Happy Birthday, Gary Sinise

Filed under:Cool,Priorities — posted by Anwyn on March 17, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

He’s doing good for the Iraqi people and our troops: co-founder of Operation Iraqi Children, which sends school supplies to Iraqi children, many of whom were kept under wretched school conditions during the reign of Saddam Hussein:

Corralled in sweltering one-room buildings without air conditioning, fans, windows, solid floors, or even toilets, Iraqi students lack even the rudimentary supplies that American children take for granted. Libraries and books are almost nonexistent. Without these basic tools of education, Iraqi children face an uphill struggle to learn.

OiC takes donations as well as guiding groups who want to put together school-supplies kits that are stored at OiC’s warehouse in Kansas City and then shipped to Iraq. But the kicker is Sinise’s desire for the program to help our troops as well, many of whom had already taken it upon themselves to try to get supplies and better conditions for the kids:

Working in small groups on their days off, soldiers gather supplies sent by family members, friends, and various groups and take them to villages, sometimes coming under fire as they work to reconstruct the schools and deliver learning tools to Iraqi kids. Their efforts have met with immense gratitude from local Iraqis and their children, who now have access to the basic tools of education for the first time in their lives. “I have seen Iraqi kids climbing on our soldiers and hugging them and kissing them,” remembers Sinise, who accompanied Army soldiers to a dilapidated school they were rebuilding. “I have seen their smiling faces and their attempts to say ‘I love you’ in broken English. The folks I saw had hope in their eyes and gratitude in their hearts for what was done for them.”

“Every time a box of school supplies is delivered by our troops it will be another small victory for them in helping win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis,” says Sinise. “It is a beautiful way to begin a relationship with the future leaders of Iraq.”

It seems last night was my night to catch “five minutes” of this or that on TV. I saw the end of Entertainment Tonight, in which one of the hosts caught up with Sinise to wish him happy birthday (St. Paddy’s Day boy) and present him with a $1000 gift card from ET and Capital One to be used for OiC. In his thanks, Sinise made sure to mention that “our troops get to give these out” and that it’s thus good for everybody.

Many people use that much-maligned phrase “support the troops.” Sinise is putting it into action by enabling them in turn to support the Iraqi people. Happy birthday, man.

The Rant: The Shit People Do to Their Children in Order to Be on TV

Filed under:Mothering,Priorities,Rants,Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on March 16, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

I don’t watch reality television. Don’t look at me that way–Dancing with the Stars is not reality TV, it’s a talent contest. And it doesn’t start till Monday.

Tonight when the TV came on, before I could get it flipped to my show, I saw about five minutes of the abomination that apparently is Wife Swap. I knew the show existed; I’d seen the promos. But this was unbelievable. A man and woman having a huge fight in front of the man’s children–the woman was the swap-in–while the children curled up miserably in the corners of the couches. Apparently the fight was over school–the woman was insisting that she homeschool them, the way she apparently does with her own children–and the man was protesting that she was “not going to mess with their futures.”

Look, I’m no enemy to homeschooling. I’d lean more towards it myself if I thought I had the patience and attention span. Her preferences are not the issue here. But a strange woman comes in to live as mother to your children and starts insisting on breaking up the kids’ settled routine and the school life they’re already living AND fights it out in a screaming match with their father? I’m sorry, but fuck that. Yeah, that’s what I said. Wouldn’t those kids’ mom flip if she saw what was going on back at the house? Their dad certainly was. The only valid point the woman had was this: “Why did you sign up?” One surmises that it’s part of the “game” to let the swap-in set some rules. But at the expense of the children’s peaceful home? They likely understand it’s for television, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to leave a mark.

Sure, I’ll say it again: Fuck that. Why would anybody sign up? You simply couldn’t pay me enough to turn my child over to somebody else, who had the goal of turning his life upside-down for the cameras, for a week or however long it is. Not even for a day. And judging by the houses they were in, they weren’t too much in need of whatever ABC is paying them. (Although, for all I know, the houses could’ve been provided by the show. Whatever.) So whether it’s greed or exposure that’s motivating them, any adult going on that show deserves whatever emotional hangover they get–but it looks to me like their kids are paying the price. Assholes.

