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August 2004 Archives

August 1, 2004

Surowiecki's New Book

NPR's Weekend Edition program ran a great feature yesterday on Jim Surowiecki's new book, The Wisdom Of The Crowd. Jim is a Choate alum and one-time colleague in the History Department. He currently is the business writer for The New Yorker. His book has gotten great reviews. Click here to listen to the story.

August 2, 2004

Let The Word Go Forth

Apple's iTunes Music Store has posted all the major speeches from last week's Democratic National Convention as free downloads. Get 'em while you can!

August 3, 2004

Crunching Code

Spent the morning being (mostly) productive, converting all of my current syllabi to CSS web pages. (See earlier post about CSS if you don't know what it is.) Linking each syllabus to the CSS template I created was easy. What was tedious was removing all the bits of junky HTML tags that have accumulated throughout these documents over the past half dozen years. But now that this is done, future universal updates to the layout and the look of these syllabi will be a breeze.

Crunching More Code

Okay, countless throngs of blog readers: I have just upgraded this site so that my blog entries now display their category (each of my entries was assigned a category when I wrote it, but I just figured out how to show that). Those of you engaged in scholarly research on this page will be delighted to learn that you can search by category, too.

August 4, 2004

Proud Papa

It looks like this blog is a father now. Well, sorta. Scott Harris was one of my students this summer and has started a political blog that mentions this site as an inspiration. Nice to know someone is reading out there in the blogosphere. Except he writes a lot more there than I do here, which will make me look bad if he keeps up the pace. Anyway his site is well worth checking out here, as is one of the sources on electoral college projections he links to, which is here.

Behind The Scenes At The Ranch

Check this out if you want to watch Will Ferrell as "W" on the set of his most recent campaign commercial. This parody was assembled by America Coming Together.

Try This

Go to Google.com and type in "miserable failure" and see what pops up first.

August 5, 2004

The Boss Speaks

Check out this piece in the Op-Ed section of today's New York Times:

Chords for Change

by Bruce Springsteen

A nation's artists and musicians have a particular place in its social and political life. Over the years I've tried to think long and hard about what it means to be American: about the distinctive identity and position we have in the world, and how that position is best carried. I've tried to write songs that speak to our pride and criticize our failures.

These questions are at the heart of this election: who we are, what we stand for, why we fight. Personally, for the last 25 years I have always stayed one step away from partisan politics. Instead, I have been partisan about a set of ideals: economic justice, civil rights, a humane foreign policy, freedom and a decent life for all of our citizens. This year, however, for many of us the stakes have risen too high to sit this election out.

Through my work, I've always tried to ask hard questions. Why is it that the wealthiest nation in the world finds it so hard to keep its promise and faith with its weakest citizens? Why do we continue to find it so difficult to see beyond the veil of race? How do we conduct ourselves during difficult times without killing the things we hold dear? Why does the fulfillment of our promise as a people always seem to be just within grasp yet forever out of reach?

I don't think John Kerry and John Edwards have all the answers. I do believe they are sincerely interested in asking the right questions and working their way toward honest solutions. They understand that we need an administration that places a priority on fairness, curiosity, openness, humility, concern for all America's citizens, courage and faith.

People have different notions of these values, and they live them out in different ways. I've tried to sing about some of them in my songs. But I have my own ideas about what they mean, too. That is why I plan to join with many fellow artists, including the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, Jurassic 5, James Taylor and Jackson Browne, in touring the country this October. We will be performing under the umbrella of a new group called Vote for Change. Our goal is to change the direction of the government and change the current administration come November.

Like many others, in the aftermath of 9/11, I felt the country's unity. I don't remember anything quite like it. I supported the decision to enter Afghanistan and I hoped that the seriousness of the times would bring forth strength, humility and wisdom in our leaders. Instead, we dived headlong into an unnecessary war in Iraq, offering up the lives of our young men and women under circumstances that are now discredited. We ran record deficits, while simultaneously cutting and squeezing services like afterschool programs. We granted tax cuts to the richest 1 percent (corporate bigwigs, well-to-do guitar players), increasing the division of wealth that threatens to destroy our social contract with one another and render mute the promise of "one nation indivisible."

