There Is No Cat

Groovy '60s Sounds from the Land of Smile!

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Staggering across the finish line

Well, I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but with a little over an hour to spare, I've completed my entry in the 26 Things photographic scavenger hunt. I wasn't happy with some of my attempts at some of the words (Thanksgiving dinner for "too much" was a non-starter, for example, and I wasn't happy with my shots of either the air conditioner coil or the boarded-up ice cream stand for "cold"), and a couple of shots from Thanksgiving of our niece and nephews came out fantastic and would have been great (nephew G. is "too much", particularly when he's hamming it up for the camera), but I wasn't comfortable publicly posting a photo of a four year old without his parents' permission. So I spent a couple of hours tonight running around the house to fill the gaps, and revisited some tentative picks that I was holding off on in hopes that I could come up with something better ("high point" and "layered" are examples of this; not that I don't like the photos, just that I thought I might come up with things more closely linked to the concepts). A couple of last-minute improvisations came out pretty well, I think, particularly "electric", which I'm really pleased with.

electric

I shot 466 photographs to get 26 useful ones, which gives a yield of just over 1 in every 18 photos. I figure that's not too bad. I would never have shot so many pictures if I didn't have my digital camera; film costs would just be too prohibitive. I learned a lot about how to use my new Canon EOS Digital Rebel, which I acquired a few weeks before the beginning of the project (but didn't get for the purpose of using it for 26 Things; I was just fulfilling a long-standing desire to get a better digital camera than the old Kodak DC260 I was using). That had a lot to do with why I decided (with a little prodding from my friend Deb) to try.

layered

I had a lot of fun participating, even if it took my attention away from some other things I should have been doing, like working around the house (see the final photo used for "too much" for more information). I think the hunt is a brilliant idea, and I'd like to thank Tracey for coming up with the idea and more importantly, following through (good ideas are a dime-a-dozen; following up on them is invaluable). Now I can put the camera down for a while and focus on Christmas and housecleaning.

too much

Posted at 11:32 PM
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Thursday, November 27, 2003

Two down, eight to go

We're getting down to the wire on the December 1 deadline for 26 Things. I shot a couple more words yesterday. 2 pm was difficult, but I thought about what I do at 2 pm most days, and most days I'm deep in the middle of something at work, so that's what I shot.

2 pm

It took me a while to come up with something for team as well, but my wife's weekly dance practice with her friends seemed to fit the definition of teamwork to me.

team

Eight more words, four more days. If I can keep up yesterday's pace, I'll just make it....

Posted at 9:38 AM
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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

It would have been mad not to try

Obscure pop-punk tunesmith and ex-Cleaner from Venus Martin Newell, a.k.a. The Greatest Living Englishman, writes for The Independent about his experiences co-writing and recording a Christmas tune with Captain Sensible for charity. The song, "'Ere's Your Christmas", was written to order for charity Punk Aid:

"Right then," Tim growled down the phone. "We want at least 50 per cent of the lyrics to have a right go at these manufactured pop bands. Point out that there's plenty of people not having a great time this Christmas. Oh, and see if you can get something in about Chechnya and Iraq."

So far, so festive. I thought. I asked Tim if there would be anything else. "Yeah. We want a nice cheerful, singalong chorus, so people can sing it down the boozer."

Sounds promising. Must remember to try and procure a copy for my extensive collection of punk and new wave Christmas singles.

Posted at 10:26 PM
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Monday, November 24, 2003

Greetings from Asbury Park

Four more pictures for my entry in 26 Things, all from my day wandering down the shore yesterday. The four words added tonight are familiar, contemplation, close up, and famous.

[ Palace Amusements, Asbury Park, New Jersey ]

Posted at 11:35 PM
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Broadcasting to Zimbabwe

It's not often you see mention of a shortwave radio station in the mass press, and even less often when the station is a half-dozen or so exiles supposedly working on a shoestring, rather than the behemoths of the medium like the BBC World Service or the Voice of America. But The Guardian has a nice puff piece on SW Radio Africa, which broadcasts three hours a day to Zimbabwe from studios in London. I've long had an interest in Zimbabwe, particularly their wonderful music. I've even managed to hear the government-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation on a few occasions on my shortwave radio. But I've never been able to hear SW Radio Africa on the radio, since their broadcast hours and frequency happen at a time when propagation from their transmitters in South Africa to my location in New Jersey just isn't going to happen.

My friends at Radio Netherlands, keen watchers of international broadcasting themselves, have a dossier on Zimbabwean media, with an article about SW Radio Africa that includes some interesting information not mentioned in the article in The Guardian. For example, there are rumors that much of the budget for the station comes from a U.S. government agency. I guess that buys a lot of shoestrings (that transmitter time in South Africa doesn't come cheap). Then there's evidence of links with the BBC, as well. Interesting stuff.

