Archive for January, 2004

Introducing photo.spotlight

Sunday, January 25th, 2004

With Susanne traveling in Europe with her mom, I’ve had some free time to experiment with my blog software to see if I could use it for creating a photo blog. After playing around with some templates courtesy of blogstyles.com, I’ve managed to get a basic site up and running. It still needs some work, particularly its feedback forms and the color contrast in the style sheets, but it seems to be off to a good start.
So without further ado, I’d like to announce the creation of my new photo blog, tentatively titled photo.spotlight: reflections of the global village. The site will feature images that Susanne and I have captured in our trips around the world, as well as pictures we’ve captured closer to home.
Using a handy little RSS syndication script I found on the Web, I’ve also added some links on the lefthand column of my blog’s homepage that point back to the most recent photos published in the photo.spotlight blog. So whether or not you visit my gallery’s homepage directly, you’ll be able to click on the latest pics right here on this page as well.
Again, photo.spotlight is a work in process, so please bear with me as I work out the kinks. Hope you like the photos! -ac

The Dems Duke It Out One Last Time in New Hampshire

Friday, January 23rd, 2004

Last night’s debate in New Hampshire gave TV viewers one last chance to see the Democratic presidential candidates collectively strut their stuff before this Tuesday’s Granite State primary. For those folks hoping to see a no-holds-barred rhetorical wrestling match, no dice — the candidates were generally cordial to each other, saving their best barbs for President Bush.
In the hour and forty-five minutes of the debate they showed on Fox News — the remainder of the debate was given exclusively to ABC’s Nightline, well past my typical bedtime on a school night — each candidate did their best to convince the New Hampshire voters that they’ve got the right blend of smarts, experience, gumption and mojo to take down Bush in November.
John Kerry, clearly jazzed by his rather unexpected triumph in Iowa, appeared quite “presidential” throughout the debate, handling questions with relative ease. All he had to do to keep his 1st place status was to not muck anything up during the debate, and by that particular standard he did just fine. (I mean, can you picture him accidentally losing it and giving a rebel yell to the audience like Dean did on Monday? Now that would have been must-see-TV….)
I paid particular attention to John Edwards — largely because I’d basically written off the guy until Iowa’s results came pouring in — and was impressed with his well-honed prosecutor’s ability to turn around any question and use it to make whatever point he wished to make, whether or not his answer had anything to do with the original question. For example, when Edwards was asked a question about a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, he quickly dismissed the idea, but then used the remainder of his time to criticize the lack of debate over policies that could improve the lives of people living in poverty:

I wonder if I could just step back for a minute. There’s been an enormous amount of discussion in the first hour, hour-and-a-half of this debate, about us, about ourselves. You know, if we could just take a minute and talk about what’s actually happening in the country. For example, there’s been no discussion about 35 million Americans who live in poverty every single day. Millions of Americans who work full-time for minimum wage and live in poverty. We have, in a country of our wealth — if you’ll let me finish — in a country of our wealth and prosperity, we have children going to bed hungry. We have children who don’t have the clothes to keep them warm. And I understand that maybe on some poll, that may not be a big issue, but the truth is, it’s important. This is what — we should talk about it and do something about it, because it’s wrong.

It’s too bad, though, that Edwards wasn’t able to offer much of an answer when asked by Peter Jennings what he knew about Islam and how he would use this knowledge to improve relations with the Islamic world. I supposed it’s the sort of question that would have stumped everyone on that stage, which in itself is really unfortunate. It wouldn’t take a huge amount of time, for example, for the candidates to get a quick primer on the Five Pillars of Islam, or on Islam’s emphasis on social justice. Given how much of our foreign policy is directly focused on what’s going on in Islamic countries, it’s amazing that our political leaders don’t know very much about the faith. Perhaps Jennings’ question will be just the right excuse to compel the candidates sit down with an imam — or even just a Muslim campaign volunteer — so they won’t be so Islam illiterate the next time around.
Joe Lieberman was quite strong in the debate, I thought; even though he’s been too much of a hawk for my own personal taste, I thought he made a rational, but moving argument for his position on the Iraq war. Considering he’s polling in the single digits, he came across as very confident, and he avoided laughing at his own jokes before delivering the punchline, which has always bugged me in the past.
Howard Dean was pretty mellow for the most part, clearly pulling his punches compared to previous debates. He made an effort to temper his tone, but ended up redirecting his energy into the speed of his words — which occasionally made it hard to understand what he was saying. It’s almost like the good doctor is carbonated: the more he bottles it up, the faster it shoots out of him.
Wes Clark: I like Clark a lot, but man, he’s got to work on his forensic skills. For example, when asked about Michael Moore calling Bush a “deserter” at one of his campaign events, Clark should have distanced himself from the comments, but instead said, “I don’t know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I’ve never looked at it. I’ve seen this charge bandied about a lot.” By saying he’s “seen the charge” before rather than dismissing it, he’s turned it into a news story. He’ll now have to put up with headlines saying “Clark Refuses to Distance Himself From Michael Moore’s Deserter Comments” rather than stories talking about the substance of his comments. To top it all off, it didn’t help Clark when he boasted, “I am delighted to have the support of a man like Michael Moore, of a great American leader like Senator George McGovern, and of people from Texas like Charlie Stenholm and former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton.” To most Americans, this translates as, “Support me because I have support from the Bowling for Columbine Guy, a liberal Democrat who got trounced by Nixon 30 years ago, and two people you’ve probably never heard of.” I just can’t imagine many people sitting up and taking notice when he rattled off this C-List who’s who of endorsements.
Anyway, enough on the debate. Onward to Tuesday…. -ac

