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Sunday, October 31, 2004
Ride to Leesburg—It was a beautiful, warm Fall day, somewhere in the high 70's (F). We took the recumbents out onto the W&OD Trail, packed with cyclists getting in one of the last rides of the season for many. We passed a few people and were passed by many others, mostly hotshot roadies. At one point we had a problem with a fender. We stopped to fix it and one of the Trail Patrol people passed, riding with a sqeecking chain and not saying a word to us. Usually they at least offer a "need help?" on the way past. Maybe we didn't look incompetent. We fixed the problem and rode on, passing the patrol person who was going fairly slow.

For some reason, many people really dislike being passed by a recumbent, much less by two recumbents, one ridden by a woman. The trail patrol guy sped up and hugged our wheels for a long distance, finally managing to pass us. We kept him in sight until we got to Herndon where he stopped, puffing and wheezing. I tried to look particularly fresh as we passed.

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McSweeney's Quarterly—Reading Issue No. 13, the cartoon issue edited by Chris Ware. There's some good work by modern cartoonists and some thoughtful essays. A lot of it is rather banal and mean-spirited, a sign of the age. The type is maddeningly small; it should have been larger than book-size.

In searching for a link for the Quarterly, I went to the McSweeney's Web site. Talk about maddening. The site has no navigation links at the top, and one, narrow, centered column of text. It took several minutes to find a way to find info about the quarterly. Maybe that's the point, to be as obscure as possible.

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Thursday, October 28, 2004
Bush's environmental record—It's very disappointing that Kerry has said so little about the Bush environmental record, probably the worst in modern U.S. history. I assume it's based on poll research that dictates which issues receive the most emphasis, or perhaps they think it will not appeal to the middle-of-the-road voters. It seems to mee like a major miscalculation on the part of the Kerry campaign.

The longest section in the book One Thousand Reasons: The Appalling Record of the Bush Presidency is on the environment. I'll pick a few reasons at random:
327. Bush air pollution plan weakens current law, threatens public health—The Bush administration's air pollution plan, misleadingly dubbed the "Clear Skies Initiative," was reintroduced in Congress. If enacted, the plan would weaken public health protections of the current Clean Air Act. It would delay and dilute cuts in power plants' sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollution compared to timely enforcement of current law. By allowing industry to make fewer reductions in toxic pollution over a much longer period of time than current law, critics say the plan would cost thousands of lives, intensify global warming and reward polluting industries that have been flouting the law for years. NRDC Thursday February 27, 2003
248. Environment: EPA admits clean water takes back seat to war on terrorism—Don't you know there's a war on? That is why the Environmental Protection Agency is no longer making it a priority to clean up the nation's rivers, streams and lakes, according to the agency's chief enforcer of the Clean Water Act. Testifying before a Senate environmental committee, G. Tracy Mehan III, EPA's assistant administrator for water, said efforts to combat terrorism and help the economy leave little resources to fight water pollution. NRDC Tuesday October 08, 2002

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Election Protection—Maybe there's hope. The Election Protection effort, a group dedicated to ensuring that everyone's right to vote is protected, has been so overwhelmed with volunteers that they have stopped accepting new applications.

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Media bias?— Here's an article in the DailyKos.com about “Balanced” coverage of the candidates. The Republicans lie and deceive while the Democrats tell the truth about the lies and deceit, and both sides are said to be using negative tactics.

This election could get ugly. I for one am not going to sit around and watch Republican goon squads intimidate voting officials like they did four years ago. I predict many will take to the streets if the same tactics are used again.

