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Goodbye and good luck

Friday, 31 Dec 2010, 9:37 PM (permalink).

Well, 2010 was, by any reasonable measure, a pretty terrible year for me. Let's hurry up and put it behind us and never speak of it again. ...

File under: Ego , Grouses .

In which grievances are aired

Monday, 4 May 2009, 9:35 PM (permalink).

The weekend before last, I made an excursion to Louisville to see my fellow New Jerseyans, Titus Andronicus. I was recently introduced to this band through a gift of their The Airing of Grievances (2008), and I'd been digging the album (especially "My Time Outside the Womb," "Titus Andronicus," and "No Future Part Two: The Days After No Future"), so I was looking forward quite a bit to the show. Titus Andronicus at Headliner's Music Hall by Bill Cole on Flickr...

File under: Music , Travel , Grouses .

The great adventure: Phase 1 complete (Thank God)

Monday, 29 Sep 2008, 11:02 PM (permalink).

So, the first phase of the Great Adventure wrapped up 10 days ago, when I again made the trek from Kentucky through New Jersey and thence to Germany and rejoined the family in Germany. While Phase 2 carries with it its own set of challenges (notably my adjustment to telecommuting and learning to function in Germany at something above an advanced tourist level), my feeling is that this is going to be a piece of cake compared to the previous two months, which were, in the final analysis, pretty sucky....

File under: Ego , Travel , Grouses .

Shopping around

Monday, 12 Nov 2007, 1:02 AM (permalink).

I finally got around to trying Amazon's MP3 Store, the latest attempt to challenge the hegemony of Apple's iTunes Store in the world of digital music sales, and for the first time, there seems to be a legitimate competitor in the market. I bought PJ Harvey's new album, White Chalk (2007). It's available on the ITMS as well, but because her label (Island) is a subsidiary of Universal, it is only available DRM-free from Amazon. That, much more than cost or encoding details, is the main draw of Amazon's store. ...

File under: Music , Grouses .


Saturday, 6 Oct 2007, 6:04 PM (permalink).

I still love my iPhone (and not in an entirely wholesome way, I'm afraid), but I am starting to regret that my purchase puts me into the same class as a bunch of greedy, deluded whiners. The outcry over the iPhone's price-drop was bad enough (note to whiners: you stood in line to buy a phone; of course you got overcharged for it). Now you've got people screaming for Steve Jobs's head on a pike because the latest iPhone software update bricked some unlocked phones and squashed the (unsupported, officially discouraged) third-party apps some hackers had managed to get onto their phones, just like Apple said it would. While I've learned not to begrudge people the right to turn their own stupidity into multimillion-dollar lawsuits, what's especially bizarre about the current crop of iWhiners is that it includes normally sensible people like Leo Laporte and the entire staff of MacWorld. I'm not giving links to any of these clowns, but if you want details, try any of the following worthwhile anti-whiners:...

File under: Grouses , Tools , Geekery .

An(other) open letter to NBC

Friday, 31 Aug 2007, 10:35 PM (permalink).

Screw you, you greedy bastards. You have just guaranteed I will pirate the upcoming season of Battlestar Galactica. ...

File under: TeeVee , Digital culture , Grouses .

Playin' hooky

Monday, 9 Jul 2007, 9:30 PM (permalink).

Oops. Looks like I slept through the month of June without blogging. And I can't blame ill health either. For one reason or another, I got off to a slow start the first couple weeks, and then was on my vacation in Paris (poor me) with just limited enough Internet access to justify blowing off the month entirely. I am back home now, though, and have every intention of buckling down and getting back to my previous standard of erratic posting. ...

File under: Ego , Travel , Grouses .

The (almost) lost month

Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 10:17 PM (permalink).

