Xy usually grades papers downstairs, but for Hallowe’en she wanted to be by the front door to meet trick-or-treaters. (Yes, our front door is upstairs. It’s a New Orleans thing.) She set up a little table for her schoolwork, which I thought was sufficiently adorable to warrant a picture. She’s got her portable TV rigged up so she can watch the made-for-TV movie about the Canal Street brothel — a true story which took place in our neighborhood. (Xy says the movie sucked.)


I think I’m going to participate in the National Novel Writing Month. I’m going to try to write a novel in thirty days. I don’t know if I can, but I like reading novels, so I’d like to try writing one.

I started writing a novel back during the summer of 2001. The working title was The Vibrating Telemarketer. The title may have been the best part. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the novel seem stupid and irrelevant, so I put it aside.

Thanx to Rachel for cluing me in to NaNoWriMo.

Electoral Strategery

Two days until the election. I know a lot of people are sick of the hype. If you’re sick of it, please read no further. I just want to record my thoughts on the election before it goes down, for my own sake at least.

I predicted a Bush victory six months ago, and I’m sticking by that. Of course, I have no crystal ball; I don’t really know what will happen. But this prediction has proved to be a good psychological coping mechanism.

The Bush presidency has been far worse than I could have imagined, mainly because of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, which Noam Chomsky called a “gift to the hard jingoistic right.” The attacks gave Bush huge popular support, and he squandered it on an unjust war. The U.S. government often does bad things, but the war in Iraq is the most massive and blatantly unjust action I’ve witnessed yet.

All of which makes this election seem like the most important of my lifetime. Of course, this is only the seventh presidential election of which I have been cognizant. I don’t remember the Vietnam era.

So obviously, I’m against Bush. That much is simple.

So who to vote for on Tuesday? This is where things get complicated.

I’d prefer to vote for a candidate who reflects my values, like David Cobb of the Green Party. He can’t beat Bush, though. There’s only one man who can: John Kerry.

I don’t like the fact that Kerry supported the war on Iraq when even I, a private citizen, could see that it was unjustified. I don’t like the fact that he supported the Patriot Act which tramples on civil rights. I don’t like the fact that he has supported so much of the Bush agenda.

I can’t support Kerry on his merits. But perhaps I should vote for him for strategic reasons. I know many people who don’t like Kerry but are voting for him anyway. Most of these people seem to regard themselves as making a realistic and pragmatic choice in difficult times. They are going to choose Kerry not based on his merits and his record, but as a strategic or tactical vote. They are voting for him because he is not Bush, and he is the only candidate with a realistic chance of beating Bush. He may not be much better than Bush, but at least he’s a little better, and even a little difference makes a big difference, if you follow me. This is the well-known “lesser of evils” strategy which dominates American politics today.

I used to despise this kind of thinking, but I’ve become resigned to it. Until our electoral system changes, strategic voting and lesser-evilism are here to stay.

In fact, I’ll go one further. Suppose Kerry is not even a little better than Bush; suppose he is, on balance, exactly the same — better in some ways, worse in others; or suppose he is actually worse. We won’t really know unless he takes office, of course, but this is a thought experiment, so just suppose. Even if Kerry makes a worse president than Bush, our first premise in this tortuous train of logic is still intact: He is still not Bush. If you are deep into the “Anybody But Bush” mentality, then this alone provides all the justification you need to vote for the man. Let us further assume that presidents in their second term are always more powerful and capable. A second Bush term would validate all the terrible things he’s done in the first term, and presumably he’d escalate his campaign to destroy America. But a first term by somebody else — anybody else — would mean a weaker president, less capable of damaging the country.

I’m not saying I accept this logic, but grant it for the sake of argument, because it takes the issue of Kerry’s merits off the table completely, and allows us to focus on the question:

Should I cast a strategic vote for Kerry? If we grant all of the above, the answer would seem to be “yes.”

But if I’m going to be all strategic about my vote, all pragmatic and realistic, I really need to consider the electoral college. It’s abundantly clear that all of Louisiana’s electoral votes will go to Bush, and exactly zero will go to Kerry. And in most states this is true, either one way or another. There seem to be only a few states where the outcome is in question.