It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities - respect for others, honesty about ourselves, faith in our ideals - that we come to life in God's eyes. It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government has strayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting.

Well said.

Quick Takes

Kudos to Republican John McCain for expressing his disgust with the ads set to run in a handful of swing states and paid for by "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth," a group of Vietnam vets who maintain that John Kerry's record as a war hero is a fraud. (Of course none of the members of this group served directly with Kerry; the five surviving colleagues from his swift boat assignment have all endorsed the Massachusetts senator. Moreover, most of the funding for the ads comes not from contemporaries of Kerry's in Vietam but from established GOP activists.) McCain blasted the ads as "dishonest and dishonorable."

Though the post-convention playbook for the Republicans has been to question Kerry's supposedly less-than-productive record as a U.S. Senator, Dick Cheney passed a grand total of TWO bills into law during his eleven years in Congress (in contrast to Kerry's 57). And even don't get me started on George W. Bush's "accomplishments" before January 2001.

And finally, in the From The Horse's Mouth Department, our president offered these words earlier today while signing a defense appropriations bill: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

August 6, 2004

Ripping Music From A DVD

Having converted a good chunk of my CD collection to digital files that I can play it on a computer or my iPod, I struggled to figure out the best way to convert music that I own in DVD format (usually concert films). The solution is a handy piece of software called Audio Hijack Pro, available from rogueamoeba.com. This Mac software enables you to "hijack" audio output from any application on your computer (such as your DVD player) or via the computer's audio input. It also allows you to save any audio content played with streaming technology. And the recently released version 2.0 of Audio Hijack Pro allows you to save files in a number of formats (MP3, AAC, ALAC, or AIFF) and even imports them right into iTunes! A download well worth the $32 fee.

August 7, 2004

Polling Numbers Confusion

For those wondering why the poll results in the presidential election horse race seem to be all over the place in recent weeks, there is a provocative analysis posted online here on the Slate.com site. Check it out.

My own take is that the only presidential poll numbers that really add up to anything substantial are based on electoral math: that is, those that survey on a state-by-state basis with an eye to determining the projected outcome in the Electoral College.

August 8, 2004

A/V Club

My major accomplishment of the day was hoisting a 35" television--which has been sitting dormant since I got a new HD widescreen monitor in January--onto the top of a dresser in my bedroom. That sucker was HEAVY; it took three major attempts to get the thing up there and I am still sore from it. Perhaps even more amazing was that I got a universal controller to work on the thing, even though I had lost the programming instructions. I've since hooked up a VCR and DVD player so that I now have a real comfortable alternative to the living room.

August 9, 2004

Happy Anniversary

At midnight last night (this morning?) C-Span ran Richard Nixon's resignation speech, originally broadcast August 8, 1974 (Nixon resigned at noon on the 9th). I remember it well, as it was my birthday and my dad told me this was the best possible present I could ever hope for!

August 10, 2004

What Makes A Good Runner

A thoughtful piece in today's New York Times on why some are naturally disposed to be better distance runners than others. Click here (registration required).

August 11, 2004

Required Reading For Red Sox Fans


Point your browser here to find out why the Yankees always win; it ain't about just the money, as Chris Smith argues in New York magazine.

August 12, 2004

Banged Up

I've been real good about my exercise regimen in recent weeks, with a string of uninterrupted daily workouts. My runs, for instance, have got to be at least a mile long for them to count. But I reluctantly took a day off in light of a very sore back, and it's made me itchy all day long. The effects of a positive addiction, I guess. I probably strained my back from a combination of swimming pool hijinks with a half-dozen kids under the age of ten the other day and the cumulative effect of banging out dozens of laps on the hard surface of the indoor track in the Johnson Athletic Center. My knees feel the pounding, too, so I concluded I had better take it easy today, especially with a 14-hour flight just two days away. Hopefully this day of rest will have me ready to resume my training tomorrow. My goal is to stay on softer surfaces as much as possible when running.

