An interesting bit of anti-war propaganda. (Via WarFilter.)
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Cardinals 11, Brewers 9. Sort of a stupid way to start a season, especially considering that Milwaukee started off with a 4-0 lead. The Twins won, though. Eh. Granted, they beat a team who's starting pitchers have a total of 18 major-league wins, so that's not saying much.
In related news, I need to start thinking about which stadiums I should visit this year.
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As suggested yesterday, things are going to be stagnant for a few days while I overhaul some of the mechanics of the site. Things should start rolling again next weekend.
The site is going through a bit of a remodeling this evening. Nothing major, just a few adjustments here and there. If anything seems to be blowing up, please let me know.
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"Bush has managed to do what no other president has been able to accomplish."
"Unify the Middle East."
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Since I forgot to mention it earlier, it turns out the Dear Leader has a weblog. (Via MetaFilter.)
"Oh, come on," I said. "Ted Koppel is one of the best reporters covering the war right now."
"Yeah, I still think it would be more interesting if he was talking when all of the sudden half of his head got blown off."
"That's not very nice."
"You know, the army doesn't really call them 'embeds.'"
"No, they call them 'shields.'"
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In other news, the branding people at UPS deserve to be bitch-slapped for their incredibly ill-conceived logo redesign. Heathens, all of them.
This evening I find myself making a concerted effort to avoid writing about the war. That said, at right is another reason for me to hate RealPlayer.
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"They make a cute couple."
"Yeah. She kind of looks like his sister, though."
"You know, you're very difficult to talk to sometimes."
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I had a couple of weird dreams last night. Shortly after drifting off I dreamt there was a huge anti-technology revolution at work, and instead of handling client requests through tracking systems and email, we passed around paper process sheets in manilla folders. When not in use, the files were stored in huge cabinets lining all the walls, each cabinet standing about ten feet high and 15 feet deep. The company had to bring in engineers to reconfigure the building's frame so it could support all the weight, and every once and a while we'd get too many clients who's name started with the same letter, requiring us to empty many of the cabinets and shift everything around so the files could stay in alphabetical order. Large signs with thick block letters lined the walls, warning employees not to open more than one drawer at a time in an effort to prevent the cabinets from tipping over on them.
This morning I dreamt the lock on the front door of my apartment building was replaced with an electronic keypad. After I entered my password incorrectly three times it blocked me from trying again and told me that for security reasons I had to wait 24 hours before making another attempt at entry.
This evening I find myself making a concerted effort to avoid writing about the war.
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It was a busy Saturday and Sunday. Di and I hit the Twin Cities auto show yesterday (I now find myself considering a Toyota Prius), followed by dinner at Key's and a lot of warped conversation. This afternoon, after a long day of taking photos for lstc.org, I hung out with Jason, Sarah and Heather in River Falls. We cooked hamburgers, watched the Oscars and tormented Jason and Sarah's cat with a laser pointer. In all, it was a good weekend, a warm weekend, and, most importantly, a relaxing weekend. I really needed that, as last week was pretty rough. If this week isn't better, I have to find a way to make it better. I'm not sure I can handle more than one week like last week in a row.
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In other news, I need a bike.
"Have a good evening," I said.
"You too," he replied. "Have a good war."
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I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said about the impending war. I'm depressed about the entire situation but am resigned to the fact it's going to happen. It doesn't matter whether Saddam falls quickly or not. Either way, the United States is going to find itself responsible for the stability of Iraq for decades, if not longer. I also don't believe this will help us in the fight against terrorism, nor that this will be the first step to a permanent solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. I hope I'm wrong, of course, but really think there's just too much history for us to try to go up against it in this way.
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As someone who's made a habit of pulling out my copy of Copi just about every time the Bush administration has come out with a new position on foreign policy—we started with the "you're either with us or against us" series and went downhill from there—it was reassuring to hear Peter Freundlich's piece on All Things Considered about Bush's circular logic. Sure, Freundlich arguably made a couple of errors himself, but it's still a good representation of what's wrong with the arguments for war we've been presented by the administration.
Heather and Rich dropped by unannounced Friday evening after catching the Minnesota Orchestra. We sat around for a couple of hours talking about how vulnerable cities like River Falls are to sprawl, pondering what cars should rock at this year's auto show and guessing when Jason and Sarah should become parents. What we didn't know is that the last topic had already been resolved and that on each of our voice mails was a brief message saying that little Claire Ann had entered the world a few minutes after 4:00 that afternoon.