FWIW: In the other house, with the homeschooled kids and the mother of the previous children, she was trying to get them to go to school. Mildly. Without raising her voice either to them or to the dad (although to be fair, the dad was the one doing most of the shouting in the other scenario, but it looked like he had plenty good reason). The dad was about to tell her he wasn’t going to make the children go back to school. In a measured tone of voice. Fine. Meanwhile, back in the first house, the swap-in is equating the importance of what she wants in this faux, for-camera situation with what the kids need and what their dad says they’ll have. Asshole!

Cross-posted at Electric Venom.

Lawyers, Will This Fly?

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Politics — posted by Anwyn @ 9:11 am

Survey of Anwyn says: Probably not.

Following the end of Chief Illiniwek at the University of Illinois, Urbana’s state legislature rep is introducing a bill defining the NCAA’s actions as “improper” when they extend to a university’s choice of mascot and thus allowing the university to sue. Query: couldn’t they have sued anyway? But the NCAA is a sanctioned monopoly–the federal government gives it the exclusive right to govern collegiate sports in member institutions. I don’t know how successful a lawsuit might have been. Here’s the kicker regarding the NCAA’s action as far as I’m concerned:

The university appealed again, arguing the NCAA exceeded its authority, violated the university’s institutional autonomy and applied its policy arbitrarily because other schools were allowed to keep their American Indian mascots if they had approval from the tribe.

That’s somewhat misleading, but in both directions. It’s outrageous that the NCAA applied a standard the U of I couldn’t possibly hope to meet–approval of the tribe–since the tribes of the Illini Confederation no longer exist. On the other hand, the Florida State Seminoles kept their nickname and imagery with the consent of the Florida Seminole tribe, but it seems they also didn’t have an actual mascot like the student who dressed up and portrayed Chief Illiniwek before games. Illinois lost the imagery along with the costumed character, but it’s debatable whether the imagery alone would’ve grabbed so much attention without the dance of the chief.

So this bill, if I get the gist, would make it illegal in Illinois for the NCAA to infringe on a member school’s autonomous choice of mascot. The NCAA will undoubtedly come back with the pseudo-innocence of “We didn’t say they couldn’t have the mascot. We just said we wouldn’t be associated with it.” All well and good from the position of complete collegiate sports autonomy the NCAA holds.

Abortion E-Cards

Filed under:Abortion,Sad — posted by Anwyn on March 15, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

In various messages based on what you think is the mindset of the woman involved:

One card expresses sympathy, offering the gentle reminder that, “As you grieve, remember that you are loved.” Another provides encouragement for someone who “did the right thing.” Yet another strikes a religious tone with the thought that “God will never leave you or forsake you.”

That last one’s true. That middle one’s an abomination. That first one’s rather a conundrum: if she’s grieving so much right at the time, maybe she should have waited a little and tried to come to terms with going another way. Maybe Card Sender should have helped her to a direction that didn’t involve so much grief. For people who would send a card like that, I hope their conscience is clear as to having done all they possibly could to support and encourage the would-have-been mother, to help her find peace, before the heinous act was committed.

Allah brings the blunt.

Sister Toldjah brings the blunter, with a good rundown of some home truths about abortion.

Mike Lief Talks Life Aboard

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn on March 14, 2007 @ 9:45 am

“… which reminded Anne of the early days when she too had been ignorant,
and she too had been accused of supposing sailors to be living on board
without anything to eat, or any cook to dress it if there were,
or any servant to wait, or any knife and fork to use.”

–Jane Austen, Persuasion

Mike was one of the “servants to wait,” and his ship, the USS Blueback, once used in filming The Hunt for Red October, is now moored (docked? anchored?) in the Willamette River for tourists at OMSI, the science museum just over the hills in Portland proper. I haven’t been through it yet, mostly because The Bean is a bit too young. But I plan on it soon. I’ll take an extra look into the source of Mike’s duty troubles, the supply closet:

A narrow, L-shaped compartment, it was about 5-and-a-half feet tall inside, with rail-lined shelves along the bulkheads. And it was packed, floor to ceiling – er, deck to overhead – with cans, crates and boxes. I’d start pulling stuff out, burrowing my way in, looking for everything on the list [of ingredients for all the day’s meals]. It’d take hours, and inevitably I’d find myself stuck at some point, contorted in the aft-most corner, sweating and cursing as I tried to free myself, unable to find the freakin’ “corn, creamed.”