Just like last year, I've come dangerously close to taking an o-fer for the month of May. Unlike last year, I have a reason, or at least an excuse, for the lack of activity here. This is now Day 40 of a tenacious "sinus event" that seems to be some combination of an actual infection, seasonal allergies (which, the medical establishment tells me, I don't actually have), and the hyperactive cough reflex I seem to have developed from the various bouts of pneumonia, bronchitis, and exercise-induced asthma that were annual features of my younger life. Because I am a firm believer in the old adage, "no one wants to hear about your mucus," I won't go into much detail about the ailment itself. However, three doctor visits, two courses of antibiotics, various permutations of prescription and over-the-counter antihistamines, expectorants, decongestants, cough suppressants, nasal sprays, salt gargles, and herbal throat lozenges have only succeeded in downgrading my cough from debilitating to a mere nuisance. When I haven't been physically wiped out, I just have not been in the mood for blogging. However, I seem (knock on wood) to be ever so slowly improving, so perhaps I'll get back to my normal, sporadic posting rate.

File under: Ego , Metablogging , Grouses .

How low can you go?

Wednesday, 25 Apr 2007, 1:00 PM (permalink).

The International Theological Commission of the Catholic Church, in a document entitled ""The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised," has upended centuries of (noncanonical) tradition and banished Limbo from Catholic cosmology. For those who haven't read their Dante, Limbo is the spiritual home for infants who died without baptism, as well as for the "virtuous pagans." In the Inferno, Limbo is a reasonably pleasant place (especially compared to the other options) but is still considered part of Hell because those in it are forever denied the presence of God. Apparently, Church theologians did not feel the concept of Limbo was consistent with a just and merciful God, since it denies "eternal happiness" to those with "no personal sin."...

File under: Grouses , Books .

Train envy

Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007, 10:46 PM (permalink).

Last week was our spring break, which we spent in Germany visiting relatives. It was one of those trips I deride others for making—we spent almost as much time on planes and in airports as we did actually visiting—but we were fulfilling family obligations and were working within a limited window. We did manage to take a little side-trip by train to Hannover to visit an old friend of Sylvia's, and I was struck yet again by the difference between Germany's rail network and our own. In Germany, one feels that one can get almost anywhere by train, stations are central and easy to access, and tickets are relatively inexpensive (we used the Niedersachsen-Ticket for our trip: 26€ [approx. $35] for the entire family any distance within Lower Saxony, including Hamburg and Bremen). America is big and things are spread out, but even in a dense commuter corridor like the northeast, I've found trains to be inconvenient and severely limited. Getting to Manhattan from where my parents live in South Jersey necessitates driving into downtown Philadelphia (to catch Amtrak) or driving almost halfway to New York and catching a commuter train from an outer suburb like New Brunswick. Of course, there's more to this issue than just the rails. Trains thrive on concentrated urban centers, which have been diluted or even excised from many of our cities and towns by half a century or more of automobiles' primacy in America. I don't think we could adopt a public transport approach in many places even if we wanted to. And of course, outside of pinko tree-huggers like myself, we don't want to. So we'll keep our cars and drive off into a sunset of traffic jams, suburban sprawl, and lifeless downtowns.

File under: Travel , Grouses .

Meet the new hacks, same as the old hacks

Monday, 28 Aug 2006, 10:03 PM (permalink).

Cory Doctorow's article on Digital Rights Management in InformationWeek a few weeks back is a sad example of the "new" journalists of the blogosphere being every bit as sensationalist and inaccurate as the "old" journalists they disdain. Provocatively titled "Apple's Copy Protection Isn't Just Bad For Consumers, It's Bad For Business," this piece is a muddled critique of DRM that inexplicably blames Apple—purveyors of the most consumer-friendly and commercially successful DRM scheme in existence—for all of the problems inherent with copy-protection generally. Even more bizarrely, the article somehow manages to portray the entertainment industry—whose short-sighted, heavy-handed policies have given us our current DRM mess—as victims of mean old bullying Apple.
I am no...

File under: Digital culture , Grouses , Music .


Tuesday, 13 Jun 2006, 4:08 PM (permalink).

I was out at a school last week doing a professional development workshop, and I got my first good look at the use of web filtering software. It ain't pretty. The workshop was on web resources for educators, and several things we'd counted on showing to the teachers there were either completely blocked or broken to the point of uselessness. These included:...

File under: Grouses , Digital culture , Politics .

Quitting Technorati

Wednesday, 5 Apr 2006, 10:39 PM (permalink).

