Sunday, March 25, 2007

Quote of the month

...or maybe of the year:
Now, when I heard George Bush was reading my emails, I probably had the same reaction you did: George Bush can read?! Yes, he can. And this administration has read your phone records, credit card statements, mail, Internet logs. I can't tell if they're fighting a war on terror or producing the next season of "Cheaters." I mail myself a copy of the Constitution every morning just on the hope they'll open it and see what it says.
- Bill Maher, "New Rules" (Real Time, 3/16/2007)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Damn Right We're Angry

This sums it up rather nicely.
Yes, we’re angry at George W. Bush. We’re not angry at him because of who he sleeps with, and we’re not angry at him because we think he represents some socio-cultural movement we didn’t like 40 years ago, or because he hung out with a different crowd than we did in high school. We’re angry at him because of what he’s done.

It’s true, we don’t like the fact that the most powerful human being on the planet is such a ridiculous buffoon that he can’t put two coherent sentences together without beginning to giggle and shimmy his shoulders. But we’re not angry because we think he’s stupid, we’re angry because he treats us as though we’re stupid. We’re angry that he lied to us, and lied to us and lied to us again. We’re angry that when he lies to us it isn’t because he’s caught up in scandal or got caught doing something he shouldn’t have, it’s part of a carefully constructed plan to fool the public.

Yes, we’re angry about Iraq, and we may be for the rest of our lives. We get angry every day when we open our newspapers and see the photo of another young soldier who died for this, another one maimed for life, another one with a tormented and broken soul. We’re angry about the couple of trillion dollars this war will cost. We’re angry about the thousands of young men around the world have been driven into the arms of al Qaeda, who have decided to devote their lives to killing Americans because of this war. We’re angry about the thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who have died in the orgy of bloodshed we unleashed, and the living too, those whom we said we were coming to “liberate,” but who now find themselves in a suffocating, endless miasma of fear and misery and death.

We’re angry that when we talk about ending this monstrous war, the soulless hypocrites who are glad to send more and more men and women to be scarred and maimed and killed in Iraq have the gall to accuse us of not “supporting the troops.” We’re angry that people whose actions exhibit nothing but contempt for freedom and liberty and justice, who wouldn’t know real patriotism if it came up and smacked them across the face, pin a little flag on their lapel and say that we’re the ones who hate America.

- Paul Waldman,
You tell 'em, Paul. A little righteous indignation now and again is nothing to be ashamed of. It's time more of us stood up and said "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Military Medicine's New Spokesbandage

Meet Ouchie, the Walter Reed Band-Aid!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hagel puts impeachment on the table

You know you're in trouble as president when a prominent member of your own party starts talking up the possibility of impeachment.
In an interview appearing in April editions of Esquire magazine -- set to hit stands next week -- Hagel suggests that President Bush could be subject to calls for impeachment as the Iraq war drags on.

"The president says, 'I don't care.' He's not accountable anymore," Hagel said in the article. "Before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends on how this goes."
If only the Democrats would listen to the mandate they got last November from the majority of Americans who favor impeachment, Hagel could be right.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Listmania: Genre Benders

I've created a "Listmania" list at Amazon of music from my favorite genre - I guess I should say meta-genre. I call my list Genre Benders. It's composed of CDs that are covers of music from one genre (most of them classic rock) done in a different genre than the original (often reggae or bluegrass). I own or have listened to most of these CDs. There are two exceptions, the CDs from the "Pickin' On..." series; I've heard only the samples of those available on Amazon. I have ordered the CDs, so within a few days I'll have heard them in their entirety.

Of course, as an afterthought I checked the iTunes Music Store and found that I could have purchased the "Pickin' On" CDs (at least one of them) there, in which case I'd have the music on my iPod already. Still, this way I'll have the CDs to pass along to friends.

"Pickin' On Zeppelin" (a. k. a. volume I of Pickin' On Led Zeppelin) gets awful reviews at iTMS, but most of the low ratings are from people who went there looking for Led Zeppelin (whose recordings are not available via iTunes). The listener reviews on Amazon are much better (typically 4 or 5 stars). It's all a matter of expectations. I am a huge Zeppelin fan, and have little patience for bluegrass; yet I love what I've heard of this CD. Fortunately the recordings are instrumental (if they were full of twangy bluegrass vocals I wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole) and I find that the Zeppelin tunes seem to translate very well to bluegrass instrumentation.

