Updated: 9/3/2002; 6:23:04 AM.
E.G. for Example
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Monday, September 02, 2002

Sorry, see you later: I'm fine and grateful to have met many of you, but I've got to prioritize and simplify — I'm behind at work; behind in planning or finding my next work; not paying adequate attention or sufficiently in touch with friends, let alone nieces, mom, and wife; too distracted to set up a new Weblogging system but loath to stick with Radio UserLand (like its creator, it has admirable qualities and merits a place in the software history books, but said creator daily tells the world that I and my colleagues in tech reporting are stupid and corrupt for not devoting said books mostly to him); convinced that Weblogging will make a permanent difference in business and journalism; convinced that the percentage of 2002 bloggers still active in 2004 will equal that of 1976 CB radio users still active in 1978; looking forward to haunting the Internet as a rueful, wry, wraith-like commenter for a while before reappearing someplace on some platform.  Take care and thanks for reading.
5:03:21 PM    commentplace ()  


Tuesday, August 27, 2002

The Bush Administration repeats that it doesn't need allies', Congress', or the American people's consent to spend tens of billions of dollars (and perhaps thousands of U.S. soldiers' lives) to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.  The U.S. must hurry, Vice President Cheney told reporters, in order to topple Iraq before turning to the threat cited in this article from the Weekly World News: "Communism-crazed leaders in Red China have embarked on a bizarre new plan to invade America — by digging a tunnel through the center of the Earth!  A U.S. intelligence source claims the top-secret project is well under way and that Chinese tunnel rats have already dug nearly 20 miles beneath the Earth’s surface.  'If all goes according to plan, within six years they’ll break through on the other side, we believe somewhere in Oklahoma, around the Bartlesville area,' reveals the high-level source at the National Security Agency.  'Roughly 500 million bloodthirsty, screaming Chinese troops will come pouring out of that hole — hell-bent on a bold mission to conquer the United States, reduce our people to slavery, and seize all our women.'"

Seriously, Nicholas D. Kristof has a good column in today's N.Y. Times explaining what is and isn't a case for invading Iraq (and why pragmatism keeps the U.S. from attempting to overthrow arguably worse threats such as North Korea, just as oil keeps us sucking up to the proven terrorist backers of Saudi Arabia).  And Paul Krugman nails our unelected leaders' raze-the-forests policy in particular and almost self-parodying, knee-jerk fatcat windfalling in general: "Wouldn't it be nice if just once, on some issue, the Bush administration came up with a plan that didn't involve weakened environmental protection, financial breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations, and reduced public oversight?"
7:44:09 AM    commentplace ()  


Thursday, August 22, 2002

A decent day: Far too long since I've done anything that could remotely be called a good deed or something nice for somebody, at least I made a gesture (I mispronounce gesture with a hard g; it drives her crazy) to ease my mom's mind a fraction on her moving day, down from the winter-snowbound boondocks of New Hampshire (and the big house that was a challenge even for her and Dad when he was living) to her new condo closer to us in Simsbury, Connecticut — when we were there for the closing last Friday the power company upset her by saying they'd have to send somebody out during the week, i.e., couldn't just throw the switch at their end to turn on the electricity (although they'd done so to turn it off earlier that day after the final inspection), so having the family gift for dark scenarios she'd been convincing herself she'd manage the drive down only to spend her first night with no power and customer-service wrangles by pay phone, so I got up early this morning and drove the 90 miles there and reset the breaker box and confirmed the power company had been there and phoned to reassure her the lights and refrigerator and toilets were working and left a supermarket vase of flowers on the kitchen counter and orange juice and coffee cake in the fridge and jumped back in the Blue Turbot and drove back down, drinking Diet Pepsi and listening to dumb old CDs (Abba and Katrina and the Waves, if you must know), and got to work only an hour late and was unable to complete a product review before taking a vacation day for the movers tomorrow, but at least got some content on the site by writing a column that turned out okay.  Just had sandwiches for supper as Cooper the cat and I are having our last bachelor night together — my wife is at her mom's this evening, rendezvousing with me and the movers at my mom's new place tomorrow, and we're going to adopt my sister's cat Amelia in a week or two.  Family, ideally, goes on, even far from ideally and even when I don't do nearly enough.  I'm telling Cooper how we'll welcome his cousin Amelia, though he and I will still be manly pals — actually, I've been telling him since he was a kitten that Girl Cats Are Bad News, but I meant strangers, and he's 11 which the cat Web site says is the equivalent of 61, and I might as well be, and one of us is fixed.
9:20:50 PM    commentplace ()  


Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Instead of writing Part 2 of my guide to trashy novels last night, I tried cleaning up my previous PC to give to my sister-in-law and niece and nephew.  An hour of cursing later, I don't know whether to give up or start over — I have a fussy, Martha-Stewart's-hard-drive thing about a tidy, defragmented PC (even in the days of Windows 3.1, when you could actually uninstall stuff as long as you knew how to edit and delete directories and .INI files, I started over with FDISK twice a year), so I've been miserable ever since Win 95 and the arrival of that hexadecimal mare's nest, the Registry.  Every program you (or some other program or Web-site pop-up) have ever run (even if you've uninstalled it)!  Everything you've ever done on your PC, and lots you haven't!  File types and plug-ins that have no purpose that you've never seen in your life!  An operating system based on the criminologist's principle that no one can pass through a room without both leaving traces of his/her presence and carrying away evidence of the room!

