Monday, November 24, 2008

First Snow

The first snow on my roof garden is always worth a picture. I don't have to feel guilty that I haven't done watering or weeding. The temptation to build a snowman is pretty great, but seems somehow frivolous. Maybe Cordelia will come round and we will build one together.

I bought carrots specially.

Free Speech in America

My brother, who is a producer for NPR with a distinguished pedigree, found that a "lewd text" was discovered-- and promptly excised-- from his biography.
The offending passage was "Summa Cum Laude".

I am just idly wondering just who found that offensive or titillating.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ubuntu Linux Rocks!

Don't worry, this is not going to become a Geek Blog...
I have been doing computer stuff all day, and running back and forth between the laptop and the desk computer-- and about a third to a half of the things I was doing had to do with trying to keep Windows running clean. Update the virus programs, uninstall crud that had gotten into my program list without my knowledge, try to figure out why the machine was running even slower than usual..

Then, trying to upload some photos to Facebook, and things came to a standstill. In desperation, I shut down Windows and booted into Ubuntu.

Everything works at least twice as fast. No firewall, no antivirus program. And the Ubuntu system is free.

Once the programs are installed (and they are free as well), using them is intuitive and easy. You don't need any special knowledge to use the various applications (OK, I admit that if you have to mess with the internal workings of the operating system it can get a bit geekier... but on the other hand you don't have to do it as often as with Windows). There is no Internet Explorer, but there is the far superior Opera and its close rival Firefox. The Open Office package does everything that MS Office (Word, Excel, etc) can do, just (mostly) better. You have native versions of Skype, Picasa, Google Earth, VLC (for watching movies). Email works wonderfully and you don't have to have programs running to check the attachments for viruses.

What do I miss from my Windows environment? Pincipally, my beloved ACDSee photo viewer, and various music composition programs, and Photoshop.....but there are Linux alternatives, perhaps not as advanced yet, but perfectly useable.

I don't miss Bill Gates and co breathing down my neck, trying to think of ways to get me to buy something else. Building booby traps into their software so I have to buy the newer versions. Deliberately designing obsolescence into the applications so they cannot be used after a couple of years.

And I like the Ubuntu desktop background, it is calming and somehow human.

End of rant, I promise.

OH, but did I mention, IT IS ALL FREE!

New Beginnings

My latest New Yorker--the election issue-- has a lovely cover picture. It somehow captures the essence of what we are all feeling now, a sense that there will be changes, but there is some anxiety mixed in.
I wonder what the cover would have looked like if McCain had won? (I am assuming they had an alternate cover ready)

Winter has arrived here with a vengeance... in just one day all the leaves got scoured from the trees and the wind brought bitter cold. Makes me want to curl up in bed for most of the day.

Spent last evening downing a bottle of nice Riesling with one of my new lodgers, a very nice young American clarinetist whom I will call Dan, who is living here because his wife decided that she doesn't want him any more. It is a pity, because they were a cute couple.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


@jeffrey, who wrote a comment on one of my entries: Thanks for taking the time to respond to my humble blog!
Just wanted to clarify a couple of things:
First, I don't actually belong to any political party. I believe that the office of President is SO important that I think we should vote for the person rather than the party for this office.
You accuse me of pissing on the President... well, I guess I just have a different definition of pissing than you do. I do indeed feel that GWB worried and worked for 8 years; at the same time, I feel his leadership was misguided --and the polls indicate that 75% of Americans agree with me (although I reserve the right to think differently than a majority, which is why I respect your right to disagree with my views).
In my (humble) opinion, after 9/11 he should have persued the terrorists as the crazy criminals they were, and not have punished a whole region. Afghanistan has always been a country well able to resist foreign influence and would-be regime-changers: look at how long the Russians tried, and before them the British, who sent army after army into Afghanistan over a period of 30 years in the 19th century, with similar results to what we have now: Kabul could be forcibly tamed, but in the countryside the people have been ruling themselves in their own way for millenia and I suspect they will prevail in the long run. Moreover it is dangerous, I feel, to treat them as proxies.
What everyone seems to forget is that the 9/11 bombers all came from Saudia Arabia and their expressed justifications had to do with grievances with the Saudi regime, so why didn’t Bush address the quest for true democracy in Saudi Arabia rather than an arguably more democratic form of government in Afghanistan?
Could it just have to do with his lifelong connections with the Saudi royal family? (Just thinking aloud here.)
I do respect the President by nature of his office, but I think we all have the right... no, the DUTY to watch the actions of our President and try to make sure that he is making farsighted judgements.
You mention the surge in Iraq, and that the insurgency has been defeated. This is open to interpretation, as shown by the fact that the Iraqi government is desperate for a strong, long-term presence in Iraq for American forces, and by continuing news stories — albeit pushed aside by election news— like the one this morning mentioning suicide bombings yesterday that killed at least 8 people near Baghdad.
Yes I agree with you that GWB showed courage and command during difficult times. But Hitler also showed those qualities and I think you will agree with me that that didn’t make his leadership something to emulate.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My Head Hurts!

Didn't go to Brussels in the end... it seemed like too much of a hassle for a couple of hours in the town.
Desperately need to practice for a concert next week, and it is not going well. My apartment is full of homeless musicians, and the girl upstairs can play faster than me, damn it.
ON the bright side, my windows got cleaned day before yesterday (some of them for the first time in about a quarter of a century) and my placid POlish cleaning lady was here this morning so the place has at least a hint of spic and span.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Avoidance Therapy

I should be practicing for a concert I have at the Hochschule next week. I should be doing my long overdue taxes. I should be sorting out my life.
Instead I am reading blogs and catching up on my ironing, and considering making a quick trip to Brussels tomorrow to get my fix of Art Nouveau buildings and Belgian beer at my favorite Brussels restaurant with the delicious name: De Ultieme Hallucinatie.

I have no self-discipline.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Pity poor George

Poor George. He had to make a statement on the election, and it was through clenched teeth that he acknowledged a Democratic victory.
He spent much more time talking about McCain than Obama, but indicated that he was looking forward to having Barack stop by so he could tell him how to run the country.
You could tell that it was horribly agonizing to have to make a speech without using the word "terrorism". (He came close though, when he said that the government's main job was to "protect its people")
Bush said that he and his family will be leaving the White House with many cherished memories. But of what? I wonder... What event in those 8 years can he remember with pride? He has squandered the resources of America in every way he could and set his own party back years. As Colin Powell remarked today, the Republicans are going to have to go through a period of reflection on what their values and goals should be.

But hey, there's hope! Sarah Palin this morning didn't rule out running in 2012!!

Yipeee!!! I can Fly the Flag again!

For many years, an American flag was our upstairs bedroom window. 

After the Iraq invasion, I took it down. 

Now I can put it up again.

(Assuming I can find it, that is)

Went to my daughter's house last night and we made hamburgers and drank Coke in honor of the election. 

When I got home about 11, turned on the TV and sat down armed with a bag of candy corn, a package of Cheetos, and a fifth of bourbon. Can't get more American than that.

Realized after an hour and a half that results were not going to come instantly, and I do have teaching and a performance at the opera today, so I went to bed. Set the alarm to 6:30, heard the news and said: "Yipee!!" in my best American accent.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fox News: Gotta love those Guys!

The mega-important American election just hours away, genocide in the Congo, oil prices up, the economy in tatters, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan, and our major news network, Fox News, (the cable channel with the most regular listeners in the US) has this as their main world headline:


Gay Pledge for Kids

Card handed out to kindergartners asks them to sign agreement saying they'll help fight homophobia

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