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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

My Photo
Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 In Blogs

It's time to reflect on this past year. Here are my favorite blog posts of 2004 (my blog and others):

The top 10 from my blog:

Q&A with Sgt. Sapper in Iraq
: A very candid interview with a soldier stationed in Iraq.

Q&A With T.J. Allard of Good Day Live: up-and-coming actor TJ Allard's interview, posted the day after he was announced as the New York correspondent to Good Day Live.

Retro Moment: The Princess Bride: People loved this movie more than I thought.

Do We Support Our Troops?: A post that goes beyond patriotism and the anti-war movement.

Terrorism Changes New York, For the Better: stone barriers, designed to protect buildings from car bombs, have made New York a greener place.

Movie Preview: Oliver Stone's Alexander: For some reason, a lot of Eastern Europeans visited this page.

College Kids and Binge Drinking: A serious look at kids who go too far in college.

Terrorist Threats, But Not Al-Queda: My own personal experience with an arson threat.

I'm Famous, In A Really Small Way: My blogging 15 minutes of fame on MSNBC's election site.

The Painful Legacy of Al Gore: Written on election day, it discusses the phenominon of people not accepting the outcome of elections.

Great moments from other blogs:

Paul Katcher on pro wrestling deaths.

Bitter Daze's Interview with Harold Ramis

Right's One (formerly Five of a Kind -- read the whole series)

The Moderate Voice: Bush Wins

The Moderate Voice: Kerry Officially Calls The Race Over

Paul Katcher's Female Celebs and Their Nakedness: A Roundup

Riasawn Takes a Pic With a Gun, and It Gets Around

The Airing of Grievances McCain Redemption

Paul Katcher's Larry Bird Was Right, Mostly and Sadly

Faith Was Raped

Bitter Daze's View of the 2004 Election

The Airing of Grievances on the 2004 election.

Bitter Daze Breaks Down Barak Obama's Speech at the Democratic Convention

Life in the Shadows: Giving names to miscarriages

The Rebel Rouser Talks About Being In The Mess Hall That Was Bombed

Check out other people's best of:

The Art of Getting By

Please suggest your best posts in the comments section below.

More plugs for other sites.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Retro Moment: Red Dawn

The end of the Cold War may have led to the end of good movies.

For the motion picture industry in 1984, it was morning again in America. It was a Red Dawn.

This American classic, which brought to us stars like Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, and a pre-plastic surgery Jennifer Grey, helped me learn to truly hate Communism.

Before it came out, I sort of knew that Communists were bad people, but I didn't fully realize that they wanted to invade our country and dominate the world. Red Dawn changed all of that.

I mean, look at that poster! Those Commies don't even use Latin letters. They wanted to destroy all that was good, like English and high school football.


See, we won the Cold War, so I can still say that.

There are plenty of reasons to see this movie, if you have not already done so:

There was a moving, near-mute, performance by one of my top five all time crushes, Lea Thompson.

There was Powers Booth reminding us that our current level of wealth is something to be cherished, saying:

"You think you're tough? You eat beans every day? There's a handful of scarecrows left in Denver give anything for a mouthful of what you got."

There was chilling dialogue, like:

Jed Eckert: We can hunt, we can fish, we can stay here a long, long time.
Robert: How long, Jed?
[Jed and Robert hear jets]
Jed Eckert: 'Til we don't hear that no more.


Jed Eckert: Well, who *is* on our side?
Col. Andy Tanner: Six hundred million screamin' Chinamen.
Darryl Bates: Well, last I heard, there were a billion screamin' Chinamen.
Col. Andy Tanner: There were.

See, that's when I knew that those Commie Russians (and Cubans) were out to get us, and would even kill a lot of Chinese to do it. They had to be stopped!

No wonder Walter Mondale lost, he was a stupid Communist too.

I watched the movie over and over again as I got older, until the Berlin Wall went down.

There really hasn't been a movie so complementary of gun-owning Middle-Americans made ever since (at least not one I would actually watch from the comfort of my New York City apartment).

But looking back upon this glorious movie, I await the anti-terrorism version of Red Dawn. Perhaps, it's time for a remake?

It's not like Hollywood is coming out with a lot of original ideas.

With Patrick Swayze saying lines like "because...we live here!" you know this is an American classic.

Other Retro Moments.

Links of interest:

IMBD site

Fast-Rewind: Red Dawn

Allwatchers.com movie review of Red Dawn

Ruthless Reviews: Red Dawn

Rotten Tomatoes Reviews of Red Dawn

Red Dawn photo page

The Airing of Grievances is having a debate on race and football that's worth plowing into.

Marvel is bringing back one of my favorite comics, the What If? series.
Paul Katcher, a Syracuse graduate, talks about the firing of SU football coach Paul Pasqualoni.

Outside the Beltway reports that national ID cards are probably on the way.

Poliblog discusses the politics of contributions.

Here's a way to give to the relief of tsunami victims through the Presbyterian Church USA.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Do People Matter At Work?

Are Human Beings Just Another Kind of Data?

The December issue of CIO magazine has a great editorial by Professor James Hoopes of Babson College called "The Dehumanized Employee" that suggests that things are moving that way.

The article begins by noting that the work done by historical management guru Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915), who was known to "squeeze the last ounce of effort out of workers" in factories by using stopwatches and other techniques, may have been a portent of things to come a century later in the IT (information technology) space.

IT tools like e-mail were going to make American workers lives easier, as was the improvements in factories decades ago, but things have not always turned out that way.