I can never wrestle with the Registry without remembering (paraphrased) something I read at some Linux-advocate site: "A big central database that's always open, that any application can write to, and whose corruption brings down the entire system — that's elementarily, fundamentally bad software design."  Remember, folks, on the all-time, embodiment-of-evil list of contempt for customers, Microsoft ranks second.  Big Tobacco is first.
7:41:27 AM    commentplace ()  


Sunday, August 18, 2002

Weekend political reading:

CNN.com — "Dozens of friends, relatives, and backers of President Bush have slept overnight at the White House, a practice widely criticized by Republicans when Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office."

N.Y. Times — "Iraq's use of gas [warfare] in [its 1981-88 conflict with Iran] is repeatedly cited by President Bush ... as justification for 'regime change' in Iraq," yet "senior [U.S.] military officers" say the Reagan administration covertly aided Iraq in its battle plans "at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons."

Maureen Dowd — "[Bush the First's] proudest legacy, after all, was painstakingly stitching together a global coalition to stand up for the principle that one country cannot simply invade another without provocation.  Now the son may blow off the coalition so he can invade a country without provocation."

Jonathan Turley — "Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be 'enemy combatants' has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace."

Molly Ivins — "The President's Economic Forum held [in Waco last week] raises the question, 'By how much don't they get it?'"

Arianna Huffington — "Thunderously denouncing all doubters, all those who didn't believe as the cult members did, the speakers put forward a bizarre religious vision, one that no sane person could accept."

Talking Points Memo — "Can anyone now deny that President Bush's $5.1 billion budget cut stunt was a political goof?  Of course not.  And now the president has to resort to transparent weaseling to try to recover ... The whole budget cut stunt was just a snap decision to save the Economic Forum.  They hadn't thought it through.  Now they're in damage control.  The president has to make stuff up.  It's not a pretty picture."

Rogi — "Can this be the first American president that needs hand protectors to stop the skin scraping off his knuckles as he walks?"
5:59:45 PM    commentplace ()  


Trashy fun and funny trash: Some correspondents are sharing reading lists or favorite books.  I could compile a list that would cement everyone's opinions of me as half foppishly intellectual, half hopelessly weird — Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Villette; Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day; everything by Dorothy Parker, E.B. White, Nathaniel Hawthorne; Dickens's A Christmas Carol; and an odd series of pairs — animals (Walter Wangerin Jr.'s The Book of the Dun Cow and Richard Adams's Watership Down); mind-boggling intellectual stunts (Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest); my epic college romance (Eliot's Middlemarch and Thackeray's Vanity Fair).  But it's summer and too hot for fine literature, so I'm going to write a posting or three about potboilers, mystery or thriller series, good trash, and bad trash.

I should begin by confessing I've been vaguely planning to write a novel or two myself, but have been all talk and no action for over a decade, so let the record show that the hacks I cite with snide scorn are in fact more sincere and harder-working writers, put-their-money-where-their-mouths-are published novelists, than pantywaist dilettante snob critics like myself.  That clear?  OK, now stop by Amazon.com and tell me if you've ever in your life (outside of Joan Collins or Robert James Waller; let's try to stay above monkeys at typewriters here) read any more thuddingly one-dimensional, leadenly choppy, comically purple pulp than the opening pages of Allan Folsom's 1994 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

The challenge of writing page-turner trash is that the author either gets you — lures you to step aboard his or her speeding, cardboard-charactered, written-with-movie-deal-in-mind novelization — or doesn't, and the line between captivating and chuckling is razor-thin.  Folsom's stayed with me all these years as an example of stepping on the gas too fast and stripping the gears: in his third sentence, before even introducing his main character, he has the fellow look up "for no particular reason" and realize "Across the room sat the man who murdered his father" — and we're into the staccato sentence fragments and cliches ("His fist a runaway piston, wrecking flesh and bone") before we're ready.

By contrast, after seeing the recent movie remake I went back and reread The Bourne Identity and another couple of Robert Ludlums and realized his writing is far worse than I remembered, but provides sufficient foreplay to get us hooked; the breathless redundant italics and exclamation points are hilarious signs of hackwork, but by the time we reach them we're reading so fast we don't mind (hell, the two-mortal-enemies-must-escape-the-deathtrap-building-together scene in The Matarese Circle is a freaking tour de force).

