Goodbye, neighbor

Since about 5am yesterday morning, I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about the loss of Mr. Rogers – it’s hard to think of him as Fred – and what he meant to children. Frankly, I think he represented what children’s television should be. His show was directed squarely at children, unlike many other programs that masquerade as “educational” but are really directed toward parents who buy products. The bright colors, loud soundtrack, and frentic pace seem to have coincided with the alarming rise of attention deficit disorder.
Mr. Rogers’ quiet delivery and genuine interest in his audience was so unusual that it became almost a joke among most people… except the kids. The things you learn from Mr. Rogers! Feed the fish everyday. Wear comfy shoes around the house. People care about you. Create your own imaginary world.
We need Mr. Rogers today more than ever. And even though he has been retired for years now, those 900-some shows on videotape will – one hopes – never be retired. We like you just the way you are.

The Axle of Evil

From Al Kamen’s column in today’s Washington Post:

The Canadians would do well not to misoverestimate Bush. Outlining the case for war Wednesday night, the president explained how we would restore democracy in Iraq.

“There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values,” he said. “Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistakened.”

A couple other good excerpts:

More Like the Marine Corps
Some critics say Bush’s zeal for running Iraq and transforming it into a democracy sounds just like the nation-building efforts he campaigned against.

On Oct. 11, 2000, then-Texas Gov. Bush said: “I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean, we’re going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.”

But yesterday White House press secretary Ari Fleischer proved the critics wrong once again. “During the campaign, the president did not express, as you put it, disdain for nation-building,” he said. So there you have it.

Mete the Press
Speaking of Bush . . . For those keeping track, today marks 113 days since he had an actual, full-fledged news conference, as opposed to those photo-ops or joint ones with foreign leaders.

On the other hand, he’s only had seven news conferences in his 26 months in office, or one every 110 days or so, so he’s only three days behind his average. Well, there’s not much news to talk about.

Thank goodness for call block

The national “Do Not Call” registry goes into operation in September, and telemarketers are beginning to worry – they say that it will devastate their industry.
The amusing thing is that when the debate began over this nationalized list, telemarketers insisted that most people like to get the unsolicited calls! Well, if people want the calls, they won’t sign up for the do not call list, and the industry will go on as usual, right? Get real. No one likes these calls, and the telemarketers, who have built an industry on annoying the hell out of people, will just have to deal with it.
And a personal little complaint – when are the telemarketers going to reimburse me for the cost of their calls to my cell phone? Or for the monthly cost of the call block service to keep them from calling me?
Oh, and one more thing – who’s laughing all the way to the bank? The big phone companies, who sit in the middle like arms dealers who sell to both sides. They give telemarketers all the phone numbers. Then they charge individuals monthly fees to NOT give out their phone number. They give individuals Caller ID. Then they give telemarketers anonymous calling. Then they sell individuals call block. Where does it end?

Credit to Apple? How odd!

I will establish my opinion right here: Apple makes great computers and a fantastic operating system. I am one of those Microsoft-bashing Windows haters.
One thing that Apple doesn’t seem to be able to get right is the promotion of their own record of innovation. A few examples: never did they promote the fact that they invented the PDA, for the most part, with the Newton. You never saw a commercial bragging about being the first to include USB on a computer and the first to eliminate the floppy drive. [Dell has been trumpeting their recent decision to drop the floppy, 5 years after Apple did it first.] Apple was also the first to include wireless networking in their computers, and introduced the AirPort long before the current book in WiFi. [Again, Dell claimed they were first... long after.]
I was pleased this morning to read an article [via Macintouch] by Bob Cringely about “The Next Next Big Thing,” where he sets the record straight and gives credit to Apple for igniting the WiFi revolution:

WiFi exists primarily thanks to Apple Computer, which years ago proposed to the Federal Communications Commission that certain radio frequencies in the 2.4 to 5.8 gigahertz range be allocated for unlicensed data communication. Today those frequencies are available for people to do pretty much anything as long as they stay below a certain power output and make nice-nice with the neighbors. Apple intended to use the frequencies for wireless local area networks and introduced its AirPort product line several years ago to do just that. AirPort allowed computers to link with one another within a radius of 50 meters, sharing data at speeds up to 11 megabits per second.

Today’s “What Do You Think?”

Today’s “What Do You Think?” feature in The Onion – always one of my faves – tackles the Anti-SUV Movement with such gems as:

“Yes, the average U.S. automobile has doubled in weight since 1990, but so has the average U.S. citizen.”
“I just feel bad for the SUVs, forced to live all cooped up in the city like that.”
“My purchase of a Hummer was inspired by our 1991 Gulf War victory. After this war, I’m buying an aircraft carrier.”