August 13, 2004

Adventures With The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

Today's New York Post was mistakenly delivered to my doorstep this morning. (Being a media omnivore, I usually receive The New York Times and USA Today through home delivery.) Strangely, this followed an evening in which I subjected myself to a couple of hours of syndicated right-wing radio hosts, just to see how the other half is living. Of course, the McGreevey story was red meat for this morning's Post cover and for the pundits on the airwaves last night and again today. Having watched the documentary Outfoxed a couple weeks back, it really is obvious that there is an industry thriving out there by bashing Kerry and the Democrats and turning a blind eye to the shortcomings of our current administration. Of course Hilary Clinton was lambasted for referring to the "vast right-wing conspiracy" in the wake of the Monicagate revelations, but just because her husband initially misled her about his adultery doesn't mean she was wrong about the rabid right-wing elements of the media in America.

Ducking the Queue

The wonders of e-ticketing allowed me to print my own boarding pass 24 hours before my flight for Tokyo leaves New York City. Hopefully this will mean a line-free experience at Kennedy Airport tomorrow!

August 14, 2004

I Love This T-Shirt


This is pretty clever. I saw it on a guy in the mall about a month ago. You can order the above logo on a T-shirt of your very own by clicking here.

August 15, 2004

Tokyo Or Bust

Well I arrived in Japan after 13+ hours on a plane. My experience at JFK Airport was as painless as I had hoped, what with Internet check-in in advance; it was virtually line-free!

A few quick first impressions before my jet-lagged body crashes:

Arriving in August, it strikes me that it's 59 years almost to the date that Japan surrendered to the U.S. to end the Pacific War. The Japanese remain perfectly friendly toward their one-time American conquerers, however.

Good ol' American cultural imperialism was certainly in evidence on the train ride from Narita Airport: along the way into the city, amidst the rice paddies I saw The Sports Authority, am/pm, Toys "R" Us, and of course the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Watching baseball and the Olympics on Japanese television is fun, even if I have no idea what is going on in the commentary. Sport really is a universal language, though. Last time I was here in 1998, I saw the Nagano Winter Games--both in person and on TV--so I guess that makes me a veteran of such spectating.

Hoisted By His Own Petard

Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" today is very funny, though the humor is not of Trudeau's creation this time. Check it out here.

August 16, 2004

Tokyo By Night

Wandering through the streets of Tokyo, I felt like I was in a cross between Times Square and the set of Blade Runner. One notable change since I was last here six years ago: apparently you can no longer buy beer from vending machines on the street. Perhaps it's the high school teacher in me, but I always found such easy availability of alcohol to be asking for trouble.

August 17, 2004


Spent the day poking aroud Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Kamakura, a seaside village not far from Tokyo that was an ancient capital of Japan. I did a LOT of walking today and treated myself to dinner at an Outback Steakhouse in Shibuya before collapsing in a tub back at my hotel.

August 18, 2004

My Hotel Room

Some nice features in my hotel room here in Tokyo:

There is a speaker in the bathroom that carries the audio feed from the television. So I can listen to CNN while enjoying a bath or brushing my teeth.

As is the case in many hotel bathrooms, there is a wall-to-wall mirror above the vanity sink, across from the bathtub. What I noticed here is that after a shower, when the mirror is all fogged up, there is a rectangle just above the sink that is somehow fog-free, just where you would want to look for shaving and such. Very cool.

Broadband Internet access in every room. Hence my being able to post this.

