March 20, 2003

War: What Is It Good For?

What he said.

Al and I have been talking about this since I switched from the Weather Channel to MSNBC yesterday morning and heard Brian Williams say, "now we have two things we want to show you: first, a live shot of downtown Baghdad. And as you can see, nothing's happening there. Second, the podium in the White House press room, where we're waiting for Ari Fleischer to make an appearance. And of course, as soon as he does, we'll let you know." The network then proceeded to fill the screen with the live shot of nothing happening in Baghdad while Brian chatted off-camera with a supposed expert on what might happen when the 48-hour deadline was reached.

"Ever since 9/11, I can't watch news coverage of events like this," Al said when I related the above. "It just makes me sick." Not to mention frustrated and angry. Shut UP if you have nothing new or useful to report! News is so cheap to produce that in the U.S., 24-hour news networks are popping up like weeds, and news "magazines" have replaced at least an hour of entertainment programming per night. Has anyone considered that the reason these programs are cheap to produce is because the quality is so low? This lowering of journalistic standards has basically chased Al and me away from television news entirely, but as nj notes, NPR is no better. They recycle the same news and broadcast tedious White House press briefings in their entirety, too: they just do it without the benefit/handicap of boring B-roll or goofy computer-generated graphics in the background. As I listened to one of these press briefings on the drive in to work this morning, I thought, "I'm glad we have a press corps that's asking questions of our leadership, because that leadership might run amok if unchallenged. But must those questions be so inane?"

My frustration with the social terrorists that the media likes to call protestors has already led me to stew silently at home rather than take to the streets to argue for reason (because, let's face it, most of those protestors aren't arguing for reason—they're screaming 30 different messages at the top of their lungs while blocking traffic during rush hour). Now I fear that my frustration with the "news" media will lead me to ignore the war. This is a shame, because I really do want to understand what's going on.

Frustration with the social terrorists isn't the only reason I've stayed home. I'm keeping to the sidelines until I can articulate what I really think about the war and its alternatives. In short, I feel ill-informed. For all the shouting in the streets and the 24-hour news and analysis, I don't feel any better equipped to form an opinion. And that's saying something, because I'm usually full of opinions and not shy about sharing them.

So, what is this war good for? I don't know. Certainly not for fans of quality television programming, for the environment, or for our relations with the rest of the world (or for my productivity at work). And whether it makes the world a safer place or a more dangerous one remains to be seen. On the plus side, it seems to be keeping a lot of people busy, and as everyone knows, we Americans are happiest when we're busy. The evidence is all over CNN.

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March 21, 2003

Yesterday's News

Got up extra early this morning so I could do my step workout and then catch the train to work. I worked out longer than usual, but I still had time to lollygag around the house for a bit. I like doing that in the mornings.

I had the car yesterday, so I listened to NPR's war coverage on the drive home. I'd like to revise my earlier statement that NPR was no better than the television news stations; it turns out the lack of boring B-roll and computer simulations really makes a difference. Add in Scott Simon's soothing voice, and it's bearable for at least 15 minutes at a time (unlike the news networks, which I can't watch for more than 2 or 3). One thing that struck me, however, as Simon interviewed correspondent after correspondent about what was happening in his or her area, was that these individuals obviously weren't listening to the reports of their colleagues. All the correspondents breathlessly reported what they thought was news, not realizing that the correspondents before them had just said the same thing. I guess that's to be expected when you're "embedded" in an army unit out in the middle of the Iraqi desert, but it's still a mix of tedious and ridiculous when you're listening on the drive home.

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May 27, 2003

Photoblogs & Fotologs

There was an article in Sunday's New York Times called Prospecting for Gold Among the Photoblogs; I read it with interest, hoping to see some of my favorite sites mentioned and to learn about a few new ones.

Unfortunately, the article focused mostly on the photos that the author didn't like rather than the ones she did. Am I wrong in thinking that the NYT takes more pleasure in pointing out the dangers/idiocy/banality of blogging than blogging's pearls of wisdom, its power to inform and connect, its art? Someday, I hope to see fewer articles about Times reporters getting lost on the web and a new column covering text, photo, and art blogs (and other variations that might someday emerge) worth reading/viewing. Given that a good chunk of the Times' circulation is outside of the New York area, an article about worthwhile places to visit in cyberspace are could be more useful to far-flung readers than the current listings of New York gallery and theater openings. Just a thought.

Posted by Lori at 1:09 PM
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June 19, 2003

Is it Getting Hotter in Here?

From the New York Times (free registration required to read article): Report by the E.P.A. Leaves Out Data on Climate Change

More information on climate change from the World Wildlife Fund (aka "The All-Too-Real WWF"). And in other news...