Hoopes writes:

"IT can be used not only to liberate human beings but to control them. In industries employing unskilled workers, such as retailing, IT has created top-down control to a degree that Taylor could only have dreamed of. Instead of working for small organizations, many retail employees work for giant firms that dwarf even the behemoths of the industrial era."

If you can relate to this movie, you may already be data.

IT, Hoopes continues, changes the dynamic of the worldwide workforce and its relationship with management:

"Thanks to IT and the instantaneous global reach of today's large companies, many of the management decisions affecting employees are made from a great geographical and organizational distance, which offers managers the temptation to ignore the human beings affected by their decisions."

Technology is advancing to the point where even jobs normally done by the office can now be controlled remotely:

"Even so, technological developments now on the horizon seem likely to increase, not decrease, restrictive top-down management. New sensor technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID) devices will inexpensively monitor truck drivers, salespeople, field service technicians and other offsite personnel who have traditionally worked out of their bosses' sight. As such employees are monitored with increasing intensity by new technology, the amount of "management by stress" in American workplaces seems likely to rise."

That is, if they are still working. Even proponents of RFID admit that it will cost at least some people their jobs.

At the very least, according to some, IT makes it harder to protect your privacy.

Scary? Yes. But all change is.

We will have to adapt to this new world.

We have no choice.


Res Publica
is a good resource for finding help agencies relating to the Asian tsunami.

I found a newer, more updated, post on suggesting that George W. Bush is seriously ill.

The Ohio recount was much ado about nothing.

Check out a great new blog called "Don't Thank Me, Thank My Recruiter"

WSJ Reports that obesity is a growing problem among women in Arab countries...because Arabs want overweight women (subscription required).

Here's the year in sports...or at least the year it could have been.

More blogwar: Conservative blogger The Elitist Pig seems to have been banned by liberal lesbian blogger Sisters Talk. Why can't we all just get along?

Winds of Change discussed a New York Times photo of a man in Sri Lanka wearing a Bin Ladin shirt.

Here's an Indian blog tracking the tsunami damage...and another one with international contributions.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Has the Blog Lost Its Edge? No Way.

This brutal blog really caught my eye, and gives me hope for the near future of the medium.

Blogging is becoming mainstream. The signs are everywhere. Blogs are already becoming formulaic. Some are speculating that blogs are already a mainstream political tool.

But this does not mean that the blog is losing its edge...at least not yet.

Blogs are already developing celebrities, known for writing about anything from politics from a gay Republican point of view, to a the basic liberal point of view, to (I think) a conservative point of view.

These guys (and gals) are the ones who worked so hard that blogging became more acceptable, and they deserve the traffic that they get.

Daily Kos is a daily read for many.

Some are building fan bases by writing really personal stuff, leading to the natural outgrowth of those those who comment on and mock them. One blogger, the Queen of the Sky, lost her job because of her blog.

Through Blog Explosion and TTLB Ecosystem, I'm being exposed to a lot of new ideas, I'm learning that there are still some real diamonds in the rough out there.

The Moderate Voice is one of my favorite news blogs.

There are blogs that are doing more than regurgitating the New York Times and Washington Post and adding their own comments (surprisingly enough, not a lot of bloggers take stuff from the Wall Street Journal, but that's another issue). They are combining news events with first hand experiences, or in some cases, unusual wit and wisdom. Some of them are providing materials that mainstream news outlets will not (and probably should not) provide.

Riasawn had a few moments of fame when a photo of her and an army rifle hit the net. Her blog is worth a look.

They are not getting a million hits, yet, but are writing some really interesting stuff that you just can't find anywhere.

For instance:

The Rebel Rouser, a conservative Iraqi-war veteran, posts about his experiences in the mess hall that was recently bombed/attacked.

Meanwhile, national guardsman Risawn writes about her experiences leading to her deployment to Kosovo.

A law student passes on her knowledge to the masses yearning to be free.

A guy, who got his girlfriend pregnant, ponders her desire to keep the child, even though he doesn't want it. Another blogger ponders life after abortion.

This guy literally posts nothing, and gets a huge conversation started. That's power.

In another really creative post, one blogger asks if George W. Bush is ill.

Some of this is raw stuff, while other posts are more thoughtful, and to be honest it's probably not all true. But it's definitely got an edge, and these blogs might just push the envelope of the mainstream media just a little further.

We'll see.

Other blog plugs.

Blog Explosion readers have come to know Crystal Clear very well.

More Nominal Me.

UPDATE (more notes about blogging):

The mainstream media eats its own.

Here's a reaction from MsRowz about Crystal Clear.

Blogs reported details of the tsunami disaster.

Here's a great entry by Intel Dump about the KIA's in Iraq and Vietnam.

UPDATE: 12/29/04

This Crystal Clear thing continues.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Monday Morning Musings (12/27/04)

Click on this great cartoon image above by Ruben Bolling.

Here's another one from the future of America. "That was a stupid idea". Indeed.

It wasn't a Merry Christmas for this family.

Are Democracies really better at war?

In a victory for bloggers, sort of, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced he was running for governor and has started a blog. The comments section of this post are comical, as it turns into a debate on Spitzer's grammar. It's not a very good start to his campaign. That being said, I hope Spitzer keeps blogging.

Do you like fast food? Here's how long it will take to burn it off. Some of its not that bad.

Thanks to the Airing of Grievances, here's a post on a new kind of Home Depot.

Program language programmer, or serial killer?

NASCAR is a game of inches.

Other Monday Morning Musings.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Reggie White, R.I.P

I was sad to hear that former NFL player Reggie White passed away today at the early age of 43.

White made contributions on and off the field. His class-action lawsuit with the NFL in 1992 led to the free agency system as we know it, and entered White into the annals of NFL Player Union history as well as being one of the best on-the-field players.

After his career, he dedicated his life to helping others and preaching his faith, sometimes in a controversial way.

Reggie will be missed. He was a class act.

Reggie White at the moment of his greatest football glory.

Other sports stories.

UPDATE (Related Posts):


Outside the Beltway

Backcountry Conservative

Paul Katcher



The Daily Brief
(says White probably took steroids)

The Blog of Death

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a happy and safe Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2004

When Was Jesus Born?

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Many Christians already know that December 25th became Christmas to replace an existing pagan holiday, and that early Christians did not celebrate any form of the holiday.

Was it December 25th, although probably 6-4 BC? ("BC" would be somewhat of an oxymoron in this context.)

Was it September 29th?

There's another argument that says Jesus was born on September 11th, but I don't like that one, for obvious reasons.

My favorite argument, an astronomical one, says that Jesus was born on March 1.

Here's another argument for September.

Maybe is was sometime in September or October?

The reality is, we have very little knowledge of the early church post-Bible and pre-Catholic/Orthodox church.

While entertaining, the question is really moot. The "when" is not relevant, the real question is "why". Why was Jesus born? Come to grips with that, and all the other details fail to matter.

December 25th is as good a day as any to celebrate the birth of Christ. If you really want to know more about him, read his biography.

Merry Christmas!

Next week, maybe I'll have a post about January 1st not really being New Years.

Other posts about Religion, Science, and Philosophy.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Science Debates Aesthetics

What is the color of Mars?

You would think that after all the money and time spent on Mars, that we would have this basic question answered. It turns out, we don't, and we haven't really bothered to find out.

Discover magazine had another great article, this one by Barry E. Di Gregorio titled "The Color of Mars". It turns out that many of the photos taken of Mars since the mid 1970s are not as "accurate" as we thought (at least in terms of how the human eye sees things). Discover notes:

"NASA imaging experts have been trying to get the color of Mars right for more than a quarter of a century. In 1976 the first Viking Lander color image released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed brownish-colored soil and rocks with a blue sky. Within two hours, technicians issued an updated version in which the sky had transformed to a startling deep orange and the surface had turned red. This time, however, the colors on the Viking Lander color-calibration target no longer matched up; also, the American flag insignia on the side of the Viking Lander showed purple stripes instead of red, and the white stripes appeared pink. NASA scientists maintained that the ruddy surface and sky were correct, the result of atmospheric dust particles that scatter light toward the red end of the spectrum and tint the landscape. Subsequent Viking images continued in this vein, establishing the misconception that Mars is red."

View of the West Candor Chasma, part of a huge canyon system 5,000 km long, up to 240 km wide, and 6.5 km deep.

It's another one of those things that teaches us that what we see isn't always what we get. The reality is that the telescopes we send are not trying to take photos of the planets, at least not as we understand them. The article continues:

Early images from the Mars Pathfinder Lander released in 1997 likewise depict a ruddy landscape and a mud-orange sky. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope taken during 1996 and 1997 show a fire-engine red planet too. Jim Bell, now the lead scientist of the Mars Exploration rover panoramic camera and part of the Hubble team for the Mars imaging project since 1996, notes that getting the color balance right on these pictures was not a high priority at the time. “They are false-color composites and should not be interpreted as true color,” he says. “To the best of my knowledge, no attempt was made to correctly color-balance them.”

So why this great deception? Is the space industry a bunch of red Communists?

Not really. One chief purpose of the photos being taken was to learn about the geology of the planet, therefore the cameras used infrared and ultraviolet filters for various technical reasons.

For the laymen, however, it was just confusing. For most scientists, there were larger issues to worry about.

Too bad.

Links of Interest:

NASA Mars Exploration website

Mars Exploration Rover Mission

The European Space Agency

The ESA Mars site.

Other posts on Science, Religion, and Philosophy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Random Quotes 3

Here are some more random quotes.

Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.
-- Margaret Thatcher

Your focus determines your reality.
-- Qui Gon Gin, Star Wars

"Talk to him about 'moderation in all things'. If you can once get him to the point of thinking that 'religion is all very well to a point', you can feel quite happy about his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all--and more amusing."
-- Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
-- Leo Tolstoy

I do not fear them. I pity them. Do you know why? Some people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own eyes.
-- Nightcrawler, X2

But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn,
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of?
-- Hamlet, III.i.76-81

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.
-- Isiah 7:9

Click here for more random quotes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Robocop: The New GI Joe?

This is the look of America's new soldier.

Yesterday, David Isaac of Investors Business Daily showed the new kind of American solider in his article titled "Talon Today Is U.S. Military's Real-Life 'Robocop'".

Foster-Miller's TALON robots, "tracked vehicles" that have been used for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), reconnaissance, communications, sensing, security, defense and rescue missions, are now capable of using "M240 or M249 machine guns or Barrett 50-caliber rifles for armed reconnaissance missions," according to the F-M website.

In other words, we now have remote controlled, armed, robot soldiers.

The use of robots is not new, according to the TALON page:

"TALON robots have been in continuous, active military service since 2000 when they were successfully used in Bosnia for the safe movement and disposal of live grenades. They were the only American-made robots successfully used at Ground Zero in search and recovery efforts after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the only robots to last through the entire mission without requiring a major repair.

"TALON robots were the first robots taken into Afghanistan during action against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in February 2002. They initially accompanied the Special Forces on a Classified mission, and are still there now doing EOD work. They were on the ground in Kuwait when coalition forces massed in 2003 and have been in Iraq ever since performing EOD/IED (improvised explosive device) missions. TALON robots have now completed more than 20,000 EOD missions in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Say hello to my little friend.

According to Isaac, the TALON's use may expand, noting that:

"The Army hopes robots like the Talon will keep soldiers out of harm's way when fighting in urban areas. In ideal conditions, a soldier operating the Talon can be more than a mile away.

"The distance also could lessen collateral damage. Soldiers feel they have to shoot first to survive in urban combat zones. Once out of range of enemy fire, soldiers can make calmer decisions, says Arnis Mangolds, vice president of Foster-Miller, the Boston-based company that makes the Talon."

Imagine this coming down your block.

If this technology works, it will be good news for American soldiers, and bad news for those trying to harm them.

The use of robot-like technology is not new of course. The Predator Drone has come into the general public's awareness after September 11th, as the 9/11 hearings noted its frequent use for the war on terror (for better and for worse).

Isaac notes that robotics will be a big part of the military's future and the National Robotics Engineering Consortium, which is part of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, could play a big part.

The IBD article brings to the forefront The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD), which is taking the lead on many of these projects.

The thought of soldier robots may be scary to some, but if America is going to become more active in urban warfare, it is a better alternative to massive casualties.

That is, if avoiding wars in the first place is not considered an alternative.

Perhaps, in the near future, American warfare will have the feel of playing a videogame, where our troops are sitting in a room guiding electronic soldiers.

I'm no soldier, or army tactician, but it does seem as far-fetched as it seems.

Links of Interest:
Political Archives
Religion, Science, and Philosophy Archives

Monday, December 20, 2004

Monday Morning Musings (12/20/04)

The Buffalo Bills have been a lot more fun to watch lately (that's me in the #7 Doug Flutie jersey).

Here's yet another impressive show from the future of America.

I might be getting old, but I don't think I was this dumb when I was in high school.

Are you a disgruntled Democrat? Then Buy Blue. If you're not sure, take a look at this reaction to a similar site.

Here's one American Woman's frank comments on homelessness.

Is the new U2 album Christian rock?

Here's more stuff to look at from the Moderate Voice, which might actually bring you back here.

Merry Christmas, in cartoons!

Other Monday Morning Musings

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Do Sports Make People Dumb?

Do the sports we love the most do the most harm?

In its December issue, Discover magazine has a great article by Barry Yeoman titled "Lights Out" that discusses the effect of playing sports on the brain.

Football and boxing have reputations as being hard hitting, violent sports. Athletes and fans know that the participants they watch are putting themselves on the line every time they compete. Boxing, especially, has a history of "punch drunk" veterans who are clear examples of brain damage.

What I never realized was that other sports, such as baseball and soccer, also have high rates of head injuries, according to the Discover article:

Football is hardly the only sport that knocks its athletes’ heads around. Hockey and baseball players also have their share of concussions, but the one that batters the most brains in the world is probably soccer. A soccer ball can travel as fast as 70 miles per hour in a professional game, and when players hit it with their heads they usually do so as hard as possible. An estimated 12.4 million children under the age of 18 now play soccer in America, and the explosion of interest has been most noticeable among girls. What do Giza’s findings mean for their developing brains? Can heading a soccer ball repeatedly cause brain injury?

The article goes on to say that speed and pace of your average high school soccer match does not lead to the potential injuries caused in professional leagues. The benefits of running around in athletic competition far outweigh the physical costs of hitting at home watching TV and eating junk food.

But what are the mental costs of playing sports, and how do we, the average fan, contribute to it?

Marco Antonio Barrera and Eric Morales fought each other recently in a fight that will be long remembered...hopefully.

Kevin Guskiewicz, research director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noted a correlation between concussion and depression statistics.

Athletes with no concussions had a lifetime diagnosis rate of 6.6 percent, in line with the male population as a whole. Once they suffered three or more traumas, however, the rate skyrocketed to 20.2 percent. What’s particularly pernicious about retired football players’ depressions, Guskiewicz says, is that they can interact with other health problems to destroy the former athletes’ lives: “It’s sort of a snowball effect. You retire from football. You’re told at age 35 that you can’t do something you’ve been doing your entire life. You’re overweight. You are already beginning to develop musculoskeletal problems—sore knees, ankles, hips. Therefore, you begin thinking, ‘How am I going to take this weight off?’ But you’re depressed, you’re not eating right, your diet’s bad. You’re not exercising. You don’t have a strength coach now, a conditioning coach, a nutritionist overseeing your well-being. And, you know, things start to go downhill.”

Former New "York" Giant Harry Carson, who has been very open about the damage football does to players, and how it has affected his life.

Over 13 seasons, he estimates he received between 15 and 18 concussions. It was only toward the end of his career that he began to exhibit the cumulative effects of all these hits, signaling what his doctors would later call postconcussion syndrome. Carson developed headaches and muscle twitches. He grew sensitive to bright lights and loud noises, making it difficult for him to sit in a busy restaurant or do a television interview. He’d lose track of time: “It’d be Monday, and before I knew it, it’d be Thursday afternoon, and I didn’t fully understand what had transpired.” And then came the depression, hitting once or twice a month for no obvious reason. One day, while approaching New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge on his way to Giants Stadium, Carson’s mind took a macabre turn. “I should just drive the car right off the bridge,” he thought to himself. “All I have to do is just accelerate, go right through the guardrail, and that would be it.”

We as fans care so much for our teams and favorite athletes. We cheer them when they win, and are sad when the lose. However, when they retire, the fall pretty much out of sight. New heroes emerge, and old players fade away. There is no real support system for the retired athlete.

We as fans celebrate hard hitters, and question those who avoid them.

There is no shortage of athletes willing to pay the cost, and fans willing to pay for tickets. In many ways, we are all to blame when a sports star goes down.

Yet we will still watch. They will stay play.

Links of interest:
Center for the Study of Retired Athletes

Fightnews is a great boxing news site, with news and photos.

Previous sports stories.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Things To Do In New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met has added new works to its already impressive collection, including a "Folio from the 'Blue Quar'an'" (description below).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, located on Fifth Avenue and 82nd street in New York City, is the home to my favorite painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware.

The best painting ever.

It's also one of the best bargains in New York City. The donation is voluntary, although well worth the $12 they "suggest".

There you will find art and objects from a wide variety of time periods and locations. If you like the idea of art, but really don't know what you're into, this is the museum to go to.

The staff is very helpful, and offer free lectures and walking tours of the museum throughout the day.

The museum is far too large and diverse for you to get bored, so if you have an afternoon to spare, I suggest you check it out.

The description of the "Folio from the 'Blue Quar'an'" can be found by clicking the image below, which is from the Fall 2004 Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.

I can spend hours at the Met. It's the best museum in the world.

Check out other things to do in New York.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Photo Essay: Athens' Anti-American Graffiti

In October 2003, many Greeks in Athens were angry about the American coalition's actions in Iraq.

They had a geographical and historial concern about the war.

Baghdad is closer to Athens than London is, and the Greek nation has experienced its share of war. Sometimes, those wars came from Western powers.

That being said, the photos here to not neccessarily reflect the opinions of the Greek nation. As one Greek cab driver put it, "those come from the anarchists". This makes sense, as there was Greek versions of Pepsi signs, Matrix movie posters, and other reflections of American culture throughout the city.

Perhaps I will post them as a follow up someday.

"Skata" is the Greek word for feces. I believe the words on the bottom of the sign call Americans "houligans".

This one made me laugh actually, as it's kind of silly.

As I've said, there were plenty of American images in Athens that were not negative, so these photos are not totally reflective of the tone of the city. It is safe to say, however, that the Greeks were very concerned about the war.

Greece is a wonderful country. Sometime I'll have to post some of the images from the countryside, which is absolutely beautiful.

Check out my other photo essay.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Q&A with Indy Musician Drew Anderson of Hiccup Road

Indy musician/producer Drew Anderson of Hiccup Road is today's Q&A. Below, Drew gets into his band's new album, the life of an independent artist, and the benefits of being a performer.

What inspired you to make this CD?

Two things really. First, I wanted to record music with my friends. Most of the music I have recorded in the past was by myself with a little help here and there. This was an opportunity to get a lot of talented and really great people together. Second, I wanted to make the kind of music I love such as early 70's Pink Floyd and the French band Air.

How does one classify you? Are you a musician, an artist, a producer, etc?

Well I guess all of the above but if I chose one it would be a producer. I have always liked putting combinations of things together whether it be sound or people. Nothing like getting your pal from Venzuela who plays viola playing alongside a friend from Las Vegas playing acoustic guitars and drums while an old analog keyboard from the 70's hums in the back.

What kind of musical genres do you fit in?

Sort of difficult to put in specific genres but people have described us as "dreamy" and "spacey" and even "utterly absorbing" However, I am not sure if they were refering to the music or some personality quirks...

You've been working on getting your album distributed online. How does an independent musician get their music on places like iTunes and Amazon?

Lots of ways to get your music on these types of services. CDBaby.com has great opportunies to get to places like iTunes and Napster. Although, these services can take a while to get your music on them due to the high volume of demand. Amazon.com has a program to sell and distribute music.

Does being a musician help you get more dates?

Absolutely! However, since I chose the producer role...

Thanks Drew. Good luck!

Links of interest:

You can view Hiccup Road's first music video, "Still".

You can find their second music video, "Above" here.

To pick up a copy of Hiccup Road's album, The Time of Disappearing, click here.

Visit some of my other Q&As.

Hiccup Road's new CD "Time of Disappearing" is available for purchase online now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Do We Support Our Troops?

Recent news reports have challenged the notion that we "support our troops".

[Right off the bat, let me say that this post has nothing to do with being pro- or against- the war in Iraq. Please do not read it with that frame of mind.]

Specialist Robert Loria of Middletown lost his arm in Iraq, but instead of a farewell paycheck from the U.S. Army he got a bill for nearly $1,800. Local politicians helped solve the problem, but only after some bad publicity.

A soldier confronted Donald Rumsfeld and America was forced to ask, are we giving our troops the tools they need to win? Days later, Rumsfeld was chided for his "cavalier" attitude towards them.

The Washington Times, of all news outlets, broke the story that Iraq war veterans have been showing up at homeless shelters. Quoting a recent vet saying:

"It is all about numbers. Instead of getting quality care, they were trying to get everybody demobilized during a certain time frame. If you had a problem, they said, 'Let the (Department of Veterans Affairs) take care of it.'"

This week has not been a good one when it comes to our government's support of the troops. But my headline's question isn't about our elected officials -- it's out us.

When it comes down to it, do we, and will we support our troops?

According to the July 1 New England Journal of Medicine, almost 20 percent of U.S. soldiers returning from combat duty in Iraq have signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and one veterans group predicts the numbers will increase.