August 19, 2004

A Sushi Lover's Paradise

While exploring Kyoto today, I found the restaurant I had stumbled on in 1998, Musashi. This place is basically a horseshoe-shaped counter with a conveyer belt running around above, which ferries all manner of sushi, so it was easy to pick off just the things I wanted as they came by. And it's about as cheap as you can find for good sushi; the bill is tabulated by totaling the number of plates at the end of the meal; my lunch cost about 1,300 yen--around twelve bucks--and I had my fill of sushi.

Amendment 36

In a development that could potentially determine the outcome of the electoral votes in this fall's presidential stakes, Colorado has a very interesting referendum coming up; click here for details

August 20, 2004


I visited Nara, one of Japan's earliest capitals, and site of Kasuga Taisha--a beautiful Shinto shrine--and Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple housing the Daibatsu (a very famous 53-feet-high bronze statue of Buddha). At the Shinto site, I had my fortune told via omikuji, based on the stick I drew out of a canister, only to find the slip of paper with my fortune on it was labeled "Misfortune." Figuring I'd have better luck with the Buddhists, I tried again later in the day at Todai-ji, but the second slip of paper was headlined (even more harshly) "Bad Luck." Good thing I don't put much stock in that sort of thing, or it might have ruined my day.

August 21, 2004


I am struck by how good public transportation is in other countries. I have been using a a rail pass in Japan this week, which enables me to travel anywhere in the country via shinksansen, the bullet trains, as well as around Tokyo. As I observed while touring in France and the U.K. in June, in countries that care about public transport, trains are punctual, efficient, clean, and convenient. And unlike my stay in Paris, my hotels in both Tokyo and Kyoto have been mere steps away from the train station, which has minimized the need to lug my luggage through the city--a factor that contributed to my missing my Eurostar train back to Paris (though it was easy enough to take the next departure, it turned out).

August 22, 2004

Land of the Rising Sun

I've been given a deluxe insider's view of Tokyo the past day and a half, courtesy of 1992 Choate grad Yasuo Hinoki and his fiancee Aki. Had my first samplng of shabu shabu at lunch today (it's what I would call beef fondue!).

August 23, 2004

I'm Back

As Frank Sinatra once sang, "It's very nice to go trav'ling/But it's oh so nice to come home." Especially after a 12-hour flight!

August 25, 2004

A Good Night's Sleep

My room at The American Club resort hotel out here in Wisconsin may have the best bed I have ever slept on. It's a king-sized bed with a mattress that has the perfect balance between firmness and softness, tons of pillows, and really comfortable sheets.

August 26, 2004

A Good Walk Spoiled

. . . is what Mark Twain called the sport of golf. I played miserably on one of the country's best courses out in Kohler, Wisconsin. A bad round of golf is far worse than not playing at all.

August 27, 2004

Man In A Suitcase

. . . was the title of an old Police song, one that captures my mood pretty well right now. After my Japan adventure, I spent the last couple of nights in the Midwest and have a pair of nights in the Grand Hyatt in New York ahead of me. The good news is, I think I have gotten over my jet lag.

August 28, 2004

Police State?

I took a train from New Haven to New York City today to attend the U. S. Tennis Association's coaches conference in conjunction with the U. S. Open. From the time I arrived in Union Station in New Haven, I was struck by the presence of so much law enforcement--no doubt in light of the upcoming political convention in New York. There were local police, state troopers, and soldiers with machine guns patrolling the station and the train ride as well. And Grand Central Station had a similar presence. The streets of New York didn't have the military presence but there were a LOT of boys in blue on display.

August 29, 2004

It's A Helluva Town

There's a buzz in the air in the Big Apple. The GOP National Convention is descending on the city just as U.S. Open tennis is getting underway.

I walked through Times Square tonight. Protestors were out in force all over the place, as were New York's finest. (I haven't seen so many police in Times Square since I last spent New Year's Eve there.)

About August 2004

This page contains all entries posted to As Far As You Know in August 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2004 is the previous archive.

September 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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