Leslie's Latest News

Monday, June 30, 2003

I spent most of the day at the Garden today and at long last we managed to finalize the survey spreadsheet format. We even got to actually enter a few dozen surveys, and were able to train one of the volunteers who will be doing data entry. It took us ridiculously long to get to this point, but it feels good that we are making real progress now. Only about 600 more to go...
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Sunday, June 29, 2003

This UPI article is a good analysis of how we are screwing up the post-war occupation of Iraq. An excerpt:

A well-known writer on military, Ralph Peters, told UPI there has been what he called a Stalinist refusal by the administration to admit that anything in its plan for Iraq could go wrong. Peters is a retired lieutenant colonel with a background in military intelligence.

Referring to the looting that followed the fall of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, Houlahan [Thomas Houlahan is the Washington-based director of a military assessment program] says U.S. irresponsibility, however unintentional, rises to the level of violation of the rules of war. "Once you are in a city, you are responsible for it," he said.

Asked how the White House and Defense Department went wrong, Houlahan answered that, "Virtually no thought at all went into what to do in Iraq after the war."

Peters, asserting that neo-conservatives such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and others were behind the war, said they "talked themselves into believing a scenario in which the Iraqis would magically restructure themselves."

"The neo-cons underestimated the probability of resistance from Baath elements," Peters says. "Iraq has a population of about 23 million; 1 or 2 million had a real stake in the Baath system and of these tens of thousands remain emotionally committed to it."

Yonah Alexander of the Potomac Institute for Policy Analysis takes a similar view: "The White House and Pentagon thought that once a knockout blow was delivered to the Iraqi forces, they would be able to tell the Iraqis what to do."

So, Alexander says, there was no organization prepared to insure security and carry out reconstruction.

There is a window of opportunity to make good on the country's liberation, Alexander says, but it is closing fast.

Houlahan shares the same sense of urgency: "We need to get our act together in a matter of weeks, not months."

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Blogger South Knox Bubba describes what's really in the "Prescription Drug" bill - more than meets the eye. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the legislature is trying to pass a bill to force drug companies covered by Medicaid to offer deep discounts to Mass. residents. The drug companies are retaliating by threatening to pull their biotech facilities out of state, and are urging Governor Mitt Romney to veto the bill. See Romney in biotech squeeze in the Boston Globe.
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Saturday, June 28, 2003

After all my complaining about the weather, I feel compelled to admit that today was a very nice day. In the morning, I had a few local errands to run, and I rode my bike instead of taking my car. In the afternoon, I attacked another of the large shrubs I needed to prune and filled 2 1/2 brown paper recycling bags with the trimmings. Machinka came home from her long wanderings and is catching up on her sleep after devouring a big dinner. And I'm pretty tired and planning to crash early myself.
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Check out the e-bore-ometer, "a global, peer-to-peer, i-poll" for geeks, designed to reveal if you are still in touch with the real world. My diagnosis was:

A bit of an e-bore, but nothing too tragic. You should still at least receive a few invitations to dinner parties with your friends..

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Friday, June 27, 2003

I worked at the Lovelane therapeutic riding program this afternoon. This was the last session for the spring semester; for the summer term I'll be switching to a different location and working with different horses and a different instructor, which will be interesting. It was too darn hot today. I brought lots of water and used a water-soaked towel in between lessons, but I still overheated a lot. I was actually relieved when the third student failed to appear and I had a break. It will be interesting to see if I can get acclimated, or if I'll be struggling with this all summer.

Lovelane is holding a 5 km fundraising run/walk at the end of July, and I'm thinking of giving it a try. If you would be willing to sponsor me, let me know and I'll send you the details. You can read about the program here. (I'm assuming that donations are tax deductible, but I need to verify that. Oddly, it doesn't say that specifically on either the pledge sheet or the web site.)

Machinka has been off on one of her adventures for the last few days. I'm pretty sure she came by briefly last night, as I awoke with a vague memory of petting her in the middle of the night, and her food dish was empty in the morning (Katisha can't get to it because it's up on the kitchen table). Katisha is doing well. I took her in to be weighed yesterday, and she'd gained 6 ounces in 2 weeks on a half-and-half diet (half prescription food mixed with half normal food). I'd been pretty sure that her weight loss was due to not liking the prescription food and this pretty well confirms it. So I guess I'll continue to mix them together.

I don't know what's going on with blogger. Every so often I seem to be able to publish, but most of the time publishing fails. I was thinking about upgrading my service from free to paid so I could get support, but they have frustratingly turned off the upgrade button for a week or so for some reason. So I'm stuck. Interestingly enough, I got an application today to participate in the TypePad public beta (the Movable Type blogging service). So I filled it out and sent it in.
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Yesterday I went out to Garden in the Woods to work on the surveys. We thought we were going to be able to actually start entering data, but the templates another volunteer had created had some problems, and he wasn't able to make the meeting, so we deferred data entry, unfortunately. We have another meeting scheduled for Monday.

After lunch, I took a walk through the garden. It was relatively cool under the trees, andonly got really hot over by the western and meadow gardens which are open to the sun. The mountain laurel and flame azaleas are still in bloom, plus many new summer flowers that have been pushed into bloom by the warm weather. In the western garden, there were California poppies and penstemon, the yucca had some huge stems full of buds, and the prickly pear cacti were starting to put out some lovely pale yellow flowers. The meadow also looks like it's close to blooming.

I found a good-sized American Chestnut growing to the left of the main path fairly near the entrance; that's something I'll want to point out on my tours. Chestnuts used to be one of the dominant trees in eastern forests, until the chestnut blight fungus arrived in the early 1900's. Now many chestnut trees manage to grow back from surviving rootstocks, but they all eventually get attacked by the fungus and usually die before getting old enough to produce nuts. There is a lot of work being done on developing blight resistant chestnut trees, though, so there is hope for the future.
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Blogger has now moved me to their new system. Because I'm using a Macintosh, I am stuck with a watered-down interface that I don't like very much. But Moveable Type still hasn't gotten around to announcing their anticipated service, so I'm stuck with Blogger for now. And for a while last night I was completely unable to publish, but that problem seems to have been cleared up today.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Yup, as I expected, the weather went from cold and rainy to hot and humid without anything nice in between. Yuch.

