august 2002

I swear, at work yesterday I was thinking of something good to write about, but by the time I got home it was gone.

I have long been interested in the many and varied types of Jesus fish, but the one that holds the most fascination for me is one of the oldest: the Darwin fish, which evolved (pun kinda intended) in response the original Christian fish symbol (which often features the word "Jesus" in the body, hence the name). The Darwin fish, for those of you who don't know, takes the simple Jesus fish shape, sticks a couple of legs on it, and puts the word "Darwin" in the body of the fish. I know that most people who display this symbol are using it as a rebuttal of the Jesus fish, proclaiming science to be the one truth over Christianity's concept of truth (and the Christians, of course, have their own rebuttal, in the form of a giant Truth fish eating a smaller Darwin fish), but for me, the Darwin fish holds a unique duality.

The Darwin fish can either be seen as a declaration of scientific rationality over religious faith as I just described, or as a proclamation by scientifically-minded Christians that Darwin's theories (and, it is implied, science in general) and belief in god are not to be held in opposition to one another, but rather compliment and even reinforce one another. I fall into this second camp myself; I have a strong belief in my faith, and nothing strengthens my belief more than the pure beauty and rational organization of the world around me. I went to a high school that focused on science and math, but the suggestion that rational, abstract thought and a belief in god can't go together is as absurd to me as trying to conceive of a universe without life. Some of my recent favorite books include Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe", which gives a layman's perspective on string theory and all of its intricacies, and John McPhee's "Annals of the Former World", which is a compilation of books about geologic theories (most people don't realize that the theory of "deep time" that makes the theory of evolution possible was developed by geologists 40 years before Darwin published his historic ideas; indeed, Darwin carried a book which detailed the deep time theory with him on the HMS Beagle).

Anyway, what I'm leading up to is that when I see people with a Darwin fish on their car or wearing a Darwin fish t-shirt, I'm always curious to ask them what their interpretation of the symbol is. I haven't gotten that opportunity too often, but a couple of days ago as I went to help a coworker retrieve some stuff from her car, I noticed that she had a Darwin fish on the back and asked her about it. Her response was basically that, as a biology major, she believed in the theory of evolution, and didn't really care much for religion, so her use of the symbol was the first interpretation, a declaration that in the battle between religion and science, she is aligning herself with the scientific camp.

Which was not especially surprising, since I think that's what a lot of people are saying when they slap a Darwin fish on the back of their car. But it's really sad to me how many people think that these two perspectives on the universe have to be opposed to one another, and that they have to choose to believe in one at the expense of the other. There is a similar conflict in people who don't understand the difference between belief in god (a spiritual relationship with the creator or even just the harmonic organization of the universe) and belief in religion (the material, earthbound institutions that promote a certain view of god). Some people think that if you reject religion, you must also reject god. Whether the conflict is between god/religion or god/science, the end result is the same: people deny themselves a relationship with god and the spiritual side of themselves in a mistaken attempt to either decry an flawed institution or proclaim that they are believers in the world that can be observed and explained by science, and that god has no place alongside cold logic and rationality.

I'm not passing judgment here; my own faith is deeply personal, and trying to explain it to anyone else is an exercise in futility for me; I therefore don't waste a lot of energy trying to condemn or uplift other people's beliefs. My faith is a gift, and I have tried to take advantage of that gift by exploring several other modes of spirituality, from Judaism to Catholicism to the tribal religions of Africa to the teachings of the Tao Te Ching and the I-Ching to (I am Episcopal myself), because each of these perspectives gives me a new way to view god and expand my relationship with my creator. I see the Christian bible as a historical and literary document as much as I do a religious and spiritual one, and the texts of other religions do as much to help my understanding of god as the official text of my chosen religion. And formal religions are not the only paths available for this exploration, either: music, art, literature, nature, and scientific ideas like relativity and string theory are all valid ways for me to gain a deeper understanding of the world around me.

On the other hand, I completely understand how people can become disillusioned with religion and turn away from all spiritual pursuits, because most of us have a hard time separating the creator from the earthly institutions that claim to represent the creator. I went through a long period of this misunderstanding myself, and my prejudices against religious organizations were often reinforced by some of the people that were closely associated with them. If not for some deeply personal events that I could never even begin to explain in rational terms, I might still have that misunderstanding.

So, what am I trying to say here? To all you Jesus fishies: I share your faith, but you might find that your beliefs would grow even deeper if you allowed yourself to open up a little bit and not take the bible so literally (it was written by Jewish people, for god's sake—Hebrew is structured to purposely introduce multiple meanings and levels of understanding, especially the written form). And to all you Darwin fishies: you don't have to feel sorry for all us poor, misguided, superstitious sheep. A lot of us completely agree with you concerning evolution and the like, but we also see the structured order of the universe that can be represented by physics and mathematics as further reinforcement of our spiritual beliefs.

Why don't they put toys in cereal boxes anymore?

Plug. Ugly Cassanova. "Sharpen Your Teeth". You go now!

I used to think that people who claimed they could tell the difference between different brands of bottled water were crazy. I remember being really amused with Tim Robbins' character in The Player, whose obsession with drinking the trendiest water possible meant that he would change his preferred brand almost hourly and would send back bottles if a waiter happened to bring him the wrong kind. It was a brilliantly subtle critique of the Hollywood that exemplified that culture's pointless obsession with superficial details.

We have Deer Park in the water cooler at work, and up until a couple of weeks ago I wouldn't have cared if it was Deer Park or Poland Springs or whatever. I was perfectly content to drink the Deer Park from the water cooler, occasionally buying a bottle of lemonade or something that I would drink with lunch and then save to use at the water cooler (after a few weeks of use, the minerals from the Deer Park collect on the inside of bottles, especially plastic bottles, and the bottles start to look a little scuzzy).

Recently, however, we have also been stocking a refrigerator full of Pepsi's Aquafina brand of water to hand out to tour group participants on hot days (which we've had more than our fair shar of this summer), and I decided to try one so I could get a new empty bottle to use at the water cooler. And I swear, I can tell the difference between the two waters. The Aquafina is sweeter somehow, and now when I go to drink the Deer Park (which I have been drinking for months and never had a problem with before), it tastes almost bitter and chalky by comparison.

I really feel guilty about taking the Aquafina bottles when there is a whole cooler full of perfectly drinkable water that I can use to fill up a bottle with over and over. So I've made a kind of compromise with myself: instead of drinking the Aquafinas all the time, I get one about twice a week, and then use the empty for the Deer Park the rest of the time (I used to use a bottle for two or three weeks before I would throw it out).