Anyway, if you have an adventurous nature and an open mind, give some of these CDs a try. You don't have to buy them from Amazon; you can probably get them cheaper on eBay from someone more (a) narrow-minded, (b) discriminating, (c) sane, or (d) all of the above.

Of Lice and Men

I've recently added the RSS feed from to my Google Reader subscriptions, so you'll probably see more stuff from there in Random News, but I had to blog this one because it offered such great headline potential.

It seems analysis of louse DNA offers clues about when we lost our body hair and when we invented clothes.

One of the more embarrassing mysteries of human evolution is that people are host to no fewer than three kinds of louse while most species have just one.

Even bleaker for the human reputation, the pubic louse, which gets its dates and residence-swapping opportunities when its hosts are locked in intimate embrace, does not seem to be a true native of the human body. Its closest relative is the gorilla louse. (Don't even think about it.)

Louse specialists now seem at last to have solved the question of how people came by their superabundance of fellow travelers. And in doing so they have shed light on the two major turning points in the history of fashion: when people lost their body hair, and when they first made clothing.
I should point out, as the Dawkins site does, that this story was first published in the Paper of Record.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Self-Censorship at Sports Illustrated

And now for something completely different... Sports Illustrated bans itself!

So, does this mean SI considers its swimsuit issue indecent? Does it also mean SI considers public and school librarians incompetent to judge what is appropriate material for their shelves?

Or does it merely mean that SI kowtows to the religious right and other prudes?

Come on, Time Warner. They're going to see more skin in your movies, and on your cable channels.

RIAA poised to kill Internet radio

Do you listen to internet radio? I listen regularly to Aural Moon, "the net's progressive rock garden."

But I fear the time to listen to Internet radio may be short if the money-grubbing vermin at the RIAA get their way. They've successfully lobbied the Copyright Office to let them charge Internet radio stations exorbitant rates - much higher than those paid by broadcast and satellite radio stations, which have far larger audiences. In other words, you can play a song for millions of listeners for one price, or for hundreds or thousands of listeners for a higher price - and in many cases the more than ten-fold increase makes the royalties more than the stations' total revenues.

There's still time (only just) to change this and save Internet radio. The move has gotten some attention in Congress. It deserves more. Call or write your representative.

Dubya sings U2!

Georgie Porgie shows us how hip he is. Go on with your bad self, Dub.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Cardinals come back, reach Big East semis

The "instant rivalry" between Louisville and West Virginia, born less than two years ago, got a new chapter tonight.

The rivalry was born in the Elite Eight of the 2005 NCAA tournament, when Louisville - champions in their last season with Conference USA, and about to join West Virginia in the Big East - made an unlikely comeback from 21 points down in the first half and ten points behind with six minutes to play, to win it in overtime and deprive WVU of their first Final Four berth since 1959.

In the fall of the same year, the Mountaineers pulled off an equally unlikely comeback on the gridiron, overcoming a 24-7 third-quarter deficit to defeat the Cardinals 46-44 in triple overtime.

Last fall the Cards returned the favor, upsetting then #3 West Virginia en route to U of L's first Big East football championship and BCS bowl appearance.

Tonight it looked like it would be West Virginia's turn. Behind by 17 points in the second half, the 'Neers scored 18 straight points to take their first lead of the game, and it was nip and tuck from there through the end of the second half. West Virginia scored what appeared to be the winning basket with 4.3 seconds left, but Louisville freshman Edgar Sosa had other plans. He took the inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the court, split three defenders at the foul line, and hit a layup to send the game to overtime.

Five minutes later it was tied again, but the Cards took over in the second extra frame to win going away, 82-71.

This is a very special Louisville team. Picked 6th in the Big East before the start of the season, they appeared at one point to be in jeopardy of being quite a bit worse. Their injury-plagued 7-4 start included losses to Dayton and Massachusetts. They lost at home to a sub-par Kentucky team by as many points (12) as they beat tiny Bellarmine.

They hit bottom with back-to-back conference losses to Villanova and Georgetown in February. The latter, Louisvlle's 13th straight loss to a ranked opponent, dropped them to 16-8 overall and 6-4 in the Big East, casting considerable doubt on their post-season prospects and spoiling the night they christened the Freedom Hall floor "Denny Crum Court."

They haven't lost a game since.