Yesterday my car started making horrible noises. The local repair shop said it was probably my brakes going and I shouldn't drive it, so I moved some appointments and made arrangements to bring it in to them today. (I tried the Subaru dealer, but they were booked up until July 7th.) As it turned out, this was a good thing. They discovered that the noise was due to a pebble or something getting wedged in the wrong place, and so it was a minor repair, thank goodness. I had to reschedule my Diabetes Prevention Program annual appointment that was supposed to be this morning, and had to ride my bicycle to the post office yesterday (just 3/4 mile - no big deal), and bum a ride to an event I was going to last night, so I'm really glad to be getting my car back today. Especially since I've got a meeting scheduled at Garden in the Woods tomorrow morning and that's a 34-mile round trip.

The car died as I was coming home from the grocery store, so at least I was stocked up with food. Yesterday I made another nice simple meal from the Family Circle Eat What You Love and Lose cookbook. It was tandoori salmon with rice pilaf and raita. To make the salmon, you take a 1 1/2 salmon filet and spread on it a mixture of 2 chopped cloves of garlic, a 1-inch piece of ginger chopped, 1 ts curry powder, 1 ts lemon juice, 1/2 ts paprika, 1/2 ts salt, 1/8 ts cinnamon, and 1/8 ts cayenne. You let it sit for at least 30 minutes and then bake it in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. The rice pilaf was basmati rice cooked in chicken broth with garlic, scallions, sugar snap peas from the garden, and parsley. The raiti was a mixture of plain low-fat yogurt, chopped cucumbers, and a little lemon juice. The whole combination was very tasty and didn't have any added fat - just what little there was in the salmon.
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Renana Brooks presents an interesting analysis of how Bush uses negatively charged emotional language as a political tool.

To create a dependency dynamic between him and the electorate, Bush describes the nation as being in a perpetual state of crisis and then attempts to convince the electorate that it is powerless and that he is the only one with the strength to deal with it. He attempts to persuade people they must transfer power to him, thus crushing the power of the citizen, the Congress, the Democratic Party, even constitutional liberties, to concentrate all power in the imperial presidency and the Republican Party.

Bush's political opponents are caught in a fantasy that they can win against him simply by proving the superiority of their ideas. However, people do not support Bush for the power of his ideas, but out of the despair and desperation in their hearts. Whenever people are in the grip of a desperate dependency, they won't respond to rational criticisms of the people they are dependent on. They will respond to plausible and forceful statements and alternatives that put the American electorate back in touch with their core optimism.

Bush's opponents must combat his dark imagery with hope and restore American vigor and optimism in the coming years. They should heed the example of Reagan, who used optimism against Carter and the "national malaise"; Franklin Roosevelt, who used it against Hoover and the pessimism induced by the Depression ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"); and Clinton (the "Man from Hope"), who used positive language against the senior Bush's lack of vision. This is the linguistic prescription for those who wish to retire Bush in 2004.

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Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, weighs in on the deceptions that led to war on the NYTimes op-ed page.

But even people who aren't partisan Republicans shy away from confronting the administration's dishonest case for war, because they don't want to face the implications.

After all, suppose that a politician or a journalist admits to himself that Mr. Bush bamboozled the nation into war. Well, launching a war on false pretenses is, to say the least, a breach of trust. So if you admit to yourself that such a thing happened, you have a moral obligation to demand accountability and to do so in the face not only of a powerful, ruthless political machine but in the face of a country not yet ready to believe that its leaders have exploited 9/11 for political gain. It's a scary prospect.

Yet if we can't find people willing to take the risk to face the truth and act on it what will happen to our democracy?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

It did rain most of the day on Sunday, but Becky and I went to the garden anyway and slogged around in the mud. Ozzie, the garden cat, followed us around on the tour. I figured he was lonely due to the paucity of visitors. Afterward, we went to Mary Chung's for nice warming bowls of soup.

Yesterday, I went with Alex to the Apple Store at the Galleria Mall to watch the latest Steve Jobs keynote at the Apple Developer's Conference. Lots of fun and cool stuff, as always. He announced new, faster G5 machines based on a newly-developed IBM chip, plus a System X upgrade, called Panther, due out later this year. Apple also released a free beta a/v version of iChat and a $150 monitor-mounted video camera to go with it (demonstrated by a live chat with Al Gore). Very cool. iPod sales have now hit one million, with 5 million songs downloaded from the iTunes Music Store. And the first "official" release of the Safari browser is now available. I'm glad to see Apple is keeping the momentum going.
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Another bad Supreme Court decision. The court has okayed a law that requires libraries to install anti-porn filters if they want to receive any federal funding. The problem is that these filters are somewhat arbitrary and don't really work without blocking lots of legitimate informational sites. Thus by using them you're putting the decision of what information people can access into the hands of some random company with potentially their own agenda. Not a good decision for freedom of speech.
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Monday, June 23, 2003

The American Traveler International Apology Shirt. "I'm sorry my president is an idiot. I didn't vote for him." in all of the official UN languages, to wear on your next foreign trip. There's also a domestic version without English, based on the theory that few violent Bush supporters can read foreign languages.
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"the mediator, adjuster,

You have a deep love for simplicity, clarity,
fairness, and balance. You have a great
ability to edit, synthesize, and research
ideas. Your sites are turned inwards, as shown
on the card by the masked eyes. Alpha and
Omega are symbolic of your need to complete
that which you begin. You have little
tolerance of complexity, as shown by the
webbing in the background.

which major arcana of the thoth tarot deck are you? short, with pictures and detailed results
brought to you by Quizilla
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Sunday, June 22, 2003

It continues to rain. My tomatoes have grown only a few inches since I set them out weeks ago. I haven't made any further progress on the pruning or the fence painting. Yesterday I went to help at a clean-up session at the NESFA clubhouse. I learned how to lay floor tile, which was useful. (We were replacing chipped and broken tiles, not the whole floor.) I went to a nice dinner afterwards, although I ate a bit too much. I couldn't resist the German Chocolate Cake. I used to make that all the time, back in the days when I was eating real food, and it is one of my favorite desserts. I ate a half piece and felt stuffed the rest of the night. Becky and I were planning to go out to the Garden in the Woods today; I told her she can decide if the weather is too bad to go. For the rest of the day, I think I'll curl up on the couch and finish reading Seabiscuit, which has been very interesting so far.
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Blue Bird Escape is the weblog of a teenage Iranian-American girl who has gone back for a month-long visit to Iran. Here's an excerpt:

The city is crowded. It is full of people going many different ways. Each individual looks different. The women have to cover their hair. Some cover it fully, others cover it half way. Some have no make up at all, others have a lot on. Some wear bright colors and tight clothes, others wear black and loose clothes. These women have not accomplished what they were after. These women did not have their dreams come true. These women are after something more, something better. Their identity is hidden by their covered faces and bodies. Their emotions are beneath the make-up. Their eyes are used to the everyday show, they can't look any further for a change. These women have to deal with stares and remarks by some men everyday. These women have no rights. They have no freedom. These women are smart and talented, but unfortunately no one can see it. No one gives them an opportunity to show-off their talents. They have to keep it to themselves. These women are hard working. They don't give up. They walk through the crowded city, go through the heat while wearing too many clothes, go through remarks and stares, go through traffic, and every other obstacle, yet they still walk and hold their heads high to show that they're not afraid.

