I’m an Apple convert!

I got a 4GB iPod Nano earlier this week (thanks, Uncle Jim!), and I have to say, I understand the success of iPods/iTunes: Apple simply got a lot right. Just as with their computers, Apple took advantage of being able to control the entire experience: music management with iTunes, the seamlessly integrated iTunes Music Store, and of course the iPod hardware and software.
I’m a big geek, so I’m not fazed by occasional complexities and difficulties of hardware and software, but I can see the Apple appeal: it just works with fewer problems. I guess that’s worth the higher price point for many people.

Dreaming of Steve Forbes

I dreamt last night that I was explaining different types of taxation (flat tax, progressive taxation) to a group of ten-year-olds. I was able to explain it clearly, the kids understood, and they engaged in intelligent discussion about it. When I recounted my dream to Katie this morning, she replied that it was an odd coincidence: taxation is this week’s subject in the freshman studies course she’s teaching. Though, she added, sometimes it feels like she’s trying to teach this stuff to ten-year-olds.

Google Desktop Search saves the day

So, my coworker from Professional Services walks over to my desk with his laptop and our company’s application running (names changed to protect data integrity).
Coworker, pointing to laptop screen: “Where did all this [blah blah] data come from?”
I answer: I entered it into our application from that spreadsheet you sent me about [blah blah] data configuration.
Coworker: What spreadsheet?
Me, typing furiously, then pointing to my laptop screen: the spreadsheet attached to the intranet wiki page about [blah blah] data configuration.
Coworker: Where did that spreadsheet come from? I didn’t send you that.
Me, typing spreadsheet filename into Google Desktop Search, results showing an email from Coworker with said spreadsheet attached: Ah, but indeed you did.
Coworker: I’ll be darned.
Score one for Google Desktop Search.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

I just completed the unabridged audio edition of Plainsong by Kent Haruf. I have to say, this was one of the very best audio books I’ve listened to. I particularly liked the portrayal of the main characters. Two of the characters, for instance, hardly speak or express any emotion, yet the author makes them deep and very believable.
The novel recounts a few months in the lives of some residents of a small farming town on the high plains in Colorado. I recognized in the characters aspects of my Kansas relatives and people I know from my youth in rural Texas. Haruf does an excellent job of portraying these characters.

Man, I hate it when that happens!

An AP Story, via USA Today:

Sparrow knocks over 23,000 dominoes before being shot
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — A sparrow knocked over 23,000 dominoes in the Netherlands, nearly ruining a world record attempt before it was shot to death Monday, the state news agency reported.
The unfortunate bird flew through an open window at an exposition center in the northern city of Leeuwarden where employees of television company Endemol NV have worked for weeks setting up more than 4 million dominoes in an attempt to break the official Guinness World Record for falling dominoes on Friday night.
Only a system of 750 built-in gaps in the chain prevented the bird from knocking most or all of the dominoes over ahead of schedule, “Domino Day” organizers were quoted as saying by the NOS news agency.
The bird was shot by an exterminator with an air rifle while cowering in a corner.
The organizers are out to break their own record of 3,992,397 dominoes set last year with a record of 4,321,000.

Politics and religion

Yesterday, Texans approved Propsition 2. Unfortunately, that’s no surprise to me. What troubles me, though, is the direct participation of Christian congregations and pastors in the political process: many congregations and pastors publicly endorsed prop 2, and the election-night gathering for supporters in the Austin area was held at Great Hills Baptist Church.
This direct endorsement of political candidates and initiatives contradicts my beliefs. I used to be a member of a United Methodist congregation that is widely recognized as one of the most liberal in Texas, with one of the most politically outspoken pastors. The pastor frequently spoke about issues that were hotly debated politically, but even in that environment it was taboo for the pastor to come out for or against candidates or specific political solutions. Instead, his task was to help his congregants decide what is right and just, but he left it up to them to decide how to act on those decisions in the realm of politics.
I prefer to think globally, but act locally. I’m always inspired by my Christian friend in Germany who was staunchly against abortion. I don’t necessarily agree with her, but I’m inspired by her actions. She believed that the best way to avoid abortion is to avoid unwanted pregnancy, and that she could have a direct impact on this issue. Instead of getting involved in political debate about abortion (granted, the political situation is different in Germany than in the US), she would spend her Saturday afternoons handing out information on birth control in the main square. I remember with a chuckle her explanations of her and her husband trying out each new birth control method so that she would be able to offer experienced advice.