Archives » March, 2005

March 31, 2005

No politics. No religion. No kidding.

Christopher Falvey outlines how, theoretically, blogging is supposed to be bringing about revolutionary change across all of media, and how effective it can be at doing just that. But instead, he points out, blogging has been getting nothing but negative attention, because it’s become stigmatized as the home of, as he puts it, “irrational and, quite frankly, muddled partisan noise.” People are always looking for ways to shout at each other, much as they’ve been doing on talk shows and editorial pages for years. Blogs are the new way to do this, and they’re making the problem much worse, simply because there are so many of them. The din is getting almost unbearable, and so many people feel like if they have a blog they need to take a stand on one side of some petty issue or the other and shout about it until everybody else agrees with them. The whole effect is one that’s going to create a very negative view of blogging in the public opinion in the long run. If the only blogs getting any attention are the ones that are full of nasty political squabbles, why would anyone on the outside want to start reading them, much less writing their own?

So that’s why I prefer to focus on the positive side of blogging. There is a whole world of blogs out there that stay outside of the fight, the politics, the partisanship, and focus on niche topics that aren’t aren’t controversial, but are still quite interesting to some certain group of people. These are the place blogs, the community blogs, the personal blogs about family or travel or culture. These are where the true promise of the blogosphere lies, these are the ideas that really need to be spread and the blogs that need to be publicized. But mostly they’re invisible, since everyone is so focused on all the negative stuff and the mudslinging that’s going on with so many high-profile blogs. If we’re going to fight this trend, we have to take a stand, and we have to let people know there’s a whole “non-nasty” side to blogging.

So that’s why I’m taking a stand, and reaffirming the principle that I’ve been running this blog under for a long time now. That principle is “No politics. No religion. No kidding.” It means I’m not going to write about any political topics, no matter how hot they are in the news, nor will I write anything about religion. It’s my way of keeping out of the fray and staying away from the ugliness. Yes, I have political views, and yes they’re going to color what I write here. That’s unavoidable. And I do disclose them, but they’re on my About Me page, not my blog. And I’m not going to preach those views, since they’re very ill-formed, often muddled and confused, and above all, uninteresting. I’ve seen a thousand posts on a thousand blogs degrade into a thousand comments where everyone’s sniping at each other, and I’m sick of it. It’s not going to happen here. And besides, every point I have to make has already been made elsewhere and debunked elsewhere, and the same arguments seem to flare up every time topic A is mentioned or rant B is written. It’s just not worth it to me to pollute my site with that kind of squabbling. And if that means I’ll end up with a lower readership, so be it. I’d rather attract 100 readers with good stuff than 100,000 with garbage.

And, since you stuck with me this long, here’s a pointer to site I got a kick out of: How much is inside? Where Rob and his Cockeyed crew tackle things like a newspaper, a box of Cheerios, and a Chevy Trailblazer and find out, well, just how much is inside. More entertaining than it should be.

March 29, 2005

The Wiggles Are Coming

We’re going to see the Wiggles!

Being the parent of a young son, I’ve found that there is very little children’s music that’s also palatable to grown-ups. Most music for kids is stupid crap like Barney, which seems designed to stop kids from developing any kind of potential they may have. Instead it saps the budding intelligence right out of them, intent on creating the next generation of couch potatoes. Either that or it’s insipid crap like “Kidz Bop”, where a chorus of roughly 175 pre-teens all get together to sing the latest “hit” songs, each in their own key. The result is what one reviewer called, “Karaoke night in a kiddie bar.” There must be a market for this kind of stuff, because it just keeps selling, but I don’t envy the parents that have to put up with it echoing around their house all day.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to have The Wiggles. Because even though their music may be for kids, it’s also pretty catchy, listenable stuff. The four guys are from Australia, and maybe it’s what they put in the water down there, or maybe something’s different about the sunshine in the Southern Hemisphere, but they manage to straddle that large divide between kid’s music and good music. Quite a feat, but they’ve perfected it to the point where I don’t dread popping their CDs in during a long drive. I actually look forward to it, since I dig the hell out of bouncy, fun music, and you don’t get a lot of that on the radio these days. And the kids love it too, so that’s really what it’s all about. Our six-year-old neice, Keirra, can sing along with most of the songs, and it’s just about the only music that little Sammy will dance to. They’ve really set the bar high for children’s music, and for us to listen to anything else, it will have to live up to the standard that’s been set by The Wiggles.

So that’s why we’ve decided to do one of the most brave things you can do as a parent, and maybe one of the most foolish: go to see a live show.

We found out that The Wiggles are starting their West Coast US tour next week, and that they’d be stopping in Sacramento, which is just a two-hour drive from our house. We cruised over to the TicketMaster site, and it turned out that there were still tickets available. That’s kind of surprising, since the impression I had gotten was that their shows always sell out pretty fast. So once we found out there were tickets available, there was no doubt in our minds that we’d be going. A few clicks later, and we were the proud owners of four tickets. Relatively painless, but that was the easy part of the process. Now we actually have to survive going to the concert. We’ve never been around that many kids packed into such a small place, although we have been to Chuck E Cheese, and that’s probably the lite version of what we should expect. This show’s going to be quite unlike anything we’ve experienced, and we only have three weeks to get prepared. Wish us luck!