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The MoveOn.org PAC will be holding an internet-wide primary on this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. Read about it here. They are also a good site to get information about the Democratic candidates, if you're tired of the spinning and soundbites of the regular media. You need to register in advance if you want to vote in the primary.
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Saturday, June 21, 2003

Here's my Brain Usage Profile. Take the test here.

Auditory : 43%
Visual : 56%
Left : 50%
Right : 50%

Leslie, you exhibit an even balance between left- and right- hemisphere dominance and a slight preference for visual over auditory processing. With a score this balanced, it is likely that you would have slightly different results each time you complete this self-assessment quiz.

You are a well-rounded person, distinctly individualistic and artistic, an active and multidimensional learner. At the same time, you are logical and disciplined, can operate well within an organization, and are sensitive towards others without losing objectivity. You are organized and goal-directed. Although a "thinking" individual, you "take in" entire situations readily and can act on intuition.

You sometimes tend to vacillate in your learning styles. Learning might take you longer than someone of equal intellect, but you will tend to be more thorough and retain the material longer than those other individuals. You will alternate between logic and impulse. This vacillation will not normally be intentional or deliberate, so you may experience anxiety in situations where you are not certain which aspect of yourself will be called on.

With a slight preference for visual processing, you tend to be encompassing in your perceptions, process along multidimensional paths and be active in your attacking of situations or learning.

Overall, you should feel content with your life and yourself. You are, perhaps, a little too critical of yourself -- and of others -- while maintaining an "openness" which tempers that tendency. Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity may not be in keeping with your potential. Being a pragmatist, you downplay this aspect of yourself and focus on the more immediate, obvious and the more functional.

This is an interesting assessment. I've always felt that split between the two sides of my personality, the logical and what they call the impulsive or intuitive. The logical comes out in my computer work and my interest in Magic. The intuitive comes out in my gardening/landscape design work, and my ability to relate to people. "Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity may not be in keeping with your potential" is an interesting statement and something I need to think about. It could well be true.
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You can sign a petition opposing land mines here.
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Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?You are: John Sheridan (Babylon 5)

An experienced survivor who has maneuvered around many obstacles, you are looked up to by those who rely on your good judgment.

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I was looking for a site that had "Bush Lied, People Died" bumper stickers and I found this one. Now I can't decide between "Bush Lied, People Died", "Vote Bush Out - While You Still Can", and "Too Many Lies - Anybody But Bush in 2004".

Darn, all three of these are "Temporarily Out of Stock".
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I finally got to see Miyazaki's Spirited Away, a very lovely and imaginative animated film. It's a little creepy in spots, and I felt I might have been missing a few nuances due to cultural differences, but it's beautifully done and very worth watching. The dubbed English version was done with great care under Miyazaki's direction. I'll start putting some of the other Miyazaki films, like Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, on my Netflix list.

Also recently watched Manor House on PBS. This was another one of those play-acting documentaries. This time they enacted a British Manor House of the Edwardian era, with ordinary people playing the roles of both upstairs and downstairs inhabitants for several months. If you've watched the old PBS drama "Upstairs, Downstairs" or the more recent Robert Altman film Gosford Park, you probably won't learn anything new, but it was entertaining to see how modern day sensibilities coped with Edwardian restrictions. I wasn't surprised that they had to go through three different candidates for scullery maid before they found one that would stick it out - what surprised me that they found anyone at all who was willing to put up with long days of back breaking labor with hardly any time off! And it wasn't at all surprising to learn that the people who played the lord and lady of the monor were really sad when the project came to an end. Who wouldn't enjoy being waited on hand and foot, even if it did entail a certain loss of privacy?

Legal Eagles, with Robert Redford and Deborah Winger, was rather disappointing. Every so often it had a little whiff of the Spencer Tracey/Katharine Hepburn partnership, but they couldn't quite carry it off. And the story, featuring Daryl Hannah as the daughter of a famous painter who died in a fire that might have been arson (one of three (3!) fires that were featured in the movie), really didn't make much sense.

Adaptation, on the other hand, was delightful. The story of a screenwriter (Nicholas Cage) and his alter-ego twin brother (also Nicholas Cage) writing a screenplay adaptation of the book The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orleans (who is played by Meryl Streep). You soon realize that the movie he/they are writing is the movie you're actually watching, and the movie changes its tone as the second brother gets more involved in the writing. It's very convoluted, and the title, Adaptation, has about five levels of meaning. Cage's performance as the two brothers is brilliant. I'm looking forward to reading The Orchid Thief
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Local residents have been flocking to a hospital in Milton, which has a blotchy window that some say is an image of the Virgin Mary. It's gotten so bad that the hospital has to cover the window except for a few hours of viewing in the evening, otherwise the crowds get in the way of their actual patients who are trying to get into the hospital. I've never understood this "lucky charm" sort of religious fervor. I think Rev. John Swencki hit the nail on the head in his letter to the Boston Globe:

I don't know if the image in Milton Hospital's window is of divine origin or simply a curious natural phenomenon, but I am certain it would please and honor the Virgin Mary if the onlookers would stop gawking at the window and go inside the hospital, become a volunteer, visit patients, make a donation, pick up litter on the grounds, offer hospitality to families of patients who live a distance away, lobby for health care for the poor, send appreciation cards to physicians and nurses, or escort patients into and out of the hospital.

