March, 2008:

Kodak Z712IS First Impression

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Lois is photo-biographer and always has been. Way before digital cameras were available, Lois was buying 36mm film by the truckload. Our godchildren can attest to the thousands (or is it millions) of times that they have been asked (yes, I’m being polite!) to pose for yet another photo.

Things got better in the digital age for Lois. the cost of film disappeared. The convenience factor of always having a pocketable camera on you, with unlimited picture taking was great. All that is gravy to the single best innovation, the trivially easy ability to share these photographs in emails, on the web, editing them (red eye removal, cropping, lightening/darkening), backing them up, etc.

She can now take 10 pictures of one thing in the belief that even if nine of them stink, one will likely be worth saving. Not that she didn’t do that with film, but now there’s no guilt. 😉

A few years ago I bought Lois a Canon PowerShot S410. The 410 part means it’s a 4.1 megapixel camera. It takes reasonably good pictures, and is easy to operate. It has lots of user adjustable settings, but for the most part, Lois is not a techie (computers or photography) and the automatic settings are best.

She’s been pretty happy with it overall, but occasionally, she complains bitterly about the time it takes for the flash to be ready for another photo, or the shutter to react (she takes tons of photos while we drive on the highway). Over the past year, the complaints have gotten worse, even though she still captures some stunning shots with that old camera.

Her single biggest complaint is that it takes poor night shots. She takes tons of photos in concert halls (no flash permitted) and of the night sky. They come out (as you may have seen on my music posts where all the photos were taken by Lois) but they are disappointing in their quality.

A few months ago, I noticed that Geeks.com was running a special on the Kodak Z712IS. The link I just gave for the camera is not on sale, so don’t rush out and pay that amount. Even though the Z812IS (eight megapixels instead of seven) was already out, and now the Z1012IS is either out or already announced, I was happy with the 712 (you can read tons of articles, in particular by David Pogue of The New York Times) on why more megapixels isn’t always better.

Anyway, I procrastinated for a few months, and then Geeks.com ran a slightly better special, and I finally decided to surprise Lois with this camera. I knew it would not replace her current Canon S410 because the form factor would not have her running around with it all the time. But, I had hoped that the 12x optical zoom, plus image stabilization (the IS part of the model name) plus hopefully better night shots, would make this her preferred camera for shots taken from our house, which is where she takes the most pictures.

I added a high speed 4GB SDHC Memory Card ($20.50 at the time, cheaper now!). With $9.00 in shipping charges the total came to $204.49 (camera, memory card and shipping).

The first thing that shocked me when I opened the camera was that it was way smaller (in the good sense) than it appeared in the pictures. While it has the style of a larger SLR type of camera, it’s quite smaller than those (typified by the Nikon D100 for example). But, it’s significantly heavier than the S410, so it’s still not going to replace it for Lois to always have with her. It’s also bulkier than that (won’t fit in any kind of pocket).

The second shock was of the negative kind. The camera ships without a rechargeable battery. Huh? If you had asked me to guess how many digital cameras available today shipped with a non-rechargeable battery, I would have honestly guessed zero! Obviously, I would have been wrong. This wasn’t as clearly marked in the ads as I would have liked either.

According to reviews, the included battery back would be good for roughly 275 photos. That’s about 10 minutes of usage for Lois (just kidding, but not by that much). 😉

Given the price of the camera, I wasn’t actually as annoyed at the lack of the charger plus appropriate battery pack, but at not knowing it in time to have ordered it to arrive with the camera.

So, digging way too much (I’m not so much of a bargain hunter as I am someone who hates to reward those that overcharge!), I decided there was no way I was paying for a Kodak branded charger and battery pack. After much searching, and wanting it to arrive reasonably quickly (the best deal was from a seller on EBay who is based in Hong Kong!), I bought two of these batteries and one charger from Eforcity.com. I had bought from them before (through an EBay auction, not directly like this time) and was very pleased with the product and quick shipping.

Total for the two batteries, charger and shipping was $40.96. It arrived four days later, very good service, and the charger worked perfectly.

When I loaded the Kodak software on to Lois’ laptop, it asked if it could import her existing photos into its library. We said yes. It found 19,986 photos to import. I don’t know if that’s impressive or not (compared with the rest of you photophiles out there), but it impressed me. 😉

One last thing before comparing the first photos taken by the camera. The full manuals are available in PDF online (and obviously, can be downloaded to your laptop). Excellent documentation (a minor surprise these days), with very clear instructions on how to use the myriad features available on the camera.

Today, I finally went to our backyard and took exactly two photos with the new camera. I took the same two photos with the Canon S410 as well. Normally, I both crop and reduce the resolution on nearly every photo that I post here, keeping them as small as possible. For this one test, I will not touch the photos in any way, so that you can get the raw (well jpeg actually) experience from the two cameras. That means that the photos are larger, especially the 7-megapixel ones from the Kodak.

Here are two shots of the Tappan Zee Bridge from our backyard. Both shots are with zero zoom. The bridge is four miles away. The first photo is the Canon, the second the Kodak. Click on either photo to see the full image:

Canon S410 Tappan Zee BridgeKodak Z712IS Tappan Zee Bridge

The next two shots were taken from the same spot, but this time with the camera on maximum zoom. It occurs to me now that a long time ago I set the Canon to never zoom digitally, but I don’t know if I allowed the Kodak to go beyond the 12x optical zoom. If I did, then that would be a bad test, because adding digital zoom makes photos much grainier:

Canon S410 Zoom Tappan Zee BridgeKodak Z712IS Zoom Tappan Zee Bridge

A few things to note. While the LCD on the back of the Kodak is dramatically larger, it was hazy (but very bright) outside, and I could barely see what I was pointing at! The viewfinder wasn’t turned on by default. I didn’t feel like poking around to turn it on, so I just aimed and shot. The zoom on the Kodak is simply incredible (which is the primary reason I bought it to begin with!). I didn’t even get the majority of the bridge into the single shot! Of course, I’m really hoping I didn’t accidentally over-zoom and use optical+digital at the same time.