They got back on the winning track with a blowout at home over South Florida, then won by 13 at #5 Pittsburgh. Next up was 12th-ranked Marquette, who had dispatched the Cards with relative ease at Freedom Hall in January. The Cardinals got up off the mat three times to take this one and break into the AP Top 25 for the first time this season, at #20. The Cards closed out the season with three more wins and entered the Big East tourney as the #2 seed, with their AP ranking improving to #12.

Tomorrow night, Pitt will be looking for revenge. If the Cardinals clear that hurdle, Georgetown or Notre Dame will be waiting in the finals. I don't like to jinx my team with brazen predictions, but there is something about this bunch I just can't resist. It says here Louisville will win the Big East tournament championship, and take a top-ten ranking to the big dance.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

This is just too funny

Jon Stewart and Al Franken between them couldn't have made this up...


Ever wonder why people who get their information about the world from Fox News are demonstrably more ignorant than people who get their news elsewhere?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Swiss invade Lichtenstein!

Mother Jones Blog called this "without question, the best story of the day." Abandoning years of neutrality, the Swiss accidentally invaded the tiny principality of Lichtenstein when a (badly needed, I guess) training operation went off course and the troops marched about a mile over the unmarked border.

Various punch lines are among the reader comments at Wonkette.

Now that's what I call fine print

I saw a banner ad on a college sports website today. It was animated, as far too many web ads are. It said:

Book the NCAA® Final Four® Package

And then it said:

Your Chance to Randomly Win VIP Seats to the 2008 NCAA® Men's Final Four®


The NCAA® Final Four® Package Starting From $89

Then came the fine print. There's a representative sample above; click on it for a look at the whole thing in actual size.

This is wrong on so many levels.

First, "final four" is a descriptive term for the semifinals of a single-elimination bracket tournament. How could the NCAA get away with registering it as a trademark? (They also claim trademarks on such phrases as "The Road to Atlanta" and "The Road to San Antonio.")

Second, why does an organization whose "purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount," need to register the abbreviation of its name as a commercial trademark?

And finally, how does anybody get away with the obfuscation of so much legally required information? It's bad enough when they put misleading commercials on TV that show paragraphs of fine-print disclosures for fractions of a second, so that you have to record and freeze them in order to read them. This stuff isn't legible at all, no matter how much time you have to look at it!

As near as I can make out, it says:
By entering this contest, you sign over to the sponsors the right to use your likeness and name for any purpose they choose, without compensation to you of any kind. No purchase is necessary to enter, because we're not allowed to require that, but we're figuring you won't bother reading this notice and will fork over $89 for about $50 worth of goods and services plus a minuscule chance of winning tickets to next year's national championship. Speaking of minuscule chances, the exact odds depend on the number of entries, but our reliable estimates say that you have about as much chance of winning the grand prize as you have of spitting off the top of the Empire State Building and hitting a Coke can on the sidewalk two blocks away; otherwise you won't get anything worth the annoying spam you'll receive for the next five years by virtue of having established a "relationship" with us by taking this bait, other than the dubious value of this overpriced "package."
Whatever it says, I'm sure they put that fine print there because they're legally required to, and not because they actually want you to read it. But if they're required to show it, shouldn't they be required to make it legible? There's no way this is in compliance with the spirit, if even the letter, of whatever laws or regulations require that they show it in the first place. But do you think the FTC, or whatever government agency supposedly enforces such regulations, will call them on it? Yeah. Me neither.

By the way, I tried clicking the "Package details" button in the ad. It led to a Radisson Hotels website that was "temporarily closed for maintenance." Go figure.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cards spoil Boeheim's 1000th

The basketball Cardinals got a quality win last night, coming back from 14 down with less than 10 minutes left to beat Syracuse by 5 in Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's 1000th game. They outscored the Orange 25-6 in those closing minutes. The win boosts the Cards into a 3-way tie for second place in the Big East, where they were predicted to finish 6th.

Maybe Louisville hasn't completely turned into a football school after all.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Meet your meat

If this doesn't turn you into a vegetarian, it will surely make you think about switching to free-range meats.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Progressives are tired of "Republican Lite" Democrats. Elected with a mandate to end the Iraq war and restore accountability to the federal government, the Democratic leadership appears set to do neither. Whether cowed by the right wing or cozying up to corporate sponsors, the DLC shows very little promise of doing what the people elected them to do. Instead, it's business as usual. The PNAC may have disbanded in disgrace, the K Street Project may be out of favor, but the foxes are still guarding the henhouse.

