Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Waiting for the Storm
It's a quiet day today, sitting in the house waiting for Tropical Storm Ernesto to come and visit. The airconditioner's dull perpetual roar, and the first Jack Frost album are the only sounds I've heard for the last hour; the storm is slower than expected and leaves me sitting on the couch wondering if I'll make a dash to a restaurant or get started in thick rain that's too dangerous to drive in.

Truth be told, this storm is a damp squib. Deanne and I have sat through hurricanes that meant business, category 3/4 monsters that whipped our 40-foot tall palm trees around like rag dolls. Ernesto doesn't look like it'll reach cat 1 (73 mph), so our day off work tomorrow might be cancelled and we'll be back at our desks. Contrast that the to the stomping our office got two years ago when power was down for days. So I've left the storm shutters off the windows and the large plant pots sit unsheltered in the back yard. I'm daring the storm to try picking one of them up. It's easy to be cocky when you've got several billion dollars of weather prediction satellites on your side. Without it I'd be standing at attention with mop and bucket in hand, ready to take on the rising or falling waters.

I watched a movie, began typing up a photocopied Jack Frost interview for Shadow Cabinet and did a little work this morning. I think I'll walk Patch before the storm gets here; the house will shrug off a 60 mph storm, but it'd be hard to have his nightly walk in it!

Update Next Day: The storm didnt strengthen between Cuba and Florida, so it arrived quite weak. The furniture in the backyard didn't even move :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Problems With Planet Earth

There are two senses in which the above title applies, and both came to the fore yesterday when all my appliances revolted and I watched two episodes of the BBC documentary series "Planet Earth".

First the documentary: I have always enjoyed a good documentary film, especially when it teaches the viewer something new. I used to love astronomy/cosmology documentaries until they started to fill them with flashy graphics instead of good information. They seemed to think you'd learn more by watching long segments of flashy computer-rendered "exciting" scenes, rather than perhaps a still image with someone explaining it. There are exceptions, of course: I really liked the four-part "Origins" program hosted by Neil Tyson on Nova, but the new Planet Earth series has really let me down so far.

I've watched the first three episodes and it seems to be a series of random "watch the predator eat its pitiful prey" and "here's some majestic footage of mountains and Big Impressive Things with an orchestra to remind you how moving it all is." I can go along with a few shots like that, but the whole program was a series of these, one straight after the other, with no connective tissue, no discussion of evolution/history/ecology to tie it all together. Perhaps they'll talk more about it later, but it really got obvious after a while that they were more concerned with showing off their flashy helicopter-based aerial shots, their expensive orchestra with overworked French Horns, and how well they can write ominous sounding music for the numerous scenes where the Bad Ol' Predator sneaks up on its doe-eyed Bambi-like lunch. Carnivores have to eat too, dammit, and film-makers should have more creativity than playing "Jaws" sound-alikes over every scene where something eats something else.

A missed opportunity, to my mind, in a world where evolution still needs all the good explanations it can get, to help people understand why the world is the way it is. Nature is not just a series of photo ops and "cool" spectacles, there's a lot to learn about life in there, if they'd care to discuss it.

As for the appliances, well, it's just the usual modern litany of a day when everything went wrong. As of last night I was combatting problems with my laptop, my computer, the garbage disposal, one of our cars, Bellsouth and their misleading sales reps, insurance agents (two of them) and landscaping contractors.

Just another day on Earth, as Brian Eno says.