Am I overthinking this?

I don't get mad. I get stabby.

I've been playing Warcraft III for a couple of weeks now, and while it's wildly addictive, has a great storyline and graphics (the engine is so good that many of the cut-scenes that are used to advance the story are rendered in-game), and improves the gameplay of the real-time strategy genre yet again, I'm still not that impressed. I'm enjoying it, but really, the game isn't that different from its predecessors, Warcraft, Warcraft II, and Starcraft. These are all excellent games, and each one improves upon the previous version while remaining true to the feel of the earlier games, but the changes are more like bug fixes than innovations, adding things like the ability to create squads that you can summon and direct with a single key and automating some of the more tedious, repetive tasks involved in gathering resources and building units.

Blizzard is one of the most successful PC game companies out there, and they are the only major game studio that has made a firm committment to releasing titles on the Mac at the same time they are released on the PC (their last two releases have even been hybrid PC-Mac CDs, which means that you can pick up the Mac version anywhere, since it's on the same disc as the PC version). But really, they've only produced two games in their 8 year history: Warcraft and its sequels Warcraft II, Starcraft, Brood War (a Starcraft expansion pack), and Warcraft III; and Diablo and its sequels Diablo II and Lord of Destruction (a Diablo II expansion pack). The games are all very similar, set in a Dungeons & Dragons/Middle Earth world (well, except Starcraft, but trust me, aside from the setting, it's just like Warcraft) with various races (Orcs, Elves, Humans, etc.) and professions (Knight, Sorceress, Necromancer, Druid, etc.), and while the Warcraft series is more properly classified as Real-Time Strategy (RTS) and the Diablo series fits better in the Role Playing Game (RPG) category, neither series is rigid about adhering to the strict definitions of their genre. There are elements of RTS games in Diablo, and there are hints of RPGs in Warcraft (especially in Warcraft III, which unabashedly borrows many elements from Diablo II).

I'm a big fan of Blizzard's games, so I can appreciate that they found a couple of good ideas and rode them into the ground, but unfortunately, that's exactly what it feels like they're doing with Warcraft III. I'm having a lot of fun playing it, and in the end it will probably be worth the money we spent on it (Julie is playing her own campaign, too), but I don't think I would buy another title from Blizzard in this series unless they really revolutionized it and took a different approach.

Interestingly enough, Blizzard's next big project is an extension of the Warcraft brand called World of Warcraft, but rather than being another RTS, it is instead a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG—I'm serious, that's the actual acronym that is used in the gaming press) like Everquest or the forthcominig Star Wars: Galaxies. A lot of companies are betting the farm on this type of game (where you not only pay for the game engine and single-player version on a CD, but also pay a monthly fee to get access to an online world where your character can persist as long as you keep playing it on a regular basis and where you can interact with characters controlled by other people), and I would be willing to bet that Blizzard's entry will quickly become one of the most popular in the genre. So hopefully this most recent Warcraft is really just a way of saying goodbye to an old friend (and milking every last drop from the relationship—Warcraft III sold 4.5 million copies in its first week) while setting the stage for a sequel that will offer something relatively new from Blizzard. Like I said, I really like the game, but I like it because I liked all the other ones in the series, and not because it really offers me anything new. I don't regret buying it, but I don't think I would buy an expansion pack for it should they decide to release one.

I swore to myself that I wasn't going to buy the new Lord of the Rings DVD (you can already tell where this is going, can't you?). Don't get me wrong—I really love the movie, and I'm dying to own a copy on DVD. But even though the first release was a two disc set with lots of extras, I knew that they were also going to release a four disc set in November that would feature even more behind the scenes stuff and an extra half hour of footage added to the movie, and that's the edition I wanted to own.

And everything was going fine: I was mentally prepared to go to Best Buy, pick up the Simpsons second season on DVD, and a calmly exit the store without glancing too long at what was sure to be a large attention-getting display for Lord of the Rings. I would not be taken advantage of and forced to buy the same movie twice in the same year just so I could watch the original version for a couple of months before the deluxe edition became available. I would not waver.

Or so I thought, until I got a midday IM from CO2 Jeff, who had just returned from Best Buy himself and was already deep into the bonus material, including a ten minute preview for the Two Towers. That alone was enough to make me forgo my previous vow, but then Jeff threw in the kicker: it was only fifteen bucks.

So their little plan worked; they knew the Lord of the Rings fans better than we knew ourselves. I'm sure that I'm just one of thousands—no, tens of thousands—of geeks whose oath not to purchase the first DVD of Lord of the Rings lasted all of three to eight hours, depending on what time they got up, what time they got off work, etc. I know that I will most likely still buy the deluxe edition in a few months, and I feel kind of ashamed of that. But I also know that I'm happy as hell to have this DVD.

The other item I was after yesterday was the Simpsons second season on DVD. When the first season was released about a year ago, I remember feeling compelled to run out to Best Buy and grab a set before they all disappeared. Surprisingly, someone had done their homework and anticipated the demand that fans would have for this set, and there was an ample supply. Even later that week, you could still walk into pretty much any store that sold DVDs and find a copy of the first season without a problem.

So I wasn't really worried about finding a copy yesterday, assuming that since the first set had sold extremely well, the last thing a store like Best Buy would want to do is run out of copies of the follow up on the first day it was available (or even the first week) and send its shoppers off in search of greener pastures in which to distribute their cash.

Of course, that's exactly what happened. By the time I got to the store, around 5:30, there were still hundreds of Lord of the Rings DVDs available in several different locations around the store, but the meager shelf space and tiny display area that had been set aside for the new Simpsons set was completely bare. Because stores are full of idiots who don't necessarily see the wisdom in restocking items from the back when a hot seller has been depleted from the racks, I felt compelled to ask a Best Buy worker a question that I'm sure he heard several hundred times yesterday: "Are you really sold out of the Simpsons second season?"

The answer, as you already know, was yes, which made me a little irritable. How could they underestimate demand for what is arguably the most popular television show ever, especially among the age 20-40 male population that tends to spend its money on things like DVDs and video games? I still don't know. The sales guy said that they would probably get some more in some time next week, and that I should come back then.

