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March 30, 2006

Can You Dig It?

I knew that you could. Last Saturday we went to the Kingsessing Recreation Center in West Philly to help out with a tree planting organized by UC Green and TreeVitalize. 150 balled-and-burlapped trees arrived the day before from a number of nurseries (the trees were selected by staff at the Morris Arboretum). Each one weighed about 300 pounds, so a forklift was kept busy moving the trees into position. An army of volunteers, mostly students from nearby Penn and Drexel, were there to dig holes and wrestle the trees into position. Most crews were able to plant two trees and virtually all of the trees were in the ground within two hours.

I did my bit and worked very hard taking pictures (he said defensively). We missed the main photo op when the VIPs arrived to make their presentation. They were late, and we had to leave. Far worse, we also missed the barbecue.



Please, please let us know when you are doing something really cool in UC again!!!

March 28, 2006

Rx for Blog Block

Scott McNulty is suffering from a blog block and is looking for inspiration. My first reaction is borrowed from Wayne’s World, a font of wisdom I often turn to for philosophy and guidance. “You’re blogged out, man! You need coffee and crullers, stat!!!” Scott has, what, four personal sites not to mention TUAW.

Maybe Scott just needs some slack time. (He’d be in good company taking some time off—Drunkenbatman hasn’t posted in a solid month.) Slack time allows stale thoughts to drain out of your brain (ew...), leaving room for fresh inspiration. Cut yourself some slack by getting away from the computer and other stimulants and engage in some light physical activity. Go out for a walk or do something mindless like vacuuming (useful, too!). I often solve a knotty problem while I’m taking a shower. When I’m working on a big project, I have to take three or four showers a day.

Procrastination can be a powerful muse. For example, right now I’m supposed to be writing to meet a real deadline, so all of a sudden I’ve started posting like, every day. Besides, who says you need inspiration to blog? The lack of it never stopped me. If all else fails (and it won’t), consider lowering your standards as to what qualifies as “inspired.”

I’ve sent a ping to Scott’s site to see how trackbacks work. Still getting the hang of Movable Type, you see. Next thing you know, I’ll be turning trackbacks on here at mere cat.


You know, you really deserve a break to decompress and clear your mind. So before you vacuum (don't forget the stairs), I suggest you reward yourself with a soothing aromatherapy session. The citrus scent of Lemon Pledge comes highly recommended. If you prefer "April fresh," you'll find the detergent in the cabinet next to the washer. Enjoy!

Keep up the great work on your blog. Best wishes WaltDe

March 27, 2006

Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

There’s a bird in a tree across the street singing like he’s on American Idol or something. Just surprising to hear a bird this early in the year this late at night. It’s a quiet night, and he has no competition. Quite a variety of songs, too; he knows all the hits. I’m 99% sure this is just one (talented) bird. Anybody recognize his song(s)? (bird song mp3, 1:51, 1.7MB)


That is absolutely one of my favorite Beatles songs.

I downloaded this clip a few days ago. Now if I could just put it on a loop, I think it would really help me fall asleep faster...

March 26, 2006

Bon mot du jour

Just because I can occasionally pass for articulate doesn’t mean I am all the time. Not a day goes by that I don’t utter some incomprehensible nonsense, seemingly channeling my late father after his first stroke which short-circuited Broca’s area, causing him occasional frustration when trying to express himself. Word salad sometimes ensued.

Today we were painting the dining room, and Anne mentioned that her jeans were not the most comfortable to paint in, but she was stuck wearing them after getting some paint on them a while ago. I hadn’t chosen my pants for painting either, but they also became dedicated for painting after they got “paint messed up.”

Eloquent, no? This could become a regular feature...


but it does make PERFECT sense...

March 21, 2006

Rage Against the Machine

When I was a kid and started reading sections of the newspaper other than the comics, I would come across the term “machine” in articles about politics. Fascinated as I was by science and engineering, this image appealed to me, but I had no appreciation for the subtlety of the metaphor. I was trying to picture an actual machine.