This is not what we had in mind when we voted Democratic:
Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi terrified the oil industry late last year when she outlined her priorities for the new Democratic majorities in Congress. Within the first 100 hours, she promised, they would "roll back the multibillion-dollar subsidies for Big Oil."

Last week, however, when Pelosi (D-San Francisco) won House approval of the much-touted bill socking it to the oil companies, it turned out to be considerably less drastic than many in the industry originally feared. Out of an estimated $32 billion in subsidies and tax breaks that the oil companies are scheduled to receive over the next five years, the final House bill cut $5.5 billion.
Just one more sign that the Democratic whores are in bed with the same corporate clients as the GOP whores. I swear, if they nominate Hillary, I'm voting Green in '08.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shed a Little Light

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

Shed a little light, oh lord
So that we can see
Just a little light, oh lord
Wanna stand it on up
Stand it on up, oh lord
Wanna walk it on down
Shed a little light, oh lord

Can’t get no light from the dollar bill
Don’t give me no light from a tv screen
When I open my eyes
I wanna drink my fill
From the well on the hill

(do you know what I mean? )

Shed a little light, oh lord
So that we can see
Just a little light, oh lord
Wanna stand it on up
Stand it on up, oh lord
Wanna walk it on down
Shed a little light, oh lord

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

Oh, let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood

"Shed a Little Light"
James Taylor

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I'm not ready for the life of a retiree yet - but it's good to know that when the day comes, I'll have something to do. Like Joyce Emery, the 63-year-old cofounder of Green Seniors ("Environmental Action. Age No Limit").

On her own Green Granny blog, Joyce offers some sage advice on first steps toward getting green. Although it's written from the perspective of a senior citizen in the American midwest, it applies to would-be conservationists of all ages and in all places. The first step is learning. Then start making small changes in the way you do things - and don't think you have to be perfectly green beofre you start taking other action. "Just do the best that you can and keep searching and learning," she writes.

Joyce and others like her are helping blaze the trail for the rest of us to follow towards a sustainable economy for our children and their children, and the generations to come. As the old Chinese proverb says, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We have a long way to go; we'd best get steppin'.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tributes to Dark Side, from all sides

It's not the best selling album of all time, but it may be the most covered. Sure, the Beatles' "Yesterday" is the most covered song ever, but how many Beatle albums have been covered in their entirety?

Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of the Moon has been, repeatedly.

A few years ago, after hearing an excerpt on NPR, I bought a copy of Dub Side Of the Moon by the Easy Star All Stars. As the name implies, it's a reggae/dub version by the Easy Star label's stable of artists. Pretty cool. Surprising how well some of the tunes translated to the reggae idiom. And they even made it Wizard Of Oz compatible. I was impressed!

Then last week I heard about Dark Side Of the Moon A Cappella, from a group of artists on the Vocomotion a cappella label. This one is so faithful to the original that when I loaded the CD on my computer, iTunes mistook it for Pink Floyd! (Someone told me that iTunes - or the Gracenote CDDB, which iTunes queries - identifies CDs by the number and lengths of the tracks.) Incredibly, these folks (who also say their recording is Wiz compatible, and even throw in a couple of musical allusions for those who are paying attention) recreate many of the synthesized, layered, electronically altered sounds of the original using no instruments and few if any studio effects. I'm not sure which is more impressive: that they did such a great job, or that the 1973 original merits such attention.

The other recorded cover (which I have not heard) is by the Squirrels, a self-described "bubble gum-punk" band out of Seattle. Jam bands Phish and moe have both performed DSOTM in its entirety in Halloween concerts.

Geez! What's next, a country version of The Wall?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Hello! Steve wows 'em at MWSF

Apple (which is to say Steve Jobs) finally announced the long-awaited iPhone today at MacWorld San Francisco, and it's a safe bet it exceeded everyone's expectations in all but one way. It's available only to Cingular subscribers. (That leaves me out in the cold for the next couple of years, since I just re-upped with Verizon in order to get a new phone. What a mistake Verizon has been for me, but that's another story for another time.)

The iPhone is an impressive piece of gear: a widescreen iPod, an innovative cell phone, and an OS X computer with full-fledged email (including "push IMAP" a la BlackBerry) and web browser. Apple is partnering with both Google and Yahoo! to provide customized content for the device.

Even though I can't use it for awhile, I have to say I'm impressed. Jobs didn't need his fabled Reality Distortion Field today. The iPhone is plenty spectacular enough as it is.