I've had it with Technorati. I've never used them for much more than finding out about the occasional link to my site, but over the past few months, even this small service has repeatedly failed me....

File under: Metablogging , Grouses .

Unbridled ambition

Tuesday, 4 Apr 2006, 11:33 PM (permalink).

Our esteemed flagship institution, the University of Kentucky, received funding from the state this past week to support their Top 20 Business Plan, which aims to put UK among the top 20 public research universities by 2020. While I am happy the legislature made higher education funding a priority, and I support the broader rationale for the plan (namely, the connection between quality education and the economic future of Kentucky), my personal assessment of UK's chances of fulfilling their ambitions is, well, zero....

File under: Academe , Grouses , Local color .

Awaiting a retraction (but not holding my breath)

Tuesday, 28 Feb 2006, 11:31 PM (permalink).

Normally, I consider even engaging with the 'arguments' of demagogues like Bill O'Reilly to be self-defeating, but I've been nursing this grudge for almost two years and I finally get to say 'I told you so.'...

File under: Grouses , Lesser sports , Politics .

iPods and bloggers and bears, oh my!

Sunday, 26 Feb 2006, 2:12 PM (permalink).

There are two recurring jeremiads that I am really tired of hearing: one is the lament that we have replaced social contact with technological isolation (the current manifestation of which is to complain about people being absorbed in their iPods, but we've heard the same argument against the Internet, video games, and television, to name a few); the other is the charge that technology is making us stupid (lately, it's that blogging is promoting poor writing, but again, we've read this about calculators [kids don't learn math], television [rots the brain], and writing itself [no one will remember things — Plato]). These kinds of massive oversimplifications, which serve mostly to congratulate people's complacency and fear of the new, are prime examples of the flaws of technological determinsim. Denying determinism does not amount to claiming that technology has no effect. I'll be the first to agree that technology has profound effects on our daily lives at many levels and that technological change can have profound social repercussions for good or ill, but such effects are neither simple nor unidirectional. We need intelligent criticism of technology that explores the complex interactions of human beings and their technologies, not knee-jerk reactionaries blaming the latest fad in consumer electronics for whatever social ill happens to suit their fancy.

File under: Grouses , Digital culture .

Broken Windows

Wednesday, 9 Nov 2005, 12:54 AM (permalink).

Got news today that two Microsoft updates for IE may break websites using certain ActiveX controls. As far as I can tell, the only reason to even launch IE nowadays is to use websites (like FEMA's disaster-relief page or the US Copyright Office) that require it to access their stupidly platform-dependent services. Now, in order patch their own security flaws, Microsoft has broken who-knows-how-many such services, and I guess it will be up to web programmers out in the trenches to mop up the mess that ensues....

File under: Geekery , Grouses .

Relevance of the humanities

Wednesday, 28 Sep 2005, 12:21 AM (permalink).

Re-reading my Ivan Tribble rant, I realize that I may be construed as stating that the humanities have no relevance or practical application. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. The methods of inquiry and habits of thought that are at the heart of the humanities are relevant and, in fact, desperately needed today. Rhetoric, narrative, ethics, logic, critical analysis, historical perspective, aesthetic judgment, working with sources, synthesizing information — all of these humanistic faculties are regularly called upon in people's daily lives.

File under: Academe , Grouses .

Return of the Tribble

Monday, 26 Sep 2005, 11:57 PM (permalink).

The Chronicle of Higher Ed's pseudonymous gadfly, "Ivan Tribble," returned earlier this month with a follow-up on his controversial "Blogger's Need Not Apply" column earlier this summer. I am late to this party, and others have done a good job of defending the honor of academic blogging from Tribble's largely specious arguments (see the ivantribble thread on A few notable responses:...

File under: Academe , Metablogging , Grouses .

For the love of God, someone please stop George Lucas!

Sunday, 29 May 2005, 11:41 AM (permalink).

In another act of slavery to my early adolescence, I defied every better instinct I had and went to see Revenge of the Sith last weekend. I knew it was going to be bad. You knew it was going to be bad. We all knew it was going to be bad. Why the fuck do we keep giving George Lucas our money for these ham-fisted space operas? ...

