Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What, me worry?

A fascinating cover story in the latest issue of Time looks at why people tend to worry about some things that are remote possibilities, while ignoring risks that are probabilities.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Ancient World of Modern Design

Charles and Ray Eames were a husband and wife team, a pair of powerhouse designers whose influence on design in general and modernism in specific is both significant and enduring. Many of their designs are still best-sellers, still pinnacles of modernism. They also produced and directed several dozen short films, some of which I saw this summer at a mini-festival inside a Design Within Reach store. I blogged about it at the time.

Seeing the films at the DWR store motivated me to rent the complete collection (six discs) of the Eames film oeuvre, and I've been watching them from time to time. (Always looking for inspiration on more effective ways of communicating a message.) In addition to some fascinating short films introducing mathematical concepts to young people, tonight's disc included "the fiberglass chairs: something of how they get the way they are". Although the film was made in 1970, it's fascinating to see how the world of how designs are created and shared, and then brought into physical reality has changed in 36 years. There are no computers in the film -- drawings are created using compasses, protractors and French curves. Workers pull raw fiberglass blanks from the forming molds by hand. Color is poured into the fibers from small pans filled with paint. Handwork is present at almost every step of the process.

On one hand, I can see how technologies in the worlds of design and manufacturing have greatly increased productivity. On the other, there is a certain nostalgia associated with watching things of beauty being formed in such a physically immediate fashion. The hands-on nature of creating something real simply permeates this film, and is what made it vastly compelling to me.

Keep an eye on this

An editorial in today's New York Times discusses some voting irregularities in a Florida county; irregularities that likely swayed the election in favor of the Republican candidate. Because the voting was done electronically, with no paper trail, there are few option for registrars. I was first made aware of this incident through a post on Andrew Sullivan's blog. I'm not out looking for conspiracies, but I think electronic voting, as currently implemented, makes it far too easy for unscrupulous politicians with the right connections to manipulate results. We can't be complacent with out liberty. Keep an eye on this sort of story, and be prepared to act if necessary.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Playing the Wii


Nintendo has a new game console: the Wii. Unlike the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, the Wii differentiates itself through its unique interface. You hold a small controller, and a sensor picks up the movement from the controller. So to play tennis, you swing the controller like a racket. To play golf, you swing it like a club. To fight the bad guys in "Legend of Zelda," one controller becomes your sword and another your shield. I first heard of the concept some 13 years ago, and wrote about it in a Wired magazine article.

Save yourself...

...from the horror that is "For Your Consideration." I'd LOVED Christopher Guest's previous movies ("This is Spinal Tap" "A Mighty Wind" "Best in Show") -- because they made me laugh. Hard. Often. This latest debacle made me titter twice and laugh hard just once. I got much better laughs (and far more entertainment) out of the new Bond movie, "Casino Royale."

What I'm Thankful For

The health of my family
Golf
The digital video recorder
Allison Janney
The U.S. Constitution
The Internet
Manhattan
Kings full of queens
Andrew Sullivan's blog
Dishwashers
Science
My ticket broker

Hope you all have a great day!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Guilty Pleasure

Several months ago, I noticed a program that kept popping up on the cable TV on-screen guide: "DaVinci's Inquest." Since I began noticing it about the same time that the film of "The DaVinci Code" was being released, I thought the two were somehow related. Was it about some renaissance inquisition into Leonardo?

Turns out the show is a Canadian police drama set in Vancouver, revolving around the work of the city's coroner, Dominick DaVinci. DaVinci is a straight-talking, no-nonsense pragmatist whose business draws him into the drama of the local police, investigators and politicians. Sort of a mash-up of "Quincy, M.E." (remember that Jack Klugman vehicle?) and "Fargo." Though DVI is often pedestrian, there are occasional moments of almost transcendent truth that just burst out from the story. One happened in the first episode I watched, so I watched again. And there was another.

On the most recent episode, there is a lovely moment when Da Vinci is being shown the body of a 12-year old boy who'd been run over by a freight train. The cops on the scene watch as he begins to perform his duties. But he seems hesitant. It's slight, but it's there. Then he stands and says quietly and matter-of-factly, "Boy, this is really somethin'. This is a heartbreaker...you're gonna have to give me a second here." It was just so human and lovely. And they happen sort of regularly. Another episode, usually another moment. Sometimes two. Sometimes zero. But so far enough to keep me watching.