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I weighed in at a new low weight this morning; I'm now down 8 pounds from April 1. I got kick-started into losing when I was sick in early May and didn't eat for 5 days. But I think the secret to maintaining and continung the loss is that I've gotten back into cooking more and eating out less. Even though I was eating out at places like the Low Fat Cafe, I think you just eat more when you're not in control of the portion size. I'm continuing to cook from the Family Circle book "Eat What You Love and Lose". It's taken me nearly 2 months to get through their first 2 weeks of meal plans, because most of their recipes are for 6 servings, so they last me quite a while. If possible, I will cut them in half, or freeze half of the servings for later. Shopping and cooking do take up a lot of time, but since I'm not working, I have the time available. The last couple of recipes I made were Spicy Beef in Lettuce Rolls (with bean sprouts, scallions, and red pepper) and Ravioli with Sausage Sauce (with turkey sausage, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach). I've also been eating salad greens, radishes, and sugar snap peas from he garden, and blueberries and cherries from the store. I'd like to lose another 3+ pounds to get under 140.
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Harald T. Nesvik, a Right-wing Norwegian Member of Parliament, has nominated U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush for the Nobel Peace Prize for their "decisive action against terrorism". Sign this petition to tell you agree on rejecting Bush and Blair from Nobel Prize Nomination.
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Friday, June 20, 2003

There's a good summary article over at the New Republic reviewing how the Bush administration systematically distorted the evidence supporting the war with Iraq. Their concluding paragraph:

The controversy might, indeed, go away. Democrats don't have the power to call hearings, and, apart from Graham and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are treating the issue delicately given the public's overwhelming support for the war. But there are worse things than losing an election by going too far out on a political limb--namely, failing to defend the integrity of the country's foreign policy and its democratic institutions. It may well be that, in the not-too-distant future, preemptive military action will become necessary--perhaps against a North Korea genuinely bent on incinerating Seoul or a nuclear Pakistan that has fallen into the hands of radical Islamists. In such a case, we the people will look to our leaders for an honest assessment of the threat. But, next time, thanks to George W. Bush, we may not believe them until it is too late.

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Ever wish you could apply your VCR or TiVo's replay function to real life? Well, here's a device that comes close. DejaView offers an eye-glasses mountable camera which, when you press a button, will capture the previous 30 seconds of video and sound for download to your computer. The $299 model will capture up to 48 30-second clips, there's a more expensive version with more storage, and there's an even cheaper $79 version that you can use with your PDA.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I was at Garden in the Woods this afternoon, working on the surveys with a couple of other people, when the director came through the office urging everyone to head out back to see the mating Cecropia moths. (That's one of the great things about working there - when something unusual happens the word spreads quickly and everyone stops what they're doing to go check it out.) Cecropia moths are extremely large and quite beautiful. When the female emerges from her cocoon, she doesn't travel far, but sends out strong pheromes that attract males from miles around. After mating, she will lay her eggs within a few days, but she never eats and will die shortly thereafter. The garden had acquired a female cecropia and had set it out on a wild cherry tree at the edge of the parking lot the day before. The male found her shortly thereafter and they were still going at it - apparently copulation for these moths can last for days. Scan down on the link above and you'll see a picture of a mating pair much like the one I saw. Amazing.
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We had a couple of beautiful sunny days which I spent almost entirely outside doing garden work. I even got to spend some time reading in the hammock, and eating meals out on the porch. It was wonderful. But now we're back to cold cloudy gloom and showers for the next five days, according to the weather forecast. According to today's Globe, the average high temperature for June has been 6 degrees below normal, and the average daily temperature for the year to date has been 4 degrees below normal.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Windows error messages in haiku. A few samples:

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

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An interesting story in the Washington Post talks about a former Bush counterterrorism advisor who resigned from the administration and a few months later went to work on the Kerry campaign. Lots of depressing inside information on how the government is screwing up the counterterrorism effort.

Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, [Rand] Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

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Monday, June 16, 2003

Memo to self: The next time I pick a fight with the big juniper bush out in front, remember to wear long sleeves. Whew, what a tussle! I've got little tiny stinging scratches all over my arms, and a huge pile of branches that need to be bundled, and I haven't quite wrestled it into submission. It's a start, though. Saturday I worked on the forsythia, which was a piece of cake by comparison. That resulted in 4 bundles of prunings. Today I sheared some of the yews and started in on one of the junipers. There are still some high branches I haven't been able to reach, so I'm going to have to dig out the pole pruner. But I'll leave that for another day - I'm beat. This is another one of those situations where I'm trying to make up for years of neglect, so it's going to take a while.

On the plus side, the irises and peonies are starting to bloom, and the sugar snap peas are ready to eat. Yum.
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I've been looking for a while for an index card/note card application to keep track of miscellaneous information. I've been using Stickies, but I'm not crazy about them, and up until now the only other app I've been able to find was a fairly expensive one designed for academics with bibliographic requirements. But yesterday I found a nice little shareware app called VooDooPad that does just what I want. It will easily create hyper-linked notecards, sort of like a little miniature wiki. And what's really cool is that it will export to the iPod, maintaining the links. It looks like it's just what I was looking for.
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Sunday, June 15, 2003

It didn't rain today and the sun came out. This is officially an event these days. I went out in the yard in the morning and just stood in the sun for a while - it felt so good. Around noontime, Alex and I got together and drove out to eat dim sum in the suburbs and then went out to the Garden in the Woods. I hadn't been there in over a week and was amazed to see how much had changed. The spring ephemerals are all pretty much gone by now, and some of the early summer flowers are appearing. There were still some rhododendrons and flame azaleas and lots of mountain laurel, and the strange-looking turkeybeard flowers are starting to open. The meadow is taller, but still not quite in bloom yet. Everything is very lush and green and the ferns are very happy. We passed Ozzy the cat, taking a nap at the side of the woodland trail, and saw two turtles on the log in the pond.
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A weblog called Kuro5hin has a rant about the fact that Hollywood is making a film called "I, Robot" that has nothing in common with the Isaac Asimov book except the title.

The tragedy in all this is that Harlan Ellison wrote up an amazing screenplay based on "I, Robot" something like 20 years ago and the studios have been refusing to move forward with it ever since. Something about actual quality seems to repel most Studio execs like garlic to a vampire. Go figure. In the early 90's, Ellison finally managed to at least get the screenplay published in book form and it is excellent. It would be an amazing movie, and undoubtedly a blockbuster.

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We all receive those African e-mail scams, but here's a site from someone who has been scamming the scammers. He even got pictures of the scammer guy waiting in vain for him to show up at the Dubai airport with a case full of money.
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Saturday, June 14, 2003

The second time the power failed today, I decided to go out and take a walk along the river, which I haven't done for a while. The fauna today included many geese and two woodchucks! One was probably the same one I saw earlier, since he was at about the same place in the path. He let me get rather close and it definitely was a woodchuck. The second one was very near the parking area. The flora was abundant, with many new wildflowers in bloom. There were an amazing number of white multiflora roses growing in among the shrubbery, also viburnum and something that might have been mock orange (it really smelled nice). I couldn't identify all the wildflowers, so I took some samples home to look up in Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.