Finally, the non-zoomed shot from the Kodak is dramatically brighter. That could simply be more megapixels, or it could be newer sensors. Either way, with only two pictures under the belt of this camera, the story is far from told. Now we have to see whether Lois takes a shine to it or not. This post is sort of meant to goad her into taking better photos than these. 🙂

P.S. Just for completeness sake, here are two final photographs that are both cropped, slightly brightened (the Canon more than the Kodak) and filtered down in resolution. They are tiny (the Canon one is 10KB and the Kodak is 23KB) which is how I normally adjust photos that I post here:

Canon S410 Cropped Tappan Zee BridgeKodak Z712IS Cropped Tappan Zee Bridge

Who Needs Floppies

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Since I just wrote about my laptop spring cleaning, I may as well get one more geek post out of my system. 😉

I run many Asterisk servers. I love it. That said, I am still running the 1.2.x branch on all of the servers. They are up to 1.4.18.1 on the production branch. I will never install the 1.4 branch. Not because I don’t believe it’s good, but because they are getting close to releasing 1.6 into production (they are currently at 1.6.0-beta6!).

So, I was interested in getting a test machine set up to install it (after it goes production), so that I can get to know it before committing it to production servers. I considered running it on a VM on my laptop, but I really want to avoid that if I can (read my spring cleaning post again for any number of reasons).

I considered buying a used machine on EBay, Geeks.com, Tiger Direct, etc. You can get pretty beefy machines for under $200, and reasonable ones for well under $100 on EBay, but you’re risking the seller, etc.

Last week, while at Zope Corp., I noticed that they were gathering old junk in an area for their own version of a spring cleaning. In that pile were two old machines. One of them was a Dell Dimension 4550, a 2.53Ghz machine, 30GB hard drive, with 256MB of ram. Not exactly the kind of ram you’d like to see, but otherwise more than adequate to power Asterisk. For a test machine, ideal!

I asked (multiple times) if anyone else hoped to snag it, or ever see it again. People laughed (rightfully so). 😉

Into the back of my SUV it went. I stored it for a week in our utility room and today I finally pulled it out. I wanted to install CentOS on it. The other day I downloaded the 3.6GB DVD ISO in a drop over an hour on my FiOS link. Yummy!

I popped the DVD in the drive and booted. Nothing, it just booted into the existing CentOS 4.2 (I wanted to install the 5.1 release). Hmmm. Thankfully I didn’t waste time figuring this one out. I quickly found out that the machine had a CD drive, no DVD. OK, moving on…

I downloaded and burned a CentOS net install CD (only 7.1MB) and booted again. Again, straight into the old CentOS. Hmmm. Somehow, the CD drive isn’t working (boot order was set correctly).

I didn’t have root access on the machine, and it can PXE boot (boot over a network, but I didn’t have a target machine for it to boot off), but it can’t boot off a USB device. 🙁

Floppies to the rescue! My second choice for an operating system was Debian. I downloaded five floppy images for a net install. I booted off of the floppy, and it failed again. This was getting very tiresome…

I booted into the existing system, and tried to mount and read the floppy. It took forever, but finally, I got a clean listing, so there was no hardware problem with the floppy. I tried that with a CD, but it was never able to mount that, so indeed, there is a hardware problem with the CD drive.

It turns out that even though I pressed F12 to change the boot order, and I picked the floppy, it failed. I pressed F2 (for yucks) to get into setup. Once I moved the floppy boot up the ladder, and saved, it successfully booted off of the floppy. Whew.

I now have a smooth running Debian system configured to my taste. I am now patiently awaiting the final release of Asterisk 1.6.0.

So, do we need floppies? Hopefully not going forward. But, as long as there is life in older systems (and clearly there still is), the fact that my four-year-old laptop has a built-in floppy drive ended up saving me some headaches. More important, are you impressed that I had five blank floppies handy as well? 😉

Laptop Spring Cleaning

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In two weeks, my current laptop will be four years old. Wow! It’s a little hard for me to believe that I have resisted the siren song of all the new hardware that has come out during that time.

While I covet the latest stuff, and configure up a dream laptop online at least twice a year, I am (marginally) embarrassed to admit that I still love my current laptop. Clearly, I chose wisely back then, thankfully.

Over the last few months, some of the things on the machine seemed to be dragging me down. For the most part, things were reasonably peppy, but on occasion, things would be slow. It never felt like a horsepower problem, as the same thing that was peppy before, would now be slow. The next day, it might be faster again.

One particularly noticeable problem was typing in dialog boxes in Quicken (I believe other programs as well, but Quicken was obvious and reproducible 100% of the time). When I typed my master password in the dialog box in Quicken, the delay between key presses was insane. It would also complete (meaning, I could type as fast as I wanted), but it was annoying.

Lois was experiencing similar (but different) slow downs. One thing that seemed to be happening too frequently to both of us (but to Lois much more than than to me) were application crashes. Most were in ancillary programs that weren’t central to our everyday computing. Unfortunately, more for Lois than for me, when it happened, the infamous dumprep.exe (Microsoft’s reporting program) would take over the machine. It can suck the life out of the machine, locking everything up for very long stretches while it’s gathering information.

I found the following article on the net on how to disable dumprep.exe. That alone made a world of difference, again, in particular on Lois’ machine.

That got me to thinking. Over time, I have installed so many different applications. The vast majority of them proved less useful than I originally expected. Of course, if they weren’t meant to be used all the time, I probably didn’t uninstall them, because I wouldn’t have thought of them. Many of them leave little footprints, including some that start up in the background automatically.

I finally decided to do something about. I analyzed all of the processes that got auto-started, and removed a number of them. I uninstalled quite a number of programs that I had no interest in any longer.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I uninstalled and then installed from scratch an updated version of my personal firewall (yes, going through the pain of teaching it my rules again). This also caused a full system scan for malware, which was not present on the machine (meaning, the slow downs were not caused by a virus, root kit, etc.).

Voila! The system became springier. Typing in Quicken is now normal. Whew.

I then did this on Lois’ machine as well, and things are a little better there as well. Here’s the one thing that is still maddening (beyond description or belief) on her machine. A few weeks ago, her machine started to Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) whenever it was turned on in the morning. Yes, every single day!

On the second boot, it would just work. Shouldn’t computers be nearly 100% deterministic in the boot and initial login sequence? If so, shouldn’t a BSOD (without the user clicking or typing anything!) repeat exactly the same way every time?

So, perhaps it’s a warmup thing, like the drive warms up by the time of the second boot? Who knows. Anyway, it’s distressing, to say the least, but at least it consistently worked on the second boot/login, every single time. This went on for weeks. Now, out of the clear blue, it’s been at least five days in a row where it just boots up correctly the first time. Go explain that! (Not that I’m complaining…)

The moral of this post is that you can’t (or shouldn’t) go for years without tuning your machine to your current needs. Experimentation is OK, but leaving all of those experiments hanging around forever is just like having too much plaque on your teeth or arteries.