Me and (apparently) a lot of really old people. Here is a partial list of sponsors:

Diabetic Supply of America
VESIcare (for "frequent bladder urges")
Bristol Myers/Squibb (for "peripheral artery disease")
Rascal Scooters (not Vespas, electric wheelchairs)
AARP

Still, there's something quite compelling about watching a cop drama that is so different from the CSI or Law & Order franchises. Give it a try. It's on WGN every day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Golf Week - Day Five

There are days when you go to the golf course and everything just feels right. The tempo is there, you're making good contact, the bounces go your way... Today was not one of those days.

Today's total score: 47-53=100 (Played from the 6615 yard tees.)
Fairways hit: 10 of 13
Greens in regulation: 1
Total putts: 35
Average shot quality: 5.8 (Front nine 5.8, back nine 5.9)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Golf Week - Day Four

A most interesting day on the course. Last year, through a friend of mine here in Palm Springs, I met a guy who's a teaching pro in Wisconsin, but spends his winters here. He plays with a group of gay golfers and has invited me on several occasions to join them. Today I finally did. Wow. First of all, a very nice group of guys, but I was by far the worst golfer in our foursome. In addition to the Wisconsin pro, there was another (retired) teaching pro, plus the winner of the gold medal in golf at the Out Games (and a succcessful Canadian amateur in non-gay competition). The medal winner shot a 68 or 69. The Wisconsin pro hadn't played in a month, and probably shot in the low 80s. The other pro was probably mid-70s. I shot a 92. But not so bad considering I played with them from the 6615-yard tees, as opposed to the 6120-yard tees I'd played from on the previous two days at this course. Intimidating to play with these guys, but after a couple of holes I settled down a bit. Hit it quite well off the tee (at least in the fairway, if not incredibly long.) If I'd played from the shorter tees, I would have likely made more greens in regulation. And if a few extra putts had dropped, I would have broken 90. So overall, I feel pretty good about the round.

Here's the rundown:

Today's total score: 46-46=92
Fairways hit: 13 of 13
Greens in regulation: 2
Total putts: 31
Average shot quality: 6.57 (Front nine 6.3, back nine 6.8)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Golf Week - Day Three

Today was a day of unrealized potential. I started relatively well, with a bogey on the first, which happens to be the number one handicap hole on the course, then followed it with a double bogey, then a par and another double. For the next few holes I settle down into a pretty good rhythm: bogey, par, birdie, bogey, bogey, par, bogey, bogey, bogey. I was hitting almost every fairway (11 of 13), and took only 14 putts on the front side. But after a good drive that fell back into a bunker in the middle of the 14th fairway, I proceeded to go triple bogey, bogey, triple bogey and double, finally recovering with a par on 18. I should have easily broken 90 today, if not for those blow-up holes on the back nine. Ah well, tomorrow is another day. (The birdie, by the way, was a thing of beauty. I visualized a drive that would start left and fade back between two fairway bunkers. This being a 270 yard hole, I was left with a 60-yard pitch that I stuck to five feet. Put the putt straight in the back of the cup. Huzzah!)

Today's total score: 42-49=91
Fairways hit: 11 of 13
Greens in regulation: 4
Total putts: 33
Average shot quality: 6.33 (Front nine 6.5, back nine 6.2)

A "think tank for thinking" - what a concept!

An interesting article from today's Washington Post, discussing the formation of a think tank designed to promote rational thought and reliance on scientific discourse in the creation of public policy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Golf Week - Day Two

Welcome to Day Two of golf week! Today's round was at Mesquite Golf Club, an underrated Palm Springs course. Althought the layout is pretty boring, the course was in great shape and service was terrific. Overall, I played about as well as yesterday -- though I struck the ball better yesterday and played a somewhat better short game today.

Here's the wrap-up:
Today's total score: 47-47=94
Fairways hit: 7 of 14
Greens in regulation: 3
Total putts: 33
Average shot quality: 6.4 (Front nine 6.39, back nine 6.41)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Golf Week - Day One

Welcome to my golf week! After spending the weekend in LA for Bob's sister's wedding (a wonderful occassion, and the weekend included star sightings of Allison Janney, Jeremy Piven, Mick Jagger and Faye Dunaway), we are in Palm Springs where I will play golf for the next five days. You, should you decide to hang on for all five days, will get a report of each round.

Today's round (as will be the rounds on Thursday, Friday and Saturday) was at Escena Golf Club. I tried something new in order to keep track of the quality of the round. In addition to monitoring total score, fairways hit, greens in regulation and number of putts, I am assigning a single number (from 0-10) for the quality of each shot I hit. A perfect shot would be 10, a swing and a miss would be zero. Great shots get 8s or 9s, middling shots 6s or 7s, fair to poor shots go from 5 to 1.