I haven’t had any direct experience with the machine, but after reading Albert’s post (“Democratic Committeeperson Challenges”) it’s clear how very real it is. I think the machine metaphor may be inadequate, though. I’m picturing something more organic, perhaps even parasitic (the lamprey comes to mind), something with a hyper-sensitive immune system that reacts to any attack, real or imaginary. With self-preservation seemingly as its primary goal, it’s a life form that isn’t interested in evolving, that’s for sure.


lampreys. good one.

March of the Penguins [nanoblog]

To work we go, across the frozen wastes, bent over to resist the driving wind. Today seems even colder than yesterday. There’s even a dusting of snow here at work. Ah, Spring is here at last! Riiiight.

March 17, 2006

The Madness of Crowds

No, this post isn’t about speculative bubbles, but it is about the madness of crowds.

I do most of my blog reading during my commute, so I missed the excitement last weekend at Philly Future when the site was shut down. I was glad to hear that Karl was able to move Philly Future to a new host in such a short time. In the aftermath, I was surprised to learn that the host that cut Philly Future off so unceremoniously was DreamHost. Up until this happened, I had heard nothing but good things about DreamHost. Their hosting plans are generous, and I have a friend who uses them and never had a problem. Shutting down a site seemed drastic to me, so I was curious why it happened and how common this was.

Scott Yang explains some reasons very well, but basically, DreamHost is too popular. Herd mentality led to a stampede that has taxed their capacity. So on the one hand, while they continue to entice users with seemingly limitless disk space and bandwidth, to control usage, they have imposed a rather restrictive “CPU minutes limit.” I think this is the limit that Philly Future ran into.

It’s a natural tendency to go where the crowds go. They must know something, right? But popularity has its drawbacks. Yogi Berra famously said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” A place gets a good reputation, everybody goes there, and it’s ruined. It can pay to seek out the undiscovered and wherever you see a crowd, head in the other direction. In that spirit, I came across two “anti-social networks” on TechCrunch the other day. Isolatr promises to “help you find where other people aren’t.” It’s just a joke, but a funny one at that.

When I sat down to write I was just going to talk about the Philadelphia Flower Show. Talk about crowds. We have experimented going at different times in a quest to avoid shuffling shoulder to shoulder around the show. Preview Day: forget it. Weekends: impossible. Weekday afternoons: nope. This year we went on a Wednesday night from 7 to 9, which was by the far the least crowded in our experience (please don’t tell anybody, OK?)

It was an unusually good show. There were the usual hideous designs done by overenthusiastic floral decorators (just not my taste at all), but other than that it was a beautiful show. I think my favorite exhibit was Styer’s with the simulated snow and inspired lighting. Sad that all those nice trees were sacrificed, but the show must go on, I guess.

The theme this year was “Enchanted Spring... A Tribute to Mother Nature.” Mother Nature herself put in an appearance in the form of a giant sculpted head. I thought they missed an opportunity here. It would have been cool to model the face less literally by using natural materials in the manner of Giuseppe Archimboldo, but that would have been sheer madness, I’m sure.


Dreamhost has a decent reputation, and deservedly so, I'm sure. I think we were all (at least those of us struggling with it) a little taken aback by the shutdown.

It may have been a mix of wanting the business and not recognizing how much the usage was going to hurt them until it was too late. Dedicated servers were probably the best way to go from the start anyway. That's my take on it.

Glad you like the flower show. I didn't make it this year, but I hear good things from several family members who would have otherwise compelled my attendance. And don't worry, your ideal time to go to the show should be safe right? It's not like anyone posted it online where it could be readily Googled or anything like that...

I had to move Keystone Politics off of Dreamhost as well! I missed this controversy with Philly Future but it's interesting that we both ran into this problem at the same time.

I had the same problem last January with ... thank Heaven I had make backups and was able to remove my sites to bluehost.

March 13, 2006


It goes without saying that styles of humor change over the years (although I just said it, didn’t I?). But it’s also true that peoples’ taste in humor changes, even when the humor doesn’t. For example, I get the impression that a lot of people feel that Saturday Night Live was funny when they first discovered the show—and that the current show sucks. I haven’t watched it for a long time (’cause it sucks! *wink*), but it probably hasn’t changed much over the decades. The point is that some things used to be funny while other things are still funny.