"The difference between being black and being gay," said one gay activist, "is that you don't have to come down at breakfast one morning and break it to your parents: 'Mum, Dad, I'm black.'" from Gay is the New Black


Did you say "Potter in here?" That's right, the new Harry Potter book is coming out this weekend; my copy from Amazon should be arriving on my doorstep sometime on Saturday. All my plans for listening to the audio CDs as a refresher before tackling the new tome have gone to hell amidst a crazy work schedule, so I'll have to rely on my sister to pick up all the references to tidbits dropped in the first four books. A few links to news of the Potter mania:

Posted by Lori at 2:00 PM
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June 20, 2003

Force-Feeding Frankenfoods

Ooooh, this makes me so MAD!! Everyone keeps talking about the lack of adverse health effects of genetically-modified foods, when they should be talking about their impact on the diversity of ecosystems. GMOs are a global environmental issue, not an immediate-term health issue. I also find the idea that Europe is boycotting American biotech foods because they disagree with the Bush administration's policies in Iraq ridiculous. Europe is rightly suspicious of American companies' efforts to control the world's food supply, and they've always been more environmentally conscious than the U.S. as a whole. Europe's stance on GMOs hasn't changed. If this dispute has any connection to Iraq, it's that invading Iraq seems to have made the Bush administration more confident that it can bully the rest of the world to get what it wants.

Recommended reading:

Posted by Lori at 2:06 PM
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October 12, 2004

Missed Opportunities

Slate magazine has an interesting analysis of how Kerry blew the second presidential debate by William Saletan (link via nj). As much as I think Bush is an idiot as a debator, I have to say I agree that Kerry is even worse at taking advantage of what Saletan calls hanging sliders (and what I called pucks flying through the slot after the first debate).

Kerry gave interesting responses, but they often weren't the ones I expected. WHY, oh WHY is he incapable of explaining the "first I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" remark, for example? (Bush even got the attack wrong this time, somewhat hilariously: "He said he voted for the $87 billion, and voted against it right before he voted for it. And that sends a confusing signal to people." Um, no, sir—I think it's you who are confused.) It's a simple explanation, one that Edwards gave in 30 seconds or less during the vice-presidential debate, but for some reason Kerry said the same thing he'd said in the first presidential debate: "I made a mistake about how I talk about [the war], the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?" Yeah, ok, we know. Bad president. Now, TELL US ABOUT THE VOTE!

The simple explanation is that there were two versions of the bill to fund the ongoing efforts in Iraq. The first was actually supported by Senate Republicans—and Kerry—who were uncomfortable with the administration's version of the bill, which asked for $20 billion for reconstruction. As Glenn Kessler and Dan Morgan wrote in their Washington Post article GOP Prism Distorts Some Kerry Positions,

In a floor statement explaining his vote, Kerry said he favored the $67 billion for the troops on the ground -- "I support our troops in Iraq and their mission" -- but faulted the administration's $20 billion request for reconstruction. He complained that administration "has only given us a set of goals and vague timetables, not a detailed plan."

Of course, we know how much Kerry values a plan—and if the Bush camp wanted to make a joke out of Kerry's vote, they could certainly talk about Plans. And they'd have to, if Kerry would just say to the American people what he's already said on the floor of the Senate (and what his running mate said in the vice presidential debate). Something like this would be great: "I supported a different version of the bill, one that would have provided $67 billion for bullets and fuel and body armor while saving taxpayers the $20 billion the administration earmarked for unspecified 'reconstruction' costs—what amounted to a slush fund for Bush/Cheney cronies like Halliburton."

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October 17, 2004

The Flu: Who Knew?

I saw this interesting item on Suburban Guerrilla about the difference in the British and American responses to the Chiron debacle, but I wasn't sure how reliable the source was (especially given the dodgy editing, the lack of attribution, and the numerous server errors I got on my first visit to the site).

It seems the story's accurate, if the Washington Post is to be believed. What's interesting to me is that this could be yet another example of the Bush administration and its agencies being overly optimistic in the face of bad news, of hearing what they want to hear rather than preparing for a worst-case scenario, as the British did. [I do wonder whether the CDC would have been so optimistic under any administration, or just this one; how much influence does the administration have over the CDC, anyway? I know it has some, based on what happened—or didn't happen—in the early days of the AIDS crisis...]

On a related note, I saw an article in a local Lancaster County, PA paper about how many people are positively panicking about the vaccine shortage, harrassing local doctors and calling every medical-related agency and private firm in the area looking to get on a non-existent waiting list for a shot, and that several states are considering making it a crime to give a flu shot to a healthy, low-risk individual. Freaky. I feel kinda bad that I'm high-risk on two counts (asthma and pregnancy), and that I'll have to jump on the give-me-a-flu-shot-now bandwagon. :-/

Posted by Lori at 10:23 PM
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October 29, 2004

The When of the Weapons

There's an article in the New York Times today (Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache, free subscription required to view) describing a video shot by a Minneapolis-based TV news crew that purports to show intact IAEA seals at the Al Qaqaa munitions complex, as well as the now-missing crates of HMX explosives. When was the video shot? Nine days after the fall of Baghdad.

I was a bit frustrated by the article; in an apparent attempt to be balanced, they gave full airing to all the doubts the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, and others have been voicing about when (or even if) the explosives were looted. It's easy to finish the article unsure of when exactly the explosives disappeared, so let me clarify for you: They disappeared on or after April 18, 2003, which is when the video was shot.

My favorite "what the hell were they thinking?" moment:

The team opened storage containers, some of which contained white powder that independent experts said was consistent with HMX.

