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Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Nov. 30 (overcast, 40's) was a good day for cycling. Rode downtown to visit the National Gallery. The works of the Dutch artist Gerard ter Borch were excellent. He is known for how well he could depict satin in oil, and his paintings shimmer with color and light. His domestic scenes were the best, including A Maid Milking a Cow in a Barn and The Grinder’s Family.
I mainly wanted to check out the show Six Centuries of Prints and Drawings: Recent Acquisitions. For some reason the show was disappointing. I think I was a little overwhelmed by the volume of work, spread out over 4 or 5 galleries, and I hurried through. Afterwards I was hard put to remember any outstanding works. I plan to return.
Monday, November 29, 2004
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Cycling in November—Today was a beautiful day for a ride. It was sunny, a little cool at around 50°, and dry. There were many people on the trail, but mostly the more serious riders. It seems that the average summer rider has decided that their season is over until spring. They need to discover cycling in November. There are not bugs, you don't need to drink copious amounts of fluids, and you don't sweat that much. I can't imagine sitting inside watching television on a day like this, although I suspect that many Redskins fans were doing just that.
I'd like to try to keep track of the days that are fit for cycling during this winter, just to let people who don't believe that one can cycle year round in northern Virginia know the facts.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Struggling with CSS—It's a gloomy, rainy day here in Northern Virginia, the ideal kind of weather to be inside struggling with CSS. I've got the book Cascading Style Sheets by Eric Meyer by my side. Unfortunately it's the first edition, written in 2000. It doesn't contain many complex layout examples, as there were not many modern browsers in widespread use at the time. The second edition which was published recently, has more info on positioning and layout. Maybe that's why I was able to purchase the first edition on Amazon so cheaply.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
This time last year—We are inundated with so much information and news that much of it gets lost after a few days. In the spirit of recapping old events, I plan to revist some of my old posts and provide an update. This time last year I was leaning toward supporting Kerry for president, ranting about rude motorists, and basking in the heat of a high speed Internet connection.
I'm still ranting; today I conducted my own mini pedestrian survey at a location where we are trying to get the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to improve safety for pedestrians walking to a nearby Park and Ride lot to catch a bus. When the main lot is full, bus passengers must park on the opposite side of the 4-lane road, then cross over to get to the stop. An earlier survey had shown only 25 pedestrians crossing, which doesn't warrant a change in the intersection. I knew that number was too low.
I arrived at the intersection at 7:45 a.m. and proceeded to count. Two hours later I had counted 42 crossing in the crosswalk in question. It turns out that this number nearly matches the count for one of the other crosswalks, which might make a difference in getting some action from VDOT; probably not. VDOT staff are very good at finding reasons why they can't do something rather than finding ways to make suggestions work. I also counted red-light runners: around 20 in the 2 hours, one of which almost wiped out 2 pedestrians starting to cross in the crosswalk. I also noticed that nearly as many pedestrians didn't cross in the crosswalk and took their chances further down the road, where they only had to contend with traffic from two directions instead of four at the intersection. They didn't get counted by VDOT.
The end is near; John Coltrane and Martha Stewart—What do John Coltrane and Martha Stewart have in common? Sad to say, Coltrane's version of My Favorite Things, the sappy song from the musical and movie The Sound of Music, is featured in a recent televised K-Mart commercial for the Martha Stewart line. I thought we had hit a low point when The Cure's Pictures of You was used for an HP commercial. Guess not.
Leaf blowers vs. rakes—I know I can rake leaves at least as fast as most people can herd them with their leaf blowers. It's sadly funny to watch teams of grounds workers or suburban homeowners very slowly trying to blow piles of leaves around lawns. They walk back and forth plowing a few inches at a time, carrying their blower engines on their backs, the blower whining away. The rake has been around for centuries and it works well, doesn't pollute, is very quiet, and is cheap. Why do people insist on using blowers? Are they afraid of getting a little exercise? Is it a status symbol? Is it just plain stupic? Yes. This man, who is trying to ban them in Minneapolis, seems to agree:
"A rake is such a simple answer to all of this," he said.
Latest telemarketing scheme—For some stupid reason I decided to answer the phone, even though caller ID showed that it was an “unknown Call”, usually a bad sign. The person on the other end started in on a spiel about conducting a marketing survey. I told him to take me off of his calling list. He said he was not using a list, that only applied to telemarketers. He was using a computer generated calling sequence. In other words, he says that it's OK to call and harass people if you claim not to be using a list. I repeated my request and when he continued to try to explain, I hung up. Just another one of those small annoyances we face each day (as I delete yet another spam entitled “Buy Vãlium Now”).
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Self Portrait a la Chuck Close—I've enjoyed some of the art of Chuck Close over the years. He uses the technique of drawing a grid over a photograph; drawing a grid on the drawing surface, usually at a different, larger scale; transferring the image from the photo to the drawing surface using the squares as reference. It's similar to the technique described by Leon Battista Alberti in his book Della Pittura (Of Painting) on the laws of perspective in 1435. In the book Alberti describes a frame of grids through which the artist views and transfers a scene. Alberti's Frame was the name of the most successful of the drawing devices invented during the fifteenth century.
I took a few digital self portrait photos. I selected the one I thought was best and read it into GIMP. GIMP provides a function for displaying a grid over an image, with spacing and color of the grid selectable by the user. I created a rather large grid, probably covering 1/2 square inch on the face. I then created a grid on a large piece of 18 x 24 inch paper and drew a grid of the same number of rows and columns. I've spent about 4 hours drawing the image, which looks surprisingly lifelike. Is this cheating? Everything was drawn freehand, which should count for something. It's a technique used by many artists, but yes, it does feel a little like “cheating” If I every finish the drawing and decide to display it, perhaps I'll leave the grid visible: yes I cheated, and here's how.
