Being famous takes work

I haven't posted a fake beauty post in a while, so here's something in a similar vein: Celebrity beauty is a full-time job.

It's depressing how “attractiveness attributes” (low weight/high weight, no tan/suntan) match with whatever you'd need disposable income and leisure time to accomplish.


Who is Barack Obama?

The next president of the United States of America!

What to say? We watched the coverage at Ben and Jen's house, then drove down Peachtree and part of Auburn at about 1am to enjoy sporadic revelry.

I am excited and honored to have taken part in this historic election. I will proudly tell my children that I voted for Barack Obama.



Last night, we went to see Wicked at the Fox. It was awesome. We got the last two seats available, so we couldn't see the whole stage, and we couldn't hear a lot of the words because, well, it was the Fox, but it was still awesome. I am a total sucker for musicals, though: I even liked High School Musical, which we watched the other evening.

Today is perfect weather, part of which I spent dozing in the sun on the lawn at my parents-in-law's house, which makes a very nice end to a rather horrible week. I have been calling insurance people all week, and finding out that my poor Malibu is “totalled” — the repairs will cost more than 70% of the book value. RIP Malibu: 1999-2008.

I should edit this more, but I have vague intentions of following the one-post-per-day thing for November, so I want to be able to see improvement over time!



“Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president?” — Colin Powell



Oh damn it! I am excited about Obama becoming president. I am not impartial. I am not detached, disinterested, jaded, cynical, skeptical, disbelieving, or apathetic. I will be disappointed if Obama is not elected. And I will be disappointed if he does not live up to the promise he has shown.

In 1994, I voted in my first election, in the first free South African elections, driving down to Atlanta with my Dad. To my shame and everlasting regret, I didn't vote for the ANC, thinking in some teenage-logical way that since the result was certain, keeping things slightly more balanced was important. I voted against Nelson Mandela.

I learned that my vote may not count mathematically, tactically, or practically, but voting is not just numeric: mysteriously, you vote also with your heart. The slips of paper, the tallies, glow with something borrowed from the human spirit.


Of course, I see flaws, inconsistencies, dangers, reversals, politicking, unknowns. I don't think things are simple, and I don't pretend to understand enough to know how things like economics and foreign policy really work. I know that to some extent, all we see are polished, manufactured images. I want to avoid the mindless adulation/hate and/or hate/adulation craziness, and the endless batting back and forth of pre-rolled talking points. But I also want to avoid the cynical disengagement, the simplifying decision to assume that all candidates are equally fake.

For better or for worse, I like both candidates. I believe they are both gloriously and ingloriously human, they both care deeply, they both struggle to do right and best, they are both motivated by the fair, the noble, the admirable, as well as the other crap. Are we not all? I like McCain, and think he would make a fine president. But right now, Obama has my heart!

Weekend Camping Trip

This weekend, Bevin and I went camping at Lake Conasauga with the Rothnies and the Sims. It was beautiful: wet and misty at first (and freezing at night), and sunnier as time went on (and freezing at night). We left on Friday and returned on Sunday afternoon, taking it easy and not feeling the need to hurry. It was Spenser's first camping trip — he did great, and loved it, although he got a lot of, “You're very pretty to be out here” comments because the poodle people gave him a super-poofy hairdo.

On the way home, we ate at our favourite Mexican restaurant in Ellijay, out on the dog-friendly porch — cheap and delicious!

We'd love to go camping more often!


On page numbers and electronic texts

I recently signed up for an account on Readernaut (still in closed ├četa), a beautifully and thoughtfully designed reading community site. It uses page numbers to track progress, giving the option of avoiding “spoilers” by hiding notes from other readers pertaining to unread pages.

Alas, I am now reading mostly on my new Kindle, which displays an abstract “position” but no page numbers. I'd love for Amazon to include “real-word” page numbers in its electronic book format, but unfortunately, the problem goes deeper…

Right now, I'm reading Robert Louis Stevenson's The Black Arrow on my Kindle. I found an HTML-converted Project Gutenberg text, and cleaned it up a bit myself before converting it and loading it onto my Kindle. Although it was undoubtedly displayed on pages of a book long ago, the numbers are long since gone.

And what about articles, essays, or even longer works written for the web? They never even had page numbers! Should they?

