Sunday, January 27, 2008

Chris Matthews is prerecorded

One of the few political gabfest shows I watch (TiVo) is Chris Matthews. Turning it on today, the main topic was about how Bill Clinton's attacks on Barack Obama seem to be working, that Clinton has gotten into Barack's head. I double checked to see that I was watching the right week's show, and I was. Sadly, it's prerecorded. It's like looking two days into the past: how much things have changed after yesterday's rout of Clinton and Edwards in South Carolina.  I'm disappointed: I wanted to see Matthews gnaw on Barack's win.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Goodbye, old friend

Today at work, where I have a PC, I lost a friend.  I was upgraded to Office 2007.  I launched Outlook, and my dog was gone.

I am probably one of the few people who liked the office assistant.  Most people take one look at the leering paperclip and want to kill it.  I turned it into a dog and have had it as my desktop companion for eight years.

I'm used to seeing the dog put its feet on my desk while I'm typing; using a flame thrower on paper when I delete something; and tossing a sheet of paper when I print.  It would bark at me if I made an error or if it needed my attention.  It has often stood annoyingly in front of exactly the button or menu I needed.  It was always happy, patient, and fun.
When I would open an Office application, the dog would come through an arch, and when I would exit it would create that arch and exit through it.  It's made its final exit, and I didn't get to say goodbye.

Going online to find a picture of my dog, I discovered it had a name, Rocky.  I found a few pictures, but I'm still looking for one with the flame thrower and one with the arch.  If you happen to find those pictures, please send them my way.

My hope (am I in the denial phase?) is that someone will resurrect the dog in a non-servile app that will allow it to run free on our desktops.  Please resurrect him into Mac land!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bhutto and the Tiger

Another post that I've been meaning to write for a while.

Two deaths that really touched me: Benazir Bhutto and Tatiana the Tiger. Juxtaposing the two seems to trivialize the human death, but the connection for me is on a much more visceral level.

When my radio woke me up on December 27 with Steve Inskeep of NPR stating, as breaking news, "Benazir Bhutto has been killed," I gasped out loud and was immediately awake. It didn't surprise me, but it shocked me.

I have been a Benazir Bhutto fan for a long time. Not from any deep knowledge, because in fact that would probably diminish my respect for her, but just because she was a beautiful, strong woman who was elected president of a country. I was awed by Margaret Thatcher for her election as well, not knowing the politics, just struck by the fact of that a woman was chosen to lead a country. In the case of Bhutto, once again I wish I could say that I was impressed that she was elected president of a Muslim country, but even that slid by me. I didn't notice that Bhutto had several presidencies as well as major corruption scandals. I just saw a stunning, articulate, courageous woman.

With the tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo, the last thing the news reported was tiger itself and her fate. As I heard the story on the radio on December 26, it naturally focused on the killed and injured humans. The early reports did not name or describe the cat. I didn't even think that the cat had specificity: it was just a big, wild cat. I had to go online to find out what happened to the tiger, that she (was a she) and that she wasn't recaptured, she was shot.

While I understand the circumstances behind the decision to shoot her, it is sad to kill a big cat just because she was acting as naturally as she was. She wasn't acting viciously: that's a human term for the amoral violent act of a big cat using her claws. It would be like killing a housecat for jumping on a bug. It's what cats do.

It think it disturbed me more because she was an amazing product of nature: Siberian cats are the largest of the big cats, and they are critically endangered, with only about 500 worldwide now. She's a loss to the world for that reason, but also for the emotional reason: like Bhutto, she had a combination of power and beauty that went beyond facts and data.

I am still troubed about these deaths in a way that puzzles me a bit. Why do they linger? I didn't know much about Benazir Bhutto, and I didn't even know that specific tiger existed. Perhaps it's about two beautiful, unusual creatures exerting power. And that put them up against forces against which they couldn't survive.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I know it's a little late, what with New Year's already past, but I have to chime in with a Christmas blog.

I love Christmas.  I think I love it more than people who grew up with it: being Jewish, I have almost no baggage for the holiday, so I can pick the good parts.  I know people whose Christmases are intense with family emotion and dynamics -- how many films have been made about this? -- but I don't have that.  It makes it very easy to love.

My favorite parts:

* The smell of a Christmas tree.  Walking into a home that has one is like smelling winter and warmth at the same time.  This year, I was tempted to buy a table wreath for myself just for the smell, but it still seemed wrong.  So I spent 15 minutes at Trader Joe's trying to find the most woodsily aromatic bouquet of flowers, hoping the pine greens used as filler would give me some of that Christmas tree smell.

* Saying "Merry Christmas."  This "Happy Holidays" thing irritates me to no end.  My holiday ended on December 12; after that there's no reason to be generic.  Christmas has a spirit, and I'm glad to invoke that.  I want to tell the more than 90% of the U.S. population that I truly hope their Christmas will be merry (including thinking: free of family drama), and I don't want to have to be vague about it.  I went to a party on Christmas day, and one of the guests gave everyone a hug and said, distinctly, "Merry Christmas!"  Both upon arrival and departure.  I gave her an extra warm hug and returned the wish.  On Christmas day it absolutely makes sense to use the holiday's specific name.

(In fact, compared to Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah is a minor holiday.  Shouldn't we Jews feel more oppressed at being wished "Happy New Year" on January 1?)

* Giving.  Receiving is fun because you get to open presents, and I certainly don't want to cut that part off, but I think giving is more fun.  I have a (Jewish) friend who complained about the obligation of gift giving.  I envied her: I am still beginning to recognize all the opportunities I have to give, and I'd be happy if I had more of them.

My first real Christmas was with an English family in Canada.  They assumed that I understood all the process and code of the holiday, that it was all so obvious, and I was utterly miserable: I couldn't figure out when to change out of my jammies, when to open presents, how to interpret the food, in fact (it being my first Christmas) even that we were supposed to have presents.  I hadn't had a Christmas morning since I believed in Santa Claus, and I didn't exactly bring presents back then (because Santa did, silly!).  That is not a good feeling.

The following year, I went to snowy Cleveland to be with my father and Christmas-celebrating stepmother.  Since I knew it would be a real Christmas and I'd already been burned on gift-giving, I woke up first thing on December 24 and ran to the mall to shop.  I rapidly reviewed the whole place and then bought all of my gifts at Origins.  A successful strategy I continue to employ: pick one specific store and decide what would be most appropriate for each giftee.  Most importantly, the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day.  Not that I was a Grinch, but I did feel that great, warming feeling -- I was surrounded by people who were buying and giving gifts, I'd completed my shopping and had something for everyone, and I had, in effect, become Santa Claus.  I was struck with the Christmas spirit.  

Writer's block (encouragement requested)

So, it's been a long time since I've written.... I have a whole list of ideas, things that inspire me, but they haven't come out of my fingers. Perhaps it's that I've had some visitors and suddenly I'm self-conscious about writing for my own joy; I'm risking judgment. Google analytics says that I've had visitors from (servers from) three continents:

  • Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Berkeley, Emeryville, Alameda, Dallas, Lexington, KY, Renton and Tacoma, WA, and Eden Prairie, MN
  • London, England, and Bo'ness, Scotland
  • Barranquilla, Colombia, and Porto Alegre, Brazil
Of course, since I just checked again, mulling over data in Google analytics, I could stop short again.... Visitors from around the world (or around the block), feel free to drop a note of encouragement!