Newcomb's has a very geeky method of identifying wildflowers. You start by answering three questions, each answer translating to a digit. The first is the number of petals, the second is whether the leaves are alternate, opposite, basal or nonexistent, and the third is whether the leaves are entire (smooth-edged), toothed, or divided. When you've answered all the questions, you get a three-digit number; for example "533" means 5 petals, alternate leaves, leaves toothed or lobed. Next you look up this number in a table and may get some additional questions to answer depending on the particular number. For example, 533 is divided between yellow flowers, and non-yellow flowers, and the non-yellow flowers are divided into "Largest leaves as wide as long" and "Leaves longer than wide". If you pick the former, you get "Plants prostrate or creeping" and "erect plants". When you get to the end of the questions, you are directed to a page that has excellent drawings and descriptions of a small set of plants that might be what you are looking for. It works beautifully, as long as you have a good enough sample that you can answer all the questions.

So what did I find today? Well, there was cow vetch, daisy fleabane, ground ivy, white campion, yellow sweet clover, silvery cinquefoil, and white yarrow. Other things I saw that I didn't have to look up were daisies, buttercups, red and white clover, and blue flag iris.

I also saw tons of very healthy poison ivy, and a sky blue water heater dumped among the shrubbery. I hate it when people mess up wild places.
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Here's a few pictures from my rain-soaked garden this morning. The deep purple Veronica and bright yellow Achillea (yarrow) is a great combination that I can see right outside my office window (if I stretch a little to the right). The white flower is Dictamnus, which I planted years ago and has finally gotten to the point where it sends up more than one flower spike, and the huge blue flowers are on a Clematis vine growing up my chimney.

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Friday, June 13, 2003

Katisha health update: The results from Katisha's $230-worth of blood, urine, and thyroid tests came back more-or-less normal. She still is showing kidney function problems (slightly worse than last time), but her liver, blood sugar, and thyroid are all okay. I've been feeding her a mixture of regular and prescription food and she seems to be eating a bit more heartily. The doctor suggests I continue trying to convince her to eat well and then bring her back for a quick weigh-in after two and four weeks. If she maintains weight okay, then we're okay for a while. If she continues to lose weight, then he suggests doing further tests, such as x-rays to look for a possible "mass" (I guess he means cancer). I'm hoping it's just that she doesn't like the prescription food.
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Thursday, June 12, 2003

David Brinkley: David Brinkley died today. I grew up with David Brinkley: my nightly news as a teenager was the Huntley-Brinkley Report, with its famous "Good night, Chet. Good night, David" signoff. More recently, I enjoyed his Sunday morning news show This Week until his retirement a few years back. And I read his book, "Washington Goes to War", a fascinating inside look at how the U.S. capitol made the transformation from a sleepy little southern town to the busy seat of government that it is today as the country geared up to fight World War II. I always enjoyed his style - as CNN described it, "He looked craggy and slightly bemused, as if he could not quite believe what he was reading -- particularly in Washington's spin-machine culture." I wish we had more like him.
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You win some, you lose some: I worked on two projects today. One went fairly smoothly; the other seems to have just wasted a lot of my time. The first project was fixing my front doorbell. I observed that my back doorbell worked fine, so I guessed that it was the button rather than the chime that was broken. My front doorbell has a pretty copper backplate with a relief of an iris flower so I wanted to try to preserve that. I unscrewed the plate and unscrewed the wires from the button. When I touched the wires together the bell would ring, so that once again pointed to the button. As it turns out, these buttons are a fairly standard part that you can simply remove and replace. Which is what I did after a trip to Home Depot to get the replacement button. Then there was a lot of futzing around trying to get all the wires back into the hole which involved a screwdriver, a hammer, and a little swearing, but I finally got everything all back together and working!

The second project would have been totally useless even if I had succeeded, but I was interested in learning how it worked. I had noticed that in Safari (the Mac OS browser) and Microsoft Explorer, some web sites appear with little icons in the shortcuts menu. I wanted to find out where those icons came from and set one up for my web site. I did a lot of web searching (which was tough because I didn't know exactly what I was searching for) and finally found a site with instructions. It turns out these things are called favicons (short for "favorites icons"), and to create them you simply need to create an icon file called favicon.ico in your web root directory. Of course, this is easier said than done. First you need to find an application that will create an icon file. I downloaded and tried 4 of them before I found one that worked reasonably (Iconographer). Then you need to create your icon. I just started out with my initials in white on a green background. I figure I can try to be more creative if I ever get this working. Then I had trouble ftp'ing the file to my web site and had to experiment with various formats. Now I have the file created where it should be, but I'm not seeing the icon when I load my page. One site warned that there could be problems with caching, but I've tried clearing the cache and that hasn't helped. So I'm giving up until I can think of something else to try.

Addendum: Alex helped me find another page of instructions that provided the key piece of information: the icon you create needs to be in Windows format, not in Mac format. Once I saved the icon in Windows format and uploaded it to the site, I was able to see it. Mission accomplished.
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Depressing weather: I just downloaded a neat OS X app called Weatherpop. It puts the current weather and 3-day outlook in your menu bar (you get your choice of sources). Unfortunately, the news is depressing. Today, showers. Tomorrow, thunderstorms. Saturday, showers. Finally on Sunday they're predicting some sun. Yesterday it was not raining in the morning, and I was able to get out and mow the lawn and get after the weeds once again. The nightshade had popped up all over the front bed again. This time, it was both from hidden roots I hadn't pulled up and new seedlings from last year's seed crop. The thing with weeds is, once you let them go rampant, you've got a real problem for years later. It's best to keep after them regularly and never let them go to seed. I'm also dealing with wild morning glories in the vegetable garden. I am just not making any progress on the major outdoor projects (shrub pruning, cutting back the vines from the house, and painting the fence). I'm terribly afraid that once it stops raining it will turn hot and humid, which will make the outside work even more difficult.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Test your moral intuitions: Gary Farber links to this test, which evaluates your moral intuitions. Rather than just rating you, it gives a very interesting commentary, especially if your answers show some contradictions in your thinking.
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A Christian Republican? Will Shetterly linked to this NYT op-ed piece about the governor of Alabama, who is a Christian Republican who actually tries to follow the teachings of Jesus. Will wonders never cease?

But Governor Riley has stunned many of his conservative supporters, and enraged the state's powerful farm and timber lobbies, by pushing a tax reform plan through the Alabama Legislature that shifts a significant amount of the state's tax burden from the poor to wealthy individuals and corporations. And he has framed the issue in starkly moral terms, arguing that the current Alabama tax system violates biblical teachings because Christians are prohibited from oppressing the poor.

