Great weather this weekend

We’ve had three great days after four days of rain. I took my bike out, got a little lost and little sunburned. The trails north of the interstate are not well-marked and my map is out of date, but I’m grate that there are trails at all. My new bike is working out really well.

I feel much better after being outdoors most of the weekend. I helped Susan clean her gutters Saturday and then cooked some chicken on her grill. I felt so suburban-domestic.

I took some photos around town yesterday; here they are:

My folks are coming this week. I started cleaning my apartment in earnest this afternoon. It will be presentable when they get here.

Freedom from fear

“Freedom from fear: the American people in depression and war, 1929-1945” by David M. Kennedy is one 900-page book I managed to get through before its due date. Despite its length, it’s a clear, easy-to-read-and-understand account of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Kennedy treats FDR and the New Deal favorably, but exposes some of the darker side of it; for example, the wishes of some New Deal officials that the depression wouldn’t end so they could go on reforming and stay in power.

The second half of the book devolves into a blow-by-blow account of the war. I would have preferred more social history. I’ve read enough accounts of the war by now to know how it went. For all that, the narrative was very good. Kennedy stayed focussed on the American strategy. The analysis of the Yalta agreement is cursory: Kennedy only says that the agreement is the best Roosevelt could do. Which may be true, but Kennedy could have addressed at greater length the criticism of this major foreign-policy decision that had such far-reaching implications after the war.

Overall, another book worth reading.

A code of conduct for the Web?

I heard a story on NPR about call for a “Code of Conduct” for the World Wide Web. The idea has been floated and debated by some influential tech bloggers. Proponents claim it would restore civility, accountability, and the confidence of bloggers who get heaped with offensive and threatening messages. Critics call it censorship.

I rarely get legitimate comments (those that aren’t spam) on this blog, but last month someone submitted a comment that I interpreted as a veiled threat. I wasn’t sure if I should post it or not. It’s never been my intention to censor people who want to post here, but that intention failed an early test. I’ve written my share of vitriol aimed at public officials, celebrities, the Boston Red Sox, and other scoundrels. But I decided not to post that comment or any future comments that I consider abusive to me or (the few) others who use this blog. Here’s why: I maintain this site for fun and at my own expense. When it stops being fun, I will stop posting. For now, that will stand as my code of conduct for Adam’s artificial habitat.

A weekend

Lance visited this weekend. The weather was great until this afternoon, then it rained a little. I showed him Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Presidential Library and Museum. Later we explored Cedar County a little. I wanted to check out Rochester Cemetery, where there’s supposed to be a remnant of the native prairie, but the prairie wasn’t evident.

After he left today, I rode my bike over to Susan’s and ended up with a puncture in my rear wheel. It wasn’t a slow leak like I usually get, either. More like a whale coming to the surface to exhale. So after three weeks I already have a flat tire. And from a brass thumbtack. I can get a patch kit tomorrow, but I’m not yet sure how to get the rear wheel off.

Jimmy Carter

I went to see Jimmy Carter speak at the University last night. He was very far away, just a speck of an ex-president. He spoke about his book, “Palestine: peace not apartheid”. He spent much of his speech defending his record as a supporter of Israel, which disappointed me, but it obviously bothers him.

But then he got into his criticisms:

  1. The Israelis are hurting themselves and the Palestinians by continuing to occupy, colonize, and destabilize the West Bank.
  2. The Bush administration has done nothing to advance peace talks, yet the Israel-Palestine conflict is linked to violence and radicalism elsewhere in the Middle East.
  3. There is not enough critical appraisal of Israeli policies in the United States; therefore we are not seen as an honest broker in the peace process.

He then challenged the audience to hold presidential candidates to an innocuous pledge to advance peace between Israel and Palestine.

Carter said he accepted the invitation to speak at the University of Iowa because he had some sentimental attachment to it; in other words, the community helped him win the nomination in Iowa in 1976. Here’s what I think: he want to influence the presidential caucuses next winter on this particular issue. Smart man.

Anyway, the guy actually has some guts to stick it to the Israelis. This country’s politicians and news media tell only one side of the story: Palestinians are terrorists and the Israelis are paragons of virtues. Like a lot of things in the Middle East, the truth is more complicated than our citizens are prepared to accept.

Carter’s been taken to task for his choice of a title for the book, and a lot of the “stagflation” stuff is getting dredged up again. His critics rarely take up the issues he raises with the book. So I intend to borrow his book soon and see if says what he says it says.

Comment spam

An unfortunate side effect of having my own blog is comment spam. It’s similar to e-mail spam but it comes in through the comment form on posts and is loaded with links that presumably help the spammer get ahead on search engines like Google. I can moderate the comments so that the spam is never posted, but sifting through thirty junk comments every time I log in is as deflating as it is on e-mail. Oddly, only three of my hundreds of posts attract comment spam.