Marginalization in One Easy Sticker

Filed under:Abortion,Bumper Stickers — posted by Anwyn on March 13, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

To the Portland woman who drives around with an “Abortion Is Mean” bumper sticker:

Go you! With one fell phrase, you have, however weakly, absolved yourself of any supposed partiality towards abortion and completely trivialized the scope of an unnatural act of cruelty. You pair that up with that other sticker that says “Mean People Suck,” and you’ve got yourself a statement.

I Heart My Webhost, Part II: ICDSoft==Professionalism

Filed under:Blogging,Reviews — posted by Anwyn @ 5:23 am

Xrlq uses ICDSoft for hosting, and after my unfortunate experience with DreamHost, so do I. They had me set up almost instantaneously, their rate is good ($6.00/month for 1000MB and 20GB of transfer, which is ample for me. Xrlq, who occasionally gets linked by Instapundit and other such bloggy luminaries, upgraded to the $10.00/month plan for the extra bandwidth), and their control panel is crisp and easy to manage.

But just as tech support was DreamHost’s downfall with me, so ICDSoft’s major outstanding feature is their unbelievably fast, comprehensive, and ultra-professional tech support. I could not be more impressed with this department. They guarantee a) 24/7 email support and b) one-hour response time, and I can unequivocally say they deliver on both promises. I’ve dealt with them on at least three different occasions: on trying to set up my blog email address, on experiencing an unexplained inability to reach my site (probably just a connectivity blip from my end, since it loaded within the following five minutes), and during a system downtime on their end (the only one I’ve experienced in six months of service). In reverse order, a few anecdotes about these experiences.

The Downtime. The dread of any webhosting customer who is online as much as I am, downtime spells loss of clients and generalized doom to a webhost. On DreamHost’s status blog during a downtime, all was chaos. The DH team, in an effort to be open and friendly, would detail their maneuvers to cope with the outage … thus exposing them to the wrath of their commenting customers when their efforts were unsucessful. I know that the people staffing IT companies are only human and that they use trial and error as much as the next person, but laying it all out like that for us to read only frustrates the client and makes the company look unprofessional. ICDSoft, by stark contrast, maintained a page concisely stating the big-picture causes of the outage, the various groups who were working on the problem, and the general means they were using to solve the outage, as well as a generous estimate of the time involved that did not get our hopes up. They had us back up and running under the estimated time. Support that knows how to give clients sufficient information about a problem without over-extending themselves with feel-good estimates they can’t keep? Check.

The Connectivity Blip. As a naive user six months or so ago, I panicked briefly when I couldn’t reach my site (or Xrlq’s, on the same host) and shot off an email before sufficiently troubleshooting my own internet connection. I got an immediate response to the effect of 1) we can load your site just fine, 2) the server your site runs on is in the green, 3) nevertheless we are concerned about your problem, so would you please run the following diagnostic steps, laid out in great detail, and tell us the result? By the time I got this response, in about five minutes, I had already been able to reconnect to my site. I sheepishly told them as much and got a courteous reply asking me not to hesitate to contact them any time I had a problem. Support that doesn’t make me feel like an idiot even when I contact them prematurely? Check.

The Email Problem. This was a genuine problem that required a tech-support solution, but here’s the kicker: It wasn’t their problem. In transferring from DH to ICDSoft, they each use the same webmail utility, and I used the same username and password at both. My Microsoft Outlook Express would attempt to get the email but fail, even though I could log into the webmail utility. I went many rounds with their tech support, me describing the error messages in detail and them offering various diagnostic tools, before they had me empty out a little cache Microsoft apparently keeps of its own nameserver records. Thus, even though my site had been switched to ICDSoft, my local Microsoft program was hunting for my email at the former DreamHost server. ICDSoft tech support stuck with me until they ferreted out the problem, even though it had nothing to do with any hardware or software of theirs. Support that will get to the bottom of whatever problem is preventing my computer from talking to theirs, even if it’s not their problem? Check.