Today's total score: 48-47=95
Fairways hit: 8 of 13
Greens in regulation: 2
Total putts: 34
Average shot quality: 6.1 (Front nine 5.79, back nine 6.43)

Overall, I struck the ball relatively well, but putted poorly and made some short game mistakes that cost me. Tomorrow I play a lower-end course, Mesquite Golf Club. I'll keep you informed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Marriage Seems Safe in Massachusetts

Despite efforts of the religious right (have the Foley/Haggard affairs taught them nothing, at least in terms of timing?), the Massachusetts legislature will not take the first steps to institute an amendment to the commonwealth's constitution to overturn same-sex marriage. You can read the New York Times story here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld Finally Goes!

Big Don, chief architect of the fiasco, is being given the Rum's Bush...I mean the bum's rush. Here is the CNN story. Best quote: "Bush said he had "a series of thoughtful conversations" with Rumsfeld about the defense secretary's resignation." In other words, "you screwed the pooch, and lost us the election by talking me into standing by you."

One more step forward.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Wave Continues

As the evening progresses, Democrats continue to take seats in the House, having taken control of that body earlier this evening. However, simply because liberal Nancy Pelosi will be the first female speaker does not, in my opinion, suggest that this election is a liberal victory. To the contrary, I think the election is actually a victory for true conservatism -- small government, individual liberty conservatism. Perhaps even more than that, it's been a referendum on Iraq. America has clearly stated that we need a change of direction.

The Senate is still up in the air, with three seats still in play. However, it doesn't look good for the Dems, as they must win all three. Montana is trending toward the Democrat Jon Tester, but it's still early. Claire McKaskill is now up, but the difference is tight. The Webb/Allen race will likely not be decided for days or weeks.

Perhaps my favorite bit of good news is that the anti-same-sex marriage amendment seems to be going down to defeat in Arizona. If it had passed, I was promising myself I would boycott the state as a tourism destination, which would be a bitter pill to swallow, as Arizona is the home of one of my favorite golf courses.

First Great News of the Night

Rick Santorum is gone! The Pennsylvania homophobe and general idiot has been defeated.

Monday, November 06, 2006

FREEDOM!!!

You have to love YouTube. (Well, I guess you don't HAVE to, but I do.) Here's someone who took simple video editing software and created a powerful reminisence of the failures and horrors of the Bush administration, set to George Michael's "Freedom '90," making the song more powerful than ever.

One Breath

This is a great political ad.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

From Cocktail Napkin (almost) to Reality

In fine art, a sketch of a proposed work -- even from a lesser artist -- can be an object of art itself. Sketches can be, and often are, sold as art. In design, sketches are more transitory, especially in the design of three-dimensional objects. A sketch of a portrait can still be framed and hung on your wall and approximate the experience of that art relatively well. But you can't sit in a sketch of a chair -- or can you?


This is a fascinating bit of footage. 3:26 in length, but you need to watch all the way to the end to get the full impact.

Well said, Andrew Sullivan

I was planning to comment on Ted Haggard's confession, but I think Andrew Sullivan has said almost exactly what I feel. Worth a read.

"Shaken Nation Syndrome"

The following quote is from Larry Stockstill, pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana and member of the Overseer Board of New Life Church, where Ted Haggard was minister just last Sunday. Stockstill (which, by the way, seems a perfect name for a fundamentalist) is reacting to the statement by Ted Haggard admitting that, despite his statements over the past few days to the contrary, he is "guilty of sexual immorality."

"What's going to happen in the nation? You know what? I don't think that's your concern or mine," Stockstill said. "God is a holy God and he chose this incredibly important timing for this sin to be revealed, and I actually think it's a good thing. I believe America needs a shaking, spiritually." Personally, I'd tell Stockstill that evangelicals have been giving this nation a shaking of the sort that some very violent and abusive mothers dish out. Larry, America has had enough shaking. For that matter, it's had enough of the spanking and scolding and self-righteous judgment that so many of your ilk dish out. Spiritually, what America needs right now is to have its diaper changed. That we can do Tuesday.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

From the "knock me over with a feather" Department

As you can read here, the New Life Church has decided to dismiss Ted Haggard. What's most interesting about the decision is that the board cited "sexually immoral conduct" as the reason. Just getting a massage, even from a gay man, probably doesn't count as sexually immoral conduct, even for evangelicals. Which means the board didn't buy his story, either.

My favorite quote is from the last paragraph of the story: "This doesn't make what Ted accomplished here any less," said church member Christine Reyes, 47. "The farther up you are, the more you are a target for Satan.""

Do you suppose this means Bush is even higher on Beelzebub's "people to tempt today" list? I would have thought Cheney or Rove, but clearly Satan has already got to them, so that leaves George.

