Sunday, January 21, 2007

Refugees Find Hostility and Hope on Soccer Field - New York Times

Refugees Find Hostility and Hope on Soccer Field - New York Times

This is a beautiful article about a team, a coach and a mother. The team is composed of refugee/immigrant boys who are bound together by their love of soccer. The coach is a tough Jordanian woman coach who teaches her team that complacency and indifference do not belong on the soccer field. The mother, Beatrice Ziaty, is a refugee from the Ivory Coast who managed to bring her children all the way to Clarkston, GA, a town that has been changed by the settlement of immigrants who now make up more than 50% of the town's population.

If you read this article, make sure you view the multimedia slide show.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Deep South 2007

Deep South 2007

Marsha and I are leaving on January 22 for an 8 week trip to the Deep South -- through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. We'd love for you to follow along on our trip at Deep South 2007.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Open House

Open House

Tonight Marsha, Will and I attended Jay Kaufman's Open House -- a once a month meeting he holds addressing different topics of interest to his constituents. This month the topic was The Music of Politics, the Politics of Music. The guest was Lexington resident Marilyn Beyer host of WUBM folk radio.

Although I enjoyed the meeting, somehow I left wanting something different. I thought there was a little bit too much Folk and not enough Politics. When Jay asked for people's lists of protest songs, mine included:
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Ohio
  • The Who: Won't Get Fooled Again
  • Bob Dylan: Masters of War
  • Bob Dylan: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  • Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A'Changing
  • Bob Dylan: With God on Our Side
  • Phil Ochs: I Ain't Marching Anymore
  • Barry McGuire: Eve of Destruction
  • Billy Holiday: Strange Fruit
  • Marvin Gaye: What's Goin' On
I can understand with Marylin being the guest that the selection got vectored off toward mostly Folk, but I felt that there were many important Protest songs that weren't exactly Folk and weren't represented. On the other hand, I thought Marylin's selections were comprehensive in that they went from the very old (Civil War) to very new (reaction to 9/11 written in 2006) and were probably more representative than my Vietnam Era selection.

One of the highlights of the evening was when Lexington resident Sam Berman was identified as the first person (long before the Kingston Trio) who sang "Charlie and the MTA". After the song, Sam was asked to explain: He talked about how he and his singing group had conversation where they imagined what would happen if someone got on the subway without the extra nickel to cover the fair increase put into effect by the opponent of their candidate for Mayor of Boston. Sam's future sister-in-law wrote the lyrics and the rest is history. On a little further research, I found the following version of the story:
Walter A. O'Brien died last month. The Boston Globe, Thursday, July 9, 1998, pp. B1 & B6 carried an appreciation of the man and his association with the song "Charlie on the MTA." The article credits the idea for the song to Sam Berman and Arnold Berman. The song itself was written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes using the melody of "The Wreck of Old 97." Jacqueline Steiner wrote to the Globe on July 18, 1998, p. A14, with several corrections of fact in the article. She says that O'Brien's name was changed to George O'Brien when the song was recorded, because, according to his family, the recording company "did not want to make a 'hero' of a man who had been associated with the Progressive Party." The July 9 article says that O'Brien was denounced as a Communist by the Massachusetts version of the House Un-American Committee. The election song was written for the 1949 Boston Mayoral election in which James Michael Curley lost to John Hynes. In 1957 O'Brien returned to his home state of Maine and became a school-librarian and book store owner.

Henry Scannell
Reference Librarian
Microtext & Newspaper Dept.
Boston Public Library
It was great to meet Sam in person after he and many others on the lex-polrel list have tried to keep the Progressive spirit and message alive in Lexington throughout the Bush administration. Lately it's been getting easier as Bush continues his quest to become the most inept President the US has ever had... There, I said it, and added a little more Politics to the evening.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Events of 2006

Remember the World Almanac? I used to love leafing through its pages at the various articles. One type that I've always loved are timelines: history, science -- events of all types. Well it still exists as a printed book, doing as well as it ever did, I guess. But, unfortunately they haven't figured out how to put their material online and make money off it. So, I resort to Wikipedia.