Like hell I will. We drove straight to a nearby Target to search for it there, and even though it was a few dollars more, they did have a single copy left. It's very odd that Target was sold out, too, since most guys I know don't normally shop for their DVDs there (although they were most likely the recipient of all of Best Buy's disgruntled customers who went away empty handed). The only thing that makes any sense at all is that Fox didn't finish producing the DVD in time, and therefore wasn't able to manufacture enough of the finished product to meet retail demand.

Whatever. I'm glad I have my copy. Even with my Lord of the Rings purchase to console me, I still would have been fairly grumpy had the Simpsons eluded my grasp.

On Wednesday I had another one of my brief encounters with a celebrity (I have had contact with such luminaries as Paul Auster, Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Buck, Kristen Hersh, and Reynolds Price—no, you're not supposed to recognize all of those names—in situations ranging from a quick handshake and autograph to a dinner and reception). They are shooting a new film called Head of State around Baltimore this summer, directed by and starring Chris Rock, and they were on location in front of one of the buildings on campus yesterday morning.

I thought that I would just sneak over for a few minutes in the morning right after I got to work and have a peek (they were supposed to be shooting from 7-10 a.m.), but as I was heading out the door I was joined by pretty much everyone who was in the office at that point, about 15 people in all. The building where they were filming is only a couple of hundred yards from ours, and when we got there it was pretty easy to get up close and see what was going on (they didn't have it roped off or anything). There were a bunch of college-age kids sitting on the steps of the building, and Chris Rock was wandering among them in a red track suit, constantly shadowed by his three bodyguards.

They were in between scenes when we got there, so for a while all the movie people were just milling around not doing much. I walked over behind the monitors to get a better look at things, but some of the admissions counselors who stayed over on the fringe got recruited to sling backpacks over their shoulders and walk through the scene as background extras. They only shot one scene before packing up and leaving (I'm assuming they shot a few more before we got there), and they did it in three or four takes. Mostly it consisted of Chris Rock ranting at this crowd of kids about being sent off to war or something, to which they would respond by yelling "That ain't right!", to which he would respond with "Damn right that ain't right."

I didn't take any photos of the actual filming, because I thought they would be there for a while, but when Chris Rock's people started to shuffle him off the set and the crowd of extras began to disperse, I figured I should take some pictures before it was too late. I got a couple of him standing around the monitors, (here's the only shot I got of his face, partially obscured by a member of his entourage) and a couple more of him as he started to get surrounded by autograph seekers (who were quickly neutralized by his bodyguards). There was one woman who got his signature, though, and I got a really good shot of her posing with her new treasure.

It's weird to see a celebrity out in the open like that. Thanks to years of exposure to every little detail about their physical presence, from the way they walk to the way they move their hands when they're talking, that they really do stand out in a crowd, and you can't help but watch them (of course, the aforementioned red track suit and three bodyguards probably helped to single him out even more). But you can tell for him it's just a normal day at work. Before filming, he was just standing around waiting for the cameras to be ready just like everyone else, and as soon as the cameras were off, he went from comedy rant personality to guy hanging out with a couple of friends (albeit a couple of large and fairly dangerous looking friends).

Not much to say today. Tori drove up yesterday afternoon, and I am taking the day off today to spend time with her. We haven't decided what we're going to do yet—go hiking, see a movie, or just hang out—but on Saturday we will probably go see Signs. She goes home on Sunday, and then next week she heads off to her new school in Iowa.

I guess since I'm on the subject of Tori, I should follow up on the issues I had with some of the business practices of the kennel where she worked this summer. After being made to understand that what was going on could be considered a serious crime in the eyes of the law, she and a couple of her coworkers (who had previously expressed discomfort with the practice to the manager) went to the owner and complained again, and that was apparently one of the straws that broke the camel's back.

Many of the employees had been complaining about this guy's general management style for a while (he didn't really pitch in and help out, just sat at the front desk all day), and some of the long-time customers were dissatisfied with him as well (although I don't think that they were aware of the particular issue that I had a problem with). Before Tori quit a week or so ago, he was fired and replaced by a new woman who is, according to Tori, very responsible and organized. Her new system should eliminate the problems they had before with not being able to provide services that people had paid for and thought they were receiving, because under the new system you are given a list of tasks to perform that workday and you cannot leave until all of those tasks are completed.

It still sucks that this manager got away with ripping off the customers for so long, but there is some kind of justice in the fact that he has been fired and that the owner has lost a few of his best customers because he didn't take action to remove this manager sooner.

Well, this is almost becoming a habit now. Every single review on the front page of Plug is from an album I purchased this year, and five of them are pieces I have written since the beginning of July. This week's addition: The Hives' "Veni Vidi Vicious".

Looking at modern art is like watching a mathematician solve quadratic equations with a paintbrush.

I took Friday off to spend the day with Tori, and after sleeping in a little, we ate lunch at home and then headed over to the Baltimore Museum of Art. It just happens to be located on a corner of the Hopkins campus, so I was able to use my pass and park in one of the nearby employee lots.

Even though the museum is practically on campus and only a couple hundred yards from my building, I have never actually been. It's a decent sized museum, and I knew that they had a couple of fairly significant collections that had been donated to them (most notably the Cone collection), so I was hoping that it would have some pretty good stuff, even though it's just Baltimore.

And there was some decent stuff, but the museum itself was far more impressive than the collections it contained. Usually when I go to an art museum, I can find several pieces that I wasn't expecting that really grab my attention (invariably, these are also the only pieces that you can't buy on a poster or postcard). But here, there was nothing that really surprised me. The Cone collection had several impressionist pieces by artists like Monet and Cezanne and a ton of works by Matisse, who the Cone sisters apparently knew personally, but the best thing about their rooms was the interactive plasma touchscreen which let you do a fly-through of their apartment, with all of the works of art that are part of their collection hanging on the walls of their bathroom, parlor, etc. In a nearby wing there were a few pieces by O'Keeffe and Chagall, two of my favorite artists, but they were nothing special; the Chagall in particular was so overly typical of his work that you could almost say it was a generic example of a Chagall painting.

The modern art wing was done in the exposed concrete style of the visonary museum, and again, the building itself was much more interesting than most of the art that it was designed to hold. I liked a curtain of beads that you had to walk through to get to the second floor exhibit, but I didn't really consider it art (although the musuem clearly did; if you lingered too long and started playing with the beads, the guards were quickly converge to give you disapproving looks). There were a few Warhol pieces downstairs, and we noticed that one of them seemed to be missing. Tori asked a guard about it, and I think he was beginning to get concerned that it had been taken until another guard told him that they had loaned it out to another museum but just hadn't bothered to put up a sign to that effect. What I really took away from the modern art wing, however, was the feeling that they would put pretty much anything up to eat up some of the copious amounts of wall space that were available to them. I'm all for artists focusing on new methods of expression or exploring concepts in a unique way, but when you have to spend three or four long paragraphs explaining a piece, what's more important, really? The work itself, or the words explaining the concept behind the work? I would have been just as happy reading a book explaining the ideas behind these pieces as I would have been actually looking at them, and maybe even happier, since I would have then created the final piece in my mind. Even the most interesting concepts in this wing seemed poorly executed; the better the idea, the more likely that the final piece would disappoint by not living up to the potential of the concept.

There some interesting non-painting pieces, like a table with a circular checkerboard pattern with several dozen different types of marble and some columns covered with a mosaic of glass designed by Tiffany. There were also some stunningly detailed but ultimately empty miniatures of things like an English silver shop and a New Orleans parlor and some Greek mosaic blocks. But again there was nothing that really took hold of me. I still think often about my visit to the Yale art museum and the many pieces there that I fell in love with, or even the NC art museum in Raleigh; the O'Keeffe in their collection is not famous, but it is one of my favorites of hers.

Unlike most museums, the BMA actually allows you to take non-flash pictures of its collection, so I might return with my camera at some point. I considered joining ($75 per year for a couple), but I'm not sure if their collection would compel me to return often enought to make it a good deal. It's too bad, really; I always hope that Baltimore's cultural attractions will be better than I imagine they will be, so I'm almost doubly disappointed when they're exactly what I feared they would be. Oh well. We still got the Visionary Museum, which should be putting up a new exhibition in a couple of months, and there are still galleries like the Walters that are supposed to be pretty good. There's hope for the city yet.

You know it's probably not going to be a good day when the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is head to the bathroom and throw up.

Suffice it to say, yesterday was not a good day.

I found this quote on a Metafilter thread about so-called PBA cards (basically get-out-of-jail free cards that police officers give to family and close friends):

Sometimes the only difference between us and a 2-bit kleptocracy is the scale of corruption.

I thought this was really funny for some reason, especially after I looked up kleptocracy and confirmed that it was an actual word. For some reason I automatically assumed that the author was saying that the scale of our corruption was small compared to a true kleptocracy, but then I started to think about it some more: our president graduated from Yale and got an MBA from Harvard largely because of who his father was; he was a terrible businessman and yet is still a multimillionaire, again thanks to his father; and you could even make the argument that he was elected president as a result of his father's behind-the-scenes political power and his brother's not-so-behind-the-scenes power in the state of Florida.

The dividing line in our society is no longer really between black and white (or hispanic and white, or whatever); it is between the rich and the poor, the rich being those elite .01 percent of the populace like the Bushes who control pretty much everyone else and the poor being, well, everyone else. Celebrity and money (which increasingly go together) give you special privileges in our society, privileges up to and including rape, murder, child abuse, etc. Normal people are locked away for years for these crimes (hell, normal people are locked away for years for possessing more than three joints), but when the rich and famous commit these crimes not only are they not punished, a lot of times they use their power to keep anyone from knowing about their wrongdoings in the first place. And if they are somehow unable to bribe, cajole, charm, or otherwise slither out of responsibility for their transgressions, there are always legions of lawyers who can get them off in exchange for a little of the money and fame that a celebrity trial brings. I know it's a little obvious to say this, but the OJ trial still stands as the best example of how celebrity and money can affect what is supposed to be an objective legal system that judges each man or woman using evidence and established procedures. But not even justice is blind to the glare of the media spotlight.

Maybe what the author of the quote was really trying to say was that the 2-bit part is what doesn't fit us; the scale of our corruption is so large that it puts the combined corruption of all the penny-ante banana republic dictatorships to shame. Either way, I like the quote. And I learned a new word that I'm sure to get a lot of use out of in future rants.

On Saturday afternoon we went to see Signs, the new movie from M. Night Shyamalan, the writer/director behind the Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I like his style a lot; just like everyone, I thought the Sixth Sense was amazing, and despite a couple of reservations, I also really liked Unbreakable (although I understand why it didn't really resonate with a larger audience in the way that the Sixth Sense did). So I would have been looking forward to this movie anyway, but the fact that it was about crop circles and aliens really put it over the top for me.

His personal style is hard to pin down, but you know it when you see it: simple yet ornate, exquisitely crafted and minimalistic. As usual, the things that he keeps hidden from you are infinitely more terrifying than the things he reveals, with some of the most relaxed moments coming near the end of the film when the family confronts one of the creatures face to face (similar to Silence of the Lambs, when the scenes in which he was brutally slashing and beating people were the scenes where Hannibal seemed most pathetic and weak).

The palette in this film is a little more colorful than Shyamalan's previous offerings, despite the fact that a lot of the movie takes place at night or in the cramped interiors of the family homes. In my mind, the Sixth Sense has a kind of dull sepia tone, faint but distinct, while Unbreakable might as well have been filmed in black and white except for Samuel L. Jackson's scenes. In Signs we are exposed to greens and yellows in abundance, thanks in large part to the endless fields of corn that surround the family farm.

There is also more color in the characters. Shyamalan (by the way, I don't really know how to spell that; I'm just cutting and pasting from IMDB) has always had a sly undercurrent of humor in his scripts, but he dispenses it in more liberal doses in this film to help counteract the tradegy that is recalled in a series of flashbacks and the mounting, omninous fear that the crop circles bring with them. All the actors are better than you would expect—Phoenix indulges in none of the ham-fisted overacting that was the hallmark of his Gladiator performance, and Gibson is admirably restrained and genuinely tragic—but you kind of get the feeling that Shyamalan's direction is helping them out a lot (although I actually thought that Gibson's Hamlet wasn't half-bad). The kids are great (another staple of Shyamalan's films), but again, it's probably because he cast the perfect kids for these roles rather than the kids being great actors or anything (one of them is a Culkin, for god's sake).

It really is a masterful film, particularly the ending, which could have come off as hokey and insincere in a lesser director's hands. Instead, it plays like a variation on John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany", in which a lifetime of coincidences combine to produce a result so inevitable that it is almost unbelievable. But like "Owen Meany", the strength of the characters and the storytelling overrides any concerns the audience might have about plausibility; you believe it because it just feels true.

I would highly recommend this film. I may not go to see it again in the theater, but I will definitely own it on DVD, and seeing it has renewed my interest in watching Shyamalan's previous two films again. This was a great ending to a summer of relative disappointments movie-wise; now I just have to hope that the Two Towers (due out in December) can live up to the expectations set by the Fellowship of the Ring.

You generally don't want to see the words "amateur" and "brain surgeon" next to each other in a headline.

Cool. Apparently both this site and Plug have been added to the Minimalist Web Project, which is "a collection of good-looking websites that are built with minimalism in mind, the idea of beauty through 'less is more'". I don't consider myself a designer, really (even though I did design these two sites), so it is quite an honor for me to be listed on the same page as some of these sites. 37 signals,, The Mirror Project, Harrumph, A List Apart—these are just a few of the sites that have acheived legend status in the weblogging and design communities that are also listed on this page. I mean, there are like a billion sites on this page now, but still—I'm happy my work made the cut.

This is my longest streak on Plug in quite some time. The newest review is Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds Live", which is really a special album if you're a fan of the classic album, originally released in 1966.

On Friday night, Julie and I went out to dinner with CO2 Jeff and his wife, Andrea. This is an event that we have been planning for about three years now, but which has never come to fruition thanks a long series of poorly synchronized schedules and last-minute changes of plan necessitated by various family emergencies. We've certainly had our fair share of social interactions with them at things like the Addy awards ceremonies and the CO2 Christmas dinners, but for some reason we've never been able to get together in a non-work related situation (we did see them at Greg's wedding a few months ago, but since I was part of the wedding party I didn't get to spend a lot of time hanging out with them).

We met at one of our favorite restaurants in Frederick, Cafe Kyoko, which was one of the first places Julie and I ever ate at in Frederick and which remains a top choice for us (even though we haven't been there in over a year thanks to our less frequent visits to the city). It's an asian-themed restaurant with a good sushi bar and a selection of entrees split almost evenly between Japanese and Thai cuisine. We were supposed to meet them at 7, which meant that we had to leave for dinner pretty much as soon as we got home from work on Friday night.

Andrea and Jeff had never been there before, despite having lived only a few blocks from it for years, and thankfully the food was just as good as we remembered it. We ordered some sushi as an appetizer, and then had things like pad thai, red curried chicken, and chicken in thai herbs for our entrees. We took our time eating dinner, liberally sprinkling the meal with converstation, and by the time we left at 10 it hardly seemed that we had spent three hours there.

One of the funny things that we discovered was that Jeff and Andrea are secret fans of Big Brother 3, just like we are. Julie and I are total suckers for reality shows; we watch everything, including Survivor (our favorite), the Mole, the Bachelor, Junkyard Wars, Bachelorettes in Alaska, Sorority Life, Love Cruise, the Real World, Temptation Island, the 1900 House, the Osbournes, Boot Camp, Law & Order: Crime & Punishment, Under One Roof, and all the others that I can't remember right now. But trust me, we've watched pretty much all of them (in our defense, however, we don't like the forced competition shows like Fear Factor and Dog Eat Dog). I even have a penchant for the many and various court shows, which are basically another type of reality show.

Big Brother is one of the worst of these shows, simply because it's so completely pointless and yet everyone who has ever been on the show thinks that they are going to emerge from this media cocoon and be transformed into huge stars. Localized versions of the show are actually really popular in European countries (it's front page news in Britain when a house member gets kicked out), but here in America, no one really cares. And besides, when even the most charasmatic Survivor cast members can't find steady work in the entertainment industry after their show has aired, what chance do these idiots have?

Anyway, I thought it was really funny that Jeff and Andrea were fans, too, especially Andrea. Jeff and I have similar enough tastes about most things that I can at least understand why he would like it even if I wouldn't have guessed it, but Andrea (from what I know of her, which isn't a lot) seems like she would turn her nose up at such lowbrow entertainment. I was happy to discover that another couple that we get along with so well have some of the same weaknesses for crappy television that we do.

I really like Andrea and Jeff. I mean, Jeff and I have always gotten along very well—from the first time I met him when I went to talk to CO2 about a job, I've always felt very comfortable around him—but there are very few couples with whom both Julie and I get along with as a couple. We each have our own friends, but rarely are those friends married to each other, and most of the time our social activities consist of boys' or girls' nights out. Sally and George are another couple that we get along pretty well with, but they've been less available since the arrival of their first child last year. Jeff and Andrea, on the other hand, are just reaching the point where they feel comfortable leaving their two kids with the grandparents for an evening while they go out to dinner or a movie, so I'm hoping that it won't take another three years for us to get together again.

This guy is a little too self-righteous and angry for my taste (especially for a man whose democratic society is possible largely because of his neighbor to the south; not only is his government modeled after our own, but his nation benefits greatly from our friendship, protection, and commercial exchange). However, a lot of his basic points are valid. It makes me sick on a daily basis to think about how much our basic constitutional rights have been and continue to be eroded by our own government in the name of protecting us. The current administration's lust for war apparently will not be sated, nor will its lust for petroleum or corporate handouts. Why should it? These are oil executives in the White House, for god's sake—war in the middle east makes them piles of money.

Our insistence on a pre-emptive strike on Iraq while we continue to deny any possibility that threats of a similar pre-emptive strike against the Taliban in the summer of 2001 may have led to a pre-pre-emptive strike by that same group on September 11 strikes me as the ultimate in hypocrisy and short-sightedness, and our own media's general reluctance to seriously investigate these claims seems suspicious and apathetic at best, and indicative of a media controlled by the same corporations who control the government at worst. It's not hard to imagine that our government had a very good idea that some sort of attack was coming given our advanced data collection techniques (not to mention the fact that there is solid evidence that we allowed Pearl Harbor to happen as well, and that the CIA has in the past drawn up plans for simulating a foreign attack on America in order to drum up support for a war effort). How do you think we were able to locate so many of these people only days after the attacks? If anything, they should have been harder to find then, since they would likely have gone into hiding in light of the increased scrutiny that would have been placed on their activities.

Speaking of corporations, is anyone else sick of them milking this tragedy for profit? Try to think of the last time you were able to watch even a half hour of television without noticing a few extra American flags in the commercials—I'm betting it was last summer, before the attacks.

There are a lot of points in this guy's diatribe that I won't try to echo here, except to note that, yes, Monsanto is trying to buy up the world's water supply, as impossible as that sounds, and the war on drugs is such an obvious failure that not even the most die-hard of the right-wingers can say it with a straight face any more (unless they're doped up on something themselves). I think his thoughts on the Israel/Palestine conflict are out of line, and his anger at ordinary Americans in stupidly misplaced, but that doesn't mean that some of his statements are not true.

You definitely have to take these comments with a grain of salt, but this guy is not a nut. Well, not a total nut, anyway. It's hard to defend against a lot of his points, even though his sarcastic, abrasive, invective-filled delivery borders on obnoxiousness that is all too easy to ignore. But you shouldn't; do your own research and see if you can prove him wrong. Some of his points won't hold up, but many will, once you strip away the bitter cloak of rage that they are wrapped in.

Normally I would link to several different sites to back up all of the assertions I've made in the above paragraphs (besides the Pearl Harbor and CIA fake invasion ones), but I've done that more than once before (these few examples don't even include numerous articles referenced on my links pages or the many other reactions to 9.11 that have appeared regularly on this site). This time, I want you to use the resources at your disposal as a web user and come to your own conclusions. To accomplish this, you will likely have to look for sources beyond mainstream American media, although Salon is a good place to start. If you're feeling really adventurous, this site and this site and this blog also have some interesting information (though like the writer of the article that inspired this post, some of their information is wildly speculative and suspect).

I think most ordinary Americans still believe in the values that this country was founded on, and I think that we try to uphold them in our personal and professional lives. Maybe that's naive of me—I don't know. But I'm beginning to doubt that the people who have been chosen to lead us still hold these values dear, or share in most Americans' vision for a peaceful and prosperous future where our individual liberties are protected with the same vigor with which our agressive global agenda is now pursued.

Good news: Tom has been offered a teaching position for UVA this fall. I don't have many details yet, but it sounds like it's just for one semester right now. That's still exciting, though—he's been working very hard at his craft for a very long time, and he has more than earned this. Plus, I think he would make a really great instructor. More to follow soon...

I first saw this on a latenight tv ad the week of the anniversary of Elvis' death. It's a little creepy, but deeply fascinating. God only knows why "La Vida Loca" and "Achy Breaky Heart" are on this thing, but to comprehend Elvis singing Paul Simon's "Graceland" requires an obliviousness to irony that I will never posess. The strangest thing: the inclusion of both "Candle in the Wind" and "England's Rose", which is just "Candle in the Wind" with new lyrics about Princess Di. We live in very interesting times, my friends...

Too tired to give you anything real, so I'll just share with you two completely random quotes that I've seen recently that have amused me. First, from an article on the Memory Hole about Fox supressing Dan Castellaneta's (of the Simpsons) intro on a comedy album because he used Homer's voice:

Never mess with Fox lawyers, they're worse than Disney.

Next is a customer review on for Caitlin Cary's new solo album (for those of you who don't know, Cary was the lesser light in Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams' former band). In case you're wondering, he gave the album 2 out of 5 stars:

I liked Whiskeytown. Yes, Ryan Adams has become an embarrassment, but I prefer vulgarity to tasteful folk-pop. I don't like tasteful folk-pop.

I have trouble with brevity sometimes, and these were not only funny but they were short. So in keeping with their examples, I'll just stop writing now before this gets too unwieldy.

I should have saved one of those quotes from yesterday for today. I'm still getting over some bug or something, and I don't have a whole lot to say. (I've had a slight fever and been pretty exhausted for the past couple of days, but not really sick enough to miss work). Hopefully I'll be able to give you some good content next week. Have a good weekend.

Oh, and if anybody who is not already part of our baseball league wants to join me and some of my friends in a fantasy football league, send me an email.

I'm almost getting more tired of writing these intros than I am the actual reviews. Anyway, here is this week's Plug entry, Weezer's "Maladroit".

If you pay any attention at all to my left hand sidebar, you've noticed that I've recently plowed through the entire Hitchhiker's Guide "trilogy", which ended up consisting of five books. I can't remember the last time I read it, but I'm guessing it was probably my junior or senior year of high school. I don't think I read it at all in college, and I know I haven't read it since then.

The first time I read these books had to be when I was only 13 or 14, still in junior high, and between then and high school I must have gone through them at least ten times. Lots of my friends in high school had a similar history with the series—remember, I went to a science and math oriented high school, so we were pretty predisposed to this kind of thing—and it was a constant pop culture reference point.

In college, I turned into a humanities geek, and I don't really remember it being a common reference between me and any of my literary friends, which is probably why I never sought to revisit it. The Hitchhiker's Guide series has a place on my shelf next to Kurt Vonnegut: I couldn't imagine being without it when I was in high school, but it all but vanished from my life in college.

When I recently started to read the series again (thanks to a compendium that bound together all five books in the "trilogy" that I picked up for $10 at a local bookstore that has lots of good stuff so cheap that I'm pretty sure it's stolen from somewhere), it took a little while to get back into the overly mannered comic style, but once I got used to it, I realized why my friends and I had been so enamored of it when we were younger. There's still a lot of really funny stuff in there (like Vonnegut's works), and a lot of really complex ideas about the frustrating stupidity of the world wrapped up in seemingly simple stories (again like Vonnegut).

The one disappointment was the final book, "Mostly Harmless", which I'm pretty sure I had never read before (the original publication date of 1992 would seem to confirm that, since that's years after the series passed out of my interest). The writing was not bad, and in fact the best passages are among the strongest in the series, but the meandering plots that include multiple universes, a child that apparently is the offspring of Arthur and Trillian, and Trillian turning into a total bitch, seem to be written just so that Adams can flimsily tie together some very disparate elements that, in the end, really have nothing to do with each other (this is in contrast to the other books, where all of this seemingly random stuff flowed together into a logical conclusion). Plus, the ending was a total betrayal of the series and the characters that we grew to love with it. If you've never read this book, do yourself a favor and stay away from it.

If you once loved these books but haven't thought about them since you were in high school, you would probably enjoy revisiting the other books in the series. But after being surprised at how much I enjoyed the other four, the last one left such a bad taste in my mouth that it will take me a while to want to read these again.

A final note: I'd forgotten that Marvin, the terminally depressed robot who shows up in the first four books of the series, was often referred to as the Paranoid Android, a phrase made more recently famous by Radiohead's seminal "OK Computer" ("Paranoid Android" was the first single from that record). I just though that was interesting; I'd never realized that or heard it mentioned by any reviewer or interviewer until I re-read these books.

Last night on the Simpsons one of the characters talked about typing "pathetic clown" into a search engine and having Krusty's name come up. As I'm sure countless others have done before me, I decided to head over to Google and type in the same phrase. The result: six of the top ten search entries reference the Simpsons, five of those reference the specific episode I was watching, and three of those seem to have been set up for the express purpose of luring suckers like me to their otherwise non-Simpsons related sites.

Actually, I think what surprised me most was that there were only three of them.

Over the weekend, I spoke briefly to Tom (we were supposed to talk again before the weekend was over, but I was never quite in the mood to call him and he didn't call me, either) and got some very interesting details about his teaching position at UVA.

He really had no idea that this was coming. Apparently what happened was that a private foundation representing an anonymous donor contacted the university and said that they had been authorized to give them a sizable sum of money specifically so that UVA could hire Tom to teach a course in drawing for the fall semester. UVA, of course, had no problem with that other than that they sum of money was twice what entry-level instructors are normally given for teaching a single course, so to get around it they decided to pay him half to teach and give him the other half in the form of a grant to be an artist in residence.

If that was all it was, that would have been great, because it would have given Tom ample funds for the next year at least (his financial needs are fairly small, since he carries no debt, so he only really needs to pay for a place to live, things to eat, and art supplies). But it turned out that the donor had actually meant for Tom to be given the position for a whole year, rather than just one semester, which is why the amount had been enough to cover two classes: the donor had referred to the academic year as a single term, and the university had interpreted this as a single semester.

All the paperwork had already gone through to split the money between a teaching fee and an artist in residence grant; however, while UVA was figuring out how to fix this, the anonymous donor again stepped forward and gave another donation equal to half the amount of the first one to cover the second semester's teaching salary. So in the end, Tom ended up better off because of UVA's mistake: now he gets to be employed for a full academic year, collecting the normal sum for each of the classes he will teach, and he also gets the benefit of the grant for being an artist in residence.

Now, Tom's circle of friends is mostly made up of artists and a few ordinary working folks like me, so he by no means runs with a wealthy crowd. I asked Tom if he had any idea who this anonymous donor might be, and although he said he could narrow it down to three or four people, one of whom had either donated the money themselves or solicited the donation from someone else, he really couldn't say who had bestowed this gift upon him. But I think I'm about as happy as he is that they did; Tom is a great artist, and he has really put a lot of hard work into his craft. I know if I suddenly had access to vast sums of money, giving him a grant would be one of the first things I would do. It's nice to see that the rest of the world is taking note of his talent as well.

Doesn't anything interesting ever happen to me any more?

CS Jeff sent me this link to the Gadgets for God web site a while ago, and I guess it's about time I shared it with you all, especially since I'm not providing any content myself today. Normally I would post it to my links, but right now I need some filler for the front page.

Or, for those of you who would like to fry your brain without costly and time consuming drug use: Killer Japanese Seizure Robots. Don't sue me if you fall to the floor flopping and twitching.

Dear Tori,

In case it wasn't clear, the gifts were from me. Who else in the family would send you a book of poetry by Charles Simic and the new Bright Eyes CD. They are for your birthday, although I now realize that I forgot to include a note to that effect.

Obviously I got your address from dad, since you have yet to contact me to pass along that information yourself. That means I have your phone number, too, but I've decided to be stubborn about calling you. You owed me a phone call long before the gifts, but you especially owe me one now, and I am going to sit here and wait for it even if it takes you another month to do it.

You probably aren't reading this now anyway, since I haven't gotten any emails from you either and I haven't seen you on AIM yet, which means that without a dorm-provided internet connection, your iBook is likely sitting idle waiting for you to go to the trouble of setting up a dial-up connection for it. But I hope things are going well for you; I hope you're making friends, you can at least tolerate your roommates, and that you are enjoying your first few days of class. Take care of yourself, and let me hear from you soon.

love, Chris

Argh. I used my lunch hour yesterday to write a decently long entry, and then forgot to mail it to myself, and now I can't think of anything else to write about. Except that I'm watching an ad for that new Gateway machine that's supposed to compete with the flat-panel iMac, and it just looks really cheap and crappy. Besides, even if it was a decent looking machine, the only thing you can run on it is Windows.

Actually, now I'm getting fired up about this. I looked at the comparison chart on Gateway's web site showing the supposed advantages of the Gateway system over the iMac, and I now feel the need to address the inaccuracies. First of all, it's kind of pathetic that the only advantages that Gateway can find for its system are a few relatively minor tasks: FPS in Quake, JavaScript loading in a browser, boot time (well, not really boot time, but I'll clarify later), and how long it takes for a system to load a large PDF file into Acrobat Reader. Are you going to make a $1500 investment based on any of those criteria?

But I happen to think the results are rigged, even though it's kind of telling to me that they couldn't find anything more meaningful to crow about. Let's take it point by point:

1. The Gateway Profile PCs returned higher scores than the Apple iMac systems in the 3D video performance tests and in the JavaScript web page loading tests.

Hmmm, let's see. First of all, they used Mac OS X and Quake 3 as the FPS 3D test. The problem is, there is no native version of Quake 3 for Mac OS X, which means they were running it in Mac OS 9/Classic emulation mode. Not a very fair or accurate reflection of the Mac's true power. As for the JavaScript, they didn't specify which version of IE5 was installed on the iMacs they tested, but the earliest versions released with Mac OS X were nothing more than betas which have been updated several times. Again, probably not a great test. I can personally testify that the latest version of IE5 on Mac OS X is the fastest version of that browser I've ever seen, Mac or PC (for the record, I use IE6 on my PC at work).

In our boot up timing tests, the Gateway Profile PCs reached a ready state faster than the Apple iMac systems.

Let's talk about what we mean by "ready state" here. The way Gateway defined this was to press the start button on each machine, and then time the machine until the instant that the hourglass/spinning color wheel turned into an arrow. Now, anyone who uses a PC regularly knows that this test is complete bullshit. On a Mac, when you get to the desktop, your machine is totally ready to run; the OS is completely finished loading and is awaiting your command. The PC, on the other hand, gets you to the desktop/arrow fairly quickly, but after you get there, the OS is still running a thousand little startup routines in the background. This background loading of system-related components make the PC all but unusable despite the presence of the arrow instead of the hourglass. This is a completely bogus measure. If they really wanted to test it, they would press the start button and then measure until you were able to doubleclick on Word, open it, and type a complete sentence. That would be a much better measure of each machine's speed in reaching a "ready state", and I have no doubt that the Mac would win hands down.