I intend to buy new laptops for both of us at some point, possibly even in 2008, but I’ve just bought us enough life to make the decision without any pressure. The biggest decision is whether to repeat my previous choice (giant, ultra-heavy, ultra-high-end model), which is painful to lug around, but gives me a real desktop replacement wherever I am, or go smaller, lighter, more convenient, but less beefy.

I didn’t regret my last choice, so I might end up repeating it, but we’ll have to wait and see… 🙂

Obama Speech Earns Nomination

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It’s been hard to watch TV the past few days without being inundated by the videos of Barack Obama’s former pastor, Dr. Jermiah A. Wright, Jr. In grabbing the link for Dr. Wright, I was quite surprised to see that he’s still listed as the pastor for the Trinity United Church of Christ, and that his bio hasn’t been moved to a page of its own, with the current pastor occupying the above link.

There’s little doubt that those videos are filled with hate speech. While there are a few who have tried to defend Dr. Wright, in particular the current pastor of the Church, most (including Obama) have at a minimum distanced themselves from the specific remarks.

Everyone was waiting to see and hear how Obama would handle himself in today’s speech. Well, if not everyone, at least Lois and I were waiting. 😉

We watched the speech a little while ago, live. It was one of the most extraordinary speeches I’ve ever seen/heard/read. It was not just eloquent and well delivered, it was extremely deep and accurate in taking us all through the history of racial strife in this country, including the progress that has been made and the still sorry state we’re in.

In addition, he painted an honest and interesting view of how some non-black people come by their views (prejudices) in a way we can all understand and relate to. In that, he continues to portray the vision of potential uniter.

He handled the Dr. Wright controversy in a way that should (hopefully) get it off of the news (at least off of the every 15 minutes cycle). If it continues to get the same airplay it did before, then (in my opinion) it’s purely for the purpose of attempting to damage his candidacy, something the news media is certainly not above doing.

So where does that leave us, or more specifically, Democrats? I believe that this was the last best chance (the Dr. Wright controversy) for Hillary Clinton to push her one message, that she’s more electable than Obama. In fact, that may be true even after his amazing speech.

If that’s true, what does it say about Democrats? Is it more important to get a Democrat in the White House, at all costs, than to put forth the clear winner in the primary process, who brings more hopefulness to more people? That’s essentially what it’s going to come down to.

If Democrats really want to see change, and really want to support a more hopeful future, then even if they believe that Obama can’t win the national election, they need to clearly rally behind him, and show the country and the world that they are not afraid to show The Audacity of Hope!

If they can do that, then perhaps the audacity of hope will actually win out. If they can’t, then by definition, it will have lost (at least this time around), even if they end up securing the Presidency via Hillary Clinton.

If Obama wins the nomination, I am sure that the Dr. Wright tapes will rear their ugly head again, and will cause him renewed pain, possibly in ways that will cost him the election. But, I believe he’s earned the right to find out, and the rest of us need to find out, whether he can overcome that obstacle as well.

On a related, but no longer relevant note, I was surprised not to see any media outlet tie the Dr. Wright hate speech to Michelle Obama’s previous comments on America. It would have seemed perfectly appropriate to ask whether she formed those opinions as a result of Dr. Wright’s preaching or not. Who knows why the media let that one go, but they did, and it would be sour grapes to ask that question now, given Barack’s excellent handling of the matter today.

Finally (also unrelated to any of the above!), the Florida delegate fiasco. I continue to be amazed at the blame thrown at Republicans for the mess that Democrats have caused themselves. Grow up people! It may very well be true that the Republicans in Florida forced the unpleasant issue upon the Democrats, but it’s the Democrats who chose to break rather than bend (or go with the flow).

Their arrogance was in believing that there couldn’t possibly be any consequence to their actions, and in the famous words of Dr. Wright, those chickens are coming home to roost now!

OK Democrats, time to make up your minds who you really want to be! 🙂

Yet Another Theme Update

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YATU (Yet Another Theme Update)…

In two previous posts, I mentioned that with my new XAMPP setup, I could and would be tinkering around with WordPress themes a bit more. At the same time, I switched to the Aspire theme, which I liked (functionally), but wasn’t thrilled about in terms of color contrast.

For the past week or so, I’ve been playing with a variety of themes. Conceptually, I liked a theme template called Sandbox (it’s also linked in the footer on every page now). Basically, a theme template is one that can be used as a standalone theme, or other themes can point to it as a base template, and customize it via css in a separate theme directory.

Sandbox held a competition for theme designers to build their own themes on top of the Sandbox template. You can see on that page that the designs varied greatly (showing the strength of good semantic markup, coupled with good knowledge of css layout).

Of the designs shown on that page, SandPress was closest to the style that I am currently fond of (three column, two right sidebars). I downloaded it and started to tweak. I also downloaded a few free css editors, including a couple of more complete editors (HTML/CSS/Preview, etc.). None made me particularly happy, but they all worked.

I then received an email announcement from ActiveState announcing the open source release of Komodo Edit 4.3. ActiveState was a portfolio company of mine from 2000-2003. We sold it to Sophos, which later spun the tools part back out into a standalone company called ActiveState again.

Even though they developed Komodo IDE while they were a portfolio company of Opticality, I never possessed a copy nor even saw a demo. It was an ancillary business to the anti-Spam part of ActiveState at the time. Now that the editor portion (not the entire IDE) was open source, I decided to download it.

Bingo! It was the more interesting of the tools (for the way my brain works) and I was able to accelerate my tweaking of the SandPress theme.

There was nothing wrong with SandPress out of the box, and I could have lived with it, reasonably happily. My tweaking was motivated by two things: wanting to get my hands a little dirtier with the theme process (specifically css in this case) and wanting to slightly simplify the theme (less graphics, less whitespace, etc.).

I accomplished my goals (to my taste, but probably not to others). This theme (of course, if you’re reading this more than a week after I wrote it, perhaps I will have changed again) is the result of a tweaked SandPress/Sandbox theme. 😉

It may last a while, it may last a day, I’m really not sure. I like it, but I haven’t exactly lived with it for any amount of time either. There is a new theme that is in alpha now (so I have not had access to it), called Vanilla, which is also based on Sandbox, but combines Sandbox with the Yahoo User Interface (YUI) library. I’m intrigued by the concept of making all of this more standards and reusable oriented, so I will likely check it out when it’s finally ready for general distribution.