I stumbled across an article about events in October of 2006 and loved reading the descriptive paragraph summarizing October 2006. I was hoping to capture 12 such paragraphs and put them together into a narrative for the year.
October 2006 was a month with thirty-one days, like all Octobers, that began on a Sunday. The month was marked by a nuclear test by North Korea that prompted that passing of Resolution 1718 by the United Nations Security Council. Also at the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon was elected to succeed Kofi Annan as the secretary-general and Belgium, Indonesia, Italy and South Africa were elected to two-year terms on the Security Council; the four nations and Ban Ki-moon are expected to begin their tenures in January 2007. A fifth temporary on the Security Council was still up for grabs at the end of the month. The Nobel Prizes for the year were awarded, with Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Lesotho adopted a new flag, Several national elections took place around the world during October 2006 and a scandal involving former United States Congressman Mark Foley was at the forefront just ahead of November elections in the United States. Microsoft Corporation released version 7 of its Internet Explorer internet browser software.
Unfortunately, not all of the months have such lead off paragraphs. Instead, I direct you to the article in Wikipedia about 2006 with its links to the 12 month articles about last year.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Wide Angle. Telephoto and Zoom Lenses on Digital Cameras

There is great confusion about focal lengths of lenses on digital cameras. The numbers quotes in specs for digital cameras are difficult to relate to the 35mm film camera world because if you rely on the strict measurements of focal length, then you have to take into consideration the dimensions of the digital sensor which varies from camera to camera and is almost always different than the dimensions of a 35mm film camera. Frequently you will see two numbers: one the optical zoom factor -- say 3x or 10x -- and the 35mm equivalent focal length. But to really make sure you understand your lens, you need to understand the relevant parameters that need to be considered when trying to characterize the focal length of a (zoom) lens in the digital camera world:
  1. Focal length
  2. 35mm equivalent focal length
  3. Minimum focus range
  4. Macro focus range
  5. Optical zoom
The easiest way for people to understand the focal lengths of digital cameras with their varying sensor sizes is to use what the focal length would be if the sensor was the same as on "35mm Cameras". Of course that term isn't really accurate. It really refers to "135 film" where the image dimensions (i.e., the "sensor") is 36mm x 24mm.


Here is a time lapse video of how Picasso painted a picture found by my frequent source, Richard Homonoff. I find it fascinating how Picasso really changed things as time goes on. Clearly the canvas is where he did his thinking.

Friday, January 05, 2007



We rented Munich from NetFlix and enjoyed it. Again, like the Sleeper Cell series on ShowTime, this film shows the mistakes, messy botched operations that must go on all of the time in covert operations.

This is the story of what happened after the 1972 Munich Olympic Terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic Team. There were 11 terrorists identified by the Mosad who had a primary role in the hostage taking. Israel wanted all 11 assassinated and this movie is the story of that operation that spanned over the next 5 years.

This picture leaves you with a lot of questions about what went on, whether it was justified, and wondering what would happen in the future to the assassins.


This is a very useful blog where the author gives little recipes for doing things on / for / using your computer and the Internet. This is is Tips & Tricks or How do you do ... type of site. Here is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article about Lifehacker and Ms. Trapani:

Gina Trapani is always looking for a clever shortcut -- from a better way to organize her email inbox to keeping track of her Web passwords. So, it seems, are plenty of other computer users.

Ms. Trapani, 31 years old, is the editor of the Lifehacker technology blog, which dispenses do-it-yourself advice and time-saving computing tips. Traffic to the site, one of several blogs published by Gawker Media, has surged since its launch two years ago as it has become a must-read for many computer novices and geeks alike.

"She focuses on information that'll make her readers' lives more productive," said Robert Scoble, author of the Scobleizer blog and a former Microsoft Corp. blogger. "That's quite different from other bloggers who share gossip, give opinions or break news."

Ms. Trapani fills her blog with tips and shortcuts -- or "life hacks" -- on addressing the kinds of problems that, increasingly, technology novices try to solve -- everything from setting up a home network to migrating from a Windows computer to a Mac. Other topics, such as how to use a cellphone to send and receive money, cater to a more savvy crowd, but contain the same sort of detailed, step-by-step instructions. Two of the most popular articles on the site have been about creating automatic hard-drive backups and transferring music from an iPod to a computer (instead of from computer to iPod).