"The soldiers were pretty much in awe of what they were seeing," Mr. Caffrey [the team photographer] recalled. "They were saying their E.O.D. - Explosive Ordinance Division, people who blow this kind of stuff up - would have a field day."

The journalists filmed roughly 25 minutes of video. Mr. Caffrey added that the team left the bunker doors open. "It would have been easy for anybody to get in," he said.

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October 29, 2004

Why Osama, You Look Fabulous!

I love that Wolf Blitzer just said [paraphrasing here], "this isn't the October Suprise everyone was expecting."

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January 14, 2005

News and Weather

I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago that the weather in Philadelphia had been quite balmy lately, but in the past few days, it's been positively screwy. On Wednesday Austen and I left the house at 10:24am (I was timing us) en route to my six-week post-partum checkup (I'm fine, all systems are go). I was wearing my fuzzy-collared winter coat, but I didn't bother donning my hat and gloves. Soon I even had to unbutton the coat. While not exactly *warm* out, it was too warm for wool and fake fur. By the time we left the doctor's office around noon, however, I was glad I brought my hat and gloves. The temperature was dropping, and the walk home proved a chilly one.

Yesterday was the complete opposite. The temperature in the morning started out about the same as it had on Wednesday, but throughout the day it got *warmer*. Wait, you're thinking, isn't that normal? Doesn't the temperature usually rise as the day goes on? Well, yes, but generally it drops again after dark. Not so yesterday; when Austen and I left on foot at 5:30pm to meet Al at his office, it was about 65 degrees. I was wearing a tiny short-sleeved t-shirt and a lightweight hoodie, and I was plenty warm. I'd say it was still over 60 when we went out again at 10pm in an attempt to quiet the screaming kid, which is where the News portion of this post comes in—more on that in a second. Minutes after we re-entered the house, the skies opened up, and it began to POUR. And guess what? The temperature started to drop. It was 48 degrees when I got up this morning around 8:30 (and still raining heavily), and by noon Philadelphia is expecting snow flurries. Biz-fucking-arre. I'm just glad that by 3pm it's supposed to be partly cloudy, so the kid and I can get out for a walk. I hate being trapped inside with him all day (although right now he's snoring sweetly on my chest and being so kind as to leave my hands free to type).

And now, the news. I mentioned to Al when we were out walking that I was behind on my blog posting; I'd only just finished the posts I'd started on Monday and Tuesday that afternoon, and I hadn't even started writing the one I'd intended to post on Wednesday. The subject of that one was going to be how seeing the Metro headline "Codey: N.J. Should Be Stem Cell Leader" made me wonder whether the passing of California's Prop 71 would start a competition among the states to see who could pour more money into stem cell research. Although I agreed with my friend nj's reason for voting against Prop 71, I can totally see now that *how* the research was funded wasn't the issue: it was that it was funded at all. Prop 71 is probably more powerful as a symbol than as a vehicle for advancing scientific research (although it's likely to do that, and maybe even be more successful at it *because* of its symbolic status).

I think because we were tangentially discussing the Governator and his love of funding projects with bonds, and because Al wondered aloud if Arnold weren't perhaps a Democratic trojan horse in the Republican party, we then started debating whether foreign-born U.S. citizens should be allowed to run for president. Although Arnold started the debate, we were discussing the principle rather than whether Arnold himself should be allowed to run, and I have to tell you that it was thoroughly exhilarating. I am as attracted to Al's mind and conversational skills as I am to the rest of him, and it was such a thrill to talk about politics, current events, and Constitutional law for like 30 MINUTES STRAIGHT without being interrupted by the baby. My mind is still buzzing this morning, and I almost hope that Austen requires another walk or drive tonight so we can talk some more. (I'll be scanning the newspaper boxes when I go out this afternoon for fodder!)

In any case, I was arguing that naturalized U.S. citizens wouldn't necessarily have divided loyalties and thus would make perfectly fine presidents, while Al argued the opposite. I felt that any loyalty issues would come out during the campaign, but Al felt that the last couple campaigns just proved that any idiot could be elected president, even over the strong and logical objections of many—that the media couldn't be trusted to raise the right issues, and that the voters couldn't be trusted to vote on them. Actually, now that I think of it, even if there aren't any interesting headlines in the news boxes today, we'll still have plenty to talk about tonight. We'll just pick up where we left off last night. :)

Posted by Lori at 9:51 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
January 20, 2005
June 22, 2005

Time To Call Your Congressman

Dear Congressman Fattah, Senator Santorum, and Senator Specter:

Oh, my god. Are you seriously considering eliminating funding for Sesame Street just when my 7 month-old has discovered the delights of Elmo and Grover? Please don't let the only alternative be commercial television with its endless pitches for sugary sweets, needless toys, and fattening fast food. I happily support public television (and public radio) with individual contributions, and I want to support it with my tax dollars, too.

Save PBS now. It's money well spent—money invested in our future.

Lori Hylan-Cho
Philadelphia, PA

Posted by Lori at 11:02 AM
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June 27, 2005

Live 8 In the Hood

I had the opportunity last week to join a conference call between the Live 8 organizers and Philadelphia bloggers (of which, apparently, I am one), but I chose not to dial in. My main reason for not participating was that, as someone whose second thought (after "why?"), upon hearing that Live 8 would be taking place in my neighborhood, was "oh my god, we've got to get out of town", I'd feel like a fraud.

The other big reason I didn't participate was that, frankly, I'm not sure where I stand on debt relief... or on the idea of a global concert's ability to raise awareness about the subject. I'm not against either of these things—I just don't feel like I have a firm enough grasp of the issues involved. (And for me, the issues involved are not which bands are playing and whether or not the organizers could have made tons of money for African relief efforts if only they'd sold tickets.) I do have some thoughts swirling around in my head about international aid lending, debt forgiveness, massive government corruption, and the effects of poverty, war, and disease on the African continent, but they don't add up to answers—only to many, many questions. I'm guessing that I may be one of the very people whose awareness Bob Geldof wants to raise.

Maybe I should have gotten on the call, if only to ask whether the goal of the concerts was to educate as well as entertain, and if so, how that would be accomplished—and what would be the measures of success. I'm also kinda curious about what kind of support they were looking for from the "blogosphere." But that brings me to my third reason for not joining the call: I've learned from experience that it's virtually impossible to listen to, much less participate in, a conference call while holding a(n almost) 7 month-old baby. Sadly, the call time didn't coincide with his nap.

I haven't decided whether to watch the Live 8 coverage on television this Saturday, but I definitely won't be seeing any of it in person. We are, indeed, getting out of town. Yeah, I know I might be passing up an opportunity to be a part of a historical moment (or a historical 6 or 9 hours, depending on how you count), but I'm really not a crowd person. I was perfectly happy watching Live Aid from my host family's basement in Sweden instead of experiencing it from underneath the crush of bodies at Wembly or, worse, the skin-frying Philadelphia sun. Back then I knew what I was watching was special, even if I didn't fully understand how it was going to help Africa.

Today I understand even less about how a concert will help Africa (and apparently, I'm not alone; millions around the world seem to think Live 8 is about raising money), but I'm hoping it will do something. I'm not so cynical or apathetic that I wouldn't wish the Live 8 organizers well. Here's hoping somebody's listening—and that they hear more than just screeching guitars and confused concertgoers.

Posted by Lori at 9:53 PM
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July 20, 2005

On Babysitters, Blogging, and A Hard Day's Work

This whole nanny blog thing just creeps me out. (The nanny in question's actual blog is here.) Possibly because I had a dodgy babysitter experience; possibly because another potential babysitter happened to include her blog link in e-mail correspondence, and I had to fight not to be unnerved by what I read; or possibly because I myself am a regular blogger (and I've posted about the vomitous feeling the dodgy babysitter inspired), I've been thinking a lot about the article and the response over the past couple hours.

There are many things to be creeped out about in Helaine Olen's piece, but the three I find most creepy are (a) that Olen read the nanny's blog so obsessively, (b) that she doesn't seem to see the hypocrisy in writing about her experience—hyperbolically and occasionally libelously—in the New York Times, and (c) that the straw that broke the camel's back—the thing that led to the nanny's firing—was that the nanny considered watching Olen's children "work". Um, I've got news for you: caring for children *IS* WORK.

I know that some families want a babysitter/nanny "who'll be part of the family," as one of our current sitter's references put it, but the fact is that you are PAYING this person to watch your kids. (Incidentally, we weren't looking for someone to be part of our family, though I can totally see how our sitter would fit that bill if we were.) This person may love your children and treat them as if they were her own, but she's not your mother or your sister or your aunt. She's trying to earn a living watching your kids, not doing you a favor.

Watching kids is hard. Keeping them entertained, interested, fed, changed, and generally cared for requires patience, imagination, strength, and stamina. How do I know? Because when our sitter isn't here, it's what I do—and it's at least as challenging as the software engineering that I do when the sitter *is* here. It's actually surprising to me that babysitters don't charge more per hour for all this effort. When I first talked to my friend Jean about how to go about hiring a sitter, she mentioned that the going rate in San Francisco was $50/hour. This would have been tough for me to manage, but honestly, it wasn't completely shocking. I was prepared for anything. It was only when Jean mentioned that some nannies charge $20/hour for two children that I realized she'd said $15 for one, not $50.

Would I want my babysitter to blog about us? Well, probably not. But if it were really important to me, I'd probably make it a stipulation of employment: no blogging about this job. I think I'd feel somewhat hypocritical doing it, however, given that I write about so much of what's going on in our lives here, so I've never made such a request. (I did request that the former babysitter not post photos of Austen on her site, however.) As for blogging in general, what our babysitter does on her own time is her business; I'm actually more comfortable not knowing all the details of her life, so if she had a blog, I wouldn't seek it out anyway. I know enough to feel that Austen's safe and well-cared for in her company, and I see evidence of her common sense, good judgement, and strong work ethic on a daily basis. Anything else I need to know, I'll ask her. And as long as she never lies to me, tries to pass off complaining as conversation, or asks me to write her another check because she misplaced the one I wrote her yesterday, I'll never vomit on her—in person, online, or in print.

Posted by Lori at 4:59 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
August 1, 2005

Harry, Ron, and Hermione...

I just had to give a post here that title, since Al and I have taken to saying it to each other all the time now. (It was Al who pointed out to me that an amazing number of sentences in the Harry Potter series start with, "Harry, Ron, and Hermione", but J.K. Rowling also acknowledges it in her recent TIME Magazine article.) We've been listening to the books on the iPod (with a Y-adapter to accommodate two sets of headphones) at night, and I've been listening to the Half-Blood Prince on CD in the car when I run errands (I finished the actual hardcopy of the book a couple days after its release). I'm so glad that I've finally gotten Al hooked on Harry Potter—even if the allure for him has more to do with Jim Dale's voice characterizations than with the stories themselves.

Anyway, the reason I'm posting about this is that there's a wonderful editorial in yesterday's New York Times about growing up with Harry. Read it before it gets archived.

Posted by Lori at 2:04 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
October 17, 2005

Or You Could WALK

When I checked my e-mail this morning I found this, forwarded from a (then-wildly liberal, now-conservative) friend from college. Needless to say, I groaned louder than I do when he attaches several 2MB photos to e-mails sent to me and several other friends. Dude: Flickr. Ofoto. Smugmug. And to the following e-mail: WALK. Ride a bike. Consolidate trips. Drive something that gets more than 9 mpg. Oh yeah, and a Halliburton employee as the source of an idea to stick it to the petroleum industry? Hahahahahahahaha!

This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola executive. It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. It 's worth your consideration.

Join the resistance!!!! We are probably going to hit close to $ 4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! At this writing they are paying $5.60 US per gallon in the UK. Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action.

Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea. This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us!

By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace..not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How?

Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) ... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers.

If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all! (If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people.... Well, let's face it, you just aren't a mathematician. But I am .. so trust me on this one.) :-)

How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!! I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you! Acting together we can make a difference.

If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we NOT buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $1.30 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS CAN REALLY WORK.

Kerry Lyle, Director, Research Coordinator

Update: Another friend who was on the distribution list for this e-mail responded with Snopes' analysis of the "gas out" scheme and others like it. Thanks, Jimmy!

Posted by Lori at 9:09 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 15, 2005

Not News

Arrrrrrrrrrgggggh! Why is the fact that Rumsfeld is spouting Bush administration talking points NEWS? Just because Rumsfeld says the same thing Bush said yesterday (or last week) doesn't make it news. Or true, for that matter.

Posted by Lori at 4:13 PM
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November 27, 2005

Ironic... Or Just Irresponsible?

Two headlines in my daily news e-mail from

The Gathering Winds
A Rise in Deadly Storms Since '95 Has Researchers Worried About the Future

World Leaders to Discuss Strategies for Climate Control
Bush Administration Shuns Conference On Strategies to Build on Kyoto Pact

Posted by Lori at 11:41 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
December 7, 2005

Merry Xmas

I've been thinking a lot lately about how Christians in this country seem to feel that they're under attack, and how to mitigate some of that feeling. I think it's important to maintain a secular government—and given that so many of the founding fathers were deeply religious it's all the more remarkable that we got a secular government at all—but that those of us who are not particularly religious sometimes take things too far when we insist on separation of church and state. I think we who get so annoyed by those who wear their religion on their sleeves—we who object to religion being pushed on us—sometimes fail to realize that we are being just as pushy when we insist that religious symbols be removed from any and all public property and any and all state-, local-, or community-sponsored events. Come on, now. Is it really so offensive to have to look at a cross when you're traveling on a Utah highway? And would you know that the land that the cross was on was publicly owned just from driving by it? Would the cross be less offensive if the land were privately owned?

Anyway, it's something I've been thinking about, because although I am not myself religious, and I am often thoroughly freaked out by the religious right, if I am not mistaken what the Constitution says regarding religion is:

" religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." [Article 4, Clause 3]


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..." [First Amendment]

and... well, that's it.

I could write quite a bit about how there should be many more mentions of Article 4 in the same breath that "Supreme Court nominee" is mentioned, but what I'm most interested in at the moment is the First Amendment. I beg those of you who want to keep religion out of government to give your friends and neighbors the opportunity to practice their religions when and where they see fit, before they feel so attacked and oppressed that they go nuts.

Oops, too late.

Note: Although I find the Post article both hilarious and horrifying, I'm actually completely serious about tempering the attacks on religion in this country. Chill out, people. Nobody's trying to make you say anything you don't want to say or believe anything you don't want to believe. Yet.

Posted by Lori at 11:15 AM
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December 13, 2005


From an editorial in today's New York Times about the Bush administration finally agreeing to send delegates to the climate change talks in Montreal, as long as any agreements made were non-binding:

But talk is cheap, and nonbinding talk is even cheaper. And talk alone will not get the developing world into the game. Why should India and China make major sacrifices while the United States, in effect, gets a free ride? The battle against global warming will never be won unless America joins it, urgently and enthusiastically. Our grandchildren will look back with anger and astonishment if we fail to do so.

Hear, hear.

Posted by Lori at 12:31 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
January 9, 2006

Excellent Interview About Reconstruction

I'm listening to a Fresh Air program on Reconstruction at the moment, and it's fascinating. Great review of this period in history, as well as Constitutional issues in general. Eric Foner is surprisingly mesmerizing. [Downloadable audio should be available on the WHYY site shortly.]