Demoing MT for Norris Dickard

Thursday, January 22nd, 2004

Hi everyone… I’m sitting here with Norris Dickard at my office in DC explaining how blog technology works. We’ve just played around with Blogger, and now I’m doing a demo of Movable Type. Say Hi to Norris, everyone! -ac

Montpelier to Mumbai

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

If you haven’t had a chance yet, I’d encourage you to visit Montpelier to Mumbai, a trog (travel blog) written by a group of students from Vermont who’ve had the amazing opportunity to take part in the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India this week. The students have been blogging away describing their experiences at the meeting and in India in general, from the pleasure of drinking their first mango lassi to the human face of urban poverty in the developing world.
To me, this is the very essence of what blogging is about — giving people the chance to have a voice, no matter their age, background or ability. These young people are having the travel opportunity of a lifetime, and rather than keeping it to themselves, they’re taking the time to articulate the experience for their peers around the world — not to mention their teachers and families. I’m looking forward to reading their final thoughts on their trip, but it’ll be bittersweet, since it’s clear they’re having such an incredible experience.
So please visit Montpelier to Mumbai when you get a chance — I hope you enjoy their insights as much as I have…. -ac

The Doc That Roared

Tuesday, January 20th, 2004

It’s been amazing watching the media over the last 24 hours pounce on Howard Dean’s post-caucus speech to supporters in Iowa last night. For those of you who missed the video of the news clip, go find it, because I’m certain the following text won’t do it justice:
“You know something? Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin. We’re going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico…”
(imagine his voice growing more hoarse, more ballistic with each new state mentioned…)
“….We’re going to California! and Texas! and New York!, and we’re going to South Dakota! and Oregon! and Washington! and Michigan! And then we’re going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House!!!”
If Dean had left it at that, it might have just been written off as one of his more whimsically manic moments. But caught up in some sort of electoral ecstasy, he capped it off with a battle cry more appropriate for an extra on the set of Gladiator just before he was about to have a taste of Russell Crowe’s cold steel:
“Yaaaaaaaaaah!”
Or at least, that’s how the Washington Post transcribed it. The National Review — undoubtedly quite eager to encourage the good doctor to self-medicate — was less subtle and transcribed it as a YAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! while the Knight Ridder newspapers skipped the transcription altogether and simply referred to it as “a kind of primal scream.” CNN, in contrast, made no attempt to transcribe Dean’s battle cry, as if he simply moved to the next sentence of his speech.
Pundits on both the left and the right, of course, have no expectation that President Bush will attempt his own rebel yell tonight during the State of the Union address. And that contrast, I imagine, has some Dean fans worried, as can be seen in some of the feedback to the speech on the Blog for America website.
“Howard was obviously fatigued. Who let him get out there and make a fool of himself. He’s dug himself a huge hole for NH. Calm down Howard,” said one blog commenter, while another added, “I hate to say it, but the Gov looked downright scary tonight.” As of this writing, approximately 800 blog readers had commented on the speech — and many of them posted to the website before the clip was replayed over and over on the news networks.
By lunchtime today, Dr. Dean recognized the error of his ways and was telling supporters in Iowa that they’d be getting “”less red meat” in his speeches. For the sake of his campaign — and poor Tom Harkin, who looked mortified standing behind Dean during the speech — I hope he sticks to his new diet and doesn’t relapse into a rhetorical Atkins plan… -ac