I love ICDSoft and will keep my blog here. I will be adding an ICDSoft banner/link to my sidebar–if you or anybody you know is looking for a webhost for their blog or other kind of site, it’d be great if they could go through the banner here. I’d get a commission on any webhosting purchase that goes through my banner. I’ll also be submitting this review of their service to ICDSoft–they occasionally pay for selected reviews. But though I may benefit financially from having written this, the fact that I keep my blog here should speak for itself–I ran from DreamHost, and I wouldn’t have hesitated to run from my second choice if they were to disappoint. Instead, they excel. I’d recommend ICDSoft to anybody who wants to start a hosted blog.

Head in the Clouds

Filed under:Authors,Cool,Language Barrier,Tolkien — posted by Anwyn on March 12, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

Alan Sullivan with Best Word Use of the Day: Numinous. One of Lewis’s most-used words and the most concise and beautiful for meaning “supernatural, of the spiritual realm.” And probably associated in his mind with Tolkien’s Numenor, although Tolkien was at pains (and sometimes borderline uncharitable to Lewis) to set inquiring readers straight on the fact that “Numenor” in no way derived from “numinous” and was unrelated to Lewis’s unwelcome use of “Numinor.”

Also, in which I learn about sheer boundaries and what causes turbulence in clear air:

Such clouds may form low in the atmosphere, like these off California, or much higher, at cirrus levels. They are the visible form of eddies at a sheer boundary. Such phenomena are common in clear air, and they make for a bumpy ride when aircraft encounter them. If there is just enough moisture, clouds may provide a signature for the process.

Eddies in the air, just like in water. Fascinating, Captain. And good for an aspiring pilot to know. And yes, numinous.

I Heart My Webhost, Part I: I Didn’t Heart That One

Filed under:Blogging,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on March 11, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

Or, A Tale of Two Hosting Providers.

When I decided to start blogging, I looked at the hosts recommended by WordPress.org and chose DreamHost for 1) its intuitive and accessible control panel, 2) its great value for the price (read: huge disk space allotment, which sucked me in even though I couldn’t use that much space by blogging in a hundred years), 3) its hearty recommendation by several tech-minded people of my acquaintance.

“I Heart My Webhost” does not mean DreamHost. My red flags were hoisted early on by their service department, which promised answers in 24 hours but sometimes sent an auto-reply within the 24 hours and real-person answers later, and which misled me, though they say unintentionally, about the status of a domain name I was trying to reserve. Do you know how the domain-name game is played? It’s fairly cut-throat. You wait for a name to be freed from its current owner, and then you ask a registration company to get it for you. Meanwhile, several big companies, notably Network Solutions or Enom, will be snatching up any convenient one-word domain names that fall vacant and a bunch more, too, and slapping advertisements on them to see what they can get. DreamHost’s registration process couldn’t compete with these biggies and failed to get my domain. Fortunately, these companies that snap up any and all names frequently release them after a few days if they’re not making money on the adverts, so that they don’t have to pay the registration fees. I tried again. My request got stuck in DreamHost’s process, and I began to fear another company would snatch it up–again. I emailed DreamHost to ask whether anybody else could get it while they were processing it, and they assured me no, no. Meanwhile a tech friend of mine was watching the situation, unbeknownst to me, and when he saw that the domain still wasn’t registered, he registered it himself using a small registration company that pulled in the name in ten minutes while DreamHost was still twiddling its electronic thumbs.

I uneasily stayed on, but soon a spate of downtime soured me even further on the “dreamy” company. The last straw came on 9/11, when I had an important post up, part of the 2,996 project, and the site was up and down. I certainly wasn’t the only customer to endure their spotty performance; their status blog, on which they unwisely allowed comments, showed scores of understandably screechy, dissatisfied customers. I started shopping around, before my refund period was up.

Xrlq directed me to ICDSoft.

DreamHost has since been working to get its act together, and I know at least one tech guy, Allen my tech guardian, in fact, who performed the switch when I moved from DreamHost, who went with them later on. Hope they’ve got the performance to back up the talk nowadays.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

In Fangirl Praise of Lileks

Filed under:Authors,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on March 9, 2007 @ 11:19 am

Best Word Use of the Week: Rectitude.