If Governor Riley's tax plan becomes law — the voters still need to ratify it in September — it will be a major victory for poor people, a rare thing in the current political climate. But win or lose, Alabama's tax-reform crusade is posing a pointed question to the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and other groups that seek to import Christian values into national policy: If Jesus were active in politics today, wouldn't he be lobbying for the poor?

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Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Chestnut Hill Garden Tour: Today's garden tour was another perk for volunteer guides at Garden in the Woods. It was a private tour of a 4-acre Chestnut Hill estate garden owned by a member of the New England Wild Flower Society. An expansive lawn swept down to a pair of small ponds, and a woodland area behind the ponds was planted with a huge variety of hostas, ferns, rhododendrons, and wildflowers. After the tour, we ate our picnic lunches on the patio, shaded by a 100-year-old wisteria vine. It couldn't have been a lovelier day.

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Look at the Land: I went to Moody Street in Waltham today to check out a plumbing supply store. As it turned out, the store (Brickman's) was much too high-end for what I was looking for, but on my way from the parking lot, I stumbled across the Panopticon Gallery, which was displaying a ravishing set of high-quality photographs by Alex MacLean from his Looking at the Land series. The ones in the window caught my eye, and I went in and spent some time viewing the whole exhibit. I've given a link to some web images, but the large-format images had a much greater impact than these little on-line versions. The photos will be there until Sept. 6.
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Happy happy joy joy: The sun is out today, and I have a garden tour on my schedule! More later (maybe pictures).
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Eyesore of the Month:Today's interesting site is Eyesore of the Month.
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Monday, June 09, 2003

4-dimensional Rubik's cube: If you have a lot of time to kill, and want a really mind-bending experience, try this software (PC and Linux only) for a 4-dimensional Rubik's cube.
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Fast-food salads are often not a healthy choiceHere's some nutritional information on several chains' salad offerings. Is anyone surprised to learn that many of them are comparable to a Big Mac in terms of calories and fat grams?
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Sunday, June 08, 2003

Or was Bush conned?Daily Kos, on the other hand, doesn't think Bush knowingly lied, suggesting instead that he was conned by Chalabi.

The mark of a great con is that the mark doesn't realize he's been conned until well after it's over. Chalabi, already convicted in Jordan of various financial abuses and shady dealings, wanted the Americans to annoint him the new ruler of Iraq and he came close to it. Of course, in reality, he was a small man trying to live out a big role and when the real players, the Shia and Sunni clerics, rose to prominance, with thousands of followers, not 800 exiles with scant military training, he is shoved aside by events.

It would be all too easy to say Bush lied to get what he wanted. But if he was lying, why not claim some 122mm artillery shells are WMD , blow them up and fake the results. Why drag this out on and on, looking for some jackpot which most people do not believe exists? Instead of a lie, he looks like a mark, a man fed a truth he wanted, no needed, to believe, and then when the scam is revealed, do everything possible to deny the reality and protect those who conned him.

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Is lying about the war an impeachable offense?John Dean (remember Watergate?) argues that lying about the war could be reason for impeachment.

In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison. If the Bush Administration intentionally manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to authorize, and the public to support, military action to take control of Iraq, then that would be a monstrous misdeed.

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

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The tax cut - Duped and Betrayed: In a NYT Op-Ed piece, Paul Krugman tells us more about what's wrong with the Bush tax cut. It isn't just the missing child-care credits for low-income families.

Less attention has been paid to fine print that reveals the supposed rationale for the dividend tax cut as a smoke screen. The problem, we were told, is that profits are taxed twice: once when they are earned, a second time when they are paid out as dividends. But as any tax expert will tell you, the corporate tax law is full of loopholes; many profitable corporations pay little or no taxes.

The original Bush plan ensured that dividends from such companies would not get a tax break. But those safeguards vanished from the final bill: dividends will get special treatment regardless of how much tax is paid by the company that issues them.

This little change has two big consequences. First, as Glenn Hubbard, the former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and the author of the original plan, delicately puts it, "It's hard to get a lot of progressivity at the top."

Translation: wealthy individuals who get most of their income from dividends and capital gains will often end up paying lower tax rates than ordinary Americans who work for a living.

Second, the tax cut — originally billed as a way to reduce abuses — may well usher in a golden age of tax evasion. We can be sure that lawyers and accountants are already figuring out how to disguise income that should be taxed at a 35 percent rate as dividends that are taxed at only 15 percent. Since there's no need to show that tax was ever paid on profits, tax shelters should be easy to construct.

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Saturday, June 07, 2003

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Triple Crown:I was sorry that Funny Cide didn't make it to the Triple Crown today. During the first part of the race, it looked to me like he wanted to run faster and his jockey was holding him back awfully firmly. When he got beaten in the stretch, I wondered if that firm hold had taken some of the fight out of him. The Sports Illustrated story on the race seems to say something similar:

Funny Cide broke cleanly and moved right to the lead passing the grandstand as the crowd cheered on their New York hero. Scrimshaw was second along the inside, with Empire Maker running smoothly in third.

Along the backstretch, it appeared Funny Cide started fighting Santos and that's when Bailey knew he was looking at a victory.

"He was pulling on Jose, and my horse was relaxed," Bailey said. "The key to running a mile-and-a-half is to get your horse to relax."

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Correction to Keanu Reeves story: It looks like that story about Keanu Reeves giving money to the Matrix tech crew may have been overstated. Ah well, it sounded too good to be true. (Thanks to becky for the link.)
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Friday, June 06, 2003