Now that I feel a tad more comfortable with the theme process, I may tweak a bit more, but it probably won’t be things that will be worth blogging about directly.

Here are a few final observations/questions. If you’re a theme expert, please leave a comment so that I can learn from you!

I wanted to change the footer.php to add a link to SandPress and to add a copyright. I had to change the footer.php in the Sandbox directory, rather than to my tweaked SandPress directory. On the one hand, it seems to make sense, since Sandbox is the template, and a copyright statement might apply to all themes based on Sandbox (on my site).

On the other hand, the link to SandPress doesn’t seem to belong in the Sandbox directory at all! If I switched to another Sandbox-based theme, it should be able to easily point to that site. It would seem that a theme template should allow the easy over-ride of specific php files, and not just css. Perhaps I’m missing something. I certainly didn’t dig at all…

Lastly, I can’t decide whether I should switch the main blog page (the index.php equivalent) to be article summaries with read more links. Given the length of my posts, the front page is a honking big one. Not many people come to visit that page directly so I’m not sure it matters. If anyone has a strong opinion, with an argument to support it, please leave me a comment. My gut is now telling me to switch to a condensed front page, but I just don’t know if that makes sense or not…

Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King

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Last night, nine of us went to see Jerry Jeff Walker play at BB King. Keeping with my new tradition, I’ll cover the concert first, and then circle back to tell the story leading up to the show.

We weren’t all that familiar with Jerry Jeff’s repertoire before last night. I knew he was Country, but I actually thought of him as a little more Folk, and reasonably mellow. The only song I was sure was his was Mr. Bojangles (a song I have loved forever). Even that song was more familiar to me via David Bromberg’s famous version (which discusses Jerry Jeff directly and how he came to write the song).

In this post, I briefly mentioned that we saw Jerry Jeff sing two songs (including Mr. Bojangles) live at a benefit in Austin, TX. That night, he sang alone, playing an acoustic guitar. That contributed to my belief that he was a pretty mellow performer. We loved him that night, so we were quite excited to see him play last night.

We knew in advance that he was appearing with a band. When he came out, he explained that the last two times that he played in NYC (not sure whether it was BB King or not) he played alone, so he thought he’d change things up and bring a band. He came out with an electric guitar, but played rhythm all night. Here’s a fuzzy picture of Jerry Jeff:

Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King

He had a lead guitarist (Tommy Nash), a bass player (Brad Fordham) and a drummer (Steve Samuel). All of them extremely professional. During the first number, Tommy Nash played a nice solo, and I thought that this was going to be a journeyman kind of performance, solid, but unspectacular.

Wrong! By the second number, it was obvious that Nash was a superstar. He remained incredible the entire night. He looked incredibly familiar to me, but I couldn’t imagine that I’ve ever seen him before and wouldn’t have remembered his playing. It turns out that he played with the Dixie Chicks for more than six years (not that I’ve seen them live, so I don’t know why he looked so familiar to me).

Here’s a photo of Tommy Nash:

Tommy Nash at BB King

While there were a few slower, more mellow songs, even those were done in a rich Country band kind of way. For the most part, it was hard-charging old-style Country music (or, as described by many others, Outlaw Country music). I can’t begin to tell you how great it was! The words are fun, the music is up-beat and fast moving, Jerry Jeff’s voice is great, and the band is tight, with an extraordinary lead guitar.

Here’s the entire band on stage:

Jerry Jeff Walker Band at BB King

The show was sold out. Previously, I had firmly believed (and written) that BB King holds 400 people. Lois asked someone last night and was told that it can hold 600. That’s quite a spread, but in any event, there were only a handful of empty seats, as the joint was packed.

I must have been living under a rock when it comes to Jerry Jeff, because I just assumed that the majority of the crowd would have been drawn there on a venue basis (meaning, would have been out for a fun night at a nice place). No way! At least 2/3’s of the crowd were die-hard Jerry Jeff fans. They were crazed for him. That makes these kinds of shows so much more fun. They knew every word of every song, and sang along (very loudly when encouraged by Jeff, and politely when not).

Again, because I obviously didn’t know his stuff well, I assumed that Mr. Bojangles would be held for the encore, being his most famous song (in my uneducated opinion). Instead, he played it early in the show (I think it was the third number), and they did it in a more funky way than the folksy one-person version he sang in Austin. It was excellent (both ways!).

Jerry Jeff has exceptional energy on stage (independent of the fact that he’s 66 years old!). He has a love for the audience that is magnified and reflected back at him from the audience as well. I would call this type of experience pure joy on both his part, and the part of his big fans. They were definitely swept up, and he was glad to sweep them.

They did a bunch of really cool numbers, but one that I hadn’t heard before (it’s obviously a big hit, because finding it on the net was easy) was Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother. Here’s a not-so-great sounding version on YouTube. The song was written by Ray Wylie Hubbard (who used to tour around a lot with Jerry Jeff). Here’s a YouTube video of Ray talking about the inspiration of that song. A very funny story…

Anyway, one of the repeating lines in the song is “Mother who has raised a son so well”. What happened last night, but not in the video that I linked above, is that every time Jerry Jeff sang “so well”, the crowd responded by screaming out So Well, So Well, So Well. It was incredibly cool, since it was obvious that his fans knew in advance that they were supposed to do that, rather than the artist saying, “now sing along with me”…

After playing for 90 minutes, they said goodnight. A few minutes later, they came back out for a two-song encore. After playing the first song, Jerry Jeff did something that I haven’t seen in any concert before, and I’ve been going to concerts for a very long time. He repeated Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother! Obviously, he had tons more material he could have done. Instead, he decided to give the crowd what he believed they wanted to hear, and to participate in. He didn’t guess incorrectly. The crowd ate it up. If it’s possible, they did it with a little more energy the second time.

Total time on stage, roughly 100 minutes. That’s 100 minutes of pure joy and great music. There wasn’t a single dull moment in the entire show!

Now, continuing with the recent tradition, here are all of the non-music parts of the night. Please feel free to stop reading right now if you only wanted to know about the actual show (I promise not to be offended). 😉

As you know (if you read this space regularly), Lois and I were at BB King just this past Sunday to see Strawberry Fields. You would also know that we have five guests staying with us for a long weekend. A friend of theirs is about to graduate from medical school in New Jersey. They invited him (and his girlfriend, who is a first year resident in New Jersey as well) to join us for the show. Given their doctoring, they weren’t able to commit weeks in advance.

While we were waiting for last week’s show to begin, we called our godson to ask whether his friends were going to join us. He checked with them and texted us back that they would be able to make it. I went to the box office and bought two more tickets (we had ordered the first seven on Ticketmaster weeks earlier to make sure we locked them in).

That turned out to be lucky (lucky in that we didn’t know about the Strawberry Fields concert until two days before we attended!). Jerry Jeff sold out a few days later and it would have been awful if the NJ docs couldn’t have joined us…

Lois went over to the manager that night and told him that we’d have nine people back on Saturday for Jerry Jeff. Most of the bigger tables only have eight seats, so she was trying to get a sense of the logistics of handling nine people while keeping us near the stage. He assured her that he would take care of us. He told her to show up at 5:30pm, and he would give us a blue ticket and ensure we got the right seating to accommodate our party. Cool.

We showed up exactly at 5:30pm. There was already a pretty long line outside. Thankfully, the weather was incredibly mild (they had predicted rain all day, and it was sunny all day). We got on line while Lois went in to find the manager. Another manager told her that the one that she spoke to last week wasn’t there, but that it wouldn’t matter, as everything had changed. Apparently, there was a private party going on (friends of Jerry Jeff), and it changed their logistics for the night.

The best laid plans…

This is all of us, excluding Lois who was taking the picture, waiting on line:

On Line at BB King

We waited on line and the line continued to get longer and longer… Normally, the doors open at exactly 6pm, but it was closer to 6:15 when they started letting people in. It didn’t take us too long to get in. It appeared that all of the eight-person tables near the stage were already taken. They offered us tables on the upper level, but at least dead center.

Unfortunately, those are six-person tables. They offered us six and three at two tables next to each other. That was horrible. It would mean that the one person sitting with Lois and me would miss getting to know their friend’s girlfriend (none of them had ever met her before).

Then the host offered us a table for 10, but way on the side toward the back. Lois went to scout it out while we held the center tables. She didn’t like that spot either. All of a sudden I see her waving us to follow her. It turns out there was one more eight-person table, near the stage, but a little to the left of the stage, that was available. We sat there, and Lois sat at a table for four right next to it, right up against the stage.

We all had very good meals (and drinks), including dessert. We had plenty of time to get to know the girlfriend, so the social side of the evening went extremely well too!

When the show started it was instantly obvious that the people to the table immediately to our right (both the eight-person table near us, and the four-person table to the right of Lois’ table, who were with them!) were giant Jerry Jeff fans. They were swaying in a nearly religious manner from the first note.

While it was a tad distracting (most of us at our table had to look between and over them to see Jerry Jeff himself), it was kinda cool to see them so into it. Unfortunately, the cool part wore off pretty quickly. By the time the second song started, some random collection of the 10 of them started standing and swaying during the songs. The guy in front of me was at least 6’4″, and built like a brick house (in other words, very wide as well!), and it was nearly impossible to see Jerry Jeff, except at the extremes of the sways.

His wife/girlfriend stood on her chair for a number of songs! She was only an inch taller than him when standing on the chair (to give you a sense of his height!). No one said anything, because it was obvious that they were delirious with love for Jerry Jeff, rather than just being generically rowdy concert goers.

The only thing that saved the day was that BB King always has two large screens on either side of the stage (roughly 60″ diagonal I’d guess). They show the live action. So, people at our table were still able to see live video of the stage when we couldn’t see it directly.

All of the tolerance changed after the fourth song. Jerry Jeff himself looked at them and said “Please sit down, people behind you paid $85 for a seat, and they’d like to see the show too!” (OK, tickets weren’t quite $85, but they weren’t cheap either, not that it would have made it any better.) They sheepishly sat down. People cheered Jerry Jeff’s move! The people behind joined in and yelled Down in Front once they realized that they had Jerry’s support!

After sitting for one song, they stood again. This time, Jerry Jeff said to the woman who was standing on her chair that she must be blocking more than three rows of tables. They sat down again, but again, only for perhaps two more songs. After that, they did whatever they wanted, and simply didn’t care, and Jerry Jeff just gave up. You’d think that the staff at BB King would have done something, but they didn’t.

What made it more pathetic was that they weren’t lost in the rapture of the moment. They realized that they were annoying people, so they kept turning to the crowd and raising their arms, inviting everyone behind them to get up and dance along. How many times do you have to do that, without getting anyone else to stand up, and not realize that you’re simply being an a**. Oh well, it takes all kinds of people to make up the world…

To be honest, this kind of behavior isn’t all that rare. It’s but one symptom of the Spitzer Generation. Translation: It’s all about ME! Not the slightest thought or care about your fellow concert goers, you paid for your ticket, and by golly, you’re going to enjoy the concert the way you want to, no matter what, including two direct requests from the artist himself, whom you supposedly worship!

One of the people in our party took some photos of them. Of course, without meaning to be rude, they are all mostly butt shots. They are currently on a plane home, but I’ll get those photos in an email in the morning. If any one of them seems particularly apt to make the point, I’ll probably update this post with a photo, and put in a comment to that effect. Perhaps I’ll show some class and just leave it alone. 😉

Thankfully, for me, it didn’t ruin the concert (it easily could have). The music was just too good for them to accomplish that. Whew.

Avenue Q

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The young folks spent the day running around NYC, riding the Staten Island Ferry, and spending time in Central Park. The old folks spent the day tethered to their laptops.

We met up at the apartment and walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House in mid-town. We had a fantastic meal there (no surprise), including having the one person in our group who was previously not a fan of seafood taking seconds.

We got there extremely early (Lois is always the overly cautious one), and that worked out. It was an unusually leisurely meal for the Duck House (which typically serves more quickly) and it all worked out perfectly. You can see how satisfied we all looked at the end of the meal:

Duck House Meal Before Avenue Q

They called for rain starting early evening, but it held off. That worked out too, since we got to walk from the Duck House to the theater, with no precipitation.

We had tickets to see Avenue Q at the Golden Theater on 45th Street. We got there at about 7:52 and were comfortably seated long before the curtain went up (or rather the lights went down, since there was no curtain) at 8:05 like most Broadway shows.

Setting the record straight, I exaggerated by saying comfortably seated. There’s nothing wrong with the Golden Theater, but we’re pretty spoiled by the Gershwin Theater (where we’ve seen Wicked seven times!), which is so much more comfortable, so much more spacious (leg room), and so many more seats…

Our goddaughter saw Avenue Q a number of years ago. She enjoyed it, but warned us that it was off color. That’s code for Lois should stay away! Both my godson and I were more than a little worried about her reaction, even though neither of knew exactly how off color the show would be.

