Saturday, September 30, 2006

Idea

When I was out at a cafe this afternoon discussing the changing online world and the good things about the networks getting in line with streaming their shows, my friend asked me about blogs. I mentioned a few blogs that I like to read and that's when I came up with my idea. I'd be curious to see how a politically conservative blog and a politically liberal blog covered the same story. Right now, I can look at the news and I can see which stories, say, Michelle Malkin will get all het up about, and I can see the ones Daily Kos will get fired up about. Rarely will you see coverage on both blogs on the same topic.

To me, this is the major issue with blogs. Bloggers like to think they're a check on the media, but hello, they're not. They are biased, they look for the information to support their point of view, and they don't have any reason to look at the other side of the story. This is why Daily Kos and Michelle Malkin will only give you their spin on the story and only cover events/stories that are in their best interests and their readership's interest (?). It's not the truth in any shape or form -- only one version of it. The truth is somewhere in between, but you only can get it at if you can put both coverages side by side and figure out what's what.

I also think that people stick to what they're comfortable with. This is something I've said before, but I do think it's true that people don't want to be challenged, don't want to read something that they're in conflict with, and don't want to feel the pressure to re-evaulate where they stand. I'm totally guilty of this too, I admit it. But I don't think reading blogs of one particular persuasion is the way to go. Of course you're going to become a more diehard liberal/conservative if that's all the information you're getting -- you're not going to see anything else.

In the last election, a friend told me he was surprised John Kerry had lost because he was convinced that there was no way because of all the blogs he'd been reading. I was incredulous. Hadn't he been paying attention to the media that said Kerry was trailing? Losing was always a very possible and realistic option, but my friend never saw it coming because he never ventured out beyond the liberal blogs.

Anyway, I think it'd be an interesting project -- put conflicting points of views together, with all necessary linkage. Unfortunately, I don't necessarily have the time for it, so it'll just be one of those "nice to have" ideas for now.

Link of the Day: Newsweek prints two different covers -- one for International audiences, one for domestic --, as if Annie Lebovitz is more of concern to the majority of Americans than the possible and very real resurgence of the Taliban. In Newsweek's somewhat defense, I did get the Annie Lebovitz issue in the mail today and the Afghanistan story is the top story in the magazine, but you wouldn't know such hard-hitting news was inside because of the cover (which includes three golden-curled cherubs).
Weekend LotD

Actual content is still in draft form, but I thought the writers amongst us would be interested in this article about Peter Quinn from AP: Author Does Things Old Fashioned Way. Wow. I can't remember the last thing, other than taking notes and jotting down phone messages, that I've actually written in longhand. My wrists hurt just thinking about it, and my left hand -- which invariably gets smeared with ink when I write -- is already eyeing the soap dispenser.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Update!

No, I haven't been ignoring the blog; blogger's just been refusing to publish. Bad blogger! No biscuit! Though in general, I realize I've been a bad blogger, especially a bad liberal blogger, but there's no way on earth I can update multiple times a day during the work week. I marvel at people who can -- do they not have jobs?

As I alluded to previously, things have been a little hectic lately and October is going to be super busy. I don't mind though. I like it when things are busy and I don't sit around wondering what I'm going to do next. It's been a little quiet on that front for the last couple of months. It's funny -- six months ago, I felt like I was living out of a suitcase I was traveling so much, and now the only thing I pack and unpack is my gym bag. I'm getting a rather serious case of wanderlust.

I also realized that there are a bunch of emails that I have not answered that are especially about this blog. I'm really sorry if you emailed me and I didn't respond. I don't log on every night and I can forget to check all email accounts (I have about six -- I know, SCARY). If there is something to respond to in those emails, I promise I'll get to them this weekend.

This is all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

LotD

The History of Lace in Belgium

Lacemaking is an industry which nowadays employs about one thousand lace workers, all of them ladies aged between fifty and ninety years of age. Do not expect to find lace factories in Brussels or Bruges, they do not exist.