In our tests of the time required to load a large .pdf file, the Gateway Profile PCs loaded the file quicker than the Apple iMac systems.

Again, the test method relies on the stupid hourglass/color wheel to arrow timing, which I've just told you is not really all that accurate.

I don't know why I'm getting so worked up about this. PC people are too dumb and stubborn to pay attention to my counterpoints, and Mac people already know which machine is better. But seriously, as a consumer, why would you care about ridiculous little tests like these anyway? Shouldn't your choices be driven by questions that might actually mean something in the real world? Questions like which machine would you rather have on your desk to look at all day? Which OS would you rather interact with? Which company looks like they're just doing a cheap ripoff of the other one's ideas, offering nothing new to the consumer? Answer those questions, and you'll know why Gateway couldn't find anything nicer to say about its new machine in comparison with the iMac.

I found this quote in an article on Salon about how our president seems more upset about the baseball labor conflict than he was about corporations like Enron that bilked consumers and their own workers out of billions of dollars, largely because he was made rich by a corporate culture that thrived on shady deals and practices that weren't quite on the up-and-up:

Bush was born on third base and is convinced he hit a triple.

Bush is quite possibly the worst businessman to ever become a multimillionaire, and that quote just about sums him up for me.

The recent drought here (which is stretching into its fourth year now, although only two of those years were scarily below average rainfall) has made me think about water in a way that I never have before. Like most Americans under the age of 60, I grew up not giving a second thought to water: it was there whenever I needed it, running hot or cold, for showers and baths, washing clothes and dishes, preparing food, and of course, for drinking. Hell, it was even there for swimming pools and carwashes water balloon fights.

But after a trip to the local resevoir earlier this year, I started to get a little worried; ground that only a year or two prior had been underwater had now been exposed to the air for so long that grass was beginning to grow on it. Frederick and Westminster, two towns half an hour to the west and north of us respectively, are undergoing water shortages so severe that they are talking about having to truck in water from alternate sources if they don't get rain by the end of September; Frederick has even announced that they may eventually have to shut down parts of the city if the situation doesn't improve by year's end.

I heard on the local news recently that the last 12 months are the driest consecutive 12 months in Maryland since they started keeping records over 100 years ago, and pretty much all of the state is in some sort of drought condition. And it hasn't helped that this has been one of the hottest summers on record here, with several weeks worth of days of temperatures 90 and above and most of the others in the mid to high 80s (I swear, there were many days when I saw the national temperature maps Weather Channel and it was cooler in Miami and Dallas than it was here). Our neighbor's lawn looks like someone set it on fire, and even the leaves on the sturdiest of trees are starting to wilt from lack of water. The corn crop is a total loss, and I can't imagine that many other crops fared very well this year, either (while I was doing research, I came across this article, which turns out to have been from the first severe drought in our ongoing lack of rain back in 1999, but could just as easily apply to the current situation as well).

The current drought is affecting much of the US and is helping to draw attention to the problems of water shortages, but several recent articles and books point to more water shortages in the coming years as the population of humans continues to grow and our short-sighted mismanagement of natural resources get worse. In just a cursory look around the web, I have found articles about how water will be the next resource that causes strife among nations (replacing the currently popular petroleum), how some American businessmen are taking advantage of these water shortages to make a profit, and how Monsanto, an agricultural company, is embarking on a plan to control the world's water supply, starting with India and other poor countries with perennial water shortages (in addition to their other sinister plans to control the production of food).

These issues are gaining such prominence that there are actually two different books (this one and this one—the second is probably a little more respectable) on the market called Water Wars, each of which explores this issue from different perspectives but come to similar conclusions: if things continue the way they are, chronic water shortages are going to become a fact of life, and some very ugly conflicts will likely result as assorted corporate and governmental entities try to control what will become an increasingly scarce (and therefore valuable) resource. And though I have chosen to spotlight these two because they happen to share the same name, there are several other books that explore this growing crisis, most of them focusing on the disturbing trend towards the privatization of water distribution.

I have long been bothered by our explosive population growth since the start of the industrial age, which, hand in hand with our disregard for environmental planning and our unwillingness to act responsibiy with regard to our reproductive rights, has led to a sharp decrease in biodiversity and placed a strain on the earth's resources that we might not see the true impact of for another fifty years (by which time, if we haven't taken steps towards fixing these problems, it may be too late to prevent a global catastrophe). I know that many people remain unconvinced that many of our current environmental and weather problems are caused by global warming, and I personally don't think we have been collecting information about global weather patterns long enough to really know what normal cycles for weather are (and we probably never will, because our influence changes those patterns), but still, the evidence that we are in some way responsible for the recent warming trend is pretty compelling.

This planet simply cannot support humans on every square inch of its surface, especially with our high expectations for standards of living. At some point we're going to have to make a choice: do we want the right to have as many children as we want without regard for whether we can actually support them, or do we want to have limited reproductive rights in exchange for better living conditions for everyone? I don't even begin to know how you would regulate something like this, since reproductive rights are quite possibly the most sacred human rights we have (although it's obvious that the same rules would have to be applied to everyone for it to begin to be fair—no special treatment for the rich). But I do know that if we don't control the situation ourselves, we will become locked in mortal combat with the earth and her resources. And who do you think will win that one? We need the earth to survive; I'm pretty sure she could get along quite well without us.

There is always the possibility that a cheap and efficient method of desalination will be developed over the next few decades that will permanently solve our water problems (and which would also then push even more people towards the already-crowded coastlines, but that's another issue), but we should still be using this crisis to reflect on our overuse of the resources that were once so plentifully available to us but which we have now abused to the point where we have created the potential for disaster. In the long run, the water crisis is just another example of the problems that arise from short-term thinking; our lack of foresight and proper planning are the real issues here, and they are issues that will continue to lead to situations like the current water shortages until we change our attitude as a species to our treatment of the planet which has so generously hosted us for tens of thousands of years.

Anyway. It has been raining here for the last couple of days, for the first time in a very long time indeed. We would need about 6 months worth of days like this to get back to normal, but at least it's a start. And I appreciate every drop.
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