Back, in black

Thanks to all who expressed sympathy over the demise of my PowerBook G4. Your heartfelt condolences made me feel a lot better.

But not as good as my trip to the Apple Store.

I came home with a sleek black MacBook, which I'll be playing with - er, exploring and evaluating over the next few days. I'm interested to see how many of my favorite shareware titles are available for the Intel platform. On paper this thing is wicked fast. I'm going from a single 1.33 GHz processor to dual 2 GHz, with faster graphics, a bigger, brighter display, and a bigger, faster hard drive. I'm taking the day off work tomorrow (well, today, since it's past midnight) to continue my examination and to watch Steve do his thing in San Francisco. I think it's going to be an enjoyable day.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Another Cardinal coach flies the coop

I guess it was bound to happen. Fresh from an Orange Bowl victory, amid whisperings of a possible national championship next season, and just a few months after declaring that he was at the University of Louisville "for the long haul," Bobby Petrino is hauling ass to Atlanta to take over as head coach of the Falcons.

Some guys just don't know when they've got it good. Petrino was king of the Bluegrass. He was already making more money than he'll ever spend, and he was turning the home of Peck Hickman, Denny Crum, Wes Unseld and Darrell "Doctor Dunkenstein" Griffith into a football school. (Well, he had some help in that. More later.)

You might think he would have learned something from his predecessors. Lee Corso left for the Big 10 and was a collossal flop at Indiana. Howard Schnellenberger left for Oklahoma, where he was run out of town on a rail. John L. Smith infamously negotiated a deal with Michigan State via cell phone on the sidelines of his own Cardinal team's bowl game, and is now unemployed. Petrino will likely suffer the same fate in the pros. The life expectancy of an NFL coach is not very long.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals figure to lose some key players to the NFL draft. Junior QB Brian Brohm is projected to be a first-round (possibly #1 overall) draft pick. Senior running back Michael Bush, a legitimate Heisman contender until he broke his leg in the first game of last season, had applied for a medical redshirt year. Receiver Mario Urrutia had already made up his mind to forgo the draft so he could play at U of L with his little brother, who was coming to play for Petrino. The Louisville faithful were hoping all three would return for a run at the national title. Now, unless AD Tom Jurich pulls a rabbit out of his hat before the NFL draft deadline, not many will be surprised to see them all bolt for the big bucks.

Still, you can't put all the blame on Bobby. Jurich is reaping what he has sown. He's getting the same kind of loyalty from his coaches as he showed some of their predecessors - for example, Hall of Fame basketball coach Denny Crum. A couple of years after back-to-back Sweet 16 and Elite Eight seasons, Crum was unceremoniously dumped for Rick Pitino, who to his credit did manage an unexpected Final Four aperance - before moving to the Big East and failing to make the conference tournament last year. This year's edition of the Pitino Express doesn't figure to do a whole lot better. They're unlikely to make the NCAA tournament, and may even fail to make the Big East tournament again. And by my figuring Rick has about one more season to get things turned around before his boss lowers the boom.

As for Petrino, Jurich will bring in a replacement, and probably sooner rather than later. He claims always to have the next coach in mind, and he knows he needs to move quickly. Whether it will be an attractive enough name, and soon enough, to prevent massive player defections remains to be seen. There are names circulating already on the rumor boards, some from other colleges, some from the NFL (even New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick figures in some of the pipe dreams). But the chances of Jurich keeping any coach longer than about 5 years are slim. If they don't live up to TJ's expectations, they'll be sent packing; and if they do, they figure to get while the getting's good. That's the only mindset you can afford to have when you work for the George Steinbrenner of college athletics.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Thinking globally, acting locally

After watching An Inconvenient Truth, I resolved to do something every day about global warming, and to post progress reports on my blog. Except I didn't have a blog. But now I do. So I will.

Since making that decision, I resolved to start recycling paper, glass, plastic, and tin and aluminum cans. Living out in the sticks as I do, that's not as easy as putting the recycling bin out front on collection day. I have to cart the stuff to the recycling station myself. But that's a small price to pay when you consider what's at stake. I've been seeing a PSA on television that says the energy saved by recycling a single glass bottle is enough to run my TV for an hour. I guess we need to recycle at least 24 bottles a day then, because that's about how many hours the blasted thing is on.