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Radiohead interview—Even though it's a little dated, this 2001 interview of Radiohead in the New Yorker is a good read. I read it earlier in one of the cast off New Yorkers that I found at the library. Since I just filled two missing works from my CD collection, "Kid A" and "Amnesciac", I enjoyed going back and reading the article again. I found the CD's at the CD Cellar in Leesburg. It's a shame that there are so few used CD stores in the area. The closest one that I know of is the other CD Cellar store 10 miles away in Falls Church.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004
Bicycle & Transit— is an excellent guide to linking bicycles with various modes of transit, using TEA-21 (now SAFETEA) funds. Maybe someday people in the U.S. will seriously consider cycling as an option, rather than as a fringe activity. Instead of driving to nearby transit, then driving to the health club less than a 1/4 mile from the transit station, then driving home, perhaps the light bulb will go on in people's heads and they will realize that cycling is cheaper, more environmentally sound, and healthier than driving. We would rather complain about the lack of adequate roads.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Shenandoah Fall Festival—Back from a long weekend in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. It's an annual tradition to ride the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival, formerly sponsored by Bike Virginia and now run by the City of Staunton (pronounced stan-ton not stawn-ton). It seems to be a very livable city, although there is very little evidence of the Mary Baldwin College student community. Perhaps because it's a Christian women's college explains the lack of those things I like about a college community; funky coffee shops and bookstores and the presence of laid-back college kids.

It was a fine weekend. There was a little rain during Saturday's ride and a strong wind Sunday, but the air was crystal clear and the views fanstastic. We had a good meal at the The Pullman Restaurant, situated in the old train station. At one point the lights of an oncoming freight train filled the dining hall as the train roared past. We returned via US Route 11 through the valley up to Virginia Route 55 back to Northern Virginia to avoid the bumper to bumper traffic on I-66 that occurs at the end of these colorful Fall weekends.

Discovered what looks like a very good restaurant, The Dining Room, in Staunton. There was a 45 minute wait on Friday, so we'll have to wait until our next trip south to check it out. Too bad it doesn't yet have a Web site.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Voter registration fraud—While googling for information on a voter fraud story in Nevada that I heard no NPR this evening, I came across this story about fraud in Oregon as well as Nevada.

The company involved, Voters’ Outreach America, is also involved in getting signatures for Nader petitions:
According to several sources, two of the contractors Sproul hired to oversee petition gathering for No Taxpayer Money For Politicians -- Aaron "A.J." James, who directs Voters' Outreach of America, and Diane Burns -- were also paid by Sproul to get as many signatures as possible for Nader.
&mdashIndy Media News, June 26, 2004

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How to help someone with a computer—Yes, it can be difficult to help a complete novice with the use of a computer, but we were all there once, and this guide offers some instructions for helping.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Search & Replace—Discovered a great little program for searching and replacing text in one or more files. I needed to convert the case of all the text in a column in a table. I tried using my HTML editor, a free program called 1stPage. It has a regular expression search and replace capability but there's almost no documentation about how to use the replace string. After much thrashing, I figured out a way to make it work, using the % sign and counting the number of characters before the search string regex. However, I couldn't figure out how to do anything with the replacement string, such as convert upper to lower case.

While searching for clues to the syntax I came across a great little program called Search & Replace. The program can be downloaded for free, although that version is severely crippled, allowing only 5 operations before disallowing any replacements. It's a steal for $25.

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Sunday, October 10, 2004
How to mangle the English language— Bush:
We all thought there was weapons there, Robin. My opponent thought there was weapons there. That's why he called him a grave threat. I wasn't happy when we found out there wasn't weapons, and we've got an intelligence group together to figure out why.

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Friday, October 08, 2004
Kerry ahead once again in Electoral College Predictor site—Due to some recent polls that show Kerry ahead by a slim margin in several states, he is ahead of Bush: Kerry - 280, Bush - 236. The really interesting comment on the site was that Salon.com claims that Bush had a hidden microphone during the first debate:
Salon.com reports that Bush had a radio receiver taped to his back during the first debate so he could receive messages via a tiny hearing-aid-like device in his ear.

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Finger Lakes Tandem Tour—Finished the Finger Lakes tour writeup, and the new server seems to be working OK. The writeup took a while; the text didn't take long since I packed my Dell PDA with a portable keyboard for recording notes each night. It was the design and layout that took some time, then selecting and placing all of the photos. I'm sure this will all be more automated in the future, but for now there was a lot of hand coding to be done.