March 22, 2005

Not So Lucky

Sometimes the world is completely screwed up. The Nevada Appeal reports that Glenn Lucky had both of his bikes stolen from his house. They were found blocks away, vandalized. The police suspect kids were responsible, and they’re searching for leads.

Glenn Lucky is a local guy who started riding a three-wheeled bicycle as a form of therapy to combat his cerebral palsy. Riding has since become his passion, and also his job, as he often tows a trailer full of advertising behind him. Glenn has become a local hero over the years, because no matter how bad things get, you always know you’ll see Glenn somewhere in town. He carried the Olympic torch in 2002, and some time ago he even rode his bike cross-country to raise money for charity. Last year the word got out that Glenn’s bike was getting old and hard to ride, and within days the community raised over $11,000 dollars to buy him the bike of his dreams.

Glenn Lucky riding his new bike in the 2004 Nevada Day parade.

That bike was found in the bottom of a ditch Sunday morning, dented and missing a tire. It had been chucked off a hill into the sagebrush.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to find these “kids” and throttle them while they sleep. Or maybe go where they live and vandalize some of their stuff. Throw their bikes off a cliff, maybe. While they’re still on them. I mean, what could they possibly have gotten out of doing this? The thrill of smashing up somebody else’s shit? The satisfaction of finally showing that cripple who’s boss?

Luckily, both bikes went into the shop right away, and one has been fixed already. The other one is well on its way. And if the cops ever do track down the perpetrators, they’d better place them in protective custody. Otherwise there’s going to be an angry mob with pitchforks and torches lined up around the block.

The Wanderer

It had been two weeks since we’d seen her. She was one of the “garage cats”, so named because they were too domesticated to live outside, but they weren’t allowed inside because they started peeing on the couch when the baby came. So they lived in the garage. And even though we built a special pen for them in the garage, they still found a way to get out and wander around the back yard. Yang liked going in the back yard to hang out with the dogs. Jumble preferred to stay in the garage, even though she knew she could get out.

Then she was gone. She slipped outside and didn’t come back in. We scoured the garage to make sure, we searched the back yard and the front yard. No trace of her, she just wasn’t there. We knew she was the jumpy cat, the skittish one. If she was chased she would run, and wouldn’t be able to find her way back. If she was too afraid to come out she would hide under a bush for weeks. We knew this about her, and knew that every day it was less likely we’d see her again.

At night I would go outside with a flashlight, sweeping back and forth through the sagebrush, searching for the glint of her green eyes reflecting the light back to me. Every night I swept back and forth. I found the dogs, they were always interested in what I was doing. I found Yang, since he was the dogs’ best friend, especially now that he was all alone in the garage. But I never saw that pair of green eyes looking back at me.

Until last night.

Last night I finally saw those green eyes looking back at me, and after a long chase designed to steer her back to the garage, she was back in the house.

Stories like this so often don’t have a happy ending, so I wanted to put one out there that did. Jumble is no longer a garage cat. Yang still has his friendship with the dogs, but Jumble’s second chance at being an indoor cat starts today.

We just hope she’s smart enough not to pee on the couch again.

March 20, 2005

Welcome to Spring

Here in Carson City we celebrated the first day of spring as only we know how, with two inches of snow!

The State Captiol in the early morning.

The flowers that were so happy just days ago are shut tight and hoping the sun comes back soon.

Read more on Welcome to Spring

More V&T News

Today, again, the Nevada Appeal devoted their entire front page to one story (two, actually, but both on the same topic) and a huge photo. But the difference this time is that the story is actually interesting, so I don’t mind so much. Yes, I’m fickle. Pander to my interests and I’ll give you a free pass.

Anyway, the story today concerns the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, which I wrote about not too long ago. This is the project where they’re rebuilding the railroad tracks that were torn up 70 years ago, creating a tourist railroad between Carson City and Virginia City. This article touches on a lot of different aspects of the project. It even has an interview with the owner of the McCloud Railway that sold a steam locomotive to the V&T, and a picture of #18 (a picture that measures 9.5 inches in the print edition).

There are also a couple of paragraphs on Hugh Marshall, who had plans years ago to rebuild the burnt International Hotel and construct the “Silverland USA” theme park in Virginia City, complete with an underground mine roller coaster. That project fell apart, and his plans now are a tad less ambitious. He’s going to start construction soon on an AmeriHost Inn on E Street, right along the old V&T right-of-way. So he’s understandably excited about the train coming to town, too, since it will run right through his front yard. But one thing stands in his way. Right now the existing V&T, running between Virginia City and Gold Hill, stops a few blocks away from where Marshall’s hotel is going to be located. And between him and that terminus stands Tunnel #6, which collapsed and was paved over decades ago. The V&T project as it stands now has no plans to reopen Tunnel #6, and Marshall says the cost of doing so would be $1.2 million. It might happen one day, since the original V&T depot on E Street is also on the far side of Tunnel #6, and I’m sure the V&T would love to operate out of that depot instead of the modified boxcar that Bob Gray’s operation is housed in now. But I don’t think they’re going to tackle Tunnel #6 until the tracks have been laid all the way down to Carson City, and right now that’s not supposed to be completed until 2008.