If there’s any industry that makes your scam-hackles rise, it’s the car-repair world, but these guys impressed me from the start with Conspicuous Rectitude. Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing. It’s certainly an American thing: six months after a repair job, they agreed without hesitation to revisit the work, because Mister Customer Almighty’s precious quarterpanel was 3/8” out of alignment.

I need car guys like his, but that’s beside the current point: Lileks has a precision of expression that is tough to stop short of the event horizon that sucks you into the Pretentious Zone, but he does it day after day. You’d think it’d be easier to do in a column limited to 300 words, but the Bleat is better. Slice-of-life paragraphs incisively expressed, political opinions that lazily skewer the pomposity of the day without any venom or dirty pool, and now and then he pulls out a Jane Austen word like “rectitude.” Add to all that, he apparently manages to write like this while having stayed at home with his daughter while she was preschool-aged and now continuing to be her main source of company, authority, and homework help during the school week.

If I could write one-tenth as well as that, I’d write instead of edit for a living, but I like to think the ability to size him up is what makes me a pretty good editor. I’ll take what I can get. And keep reading, avidly.

Dave at Battlestar Ridge

Filed under:Cool,Television — posted by Anwyn @ 9:03 am

He visited the set. He totally sucks. And I can’t even read the post yet because I haven’t watched the episodes in question–still catching up after being sick. Ah well. I couldn’t resist reading the part about Mary McDonnell, though–apparently she is indeed as cool as she seems:

So impressed is she by my brother’s research capabilities, Mary will continue to pop out throughout the afternoon and evening to ask him for more information, including at least one more song (wondering whether “Bus Stop” was a Beatles song or a Hollies song– the latter, as we confirmed via the now-invaluable PDA).

Talking to Mary during these breaks, and watching her playful demeanor with the actors and crew, it’s easy to recognize her incredible charisma. She’s one of those rare women who walk into a room and make everyone, men and women, instantly laugh & smile. Oh, and she’s also beautiful– never a bad trait in an accomplished and talented actress.

I’ve loved her since I saw Sneakers. Nice to know she acts like a human being, not necessarily Hollywood being. Welp, more incentive to finish up the episodes in question so I can read and salivate over Dave’s post. But he still sucks. So say we all.

H/t Bryan at Hot Air.

Behold the Wonders of Compulsory State-Run Education

Filed under:Priorities,Sad — posted by Anwyn on March 8, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

Latest in the saga called California Public Schools are a Wacked-Out Mess: the schools lose money when kids are absent.

In California, under a formula that dates to the 1930s, how much a school receives in tax dollars is based on how many students are in class on any given day.

“Elective absences,” or days missed for reasons other than illness, cost the Scotts Valley district $223,000 during the 2005-06 school year, according to the school system. On average, it says, a Scotts Valley child misses 2.3 days because of elective absences.

Whatever other ills are coming down on the schools, whether brought by teachers’ unions or illegals whose fair share isn’t being paid or just the general woes of your average state-run operation, that is a perfectly ridiculous formula that should be repealed. Schools cost a constant amount to operate, not less when six kids happen to be absent. And while the formula may incentivize the schools to annoy parents who take their kids out for trips, it does nothing to incentivize parents not to take kids out, though as the article says some parents are ponying up the lost cash.

The flabbergasting aspect of that story is not that the schools are asking the parents to cover the lost money. It’s that the schools are losing the money to begin with. Shut that all the way down, California. It’s not your business to tell parents when they can and can’t take their children out of school, and if it were, there’s no incentive in the way you’re trying to do it now.

Do You See the Scarlet Letter?

Filed under:Blogging — posted by Anwyn on March 7, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

Or, The Vagaries of Computer Behavior.

This site has a favicon–a little icon that appears in the address bar in place of the proprietary “e” for Internet Explorer or the little symbol Firefox uses. It also appears next to the name of the site in your “Favorites” list, if it’s in your favorites list. It’s a miniature red “A” from the “Anwyn’s” part of the site name.

Only trouble is, my IE is refusing to display it. I briefly had IE7 installed, but it farked up my music players, so it was taken back down to IE6.*. And now, no favicon. Firefox still shows it. Frankly, I’m not sure IE ever had it–can’t remember. The question is: Do you see it? And what browser/version are you using?

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace