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Saturday, July 1, 2006     Yep, Summer's Here
(2:41 pm)

It's July. This is the hottest day of the week so far and the temperature is edging toward 90, so what do we do? Yard work. I had to change shirts. It's hot out there!

Quote of the Day: "In joining battle, seek the quick victory. If battle is protracted, your weapons will be blunted and your troops demoralized. If you lay siege to a walled city, you exhaust your strength. If your armies are kept in the field for a long time, your national reserves will not suffice. Where you have blunted your weapons, demoralized your troops, exhausted your strength and depleted all available resources, the neighboring rulers will take advantage of your adversity to strike. And even with the wisest of counsel, you will not be able to turn the ensuing consequences to the good. There never has been a state that has benefited from an extended war. "
-- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The sun and heat have me worn out. It doesn't help that at least two of the medication I take warn against being in direct sunlight for an extended period. I asked my doctor what that meant. He told me more than the time it takes to walk from the car to the front door. Doh! Guess I should have worn my birka.

I really need to get out and about with my camera. I haven't taken any new pictures since June 12. Here's one I took before that. The Honeysuckle is in bloom!

Digital Camera Image [2006_0605Image0005] [Canon EOS 20D, ISO 100, 1/250, f/6.3, Exposure Compensation -2, Tamron 28-300mm lens @ 300mm]
"Bloomin' Idiot II"

Monday, July 3, 2006     Beta Blues
(1:58 pm)

I've been running the Beta 2 version of Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 for a month or more. It's a little flakey, but servicable. Today I downloaded the Beta 3 version. It's giving me fits. A note to anyone else using the Beta 3: If you click on a link and it doesn't load, right click and pick Open in New Tab or Open in New Window. I've been having trouble navigating to this page from my index page. I don't know whether it's the link to a page and label when the label doesn't yet exist or what, but it's making me want to go back to IE 6. Another problem with it is when you first start it up, it takes forever to load the first page. I turned off the phishing filter thinking this was maybe what was slowing things down, but it didn't help at all. I think I'd better look deeper into the options.

Quote of the Day: "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. "
-- Winston Churchill

It's been 90 degrees or better for four days in a row now. Ain't we got fun? I didn't used to mind hot weather. In fact I drew from it and it gave me strength. Now, it saps my energy and makes me sleepy. I think I'll go take a nap. . . Just Kidding. . . Maybe. . .

I'm in the doldrums from the weather. My ankle goes from wonderful to horrible. My doctor prescribed a brace that makes it hurt worse and the people who made it overcharged by at least 200%. I'm so disgusted with the medical profession. It seems that the motivation of anyone to become a doctor or therapist or anything other than a nurse is purely financial. I should have been a doctor. Maybe then I could afford one. Have I ever mentioned the sleaziness of insurance companies? Probably. . .


Saturday, July 8, 2006     Sullied and Unusual
(10:08 pm)

Ann & I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest yesterday, a slightly-delayed anniversary present to ourselves. Great flick! Johnny Depp is superlative as Captain Jack Sparrow. I can barely wait until next year when the third one is released. Lovely mythology. Spectacularly horrific makeup. Stunning sets and effects. I can't wait.

Quote of the Day: "Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before."
-- Jacob A. Riis

There were several things I wanted to write about, but they've slipped my mind. I just wanted to put something here, since the last entry was some time ago. I need to keep up better. It feels warm in here to me. I'd better go check the A/C.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006     Shine On You Crazy Diamond
(1:40 pm)

It's a sad, sad day for me. Syd Barrett died. He was the shining light that shone through Pink Floyd, even after he left the group. He was a recluse in his later years (he was only 60 when he died), much as I've become. I only wish I could have had a fraction of the impact on any area of the arts that Syd had. What a great talent. David Gilmour is a sterling talent, but Syd truly is a diamond. Rest well, old friend I never met. You will outlast us all in memory and accomplishment.