The journal article found that:

The percentage of study subjects whose responses met the screening criteria for major depression, PTSD, or alcohol misuse was significantly higher among soldiers after deployment than before deployment, particularly with regard to PTSD. The linear relationship between the prevalence of PTSD and the number of firefights in which a soldier had been engaged was remarkably similar among soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, suggesting that differences in the prevalence according to location were largely a function of the greater frequency and intensity of combat in Iraq.

The article continues that the rate of PTSD is much higher than those of average Americans (3-4%) or the first Gulf War veterans (5%).

According to the National Center for PTSD, the return home after a deployment can be a stressful time as well, with problems that can linger on for years:

At time of return to civilian life, soldiers can face a variety of challenges in re-entering their families, and the contrast between the fantasies and realities of homecoming (Yerkes & Holloway, 1996) can be distressing. Families themselves have been stressed and experienced problems as a result of the deployment (Norwood, Fullerton, & Hagen, 1996; Jensen & Shaw, 1996). Partners have made role adjustments while the soldier was away, and these need to be renegotiated, especially given the possible irritability and tension of the veteran (Kirkland, 1995).

This can lead to veterans who are unable to function at work or adjust to being back at home, leading to problems such as alcohol and drug abuse. These problems could lead to larger issues, like long term mental illness and homelessness.

In other words, while we may win the war in a relatively short time, we will be waging it for decades to come in our hospitals, our workplaces, our homes, and our street corners.

When a blue-state anti-war protestor meets an Iraqi war veteran at a Memorial Day parade a few years from now, will they call them fascists, as hippies in the 60s called Vietnam veterans?

When a red-state pro-war patriot runs into a homeless veteran a few years from now, will he show him some compassion, or walk on by, calling for cuts in healthcare and shelter funding in the name of "smaller government?"

When it comes down to it, will we be there for our troops?

Like it or not, they are coming, and they will need us.

Links of Interest:

My Q&A with Sgt. Sapper, as well as links to websites where you can show your support for troops abroad.

The National Center of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome webpage for the Iraq War.

An article saying that Vietnam-war PTSD is over-stated.

The Rebel Rouser, and Iraqi War veteran, has a fantastic post stating that the troops have what they need, responding to e-mails sent to him recently.

An e-mail going around the web says you can buy phone cards for the troops.

GRAPHIC photos of war wounds from Iraq (here so that you may see some of what our soliders are seeing and experiencing).

UPDATE (12/19/04): Mental health an issue for Fullajah vets.

Steven Hirsch's photos in the December 10th, 2004 edition of the New York Post are chilling images of the cost of war.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Monday Morning Musings (12/13/04)

Traianos Dellas and the Greek national soccer team celebrate their European Cup win. It's among the many images selected as the "photos of the year".

Was John Kerry in Star Wars?

Check out the pictures of the year.

Here's a new Chanukah song.

American troops are fighting spiders in Iraq, according to some crazy people.

Football fans, you'll love the Helmet Project, a which shows historical football helmets through the years.

On a more analytical note, check out this article that shows that the Bush/Cheney team acted as media buyers, and not just political campaigners, when it came to their media buys.

Previous Monday Morning Musings.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Retro Moment: The Princess Bride

It's time to show my soft side.

I know I lose manhood points for saying this, but the Princess Bride is my favorite movie of all time.

A borderline chick-flick, the movie does have fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love and miracles!

It also has Princess Buttercup, who was never really seen again after the movie.

In 1987, I was a huge professional wrestling fan, and Andre the Giant was one of my favorites. Knowing nothing about the movie except that he was in it, I wound up seeing it alone. Since then I have watched the movie multiple times, and like many fans can quote my favorite moments.

The movie teaches you many things, like:
- nothing is impossible,
- How to start a conversation,
- How to be humble,
- Stay positive,
- and that there is a shortage of perfect breasts in the world.

This movie had a huge affect on me. Back in the day when I had an AOL account, this is what I had under "real name".

If you've never seen it, I suggest you pick it up. It's definately a movie worthy of its cult status.

Related links of interest:

The script of the movie may be found here.

As You Wish, the movie's fanlisting.

A list of reviews.

The cast listing.

A good (and active) wav site.

Another good wav site.

Yet another wav page.

My other Retro Moments.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Preaching God, With Profanity

Is this the new face of faith, clever marketing, or both?

Kanye West collected a leading 10 Grammy nominations Tuesday, including album of the year, for his debut album, "The College Dropout."

Shockingly, a song titled "Jesus Walks" is up for song of the year, and its not satirical.

Before I go any further, I must for the full sake of disclosure admit I had no idea who Kanye West was until the nominations were announced, and I've long since stopped following new trends in music.

It's a shame, as I've been missing what could be a major shift in hip hop, a spiritual awakening.

But West does not preach your typical, evangelical, red-state Christianity. In Jesus Walks, you'll hear the words "n*ggaz" and "sh*t" before the name Jesus.

In this song West is not saved, but struggling with crime, drugs, and poverty, rapping, "and I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs, I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long."

For most Christians, this song, and probably the album, has to be conflicting. How many Christian albums have "explicit lyrics" labels on them? How many Christian albums talk about the futility of a college education? How many Christian albums talk about f'ing up their store manager?

Probably none.

In many ways, this isn't a Christian album. It's a hip hop album by a guy who is a Christian, and it's method, and our reactions to it, are very much rooted in Biblical history.

As much as we as Christians try to avoid it, we have moments when we act as Pharisees, pious and judgmental in our faith.