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Thursday, October 07, 2004
New server—Spent about an hour moving files to a new server. Earlier this week when I received a bill from my ISP for a year's worth of hosting for restondigital.com, I pondered why I still only had the same measly 20MB of storage that I had three or so years ago. I'm paying the same price, $27/mon, and yet the cost of storage has plummeted. Upon asking I was told that yes, if I got the Bronze account I could get 175MB of storage for the same price, but since I have an old account, I only got 20MB. “Oh, you would like to change accounts? Well, it will require moving to a new server. We'll gladly charge you $50 to transfer all of your files”.

I shouldn't complain. I've had the same ISP for over 5 years, and they answer my calls every time. They answer email within minutes. I switched accounts, hence the need to transfer files. Then I discovered that the server-side includes that I use in many pages did not work after the switch. After I complained, they started working, but only because I was switched back to the old server. I'm sure it will all be worked out, but now I'm posting files to two servers.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Mt. St. Helens—It looks like there's lots of activity on Mt. St. Helens today, via the Mt. St. Helens webcam. It would be a thrill to be there to see, feel, hear, and smell the spectacle.

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Netflix Finally joined Netflix this weekend. I'm tired of browsing the meagre selections at the local Blockbuster and have wanted to view a few independent files that are hard to find. Joined on Saturday and DVDs shipped on Monday and arrived today. Here are the first three selections:

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco, 2002
The Stunt Man
City of God

Why aren't these films carried by Blockbuster. Well, Blockbuster lives up to it's name, carrying only those top several thousand films that are the most popular. Plus it takes a while for them to rotate their physical inventory. And yet there's money to be made in the many, many older files that only a few people want to rent. There is an excellent article on the profits to be made in distributing obscure content, The Long Tail, in Wired magazine. The long tail refers to the graph of demand for content. The blockbusters are the peak, and the demand for all the other content stretches out to form the long tail.

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Sunday, October 03, 2004
New York by bike - After a ride down to Shirlington on the W&OD Trail, I fired up my email program and read the daily New York Times headlines email. In today's edition there is a good article on bike commuting in New York, Spin City By Lydia Polgreen.

The trail was very crowded despite the fact that the Washington Redskins are playing today. It's encouraging that most trail users are not home watching tv on a glorious Fall day. We splurged on the way home, stopping at the Vienna Cold Stone Creamery store. Even the smallest portion of Vanilla ice cream has 400 calories. I shouldn't have looked at the Cold Stone Ice Cream calorie chart.

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Friday, October 01, 2004
A sample of some of the brilliant Bush repartee
‹blockheadquote›First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that.‹/blockheadquote›

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Emacs I'm still using Emacs for many nitty gritty editing tasks. It can't be beat for removing or adding chunks of text in a document using rectangle kill and rectangle yank (C-x r k, C-x r y). I use it often for writing HTML code, with it's powerful search and replace syntax. Powerful but obscure. After much thrashing, I finally figured out how to insert text before the first character of text in a file or to append it after the last character [RET is a simply hitting Enter, or as it is referred to by some of us dinosaurs, carriage return, or return for short, dating back to when one needed to return the carriage, on which a piece of paper was being typed, to the beginning of the line]. In this case HTML table tags are being inserted or appended:

To insert text before each line, use:
Mx query-replace:
  C-q C-j RET
  C-q C-j ‹tr›‹td› RET

To append text to the end of the line:
Mx query-replace:
  C-q C-j RET
  ‹/td›‹/tr› C-q C-j RET

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Kerry kicked some Bush butt Kerry did a great job in the debate last night. He looked presidential. He articulated his positions succinctly. Bush's responses were not well thought out. His folksiness came across as a lack of intelligence more than anything else. [It was interesting to watch “Fair and Balanced” Fox News “analysts”, when asked who won the debate, say with a straight face that both thought Bush had won.]

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