The very first number is cute, but also sets some expectations in that regard. The words it sucks to be me are repeated too many times to count. It didn’t offend me, but I was already a tad worried about Lois. Completely due to chance, Lois and I ended up at opposite ends of our seven seat block, so we caught each other’s eye a few times, but didn’t talk about the show until it was over.

Without giving away anything material (trust me), Avenue Q is essentially an adult version of Sesame Street. In other words, it is done in the style of Sesame Street, and is meant to educate, while being playful (only this time, in an adult sense). The education is meant to teach some life lessons, but they use other techniques that are more traditional Sesame Street (as in teaching the meaning of some words).

As with Sesame Street, some of the characters are puppets, and some are honest-to-goodness humans. Different than Sesame Street, the puppets are controlled by humans who are on the stage acting alongside the puppet they are controlling, and singing and speaking without trying to pretend to be ventriloquists. It works perfectly well, so even if my description sounds cheesy, fear not!

Every single actor on the stage was excellent. There wasn’t a weak voice or performance among the group. The two leads, Howie Michael Smith and Sarah Stiles are fantastic. Great voices, great acting and great range (they each control multiple characters). That said, to repeat, the entire cast is superb, and you should check each of them out on the cast page.

Here are the two leads, then a photo of some other cast members:

Avenue Q Lead ActorsPhoto of some cast members of Avenue Q

The humor in the show is largely tongue-in-cheek, and goes over well with the audience. Lots of bursts of uncontrollable laughter from people all around us. But, an over-the-top focus on sex and sexual themes. Not innuendo, but rather explicit stuff. Keep in mind that they can do things with puppets on the stage that actors couldn’t get away with. Nuff said.

That kind of stuff doesn’t bug me, in any way, even when it’s completely gratuitous. I love comedy/humor in most forms. I believe I’ve said in the past that I like it even when it isn’t funny, as long as I can project where they were heading, if the unrealized destination would have been funny.

In this case, it also didn’t bug me at all. But, it was more than just over-the-top. It was actually vulgar at times, and I imagine that it offended a number of people (including Lois) though many (not including Lois) wouldn’t be comfortable admitting their discomfort. Even the vulgarity was good for cheap laughs, and the audience as a whole most definitely laughed heartily even at those jokes!

I tried not to look around too much, but I heard some people say something about kids being in the audience. I hope there weren’t too many (or rather any!). If parents brought young children to this show, thinking it’s only a puppet show with singing, they were sadly mistaken, and abrogated their parental responsibility to investigate the show in advance of bringing their kids. Of course, if they did, and still brought their kids, their judgment needs to be checked in other matters as well (in my opinion).

From very early on, it was entirely obvious that this was not going to be a PC (Politically Correct) show. For that, I applaud them completely. In my opinion, the PC in this country is out of control. Not wanting to offend entire groups of people is laudable. But, the same people that feel it’s verboten to say something against this particular group, have no shame in knocking something else (oh, let’s say Republicans or Christians).

Avenue Q takes no prisoners, and shouldn’t!

That said, they also take the obligatory shot at President Bush (only one, which was in itself impressive restraint!). The crowd whooped it up like they had just heard the funniest joke in their life! It’s fine, and wasn’t over-the-top in any sense.

That said, I found it incredibly ironic. Basically, the complaint is that life under W’s rule is horrible, and we simply can’t wait to get out from under it. I realize that at a minimum, at least half of the country feels this way, perhaps even more. So, it’s a legitimate point of view, right or wrong. But, in this case, it’s written by people who have a very successful Broadway hit on their hands (a Tony winner!), it’s being delivered by actors who are starring in a Broadway hit, and being received by people who can afford to take their dates/families/friends to a Broadway show, all in the midst of these horrible economic times.

Yes, the lives of all of those that shared this very clever joke all seem terribly in shambles at this time, entirely due to W’s iron-fisted madness!

Unfortunately, I really worry about the half of the country that thinks their lives will be immeasurably better when either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama become President. The magical thinking that goes on, that a President exerts such power to change things (in either direction) simply discounts what our government and economy have become and how they work. Oh well…

In and around all of the jokes, there are actually some very deep insights about life, and the plight we all experience as we grow up and make our own way. I’m impressed with the way the writers deliver those lessons (to those who are paying attention) in a subtle and lighthearted manner.

Bottom line: A very clever show, wittily written, with good songs, great singing, excellent harmonies, lots of funny dialog, top-notch acting and great puppeteering. If you don’t mind vulgarity (at times), and lots of focus on sex (even when it’s not vulgar), and you aren’t offended by non-PC jokes, you will really enjoy this show. I did, even though I can totally understand why some others might not.

When we got out it was raining. It was coming down reasonably steadily, but it wasn’t too cold, and it wasn’t windy (so the rain was coming straight down rather than blowing in your face), so we walked home (cutting through Grand Central as we did the night before). Given all of the weather predictions, so far, it’s held up remarkably well.

Another excellent day! 🙂

Top Of The Rock

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Our godson came to visit for a long weekend, with four of his friends. They arrived yesterday, early evening, landing 40 minutes early, and with the help of an enterprising driver (apparently, he confused the shoulder and exit ramps for the right lane a little too often) 😉 were able to get here an hour earlier than we expected. Yay!

Here’s the obligatory welcome photo that all guests are required to pose for. 🙂

Guests Spending the Weekend with Us

We have a number of fun activities planned, so there will be at least one posting a day recounting the one before. Since we thought that last night would start a little later, and that our guests might be a little travel weary, we only planned a nice dinner across the street at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Rio Grande.

When they arrived earlier, in addition to moving up the reservation, we improvised an after-dinner plan to go to the Top Of The Rock (the observation decks on top of Rockefeller Center). Lois and I have never been up there, nor have we been to the Rainbow Room (a very high-end restaurant right below the observation decks), so we were interested in this activity as well. Our goddaughter told us that between Top Of The Rock (TotR) and the Empire State Building (she’s been on top of both recently), she favors TotR.

We headed over to dinner, and had a great meal and great margaritas. We headed back to the apartment to grab some heavier clothing before braving the cold (but nice) weather outside. The seven of us were split between two apartments (the second one being temporarily empty awaiting our goddaughter and husband-to-be moving to NYC in short order).

As we were leaving our apartment, we stopped on the other floor, just to drop some leftovers in the fridge there. It’s interesting how things are meant to be, because the guy with the leftovers was about to put them in our fridge, but I said “Hey, we can easily stop down and put them in yours on the way out.”