Readernaut's creator, Nathan Borror, argues that for digitized books at least, page numbers are essential UI, and their absence is a design flaw. I have to agree.

For my Black Arrow conversion to include page numbers, Project Gutenberg would have to settle on a simple text markup convention for noting page numbers, we'd have to come up with a matching convention in HTML, and Amazon would have to teach the Kindle about page numbers. Let's get started!


The Dark Knight

Bevin and I went to see the latest batman movie tonight. It was extremely well done, and very suspenseful. Overall, it was... okay.

I say “okay” because it was so psychotic. Other than that, it was pretty amazing. I think perhaps it will grow on me, though...


Techie Stuff

For all of you out there who would like to learn how to build web pages, Opera is publishing a free Web Standards Curriculum, “a course designed to give anyone a solid grounding in web design/development, no matter who they are.”


Ze Frank's Experiment

Interesting that the two write-ups (as of now) of Ze Frank's Facebook experiment both record amazingly productive, enjoyable weeks while cut off from facebook.



If you're using SOAP in Python, give suds a try. It's very simple to use, and the maintainers are very responsive.


Two Good Movies

Two surprisingly good movies this weekend: Lions for Lambs and Meet Joe Black. Not that they have much in common with each other. Actually, I suppose the questions of mortality and purpose and meaning are common to many good films!


Ghost Ride the Prius

“Oh man, I went to the Too Short show last night. So hyphy man, so hyphy. You should come by some time and we’ll ghost ride the Prius.” —stuffwhitepeoplelike


Achieving Nirvana at Quizno's

Yesterday, I watched Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk about her stroke, and about left/right brain functions. Then I walked down the street to buy a cookie. I tried to experience the world as she described in her talk, and it worked! I enjoyed the buzz of human activity in the crowded, noisy sandwich shop in a way I have seldom enjoyed it before.

I usually “zone out” by retreating into specific thoughts, like holding my breath and diving underwater (computer programmers are very good at this). In fact, I usually experience the world that way—I am seldom on the surface, noticing my surroundings. It makes me very quick at logical reasoning (useful or not), and very bad at experiencing the world of my senses. I think you would be surprised how little I notice of the world around me if you could step inside my thoughts!

During my walk, I managed to “zone in” and float on the surface - noticing only the shapes and colors of writing or the sounds of talking. It was a very interesting experience. I understood for the first time how some people find being in a crowd energizing—when the sounds, the music, the din of overlapping conversations were not an unwelcome distraction to be blocked out, they became a welcome presence of activity, of the energy of life happening around me. It was fascinating, and oddly relaxing.

I realized during that walk that I risk information addiction. Or left-brained, language-based concept addiction. And that I need nature—somehow the colors, shapes, and and movement of natural things are calming—almost like they seep in through the eyes and ears and gently press the "degauss button" on my brain. Or perhaps it's more like turning the etch-a-sketch upside down and letting a thousand tiny pebbles wipe away the lines and figures.


I can't always take RandsInRepose, but sometimes he's dead on. Nerdfotainment


verb: to make snarky comments on twitter or other messaging media about a meeting, while the meeting is in progress.



To whomever the kind soul is that found my ID badge and Marta pass and came to my office and turned them in, thanks!


More Obama Pushing

I haven't watched Lawrence Lessig's video on why he supports Obama yet, but I have read the transcript.

I totally agree with Lessig. I think that electing Obama would send the strongest signal abroad that we regret the path America has been on, and want to change. I don't think rewarding the Republicans with another four years would send that message. And while I think she'd make a pretty good president, and that it's about time we elected a woman (50% of the population, 0% of the presidents, WTF??), to me Clinton seems like more of the same, not something new.


The Drowsy Chaperone

Yesterday, we got half-price tickets and went to see The Drowsy Chaperone. It was hilarious, entertaining, and all-around fabulous. I liked it better than Spamalot.


Georgia Names!

So I finally have a simple, interesting answer to the question, “What sort of thing do you do at work?” Check it out: Georgia Names


For months, it turned out, an agent was assigned to steal her baby stroller and covertly let the air out of her bicycle tires when she went grocery shopping with her two toddlers. "If I had told anyone at the time that the Stasi was giving me flat tires, they would have laughed at me," she says. “It was a way to discredit people, make them seem crazy. I doubted my own sanity sometimes.” — wired

Go watch The Lives of Others right now, if you haven't yet!