Quote of the Day: "A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury."
-- John Stuart Mill

I keep trying to paint, but I seem to almost always end up gluing things to the canvas or paper, or whatever I'm applying paint to. I've been reading an old edition of Helen Gardner's Art Through the Ages. It was printed before the explosion of abstract expressionism and other art forms of the fifties and sixties. A lot of things changed in the world, and in art, between 1948 and today. I'd love to have a newer edition of the same book to compare. I'm sure it would be revelatory. Okay, back on track -- digression complete -- I'm once again wondering if painting is pretty much over. It seems to have gone about as far in as many directions as it can. Just as frescoes went out of favor, perhaps painting on canvas or other portable supports is finished and we must find a new direction in which to take art. Collàge may be the new painting. Even television and films have collàge-like montages of images in title sequences. Dada and surrealism have made it onto film, both indie and mainstream. Perhaps they really are dead finally. Once commercialism sets in, it's like cancer and the genre is soon for the dust bin. How's that for rambling on in a stream of consciousness kind of way?


Saturday, July 15, 2006     Whether Forecast
(8:52 am)

I thought I'd take the time this morning in between storms to update things here. This week has been one of severe weather, new conflicts in the Middle East, and this morning -- fog. We're expecting more storms this afternoon, so I figured if I was going to catch up, I'd best do it now.

Quote of the Day: "The chain reaction of evil -- wars producing more wars must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Oh, that we could cease all war! But that will probably never be the case while religion holds sway over the hearts and minds of human beings. In the Poetics e-mail list I belong to there has been of late a nice discussion of a philosophical question -- basically a variation of the Cretin paradox, summed up succinctly as, "Everything I say is a lie." I believe the original posthulation was either about a barber or God. Anyway, my query is "Can God make a two religions that both worship him and can't tolerate the other?" Somehow, I think that the two sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict, both of whom purport to worship the same diety, are both disingenuous in their reasons for hating one another. It smacks of Martin Luther calling the Pope an anti-Christ. It's all a battle of men's egos and God has nothing whatsoever to do with it. As Karl Marx so wisely stated: Religion is the opiate of the masses. It seems that sometimes some of us overdose.

I just finished a book called The Truth Machine by James Halperin. I don't particularly recommend it. It was interesting in that it was an Ayn Rand inspired tale of a soon-to-be Utopian society based on the technological inventions of one person, and his eventual fall into the abyss and his redemption as a more humble and lesser intelligent man. It was sort of a fun read other than the "enlightened self-interest as sole motivator for human action" thread that wove through the underpinnings of the books structure and rose to the surface as a categorical statement in the latter third of the novel. It raised the argument of privacy vs. complete honesty, which I think is a dichotomy we really don't want to slide back and forth on. A strictly-enforced honesty would stifle free will and we'd all have to eventually become Presbyterians (or perhaps as the book suggests, Unitarians). At least that would solve the religion issue. . .


Monday, July 17, 2006     Art Is Ephemeral -- Art Endures
(2:22 pm)

Art and architecture are in jeopardy in the Middle East due to war. War trumps art. The most enduring of art is destroyed by the conflict between people. The Parthenon was used as an arsenal and was blown up by a well-placed shell. The Cathedral at Rouen was damaged during World War I. Much art and beauty was wiped out in Dresden and Hiroshima. The Taliban destroyed giant Buddhist sculptures that had stood for centuries. Even time wages war on art. Very little of ancient Greek painting survives. An untold amount of art from centuries past has crumbled into dust and even more has undoubtedly deteriorated and fallen into oblivion from neglect. War and the ravages of time take their toll, even on the most noble of things. What they cannot do is quash the initial art that created the artifact. The works of art are only evidence of art itself. Art itself is the process, the impetus, the inspiration, and that is eternal. It can be put suchly: art can be destroyed; Art cannot.

Quote of the Day: "The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad."
-- Salvador Dali

That self-assessment is, perhaps, debatable. Then, I'm sure many would insist on stroking my assertion of normalcy against the touchstone to see if it leaves a stripe.