Well, when we got down there, no one could unlock the door! The key turned easily, in both directions, but it wouldn’t double-lock or unlock. After 45 degrees in either direction, it would just hit a wall, and not move any further. The doorman came up to use his spare set of keys, and couldn’t get in either. He tried the trusty WD-40 to no avail. If I hadn’t offered to use the second fridge, we wouldn’t have discovered the problem until late last night.

What to do? Independently, one of the guests ended up not feeling too well after dinner. Since I was going upstairs anyway, she decided to skip TotR and rest on our couch. Lois decided to stay behind as well to take care of the lock. She ended up calling an emergency locksmith who showed up at 9:30pm to work on the problem.

In the meantime, the remaining five of us walked to Rockefeller Center, walking through the lovely Grand Central Station and MetLife buildings.

The elevator ride to the top is pretty cool. Very smooth and faster than expected. The ceiling of the elevator is transparent, and there are soft blue lights on each floor, making the ride up an enjoyable part of the experience.

At the top, there are three levels of decks. Different than the Empire State Building, there are no metal bars to interfere with your view. There are large glass/plastic panes that you can easily see through. Between the panes, there are a few inches of open space, so you can even take photos that aren’t going through the glass.

On the top of the three levels, there is only one side that has any glass panes. It’s significantly narrower than the other levels, making it safer (you can only fall two floors if you try really hard), so they remove the glass. Absolutely fantastic!

Here are two shots:

Empire State Building from Top Of The RockChrysler and MetLife Buildings from Top Of The Rock

We spent some quality time on each of the three levels. I got a business call when we at the very top. Unfortunately, while my Sprint service is normally impeccable in NYC, it wasn’t at TotR. I ended up dropping the other party twice, and he smartly gave up after that.

We walked down Fifth Avenue on the way home, and got in a little after 11pm. Lois was downstairs with the locksmith. I went down to keep her company. In a small world story twist, the locksmith was from the same tiny town that my mother was born and grew up in.

Anyway, since he was still there, more than 90 minutes after he arrived, clearly, the problem wasn’t small. It took him nearly another hour to finish up. It wasn’t until after midnight that Lois and I went back upstairs, and allowed our very sleepy guests to go back to the other apartment and sack out.

A good time was ultimately had by all, and a lock that was clearly going to fail sooner rather than later was replaced, before it locked out our goddaughter at an inopportune time, so another AWTEW story. 🙂

Internet Connectivity Update

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In this post, I discussed my emergency backup system for when my house or apartment Internet connectivity goes down. In that report, I mentioned that my WiFi connection in the apartment was getting reasonably flaky.

We’re in the apartment all week this week, so I was bracing for the experience. As I mentioned before, the WiFi router wasn’t far from our laptops, roughly 21 feet. There is a bathroom in between the two rooms, so there are two walls for the signal to travel through. Still, most of the time, it works well.

When the link is up, tests show an average download speed of roughly 3.6Mbps. Upload speeds of roughly 364Kbps.

On Monday and Tuesday, we had a few drop outs, but they were relatively short lived. Yesterday morning, we lost connectivity, and it didn’t come back within five minutes. I could have put the emergency plan into action, but I decided to try something else.

I have tons of extra (mostly ancient) networking equipment. In both the house and apartment, I have a pair of old Netgear XE602 Powerline Adapters. The pair in the house never get used, because the one place I could have used them yielded a near-zero signal. In the apartment, I have used them on rare occasion, but they worked reasonably well.

So, yesterday morning, I grabbed the pair, plugged one end in next to the main router (in the remote room) and brought the WiFi router into the bedroom, and connected it to the other XE 602. We immediately had a connection. It’s possible that the reboot of the WiFi router (even remotely) would have corrected the problem.

More important, when I did the speed test, I got 5.2Mbps down and 494Kbps up. After a while, even though I didn’t have a problem, I switched to a wired connected (since the WiFi router was close enough to my machine to just plug in directly). Lois remained wireless the rest of the day.

We never lost connectivity, but at least two times, there were instantaneous blips that would be unnoticed by humans (normally), but occasionally cause my SSH client to drop the connection to the server. I think it’s the Powerline devices (they are no longer sold new, and perhaps newer generations ones wouldn’t exhibit these problems). No worries though, this is way better than what we were experiencing.

For now, I’ll leave it set up this way. We have company coming in tonight, and staying the weekend. I don’t know if they will bring their laptops, but if they do, I may need to relocate the WiFi back outside, to give them a workable connection. We’ll see…

Random Spitzer Fiasco Thoughts

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I really wanted to make one long post on this issue, and then put it behind me. Having Lois as a conscience made me behave otherwise. So, in my last post, I kept it simple, and just translated Eliot Spitzer’s resignation speech.

What follows are completely unrelated, random thoughts on this fiasco. It’s a mixture of comedy and commentary. It’s not news. If you stumbled on this post looking for anything important, please move along swiftly…

On Monday night, David Letterman had a Top 10 Eliot Spitzer Excuses. Some are clever, some are lame, some are deep.

While his #1 excuse:

I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago

was excellent, I propose knocking one of the lame ones off the list (you can pick your own), and replacing it with mine (perhaps even in the #1 position):

I thought I was joining a Prosecution Ring!

Keeping with the same inspiration, but moving to commentary from comedy, let’s repeat the #1 excuse again:

I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago

OK, so obviously, Bill didn’t quite do that. But, the joke isn’t far from a different reality. Bill Clinton legitimized this years ago. While many people were horrified at Bill’s behavior, probably more were only too happy to excuse his behavior, at every opportunity. After all, it was a private matter.

Well, Bill’s indiscretion with Monica Lewinsky might not have been criminal (though other allegations against him would definitely be criminal if true!), Eliot Spitzer is only too happy to be lumped in the private matter queue, even though his was clearly a crime.

One of the best words used by many commentators to describe Spitzer’s behavior is reckless. This too applies to Bill’s behavior in the White House. Why? Because at best, you leave yourself open to blackmail. Do you think that the people behind a high-end prostitution ring would be above blackmail?

How far do you think Bill Clinton or Eliot Spitzer would have gone to protect their secrets? I think pretty darn far, if they had the slightest notion that it might be kept under wraps. At best, that’s reckless, at worst, it’s disastrous. Thankfully for all of us, both of them were caught.