An example came up just the other day. Once in a while at home I burst out with “They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!” No, I don’t have Tourettes, but Anne wondered what that was all about. It’s inspired by the Chickenman radio series, which first aired in the late Sixties. Chickenman was the creation of Dick Orkin, a person who has employed his considerable talents to create funny ads to sell products, much as Stan Freberg did before him, and John Cleese (of Monty Python) did later with his industrial training films. The Chickenman style of humor was alternately broad and dry, but always silly. The entire series is available on 14 CDs for $129. That’s more Chickenman than I can handle, so I’ll have to content myself with the two sample shows that are available on this page. I know my tastes have changed in the last 35 years, but I still think Chickenman is funny.


Bawk, bawk, bawk, Superchicken. I love the Chicken Man. I can even imagine that "They're everywhere" voice. That is so funny. On a parallel note, I can't get a new phone book without yelping "The new phone books are here, the new phones books are here, now I'm finally someone!"

SNL sucks!

and this talk of "Chickenman" reminds me of the Kids in the Hall sketch "Chicken Lady" which, without ever hearing of "Chickenman" before, I'm assuming is some sort of spoof?

I guess it is sort of a spoof, just not sure of what. In the late Sixties, America was awash in secret agents (four or five James Bond films had been made) and a number of spyploitation TV shows. Chickenman isn't a secret agent, more of a super hero, and all there was at the time of that ilk was Batman, which was kind of a spoof itself. I had to read up on the Chicken Lady. She sounds like a strange bird.

Thanks for mentioning the Chickenman collector's package.

If anyone's interested, they'll find it at

As Frank pointed out, Dan’s link in the comment above might lead to a 404 error page, although an amusing one at that. Try And Frank, thanks for the catch.

Chickenman was my favorite show on the radio.I loved the series the Dick Orking did,like The Tooth Fairy and the later Chickenman shows(Chickenman vs. the Earth-Pollutters,Chickenman Returns for the Last Time Again).I met Dick Orkin years ago and got his autograph,which I treasure.The White-Winged Warrior was the natural response to mid-60s superhero binge...much as Cervantes' Don Quixote was the response to the 1500s-Knightly Romance books.I will always recall his sterling words;
"Here I am once again to strike terrific terror into the hearts of criminals everywhere,for I will seek them out no matter where they lurk,in dark alleys and places like that and prove with one blow from my mighty fist that crimes does not pay and that vicious criminals cannot escape the wrath of the Feathered Fighter!"
(Sure he flopped more often than not,but he always tried.No matter how often he failed,he never stopped trying to achieve his goals-and that is a lesson for everyone.)

I have the Chickenman episodes than ran in the 60's, via Dan O'Day. But I first discovered Chickenman in 1977, but none of those episodes are part of the 60's version. I had at least 2 on cassette (neither of which I can locate), so I know they exist in somebody's vault. Radio Ranch won't confirm or deny they exist. Does anyone remember or have copies of these????

Mark, I didn't even know about the 1977 series, but according to the Wikipedia article about Chickenman, the 1977 episodes are supposed to be included in the set sold by Dan O'Day. Wikipedia also mentions some outlets that are still playing the episodes (mostly satellite radio). I hope you can track them down!

Hi Tony,

The package released by Dick Orkin and sold by Dan O'Day does not have these episodes. I wrote to Sandy Orkin and told him I had a couple of the episodes in question on cassette, but being 30 years old now, I can't find them. Sandy has written back, but has not confirmed that these shows ever existed. But I keep looking...

Mark, Sorry to hear that. I still have all my old cassettes (not of Chickenman, though). They’re around here somewhere... Hope you find yours. :-)

OK, I see the last post here was in 2008, so hoping someone is still watching, but...I seem to remember a Television show about a crime fighter that turned in to a chicken...may have been an adaptation of the radio series, but i was only 5 or 6, so it is hard to tell. Anybody have any ideas?