Posted at 9:37 PM
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And another thing

I spent yesterday wandering around the area with my camera, mostly on the shore but also here in town. I shot a ton of photos and it's going to take me a day or two to work my way through them (not least because I ran out of disk space when I was converting them from RAW format to TIFF last night), but here's a taste: another 26 Things photo, taken at the local commuter train station where Laura was leaving to spend the day in the city with a friend.

movement

Posted at 8:29 AM
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Thursday, November 20, 2003

BurningBirthday

Shelley Powers posted a wonderful hope-filled piece on the occasion of her 49th birthday.

In 365 days, I can redefine who I am in 365 ways.

In 8760 hours, a lot can happen. And if in all those hours and days and weeks and months my dreams have not been met, and I'm lucky to reach 50, then I know I'll continue to have time to meet them, or to dream new dreams.

I turned 40 this year. I spent much of the previous year when I was 39 being "almost 40", but when the event finally happened, I was still the same person for the most part. And as the year has unfolded, I've decided that I like being 40. I like the sense of perspective and, dare I say, wisdom, that being a bit older provides (not that I feel wiser than when I was 39, but I certainly feel more so than when I was 29). I think it's a good thing to enjoy being whatever age you are, because after all, it's not like you have a choice. No matter how hard I try, I will never be 23 years old again.

So happy birthday, Shelley (a couple of days late). I hope you maintain that sense of optimism and hope throughout the year.

Posted at 3:14 AM
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Economics 102

This is weird: there was significant economic news in the past day or so, but I can't find any mention of it on any of the usual news sources like the New York Times or the wire services or even the financial web sites. The only place that's covered it is the business radio program Marketplace on public radio, where it was the top story in last evening's program. Even my favorite lefty economically-savvy blogger, Billmon, hasn't picked it up. Basically, the story is this: foreign direct investment in the U.S. dropped by a whopping 90+% in the most recent figures. The U.S. trade deficit and budget deficit requires that a certain amount of money, about $46 billion, be invested in the U.S. from outside the country every month. This is how we finance our profligate ways. The main sources of that investment are Japan and China. Some economists have warned that if either of these governments decided all of a sudden that the U.S. wasn't where they wanted to place their excess money, we would be in trouble. This month, at least, they seem to have decided just that.

How did that happen? Well, the Bush administration, in the person of John Snow, Secretary of the Treasury, has suggested that they would like to see a lower dollar. Foreign investors, hearing this, decided that a currency that was about to drop in value wasn't a good investment, and stayed away in droves. There goes all our foreign investment. Oops!

So what? We don't need their stinkin' money anyway. Well, actually, we do. Without that money, the government needs to pay for their tax cuts some other way, borrowing money from others. To attract investors will require higher interest rates, which means the cost of borrowing for everyone, including businesses, is about to get higher. That tends to be the last thing a sputtering economy needs, and may be just what we need to tip the economy back into recession (and it's not like the current "recovery" is terribly robust to start with).

The only aspect of this story that anyone other than Marketplace seems to be covering is the dramatic drop in value of the dollar vis-a-vis the Euro yesterday, the result of investors being spooked by the investment figures. I guess it's not an easy story to explain or something, although Marketplace did a fine job of it. The rest of the journalism industry seems to be more interested in the latest financial scandal where a bunch of foreign exchange traders were arrested. Maybe all the reporters capable of writing the investment figures story were too busy covering the arrests. But this is potentially a big problem.

Posted at 1:11 AM
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Sunday, November 16, 2003

The new man on the moon

The New York Times has an article about how health insurance is becoming a luxury for those of us fools trapped in the middle class. Leaving aside the question of insurance, there was an interesting quote in the article (which I originally saw highlighted on Damien Barrett's blog):

As for her own health, Ms. Johnston has two cysts in one breast and three in another but has had only one aspirated because she cannot afford to check on the others. "Do I have to move to Iraq to get help?" she asked. "They have $87 billion for folks over there," she said, referring to money Congress allocated for military operations and rebuilding.

I'm seeing this more and more often lately; people making the connection between government not being able to help Americans because of a lack of money and the huge amount of money that materialized from nowhere to send to Iraq. When I was growing up in th 1970s, when someone wanted to express exasperation about politicians' sense of priorities, they said something along the lines of "we can send a man to the moon, but we can't ______". It appears to me that the analogous construction for today is "we can spend $87 billion on Iraq, but we can't _____".

If this mentality really takes hold, and it appears to me that it is, then Dubya is toast. Because this little construction shows that people are starting to make the connection between Dubya's promiscuous military ways and their own pocketbooks.

Posted at 10:14 AM
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Saturday, November 15, 2003

Gabba gabba, we accept you, we accept you, one of us

The city of New York is posthumosly honoring one of its finest citizens, a man who contributed mightily to world culture. Down in the East Village, the corner of East Second Street and The Bowery, right by C.B.G.B., is to be named Joey Ramone Place.