Rooting for Funny Cide: Even if you don't follow horse racing, you've probably heard that Funny Cide will be trying for the Triple Crown on Saturday. When I was a horse-crazy teenage girl, I followed horse racing, and I still keep an eye on things now and then, especially when something exciting is going on. The last 8 or so Triple Crown attempts have failed, so the odds aren't on his side, but I'll be rooting for him. The Boston Globe published Funny Cide's family tree today, and I was pleased to see that I'd actually met two of his ancestors - great-grandsire Seattle Slew (a Triple Crown winner in 1977) and great-great-grandsire Nashua (won 2/3 of a Triple Crown in 1955) - on two of my visits to Kentucky horse country. And I rooted for g-g-gs Bold Ruler in the first Kentucky Derby I ever saw on TV in 1957 (he lost, sorry to say, partly because his jockey, the great Willie Shoemaker, mistook the finish line and rose up in his stirrups for an instant). And Bold Ruler was the sire of the greatest racehorse ever, Secretariat (another Triple Crown winner, who I also visited once). So I feel like I'm a friend of the family.
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Handyman Rob comes to visit: I got a visit today from Handyman Rob, a guy I'd called a few weeks ago to see if he could help me make some progress on some of the maintenance problems around my house. We looked at three major areas: the crumbling masonry, the basement sink, and the attic insulation. The masonry is going to be the big one, and he is going to call in Mario, his masonry subcontractor to take a look at it. We are looking at refacing or rebuilding both my front and back porches and replacing the cheap tin roofs with wood and shingles. Also rebuilding a concrete block retaining wall that lines the stairs down into my back basement door. The whole thing will probably be rather expensive, but I think it needs to be done. The other two jobs probably won't be quite as expensive, although while he was checking out my water pipes in the basement, there were many dire mutterings about the lack of any shutoff valves anywhere. The sink is urgent, though. Rob suggested that I do the shopping for the replacement sink, and suggested a supplier to try. I have a busy weekend, though, so probably won't get to it until Monday.
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Thursday, June 05, 2003

80s Ending:A 6-minute parody of the ending of every 1980's film you've ever seen.
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Outsourcing in the computer industry: I had lunch today with some friends from my previous job. It was really great to see them again. One of the sad things about layoffs is the way they abruptly break off friendships that have developed between people who have been working together in difficult situations. I try to overcome this by staying in touch with the people I used to work with, but it's hard to do with the intensity of some people's work schedules.

One of the things we talked about what the current trend of outsourcing technical jobs to India. They were involved in the beginning of an outsourcing effort, and talked about how many of the people they have recently interviewed for job openings reported that they lost their jobs due to outsourcing. (After training the people at the remote site to do their jobs, they were then promptly laid off.)

Here's another example of corporate leaders getting richer at the expense of the workers. The jobs go out of the country, people are laid off and are collecting unemployment (and not spending money in the U.S. economy), and the whole motivation for this process is that the remote workers are cheaper, so the corporate profits go up. I wish there was something that could be done about this.
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The saga of the Netgear rebate: Back in October, I bought a Netgear firewall for my computer. It came with a rebate offer, which I duly sent in. They usually tell you to wait 10 weeks for the check, so it wasn't until December, when I didn't get the check, that I followed up on it. I checked the web site, www.wheresmyrebate.com, and found that my submission was denied due to lack of a store receipt. Since I had ordered on the web, I did not have a store receipt. I had submitted the e-mail acknowledgement of the order and the packing slip, which were the only two hard copy evidence I had.

At this point I called CompUSA. The person I talked to said she would send me a copy of the receipt, and that if I sent in the rebate request again it would be honored. I sent that in January, along with a letter explaining all of the above. Still no response.

In March, I wrote to Netgear explaining the situation and asking for the rebate. For a long time there was no response, and I'd pretty much decided to give up. But then, unexpectedly, I got a phone call from someone at Netgear saying they would fix the problem. I stupidly did not get that person's name, because for another long time nothing happened. Then a few weeks ago I got an e-mail saying they were working on it. Finally today I got the following e-mail:

"Thank you for participating in our rebate promotion. Your rebate has been approved and your rebate check will be mailed to you in approximately 8 weeks."

Hmm, in 8 weeks, it will be August, just over 10 months from when I originally bought the item. Stay tuned to see if I actually ever get the rebate.

Addendum: Will wonders never cease? The check came in yesterday's mail! Okay, now I can tell you that the Netgear firewall has been working really great for me. It is easy to install and administer. So if you need a firewall, give Netgear a look.
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FBI agents learn from teenage girls: The Boston Globe this morning reported that the FBI has been taking lessons from teenage girls to help them catch pedophiles on the internet. The girls have been giving agents background information to allow them to realistically fake being a teenager in chat rooms.

Most of their classmates did not know about their FBI work until Tuesday, when Bald commended them on their achievements. Thanks to the girls, Bald said, the FBI has gathered such valuable information as: never begin a chat with ''hello''; never use proper grammar in instant messages; and ''pos'' stands for ''parent over shoulder.''

After the ceremony, several parents talked excitedly about finally finding out what ''pos'' meant.

Karen shot Mary a worried look: ''Our classmates are going to kill us.''

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Tax rates on the middle class have quintupled (graph): As found in Calpundit, this graph shows that "effective tax rates on millionaires have plummeted over the last 50 years while tax rates on the middle class have quintupled".

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Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Helping set up a plant sale: I spent the day at the Garden in the Woods today. In the morning, I had been scheduled to lead a tour, but the group that showed up was smaller than they had reserved for, so we were one guide too many. Since I'd invited my friend Priscilla to join me, Bonnie decided that I would be the one set free, so I could just walk the garden with Priscilla. We had a good time - Priscilla is very knowledgeable about garden plants and wildlife, so we shared a lot of information back and forth. She helped me to locate the sundews, a tiny little carnivorous plant that is hidden among the pitcher plants in the bog.

We had lunch on the patio, and then pitched in to help out with the plant sale setup. This was hard work - especially hard on the back. It involved inserting price labels into the pots (after looking up the plant name and finding the price on a master list), then moving the flats and arranging them on tables. The plants were organized by sun-loving, shade-loving, native, non-native, etc., with special tables for ferns, hostas, lilies, and other common plants. People vied to make their tables the most artistically arranged, and some of them were quite lovely. I was sorry I hadn't brought my camera.

There were a number of perks for the volunteers. We got a Garden in the Woods sun visor, there was snack food available (including ice cream!), and if we can make it to the garden on Friday afternoon, we'll get a chance to buy up to 5 plants ahead of the crowd. (Priscilla and I were making our selections as we worked.)

One amazing plant I'd never seen before was the Cobra Lily, the Japanese analogue to our Jack-in-the-Pulpit. It was very striking, with a completely white spath wrapped in a deep maroon, almost black, spadix. Definitely a plant you would stop twice to look at.

It was just overwhelming to see so many gorgeous and unusual plants in such a small space. I can understand why the plant sale is usually a mob scene.
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Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Experimenting with Kung-Log: I'm experimenting with Kung-Log, a Mac OS X "donationware" application for editing blog entries. It has some features that aren't available in the standard Mac blogger interface, including support for draft entries and for customizable HTML tags. It also creates title tags in my source, which might get used by BlogMatrix for my RSS feed. We'll see...

