25 January 2009

Guilt/Pleasure, 2009 Edition

It's back! Burn Notice, is back! I wrote about my affection for this show back in August 2007, and through the Summer 2008 "season," that only grew. And now we get a winter "season," too.

Fans, rejoice!

18 January 2009

DC, Then & Now

In his column in today’s New York Times, Frank Rich looks back to his childhood in Washington, DC, and even mentions his attendance at Woodrow Wilson High School, which was also my high school. But Rich describes an environment that was the opposite (and precursor) to the one I knew: in my time—after desegregation, and in the era of Marion Berry—white (to say nothing of Jewish) kids were the minority population at Wilson.

I cannot speak to what Wilson is like these days; I’m too far removed. I can say that the new schools chancellor in Washington, Michelle Rhee, would certainly have been welcome when I was growing up. While Wilson was generally well-run (under the firm hand of then-principal Michael Durso), the impact of the mess within the broader school system was evident. One year, our English teacher missed about a quarter of the school year—but no amount of action by motivated parents (some of whom were lawyers) could dislodge her from her post, in the face of the intransigent teachers union. So the teacher kept her job, and we the the students suffered. In my senior year of high school, our island of (relative) calm was shattered by the first shooting of its kind to come across the transom. That seemed to me the beginning of the end.

The DC that Frank Rich grew up in has changed, but many things remain. Rich describes a place that is now and was then very segregated, such that growing up in the northwest part of Washington was and is like living in a different place altogether.

Obama’s election and soon-to-be inauguration is stunning, nearly as thrilling for me imagine as it is for Rich. Whether Obama’s arrival in the White House can change the nature of the capital city is an interesting question indeed. Entrenched DC politics, and out-of-date mindsets, may prove harder to conquer than the current financial crisis, but one can hope.

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15 January 2009

January Miscellany III

I can admit this because, ridiculous though it is, it works: a few weeks ago, we bought the Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar.

It was late at night, we were tired and watching TV. There was an ad. We egged each other on, and the next thing we knew, we'd ordered it. After hanging up the phone, we wondered whether we'd just spent a bunch of money ($49.99 when all was said and done) on something that wouldn't work.

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover: it really does work! And it's basically small enough that even in an NYC apartment, we have room to stash it.

For anyone interested, though, it's now available via Amazon, which might be an easier place to order from, since the phone ordering process forces you to say NO to all sorts of other options (like monthly services) you probably won't want.

(Oh, and I'm up to five consecutive pull-ups now. How 'bout you?)

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13 January 2009

January Miscellany II

If you’re a conscious adult over the age of 18, you’re probably aware that the print media industry is in deep trouble, and magazines face as many challenges as newspapers.

Which raises a question I have long wanted to ask: why, in an age of “just in time” everything, an era when you can order something on the web and have it delivered to your door the next day (if not earlier), when such a mind-boggling array of databases are linked together to bring mountains of junk mail to my inbox on a daily basis …

… Why does it still take most magazines six to eight weeks to "process" a subscription? Seriously. Even if you do the sign-up on the web, you get a note telling you that it’ll take that long for your first issue to arrive. Hunh? It’s not like I don’t know the current month's magazines are printed already. What’s the hold-up?!

No wonder that industry is in such trouble. Readers are using the internet, while publishers are still relying on the Pony Express.

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11 January 2009

January Miscellany I

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my new hero, Bruce Schneier, and the continuing farce of “security theater.” For anyone interested in this subject, boingboing.net did an interview with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff on the subject in mid-December. [Hat tip to Economist.com’s Gulliver blog.]

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