Ms. Trapani, who manages a staff of three writers, is something of an anomaly among bloggers. She avoids writing about herself and her posts are free of the sarcasm and snarky attitude that other blogs -- particularly those on technology -- use as calling cards. The former software programmer says she prefers to stay out of the limelight. Any publicity about herself, instead of the site, "makes me want to climb under my desk and hide," she said. "But that's just my inner geek."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sleeper Cell

Sleeper Cell

As those of you who know me, I am a big fan of espionage stories -- but since the fall of the Soviet Union and 9/11, there has been quite a shift in stories of that genre. I can find occasional TV series like MI-5 and I know about, but have never watched the popular Alias TV series and its excuse for looking at Jennifer Garner...

Recently, I started viewing Sleeper Cell on ShowTime and I like it a lot. It's timely, informative and scary. Timely as in you occasionally hear about the concept of a sleeper cell in the USA -- usually from some of the more alarmist news outlets. Informative in the sense that in addition to intrigue there is a lot of background on the motivation behind terrorist attacks. Scary in that it isn't too hard to imagine something like this happening. Of course it is a bit over the top, and that is to be expected for any television drama.

One of the things I also liked is that it is messy -- i.e., it is like real life. Not everything works out. The operations frequently fall apart as they would in real life.

In any case, if you get a chance to view this, give it a shot.



This was the first series I committed to watching on ShowTime. It turns out that ShowTime (owned by CBS) is a pretty good cable channel.

When I describe this to people, they must wonder about me... Dexter is a serial killer who works for the Miami Police CSI Unit. The series tells the story in three time periods -- when Dexter was a young boy, when he was a teenager and now, when he is in his late 20's early 30's.

When he was a young boy, his father Harry, a Miami police officer who had adopted him, recognized certain traits relating to killing animals that he understood were the precursors of the profiles of serial killers. Harry worked to instill into Dexter a code of behavior so that Dexter could channel his obsession to result in as little harm as possible.

As a result, Dexter has become a Blood Spatter expert for the Miami CSI for his day job. In his spare time, he pursues his avocations by making sure that criminals he encounters in his day job who might otherwise escape capture and punishment do not get away... Thus the channeling his obsession to do good (for some value of good...).

Of course he is always vulnerable to getting caught so this adds to the suspense. In addition, there are several other suspense generating mechanisms in play.

Once you get by the blood, this is an excellent television series. There have been two seasons which you can still see and there is another season planned for the future.

Finally, here is an interview with the author, Jeff Lindsay.

We Are Marshall

We Are Marshall

I am not ashamed to say I had to wipe away the tears during this emotional, moving film. It was, in fact, a reaffirmation to me that I still had empathy for people in pain and grief. After all of the outrageous language and accusations that have gone on in the last 6 years, I sometimes wondered if the outrage had made me uncaring for others. Glad to say my sensitivity is still intact.

In any case, back to the film. First, it is a true story: they are always better. The acting is excellent too: nothing glamorized. Matthew McConaughey is charming, unwilling to give up and unshaven. Matthew Fox is believable as the brooding assistant coach who missed the plane that crashed. And David Strathairn fits the image of a small town college president.

This is a great picture for parents to see with their kids.

Monday, January 01, 2007

In Defense of Video

Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell: Amazing Tap Dancing

I was going to title this first entry for the new year as "In Defense of TV", but I realized that it wasn't television that I wanted to praise, but rather the reproduction of real events by the use of video and sound.

Frequently people cast aspersions on the amount of TV we Americans watch -- and probably justifiably so. But this video shows that the medium is fine -- and in fact sometimes superior -- its, as Marshall McLuhan said, the medium that is the significant part.

This video clip (of the film) which was shot in one take, illustrates my point. My friend Tom Fortmann found it and let me know about it. Although possible, and perhaps that would be the artistic challenge, it would be difficult to come up with words that left me with the impression that this video engenders.

To see more Fred Astaire videos, go here for a collection of videos assembled by my friend Richard Homonoff.