Ever onward, I guess. The first step in the project is to cross the Overman Pit, and the groundbreaking ceremony for that is next month. After being talked about for twenty years, this project is finally taking off. Exciting times!

Update: The groundbreaking was on April 6, 2005. Look here for pictures of the event, as well as the Overman Pit!

March 19, 2005

Not Spring Yet

Last weekend I wrote about spring coming, and the warmer weather we’d been having, and the flowers poking up through the ground. Later that day, Kalrac wrote in my comments:

Well, it is Nevada, mind you. If it’s 70 in mid-March, that means you’ll be snowed in on Memorial Day, doesn’t it?

And just guess what it’s doing outside right now. You got it – snowing.

I think next I’ll ask Kalrac for some lottery numbers.

March 18, 2005

Oh, that bathroom

In a nice bit of procrastination, this week we picked up on remodeling the bathroom that we abandoned nineteen months ago. That’s the thing about having a baby; suddenly you’ve got time to work, time to take care of the baby, and that’s about it. So if you’re trying to remodel your house, you’re not going to get a lot done. That’s why our master bathroom has been without a sink, toilet, or floor for over a year and a half now.

The drywall work was done, but there was no paint.

The first step was painting. The problem was that those tiny little swatches you get at Home Depot don’t give you much of an idea what the color is actually going to look like when it’s on the wall. So, of course, I painted the whole room, and now we’re not happy with the color, so we’re going to have to get more paint in a different shade of blue and repaint the whole thing.

The interim paint color. Just the wrong shade of blue.

Figures, doesn’t it? I’ll get back to you when we’re happier with the color.

TV Podcasting

About a year ago I started watching TV in a new way. If I’m not able to watch a show at its scheduled time, I don’t set up my VCR to record it. And I don’t have a TiVo with a season pass to make sure I never miss an episode. Instead I’m harnessing the power of the internet and downloading all my shows via BitTorrent. Then I burn them to DVD, and watch at my leisure. One day I’ll spring for some kind of a set-top media player, so I’ll be able to skip the DVD part and just keep it all electronic. But for now, the DVDs work mighty fine.

Even with all the BitTorrent lawsuits that were filed last year, that caused sites like SuprNova to shut down, there are still sites to download current TV shows from. I’m not sure why, but there must be some kind of loophole that TV shows can slip through. SuprNova’s downfall was that they hosted torrents for movies, music and video games, things that normally you have to buy. But the pure TV sites, like tvtorrents and btefnet, are still going strong. Make of that what you will, but it works perfect for me.

One big hassle, though, is that there are still several steps to the process. On the night the show airs, or the next day, I have to visit one of the above-mentioned torrent sites and grab the .torrent file for the show I want. Then I have to launch the download in BitTorrent. If there are four or five shows to grab, like there are on Thursdays sometimes, it can be a chore to get the process started. And if I don’t get to the computer before I go to bed, it never gets started at all. A while ago I was thinking about how podcasting works: you subscribe to an RSS feed, and when there is a new file posted your podcatching client downloads it automatically. You don’t have to do jack. So, if these torrent sites provided RSS feeds for the shows, I could subscribe to that with iPodder, and get the downloads that way. But then I looked at the sites. They have one RSS feed, and it lists all the shows. I don’t want all the shows, I want about 10%. So I figured that idea was a bust, at least until they started offering separate feeds for each show.

But then I stumbled across this article, and I saw that I’d been coming at the problem from the wrong direction. I was waiting for them to filter the RSS on the server side, when all I really needed to do was filter it on the client side. The reason I didn’t think of that was that the podcatching clients out there can’t filter the RSS feed, they just grab every file that’s mentioned. But the article revealed the magic combination of the Azureus BitTorrent client and the RSS Import plugin, that together can do just that. There is also a program named TVTAD that will download only the torrents you want it to, and then run them in your BitTorrent client of choice. But that program doesn’t give you a choice of RSS feeds.

So, we’re getting closer. One day we’ll be getting all our TV this way. It won’t be streaming, it will be by subscription. And the shows we’ve subscribed to will come to us while we sleep. I’m most of the way there now, the process just needs to be a little easier, is all.

March 15, 2005

The Upgrade

Today I made the leap, and upgraded this site to Movable Type 3.15. I’d been sitting at version 2.6 for the longest time, mostly because the free version of MT is limited to only three weblogs. Yes, I only have two blogs right now, this one and Sammy’s photoblog, but who knows when I might want to add more. What about my wife’s blog, when she wants to start one? What about the Carson City blog I’m thinking about possibly one day looking into starting? What about converting my Ormsby House site to Movable Type? What will I do then?

Well, screw that. None of those ideas have congealed into reality yet. They’re still floating around out there in dreamland. And in the meantime I’m running this site on old software. So just upgrade it and stop whining already.

So that’s what I did. The upgrade is in place, and guess what? It still works! I didn’t screw anything up! I can still post and publish!

Sometime the smallest miracles are the most thrilling.