Posted at 11:35 AM
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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Upon reflection

Another 26 Things photo, this one for the word "reflection". This was taken at a local landmark, the Bell Labs building in Holmdel.

reflection

Posted at 9:56 PM
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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Ten things out of twenty-six

My friend Deb talked me into participating in the new 26 Things photographic scavenger hunt now that I have a new camera. The idea is that there's a list of 26 words, and you have to take a photograph to represent each one. I've been stealing moments when I can around the house between a heavy load at work, being kind of sick, regular household chores, and tearing down two walls in the basement. I think I've finally got the page design tweaked the way I want so it works in all the browsers I've tested it in (and even doesn't look too horrible in Netscape 4.7, if you can believe it. So here they are, my first ten efforts toward the 26 words.

Sandy Hook lighthouse shortly after sunset

Posted at 10:35 PM
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Monday, November 10, 2003

Ya i ti roboti (was Ya Ich Die Roboty, see comments)

Laura and I went to one of our favorite events this past weekend, the twice-a-year WFMU Record Fair. Finally free of the strains of unemployment and impending home ownership, I actually dropped some bills for some tunes this time. One of my favorite finds so far is a compilation of Russian bands, Russendisko Hits, put out on Germany label Trikont, who are one of the coolest labels on the planet. I had actually mentioned the album here some months back, so I was delighted to find it. There is a ton of neat stuff on here; I had no idea ska was so popular in Russia, for example, although I was definitely aware of the band Leningrad, who make an appearance on the CD. One of the neatest tracks on the CD is by a hybrid German-Russian band (co-fronted by one of the compilers of the CD) called Rot Front, which I assume is German for Red Front. Their track is a klezmerish clarinet- and accordion-laced cover of Kraftwerk's "The Robots", sung in a combination of Russian and German, with an at least partially English rap dripping with profanity dropped in the middle. A little poking around finds that the track is available in MP3 format on their web site, so go listen!

It was also cool to meet the guys from Tamizdat, a small company dedicated to selling central and eastern European music to us insular Americans. (Oddly enough, I didn't get the Russendisko compilation from them; someone else had that.) They seemed surprised to actually meet one of their customers (I've bought from them a few times in the past). We had a nice conversation and I wound up buying a couple of CDs on their recommendation, a Polish ska band named Alians and an Estonian pop band called Dallas. I haven't had a chance to listen to them really, but the little bits I've heard sound promising.

Anyway, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Posted at 11:32 PM
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Saturday, November 8, 2003

By the dark of the silvery moon

You can find out when tonight's lunar eclipse will be visible in your location at this page operated by the U.S. Naval Observatory. Here at our house in New Jersey, the moon will be rising at 4:40 pm, with the eclipse starting at about quarter past five. That's about an hour and a half from now. Totality is between 8:06 and 8:30 pm. I'm going to see if I can get some photos of it.

Posted at 3:41 PM
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Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The Portsmouth Sinfonia of Tuvan Throat Singing

Dunno how I missed this (too busy with house stuff I guess), but The Guardian had an interesting interview a few weeks ago with one of my favorite bands, The Handsome Family. The article quotes rock critic Greil Marcus as describing them as "The Beatles of Folk". Huh?!? That doesn't make any sense to me. I prefer to think of them as the Louvin Brothers of indie rock with their modern take on the time-honored Appalachian death ballad genre. I don't see anything of the Beatles in them at all. The first time I saw them, at the Anyway Fest in Columbus, Ohio, some years back, was a revelation, totally unexpected and out of the blue. I was absolutely gobsmacked. I thought they were completely brilliant, and I was stunned to think that nobody had beaten them to this particular aesthetic epiphany.

Anyway, the band has a new album, Singing Bones, out as of last month. Looks like we missed their New York show (not that I would have gone; now that I'm an old person, I'd rather drive to Ohio to see bands than go into the city, or so my loving wife laments). They're going to be performing on Andy Kershaw's show on BBC Radio 3 this month. I'll definitely want to check that out. You might, too.

Posted at 2:45 AM
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Monday, November 3, 2003

The new draft

Dave Winer isn't impressed with any of the politicians' blogs. He describes a post by John Edwards over on Lawrence Lessig's blog as "just like Edwards in person. Cardboard, full of lies and deception." Wesley Clark still didn't have an official blog a week after announcing his candidacy, so he was dismissed. Winer doesn't even give credit to the one candidate out there who has really made decent use of the web to enable supporters to connect to each other and to the candidate, Howard Dean. To me, Dean seems to be doing everything Dave says he wants, but it's not enough. I don't get it. I'm confused. Who will show us the way out of the forest and be the first to properly campaign via blog?

There's only one solution.

Dave Winer has to run for President.

Dave's independently wealthy, so he can kickstart the campaign until the contributions start pouring in. But even if they don't, money's not important; the power of blogs conquers all. Dave should have no problem getting his ideas out there and taken seriously. And since he knows what all the other candidates are doing wrong, and what the right way to campaign via blog is, he won't make any missteps. I don't see how he can miss, plus he'll be educating us all, showing us the proper way to campaign via blog by doing it!

Run, Dave, run!

Posted at 8:50 PM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2017, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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