File under: Movies , Grouses .

Theocrats among us

Monday, 9 May 2005, 4:16 PM (permalink).

J. Nathan Matias recently (well, a couple weeks back now; I've been mulling this response for a while) posted a long and thoughtful meditation on the possibility of reconciling religious faith and a commitment to democratic ideals of equality and tolerance. To his credit, Matias has little trouble finding a balancing point between the two (for him, it can be found in the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson). However, in his attempt to build a bridge across the current political fissure between religious/Right and secular/Left by attributing it to a refusal of both sides to communicate strikes me as very naive and potentially dangerous....

File under: Politics , Grouses .

The Educational iPod?

Thursday, 31 Mar 2005, 12:35 AM (permalink).

Since the announcement last year that Duke University would give all incoming students an iPod, I've been watching with some bemusement as others have hopped on this bandwagon: the Drexel University School of Education recently announced that they would launch their own iPod initiative; Apple has set up an iPods in Education site; a some quick googling reveals a slew of other sites either advocating or musing on the educational impact of Apple's music player (see iPodEd and articles at MacUsingEducators and IN3 network). To my mind, this is an example of education's infamous faddishness at its worst....

File under: Digital culture , Academe , Grouses .

Napster = liars

Saturday, 12 Feb 2005, 12:41 PM (permalink).

One thing I left out of my Super Bowl non-review was Napster's shamelessly misleading ad that aired a couple times during the event (no, I won't link to it because I refuse to lend even my meager traffic to these jerks). Their assertion boils down to this: owing an iPod will cost you $10,000, while subscribing to their Napster-to-go service only costs $15/month. Where to begin?...

File under: TeeVee , Digital culture , Grouses .

Blog avoidance

Monday, 31 Jan 2005, 1:52 AM (permalink).

An exchange about blogging a couple weeks ago on the Humanist listserv got under my skin, and is still sort of itching me. It's a pretty short exchange, so I'll reproduce it in its entirety. I'll leave out the names because I don't want to make this to be construed as a personal attack or a gripe with anyone in particular. Rather, I think this touches on a rather prevalent attitude towards bloggers and blogging. The exchange (edited to show the sequence of comments):...

File under: Metablogging , Academe , Grouses .

When recycling goes too far

Saturday, 8 Jan 2005, 9:03 PM (permalink).

Currently showing at our one local moviehouse: Meet the Fockers and Ocean's 12. Coming attractions include Bewitched and Son of the Mask. Oh joy. Three pointless sequels (one to a remake of a mediocre 60s film), and a film adaptation of a lame 60s television series. Is anyone in Hollywood capable of having an original thought?

File under: Movies , Grouses , Local color .

Damn Fish!

Friday, 23 Apr 2004, 3:39 PM (permalink).

Just when the Phils looked like they were getting on track, they go and get swept again by the Marlins. That's three straight sweeps going back to last seasonn, and 18 of the last 20 meetings of the teams. If this keeps up much longer, the Fish may dethrone both the evil Braves and the evil Mets for my most hated team in baseball....

File under: Baseball , Grouses .

Don't point that thing at me

Sunday, 22 Feb 2004, 4:06 PM (permalink).

So Ralph Nader is running again, and many Democrats are pissed off. Not me. As I've mentioned before, I voted for Nader in 2000, and I'm not sorry about it. If Nader's candidacy cost Gore the election in 2000, and if it costs the Democrats the election this year, it's because the Democratic Party has so alienated its natural constituency, by betraying its core liberal values, that people like me are willing to "waste" their votes on Nader. The appeal of Howard Dean, for me at least, was that he was the only one willing to defend these core values and risk public disapproval by criticizing the President for his absurd policies before the polls said it was a viable strategy. The remaining candidates have all appropriated many of Dean's positions, but their records give little hope that they will actually defend my values, should they get to the White House. And that is the whole point of Nader's candidacy. He says that the Republican and Democratic parties are functionally the same, and nothing that has happened in the last four years has suggested that he's wrong. The national Democratic Party capitulated on the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and Bush's tax cuts. That they are now among the loudest voices criticizing those policies is an hypocrisy even more offensive than the policies themselves. Bush at least supports his policies because he thinks they will do somebody (if only his oil business buddies) good. Kerry and Edwards support what they think will get them elected. While in the short-term, they would probably make positive changes in the direction of the country, but they have yet to show me that they would be good for the long-term health of this country....