In the Bible, time and time again, Jesus rebuked those so caught up in tradition and piety that they forgot the meaning of their faith. They, like us, often used their faith in an "us against them" kind of way, demanding that others conform to our standards, conventions, and theology.

The early Christians debated how to speak to unbelievers in Acts, and whether to demand piety from them. St. Paul would learn in his trip to Athens that the only way to speak about God is to be true to yourself and to speak in ways that others understand.

Not all Christians of the time agreed with Paul's methods. Few Christians agree on how to demonstrate faith now. Only a slight majority would say it's a good thing to curse for Christ.

Yet the lyric "God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down" is something that even the most conservative Christian can relate to, even if it comes after an F-bomb.

On MTV.com, P. Diddy says:

"I think that a lot of times when you're talking about God or Jesus, people get intimidated. The way Kanye did it, he made the record so hot that they can't front on it. It wasn't about the lyrical content; it was undeniable. Then, because [the record] was blessed to be a hit, you're forced to deal with the power of God and the record is going to touch you. You can't escape it. 'Best Friend' was definitely one of the first records, but to be honest, 'Jesus Walks' is just a hotter record. It's a rap record about Jesus [that] young men and women can understand, instead of you pushing it down their throats. You hit them with that heat and they understood it."

Somehow I imagine St. Paul standing in Athens, nodding [to a beat?] in approval.

Related links of interest:

San Diego Tribune article.

MTV's Kanye West page, which includes song samples, ringtone downloads, and other stuff.

MTV story on Kanye West.

Dr. Strangejazz's latest hip hop Wednesday entry.

The lyrics for Jesus Walks.

Other thoughts on Religion, Science, and Philosophy.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Plugs For My Friends and Other Blogs

There's so much stuff to read out there. Here's a taste of some interesting things I've found lately.

There's a photo of me on the NYC Buffalo Bills Backers' site (It's photo #7 of 12, and I'm #7 standing next to a cute #51 -- Takeo Spikes does not look like that).

Looking for a gift that's a little out of the ordinary? Take a look at A Token of My Affection. If you're looking to round things out a little more, visit Paul Katcher's web shopping guide.

What is a blog reader like? Someone did a study on it.

Check out Dr. Strangejazz's interview with Kevin Allison, who used to be on MTV's the State and is currently with Big Flux. The Doctor has been scoring some impressive interviews lately.

The blog Dump Dick Durban has a though provoking post on the supposed mythical consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade.

Taking that theme one step further, here is a blogger who posts about naming her miscarried unborn children. [Woah I really should have proofread this one, as you can see in the comments section, I totally misread this post. Arthur, who is not a "her" joined in a family ceremony for his mother's two miscarriages. Sorry to Arthur about the confusion. I clearly need to read things more closely before I write them, especially late at night.]

Then there's the other end of the political spectrum. The United Church of Christ has a TV ad campaign that's causing quite a stir, as it states that gays, and other disenfranchised groups, are welcome there.

To further that theme, here is a post by a Christian lesbian that can give you something to think about.

Do bloggers need lawyers?

The Rebel Rouser has a post on fighting robots! Wasn't that the plot of the three Terminator movies?

Want a plug? Leave a note in the comments page!

Things To Do In New York: The Jimmy V Classic

The Syracuse college basketball team was the main draw at the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night, but Oklahoma State ruled MSG by midnight.

Make no mistake, this was a home game for the Orange. The crowd was excited, cheering for Syracuse and booing Oklahoma State.

The Garden was pumping when the Orange took a 5-0 lead, but then, things went bad for Syracuse.

Syracuse lost the game on missed free throws, as it became apparent in the second half that the Cowboys could foul the Orange at will without many points being put on the board.

To start the night off, Pittsburgh embarrased Memphis. At one point, Panther's guard Antonio Graves walked through three Tigers defenders for a layup that seemed to be symbolic of the Memphis night.

Near the end, with the game out of reach, Memphis played better, but it was far too little, too late.

In the end, it was a fun night for a good cause and another great New York City moment. Contribute to the Jimmy V Foundation to fight cancer if you can.

Two of the top five teams made for a tough defensive struggle.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Globalization: American President Hawks Chinese Website

Bubba Is Back.

Former United States president Bill Clinton has found a new job: promoting Accoona, a new Chineese-backed search engine.

[At the time of this writing, Accoona.com did not work, and the company could be found using the URL chinacom.com.]

In a Ross Fadner's recent MediaPost article, Clinton was blatantly honest about the changes to the U.S. and the world that the Internet brings:

"Our world has been made smaller," he said, but added that "this interdependence has so far been a mixed blessing." For example, he said, the Internet also played a crucial role in facilitating the attacks of September 11.

Wow. I bet Accoona was really happy he brought that up.

Accoona, a Hoboken, New Jersey-based company backed by the former head of Compaq Computer and China's state information agency, has the "richest database of Chinese businesses on Earth," according to China Communications President Stuart Kauder in a recent interview with Reuters' Eric Auchard.

To Americans old enough to remember the pre-Internet world of the Cold War, this is a shocking development. We were told as kids that the Chinese were Communist bad guys (not as bad as the Soviets, but bad enough). The thought of an American CEO and an American president promoting an "extensive database" with the Chinese is on the surface unsettling.

Even with Communism aside, there are those, specifically unions, that are concerned that globalization is putting us in an unfair position against countries like China, costing Americans jobs.

BusinessWeek just did a story on the "China Price," showing that the U.S. just can't compete against the Asian workforce.