Posted by Lori at 3:30 PM | Permalink
January 23, 2006

Fill in the Blank

I was just reading Saturday's news summary, which was topped by the following entry:

Rove Offers Republicans A Battle Plan For Elections
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove offered a biting preview of the 2006 midterm elections yesterday, drawing sharp distinctions with the Democrats over the campaign against terrorism, tax cuts and judicial philosophy, and describing the opposition party as backward-looking and bereft of...

It was easy to guess what word the ellipses replaced—I'm familiar with Republican talking points by now—but it amused me to come up with possible alternatives to the obvious. Some ideas that maybe Karl can use next time, if he wants to shake things up a bit:

fashion sense
anything remotely resembling a sense of humor
a spine
a game plan for invading Iran
friends at Halliburton
Bush baggage (bonus: this one's alliterative!)

Want to play? Add your suggestions in the comments.

Posted by Lori at 1:45 PM
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February 3, 2006

Homegrown Housegrown Insurgency

From my e-mail update this morning, this shocking news of insurgent activity RIGHT HERE IN THE U.S.:

In an Upset, Boehner Is Elected House GOP Leader
Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who ran an insurgent campaign calling for change in the face of a widening corruption scandal, is elected to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) as House majority leader in an upset over the acting majority leader.
(By Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post)

Posted by Lori at 12:00 PM
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July 17, 2006

Random Headlines

Israeli warplanes keep up Lebanon barrage
Bombs Fall, Missiles Strike, and Death and Life Go On
When does "escalating violence" become war? I wouldn't necessarily say that the use of missles, warplanes, and ground troops alone constitutes war, since the U.S. has been known to use all three in numerous non-war contexts over the past 20 years, but the fact that both sides in this conflict are using them makes me think WAR.

Public Schools Perform Near Private Ones in Study
Don't be fooled by the headline: The body of the article reveals that public school students did as well as or better than their private school counterparts except in eighth-grade reading. For whatever it's worth... (and it's worth reading the whole article).

Posted by Lori at 12:07 PM | Permalink
August 30, 2006

Now *That's* Cold-Blooded

From Al: RadioShack lays off employees via e-mail

Am I also cold-blooded for considering doing the same to the financial planner at Fidelity who didn't call me back after I left a message on Thursday, and who then called last night to berate me for choosing to deal with someone else at Fidelity's Philadelphia investor center instead? He actually said to me, about the colleague, "she claimed [emphasis his] that you said I never called you back." Me: "Uh, yeah. That's EXACTLY what I told her. Because you DIDN'T." He then claimed that he left not one but TWO messages for me, and that he didn't know how I couldn't have gotten them. I can't imagine where he left them, as I was home all day Thursday and Friday, was here until 3pm on Monday, there were no messages on our machine between Thursday and Tuesday, and we never once lost power during the entire span. Also, I'm fairly certain the Beaner never answered the phone and just forgot to give me the message.

All that would have been bad enough, but then he tried to just take over the account right there. "So what else can I help you with? I know [colleague] did a basic portfolio review, but I'm sure I could [blah blah blah something or other]." At this point I held the phone away from my ear and just stared at it for a second. Dude, is your pride that wounded? After the big speech about how you don't work on commission yadda yadda yadda, it's that big a deal that I pressed 0 and asked to work with the person who answered when I got your voicemail again on Tuesday? And hello, did you think to ask me if this was even a good time to talk? No! And by the way, IT'S NOT.

When I finally stopped staring at the phone in disbelief and returned it to my ear, I said, "listen, I'm actively trying to fix a bug with someone at this very minute, and it's extremely complicated, and I can't focus any attention on my IRA right now." What I should have said is, "listen, I can't talk right now anyway, but even if I could, I think I'd like to keep dealing with your colleague." It's what I want to say today. Am I wrong to want to say it via e-mail, instead of being shouted at again on the phone? I'm thinking that even if I am, it's my style. I'd much rather answer a phone call with an e-mail any day of the week. It's partly what makes me an introvert. Maybe the CEO and head of HR at Radio Shack are introverts, too.

Posted by Lori at 2:02 PM
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September 11, 2006

Remain Calm... And Do Not Leave the Building

There's a fire alarm going off in my husband's building. An announcement over the PA has indicated that the alarm is on the 35th floor, and that the Fire Department has arrived to investigate... but in the meantime, employees are not to use the elevators or the fire stairs. In other words, remain at your desks. Do not leave the building. Everything's fine.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, to me, too. The last time I knew of where employees were told to ignore the fire alarms and remain at their desks was five years ago today. The people who obeyed that directive are all dead now, buried in the rubble of the Twin Towers.

This alarm is probably nothing; I heard no roar of jet engines over the city minutes ago, and my husband says this sort of false alarm happens at his building a few times a year. Still, because of the date, because of this most frightening of anniversaries, I am nervous.

Update, 11:48am ~ Everything's fine; it was a false alarm, and they're resetting the building's alarm system. I still have a tightness in my chest, though...