File under: Politics , Grouses .

Outrage saturation

Monday, 9 Feb 2004, 10:32 PM (permalink).

What happens when there are so many completely ridiculous and outrageous things going on in the world (no links, why bother, you know what they are...) that you can't keep up with them all, let alone summon up the requisite level of righteous indignation to critique, debunk, or oppose them? You start filtering: accepting the small outrages so you can get worked up about the big ones, or fighting the local outrages, while ignoring the ones further away. Eventually, perhaps, you lose the capacity for outrage at all. You accept that the world is corrupt, that nothing you can do can make a difference, and that this is the way it has always been. I've been feeling perilously close to that point of late....

File under: Politics , Grouses .

Censors R Us

Thursday, 29 Jan 2004, 1:54 PM (permalink).

The current Network World, to which I don't subscribe, but which arrives in my mailbox at work anyway, features an unintentionally disturbing article on Websense, a company that categorizes websites for clients who wish to restrict or monitor employee web-surfing. The article is a bit hazy on the details, but Websense seems to put a priority on identifying sites that deal with subjects on their "obscenities" list (once known as the "Sinful Six"): "adult content, weapons, race/hatred, illegal drugs, violence and tasteless." That's a pretty broad interpretation of "obscenity" already, but they don't stop there. Second priority is a "premium" list: "instant messaging, online day trading, paid to surf, streaming media, [and] spyware." In all, they have some 80 categories -- including "advocacy groups, education, and news/media." Oh yes, heaven forbid an employee try to stay current on world events or explore educational opportunities on company time!...

File under: Digital culture , Grouses .


Thursday, 22 Jan 2004, 11:27 PM (permalink).

Andrew Stern at grandtextauto is bothered by the term "digital storytelling":...

File under: Academe , Grouses , Ludic .

That's right, blame the computers...

Monday, 5 Jan 2004, 2:13 AM (permalink).

I really don't follow college football (that's American football for our overseas readers), but right now it's impossible to avoid discussions about the "National Championship" and about how the evil computer rankings employed by the Bowl Championship Series to determine who plays for the championship are to blame for what will probably be a split title between University of Southern California and Louisiana State University. See, for example, this article ....

File under: Grouses , Lesser sports .

Fan mail... not!

Monday, 22 Dec 2003, 10:16 AM (permalink).

I get a fair amount of spam from companies trying to sell either web-design services or search engine "submission" (the latter is pretty silly: if spambots can find my site, so can people). Sometimes it is mildly entertaining:...

File under: Digital culture , Grouses .

Dirty secrets?

Monday, 1 Dec 2003, 10:24 PM (permalink).

Others (notably jill/txt and 08# --The Grey Notebook) have been noting, which purports to expose Apple for charging over $250 to replace the battery of an 18-month-old iPod. They have produced a Quicktime movie that positions itself as some kind of guerrilla consumer advocacy. The implication is that Apple is using (or tried to use) an exorbitant replacement cost to pressure customers into buying unnecessary new products. If that's true, even a little bit, it's despicable. However, my own experiences with Apple in general and the iPod in particular don't corroborate the Neistat brothers (commenters at both the above sites have also questioned the the movie and its conclusions). ...

File under: Digital culture , Grouses .

Friends don't let friends see Matrix Revolutions

Friday, 7 Nov 2003, 1:45 AM (permalink).

Uggh. That's my reaction to The Matrix Revolutions, which, regrettably, I went to see last night. Let it be known that I was not overly impressed by the original, and I was disappointed by the muddled melange of poststructuralist theory and quasi-Christian imagery that was Matrix Reloaded. But those movies were at least entertaining as long as you didn't try to make too much sense out of them. Revolutions falls well short of even that low standard. ...

File under: Movies , Grouses .