Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 9:09 pm

He’s One of Us, now

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 9:09 pm

My friend Alex Wayne, my first hire as a News & Record editor (and boy, did he make me look good) and now of Congressional Quarterly, has finally started blogging, and not only that, he has the stones to do it under his real name AND to admit publicly to something that most people suspect about journalists and most journalists deny. (You read the blog, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Y’all go show him some hot bloggy love, OK?

Monday, December 27, 2004 11:15 pm

And we complain about the odd hurricane …

Filed under: There but for the grace of God ... — Lex @ 11:15 pm

Dear God.

Sometimes — not often, sometimes not for years at a stretch, but sometimes — I think we Americans are the shallowest people on the planet.

Reggie White: 1961-2004

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 10:53 pm

Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that’ll make you sit up and take notice, especially if you were born a year earlier and you, too, have sleep apnea.

Coincidentally, I forgot my Sleep Machine when we left town yesterday to visit my parents for Christmas, so last night was the first night in 14 months that I haven’t used the Sleep Machine. Did I miss it? Let’s just say that I lost count of the number of times I woke up during the night somewhere in the mid- to high 20s, and at that point it wasn’t yet 2 a.m.

Another interesting coincidence: Panther defensive end Mike Rucker also suffered from sleep apnea, but he had surgery for it a couple of years ago. You’ve got to have it bad to go for surgery, because it’s incredibly painful and the success rate isn’t much over 50%, my doctor says. But it worked for Rucker.

There’s reason to believe that being overweight, even in the heavily-muscled way common to pro-football defensive linemen, can contribute to sleep apnea. I think my own case dates back to my mid-20s, well before my weight ever was an issue, but I’m trying to lose weight anyway.

White wasn’t much of a Panther — his decision to come out of retirement to sign with the team in 2000 was ill-considered on both his part and the team’s — and his attitudes about homosexuality denoted a very cramped reading of Scripture, but he seemed in many other ways a really decent guy. My heart goes out to his wife, Sara, and their kids.

Friday, December 24, 2004 11:14 pm

Peace. Out.

All is calm, all is bright — the moon, two days shy of full, is directly overhead. It’s not quite silent — most of the Atlanta-to-Northeast-Corridor air traffic passes directly over my house, albeit six miles up — but it’s calm. Kids are asleep. Luminarias extinguished.

Given the recent mess in the mess hall, it seems almost silly to be pondering the notion of peace on Earth. But that just shows how badly we need it. We celebrate Christmas because we know we need redemption. No shame in that.

God was with us then. He’s with us now. If you think things are bad now, think how bad they’d be otherwise.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004 10:05 pm

Adventures in Gastronomy!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:05 pm

Via Apostropher, which, if you don’t read every day, you’re cheating yourself, comes the epic saga of “Steve, Don’t Eat It!”, in which Steve eats things you shouldn’t and lives to tell the tale. Or tail. Whichever. Actually, both are appropriate, which should give you some idea where this is going. Here’s another, um, taste:

There is also a red starburst [on a label on a jar of pickled pork rinds] proudly proclaiming “Nuevo Envase de Vidrio Reusable”. Not knowing much Spanish, I could only assume that meant “Oh C— — A Jar of Skin!”

Warning: The high levels of adrenalin generated by Steve’s body during these exercises (probably in self-defense) contribute to less than fully proper language. Nonetheless, or perhaps precisely as a result, I laughed ’til I cried.

I’m easy to please

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 9:49 pm

All I want for Christmas …

The best Christmas presents ever

… Mrs. Claus has assembled for me right here.

Harry Potter and the boatload of problems

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:19 pm

The sixth volume in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” will be released on July 16, 2005. This is cause for great rejoicing among book retailers because nothing, and I mean nothing, moves product like Harry.

However, one of the consequences of that popularity is that many people become so invested in the lives of the characters that when something bad happens to one, they take out their rage, anger grief and/or frustration on people near and dear to them.

I am led to believe that one such person is my friend Shannon, whose husband, Chip, believes he must prepare for a number of eventualities, depending on which characters end up romantically involved with which, and develop coping mechanisms for each. For example:

  • Hermione dies: Worst case scenario. Coping mechanism: Witness protection program.
  • Rumor successfully propagated that Harry and Draco become an Item: Best case scenario. Coping mechanism: Bring popcorn, and grin evilly as wife breathlessly reports the latest reaction from message boards and shocked, shocked local media.

