Read More

Wonderful

School starts soon. Middle school for my eleven year old. For some reason that got me to thinking about Everclear song “Wonderful,” so I just went over to the artist’s Captiol Records website to watch the music video. Life is tough for middle schoolers.

After great angst, we’ve decided to home school my daughter for sixth grade. Local Newport Mill Middle School is nearly walking distance, but other factors make it just too far. For one, there is the adjacent Albert Einstein High School. For another, my wife and I don’t believe that sixth and eighth graders should mix. Development differences are huge, particularly when many eighth graders already are sexually active and eleven year olds are such easy prey. Not a reality I like to admit, but one we as parents can’t ignore. 

Read More

Pop Goes the Housing Bubble

Last summer, my wife, daughter and I scoured the Washington suburb of Bowie for a house to buy. After a month of house hunting, we decided to stay put in our rental house, located in a nicer neighborhood and much closer to downtown Washington (We live off of Connecticut Ave. just three miles from the city).

The decision not to buy came with great angst. Rising real estate prices made the potential equity gains look promising, and we were simply ready to be homeowners. But the math simply didn’t work. When factoring in taxes and insurance, our monthly mortgage would have approached $2,200, compared to our $1,100—starting this month, $1,200—rent. We couldn’t see how our quality of life would be better doubling our monthly housing payment, even factoring in potential equity gains or tax breaks.

Read More

Like Father, Like Son

Yesterday I sat near the water fountain adjacent to the Lakeforest Mall kids play area, while my daughter and two friends romped around nearby. Maybe 10 minutes after I plunked down near the water, a chunky kid, probably nine or 10 years old, ran by and spotted a penny on the carpet. “Is this yours?” he asked. I said, “No”. Up ran another kid, much smaller and no older than six years old. “It’s mine!” He grabbed the coin, threw it in the water and ran up the stairs.

“What a little liar”, I thought, completely taken back. I knew for a fact, the coin didn’t belong to this kid, who clearly had just arrived at the play area. Not just a liar, but he took the coin from a much bigger kid, too. The exchange really bothered me, and I wondered what kind of adult this kid might become. 

Read More

Journalist’s Trust is Inviolate

This week, I saw the movie “Shattered Glass” on cable for the second time in a week. The film unravels the deceptions of Stephen Glass, the former New Republic writer who made up quotes and even whole stories. If I correctly recall, the magazine found problems with 27 of the 41 stories he wrote while working there.

The film got me to thinking a whole lot about ethics, the temptations journalists sometime encounter and dangerous deceptions. When a reporter for CNET News.com I worked out of a home office for four years, which meant only modest supervision. If I had ever wanted to fabricate anything, probably no one would have noticed. I never did, of course, or else you wouldn’t be reading this post.

Read More

The Lost Generation

In a today’s New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof writes about Baby Boomers as the “Greediest Generation.” I couldn’t agree more, although I long have called them the “Lost Generation.”

“When boomer blood raged with hormones, we staged the sexual revolution and popularized the Pill,” he writes. “Now, with those hormones fading, we’ve popularized Viagra.” He warns of how the Boomer population’s looking for handouts as the young has turned to demanding them still as they grow older: “Our slogan has gone from ‘free love’ to ‘free blood pressure medicine.'”

Read More

The Director’s Effect

Last night, I watched “The Butterfly Effect: The Director’s Cut” on DVD. Wow. I had seen the theatrical release, which I regarded as an A-class B movie. But, still, a B movie. The Director’s Cut adds seven minutes and a new ending that work quite well. The movie still operates outside believable reality, but I’m not sure it’s meant to be believable. The movie—well, the Director’s Cut, anyway—works well as pure fantasy.

I often wonder at the forces that shape movies during final production, as the influence of studio chiefs and test audiences come to bear. In this case, their impact was negative. The Director’s Cut adds more depth to the main characters, appropriately drawing out the mother-son relationship before the wicked alternate—and I assume original—ending. And I found the new ending to be much more satisfying and poetic. Were the previous two still births the same fate as Evan’s? 

Read More

An Encouraging Development

A story in today’s New York Times pictures a U.S. soldier unloading bottled water in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The U.S. $350 million aid commitment and rallying of local resources—in this case the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln—is an encouraging improvement over the earlier U.S. “stingy” commitment to aid.

I’m too young to remember the America of World War II; it’s all just history to me. But goodwill went a long way in Europe and Asia, even turning enemies like Germany and Japan into allies following the war. 

Read More

The Times is Right

In October, I slammed the New York Times for leading off a story about the Bush-Kerry debate with a political ad for Kerry. That was bad form. Good form: Yesterday’s gripping analysis about U.S. aid in the wake of the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean. With respect to U.S. aid response, the story’s headline makes the point: “It’s About Aid, and an Image.” I agree, and I contend that the country’s response so far has been slow and, yes, stingy.

Even viewed from the most selfish perspective possible, public relations, the Bush Administration missed an important opportunity in the hours following the horrific disaster, which, I might add, based on the number of missing Americans, might have a death toll close to the Twin Towers disaster. 

Read More

A Switcher Repents

Back in September, a friend lugged away the last of my Macs. I relinquished them following a July switch back to Windows. I determined to use Windows on a full-time basis, which suited my fickle mood and work situation. But the Macs are back, in a surprising return to previous enthusiasm. The decision is a personal one and does not reflect my work position with respect to covering Microsoft.

Microsoft’s approach to its MSN Spaces blogging service is what set me off. The service requires proprietary technologies to either view or post some content to MSN Spaces blogsites. I decided that going back to the Mac, which I had grown to miss over six months, best supported my philosophical position. The Internet is classic example of what kind of scale open, supported standards can create. Personally, Microsoft’s technological approach isn’t wholly consistent with my personal position. 

Read More

Small-minded American News

I am in one of my ticked-off moods at the U.S. news media. This morning’s seaquake off the coast of Indonesia has wreaked untold devastation, not that you would know anything from U.S. news outlets. Kudos to BBC for taking charge in delivering painstaking, breathtaking coverage.

My fear is that sometime during the next 12 hours that someone will figure out there are probably a bunch of U.S. tourists missing or found dead. Then, suddenly the story will tick off some headlines, but I’m sure nothing like the 24-7 coverage that followed 9/11. Right now, the estimated death toll—in six countries!—is more than 10,000, or more than three times the horrific loss from the attack on the twin towers. But, of course, America the small-minded country pays no mind.