What’s the point of that line of reasoning? The point is that is has nothing to do with morals. To be clear, I would support legalizing prostitution, so I am not moralizing against this specific crime. But, until that happens, this is most definitely a crime, and engaging in it is simply reckless (or, in the immortal words of Wicked the Musical, well, not that simple).

Many commentators have pointed out that he has specifically prosecuted prostitution rings in the past. So, he can’t easily claim that he didn’t think it was a crime. What is more interesting (and has also been commented on many times already) is the fact that he was well aware that his banking transactions would likely be flagged!

He called the bank to ask them to break up a large transaction into smaller parts and was told that it had already gone out. He then asked for his name to be removed from the transaction and was told that this couldn’t be done.

Folks, think about it for a minute… Are you done thinking yet? This guy knows exactly what happens next. The IRS (in the past), and now likely the FBI as well, immediately start looking into what might be behind this kind of money movement.

So, even though they might have pieced together his past indiscretions (oops, I fell into the trap, as I should have said crimes), they might have had some trouble making an air-tight case if he hadn’t continued, allowing them to catch all of his conversations on his cell phone once they got a warrant based on the suspected money laundering.

People are calling that arrogant, or showing his hubris. That’s just plain kind. To me, it’s just plain stupid. Do we want a leader in any position of power to behave so stupidly that they can’t think through the consequences of the predicament they are in, and alter their behavior at least a bit?

I would whole-heartedly endorse a new set of laws on the books that would allow prosecution based on over-the-top stupidity. Sure, it would be abused with prosecutorial zeal at times (ironically, by the likes of Spitzer himself!), but in the end, we’d get some really stupid people off the streets. 😉

So, we’ve shifted gears already, so lets use the last theme to shift into a related one. (If you weren’t paying attention, that theme was stupidity.)

None of what I’m saying has anything to do with party affiliation, though I’m sure that a very few staunch Democrats will want to read that bias in this piece. A number of commentators on the cable news shows came out earlier this week and immediately started screaming about the comparisons between this fiasco and the ones surrounding Larry Craig and David Vitter (as if any prior bad act somehow excuses a current one).

Before you think I’m just picking on some obscure commentator, here’s an article in the vaunted Washington Post, making exactly that comparison. Some of the comments show that this is hardly an isolated opinion.

Before I make some observations, using the previous theme, let me state clearly that I think Larry Craig should be in jail! Not for the crime he’s accused of, but because he’s as stupid as they come in having plead guilty to said crime! I don’t care whether he’s gay. I don’t care whether he’s a hypocrite who railed against gays, even though he’s very likely gay. I care that he’s making laws for this country, but didn’t think to consult a lawyer as to the consequences of his guilty plea? Lock him up!

Sorry, it’s not entirely out of my system yet, so here’s one more thing. On February 19th, 2008, the situation comedy show According To Jim did a phenomenal parody of the Larry Craig bathroom encounter. It perfectly portrayed my original reaction when this story broke.

Let’s see if you think Larry Craig is guilty of this crime or not? To be clear, guilty of solicitation, not guilty of being gay! If he isn’t gay, how likely would he be to have a clue as to how to solicit someone in the next stall? I certainly wasn’t clued in to this technique. But, as Jim Belushi deftly showed us, there are possibly some situations whereby you could accidentally engage in this coded behavior.

OK, so now you’ve done the unthinkable, and accidentally solicited an undercover officer. When confronted with those facts, what do you do? Admit it, just to make it go away? Huh? It’s not even a matter of his position as a Senator. It’s a matter of complete incredulity that you might have done such a thing, a thing that you had never even heard of before.

The alternative is more obvious. You were soliciting, you got caught, and you panicked. In the famous words of a great comedian (Bill Engvall):

Here’s Your Sign

OK, are you satisfied that I can skewer a Republican as well? Good. Unfortunately, that’s not the point. There is very little similarity in their plights. Spitzer prosecuted this exact crime, and can’t pretend to not understand that it’s a crime. We’ve already covered the stupid defense of Larry Craig, and no, it’s not plausible, but it’s certainly not the same level of ridiculousness that would apply had Spitzer claimed a similar defense (thankfully, his stupidity has some bounds…).

They are similar in that Larry Craig was an anti-gay moralist, so they are both hypocrites, for sure. Larry Craig and David Vitter can’t enforce laws directly, and they can’t even pass laws without a majority of their colleagues agreeing with them. So, if they are influenced (as in my assertion above regarding blackmail), they can do damage, for sure, but not as much as someone who was Attorney General, and recently Governor.

Shifting gears again…

Did you notice that the only senior Democrat who didn’t immediately denounce (let alone distance themselves from) Spitzer was Hillary Clinton? There’s little doubt that she was wildly uncomfortable when asked to comment, but in the end, she wouldn’t disclaim his behavior, even after he publicly admitted it. You can read an article about it here, but the important quote was:

Let’s wait and see what comes out of the next few days

Why wait? Was there a possible good outcome or spin possible from this admission? No. She was caught between a rock and a hard place. If she denounced his behavior, the follow-up question would inevitably be Why didn’t you denounce Bill’s behavior? It would feel like splitting hairs to answer Well, Bill didn’t commit an actual crime…

While this may not cause her any more grief than losing one committed superdelegate, it shows one small consequence of Bill’s former reckless behavior. It put her in a position of having to be an apologist for someone that no one else felt a need to defend.

Ultimately, whether it hurts Hillary or not, her behavior has hurt all women. The phony stand by your man speech (when they obviously hate each other beyond description) has made it more difficult for other woman to stand up for their basic human rights to be treated with dignity by their partners. It’s interesting (and even a little amazing) to me that so many women look up to her. I only hope those women don’t have to live the private life that Hillary does…

Just to make sure that the last point isn’t misunderstood, I’m not saying that none of the aggrieved woman (no pun intended on McGreevy’s name) 😉 should stand by their man. If there is love between them, or for the sake of the kids, etc., they should try to work it out. But, if it’s expediency, and in particular political expediency that keeps you together, then it harms all women.

I honestly think I can write for a few more hours, but I have probably lost all of my readers by now already. So, I’ll end with one last irony.

Since this scandal broke, the name of this particular prostitution ring (or rather, Escort Service) has been splattered all over the Internet. Even The New York Times printed their name: Emperors Club.

One has to wonder how much more money they are going to make in 2008 now that people know that a super rich person, who knows a ton about the industry, specifically chose them, including having women brought from out of state to pleasure him. I’d say the IRS has it’s work cut out when auditing this enterprise next year! 😉