Having read the comments to this post, including Shannon’s, I would only add that if Hermione dies, not even the FBI is going to be able to help Chip. In fact, given the hot water this post has got Chip into with Shannon, I’m not sure the FBI could help him irrespective of the presence or absence of Hermione’s pulse and respiration.

Oh, I also would add: What do you mean, “rumor”??

Tuesday, December 21, 2004 9:25 pm

The Christmas story — Real Live Preacher style

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 9:25 pm

Last year, Real Live Preacher rewrote the Christmas story in his own, quite modern style. It was a great read (and, although 10,000 words long, it “read” a LOT shorter than that), but he took it down after a while.

It’s back up. Do yourself a favor and go read it now, because he’s taking it down again after Jan. 1.

Monday, December 20, 2004 6:45 am

As the saying goes …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:45 am

… you can tell the men from the boys by the price of their toys.

(Via Mr. Sun!)


Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 6:43 am

When you blog, how much privacy can you expect? What about when you are blogged about? Jeffrey Rosen raises those and related questions in an interesting, and cautionary, article in Sunday’s NY Times.

Some blogs have disclaimers on them saying that the contents of any e-mails sent to the blogger are presumed to be publishable unless the sender specifically says otherwise. I don’t, but only because I have comments on this blog, and I figure if you want to say something publicly, there’s the mechanism to do so, and if you took the trouble to sent me an e-mail instead, I presume that it’s private. (If I want to publish it, or parts of it, anyway, I’ll get your permission first, of course.)

But what if you, yourself, don’t blog. Are your real-life or online interactions with people who do fair game for the entire Internet to read about? I would say no (and when I have blogged about such interactions, I have tended to use pseudonyms for the others involved unless it involved an innocuous subject). But many other bloggers, as Rosen points out, aren’t so careful, out of ignorance or malice. Which can be a problem in that, in a free country, you can’t be punished for publishing true, accurate but unflattering facts about someone. Here in North Carolina, for example, “invasion of privacy” on that basis hasn’t been recognized as a tort claim since the 1930s.

And when you’re a blogger interacting with other bloggers, you generally have to assume that anything you say can and will end up on someone else’s blog. For example, I e-mailed Jay Rosen at New York University’s journalism program this past week regarding my current assignment at work, and he blogged about it, even though I didn’t ask him to. (I didn’t know whether he would or not, but I hoped he would because he gets a lot more page views, particularly within the industry, than I do.)

This sometimes-unexpected loss of privacy for others can have grave repercussions in both the work and personal spheres — just ask Heather “Dooce” Armstrong. And as the right to privacy undergoes increasing assault from all manner of trends, from blogging to data mining, we’ll all have to be a little more aware of the pitfalls. Of course, this could be a welcome tonic to the TV-talk-show-driven, too-much-information culture we developed in the past decade. I mean, I might find it titillating to know whom you’re sleeping with, but will my life really be poorer if I don’t? Nah.

Thursday, December 16, 2004 9:04 pm

“Like a diver searching for abalone … “

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:04 pm

Writing good sex scenes in an ostensibly literary novel — and when I say “good,” I mean primarily “neither intentionally nor unintentionally self-parodying” — apparently is more difficult than one would think, to judge from the Guardian Literary Review’s list of finalists for this year’s Bad Sex award.

(Man, I wonder what this post is going to do to my hit count once Google gets hold of it.)

Bow down before the one you serve, you’re going to get what you deserve

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:31 pm

Chuck Klosterman at Spin runs down the Top 10 Musical Acts who were (in his opinion) neither overrated nor underrated.

From where I sit, he got BOC, Matthew Sweet and the Beatles pretty much right. But Madness deserved better. And Triumph? Never suffered NEARLY enough for the suckitude they inflicted on the masses.

Pearl Jam v. Nirvana

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:23 am

Publius debates the issue with himself at Legal Fiction. Warning: set aside some time for this post because early on, you run into this passage: “In high school, I liked Pearl Jam much better. But since Cobain’s suicide, my love for Nirvana has grown and grown. Today, it’s not even close – Cobain is king. To understand why, you need to understand some of the central ideas in Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy.”

For the record, I prefer Nirvana but like both. And in case anyone’s wondering, I prefer the Stones but like both them and the Beatles.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004 9:20 pm

Same here. Well … except babies, of course

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:20 pm

Note from a co-worker who had just left a fruitcake out for office consumption: “It hasn’t sat wrapped and uneaten for two weeks, as the recipe suggests, but I make a policy of not eating two-week-old anything.”