From the perspective of lesser-evilism and ABB-ism, the strategic value of my vote only holds true if Kerry wins by a very narrow margin indeed. If he loses, I’ve wasted my vote. If he wins by a big margin, he didn’t need my vote after all.

Some people, like my friends David Bryan or Michael Homan, seem to justify voting for Kerry in hopes that he’ll win the popular vote, even if he loses the election, but I find this a remarkably uninspiring argument.

I feel confident in the fact that, in Louisiana at least, neither Kerry nor Bush will miss my vote. However, every single vote matters very much to third party candidates. They are not running to win; they are merely running to show.

Therefore I have concluded that the most strategic vote of all is a vote for a candidate who represents values I truly believe in. If anyone happens to read this who lives in a state where the outcome is assured, then I encourage you to vote your conscience, and don’t fall for this strategic claptrap.

I especially detest all the anti-Nader hype that people are wasting each other’s time with. Yes, right here in Louisiana people are arguing about this, just like everywhere else. But Nader, or any third-party candidate, is so far from making a difference here in Louisiana that it’s laughable. He’ll be lucky to get 1% of the vote. Meanwhile, registered Democrats are gonna hand Bush our state on a platter.

Of course, all of the above comments apply only to the majority of states, where one candidate or the other has the election locked. Things are pretty cut and dried here. People who live in the so-called battleground states are facing the more interesting dilemma. I don’t envy them.

Postscriptum: It will be no surprise if the results of this election are contested. In a way, I’m hoping for another debacle, because electoral reform will only happen when people are pissed off. But eventually a winner should emerge. If Bush wins, we’re screwed. If Kerry wins, it will be no great triumph. We’ll still be screwed. I think there’s a great danger that, with Kerry as president, many Americans who got worked up about this election will think the battle is over. But it won’t be. The battle for the direction of America will continue.

Finally, for an excellent analysis of the evils of the electoral college, and why Colorado is a state to watch during this election, see the Black Commentator article “Black Vote Smothered by Electoral College.”

Light & Air

My big project for today was installing a new ceiling fan in our bedroom.

First I had to buy one. Instead of going out to a Home Depot in the suburbs, I went to Armstrong’s which is only a few blocks from our house in Mid-City. I had to wait my turn, but it was well worth it, because the saleslady was very helpful. The ceiling fans weren’t just off-the-shelf kits; you had to build your own. I couldn’t have put together all the components without some assistance. I ended up taking home a Craftmade Phoenix PX52 with a brushed nickel finish, oak blades, a four bulb lamp and some really nifty irridescent glass shades.

Of course, before I could install it, I had to remove the old defunct fan. It had never really worked right since we moved in. It was always extremely wobbly and noisy and I could never get it balanced. Sometime this summer the fan stopped working, and just a week or two ago the pull for the light came out, rendering it completely useless.

So, out with the old, in with the new.

Light & Air

It was actually easier to install than I’d expected. The whole job probably took two hours. And it seems to work beautifully.

Fan Flower

A good ceiling fan is really not optional in New Orleans. It’s essential. With the fan, we may not need to run the AC in our bedroom tonight. Did I mention that the highs have still been in the upper 80s, even though it’s the end of October? Summer hasn’t ended yet.

I got carried away and bought a new floorlamp at Armstrong’s too. It’s beautiful.


If you want more detail you can look at the top or the base.

Knee Update

Pulling Away

I went running today for the first time since I scraped myself up. My knee was a little stiff, but not too bad. All my other scabs have fallen off, except the one on my elbow, and it’s ready to go at any moment. The big one on my knee is starting to pull away from the skin. You can’t really see that in the above picture, so here’s an extreme close-up of the edge, at an angle.



Tonight we went to Tyler’s again. Oysters have gone up to 25 cents because of Ivan.

The jukebox was playing Run-DMC and assorted hip-hop and R&B jams; Purple Rain was on the video; everybody was feeling good and having fun. Then a Billy Joel song came on. “Big Shot.”

I looked around the bar. There were maybe twenty people there. Xy and I were the only caucasians in the joint besides the bartender.