New bike, sore butt

I bought a new bike a couple of weeks ago. I don’t remember if I wrote that. I’ll post a picture later. Since the weather was fair yesterday I took it out for a three-hour ride around town. It’s a nice bike, and I’ve invested in a few accessories that will help me get better use out of it than the old Huffy Puffy.

Anyway, I took it out for a quick errand and, man, my butt is sore from yesterday. I either need to swap out the seat or my dainty cheeks are out of bike-riding condition after a long winter.

Babel

We rented “Babel” last night, another heavy and tragic movie along the lines of “Traffic” and “Syriana”. Though it’s supposedly the third in the director’s trilogy that includes “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams”, neither of which I’ve seen.

So it’s a really good movie if you like slow-moving but well-developed and -crafted stories, and the performances were all very good.

Early Yankees report

I haven’t seen a game yet, but the Yankees are off to a mediocre start. The starting pitchers have been suspect and they’ve had a couple of injuries early on. Joe Torre went with 12 pitchers on his opening day roster. The starting lineup is strong enough that they don’t need a lot of reserve players, but 12 pitchers is a lot. Seven relief pitchers isn’t going to preserve the bullpen into the postseason if he empties it every night. Starters should be able to get through at least the seven innings. In Major League Baseball, the teams are paying pitchers more and more every year to do less and less.

If such a thing exisits, I’d like to see the statistical analysis that shows how bringing five relief pitchers into every game improves the chances of winning.

Indian winter

The winter weather persists. Though it hasn’t been that cold the last two days, we may get snow tonight or tomorrow morning.

Two things I’ve noticed about Iowa weather: First, whearas the Gulf Coast weather was very predictable, forecasts here are reliably off-the-mark. Second, Iowa City seems to be in some sort of foul weather shadow. We’ve consistently dodged the worst of a number of storms that passed through the state this winter, even when conditions were bad nearby. As a minor example, the 80% chance of rain we expected today amounted to nothing.

Turn your head and cough

I had the day off today and I caught up on some much needed errands. I spent much of the morning at the doctor’s office for a work-related physical. My boss said I could schedule it during work time, and I would have if I’d known it would take so long. As the doctor pointed out it was mostly paperwork. He reminded me of the actor who played the psychotic kidnaper in “Fargo”. He also had a medical student observing him. That was interesting. I let her practice on me a little.

Reign over me

Attention: movie spoiler below!

We saw “Reign Over Me” at the theater tonight. A spontaneous choice, and a good one. We didn’t know anything about it. That gave us the luxury of no expectations, except that I always expect Don Cheadle to be good. Adam Sandler, he’s always good too, but his movies not so much. In fact he’s turned up in some horrible flicks (read: “Spanglish”). His performance in this movie was a little like “Punch Drunk Love”, but a little further out on a limb. Fortunately for all of us, he avoided the temptation to act like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man”.

Black Hawk Down

I’ve been meaning to read “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden for some time. It’s about the military action in Mogadishu in 1993 that resulted in two US helicopters getting shot down and 18 soldiers getting killed in the ensuing entrapment. My friend was there and he told me the book was pretty good and worth reading.

Bowden didn’t spare the messy, gorey, embarrassing details of the battle. Humans and livestock are torn apart, people make fatal mistakes, and so forth. It reads like absolute chaos in the sense that the violence escalated so far and so fast. How Bowden could write a coherent narrative seems beyond me, but his sources are well documented.

Despite the confusion, it’s a good, quick read. You won’t put it down because it’s all action.

Freezing!

I’m checking the weather now. High of 31 degrees and 18 mile per hour winds? Damn! I want to ride my bike without freezing my face and hands off.

On top of this miserable weather I may be allergic to something around here. I’ve got the sniffles and sneezes with the watery eyes. There can’t be much pollen in the air yet, but there’s a lot of bare earth with all the farmland so maybe the wind is blowing dust around.

Happy Feet

We watched “Happy Feet” this weekend and I’ve been meaning to comment on it. I was disappointed. In fact, I’d say it’s the worst of the new generation (starting with “Toy Story”) of animated films I’ve seen yet. It was… boring. Which is a shame because the animation fine, but I think there is only so much you can do with penguins on an Antarctic glacier.

Now, the penguins in “Madagascar”, those were fun penguins.

It’s cold again

The weather turned to crap again this week. The lows have been below 20 degrees and the highs in the 30s. The wind is ferocious. I was warned about this. Before I moved here someone said to me, “Iowa? Worst weather in the world.” I don’t agree with that, but when I went to take my bike out this weekend I didn’t last long. It’s too cold. I want the spring back. It’s been a long winter.