August 20, 2003

Eastern Travel, August 5-8: Ottawa

Stacy's brother, Michael, lives in Ottawa. Stacy's brother is less than a year older than she, so the two were close buddies growing up. Among other things, I've learned that he got her to play Dungeons and Dragons. So she still refers to her "bag of holding."

Particularly for Americans, Ottawa is not a place to visit without a good reason. It's a perfectly nice city, and if you have a reason to go there, you can find things to do -- but unless you're a Canadian curious about your country's heritage, there's nothing about the city worth drawing travelers.

Ottawa epitomizes that Canadian quality of being clean and bland.

If you do find yourself in Ottawa, the most interesting thing to do is to head to the Bytown Market and wander around. In that area, we had some tasty Indian cuisine at Haveli, and tempura and sushi at [xxxx].

We also had surprisingly good food at a local Middle Eastern chain called "Mango's". Cheap, tasty shawarma.

I got a haircut for CAN$11, which is about $8-9 American. Not bad, since I typically pay $20 American.

We canoed on the Rideau River. It was a perfectly fine idea, but about an hour into our tour, it proceeded to rain. Hard. Very hard. Like, you're soaked through-and-through after a minute of being in it.

Some pictures. They're blurred because they were taken through the plastic bag that was protecting the camera.
Yep, Still Raining
We find some shelter under a tree

Doesn't she look happy?
Stacy expresses her feelings

Of course, our stay here wasn't about the city, it was about being with Michael and Lara, his fiance. And that, of course, was great. Michael showed us his spear (he's in the SCA). He knew exactly where all the "Sev"s (7-11 stores) in Ottawa were, so as to soothe Stacy's Slurpee cravings. (I read somewhere that Canadian's consume more Slurpee's per capita than anyone else.) He and Lara prepared a tasty noodle meal, our only home-cooked food on the entire trip. He revelled in the terrible jokes and puns which seem to be a key aspect of their father's influence.

So, of course, we look forward to returning.

Posted by peterme at 10:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Eastern Travel, August 4-5: Baltimore to Syracuse

A long day of driving, as we high-tailed it to Ottawa.

Syracuse: surprisingly uninteresting city. The university has no life around it, the downtown is a dessicated husk, with all the attention seeming to go to malls in the city's perimeter. Also, finding lodging on a Monday night was surprisingly difficult. (Lesson learned: plan ahead!)

Posted by peterme at 08:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 19, 2003

Eastern Travel, August 1-4: Chapel Hill Wedding

Serving as a groomsman in the wedding of Todd and Christy provided the spur for our travel throughout the east.

I hired Todd at Epinions. We became great friends. At Epinions, we would hang out with some others, including Christy. Over time, Todd and Christy began hanging out more. Then they moved to North Carolina to attend UNC-Chapel Hill's Library and Information Science school. They met a bunch of cool people. They had some ups and downs. They travelled to Washington, D.C. to protest the impending war with Iraq. Spending the night at a friend's place in Baltimore, Todd proposed marriage to Christy. She accepted. They became guardians of a beautiful dog, Sebastian James. (Sadly, Sebastian doesn't give kisses.) Todd left the LIS program, deciding he wants to get far away from anything resembling practical. He's studying sociology, now. They bought a comfortable townhouse in Carrboro. They know many of their neighbors.

On August 1st, Stacy and I flew across the country, taking three different planes, landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. (We arrived later than expected. Inclement weather up and down the east coast. That weather has persisted to the day I write this, August 12th.)

The wedding took place on August 2. As a groomsman, I had various duties. The first was to make sure the breakfast and the park was cleaned up. Then I help set up tables at the wedding site. Then I waited.

Stacy and I met up with a bunch of folks at Maple View Farm Dairy and had ice cream and sat in rocking chairs, looking out over a stereotypically beautiful rural countryside. The ice cream was pretty good (I prefer mine heavier). The mosquitos left me alone.

Back to the wedding site, a professor's beautiful house. It was raining, a problem since the ceremony had been planned to take place in the front yard. The groomsmen dressed: an outfit comprised of a white shirt, tan vest, light-colored slacks, dress shoes, and a bright green bow-tie. We looked a bit like riverboat casino dealers.
Groomsmen in front of a mirror

We waited. We took a belt off a bottle of bourbon. We wondered if we were going to have to move the ceremony inside. Todd strapped the ring onto the ringbearer (see pic). We waited some more.

The groom preps the ringbearer

About 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the ceremony, the rain stopped, and the sun broke through. The ceremony's officiant (what do Unitarian's call those people? Reverends? Pastors? Anyway...) lead the groomsmen through a hand-holding and energy-flowing exercise. We headed outside, joined up with the bridesmaids, and formed the procession.

During the ceremony, I was able to snap one picture.
The bride approaches the altar

A delightful ceremony, Todd and Christy pledged refreshingly honest vows.

In short order, we segued into the evening part of the event -- drinks, dinner, and dancing. I was asked to MC. The P.A. rental neglected to give us a microphone, so every 15 minutes or so, I shouted out the subsequent happenings ("Receiving and buffet line!" "Father/daughter dance!" "Cake cutting!"). The merriment lasted well into the night.

Stacy and I returned to our hotel, exhausted.

The following day, Stacy and I deked around the area. Asking around, we were directed to brunch at Elmo's. A friendly place, the food was really only okay. Our waiter was one of those types you seen in college towns--overeducated folks doing drudgery service work who clearly get excited at the prospect of chatting with someone intelligent. We chatted a a bit about media studies.

We drove into Historic Hillsborough, but since it was Sunday, everything was closed.

We returned to Carrboro, ate at the local hip grocery store, drank some good coffee, and drank beer at a little post-wedding reception. Headed back to the Dairy Farm for a Sunday evening of live bluegrass music.

Then we headed to Chapel Hill for what proved to be one of the best meals on the trip: southern cookin' at Mama Dips. The ribs and chicken were excellent. The sides were cooked with pork. There was no complainin'.

That was pretty much it for us in North Carolina. Extremely delightful. My second time in the area, and I'm looking forward to returning.

Posted by peterme at 11:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Play With Your Search

On October 8, 2000, I wrote about a TV ad for (scroll down), which utilized a visual metaphor for search that I felt was necessary to help most searchers to really understand how search works.

Well, now someone has made that a reality. is in the business of providing visualization tools for sifting through data. On their home page, in the bottom left-hand corner, is a link to digital camera search. (Yes, you'll have to sit through an unnecessary flash intro... sorry). Click on it, and play with it for a bit. It's pretty cool.

Things I would change:
- Show brand. In my research, people shopping for digital cameras are way brand-oriented
- Utilize rollovers. I should be able to rollover the images and be given the name and model number of the camera, and it's price
- Compare side-by-side. Some way to select multiple cameras, click "compare", and see specs side by side. People LOVE comparing products.

Posted by peterme at 07:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 18, 2003

Capturing "Capturing the Friedmans"

About a week ago, I went to see Capturing the Friedmans, a documentary about a family from Great Neck, New York (out on Long Island), and a troubling and sordid incident that rent them apart.

The story is a fascinating one, and the movie is endlessly compelling. On filmmaking terms, it's not particularly interesting - talking heads interspliced with archival footage. But the film's subject matter enthralls, disgusts, disturbs, and captivates like nothing I've seen for a while. And, well, it makes you think. A lot.

I fear my memory has gone a little foggy, since it's been so long since I've seen it, but I want to write about my reaction. This entails lots of spoilers, so I've placed these thoughts behind the "Continue reading..." link.

If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to do so.

The film has what has become to known as that "Rashomon-like" quality. Different people, talking about the same thing, and all seem to have different understandings of what occurred. And you realized that it's deeper than different "understandings" -- these people deeply believe in what they remember, and yet many of these people directly disagree with one another, and the viewer is left scratching their head... "What *did* happen?"

There are only two things that I came away with feeling certain about.

1. The father, Arnold, had a problem -- he was aroused by pictures of sex with young boys.

2. The incidents that Arnold and his son, Jesse, were accused of perpetrating (sodomy and beatings of boys attending a computer class) never happened.

Now, Arnold and Jesse went to jail for these crimes, a gross injustice that causes anger. Who is worth directing anger at?

Arnold. He clearly had a problem, and refused to deal with it until it was too late.

The police. The saw a man had child pornography, and then saw that he also taught a computer class, and then engaged in faulty math that led to the dogged persecution of an innocent man. The interviews with the police officers are chilling -- they're the only one's who clearly misremember facts (the woman claiming that there was child pornography in plain sight throughout the house), and they essentially admit they used coercive investigation methods on the supposed child victims.

Who do you feel sorry for?

Jesse. Jesus Christ. A 19 year old boy swept up in this thing that's far bigger than him. Who realizes he's left no choice but to confess to a crime he didn't commit, because the option, a jury trial, would have likely lead to an even more heinous punishment.

Elaine. The mom. She's not painted in a very nice light, but it's clear that she did the best she could given the circumstances around her, and while her decisions weren't always wise, they were heartfelt.

Other Stuff That Interested Me:
The disagreement between Jesse and Peter Panaro, his lawyer. This was the one time in the film when two people spoke directly at odds with one another about what happened. Jesse says things were one way. Peter says it was the other. And neither has a lot to gain from lying about the past, so it seems like this is simply what these two remember.

The judge. She's a stereotypical no-nonsense tough-on-crime judge, and would be easy to demonize, but considering what she was saw, what she heard, what she was given, she made the only choice she could. It was interesting to think about being in her shoes, presented with this situation, a necessarily filtered and skewed view of what happened, and thinking, "Yeah, I'd probably have done the same thing."

The obsessive documenting. The reason this film works is because the Friedmans, first Arnold, and then David (the oldest son) were borderline obsessive about capturing and saving family history. The material that the filmmaker had to work with is astonishing -- you've never seen real people interact with each other in such a brutally honest and distressing way.

David. Whoa. Denial. Big big big denial.

Howard's (Arnold's brother) homosexuality. For the first 90% of the film, we see Howard simply as a talking head, providing some perspective on his brother that the children and wife could not offer. At the end, we learn that Howard is gay. I wondered how the filmmaker decided to handle this. Given that this film is about pedophilia, and that Arnold claims to have had sex with his brother when they were boys, it was clear that acknowledging Howard's homosexuality would be tricky. The couldn't simply ignore it -- that would be dishonest in a movie that is so frank. They could have revealed it early on, but that might have colored people's perception throughout the movie. I think the filmmaker likely made the best choice, saving it until the end, but it ends up feeling abrupt and a little suspicious -- still probably the least disconcerting way to do this.

Frances Galasso's coffee mug. The woman who headed up the investigation for the police is interviewed years later in her dining room. The filmmaker makes sure you see GEORGE W BUSH on her coffee mug.

I'd love to read your thoughts, if you've seen the flick.

Posted by peterme at 11:24 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack


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Eastern Travel, August 5-8: Ottawa
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Play With Your Search
Capturing "Capturing the Friedmans"
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