So I asked Xy: “Who the hell put that on?”

Xy thought people were staring at us.

“Don’t sing along,” she cautioned me, “or they’ll think it was us.”

We Were First! — Weren’t We?

I recently became aware of a challenge to one of our main claims to fame, namely that ROX was the first TV series on the Internet.

When I was preparing for my talk at NOFCPUG I did a Web search that turned up a number of references to the Computer Chronicles as the first show on the Internet. I couldn’t find any documentation that seems authoritative, nor could I find a precise date for the event — only the year, 1995. I have researched this topic several times over the past 12 years, but I never encountered this claim for Computer Chronicles before. I contacted them via their website and asked when they put their first show online. Eight days later, I still haven’t heard back from them.

I also noticed that an article on Wikipedia cited 1995 as the year of the “first television show broadcast via the Internet,” but without mentioning the name of the show. I posted a query asking why the name was not specified. Within a few days, a name was added — Computer Chronicles, not ROX.

So I posted a follow-up, the thrust of which I will summarize here:

I have reason to believe that Computer Chronicles was not the first TV show on the Internet. I think it was a television series called ROX, which debuted on the Internet on April 15th of 1995.

I am reluctant to make that change to the timeline myself, though, because I was and am involved in the production of ROX. I am very obviously biased! It would be contrary to the spirit of Wikipedia for me to make to make such a change. I respect the Wikipedia project too much to engage in self-aggrandizement. I hope my comments are not perceived as such.

Nevertheless, I would like to offer the following evidence. Below I am pasting the text of an article which appeared in Time magazine on May 1st, 1995.

Joe Nickell and Bart Everson, a couple of goofy, twentysomething guys from Bloomington, Indiana, are sick of small fame. For three years their satirical public-access TV show has played to critical acclaim in the greater Bloomington area, but it has never attracted the kind of national attention that would capture a slot on network TV. Though local sponsors chip in enough to keep Everson clothed, housed and fed, Nickell still has to support himself as a waiter. So the pair set their sights beyond broadcast TV, beyond cable TV, to the computer networks. Last week, as their 85th episode, Global Village Idiots, was flickering across Bloomington televisions, it was simultaneously stored on the Internet, where millions of people worldwide could retrieve it — the first television show broadcast in cyberspace. [Emphasis added]

Although the “satirical public-access TV show” is not mentioned by name, it is in fact ROX, as my second piece of evidence makes clear: This article from Wired Magazine, dated December 1995.

Should any Wikipedians find my evidence compelling, I hope they will make a change to the timeline. I won’t do it myself for the reasons cited above. I have offered to provide more evidence in the form of Usenet posts and personal journal entries.

Obviously I’d like to think ROX was first, but I’d also like to get the straight facts on record, even if they prove otherwise.


Today I was sneezing so bad I couldn’t think straight. I drank lots of coffee and took an antihistamine. Nothing helped. I went home for lunch and almost didn’t go back to work. Then, just after I sent an e-mail to my boss telling him to put me down for half a sick-day, I stopped sneezing. So I went back in.

I don’t think I’ve had a serious allergy attack since the oak pollen bugged me back in early April. I have no idea what’s bugging me now. Ragweed season is wrapping up, so I don’t think it’s that. It has been humid and hot, but hasn’t rained much lately, so I don’t think it’s mold. No one else seems to be complaining. I just don’t know.

One of these days I’ll see a doctor and ask about some new drugs. I tried Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin back in 1999 or 2000, but they didn’t do anything for me. I’d prefer something I could take as needed, rather than every day. The over-the-counter antihistamines are only sometimes effective, and the side effects can be terrible.

I’m not complaining; I actually consider myself lucky. Having two or three attacks like this per year isn’t too bad, compared to what some people suffer. But it’s nothing to sneeze at.


Here’s a picture of Melvin for no particular reason. I was demonstrating the camera a couple months ago and took this picture almost by accident.


Melvin works in Media Services. His office is one floor down from mine. His cousin is my barber.


Today our local news daily, the Times-Picayune, weighed in on the presidential race. They are endorsing… nobody.