I headed over to River Falls yesterday afternoon to visit with the new parents. Both Sarah and Jason seemed a bit exhausted—especially Jason—but it was a light, relaxed, happy kind of exhaustion. It almost seemed as if they were floating. At nine pounds two ounces Claire was a good-sized baby, and a cute one at that, but that's not taking into account how small Sarah is. I'm sure there's some kind of math that could be run around the birth: If one figured out all the averages and percentages, it would probably be discovered that Sarah had the equivalent of a 18-pound kid.
Whatever the case, all three seem to be doing well, and I'm sure Jason and Sarah will do a very good job as parents.
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As suggested above, today was supposed to be spent with Heather and Rich at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Auto Show, but that was before I went out for a walk late last night. As I neared my apartment I puzzled over a strange taste in the back of my mouth, a taste I associated with illness but had not experienced in a number of years. I foolishly decided to ignore it and within an hour found myself completely out of commission. Some people get spring fever, Mark gets spring colds. The strange thing is it's been so long since I've really come down with something that I've sort of forgotten how to take care of myself, meaning that today was one part sick day, one part refresher course. Sure, the rest and lots of water parts were easy, but trying to remember which medicines I used to rely on was not.
It's later in the evening now and it seems that I'm past the worst of it—not to mention a bit high from the DayQuil—but I suspect this cold will be sticking with me for the better part of the week. Of course, the one day worthy of a sick day would land on the weekend. For some reason that seems typical for me.
Okay, time for bed.
In Transit: Northwest Flight #974
So that's it for South By Southwest. I'm going to resist the urge to go into mind-numbing detail about this year's conference. Suffice to say it was pretty good and a lot of fun. Unlike previous years, none of the panels seemed to have incredibly mind-blowing moments to them, but they were consistently solid and, again unlike previous years, the keynotes were pretty good as well. (I took a lot of notes, and if I have time I'll edit them and post them on another page.) I met some interesting folks, had some good conversations (along with a few minor debates), and ate a lot of really good Mexican food.
I will allow myself some general, broad commentary: There's still interesting stuff going on around the Web. This we already knew, but it's always reassuring to see people enthusiastic about continuing the trend. The conference as a whole seemed smaller than previous years. Whether that was actually the case or just my perception I can't say, but if it was the case, it was probably a good thing: If there were fewer people attending, those who didn't show this time were probably just excess fat to begin with. (And yet I showed up. Heh.) It was much easier to meet people this year, and that's coming from someone who almost takes pride in actively avoiding networking opportunities2. I'll have a number of extra emails to write over the next few days.
Beyond that, there's not much else I can say. My feelings about this trip are a bit strange. This was easily the most useful journey I've had to SXSW, but I'm not sure that'll make me want to go back again in '04. There weren't any moments of revelation on this trip, and that's what's always drawn me back since the first visit in 2000. Was the conference just not as interesting as it was in the past, or have I stopped caring as much? That's an important question for me figure out, but for whatever reason not one I'm too interested in addressing right now.
Some other time, perhaps.
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While sitting in the airport this afternoon I was able to finish off VOX, a short novel Sarah's been pestering me to read for some time now. I found it somewhat difficult to get into, but in retrospect that was probably a device intentionally placed by the author. I can't say I'd offer a blanket recommendation for VOX (although I would recommend it to certain specific individuals), nor would I expect myself to pick up another book by the writer. But it was fun read, and in a way a delightfully inappropriate thing to page through while surrounded by business people, grandmothers and sniveling teenagers sitting in an airport waiting area.
If you're related to me or work with me and wonder why I'm not discussing the content of the book, well, don't ask.
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...although the part about olive oil was pretty cool.
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I've made peace with the new Canon. There are still a few things that bug me, and I still need to look at the quality of this trip's images, but overall it seems to be a faster and more capable camera3.
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I wonder how much snow is on the ground. I wonder how the kitty has enjoyed Heather and Rich's company. I wonder how things are at work. I wonder if they delivered the paper on Saturday. I wonder about those phone calls. I wonder how biker Ben is doing.
I wonder when I'll travel next.
And we've started our descent. More later.
Commentary on SXSW Interactive, Part 1, in a Packed Elevator:
"This place is really busy this weekend."
"Yeah, there's a lot going on in Ausin right now. We got the kids basketball tournament going on this weekend, and South By Southwest starts in a few days."
"Oh, South By Southwest. I'm here for the interactive conference."
Commentary on SXSW Interactive, Part 2, on the Radio:
"So the film portion of South By Southwest started today, and it's just a few days before the music festival starts."
"Don't forget the interactive festival."
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Further evidence Mark networks in all the wrong places: This evening I had a 10-minute conversation with some guy in the hotel lobby about Texas high school basketball.