Yesterday I went to the county dump. I had gotten tired of waiting for the trash to be picked up by the people we pay to do that; they hadn't shown up since about a week before Christmas, and the cans were overflowing. So I hauled the trash to the dump myself, and took along a large box of paper (mostly boxes left over from Santa's visit) for recycling. I hadn't yet accumulated enough of the other stuff to bother taking it. I did make one pleasant discovery, though - I won't have to separate the glass from the plastic from the cans. They all go in the same bin anyway! So now instead of three separate cans for that stuff, I have one. It's filling up pretty quickly, too, although it won't if I start squashing everything before it goes in there like I should.

Today I went through the trash in the kitchen and pulled out a number of plastic and glass bottles and an aluminum can, and walked them out to the garage where I'm keeping the recycling. Hopefully I'll get the family trained soon not to discard what can be recycled, but until we all get in the habit, I'll have to follow behind them.

I've made several trips to the garage with individual bottles since then. It's a longer walk than the kitchen trash can, but hey, I can use the exercise. I need to drop about a hundred pounds anyway. (Yes, a hundred. Really.)


A year and a half after partially passing a four-foot drop test, my PowerBook has finally given up the ghost. The hard drive is failing, and the system won't boot. So now I'm chained to my desktop.

The good news is that I was able to fire it up in Target Disk Mode and copy most of the contents to my desktop machine. The bad news is that unless I get ambitious and install the hard drive out of my daughter's old iBook (whose display failed a similar drop test some time ago), the PowerBook is kaput.

Getting a new MacBook or MacBook Pro is not an entirely unpleasant prospect, and even without this new impetus, could have been justified by my career situation - I'm probably about to enter the ranks of itinerant IT workers, and may have need of a machine that can boot the Operating System From Hell - but I hadn't planned on making that investment just yet. But what's a guy to do? Have you seen the smartphone commercial where the guy is "lost without it"? That's what I feel like without my wireless laptop.

Friday, January 5, 2007

iWeb? Maybe next year

So MacWorld San Francisco is upon us, and rumors are flying about new products from tablet computers to telephones to terrific new software. Me, I'm just hoping they improve the blogging features in iLife. I just bought iLife '06 because of the claims that iWeb, one of its components, could be used for blogs; hopefully, if that's more true of iWeb '07 than it was of iWeb '06, I'll be able to get a free (or at least discounted) upgrade.

Here's one glaring example of how insanely great iWeb isn't: let's say you create a blog and call it "Cheeseburger Soup." The main page of the blog comes from a template file, which by default has a big headline reading "My Blog." You can change it pretty easily to read "Cheeseburger Soup," but that doesn't change what shows up on the individual pages for your entries. Instead, every new entry gets a page with "My Blog" at the top. And every time you post to your blog, you have to override that. It's all determined by the template, which is written in XML and not designed for manual editing. Sure, you can change the template if you want to wade through a huge amount of XML - but that's about as simple and straightforward as trying to redecorate your living room by hiring a blind painter and giving him written instructions in classical Greek.

Apple is supposed to be the company that makes things easy. The whole point of blogging is to make it easy to maintain an online journal. Hopefully Apple will see the light and make it a little easier to blog with the iWeb in iLife '07 than it is with the iWeb in iLife '06. In the meantime, I've come back to Blogger.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Take me back to Random Canyon!

I have no idea what is going to go into this blog, but let's start with a snippet of the song after which it is named. I first heard the tune in a coffeehouse in Louisville, Kentucky. The guy who sang it credited it to Dave van Ronk - who indeed has recorded it, but as it turns out, did not write it. It was penned by Peter Stampfel, who also recorded the song with the Holy Modal Rounders.

I sang the song for years while doing bar gigs in Louisville. It is a pleasantly insane piece of work; although I have never heard van Ronk's version, I can imagine that he sang it a lot like Mike Potter taught it to me back at the Oval Door. The first verse goes like this:

Take me back to Random Canyon,
Where the gryphon's always riffin'
And the unicorn is horny in the spring;
Where the crystal coyote crawls
Over sleepy garden walls,
And the wireless wombat wanders on the wing...

I've long been a fan of the Holy Modal Rounders and I knew they had recorded the song, but not until I was researching this post did I realize that theirs was the original. I'm gonna write Stampfel and see if I can get his permission to post the full lyrics on here.

Anyway, the name appealed to me because of the anticipated randomness of topics I expect to cover, and because it is an obscure musical reference to a really clever song.