…we cannot recommend either George W. Bush or John Kerry with confidence….

We take the endorsement process seriously and would like to be able to offer voters our advice in this race, as we have in so many others. But we have too many misgivings about both candidates to champion either one.

They don’t mention any other candidates. Not even in passing.

Rolex Spam

Just in the last few days I’ve been getting a bunch of Rolex spam. It’s the electronic equivalent of a guy in the alley who says, “Psst, wanna buy a Rolex, cheap?” Apparently I’m not the only one. Seems to have started on October 17th, and it’s hitting worldwide. I wonder if, in the future, we’ll refer to major spam events, like we refer to floods and earthquakes and hurricanes. “Yeah, I remember the big Rolex spam deluge of ought-four.”

Update — The Spam Report ran a story titled ‘Rolex’ spam taps into bling-bling culture on October 25th.


Man, I thought the political rhetoric was pretty shrill this season, but last night I got an earful of some conservative AM radio that made my toes curl. This dude called the Democrats “vermin” and said the choice was between “Bush or death.” He also said the American people “fear” Teresa Heinz Kerry. I was only tuned in for a few minutes as I drove across town, but in that short period of time, the man packed in a whole lot of hate. Anyone who doesn’t understand how so many people support Bush should listen to the AM radio drumbeat for a while. This game is deep.

He almost made me wanna turn Democrat just to spite him. Almost.


One of our exterior doors fell apart earlier this year. It had been deteriorating for a while, and finally I dismantled it. Fortunately it doesn’t open directly into our house, only into a little enclosed porch on the lower level. We don’t absolutely require a door there, but it would be nice.

I didn’t want to bother with it myself — figured I’d just botch it. So I had a couple of different people look at it, but no one followed up on the job, and so it didn’t get done.

Then Xy started talking to our neighbor, Dan, who lives just around the corner. He said he’d do it cheap.

So one night, aboout four weeks ago, Dan shows up with a door on a grocery cart. It’s not quite the right size, but that’s OK. He’ll cut it to fit. It doesn’t have a window at Xy’s height, but that’s OK too. He’ll cut a hole in it and install a window.

Another guy from around the corner, Bob, showed up to lend a hand. Picture the three of us — an older black guy, a white dude with long hair and lots of tattoos, and myself — sawing a door on top of a grocery cart by the light of a street lamp. Comical, really.

I measured the frame twice but still they cut the door too narrow. A diamond-shaped pane of glass from the old door was used for the new window, but for some reason, I thought Dan would make a diamond-shaped hole for it. Silly me.

(The possibility has occurred to me, based on observed behavior, that Bob might be a high-functioning heroin addict. This suspicion was not allayed by the fact that, when I paid Dan for his work, Bob asked him for his share saying, “I need to buy some — uh — food.”)

We hung the door that night, but it took Dan a week or two to finish the job. At least I think he’s finished. You be the judge:

Door, Outside

He added the crucifix as a finishing touch. It has a secret compartment that is not actually very secret. Mainly, I hope that it keeps bad guys out, because the door itself certainly isn’t going to.

Door, Inside

The lock still doesn’t work. You can lock it from the inside, but the key gets stuck if you try from the outside.


I gave a thirty-minute presentation about ROX tonight to the New Orleans Final Cut Pro Users Group. I was a little nervous ahead of time, but it went smoothly. I managed to tell the story without major omissions or blunders. There were only eight people there, but the real downer was that Brian Gary, who founded the group and invited me to speak, was stranded in Los Angeles and unable attend. (He joined us via video conference for a technical Q&A session after I was done.) On the plus side, I got a little practice talking ROX up — it’s been a few years since I’ve made a presentation like this — and it gave me an excuse to put together a DVD sampler of classic ROX moments.

Dive Out

Wow. Mark Pilgrim seems to be giving up the blogging life. The final terse post came yesterday, and today his Atom feed returns a 410 Gone.

Mark’s blog, dive into mark, was the first blog I ever made a habit of reading. He displayed an acerbic wit even when addressing to dry topics like character encoding or, for that matter, HTTP Error 410.

I realize he’s still alive, but I feel like he’s gone too. I miss him already.