Another howler, similar to confusing a fast pace with whiplash, happens when an author takes a great potboiler plot and pushes it just one step too far, and there's another out-of-print example that haunts me: In James Byron Huggins's Cain, the hero finds himself fighting an unstoppable super-soldier engineered from a dead body, one of those military experiments gone wrong with titanium-spring legs and steel teeth and the strength of 100 men — oh, yeah, and it's Satan, not only the ultimate killing machine but possessed by the Evil One himself.  Bzzzt!  So sorry, thank you for playing, you should have stood on a perfectly good 17 but tried to draw blackjack and busted.

An author who does this today is Steve Alten, whose cheerfully cheesy Web site praises his readers as well as his agent and freely admits he hasn't changed his template since his first book: "[Movie Title 1] Meets [Movie Title 2]," just like the Hollywood pitchmen who gush, "It's Speed on a train!  It's Die Hard in the White House!"  MEG was Jaws meets Jurassic Park, i.e., the shark is 200 feet long instead of 20, and had a cutely audacious ending (spoiler: the hero, swallowed whole, uses his knife to saw his way to the monster's heart and kill it from the inside), but when he isn't desperately (and unsuccessfully) flogging the film rights, Alten is writing unreadable sequels — not only MEG III, but two apiece in franchises he describes as "Indiana Jones meets The Matrix" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea meets 2001."  The last, this year's Goliath, is about a supersubmarine shown in a really neat drawing submitted by a fan and animated in one of Alten's Flash "movie trailers," just like the spaceships and rocket cars my friends and I doodled in junior high; the sub is controlled by a Michael Crichton-esque supercomputer and the book is readable until the computer steps over the line from merely being an ultra-smart adversary (Crichton, 2001) to corny, crazy psycho shouting "I am God" (Saturn 3, Demon Seed, Colossus: The Forbin Project).  Sort of like the last few Tom Clancy books, in which authorial alter ego Jack Ryan has gone from being studly warrior Superman to, basically, the Supreme Being.

More on this, including recent techno-thrillers that succeed in suspension of disbelief and earn my guilty-pleasure praise and musings about (verbosity warning: I damn near wrote my master's thesis on) James Bond, next time ...
4:21:11 PM    commentplace ()  


Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Dishblogging: Normally today's E.G. for Example would point to yesterday's eloquent Molly Ivins column about class warfare and oligopoly, but we sudsy men know what brings the traffic: It's a Gemco Li'l Scrubber from Gemco Ware Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y.  The company has a Web site but it's a cruel tease, promises a product catalog but then says only distributors and salespeople can see it.

While I do half the dishwashing and all the vacuuming at the estate, I should confess I'm not as tidy a housekeeper as many of my blogging brothers; I wrote in a column about my college apartment years ago and have often repeated the motto, "Dust is nature's coaster."
10:11:50 PM    commentplace ()  


Imagine this is 2048 x 1536Many Webloggers post fine and fascinating photographs, and one globally renowned diarist refers frequently to dishwashing equipment, so I thought I'd show off one of my rare successes in macro mode.  Actually, the camera that makes me wish I was a competent photographer instead of inveterate camera-shaker is the impressive Toshiba PDR-3300 I just tested for Hardware Central—a compact 3-megapixel, 2.8X-optical-zoom model with a full array of manual controls as well as automatic point-and-shoot modes, for the low 2-megapixel price of $349 (with, admittedly, cost-cutting in the form of an inadequate 8MB or five-shot memory card).  It earned one of my most positive reviews, though I had to explain to a suspicious geek in the forums yesterday that what he thought was "Conflict of interest—banner ad for Toshiba camera right next to HwC review" wasn't an ad but an illustration or link to the review.

I'd buy myself the PDR-3300 for my upcoming birthday if I thought I'd make decent use of it; my dad was a skilled (just amateur, but often frameworthy) photographer and I've often wished I had the talent.  I know I have an eye for beauty; my wife is cool to my getting a digital camera because my first impulse is to take pictures of her, even though I keep assuring her the shots would be strictly for my personal wallpaper use and not posted on the Internet.
7:49:16 AM    commentplace ()  


Monday, August 12, 2002

Modern Humorist has the last word on "The Anna Nicole Show," while Republican candidates are instructed "not [to] let Democrats get away with" stating the facts about unpopular GOP positions and liberals ranging from Oliver Willis to yours truly are poleaxed to find themselves agreeing with Dick Armey on the wisdom of launching America's first unprovoked, preemptive war.  Meanwhile, even Republicans increasingly question why the U.S. kowtows to the corrupt, terrorist-backing Saudis, but manage to do so in loopy, LaRoucheian terms.
7:48:11 AM    commentplace ()  


© Copyright 2002 Eric Grevstad. All opinions are my own, and any resemblance to those of my employer, readers, or anyone else is purely coincidental.
 
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