Raising Anchor: Seaman Recruit Harry Petersen Reports For Duty

Seaman Recruit Harry Petersen with his proud father, minutes after being sworn in.  (That's Harry on the left.)

Seaman Recruit Harry Petersen with his proud father, minutes after being sworn in.
(That’s Harry on the left.)

After two tentative reporting dates came and went, Harry shipped out today following a brief swearing-in ceremony at Fort Hamilton, near the base of the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn. Also there to see Harry off were the Web Goddess, who took the picture; as well as Harry’s mother, Debra; his brother, Kyle; and Brenda, a family friend since Harry was a toddler.

No photography was allowed during the ceremony itself, so I’m just going to have to remember the look on his face as he and about 20 other young men and women, headed for all of the armed services, pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

It’s unlikely that Harry will see this until he graduates from boot camp in eight weeks, and I don’t have much to add to what I said in a previous post, so I’ll keep this brief.  Godspeed, son, and thank you for your service to our country.

Update: OK, to be precise, WE were not allowed to take photographs during the ceremony, but there was a photographer there for the photo service Getty Images who had special privileges.  Harry’s visible in a few shots out of a batch of about 50, and there are two showing him hugging the Web Goddess and me.  Here’s the better of them (did I mention that the photo is copyright Getty Images 2009?)


A.T.I.N Has a New Look and a New Address

Farewell, Blogspot

Farewell, Blogspot

After a lot more effort than I expected, I’m pleased to unveil version 2.0 of All That Is Necessary. For those who care about such details, I’ve migrated my original Blogger blog to the WordPress platform, hosted on my personal domain, kirkpetersen.net.

(I’m .net because kirkpetersen.com, no relation, had already been snapped up by a software engineer in Seattle.  Other unrelated Kirk Petersens of note include Austin real estate agent Kirk S. Petersen — hey, that’s my initial, too! — and Kirk P. Petersen, an attorney and estate planner in Eldorado Springs, CO, who based on his Amazon book reviews clearly has more intellectual tastes in his reading than I do.  There’s also Dr. Kirk Petersen, a dentist in southern California; Kirk Petersen, a real estate appraiser in Harlan, IA, a few miles from where both my parents grew up;  and interior designer Kirk Petersen of Olympia, WA.  I wonder if he knows his techie namesake in nearby Seattle?)

And here I thought I had a distinctive name.  But I digress.

There are two main reasons for changing the blog.  First, WordPress is pretty widely acknowledged to be the best and most versatile blogging platform, far more flexible and robust than Blogger. I knew this before I started blogging, and initially tried to set up on WP, but ran into some technical problems that I couldn’t figure out how to solve.  (The company’s promise of the “famous five-minute WordPress installation” is more than just an exaggeration, it’s a falsehood.)  I decided to launch on the much simpler Blogger platform with Blogspot hosting, rather than fight my way through the technical thicket, because I wasn’t completely sure I would even enjoy blogging.  Turns out I do.

Second, I decided to integrate my blog with my marketing site, after initially being leery of doing so.  The leeriness came from the fact that I stake out some fairly pointed political views here, and I don’t want to alienate any potential clients and employers.  I finally reconciled myself to the fact that if you Google my name, the second and third results currently are my marketing site and my blogspot blog, respectively (curse you, top-ranking kirkpetersen.com techie guy!)  Since it’s not really possible to segregate my two online identities completely, I may as well get whatever benefit I can out of integrating them.

They’re not truly integrated yet, as you can see at a glance from the very different look of the marketing site.  That site was lovingly hand-coded by the Web Goddess, and it continues to serve me well.  Interestingly, even though the blog gets more than 50 times as many visitors as the marketing site, the latter ranks above the former, both in the Google search results and in Google’s mysterious PageRank rankings (blog = PR1, marketing site = PR2).

Now that I finally have this launched, maybe I can get back to writing more actual substantive blog posts.  The next phase of the integration will be to pull the marketing content into the WordPress structure, so I can more easily maintain it myself, and to unify the look-and-feel with some nice design touches by the Web Goddess.  (In the meantime, if I can help your company or organization meet your communications needs…)

Sign up for the RSS feed or email delivery if you want to make sure you never miss a post (hi Mom!).  If you signed up for RSS at the old site, it should get forwarded automatically for a couple of weeks, but I think eventually you’ll need to sign up again here.  Thanks for visiting — hope to see you back soon.

So, what do you think of the new site?  Find anything broken?

Live-Blogging the Tuscan Road Water Main Break

As the crisis unfolds, the Avellino Waterproofing ad
appears as a cruel joke… mocking me.

About 6:05 a.m., Eastern DAYLIGHT Time — The Web Goddess reports no water pressure at any upstairs faucet. “I hope we don’t have a burst pipe in the basement.” Yoicks!! This would have to happen on the very morning that clocks “spring forward,” depriving emergency responders of a potentially crucial hour of sleep.

6:07 a.m. — No water pressure at the downstairs faucets either. Visual reconnaissance confirms dry basement — an indication that the crisis may be systemic to the entire Tuscan Road microregion (the water could be out all up and down the street). Important tactical note: Each toilet can be flushed one time with water stored in the individual toilet tank.

6:15 a.m. — Time to see which news outlet in the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM is doing the best job of reporting the looming crisis. As long-time A.T.I.N. readers (i.e., since six days ago) are aware:

Maplewood NJ, Pop. 23,000, Now Has Four FIVE Competing Local Websites

As a reminder, the websites, in approximate order of online presence:

Maplewood Online
Maplewood Patch
NY Times “The Local”
LocalSource.com (News-Record)

6:19 a.m. — