there's no such thing as a "slight heart attack" at age 74.

LATER: I yield to the gentleman from Australia.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Brave new world

Several years ago, we had an Intern who was none too swift. One day she was typing and turned to a secretary and said, "I'm almost out of typing paper. What do I do?"

"Just use copier machine paper," the secretary told her.

With that, the intern took her last remaining blank piece of paper, put it on the photocopier and proceeded to make five "blank" copies.
Oh, my. Does the kitchen cleanser work in the bathroom too?

Monday, October 06, 2003

No safe harbor

You know, I'd been congratulating us.

Up until recently, my ISP has been America Online. After so many years of adequate service (with the occasional bobble, like when they deleted my web page about a year ago) and open derision (one acquaintance flatly told me he would take no one seriously whose e-mail address ended in ""), the spectre of DSL finally possessed the household. My wife no longer has the job that had access to DSL, and she has become (like so many others) spoiled by it.

I didn't spend a lot of time shopping for DSL service. We grabbed a promotion that looked like a good deal, from the same provider she'd had good experience with at work.

So, of course, once we were committed to a year's service, the horror stories began. One page I've browsed to has even gone so far as to render its page unviewable by users served by my provider, due to the nature of their anti-pop-up software.

Apparently we've chosen the only ISP that people hate almost as much as they hate AOL. Sigh.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Read the book

So Reuters doesn't like the WB's new Tarzan.
In the opener, we learn that Tarzan's real name is John and that as a young child he was the soul survivor of a private plane crash in Africa that killed his parents. His father was in charge of Greystoke Industries, which has its own big building with an infinite number of security guards. After his father's death, Greystoke was run by John's evil uncle, Richard Clayton (Mitch Pileggi). Somehow, in ways not yet made clear, the very presence of Tarzan, though he possesses no MBA or takeover skills, is a big threat to Clayton.
Hm. "Soul survivor". Interesting.

You know, there was quite enough family intrigue in the original book. As some of you probably know, Tarzan's real name is John Clayton, and one of the conflicts in the first two books arose from the havoc it would play within his family should he claim his inheritance. Jane was engaged to his cousin William Clayton, who currently bore the title of Lord Greystoke, and even though Tarzan learned, and could prove, that the title was rightfully his...
"The title and the estates meant nothing to me without you, dear," he replied. "And if I had taken them away from him I should have been robbing the woman I love--don't you understand, Jane?"
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those who begrudges every change made when a story is adapted to a different medium. And it's not entirely fair (as the reviewer later points out) to judge this story on the basis of its pilot episode alone (although the WB had to judge whether to continue the story based on little more).

But I am bemused whenever anyone approaches an established classic, known to millions worldwide for decades, and decides that the basic story is broken. I was skeptical when Ron Howard "fixed" the Grinch, and I'm skeptical that WB is capable of "fixing" Tarzan (except, possibly, in the veterinary sense).

I accepted Disney's version of Tarzan because, despite the inevitable pro-environment / anti-gun slant, the essential character seemed right. Did WB do as well? No way to tell from this review.

(I'm speaking of the Disney feature. I haven't seen enough of the animated series to judge it.)

(And, of course, I have little room to talk, having "fixed" Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for ARTC myself. But I'll put my version against anybody's in terms of fidelity to the original story. I didn't even create a love interest, something everyone else seems compelled to do.)


My inner child is forty-five years old today

My inner child is forty-five years old!

I've never really liked children, not even when I
was one. I want things neat, ordered, and
adult--fine wine instead of french fries, pina
coladas by the pool instead of beach sand
between my toes. Now if only my fellow adults
would stop acting like such, well, children!

How Old is Your Inner Child?
brought to you by Quizilla

But... but I don't drink wine, and I love the beach...

Friday, October 03, 2003

Yikes! Nude Calendar Watch update!

Molly Weasley naked!

That ought to scramble my referrer logs...

Actually, it's a delightful interview with Julie Walters (who does indeed play Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter films) in which she discusses, among other things, her nude scene (no, really) in Calendar Girls.

The Friday Five

This week's questions:
1. What vehicle do you drive?

A red Nissan Pathfinder. Yes, I know, one of those evil SUV's.

2. How long have you had it?

A little over a year.

3. What is the coolest feature on your vehicle?

Vehicles have cool features? It runs. That's all I ask.

4. What is the most annoying thing about your vehicle?

The modest dent I put in the front bumper a few weeks ago. I hate that.

5. If money were no object, what vehicle would you be driving right now?

No idea. I don't know one car from another, nor care much. I can barely recognize my own when I'm searching the parking lot for it. Probably something distinctive, like a P T Cruiser, or a Mini-Cooper, or a blue Honda Insight.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I don't expect humility
but what about some good old dishonest modesty

Your IQ score is 144. A person whose IQ score falls in the range of 144-160 is considered to be "gifted".
According to your results, your greatest intellectual strength is Pattern Recogntion.
And I can recognze when "recogntion" is misspelled, too.

The Thursday Threesome

:: The Great American Novel ::
Onesome: Great - Who's the greatest influence in your life? ...and could you write about them? (Hey, it's NaNoWriMo!)

I don't have an answer for the first question, so I guess the answer for the followup is "no". (What's a NaNoWriMo?)

Twosome: American - Who do you consider to be the greatest American writer of all time? Counterpoint: whose books are sitting on your nightstand?

The greatest American writer? Mark Twain. Whose books are on my nightstand? Well, when you get past the daily medicines, and the alarm clock, and the bedside lamp, and the blood pressure cuff, and the book I'm reading to my son ("The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder)... the book that's there at the moment is Heinlein's "Revolt in 2100."

Threesome: Novel - What's your favourite book/novel? Hmmm... What's so special about that one book?

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein. I hope this doesn't surprise anyone: I've made no secret of my affection for it. I find it a delightful, thought-provoking book that I never get tired of reading.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Let's all go to the lobby... | Drive-in movies: The sequel
Alan Ackerman is convinced he has hit on a new growth industry: drive-in movie theaters.

Laugh if you will at the idea of this staple of the Eisenhower era - now a shadow of its former self - having a renaissance. He's not doing it the old way.

For one thing, he's not showing film.

This summer, the Carroll County entrepreneur took the unusual step of opening a digital drive-in, possibly the first in the country to use DVDs instead of 35 mm. His staging area is a large parking lot at the Mason Dixon Dragway southeast of Hagerstown.

...The picture is clear. The sound comes through without a crackle over FM radio. The illusion of times past is somewhat diminished by the SUVs and minivans lined up for double features on the inflatable 50-foot-by-25-foot screen, but Ackerman plays vintage cartoons and intermission clips - digitally remastered.
I was an assistant manager for Storey Theaters (a company which has since been absorbed by Regal Cinemas) when E.T. was new. I worked at the only drive-in theater showing it in Atlanta, possibly anywhere in Georgia, the Glenwood (now, of course, an apartment complex).

The big thing I learned was that, even now, there are moviegoers who would not be caught dead in a walk-in theater (that's what drive-in people call what you're probably thinking of as a "real" theater). Are there enough of them in one place to support a drive-in theater? Well, maybe not a permanent full-time drive-in in the traditional sense. But this modern combination of a digital projector, inflatable screen, and otherwise-unused parking lot is a great way to test the waters. This could work.

The single biggest drawback to drive-in theaters isn't addressed in this article: Daylight Saving Time. It's hard to interest people (especially families, to which this is being marketed) in a double-feature that won't begin until at least 9:30 pm.