But it's purely an emotional reaction. Jobs lost through the Internet is not a zero-sum game, with both the U.S. and China losing manufacturing positions.

Yet things are clearly changing too fast for the average American to grasp. With those changes come a lot of anxiety, and possibly some pain.

Yet all might not be so bad, as Clinton does see benefits coming from Web companies like Accoona, including:

"There's a larger social purpose here," he claimed. By facilitating commerce between nations, President Clinton said "you minimize your chances of 10 to 20 years of destructive conflict over things like water, oil, and territory, and you maximize your chances of peace and harmony."

Let's hope so. It seems as of late, things like NATO and the end of the Cold War have not made the Earth a more peaceful place.

We will not know until the dust settles if this was all a good thing. At the moment, we have to trust in our political and industrial leaders that things will work out for the best.

In the meantime, I'm going to be very nice to this new search engine, so that they send visitors my way.

Information on the company and its senior executives may be found here.

Forbes article here.

MSNBC article here.

ABC article here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Monday Morning Musings

Here's a look at some comical and thoughtful stuff on the Internet.

Breaking news! Dan Rather's retirement memo was faked.

More on the future of America.

Is God liberal?

Here's a funny post on how to blog.

The Airing of Grievances has a great "Harvard Sucks" post.

Live TV can be tricky.

Check out Paul Katcher's post on the best quotes in movie history.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Lessons Learned From Blog Explosion and Stat Counter About Our Place In The World

Recently I've been experimenting with Blog Explosion...

...and Stat Counter. Here are my thoughts.

Free Website Statistics

First of all, the two programs do fundamentally different things. Blog Explosion, as probably at least half of my visitors know, is a website/community that helps drive traffic to your blog. (If you're not using BE, click on the link in this post and sign up for it...you will get a lot more traffic to your blog).

Stat Counter provides free tools like a visitor counter, statistics, message boards, and other tools for websites.

Where the two converge is in the area of tracking statistics. While Blog Explosion offers site stats, it is limited to visits within the BE community. This was not clear to me when I signed up for it, and I was somewhat baffled when I was told that 100% of my visits came from BE.

Looking for something a bit more robust, I signed up for Stat Counter's free system, and have a greater sense of who is coming to my site, where they are coming from, when they are doing it, and how long they stay.

According to BE, I had 449 unique visits, 100% of them coming through Blog Explosion (later I learned from their tech support that they only track within their community, which leads me to wonder why they offer the statistic in the first place).

According to Stat Counter, I've had considerably more people coming to my site (over 800 unique visitors during my first week using the counter), from various sources (the chief ones being TJ Allard, Bitter Daze, the Moderate Voice, and Google searches).

So lesson one is that if you want a more accurate count on the number of people using your site, you cannot rely on Blog Explosion.

Lesson two, however, is that BE is very effective at what it is designed to do, which is bringing visitors to a blog. Stat Counter confirmed, although with slightly different numbers, that traffic was coming to my site. In addition, Stat Counter told me a good portion of my blog traffic was coming from the "view member logs" button on BE.

Viewer length (above) is a demonstration of the kind of detailed information you can get from Stat Counter.

Lesson three from my Stat Counter experience, specifically from the viewer length feature it provides, is that BE members don't tend to stay for very long. Based on only one week of tracking (which is not a good enough sample), it's possible that only one out of every 100 viewers might stay later than 30 seconds and ever come back. It is a judgement call for one to decide if that ratio is worth it, or if building traffic more organically is the better way to go.

Blog Explosion stats (show above) are presented well, but do not show the full viewership of your site.

Lesson four is that BE, and blogs in general, is a global experience. Stat Counter sites have shown that people from countries all over the world, including countries as diverse as the UK, Greece, Serbia, Columbia, Kuwait, and Japan are using the service. While the vast majority of the traffic comes from America, we should all be aware that what we write has global consequences. How the world views America may in some part due to what we write in our blogs. Considering some of the stuff I've seen via blog explosion, that can be scary.

Lesson five
is that Google is a very powerful search engine. I recently posted stories on TJ Allard, Pluto, and Oliver Stone's Alexander, all of which have brought traffic to this website through Google. In fact, if you do a search for "Nominal Me" on its engine, I'm the #1 choice. These visitors tended to stay longer and explore more than your average BE viewer, but there was much less of them.

So what does this all mean in terms of buliding a website? Services like BE are great, but the best way to build traffic is by writing interesting stuff and building a fan base organically.

The real power of BE is based on your own interest level. Do you really like blogs? Do you like exploring other people's lives and ideas? If so, you will find great stuff out there, and BE is a great place to find it.

If you want better information on who is coming to your site, then Stat Counter is a great place to go.

In the process of really looking at other sites, and finding gems, your website's traffic will grow as well.

In the end, it's not about the 100 people coming to your site for 30 seconds, it's the one that will stay much longer.

[This being said, Stat Counter has been down for a 24 hour period. It's very frustrating, but in the long run the service is worth it.]

Here's a blog entry on Blog Explosion's features.

Here is a link to Blog Explosion.

Here is a link to Stat Counter.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Random Quotes 2

More things to think about.

"Home is a place that when you go there they have to take you in."
-- Robert Frost

"I'm very proud of my country's past, but I don't want to live in it."
-- Tony Blair

"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up somewhere else."
-- Yogi Berra

"Whatever you are, be a good one."
-- Abraham Lincoln

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
-- Isiah 40:31

"Some things have to be believed, to be seen."
-- Pope John Paul II on Faith

Also check out:
Random Quotes

Things look different when you look at them from some distance.