Holiday with friends

We had Shel and Erik over last night and inaugurated our second floor guest bedroom, which has been “just” a storage room since we moved in. By “inaugurated” I mean we shoved some boxes in the storage space under the eaves and pushed the others out of the way; it’s not remotely close to being finished, but it’s a start. Maybe I’ll hang pictures up there this afternoon—in time for Charlie and Carie, who will ring in the new year with us, to have the option to stay there rather than dodge drunk drivers on the way home to New Hampshire after midnight. And Esta and one of her fellow seminarians will join us week after next. As I said to Greg over IM last night, we’re turning into quite the little bed and breakfast. Y’all come.

Continued joy

The heat is fixed, and only one slowly dripping sink drain (plus the disconnected kitchen radiator) remain as proof that there was ever a problem. The sink drain would already be fixed if Jefferson hadn’t spend all day voiding copious quantities of liquid mess from both ends. Sigh and double sigh.

On the positive side, our mail for the last ten days arrived today, and in addition to the twenty Christmas cards, my copies of the new Cheese Lords CD had arrived. Review, as they say, TK.

Returning, and learning

We got back from New Jersey today, to a house that was 29° warm. Apparently our boiler had stopped working sometime while we were gone, as the water level dropped too low and initiated the auto cutoff. As the temperature dropped a radiator cracked in the kitchen. We’re currently working on getting the house back up to temperature—47° as I write this—and not having any pipes burst as things thaw out.

At least we’ve proof that our snowblower works.

Sigh. I wish I had known how complicated and troublesome steam heat was before we got into this mess.

In case you hadn’t gathered…

…we decided to take an extra day in New Jersey after our whirlwind drive back from North Carolina yesterday. Judging from what I read at StephenEsque regarding the snow in Boston (see Stalingrad. We Are Surrounded), it’s probably a good thing we did.

Incidentally, Stephen Baldwin may be one of the most original writers in the blogosphere right now. Writing daily on some odd topic or other, reading his blog is like getting the best parts of a new Mark Leyner collection in your RSS reader. Sample:

So. I return to Boston from Christmas Day spent at my two-year-old nephew’s house in the cacophonous company of the hauntingly cadaverous Murray Wiggle and his antipodean friends, only to find the city in the icy, double-fisted clutches of a capricious winter blizzard. Beacon Street, in particular, I thought, stepping out of the airport cab I had managed to commandeer into curbside dunes of thick white flakes, could most definitely have provided the contents of a highly effective snow globe, myself with suitcase and duffle bag cast in the role of tiny plastic figure standing stationary forever outside the minature two-dimensional brownstones in this swirling souvenir of some tourist’s inability to discover the location of TV’s “Cheers” bar, having walked four blocks down the road in the wrong direction as they invariably do.

All through the remainder of the night – or so it seemed to travel weary people – Boston Public Works departments were out in force, ploughing the road with their huge urban tractors and scooping the unwanted snow up on to …. the sidewalks, which consequently become impassable by all except mountain goats, extremely experienced Himalayan guides, and the yeti, none of whom, at least as far as I am aware, live in Greater Boston area – definitely not in the Back Bay, at any rate.

Catch up #2: Global Voices Covenant

Following up on my notes from the Day 2 sessions at the VBB conference, here’s the newly drafted Global Voices Covenant, already translated into multiple languages:

We believe in free speech: in protecting the right to speak — and the right to listen. We believe in universal access to the tools of speech.

To that end, we want to enable everyone who wants to speak to have the means to speak — and everyone who wants to hear that speech, the means to listen to it.

Thanks to new tools, speech need no longer be controlled by those who own the means of publishing and distribution, or by governments that would restrict thought and communication. Now, anyone can wield the power of the press. Everyone can tell their stories to the world.

We want to build bridges across the gulfs of culture and language that divide people, so as to understand each other more fully. We want to work together more effectively, and act more powerfully.

We believe in the power of direct connection. The bond between individuals from different worlds is personal, political and powerful. We believe conversation across boundaries is essential to a future that is free, fair, prosperous and sustainable – for all citizens of this planet.

While we continue to work and speak as individuals, we also want to identify and promote our shared interests and goals. We pledge to respect, assist, teach, learn from, and listen to one other.

We are Global Voices.

And, a la Jeff Jarvis, at whose blog I found the link, here are the first words of the manifesto, as translated by grassroots effort into 19 languages:

إننا نؤمن بحريّة الكلمة: بحماية الحق في إسماع الآخرين والاستماع لهم. لكل فرد في العالم الحق في الوصول إلى أدوات التخاطب.

Wir glauben an Meinungsfreiheit: Schutz des Rechtes, seine Meinung zu äußern. Und des Rechtes, zuzuhören. Wir glauben an unbeschränkten Zugang zu den Instrumenten von Meinungsäußerung.

Creemos en la libertad de expresión, en el derecho a hablar y en el derecho a ser escuchado. Creemos en el acceso universal a todas las herramientas que contribuyen a la expresión.

Uskomme ilmaisunvapauteen: siihen, että oikeutta puhua – ja oikeutta kuunnella – tulee suojella. Uskomme siihen, että kaikilla tulee olla yhtäläinen pääsyoikeus puheen työkaluihin.

Nous croyons à la liberté d’expression, à la protection du droit de parole et du droit d’écouter. Nous croyons en l’accès universel aux outils d’expression.

Crediamo nella libertà di parola: nella protezione del diritto di parlare — e del diritto d’ascoltare. Crediamo nell’accesso universale agli strumenti di comunicazione.


Nós acreditamos na liberdade de expressão: protegendo o direito de falar — e o direito de ouvir. Nós acreditamos no acesso universal as ferramentas de expressão.