Available wherever Paramount videos are sold

My first season Deep Space Nine DVD set arrived in the mail today, and as it’s another winter storm warning here in DC, I’m snuggled on the sofa watching it. I am sorry to say that this set suffers from the same annoyance as the Next Generation sets: each and every special feature, whether it is half an hour or 2 minutes long, has tagged onto the end a list of each and every Star Trek video product currently on release. “STAR TREK” AVAILABLE ON VIDEOCASSETTE AND DVD WHEREVER VIDEOS ARE SOLD… blah blah blah. Cripes! I have to sit through this nonsense 6 to 7 times on a disc! What a waste of my time and money.
Silly me, I buy DVDs of TV shows so that I can actually see them without ads, network logos, other show promos, etc. etc.

Do they all hate us now?

An interesting perspective from a Washington Post article this morning: how U.S. policies are alienating what was a pro-American generation of Muslims.

A generation of Arabs wooed by the United States and persuaded by its principles has become among the most vociferous critics of America’s world view. Within its ranks are affluent businessmen with ties to the West, U.S.-educated intellectuals and liberal activists. Their ire is directed not at U.S. culture, but at preparations for a war that they believe has left them voiceless, discredited and isolated in a landscape almost universally opposed to U.S. policy.

To them, the Bush administration’s talk of a more democratic Arab world is rendered hollow by its policy toward the Palestinians and Iraq. They see their desire for more secular, progressive societies overwhelmed by growing radicalism and religious fervor, a tide so pronounced that it has caught even mainstream Islamic activists off guard. In sentimental tones, they lament the end of an era in which the United States appeared as a beacon.
People like to say over and over that America has no quarrel with the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., but with their leaders.
I hope that the rest of the world has the same view: their quarrel is with the Bush administration, not the American people.

Maybe God wants peace

Just as it happened here in D.C., a blanket of snow in Israel has suddenly calmed and brightened the mood of those living there under great stress.

“It’s a moment of relief for all of us,” said Avital, an Israeli woman in her 20s, as she built a snowman – complete with a broom and carrot nose – on a traffic island.

In the Old City, Kaed Suweiti, a young Palestinian who turned 25 on Tuesday, was thrilled the storm coincided with his birthday. Getting snowed on near Damascus Gate, he said he felt the white gusts had erased the region’s problems.

A shopkeeper in the Muslim Quarter lighted charcoal in an empty tomato can to warm his hands, and the smoke filled a tunnel alleyway. For the man, 25-year-old Ali Natche, the snow was one of those simple things, like a holiday or a visit from a friend, which bring some joy in difficult days.

“People are happy for a few days because of the snow,” he said.
Do you think God has sent these snowstorms to remind us of something? Why can’t we keep that feeling even after the snow has melted?

Donahue: gone

MSNBC has canned Phil Donahue, the only “liberal” on that channel. On any channel, it seems. As if to underscore the point, MSNBC will fill his airtime with an extra hour of drumbeats in “Countdown: Iraq.”

During this month, a “sweeps” month in which ratings are watched closely to set advertising rates, “Donahue” averaged 446,000 viewers. O’Reilly drew 2.7 million viewers, up 28 percent from February 2002, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Could this be because the only ones who watch these crappy cable news channels are right wing zealots or people who are trapped in airport terminals waiting for a plane?
This morning I heard a ridiculous commercial for Fox News Channel, calling themselves “journalists” who just report the news and let the viewer decide. Then they listed names such as Greta Van Susteren, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Geraldo Rivera – all big names in JOURNALISM. Only Geraldo could pass as a reporter, and then only because he likes to stand out in war zones with a microphone and perfect hair. The others on this network are simply pundits, no more, no less. I’ve seen more fair and balanced coverage on GOP TV.

PowerBooks in the desert

In a fluff piece about reporters covering a possible Iraq war, WRC-TV (Washington’s NBC O&O) showed how journalists are equipped: sleeping bags, tents, water, wet wipes… and an Apple PowerBook.
The NBC crew uses the PowerBook to download & edit video and pictures, then sends the data via satellite phone.
I wonder why NBC News, in bed with Microsoft, chooses to use PowerBooks? Maybe the Windows laptops take too much precious time to figure out?

Lighten up your wardrobe

The Washington Opera’s production of Aida features the next wave in costuming: illuminated fabric! NPR’s All Things Considered featured the fiber optic fabric, called Luminex, on their show yesterday afternoon. Woven with fiber optic strands and with hidden microchips, battery, and light source, the fabric glows like an electroluminescent dream. Want to get noticed at the club? Try a Luminex tube top!

The Great Debate

The Associated Press reports:

Saddam Hussein indicated on Monday that he does not intend to follow U.N. orders to destroy his Al-Samoud 2 missiles, and challenged President Bush to an internationally televised debate via satellite linkup.

In a three-hour interview with CBS anchor Dan Rather, the Iraqi leader said he envisioned a live debate with Bush along the lines of those in a U.S. presidential campaign, according to the network.

Hmm. I’m having trouble coming up with a funny comment that skewers both Hussein and Bush here. How about this:
“I think that Saddam should be forced to place all his weapons of mass destruction in a lockbox,” said Bush.
“I don’t have any weapons,” replied Hussein, adjusting a suspicious aluminum tube leaning against the podium. “The great Satan is using fuzzy math.”