That show isn't ringing any bells for me, so I did some Googling and came up with nothing. Sorry. If you remember any other details, please leave another comment.

March 11, 2006

Art History History... History

Even though I was an English major, my favorite course in college was art history. I took it because I was already interested in art, but I had no idea how inspiring it would be (full credit goes, of course, to the two professors who made it that way). If I were less pragmatic than I am, I might have switched my major, but I stuck with something hardheaded, practical, and eminently exploitable—English.

Our principal text was Janson’s History of Art which I learned has just been revised. That’s news because the changes are extensive (some of art history is now history) and significant, because it’s the backbone of so many art-history courses.

I’m not sure these revisions would have a major impact on the course I took, however. We didn’t hew that closely to the Janson text. What we were taught to do was look very closely at a work and try to see as much as we could see and use that experience to develop in ourselves a kind of heuristic for looking at art.

There were other books that were far more influential on me than Janson. Two I would single out are Mainstreams of Modern Art by John Canady and The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe. Both of these helped me begin to understand non-representational art so that I could move beyond the Norman Rockwell stage of art appreciation. Although Janson didn’t change my life, I was grateful to the book in one respect. The edition we used included photography (earlier ones didn’t), and it was my first exposure to some of the great photographers, particularly Robert Frank.


I recently purchased a used Janson's History of Art by H.W. Janson & Dora Janson that is in excellent condition (hardback with dust cover in excellent condition). Published 1969. Please give me whatever history you may have concerning this book, i.e. year first published, how many editions and authors. Can you tell me where to look for the resale value of this book. Thank you! Carl

March 9, 2006

Comments Back On

I started using MarsEdit recently for posting instead of the Movable Type interface. It’s a desktop app that is quite an improvement over the browser-based interface, but I must have missed a checkbox somewhere, because the last three entries have not had comments enabled. Doh!

March 8, 2006

Klingon Programmer Jokes [nanoblog]

Probably foolhardy to make any kind of a joke at a Klingon’s expense, but Steve Baker has added some of his own Klingon programmer jokes to the anonymous set seen all over the place. Now that’s Extreme Programming.

March 6, 2006

On Missing the Oscars

It’s not that I don’t like movies. I do. I really do. When I wore a younger man’s beret and jodhpurs, I pursued a self-directed degree in film history. I haunted Movies Unlimited on Castor Avenue (the retail store closed in 2005). They seemed to have every movie ever made, or at least every movie in my curriculum, although occasionally they disappointed me. (“What do you mean you only have one copy of Battleship Potemkim?”)

I haven’t watched many movies in the last few years, though. When Oscar buzz began to build a few weeks ago, we tallied up all the movies we saw in 2005. Zero. Clearly, I wasn’t qualified to make any Oscar predictions, and I had no interest in watching the awards. I don’t know what happened between me and movies. Maybe it’s the boorish behavior of today’s moviegoers, or maybe I just can’t sit still for two hours. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s me that’s changed and not the movies. I’m confident that today’s movies are just as good as the black-and-white classics I cherish. Maybe someday I’ll see one of these newfangled “talkies” and prove it to myself. Feel free to suggest something inspiring. It needn’t have won an Oscar. (I don’t think any of my favorites ever did.)

As for that degree in film history, I withdrew and gave myself an incomplete.


How 'bout The Hudsucker Proxy?

I don't know if it's inspiring, but I'm dead sure it never won an Oscar. It's just the movie that came wafting into my mind as I was clicking over here.

Thanks, Howard. I saw Fargo, and based on that, I would watch anything Joel Coen did.

Actually, it's not you. Movies DO suck more than they used to. In the past they were an art, and now they're brainless blockbusters with forgettable plots and one-liners.

It may seem rabidly weird of me to be posting this, considering, but I'm rabid about movies. Recommendations (though not all new movies):

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Fight Club
Spirited Away
Ghost World
Falling Down
Lost in Translation
About a Boy
Love Actually
Kill Bills 1 and 2 (and while I'm at it "Reservoir Dogs" - that was my favorite Tarantino before the "Kill Bills" and now I can't choose)

That should cover you no matter what genre you like. For you, for some reason, I'd say "Amelie" especially, if you haven't seen it.