Hard Drive Nightmares

Sunday, January 18th, 2004

With Susanne heading out of town this weekend, I decided to spend the weekend installing OS X Panther on my Mac. The installation itself was pretty straightforward, but then everything started going buggy on me – Netscape would crash, Explorer would crash, iTunes would crash — even the text editor would crash. To make matters worse, whenever I’d try to search for a file, the system would hang for five minutes and my hard drive would make a series of plaintive wails — not good, I thought.
Taking advantage of the 90 days of free tech support from Apple earned by my purchase of Panther, I gave them a call and described my plight. The tech support person told me that my hard drive might need to be re-initialized — erased clean, tabula rasa. So rather than visiting the farmer’s market this morning — a strict religious ritual for me every Sunday — I spent three hours backing up my entire computer onto two 60 gig external hard drives that Susanne and I had purchased for editing our thai boxing documentary. This took longer than it should have – the Finder started to crash, making it difficult for me to keep track of what I’d copied already and what I hadn’t.
By lunch time I was ready to re-install Panther. I stuck in the installation disk, kissed my mouse for good luck, and hit the start button. In a few minutes my entire computer – every article, every photo, every website I’d done in the last four years – was wiped clean from the internal hard drive. Hoping that lightning wouldn’t strike my backup drives in the meantime, I then tried to re-install Panther, but each time I tried, it didn’t work. I called tech support again, and this time they said I was out of luck. “Sounds like a hardware problem. Check your Yellow Pages for a local repair center or visit us at W-W-W….”
Refusing to give up, I went back to square one, pulling out several dusty CD sleeves out of storage to reinstall the operating system that came with my computer four years ago. That worked like a charm; emboldened, I decided to give Panther one more try. Finally, this time it worked.
Forty eight hours after my nightmare started, I got everything working again — new operating system, old files, all living in harmony. And just in time to watch the Patriots game, no less…. -ac

Andy’s Blog Now Powered by Moveable Type (Or, Why You Need to Update Your RSS Feed, Folks…)

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

Hi everyone… For those of you who are wondering why the heck my site looks so different today, it’s because I’ve switched from Blogger to Moveable Type as my blogging tool of choice. MT was a real pain in the butt to set up – I had to install it on my server, no small task for a non-techie like me – but now that it’s up and running, it should prove to be much more fun to use. For one thing, users can now publish comments on the site. Additionally, the RSS feed is a lot better than the one I was using with Blogger, so if you’re syndicating my site, please update the syndication to http://www.andycarvin.com/index.rdf and you’ll get a much better RSS feed.
I’m still having some technical problems with Moveable Type – for example, my permissions keep reverting to a setting that locks me out of the server. But hopefully I’ll get that solved soon. In the meantime, welcome to world of Moveable type…. -ac

A Belated Phlog Through the Balkans

Sunday, January 11th, 2004
Megalou Monastery
View of the Megalou Monastery in Meteora, Greece

I recently started going through my collections of photo CD-ROMs from various trips I’ve taken over the last five years, and suddenly realized that I’d gotten really lazy about posting them on the Web. Fortunately, I’ve managed to have my act together for recent trips like Dubai and Oman and my honeymoon in Bali, but there were at least half a dozen trips that never managed to get a single photo posted online. Shameful. So over the Christmas holidays I suddenly got a burst of energy and began the process and cataloging, editing and publishing these rather belated phlogs (photo blogs).
Today, I’ve wrapped up work on my photo blog for the southern Balkans. In March 2001, Susanne and I went to Greece so I could speak at a youth technology conference in Thessaloniki. Somehow we’d managed to forget to take a real vacation in 2000, so we used the conference as an excuse to go to Greece a little early so we could explore the northern part of the country, as well as the medieval Albanian town of Gjirokastra. Once the conference started, Susanne returned to the US; I was supposed to travel onward to Kosovo, but a spate of fighting broke out in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, shutting down my route to Kosovo. So instead I went to Istanbul for a few days and visited a local high school that was one of the first to make the Internet available to its students.
Now that I’ve got this phlog wrapped up and ready to go, it’s time to start work on a bigger project: a photogallery and travelogue of our November 2001 trip to Rajasthan, India. This trip was a much bigger endeavour: we took over 1000 photos over the course of two weeks. I also kept a brief diary that I’d intended to use as the basis for a much larger online travelogue. Unfortunately I never got my act together and I’ve forgotten much of the details that would have been included in it. Instead, I’m going to do my best and convert my diary notes into something that hopefully will at least be of passing interest to a few of you out there in cyberland. So stay tuned and I’ll let you know when the Rajasthan is ready; in the mean time, please visit my Southern Balkans Photo Diary and imagine yourself eating olives and spanikopita…. -ac