Count your blessings …

Filed under: Fun,There but for the grace of God ... — Lex @ 12:18 pm

… because if you think you’ve got problems, you haven’t seen this.

Monday, December 13, 2004 9:59 pm

News from the world of science

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:59 pm

Via Brad DeLong, how Berkeley’s College of Chemistry is keeping its finger on the pulse of its patrons’ needs:

And then there was the sign I saw on a door in the twisty maze of little passages all alike scores of feet below the classrooms of Berkeley’s College of Chemistry:PLEASE HELP US TO BETTER SERVE YOU BY PROVIDING AT LEAST 24 HOURS’ NOTICE (48 IF POSSIBLE) OF YOUR LIQUID HELIUM REQUIREMENTS.

Brad adds: “I don’t know about you, but I am generally able to anticipate my liquid helium requirements more than 72 hours in advance.” You, too, I bet.

Sunday, December 12, 2004 9:21 pm

Crossover character

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 9:21 pm

Our church had a “birthday party for Jesus” this afternoon; kids were invited to come as their favorite character from the Nativity. Hooper, who has really gotten into (highly selective portions of) his Bible story book, announced that he wished to attend Jesus’ birthday party as Goliath.

He had a helmet, shield and sword from when he was a knight at Halloween, so we just rolled with it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004 8:36 pm

Water, water, everywhere

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 8:36 pm

So we got a pretty dramatic series of thunderstorms through here late Thursday night/early Friday. This naturally brought the kids racing into our room and jumping into our bed, and I had finally gotten comfortable and drifted back off to sleep when a beeping noise woke me up.

I thought at first it was V.’s alarm clock, but I eventually traced the noise to its source: a carbon-monoxide alarm in a basket on a shelf in the closet of our laundry room. It was beeping because it had gotten wet. It had gotten wet because water was coming down from the vicinity of the upstairs water heater in the attic off our bedroom.

Further investigation revealed that the water heater had developed some kind of leak. Normally, that shouldn’t have been a huge problem. The heater sits in a plastic pan that has a drain pipe attached to carry off runoff into the sewer line from the bathroom. Only somehow the plastic pan had sprung a leak, too.

I shut off the water to the heater, mopped up as best I could around it, then went downstairs to try to clean up the mess there and stick a bucket under the residual leak. We had gotten lucky in that 1) the shelf in the closet was covered with vinyl contact paper, and 2) we’d stuck a couple of old towels up there as cleaning rags, and they had absorbed the greatest part of the water. It was still a big mess, but not the full-on catastrophe it could have been.

So I guess Santa’s bringing us a water heater for Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2004 8:52 pm

Comeuppance, or, my homeboy opens up a can

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 8:52 pm

I began my newspaper career almost 21 years ago at the Statesville (N.C.) Record & Landmark. My 19 months there were not the happiest of my life, but I did learn a few things, a couple of which I have not had to unlearn and still rely upon today.

One of the first people I met there was an advertising guy named Tim Dearman. Tim was and, from what I hear, remains one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, in or out of newspapers. But we hadn’t kept in touch, so given the way the industry tends to chew up nice guys, I was pleasantly surprised to learn a while back that Tim had made it to the top: He’s now the Record & Landmark’s publisher.

I was even more pleasantly surprised to read on Romenesko’s site this morning that he’s one small-town publisher who clearly understands the role of a newspaper.

His editorial page recently ran a syndicated editorial cartoon by Gary Markstein depicting flag-draped coffins, with the caption, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” This cartoon offended certain members of the Iredell County Commissioners, who unanimously passed a resolution condemning the cartoon even though one commissioner who voted for the resolution admitted that — wait for it — he hadn’t seen it.

A lot of small-town publishers would grovel in the face of that. A lot more would never have allowed such a cartoon to run in the first place. But here’s what my man Tim said:

“Now that commissioners have resolved the easy issues that require no money, no courage and no thought, I hope they will begin doing the job they were elected to do, including getting our children out of classroom trailers.”

Memo to the commissioners: Homeboy served your hind ends. He didn’t just expose the baselessness of your gesture, he openly mocked you for it.