Now I guess we‘ll see how well MarsEdit copes with posting in multiple scripts… (Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the link.)

Catch up #1: tsunami

Yesterday morning, as we wove our way around Old NC 20 in the pre-dawn light, we clicked on a station that was carrying BBC News and learned about the devastating tsunami.

I’m now working my way through my RSS feeds—even though old items automatically roll out of the feeds and no newspaper ever has more than a day’s worth of items, I still have about 1800 items to read—and have found the following about the tsunami:

We assimilate another one

Shades of Gray: Back to Mac. My fellow Sloanblogger is seeing the light. Straz, here are my quick thoughts about life with a Mac:

  • Make sure you check out VersionTracker for software downloads—including Keyword Assistant and other invaluable iPhoto plugins; Mac OS X Hints for tips and tricks for getting more out of your machine; and the MacFixit Forums for troubleshooting.
  • MarsEdit is my blog posting tool of choice—it copes neatly with my Manila blog as well as the Movable Type-based BlogCritics.
  • The biggest problems I have with my machine tend to be managing hard disk space—probably because I have over half my 60 GB disk filled with digital music.

Have fun, Straz, and welcome to the other side!


red sky at morning, sailors take warning

The second batch of photos from our trip. These include outdoor shots around my dad’s property (and my uncle’s house on the neighboring hill) across several days, from sunrise to sunset.

Technical note: the last batch, starting with the wood photos, were shot at twilight, although the exposure makes them look as though it were still late afternoon. This is why they aren’t especially crisply focused—I didn’t have my tripod, so I leaned against a tree where I could and shot freehand where I couldn’t.

Greatest Hits of Greatest Hits of 2004

I’m not sure I feel moved to write my own Best of the Year list as I did last year… but when looking at these two lists by cartoonists whose musical tastes I respect, I know that there will at least be a lasting guide to what’s good from the year. The more complete of the two so far is Jeph Jacques’ top 10 list at Questionable Content, on which I’ve listened to exactly one and a half discs; good shopping list.

Another indie-focused list, in words and pictures, comes from Scary Go Round’s John Allison, who has his character Shelley Winters (no relation) reviewing his top 20 selections (link goes to the first five; looks like he’ll be doing them as a week of comics). The coverage is hilariously honest: regarding Air’s Talkie Walkie, she notes, “This record is nice when you are listening to it but you forget it the second you turn it off,” and she zings Franz Ferdinand with “their songs are about being an androgynous pixie-boy who dances on the dance floor with anything in trousers or a skirt.”

There’s also a meta-post at Blogcritics collecting “best of” lists, and KEXP has posted their collection of DJ Best Of lists—the Top 90.3 won’t be posted until Friday.

Stumbling across history

jarretts press

Continuing to catch up from my posting vacation, here comes the photo flood. This is the art batch. Esta and I went walking in downtown Asheville on the morning of the 22nd. I was looking for textures. I think I found a few.

I also found a mystery. The faded lettering in the picture to the right says “Jarrett’s Press” (the full logo says “Jarrett’s Press Printing”). It’s on the back of a warehouse-like building behind the First Presbyterian Church in Asheville, just off Patton Avenue. Googling tells me a few things, namely that the press was active in the late 1920s, but not much else—and particularly not whether a close family member ran the press. It would be a little too ironic if one of my ancestors was in the printing business.

Go MainStream

From Mathew Gross,, an attempt to revitalize the conservation movement. The organization is a partnership between Robert Kennedy, Jr, Gross, and Bobby Sundeen. From Matt’s email:

We formed because more than 90% of Americans hold our values in common — clean air, clean water, open lands — yet 40% think that ”most environmental activists don’t really care about people.“

We formed GoMainStream because the corporate plunderers have hijacked our public lands and the public process.

And we formed GoMainStream because they’ve hijacked our language. They call polluting the air “Clear Skies” — and they call it “development” and “access” when they lock Americans out of the public lands that we hike, hunt, fish and love.

We’re going to change that. And we’re going to change it by building a new coalition from the bottom-up — an organization that helps Americans take action and that works to reframe the debate about the future of our country.

We’re going to do it by connecting hunters fighting to maintain access to elk habitat with suburbanites combating urban sprawl.

Because conservation is not an issue of right or left, or urban versus rural, or red versus blue.

It’s an issue of who we are as Americans.

I think that this sort of action is an important first step in reversing the tide of Newspeak that continues to impede progressive efforts in the US—note the careful use of “conservation” rather than “environmentalism” and the nod toward the Bush administration’s successful avoidance of broad public outrage through careful language use. In fact, the only thing I can think of that I would change in the message is some of Gross’s language regarding “corporate plunderers.” He’s emailing to his base, but we learned in 2004 that if you stir up your base using inflammatory language, they’re not the only ones who end up getting mad. As commenters on my site have noted over and over again, the same fighting words that put a fire in the belly of liberals tend to make potentially sympathetic but conservative-leaning undecideds hot under the collar.

Land speed record

We just got in from our trip back to New Jersey from Asheville. It took 11 and a half hours, which is I think something of a land speed record.

On the way, at a rest stop on I-81 in Virginia, I stopped to chat with a nice young man with a microphone and a TV camera who was earnestly quizzing people about their experiences driving on this, the second-worst traffic day of the year. As it was at that point about 10:30 am and we hadn’t seen more than a handful of vehicles, I was probably trying too hard not to laugh to say anything intelligent.

More updates will have to wait until I clear my email backlog, which is currently at 36 skillion and counting. It turns out that my current mail load is not maintainable using Webmail over a 28.8 dialup connection.