Today is supposed to be the hottest of the summer so far. Tomorrow may surpass it. Yesterday the thermometer in the car read 95 degrees at five o'clock. The "official" high was only 90, however. I think the official readings are made at the NWS site on top of Southridge. I'm sure it's several degrees cooler there than it is on the streets in downtown. This weather has me feeling washed out, wrung out, damp and dank. The humidity is horrid. I'm staying inside and trying to use up as much YES glue, paint and matte medium as I can. I've been reading my art text too. It's only mildly interesting. Seems that most art history survey authors place a very strong empahsis on architecture and that only interests me slightly. Of course the period of time I'm currently reading about only had buildings and sculpture for the most part as an enduring legacy.


Friday, July 21, 2006     Fresh Cut Grass
(4:44 pm)

I was going to mow the lawn this morning. I went out, trimmed around the flower/herb bed, swept the sidewalk close to the herbs, got out the mower and pulled the starter cord. It came loose! No biggie. I can unbolt the cover, get a new cord and replace it. In the meantime, I can shorten this one and manage to get it running for this edition of Lawn Mowing, the Series. Rigiiiiht. The crank cover is riveted on. No way to non-destructively remove it. Off to Lowe's. New mower. Day's getting later, sun higher, air hotter. Got home. Mower's too heavy for me to move on my own. Called for Sean. He's busy. I move the mower out of the van myself. Drag it up the bank to the front yard. Got it out, got it assembled (easy!). Mowed as much as I could. It looked like rain. Cleaned up the mower, wiped it off. Started it again to blow the water out of the undercarriage. Put it away. Covered it with a tarp. Came inside. Ate. Showered. Felt like shit. The exertion and sun got to me. Took a shower. Laid down. Read. Napped briefly. Still felt like shit. Took a pill. Got up. Now, it looks like rain again. I should go finish the lawn work. But it looks like rain. . .

Quote of the Day: "It is easier to meditate than to actually do something for others. I feel that merely to meditate on compassion is to take the passive option. Our meditation should form the basis for action, for seizing the opportunity to do something."
-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Today's trip to Lowe's brought something home to me again. Used to be, most retail was done through small to medium-sized outlets. There were dozens of gas stations with one or two islands, instead of the massive "Servicenters" with dozens of islands with double-sided pumps. There used to be numerous hardware store, clothing stores, shoe stores, general merchandise purveyors, groceries, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers. Now it's all Wal-Mart, Lowes, Exxon One-Stops, Shoe Carnival, all national chains with a semi-monopoly in most areas. This brings us lower prices, of course, but along with the good comes the not-so-wonderful. We get the economies of scale, but we also get the arrogance of scale as well. If we get poor service, it means nothing to the merchant that we take our business elsewhere. In many cases the only "elsewhere" we can go is another instance of the same company. The old motto of retail, "The customer is always right" has morphed into "The consumer is always a minor irritation."


Tuesday, July 25, 2006     Power Outage
(3:12 pm)

Now I remember something about this particular neighborhood. The power outages! The power is likely to interrupted at any time, especially during the summer. Any number of critters can cause this, from human beings to squirrels to pigeons. On this street, in the next block the old power lines are bare, the insulation having rotten, crumbled and fallen to the street long ago. Pigeons roosting on the upper of the three wires stretch the wire untill eventually with the weight of a few dozen chubby birds on it, the wire crosses and touches one of its mates and zip, zap, pop -- roasted squab, oh yeah, and no electricity for an hour or two. Today's outage was courtesy of a contractor's bucket crane breaking and falling across the main circuit lines. Pigeons, contractors, what's the difference. IT's still 87 degrees and the A/C won't work.

As you may be able to tell, the power is now back on -- a few minutes less than an hour later. I sat on the porch swing and read -- Stephen J. Cannell's The Plan. While Mr. Cannell may be a competent writer and producer of television shows (witness: Silk Stalkings, The Commish, Booker, 21 Jump Street, Hunter, The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and The Rockford Files among others), his skill at writing novels is sorely lacking. The egregious factual errors in this book are distracting. I mean, really, in 1995 where in the US of A could one rent a Chevy Nova? Last I checked Chevrolet Motor Division quit making them around 1979. And can anyone tell me if they've ever encountered a bag of lye? Also, last time I checked, to dissolve a body (not that I've ever done so, other than critters), you used lime, not lye. And lime does come in a bag. Lye is sodium hydroxide, and usually comes in cans (e.g. Drano) or in liquid form in spay cans (oven cleaner). I imagine it would eat up a body pretty quick -- probably almost as quick as it would dissolve a bag. There were other mistakes and examples of slipshod research and editing as well. Those are just the two that stand out in my mind at the moment.