I might mention that I had a little problem getting started and the developer responded right away to my request for help. He also seems to be issuing updates on a weekly basis. Definitely a project worth supporting.
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Katisha has been losing weight: I've been noticing that Katisha has not been looking at all her usual pudgy self, so I took her by the vet's to get weighed today. She has lost a pound in the past 6 months, and 3+ pounds in the past few years. For a cat, that's a lot, so it looks like I'll have to bring her in again for more kidney tests.
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I planted the summer vegetables today: I got all the summer vegetables planted today: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, squash, and basil. I planted only three tomatoes this year instead of my usual six because I want to try spreading them out a bit more. They've had problems in past years with various types of blights, and I'm hoping more sun and air will help keep them healthy. The three are each a different type - a slicing tomato, a plum tomato, and a cherry tomato. I also planted the leucothoe and creeping phlox I bought at the garden on Monday, and mowed the back lawn.The day started fine, but has been getting cloudier, and it looks like tomorrow will be another garden tour in the rain (sigh). A million more things that could use doing, but the most urgent stuff is done.
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Really funny convention announcement (Confidential): Check out this really funny convention announcement. (Membership by confidential money transfer only.)
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Today I hope to get some work done in my own garden, but boring, mundane tasks have been taking up a lot of my morning. The Ostrich Fern I planted the other day is drooping a bit. I think it's highly likely that the existing fronds will die back, but I'll just have to hope that it has a sturdy enough root system to come back. I bought two more plants at the garden nursery yesterday and need to plant them today. A deep purple Siberian iris that I planted many years ago is finally making an impressive display; it's quite a bold color combination with the deep red 'Nova Zembla' rhododendron. (My camera makes the iris look more 'blue' than it really is.)

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I was amused by this story, from Kathryn Cramer, about the day-to-day usefulness of new technologies.

John was in a Best Buy trying to buy a computer cable. The salesman directed him to the cable he needed. The price was $40 which seemed like too much for just a cable. John whipped out his pocket PC right there in the aisle, typed the info on the package into a technology search engine, and discovered that the cable in question could easily be had on the web for $10. He showed the web price to the salesman and said, "I know you guys have to make money, but you charge four times as much as this place on the web, so I think I'll buy it from them instead." (Knowing my brother, he probably suggested that this was not what he called a Best Buy.) Then he walked out.

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Please consider signing the petition started by Lawrence Lessig to support the Public Domain Enhancement Act.
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One of the little things at Garden in the Woods that never fails to delight me is this "Walking Fern" in the tufa rock garden. This delicate plant grows on a mossy rock smack dab at the edge of the trail. Can you see that the tip of the leaf is elongated, and where it reaches down to touch the rock it has formed a new tiny little plant? On one of my early tours, when I showed this to a family, the young boy said, "That would be a great way for ants to cross a stream!" What a sense of imagination!

I think part of what I love about this fern is what it says about the type of people who visit the garden. Every day, people pass within inches of this little plant, and not a single person has been moved to disrupt it. If only our broader society could be as benign about all the other vulnerable things that exist in the world.

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I was on the verge of writing a post on the greediness of human nature - of how everyone seems to be out for what they can get for themselves at the expense of others. And I'm still sickened by the examples of that I see every day. But then I run across something like this. Actor Keanu Reeves is sharing some of his earnings from the Matrix sequels with the costume and special effects teams - to the tune of 50 million. "Asked about his prodigious act of generosity, the actor said he already had enough cash. 'I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries', he declared." Amazing.
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Monday, June 02, 2003

It finally stopped raining, and the air was clear and fresh and breezy today. And I got to do another tour at Garden in the Woods - this time for a garden club from Essex, Connecticut. You really want to do a good job when you know that people have travelled hours in a bus just to see the garden. So it was exhausting, but fun.

One amusing bit was that we were all going nuts trying to identify a plant that didn't have a label. It was a bright pink delicate flower that was in a few spots near the pond and the swamp. Finally, when we got back, Bonnie told me that it was Ragged Robin, and the reason that it wasn't labeled was that it was an invasive exotic. The perils of working at a native plant garden! I still gotta learn those interlopers, if only to explain that's what they are.

It was sad to see the spring ephemerals go by. The trilliums and shooting stars were pretty bedraggled and many other spring blooms were no longer in sight. On the other hand, new things are blooming now: rhododendrons, the blue flag iris, lupines, clintonia, blue-eyed grass, and the first of the pink lady slippers. The garden ladies were taking notes like mad, and bought many plants in the nursery when we were done. I found it hard to get myself to go home - it just felt so good being out in the air again after so many days of rain.

I've got another tour coming up on Wednesday, this time a garden club from New Hampshire.
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This is a sweet story about a group of 10 to 12-year-old kids who made a shot-by-shot remake of the movie Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark. Be sure to check out the preview link at the end.
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Sunday, June 01, 2003

Here's an example of quality customer support from ViewSonic. I sent them e-mail describing my problem of not being able to get the highest resolution of my monitor after switching to Mac OS X. I got a response as follows:

Dear Valued Customer:
Thank you for your inquiry about 17GA model.
Try turning on you MAC with extensions off. This will reload the drivers.
Sharmila S. [Singh, as noted in an attachment]
Technical Support Engineer
ViewSonic Corporation

This was interesting because if you go to the Mac OS X help, you find:

Mac OS X does not use system extensions.

I wrote back to Sharmila reiterating that I was using System X and pointing out that key piece of information, but he/she only responded that I should reboot the system holding down the shift key (which is the method for turning off system extensions in System 9). Oh well. How much do you want to bet that ViewSonic has outsourced their customer support operation to India?
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The BlogMatrix RSS feed appears to work as advertised, although my summaries are a bit wonky because I don't write with article titles. I've been going through the blogs I regularly read, and have been finding that blogs with RSS feeds are the rule rather than the exception. About 2/3 of the blogs I've looked at have them. Guess I was a bit behind the times. BlogMatrix also offers a blogreading tool like NetNewsWire; theirs is called BlogTrack. Seems like using a web-based tool would have the advantage if you regularly read blogs from different locations (like at home and at work). But I like having the desktop application because it does things like display a little number on its icon to tell me how many new posts have come in since I last ran it.

Can you tell, by the way, that the storm did come in today as promised. That's why I've been doing all this computer stuff, rather than enjoying the outdoors. Good thing I got the lawn mowed and the weeds pulled yesterday!
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I'm experimenting with BlogMatrix, which claims to create an RSS feed of your blog. (In fact, you can apparently get it to create RSS feed of other people's blogs that you read, but I haven't tried that yet.) There's a delay, though, so I need to wait 24 hours before testing it.
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