What a great list. I haven't seen ANY of these, although that's no surprise. I always wanted to see Reservoir Dogs (a classic), I did see Pulp Fiction which I thought masterful and very entertaining, but that's been my only Tarantino experience. Thanks, Josie, I really appreciate it.

March 5, 2006

Weapon of Choice [nanoblog]

Speaking of dance, I just found this (not new) video of Fatboy Slim's “Weapon of Choice” featuring Christopher Walken. You'll believe a man can fly (and dance!). One of my favorite actors ever, and wow, what a hoofer. Via Where am I going... And why am I in this handbasket?

At the Ballet

We had an unusually festive weekend. Anne and her gang from work spent the afternoon at the Philadelphia Flower Show and were treated to dinner at Singapore Vegetarian by their boss. I planned to meet up with them after that for drinks at Monk’s Cafe. Since I hadn’t eaten, I was really looking forward to grabbing a bite at Monk’s, but it was simply too crowded. Off we trooped to Bob and Barbara’s a few blocks away. B&B’s was the opposite of Monk’s—it was practically empty—and they had virtually no food, although somehow Anne snagged me a bag of Combos at the bar. When one of us couldn’t prove he was of legal drinking age, they kicked us out. The nerve.

Our final stop was The Westbury, which was the most welcoming of the three places, not that we really belonged there. Let’s just say that the four women in our group seriously tipped the gender balance in the clientele. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was finally able to order a sandwich, and we all enjoyed a round of drinks. Nice place.

On Saturday, we had tickets for Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of “Firebird” (performances through March 11). We stopped first for dinner at Fergie’s (where a few of the blogger meetups had been held). There was the usual Irish music jam session in progress and a full house with no tables available, but in minutes two seats at the bar became available. Sadly, they were out of Nodding Head Grog so we had Smithwick’s instead. Dinner was delicious as usual.

Firebird is, I believe, only the third ballet I’ve ever attended. Although Stravinsky’s score is one of my favorite pieces, I never knew anything about the ballet or the story. It’s a fanciful tale about an enchanted forest with, of course, a firebird, and a very happy ending. The production was a little short on spaceships and explosions, although there were some nice special effects. Before “Firebird,” the company presented “Franklin Court,” which was inspired by some of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions. The music was by Bach, and one of the pieces featured Franklin’s glass armonica. You know the ethereal sound you get when you run a wet finger around the rim of a wine glass? Well, that’s what the armonica sounds like.

Even though I have almost no experience watching ballet, I enjoyed the evening, and there were more than a few moments when I felt like I knew what was going on. I never get that feeling watching sports.


I was at the ballet on Saturday night, as well. I thought it was an interesting combination - the spartan set of the Franklin piece and the extreme costuming in The Firbird. I could watch Aranxta dance for hours...of even minutes. Fun stuff. We also tried out Estia afterwards...good one-two punch.

March 3, 2006

The Heat Is On

Rowhouse Logic has been without heat for seven days up until yesterday. So glad to hear the heat is back. I can't imagine what that must have been like. Well, actually, I can, now that I think about it. Like an idiot I ran out of heating oil once. No, wait. Twice. That was no fun, especially since I didn't have hot water, either, but the deprivation didn't last seven days.

The gas was turned off because of a mixup of account numbers. Anybody can make a mistake, but it takes real bureaucracy to make an outage last seven days. I’m sure they're very proud. Reminds me of the Bouvier sisters on The Simpsons: “On some days we don't let the line move at all.” Beat. “Yeah, we call those ‘weekdays’.”

March 1, 2006

Ansel Adams Exhibit [nanoblog]

The Michener Museum in Doylestown is host to “Ansel Adams: Celebration of Genius,” an exhibit of 150 photographs by Ansel Adams from the collection of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. February 18 through May 14. Via JMG Artblog.