Quote of the Day: "The source of all good, evil, weal and harm lies with actions, speech and thoughts. Did you bring your actions, speech and thoughts with you today? Or have you left them at home? This is where you must look, right here. You don't have to look very far away. Look at your actions, speech and thoughts."
-- Ajahn Chah

There was an interesting mistake on "Without a Trace" last night. They were tracking a woman whose mother supposedly lived in Morgantown (on Elk Street -- not sure if there is one, but that's irrelevant). She'd apparently went to visit her. She was coming to New York. The way they discovered this was a toll stub where she got off the West Virginia Turnpike, Exit 64 at Morgantown. Think anyone should tell them they're a couple hundred miles off on that one?

My long-distance pal, Dan Waber, who lives in Wilkes-Barre (pronounced Berry), PA turned 40 recently. To commemorate this milestone he started a project wherein he is going to write 40 words a day about someone who's crossed him path at some point in his life every day until he turns 41. It's an interesting project and a lot of other people have picked up on it as well. See Dan's Web Site for more details and the project itself. Sunday, WVIA, Public Radio in his part of the world broadcast an interview with Dan and his co-conspirator, Jennifer. Check it out. If your browser will allow you to stream MP3's, just click on the link. Otherwise, you'll have to download it and it's pretty big -- over 13 Megabytes. I'm considering picking up this project come my next birthday. I'm well over 400 names that I could use. I'll have to do some triage.


Sunday, July 30, 2006     The Missing Years
(5:13 pm)

Another power outage on Thursday. This time disaster struck. Apparently my computer was accessing something vital on my hard drive when the power went out. When I rebooted things seemed normal. I walked away for a while, and when I returned, the screens were blank and it wouldn't come back on no matter what I did. Turns out the boot sector was trashed, there were system files missing or (most likely) corrupted and no matter what I did, I couldn't fix it. The only recourse was to use the recovery partition or recovery DVD's, and the only option there is basically a reformat and restore to the way it shipped from the factory. I didn't have a real current backup, but what the hey. I restored from the DVD's and started to do a restore from my latest backup DVD's. They weren't accessible!! Oh man. I've lost everything that was in outlook Express, which includes a ton of quotes, jokes, recipes, message archives, every e-mail I ever got from my friend, Emily, from which I was planning a project. I also lost all the digital photos from 2004 and 2005, all the writing I've ever done that wasn't committed to paper, including the vast bulk of my poems (no great loss there), every full-sizes piece of digital art I've ever created, and who knows what else. It's a pterrible ptragedy. Apparently I need a better backup system. I had full backups on my external hard drive, but for some reason the other day, I moved a bunch of things back onto my C: drive. Well, this time I'm keeping ALL my data elsewhere and making sure to do daily backups of all me settings. Too little too late, though. I've lost a good three years of work, plus I'll be spending who knows how many hours reinstalling and setting up my system. The part I hate the most is getting rid of all the junk that I'd eliminated 11 months ago when I first bought the machine. Now I have to slog through the crap that HP puts on all their machines. I hate AOL, Wild Tangent, and Symantec and refuse to have their software on my machine. Not to mention, I have to train Adobe and Apple software to behave all over again. Plus there's the niggling little problems that I took a long time to quash that I've forgotten the solution for. Oy!

Quote of the Day: "To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail."
-- Abraham H. Maslow

I hate it when I do bone-headed things, or when circumstances conspire to make me feel bone-headed. I'm really depressed over this latest fiasco. So much work, so much data, so many settings that will never be recovered. Damn!

Someone is bringing me an older computer that I might be able to put the hard drives from my old Win 98 machine in and retrieve at least the digital photos and some of the other things. It'll still be weeks or months beore I get things back to the place where I feel comfortable with them. If that fails, maybe I can get an external hard drive enclosure and try to suck the data off that way. Ain't life fun?


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