[Huge freakin' entry deleted for a variety of reasons. May be restored later.]
In Transit: Northwest Flight #975
Well, I'm on my way to Austin. There must be something about flying to SXSW that's slightly jinxed. The first year I went down, 2000, Meyers and I found our flight delayed, meaning we'd miss our connection in St. Louis. That resulted in us having to fly out the next morning and missing the beginning of the conference. Last year was a tragedy of errors involving mechanical problems, missed connections, sick travelers, a skanky hotel in Kentucky and a fair amount of anti-social behavior, a trip so bad I don't want to talk about it. 2001 went without a hitch, but it does get an asterisk for the fact the next day's flight to Austin had a near miss with another plane over MSP. This year we left the gate three minutes early, but ended up taking off over an hour late after it was discovered that one of the wing flaps was sticking. It took a 45 minute lube job, but we're on our way.
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As I said yesterday, Wednesday turned out pretty well. The car happened to be an easy fix, a relatively stupid problem caused by a previous mechanic who forgot to bolt everything down properly. Before I headed out from the garage yesterday, the mechanic told me that the Saab should have no problem making it to 300,000 miles. (In other words, 100,000 more to go.) The hotel situation turned out well, too. Expedia transferred me to another hotel in Austin, one that's not only a minor upgrade but closer to downtown as well. Finally, absent the burden of an exposed cubicle, I had a very productive work day. Besides, it's always nice to be able to go and pester the cat whenever whatever process document I'm reading gets too boring.
In slightly less happy news, my new camera arrived on Wednesday as well. I have mixed feelings about that for a number of reasons. While the G3 shares many positive characteristics to the now-departed G1, not all the changes in the new model are for the better. (This is going to turn into a camera geek entry now, so many of you may wish to tune out now.) Let's start with the improvements:
- Improved image quality: After trying a number of different settings, the images on the G3 seem to be much sharper than the G1, and the color seems much more representative of reality than it was in the old camera. Also, one of my biggest gripes about the G1—chromatic aberrations—seems to have been minimized.
- Locking lens attachment: The main reason I didn't get a wide angle lens with the G1 was I didn't want to screw around with threaded lenses. The G3 uses a locking bayonet adapter instead, which should make using removable lenses much, much easier. (Considering the amount of architecture photography I do, I'll probably find myself purchasing a wide-angle lens within a month or so.)
And now, the gripes:
- Locking bayonet lens adapter: Yes, you read that correctly. One of the G3's biggest improvements is also a negative. The new setup makes changing lenses much easier, but also dramatically increases the size of the camera, even without the adapter on. It wouldn't be fair to say the G3 is a big camera, but it's no longer one that can be tossed in a jacket pocket and carried wherever. Also, the new camera requires the user to keep track of three separate pieces of equipment (the lens, the adapter and the fitting cover), where the G1 only required two (the lens and the fitting cover).
- Embedded swivel screen: The G3 retains the flexibility of the G1's miraculous swivel-screen, but in the new camera its closed position embeds it within the camera body. This makes it very difficult to open when wearing gloves, a big concern to me as I do a lot of outdoor photography in the winter.
- Redesigned camera strap: Where the G1 had a strap that could be wrapped around one's wrist as easily one's neck, the G3 has a strap clearly designed to hung around one's neck. This is a problem for me in the same way the extended lens barrel is, as I take a lot of photos in a lot of neighborhoods where the only time I want my camera visible is when I'm actually using it. I'm planning on transferring the strap from the G1 to the G3, but that won't solve all the problems with this design: The new camera has two strap anchors instead of one, and that second anchor makes it very difficult to rest the camera against a wall or pole when taking low-light photographs. Finally, the new anchor locations make it very easy for the strap to block the media card door.
- Redesigned button layout: I'm glad they got the manual-focus button off the side of the camera—I hit that button by accident on the G1 all the freakin' time—but where the buttons on the G1 were organized and spaced in such a way that I could easily hit the ones I wanted without looking, the G3's are so close together that I have to avert my eyes from whatever subject I'm addressing. I'm sure I'll get used to that over time, but it still won't be as easy as it was with the G1. (Again, this is especially true when wearing gloves.) The redesigned power switch sucks, too. I've already lost count of the number of times I've accidentally turned the camera on or off.
That's pretty much all I can say about the camera right now. I'm still running into some problems with focusing, but that's handled a little differently than it was with the G1, and I haven't worked my way through all the features and options in that area yet. Whatever the case, I'm sure my impression of the G3 will change over the next couple of days, so I'll probably have to make some sort of update in a few entries or so.
Oh, hey, beverage service. More later.
Well, Wednesday turned out better than expected. The car is okay, the hotel situation in Austin turned out well, my new camera arrived and I can hear again. Speaking of Austin, tomorrow I head down there for four days at South By Southwest. There's a mild irony in the fact I won't be online while I'm at an interactive conference, but, then again, I've never been one of those overly-connected people. Whatever the case, it should be fun.
More on all of this next Wednesday.
I'm not quite sure why I didn't like this day. Maybe it's because my good ear decided to fill with wax this afternoon, rendering it practically useless and forcing me to run to Walgreens for some ear wax remover. Or maybe it's because on my way back from Walgreens the Saab's CHECK ENGINE light came on. Or maybe it's because of the late-afternoon message from Expedia telling me my hotel for SXSW was overbooked and that the hotel wanted to relocate me 20 miles outside Austin.
Or maybe I just don't like Tuesdays.
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So, anyway, let me tell you about the check engine light. It really shouldn't be a big deal. After all, I see it every day when I start the car. It's there for a couple of moments and then it disappears, leaving me to go on my merry way. On those rare occassions it stays on, there are plethora of other dashboard lights, not to mention notes in the owner's manual, to give clues as to what the problem may be. So that's all well and good.
The problem, as I learned today, is that my car has not one check engine light but two.
This second light is a bit odd. It's on a different part of the dashboard than the regular check engine light, doesn't have an explanation in the owner's manual and doesn't seem interested in being assisted by other lights. My scouring of the owner's manual was an exercise in frustration: All the open space on the dashboard was mapped out and labeled, save for one small inch-square space. You can probably guess what light resided there. Back at work, I even spent 15 minutes online looking at other people's dashboards1. No mention of this light anywhere.
The car did seem to drive okay, so I got in contact with a mechanic a few blocks from my house and got permission to work from home tomorrow. I've driven the car short distances when it's been grumpy before, and the plan seemed to be a better option than leaving the car at a place near my job and paying for a rental or a cab. Well, at least it seemed like a good plan before I tried going home. The damn thing didn't even make it off the parking lot. If my car and I could have conversations, this evening's probably would've gone like this:
"Hi, car. Time for us to go home."
"I'm not feeling well."
"I know. I have an appointment for you tomorrow morning."
"I think so."
"No, I don't think I'll do that."
"Okay. Cough. No, maybe not."
Damage for the evening: $95 and a tow-truck ride back to Minneapolis.
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To any of you planning on giving me advice that I should get a new car, please save it. I know, I know.
The eye exam went well, and my prescription stayed the same as it was last year—and the year before that—but I decided to look for some new frames anyway. (Three years is a long time to stick with just one pair of glasses.) The optometrist made a number of suggestions, none of which really grabbed me. Then she handed over a set of thick, plastic, rectangular frames, black on the outside but red on the inside. I liked them right away, and chuckled as I looked in the mirror. "These make me look like John Donvan."
"Some news guy."
"They look good."
"Yeah, I like them. But..."
"I live in Uptown."
"I don't think these would go over well at work." Black and red glasses. Could I wear black and red glasses in the presence of my superiors? Heck, could I even wear them with the people I work with every day?
"Your work conservative?"
"Where do you work?"
"Oh, that place. That's like the Kremlin."
"It's pretty good, actually." I babbled about benefits and such before looking back to the mirror. Black and red glasses. I could've pulled that off I was still a designer, but that was years ago. "These are probably a bad idea."
"You want to look at these again?" She picked up a perfectly acceptable but incredibly boring set of frames.
I paused, took off the frames I liked and studied them for a few moments. "So, these are available with a blue backing?"
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Because I'm a nerd, I feel obligated to point out that twice today the time hit 03:03:03 03/03/03. Stay tuned for a similarly unnecessary comment early in April 2004.
Trivia question: Faced with the predicament of a camera that's unexpectedly slipped into an eternal slumber, how long can Mark last before taking action to replace it?
- About a Day
- About a Week
- About a Month
- Approximately 16 Hours
If you picked D you guessed correctly. After a short call with Canon made me realize it could be a number of days before I could have any idea whether my G1 was repairable or not—not to mention several more days or weeks after that to get it fixed—I decided to just cut my losses and replace it. A new camera had been on my agenda for some time, anyway, I just hadn't planned on buying it this soon. As the digital SLR I've been lusting after remains about $1200 out of my price range, I decided to go with a G3, Canon's (reportedly) able-bodied successor to the series that just died on me. I spent $25 on express shipping and expect to have the camera in my hands by Wednesday afternoon, plenty of time for it to be ready for SXSW.
At right, a photo completely unremarkable except for the fact that it's the last photo taken with the G1.