Many conservatives, including me, see significant value in public shaming for antisocial and un-American acts. Tim Dearman, with one sentence, publicly shamed the idiocy and pandering of the Iredell County Commissioners, calling them out for their lack of respect for American values. Good for him. More newspaper publishers like this, please.

Not-so-peaceful coexistence

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:49 pm

As North Carolina’s cities press on into what was, until recently, the bucolic home of squirrel and deer, the Paper Lion comments on some of the darkness on the edge of town.

Lexicographical archaeology

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:34 pm

Joey deVilla at Accordion Guy might have found the first use of the “Word of the Year” for 2004, blog … in a 1959 comic book. (His commentary on the series of panels is pretty funny, too.)

So the word is older than I am. Who knew? (Actually, John did: “In the beginning was the Word … “ OK, I’m shutting up now.)

Yo, Richard Linklater: We’re suing you, man.

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:32 pm

The three main characters in the 1993 movie “Dazed and Confused,” which depicts activities on the last day of school in 1976 at a high school in a small town in Texas, were real people … and they’re now suing movie director Linklater, a former classmate, claiming that the movie makes them look bad.

I was a rising junior in high school in the spring of 1976, so I am extremely well qualified to judge the movie’s verisimilitude. And although I can’t go into much detail, on the advice of counsel, I will say two things. First: “bad” is a subjective judgment, man. Second: well, I went to high school with these people. All of them. Even though they were in Texas and I was in North Carolina. I knew those people, man.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of the article:

To fully comprehend the subtle legal issues of the case of Wooderson et al. v. Universal Studios Inc. et al., it helps to have seen “Dazed and Confused” six or eight times.

Yes, it does. In fact, if you haven’t seen it, you should see it six or eight times even if you don’t care about the subtle legal issues.

Fun historical footnote: My cousin Russ Busby produced the soundtrack.

(Via Legal Fiction.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2004 7:27 pm

If bad taste were a stock, I’d be rich

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:27 pm

Red Sox Supper

Tuesday, December 7, 2004 9:42 pm

Why CW drinks …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:42 pm

… and why I don’t blame him.

We finally have a working printer again …

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 9:18 pm

Yr humbl crrspndt -- handsome, ain't he?
… and it scans, too.

Friday, December 3, 2004 10:14 pm

Dilemma? Or darned good idea?

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 10:14 pm

Mr. Sun calls the notion of curing certain childhood cancers with a weakened version of the herpes simplex virus a “dilemma.”

With all due respect to my good friend Mr. Sun, given that the virus’s disease-causing agent is deactivated before the virus is injected, I see no dilemma at all. Rather, I think of it more like using maggots to clean a wound, particularly at the point of reattachment of a severed limb: The idea makes you want to vomit, but if it works great with no side effects to the patient, you should probably just get over that.

Or am I being excessively pragmatic here?

Mmm-mmm, that’s good eatin’ viewin’

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:13 pm

JennySlash’s Fave Holiday Viewing. Not much to quarrel with here, except that I would have rated “Die Hard” higher.

“The Uncanny Valley”

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 1:42 pm

Via Chip, here’s a phenomenon that I hadn’t been aware of: Apparently, as computer-generated animation, robots, etc., get closer to being perfectly lifelike, they hit a stage at which they’re so close, but yet still so noticeably off, that the effect is off-putting, even creepy. Animators even have a name for it: The Uncanny Valley. (The name comes from a chart that accompanies the link; once you see it, you’ll see why it’s so fitting.) The example cited is in the comparison between the movies “The Incredibles,” which cost roughly $92 million to make and had grossed $214M domestically as of this past weekend, and “The Polar Express,” which cost an estimated $150M to make and had grossed barely $80M as of this past weekend, its second in release. Yes, the animated Tom Hanks in “The Polar Express” is more lifelike than any character in “The Incredibles,” but because the animators/computer artists didn’t get the eyes and mouth right, Hanks’ character comes across as somehow creepy. (Victoria, who’s 6, saw “The Polar Express” the day before Thanksgiving and already has volunteered that she had that reaction to him.)

The moral of the story seems to be, if you’re going to try to make your animation (or your robots) lifelike, they have to be perfectly lifelike; otherwise, you’re better off making them stylized, stylish, even warm ‘n’ fuzzy.

And on the bright side, if when the aliens come and start turning us into pod people, The Uncanny Valley may be one way we can save ourselves.

Bad TV Dept.

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:18 am

John Scalzi presents The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time.

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