Posted by Lori at 11:39 AM
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September 21, 2006


Al and I have noticed that gas prices are dropping in the area, especially in New Jersey (which is a 10-minute drive away). We've actually been kinda dismayed by this news; kinda dismayed, and kinda torn. On the one hand, it's nice that our expenses are dropping, and we recognize that lower oil and gas prices make a huge difference to people with incomes significantly less than our own. On the other hand, both of us think gas prices should be HIGHER. At something like $3 or $4 a gallon, renewables become competitive, and that's better for the environment (and ultimately better for all of us). It might actually be better for the economy, too, as it would encourage companies to innovate and decrease our dependence on foreign oil (a depleting resource, in any case).

No matter which direction gas prices are headed in, however, they seem to bring out the idiot in everyone. As we saw post-Katrina, a slew of college-educated Senators, Congressmen, and other public officials seemed to forget what they'd learned about the law of supply and demand and started screaming about price gouging and prosecutions and our RIGHT as Americans to cheap gas. People were idling in huge lines to save $.05 a gallon. Thought that madness was over? Nope. The idiots are back in force. Witness:

In NJ, Fuel Prices Dip Below $2 A Gallon At Last

by KYW's Mike DeNardo

Back in the summer, you may have thought you'd never see this day. But here it is -- the day you could find gasoline for under two bucks a gallon!

Right off Route 295 in Swedesboro, NJ, gas was selling for $1.98 a gallon on one side of the street, $1.95 a gallon on the other side.

Drivers from all over were taking advantage.

(DeNardo:) "Did you ever in your lifetime think that you would see gasoline below two dollars a gallon again?"

(Driver:) "No I didn't. I thought it was just going to stay up. They're ripping us off!"

(Driver:) "Absolutely not. There's no way. I just hope it stays this way. I just came from Pennsylvania, I work in New Jersey, and every gas station I passed over there was still $2.50."

(Driver:) "I'm from Delaware. So it's still over $2. I come to Jersey to get filled up and go back to Delaware."

(DeNardo:) "And what did you think when you saw gas below $2?"

(Driver:) "Excited!"

With gas prices trending downward, drivers say it's about time.


Posted by Lori at 2:18 PM
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November 29, 2006

Advertising Bad Grammar

In a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times, no less. Hello, History Channel? Hire a proofreader!

doesn't anyone proofread anymore?

advertising bad grammar

* This was obviously in the Sunday paper the weekend before Thanksgiving. We still haven't gotten around to reading the whole thing, so I just came across this ad this morning.

Posted by Lori at 11:56 AM
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December 14, 2006


Eden was just talking about the burden of being named Eden, and how her husband trumped her by being named Jack Kennedy. From Fussy I cruised over to the NY Times website, where I happened to find this quote in an article about how circumcision can cut the risk of getting HIV from heterosexual intercourse in half:

Circumcision is “not a magic bullet, but a potentially important intervention,” said Dr. Kevin M. De Cock, director of H.I.V./AIDS for the World Health Organization.

Oh yes. I think we have a winner.

Posted by Lori at 10:01 AM
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February 15, 2007


Al and I cannot stand the local news. We do not want to hear the gory details of all the murders, rapes, drive-by shootings, hit-and-run accidents, and drug transactions that afflict Philadelphia. We hate the hyperbole, the non-news, the on-location reporting when being on-location adds absolutely nothing (look, here's a shot of the street where the water main broke! you can't see anything now, but a few hours ago there was water here!).

That said, I have just set the TiVo to record the local news (channel 6) tonight from 5:00pm to 6:30pm. Why? Because the Beaner will be featured in a non-news story about the refurbishment of the boat river at the Please Touch Museum. Apparently they needed a kid to push the very first boat down the newly-refurbished river as part of a press event announcing Aqua's sponsorship of said refurbishment (as well as of the building of an even better water feature at the new Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall, coming soon). The woman in charge of the press event approached Aura and asked if the Beaner would be the boat-pusher. She said yes with glee, and then called me for my OK when they presented her with a photography/film release to sign. After talking with the woman in charge, I gave the thumbs up.

So anyway, my kid will be on the news tonight. The person you may or may not see lurking behind him will be Aura, not me (because I am home WORKING, not blogging or budgeting or anything else not work-related). If you're local and have any inclination to see the Beaner in action, may I suggest you do as we are doing and TiVo the news, so you don't actually have to watch it. You can just scan for his cuteness, watch the Please Touch segment, and then delete the whole shebang without even watching the weather report. Woo!

Update: They didn't run the segment, so now I'm happier than ever that I TiVo'ed the 90 minutes worth of traffic, weather, and manufactured drama instead of watching it live. The goody bag the Beaner received as part of the press hoo-hah was reward enough for his time in front of the camera, too—it contained a plastic sailboat and squeezy tug boat for playing with in the tub (now shower!), stickers, a MARACA (which I think is brilliant even if it *is* rather loud), bandaids, and a bunch of other random stuff.

Posted by Lori at 1:13 PM
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April 30, 2007

A Plea for Permalinks

Nothing is more frustrating than being behind in your blog reading and coming across a reference to a New York Times article that sounds REALLY INTERESTING... only to find that when you click on the link, you can only see the first 40 words or so of the piece. This need not be! The New York Times provides a permalink to each article so that it will remain available to blog readers even after the article has gone "into the archives".