Monday, September 25, 2006

This thing you call love, she smiles way too much

I was really excited when I heard the broadcast networks were going to offer free limited ad-supported streams of some of their shows online. I thought, Finally! Freedom from the VCR! Freedom from schedules! Freedom from deciding between "Grey's" and "CSI". I mean, I've had that freedom for the past year, but it wasn't exactly legal, and I was hoping this would be the end of that. So now, about a week into the new television season, I've had an opportunity to sample a little bit of each network's officerings, and here are my ratings of their online streaming capabilities.

ABC
Full episodes are available here. Shows offered include ABC's biggest hits including "Grey's Anatomy", "Desperate Housewives", "Lost" and a couple of their new offerings for this season, including "The Nine" and "Knights of Prosperity" and "Ugly Betty". I found ABC's interface to be pretty easy to use. No download required and there was no real confusion on where to go the full-length episode (ABC advertises on their front page). The quality -- sound and picture -- of the video was also decent on the small screen. As far as I can tell, the entire video is available in one viewing and not split into multiple parts. I couldn't test ABC's full-screen version because as they helpfully noted, my bandwidth is below optimal levels tonight (you need at least 850 kbs to watch full screen comfortably). The video was a little choppy, but that is also probably because of my bandwidth issues tonight. I also liked the basic uncluttered nature of the ABC interface. There aren't thirty other things trying to vie for your attention on the page, unlike my next review -- NBC.

NBC
NBC has limited offerings. It's basically offering shortened versions or recaps of some of their older shows, and full episodes of their new shows, including the critically acclaimed "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." I believe the full episodes of the new shows are limited -- meaning only 4 to 8 episodes total will be available and then you'll probably have to get them from iTunes or, um, other methods. You can access their player here. The clips are available towards the bottom of the page. Like ABC, NBC doesn't require any downloads to watch their videos. However, NBC's player is incredibly cluttered with ads for other shows and products, and their video is a little confusing. For "Studio 60", the show is split into 5 parts, and you have to click on each part to watch it. Also, the quality isn't that great. I hear rumors that NBC is going to offer a better quality version of their videos in coming weeks, but right now, I prefer to catch NBC's shows on television.

CBS
CBS' site is essentially a disaster. Or so I say because I have yet to be able to watch anything on their site. When it comes to offerings, CBS has 13 of their hit shows available here -- including all flavors of CSI. They also have video extras and interviews with cast and crew members (something ABC also offers). CBS, however, requires plug-ins for their player to work -- whether it's WMP, Real, or Flash, I couldn't tell you; I've been prompted for all three, and even after loading all three, I haven't gotten a single episode to play. I'll keep trying and hope to offer an update in the future. Right now though, despite being the most developed and having their own original programming, CBS is the worst of the three. ETA: I did, after 30 minutes, get the CBS player to work. It requires Real Player. Quality of video is decent in the small screen, and CBS, like ABC, also offers a big screen version -- quality is more iffy there. The small screen player is busy, kind of like NBC, but the full screen version will take up your entire screen and essentially eliminate any ads/promotions.

Best selection: In theory, CBS
Easiest to watch: ABC
Best quality: ABC (when at 850 kbs or better)

It's definitely technology in its infancy, but I like the idea of the networks getting with the future, rather than trying to avoid it. ABC and NBC provide quick, low maintenance access to their programming, which is awesome if you just have a few minutes and don't want to wait for a download. Their episodes, in theory, are available the next day after broadcast and none of them feature commercials of any length -- maybe a 15 to 30 second deal at the very beginning. It's a quick fix for people like me who miss lots of shows, but don't have the patience to sit wait for a download. Purists who care about video and sound quality aren't going to like this option very much.

Note: When I say ABC and NBC don't require plug-ins for their player, it means *I* didn't require anything. YMMV. Also, broadband is required. ABC will caution you if you're not at a high enough speed for optimal viewing. Also, if you use a pop-up blocker you'll have to turn it off or allow for pop-ups on the networks' site. Also, I looked at all sites using both Mozilla and IE and whatever difficulties I encountered in one, I encountered with the other. I do have to say I was pleasantly surprised that these sites were not IE-only.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Who decides?