Feeling Haggard

Friday was a long day of reading and waiting for news about the latest Christianist hypocrite to learn the lesson that no one in power seems to be able to learn: there are no more secrets. Privacy is a relic of the past. Shit smells, which makes it easy to notice.

I want to feel compassion for Ted Haggard, and on one level I do. I know how easy (and how hard) it is to maintain a facade of a conventional life in order to avoid disappointing the people you love. The closet is an awful place to live, but our society -- especially its churches -- have made them the only viable housing option for millions of Americans. Spend your childhood being told that the way you feel is an abomination that will lead to eternal suffering and see how easy it is to express those feelings. So Ted Haggard started off in a bad place. And now he's made it worse.

But my compassion is also tempered by a pretty good-sized chunk of rage. This man didn't just actively lie to his family, he took it upon himself to persecute the very group of people to which he belongs. He's not the first by any means: Mark Foley, Roy Cohn...I'm sure many more could be found. Any group that is persecuted is bound to have a few members who swear fealty to the persecuters in order to avoid the lash. But it doesn't make what he did any less despicable.

Let's recap where things stand now, Saturday.

• On Wednesday morning, Mark Jones, one time rent boy (but being in his mid-40s at the time, I hardly "boy" is a fitting appelation), goes on a Denver radio station and claims he had a three-year client-ho relationship with Ted Haggard, head of Colorado's largest Christian church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, one of the largest church groups in the country. He further claims he witnessed Haggard snorting crystal meth.

• On Thursday, Haggard denies everything. Jones fails one part of a lie detector test, but the test administrator says Jones was too exhausted for the results to be conclusive.

• Friday, Haggard gets caught by a KUSA news crew and admits that he knew Mark Jones, had bought crystal meth but never used it (a most creative update of "I didn't inhale"), and that Jones was merely a massage therapist recommended by a hotel in Denver.

What surprises me most is how unprepared Haggard was. Actually "unprepared" is not the right word. "Stupid" is a better word. Did he stop to think for even 20 seconds that it was unlikely that a hotel concierge would recommend as a massage therapist a male prostitute who advertised on rentboy.com?

Then there's the fact that he's more willing to admit engaging in illegal activity (buying drugs) than he is to being gay. For all the progress the LGBT community has made in the past 50 years, that's a pretty frightening example of how much farther we have to go.

Right now I'd love to hear what's going on in the back rooms of evangelical power. (Remember when churches were about fostering spiritual life and personal improvement and not about seeking political clout and influencing civil government? Whatever happened to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's"?) What are Dobson and Falwell and Robertson saying to each other right now? My guess is someone is making a quiet personal visit to Haggard and telling him to get his ass into a very private rehab center (maybe he can room with Foley) and shut the fuck up until after Tuesday.

More lies from Ted Haggard

This is from Ted Haggard's book, "Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century":

"I want my finances in order, my kids trained, and my wife to love life. I want good friends who are a delight and who provide protection for my family and me should life become difficult someday . . . I don't want surprises, scandals, or secrets . . . I want stability and, at the same time, steady, forward movement."

Oops.

Need a laugh?

Worried about Iraq? Mid-term elections? Rampant hypocrisy? The fact that no one break dances any more? Then watch this and laugh along.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yet More Hypocrisy

Another evangelical leader shows having Jesus in your heart doesn't necessarily mean you can keep your johnson in your pants. Ted Haggard is a major national figure, and he is alleged to have carried on a relationship with a rent boy for three years. The first story is here. More to come, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

An Apology for Kerry

If you haven't read, John Kerry made a major gaffe on Monday. Trying to attack Bush, he ended up sounding like he was disparaging the troops. (This guy can't be content to lose one election, he wants to go for two.)

Not that I think it will help much, as I think Kerry truly believes that military service is a career path for the less academically gifted, but perhaps he should say something like:

"On Monday, I showed that my aim with a joke is sometimes no better than Dick Cheney's aim with a shotgun. However, unlike our current administration, I can recognize when I've made a mistake and make the changes necessary to get back on the right course. While I meant to impugn President Bush's prosecution of the war in Iraq, I unintentionally called into question the intellect, talent and bravery of the men and women who serve valiantly in this wrong-headed war. For this, I deeply and sincerely apologize. America has the world's best fighting force -- specifically BECAUSE many of our most talented and intelligent men and women choose to serve their country. The point I was TRYING to make was that such a talented and motivated fighting force deserves better than the fiasco in Iraq to which our current president has sent them."

Welcome to November -- Now Smell Better

Check this out. Gum that does more than freshen your breath -- about an hour after chewing, its aroma begins to be emitted from your pores. So very Japanese!