29 December 2007

Your branches green delight us!

    They're green when summer days are bright.
    They're green when winter snow is white.
      O Tannenbaum (English Translation)

Friend sent me one more Christmas tree:

Now that's delightful.

26 December 2007


    O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
    Wie treu sind deine Blätter.
    Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
    Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
    O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
    Wie treu sind deine Blätter.
      Ernst Anschütz

I haven't posted for awhile, but in the spirit of the season, here are a few Christmas trees:

Longwood Gardens (one of many)

Grandma and Grandpa's

Ours (two views)

The Christmas ball tree that Sharon loves

17 December 2007

My wife on Dave Barry

    I am not making this up.
      Dave Barry

There is nothing quite like listening to my wife read Dave Barry. I wish you could hear the non-stop fits of laughter. I have no idea what exactly she's laughing at, but I'm giggling just listening to her. Oh, she's just woken the children....

14 December 2007

New Jersey to Abolish the Death Penalty

    Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.
      Gandalf the Grey
      The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I have just begun reading The Lord of the Rings with my oldest. In a coincidence of timing, I read aloud these words a day after the State Senate voted to abolish the death penalty and a day before the Assembly followed suit. This is the most eloquent yet succinct argument against the death penalty I can think of.

One to talk

    Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
      Luke 6:41 (NIV)

Today President Bush declared of baseball that "steroids have sullied the game." Honestly! He's one to one to talk! As a former baseball owner, he was a direct involved. Does he expect us to believe that the use of performance enhancing drugs began when he was no longer owner of the Texas Rangers? Now, in imitation of Captain Renault, he tells us he is shocked, shocked to learn there is steroid use in baseball. Please.

What's more, he has the gall to make such statements amid a flurry of scandals wherein his administration used lies, deception, and worse to further their personal and political agendas. What steroids has done to the reputation of baseball is nothing to what he has done to the reputation of the United States.

12 December 2007

Clean dishes and no bare bulbs

    Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

It is certainly true of people that separation makes you appreciate them all the more when together again. Sometimes it's like that inanimate objects. If you're without something for awhile, it almost feels new when you get it back. Two recent examples follow.

For several months, our dishwasher has been doing a progressively worse job of cleaning the dishes. What began with specks on glasses turned into routinely dirty bowls and pots. A couple weeks ago, I took apart and cleaned everything that did not require tools. Unfortunately there was no improvement. This past weekend I finally undertook a deeper examination and started taking everything apart. It's good to have a advance knowledge, though, and for that I am indebted to Samurai Appliance Repair Man and this illustrative slide show. In no time had exposed the mascerator assembly (pictured), which was clogged. I removed a ton of crud, mostly cardboard and toothpicks. Now we take extra pleasure when the dishwasher cleans dishes, even though that's what it's supposed to do all the time.

A similar nagging item was a broken glass lampshade to the lamp on the left. We didn't want to replace the whole lamp just because the shade broke, but I wasn't finding anywhere I could get it. After much googling of part numbers, I finally found a company selling replacement shades. However, it too forever for them to get it from their distributor and sent it to us. I placed the order in September and it arrived yesterday. With it back, though, there is no longer the harsh glare of bare bulbs illuminating our family room. Normally this is nothing special, but in this case it is.

10 December 2007

Spook Country

    Getting there is half the fun.
      popular idiom

I really like author William Gibson, and I was excited when Amazon told me about his latest novel. (Amazon knows how much I like Gibson.) Titled Spook Country, it follows in the footsteps of his previous novel, Pattern Recognition. Unlike Gibson's earlier work, which is set in the future, these novels are set in the present. Spook Country is not really a sequel, although some characters do recur. Rather it is more like a second story occurring in the same universe. I finished it just last week, and I was not disappointed.

My wife Sharon observed that Gibson is not out to write page-turners. Reading one of his novels is less like watching a movie and more like watching someone paint a picture. His plots are often devoid of the cliffhangers and surprise twists you often find. He takes his time with the narrative. Instead of propelling you forward, he reveals the story carefully. There is no problem stopping along the way to admire the view or smell the flowers. It is as much, if not more, about the journey than about the destination.

In recalling another Gibson novel, All Tomorrow's Parties, Sharon noted she might not remember exactly how the action unfolded, but she will never forget the cardboard box in a Tokyo train station that one of the characters lived in. Gibson's settings have always been memorable, and Spook Country continues that trend. Recalling it now, I cannot think of a location that was in any way mundane. He creates exotic places, like an impossibly priced flat in Vancouver with a magnetic levitation bed. Yet even locations as unexceptional as a Best Western motel room become noteworthy through the eyes of his characters.

And characters come to life in equal measure. The story is told from three points of view. First is Hollis Henry, an indie-rock star turned journalist (a little reminiscent of Cayce Pollard, the main character in Pattern Recognition, but only a little). Next is Tito, the young member of an underground family of spies-for-hire, and one of the more inventive characters I've encountered. Finally there is Milgrim, a drug addict held captive by a quasi-government operative; his observations and musings throughout the book made him my favorite. Like the book itself, each character is a portrait that reveals itself carefully as the story progresses. I don't want to say much more about them, lest I spoil the experience.

Gibson's stories always delve into new and intriguing concepts. A common theme is the impact of technology on our culture. This book explores the confluence of technology and art in the form of locative art. It also contains astute commentary on the Bush administration's policies and execution of the Iraq war. However, these insights are never presented overtly; they lurk below the surface and quietly filter up through the story. Thus it never feels like Gibson is preaching. I found this to be one of the most impressive aspects of this novel.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book. It was a pleasure from start to finish, and I was disappointed when I was done. If you get a chance, I recommend it highly.

05 December 2007

What's in the box?

    Mama always said life was like a box a chocolates, never know what you're gonna get.
      Forrest Gump

There's a box in my office. It's been left on my chair. I can see it from my web cam. It looks like it's from HP. I have no idea what it is.

I wonder what it could be. I won't be in the office until Friday or next week. In my mine I'm accumulating book and movie references with boxes....

  • Forrest Gump - as quoted above.
  • Se7en - you knew what was in that box.
  • Pulp Fiction - Briefcase instead of a box, but close.
  • Spook Country (by William Gibson) - just finished that, and it has a box.

There's got to be more....

Update: Turns out the box wasn't addressed to me! I'll never know what's in it!

Meat Locker

    It's cold enough to hang meat in here!
      David Letterman

I'm in a meeting in a hotel conference room. It is freezing. The room was 58° when we came in. Man my toes are cold. I am warming my fingers over the cooling vent on my laptop. The thermostat has one of those plexi-glass covers locked over it. The best part is the sign on the cover. It reads*:

The Temperature is Permanently set for your comfort and convenience.

Wow, thanks!

* The capitalization is theirs, not mine.