Recent Finds—I love to purchase books and CD's. I hate to spend retail prices for these products, especially for an unknown artist or author. I prefer to find a used book or CD, check it out and if I like it, I usually end up purchasing multiple products by the same artist/author. Here is a list of recent finds at local libraries:
How to use a crosswalk (in Virginia)—While talking to a man from The Netherlands, I mentioned how little respect cyclists in this country get. He agreed, saying that in his country, if there is an accident between a motorist and a cyclist or pedestrian, the motorist is thought to be at fault. Guilty unless proven innocent. As a consequence, motorists are generally very careful in the presence of cyclists and pedestrians. I've heard the same is true in Germany.
In Virginia, motorists aren't even required to stop for someone in a crosswalk. They must “yield”, which means they should slow down, swerve to avoid, and if all else fails, yield (or, as is often the case, hit them). Here are my tips for getting across the street at a crosswalk:
See also “How to Not Get Hit by Cars” at Bicyclesafe.com.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Cycling in Jacksonville—I'm back from a short trip to the Jacksonville area. It was an opportunity to spend time with my mother and to do some cycling, mainly to and from the airport. For a description of the trip from the airport to Atlantic Beach, see my entry in George Farnsworth's Travel with Bicycles Web site. The Florida Department of Transportation has enough sense to put paved shoulders on their roads, which make excellent bike lanes.
While searching for George's site I happened across his son George's page at the University of Houston-Downtown site. We attended the University of Virginia together in 1991-1992. Looks like George actually put the education to good use.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Pharmacists refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions—
Some pharmacists...refuse on moral grounds to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. And states from Rhode Island to Washington have proposed laws that would protect such decisions.
I guess cigarettes are OK, since they provide a great deal of income for many pharmacists.
Monday, November 08, 2004
Blog as bookmark—Lately many of my Web log entries have been about sites that I like and want to be able to reference in the future. I could create a bookmark, but I rarely use bookmarks. I use my links page for the important sites that I plan to visit more than once. The bookmark links sit for months unused, and when I do check them, the titles usually are useless and I've forgotten the context. Putting them in the blog is a way to revisit them again in the future.
Having said that, I rarely revisit old entries. The ones I do revisit are those created within the recent past and I want to find that link that I liked at the time. This time last year I was pissed that CBS had pulled the Reagan docudrama after the right wing zealots pitched a fit. Maybe it's good that I don't revisit these older entries; it's bad for the blood pressure.
Faces of the NYC Marathon—kottke points to an article in The Morning News that documents the faces of runners after finishing the NYC Marathon. They're good photos taken by Rion Nakaya, an interactive designer and street photographer. She's got a very nice site. She uses the Canon Digital Rebel that I've had my eye on for a while. It would be nice to have a really good camera for once in my life, although the old Minolta SRT 101 I purchased over 30 years ago was a very good camera.
Many of Rion's photos are black and white. She says that she uses many of the techniques referenced on this b&w conversion page to convert from color to b&w.
Plan, Do, Study (Check), Act—The Daily Kos writes about this phase of the post-election, in which all parties are proposing their theories about why the Democrats lost, before conventional wisdom sets in. He also mentions the concept of Quality Improvement regarding how we can learn from what happened to avoid repeating mistakes. The concept of Quality Improvement was developed by statistician Edward Deming and taught to the Japanese after World War II. The basic tenants are Plan, Do, Study (Check), Act. We are currently in the Study cycle to allow the next stage, Act, to be more effective. As opposed to the cycle suggested by others, Plan, Do, Study, move to Europe.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Sad Day in America—It's depressing to realize that most voters in the U.S. agree that the war in Iraq is being handled appropriately, that preemptive wars are OK, that there is no global warming problem, that tax cuts for the wealthy are a good thing, and on and on. It's really depressing to think that we'll have to watch Bush, who now thinks he has a mandate, wreak havoc in the world. I fear for the repercussions, both here and abroad. I guess we get what we deserve, an inarticulate cowboy.
I hope the people who got involved in the campaign don't slink away, that they stay involved to fight the forces of evil. It will be hard, but like the DailyKos says, “Don't Mourn, Organize”.
After a decent interval of licking our wounds and pondering what might have been and where we went wrong, we need to spit out our despair and return united - to battling those who have for the moment out maneuvered us. Otherwise, we might just as well lie down in the street and let them flatten us with their schemes.
The one main criticism that I have of the Kerry campaign was the fact that there was almost no mention of environmental issues. Simply telling the truth would have been enough, but I sense that Kerry's handlers thought that this was a left-wing liberal issue. It's not; nearly everyone cares about the environment, and the damage done by Bush should have been told loud and clear.
Blogger seems to be overrun today. I tried to post earlier and there was no response. It seems like ever since the service was purchased by Google, there are times when it is really slow. One would think that Google of all companies would be able to provide the needed horsepower.
Speaking of Blogger, it's hilarious that the Blogger spell checker doesn't know how to spell Blogger or Google (googol?).
Monday, November 01, 2004
Niterider—Having a strong night light can be so liberating. On the commute home tonight there were a couple of fellow night riders, but mostly I had the trail to myself. It's a great feeling, crusing along at night under the stars. I use the Niterider Trail Rat, a great light with a rechargeable battery with about a 2+ hour burn time.