To use this option, RESIST THE URGE to copy the URL in the Address bar of your browser, and instead click on the + sign next to SHARE in the little box of options floating at the top right of the article. An additional list of options for sharing will appear; choose PERMALINK. When you do this, a new window will open with the URL you need to copy. (I'm not sure if you have to allow pop-ups to make this work, but you might.

nyt_share_options.jpg nyt_share_permalink.jpg

Easy as pie—and it'll make your blog posts relevant for weeks and months to come.

Posted by Lori at 12:08 PM | Permalink
May 8, 2007

My Name in the Same Breath as NPR's

So a few weeks ago, when I was in San Francisco (i.e., away from my normal personal laptop with its handy mail filters), I got an e-mail from someone wanting to know if I wanted to help NPR. I deleted the message as spam without reading it. A week later, I got another e-mail with the same subject (prepended this time with Re:)... and from the same sender. This time I decided to check out the headers and maybe even open it.

It turned out to be a legitimate request to use one of my Flickr photos in a video piece for NPR.

Wait!, I know you're thinking, NPR stands for National Public RADIO. That *has* to be a scam! No really, it wasn't. Like everyone else, NPR has decided to dip its toes into the web video waters... and the piece they wanted the photo for was posted on NPR's website earlier this week. My photo is in the video for about half a second—I think my credit is actually on the screen longer—but hey, it's still kinda neat.*


* I specifically got permission from my teammates in the photo before I gave the go-ahead for the producer to use it. We all agreed that it didn't really demonstrate the "elevator effect"—everyone was looking in different directions mainly because several different conversations were going on at the same time—but we didn't see any harm in it being used in the piece, and I think we're all familiar with the phenomenon. In my experience, it's more commonly found in locker rooms at pickup games, where you're unlikely to know the other participants, than it is when you're sharing three square feet of space with a teammate you know well.

Posted by Lori at 5:14 PM
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November 13, 2007


I found this New York Times article, Bad Behavior Does Not Doom Pupils, Studies Say, interesting, not so much because of any implications it might have for the Beaner's school career, but because it highlighted something I'd already been thinking about: emotional maturity. The quote that stuck out for me:

“I think these may become landmark findings, forcing us to ask whether these acting-out kinds of problems are secondary to the inappropriate maturity expectations that some educators place on young children as soon as they enter classrooms,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, who was not connected with either study.

I was saying to my sister yesterday that because the Beaner is rather clever and articulate (not to mention somewhat large for his age—at his 3-year checkup on Friday he measured in the 95th percentile for weight and the 76th percentile for height, and he's been wearing size 4T for the past six months at least), I sometimes forget that he hasn't even turned 3 yet. My expectations for how much he should be able to focus, how responsible he should be, how reasonable he should be might be too high.

He's already risen to several challenges; he goes to the bathroom by himself, turns on lights by himself (with the aid of a stepstool), puts himself to bed now (victory!), and even gets his own breakfast some days. He can help unload the dishwasher, sort the laundry, and put away his toys. He can now sit through—and even asks for—longer stories that he shunned a few months ago, such as Make Way for Ducklings or Paddington Bear at the Circus, or even a chapter or two of an Arthur story or Harry Potter. He climbs the stairs to his classroom all by himself, and he's started to remember what he's done at school and tell us about it.

In short, he's made great strides over the past year and even the past two or three months. We can still keep our expectations high and let him know how we expect him to behave, but we also need to cut him some slack and give him some time. He's got a lot of new information to absorb, and a not-yet-three year-old's attention span.

Posted by Lori at 10:48 AM
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September 8, 2008

The Consequences of Decisions Deferred

This headline and blurb in today's NYT e-mail blast caught my eye, partly because my thoughts on Sarah Palin finally crystallized over the weekend (blog post coming soon, hopefully), and partly because of Al's enumeration of the issues that were important to him in the coming election:

As Crisis Grew, a Few Options Shrank to One
The downfall of Fannie and Freddie stems from a series of miscalculations and deferred decisions.

If that didn't make me think of global warming, budget deficits, the national debt, and the current economic crisis, this pull-quote from the article certainly did:

"Today's necessary but likely very expensive action for taxpayers is the consequence of regulatory neglect and of a broader political system's reluctance to take on what should have been clearly seen as festering problems."
- LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS, a former Treasury secretary, on the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Something to think about when choosing a president: Do we want a team in the White House that's going to try to tackle the tough problems facing our country, our increasingly interdependent global financial system, and our planet in the 21st century, or a team that's going to stick their fingers in their ears and scream "la la la USA! USA! USA! la la la"?

Posted by Lori at 5:15 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2008

Another Appropos Quote

I came across another intriguing quote just now, this time not in a song (the one on my iPhone at the moment is instrumental :-), but in a New York Magazine article online.

From Cacioppo’s point of view, our large brains didn’t evolve in order to do multivariable calculus or compose sonatas. They evolved in order to process social information—and hence to work collaboratively.
Alone Together, New York Magazine, December 1, 2008

I've only read the article up to that quote, but I'm bookmarking it to finish later.

Posted by Lori at 2:43 PM
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