The Mad Chatters flagged this story about parents who kidnapped their pregnant teenage daughter and were intending to take her to New York for an abortion a few days ago, but I'm only getting to blog about it now. I deem this a 'Very Special Story' because all in one efficient and tidy bundle, we have: Kidnapping! Abortion! Race! Parental-child strife! Violence! Prison! Women's rights! Super Stupid People!

Seriously. Incredibly special.

But not to be flip, the thing that's missing from all of these stories is that the mother-to-be is 19 years and can't be forced to have an abortion by her parents. That's the wonderful thing about choice (which unfortunately, is too often equated with pro-abortion). If this girl doesn't want an abortion, no doctor is going to give her one because her parents want her to. That's *her* choice and as an adult, her parents don't actually have control over what she does anymore. It does make me wonder about an alternative scenario I've never thought about before.

Most states require underage girls to get parental consent prior to an abortion, unless there are mitigating circumstances and they can get a judge to consent. But what if the parents want the child to have an abortion and the child does not want one? Then what? Who prevails in this case -- the parents or the child? My understanding in the first scenario is parents say no, then the girl has to have the baby. But what if the parents say yes and the girl says no, then what? Does she have to have the abortion regardless of her own wishes? I'm guessing 'no', but again that would be a 'choice' issue, but it would also create the contradictory issue that the parental oversight would be overruled and isn't parental oversight how anti-choice people want to erode abortion rights?

That's the story, mho, the idea that parents only have a say when it's against abortion, but not for -- not the Jerry Springer craziness of unkempt parents with a Hitleresque last name throwing their grown daughter into a car and taking her over state lines to force her to get an abortion.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lily's dancing on the table

I just had a smackdown with my dentist. I mean, I know you're not supposed to pick fights with people who have bright shiny objects pointed at your mouth, but there's a principle at stake, mainly when I ask for a cleaning, I should get one, yes? There should not be an extra charge for one, yes? Because isn't that what insurance is for? And don't go on about the coffee stains on my teeth when all I care about is whether I have cavities or not. I mean, SERIOUSLY.

Anyway, I did call my insurance company, complained loudly and profusely (the place had no parking, for God's sake! I had to ask to get my teeth brushed! The dentist didn't speak English! These are MINIMAL qualifications!). So the end result is I'm getting a new dentist and they will allow me to get another cleaning at no extra charge now, rather than waiting another six months. Gah. To say I'm not happy would be an UNDERSTATEMENT OF EPIC PROPORTIONS.

But what does make me happy, though, is discovering -- and I can't believe how long it took me to discover this -- that Jon Stewart is on YouTube. Here is the clip of the ever impressive and inspiring Bill Clinton, but there are tons of really funny ones on there too. Skip the Gillian Anderson one though. Sometimes, stars are best as their character -- pretty, shiny, nice kitty kind of thing, best not to scrape away at the facade, y'know?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

LotD

When you read this article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, it's hard to believe how things in Iraq aren't quite going our way [/sarcasm]. Scary, scary. Howard Kurtz has the media round-up on the article over here.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

LotD

The WSJ has an article on fanfiction here. The WSJ!

However: Increasingly, audiences have become used to watching videos posted by other users on sites such as YouTube and MySpace. Reading fiction online is another extention of this trend.

Fanfiction has been around way longer than YouTube and MySpace, which are recent addictions (the former which I enjoy, the latter which I avoid).

Many stories take the form of prequels, imagining the back stories of central characters. Crossover fantasies also have long been a key element of fan fiction, pairing characters from different books or shows.

I would argue with the word 'many'. Yes, there are prequels, but there also codas ("episode finishers"), missing scenes, sequels, stand alones, PWPs, vignettes, drabbles and filks.

Unfortunately, the link to the most popular fanfiction on the 'net is only available to subscribers and I stopped with the WSJ after graduate school. I'm just curious how they characterize 'popular' because even within fandoms, you have 'ships, genres, etc.

Obviously the issues in this piece make it even more clear how hard it is to explain fandom and fanfiction to people who aren't part of it (and as Jemima points out, even we don't always understand it), and no matter how much the media wants to generalize, that's an impossibility because fandom is a fervent, talented, diverse and noisy group of people who form a community that changes and evolves with source material, fanon and discussion. There's no "one size fits all" and frankly, we like it that way.
These are a few of my favorite things

A few years ago, a good friend of mine from college was in town on business, so of course, we hung out and road-tripped all over the state. At the time, one of my favorite CDs -- Sarah Brightman -- was in my car's CD player. He was very patient and didn't mind that I had it on repeat pretty much the entire time he was here. The same friend returned a few months later and was dismayed! horrified! aghast! to discover the SAME CD in my car's CD player. On our roadtrip down to the Big City to the Southeast, he insisted the CD had to go. "No more," he said, "I can't take any more Sarah Brightman."

So here's the thing. I like music, but there is some music I LOVE and has never, ever gotten tired of. I've had the same CD in my alarm clock for the last... 18 months or so. Yes, that's right, I get up to the same song every single day. I've had the same CD in the stereo in the living room for at least the last few weeks. The car's CD player gets a little more change because I go on some long drives and depending on how long the original CD's been in the player, I may have already heard that CD 80 million times and it's time for a change. The thing is, once I change a CD, chances are, that CD will stay until my next long roadtrip. I'm nothing, if not consistent.

Anyway, here are some of my all-time favorite CDs, the ones I've not yet tired of, despite having them for years. I recommend these whole-heartedly :-)
  • Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos -- A friend lent this to me during my first semester at college, and I made a tape of the CD. Later, I wore the tape out and ended up buying the CD. More than 10 years later, this is still one of my favorite CDs and I never get tired of it because it's just so raw, emotional, and lyrically beautiful.
  • Made in England by Elton John -- Strangely, my favorite songs on the CD are not the ones that made the radio, but rather the more haunting "Belfast", poignant "Latitude", and the sweetly romantic "Please". This is just another CD that the more I hear it, the more I get out of it, and every playing is like I'm hearing it for the first time.
  • Time to Say Good Bye by Sarah Brightman -- I own every one of Sarah Brightman's releases, but this is one of my favorites, and I think it's the richest and soaring of all of the releases. It starts with the absolute gorgeous and romantic "Time to Say Good Bye (Con te se partiro)", her duet with Andrea Bocelli. My favorite, however, would be the passionate "Just Show Me How to Love You", performed with Jose Cura.
  • Cieli di Toscana by Andrea Bocelli -- I have several of Bocelli's CDs, but this one is my favorite, because it's so much more dramatic than the others. I love music that ebs and flows, that rises and falls, and the first few tracks of this CD do exactly that. His duet with Helena on "L'Abitudine" is one of my favorites.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Anxiety, anxiety

Because I've never met a molehole I haven't wanted to turn into a mountain, I was very happy to see a book called The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry From Stopping You by Robert Leahy, PhD during my weekly trip to the library. Dale Carnegie tried to help me sometime ago, but we parted company at chapter 3, not because Mr. Carnegie wasn't truly trying, but because I'm impatient and want to stop worrying NOW (as my mother said once, I'm not happy unless I'm worrying about *something*). So when I saw that I could be cured in just seven steps, I thought, "Why the heck not?"

I've made it through the first six steps so far, but I only did the excercises in the second chapter. The rest, I'm just reading along and nodding. After 16 years of higher education, I'm pretty much done with the homework aspect of stuff. It's one of the reasons why I decided to leave the foreign language at Local Prestigious University because two nights of classes and homework... I just want to have fun, people!

Anyway, but what I liked about this book (homework aside) is the Seven Rules of Highly Worried People. Does this sound like you or someone you know? It certainly sounds like me.
  1. If something bad could happen -- if you can simply imagine it -- it is your responsibility to worry about it.
  2. Don't accept any uncertainty -- you need to know for sure.
  3. Treat all of your negative thoughts as if they are really tue.
  4. Anything bad that could happen is a reflection of who you are as a person.
  5. Failure is unacceptable.
  6. Get rid of any negative feelings immediately.
  7. Treat everything like an emergency.


Leahy later writes, "If you are a chronic worrier, then the following will seem familiar to you":
  1. You believe that gaining certainty will reduce your risk of harm
  2. You seek reassurance to gain more confidence
  3. You demand more information
  4. You wait indefinitely to take action
  5. You feel you need to know for sure
  6. If you don't know it for sure, then you conclude it's going to turn out badly
  7. Even when you seem to have a solution in hand, you ask if it will absolutely, definitely solve everything. If it doesn't, you reject it.
  8. You keep worrying in order to find the absolutely perfect answer that will eliminate uncertainty
  9. Uncertainty is equated with treat, lack of control, mistakes, and regret.


I'm guilty, very much so, of the first five, and to a lesser degree the rest of them. The funny thing is, I wait indefinitely to take action because I'm so busy looking for information and then I get overwhelmed by the amount of information and then suddenly I make this sudden move because I can't stand the uncertainity of not knowing what I'm going to do. And then I regret the sudden move because did I check everything a million times? Did I consider all possibilities? Did I consult everyone and everything I should have?

My trip to Europe is a perfect example. I spent weeks looking at airfares, how much a Eurorail ticket was going to cost, looking at various hostels and hotels, and examining the areas around the cities I was going to. I jotted down various timetables that would work for me (I didn't want to end up in a foreign city late in the afternoon, didn't want to leave said foreign city too early in the morning). I called three travel agents, had them all map out different itineraries for me, tweaking each one a little bit. Suddenly I had so much information that I had NO idea what I was going to do. I was making myself crazy and everyone around me crazy too. You have NO idea how much angst just booking a plane ticket was. And even when I had decided to book the trip, once I was on the phone with the travel agent who was offering the best deal, I was suddenly wondering if I was doing the right thing, if there wasn't at least one more agency I should have called...

It's amazing the travel agent didn't hang up on me.

In the end I put the deposit down and I had 10 days to make final payment after that and those 10 days, I went back and forth. I looked at new information (I KNOW!), and started second guessing my decision. Could I get a cheaper hotel? Cheaper flight? Was I staying too long? Different days? At one point, I was ready to cancel the whole thing and surrender my $100 deposit to the travel agency and book a whole 'nother trip. In the end, I just ended up sticking with what I'd booked. I was tired, everyone around me was tired. My brother said to me, "You've worked hard enough that you don't have to budget and travel on the cheap anymore."

Another friend said, "You're going to Europe! Who cares how much it costs?" In the end, I had to concede they were right -- I had a budget, the trip was falling within that budget, and other than the road trip I took with my parents last December, I haven't been on vacation in four years; I've barely been out of the state, let alone out of the country. And after some of the stuff that's happened in the last three years, the fact is, I *deserve* a good trip done right.

I've stopped looking at travel sites now, except for trip advice type things and suggested activities while in Berlin and Prague. No more visits to Travelocity or Hotels.com. I'm no longer checking out airfares. I had to go cold turkey otherwise I'd drive myself absolutely crazy. No amount of information will ever be enough because it will never tell me what I need to know: that everything will be okay and this is the best you can do.

* Just to clarify: I'm not endorsing this book; it's just something I picked up and parts of it, I could really identify with. I have no idea if the techniques listed in the book actually work.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pretty

I really like the use of music on television shows to set the mood, and it's also how I found one of my all time favorite songs -- "The Promise" -- by Tracy Chapman. Last night, I heard the hauntingly beautiful "Bring on the Wonder" by Susan Enan at the end of "Bones"; if you're interested, you can hear a copy of the song here. There's a link for download but that's just a tease, and apparently the song won't be available for purchase until the end of the year. Wah! But in all seriousness, it's a beautiful song, she has a wonderful voice, and I'm looking forward to when the album comes out, if this song is any indication of quality.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

LotD

MSNBC has a really good article here on the different between freecreditreport.com and annualcreditreport.com. It's the latter you want, not the first one, and since we're all entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three bureaus (get one every four months for free; note, your credit score isn't included -- you'll have to pay extra for that), make sure you go to annualcreditreport.com. Anyway, I highly recommend the MSNBC story because it really breaks down what's what and the things to look out for when it comes to requesting your credit report.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

9/11

I can't believe there are CBS affiliates that won't play tonight's airing of 9/11, the documentary shot by two French filmmakers because of the profanity in the film. I'm further amazed that a conservative organization is protesting this film since 9/11 is the conservatives' rallying cry.

This is an unbelievable documentary, the only one from Ground Zero shot as events are happening, and I believe the historical context of the situation should be all the reason necessary to justify the profanity. I actually have this film on tape -- it is very difficult to watch, I will allow -- because it's a valuable historical document. It is not for entertainment, but for context and history. It's not for all audiences and it's very disturbing (well, what part of 9/11 wasn't?), but if you haven't yet had a chance to see it, I highly recommend it as a factual alternative to ABC's 'docudrama'.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

LotD the second

PDA users (including yours truly), be aware: 'Blackberry Thumb' increasingly common.
Body pump

Last night, I left a party around midnight because I have a weightlifting class first thing in the morning. When I explained this, a couple of the other girls looked absolutely horror-stricken. One asked how much I lifted and I 'fessed that my arms are still rather weak and depending on the muscle -- shoulder, chest, tricep, bicep -- I could lift between 10 to 20 pounds, but I could leg press 120 pounds. One girl said, "Wow, that's a lot. Aren't you afraid of becoming muscular?"

I get that reaction a lot when people -- mostly women -- find out that I lift at least twice a week. The first question is invariably about whether I'm going to turn into a bodybuilder. The short answer is no. In order to actually turn myself into a mean and fierce bodybuilder, I'd have to lift more than two hours a week, change my diet to eradicate all fat, and get hopped up on a handful of steroids -- none of which is likely. If there's one misconception I'd really, really like to eradicate (okay, there are a dozen, but right now, it's just this one), it's that women lifting weights will turn into hulks of muscle; it's a biological impossibility. However, what will happen is that lifting twice a week will help me gain tone, build muscle, strengthen bones, and help me burn more calories while I'm sitting, help prevent osteoporosis, strengthen ligaments and tendons, and much, much more.

I like the feeling of being toned, of knowing that when I stop waving my arm at someone, my tricep doesn't continue to jiggle after the action is through. I also like the easy goal-setting that comes with lifting weights. I never quite work hard enough on aerobic activities and it's hard to maintain a particular goal for 30 minutes, but with weights, I know exactly how much I lifted last week, how many reps I did, and what I'm aiming for this week. Of course, I admit, sometimes I choose strength training over aerobic activity (with the exception of biking, which is recommended by my physical therapist), but a lot of that also has to do with an ailing right hip and a "don't look at me wrong or I'll rupture" left Achilles tendon which rules out pretty much all aerobic activity except for the aforementioned biking.

I should also mention that in any workout program, variety is key, and upping resistance/speed is also necessary. Your muscles get used to a particular excercise or workout after a while and the benefits from that activity eventually dwindle. To ensure one gets the maximum benefit out of any workout program, it's necessary to mix it up and 'trick' your muscles so they don't get stuck in a rut. Alternate aerobic activity with weight lifting and yoga, for instance, or concentrate on a different body part every day of the week. The key is not to let your body get 'bored' with what it's doing and to constantly up the time, the reps, the resistance, etc.

LotD: Weight Training for Women

Friday, September 08, 2006

9/11

On Monday, CNN will be re-broadcasting its coverage of 9/11 on CNN Pipeline. I actually have a chunk of that coverage on videotape (which has been carefully labeled and put away, never to be watched again) because I'd actually set my VCR that morning to tape "Little House on the Prairie", which was then interrupted by CNN's coverage. It is amazing footage, and if you haven't seen it, Aaron Brown's raw emotion is something to be witnessed.

I won't be watching, however, nor will I be watching ABC's controversial docudrama. It's an important day, but I was there, and I don't need any of this media blitz to remind me how I felt that day. I'd like my memories of that day, of my emotions to be untainted.

LotD: How conservatives got Coulterized. ::shudder::

Sunday, September 03, 2006

LotD

Lockheed has been selected to build the shuttle replacement. Very cool. I had no idea that there were actually plans in place to start replacing the current fleet with something else.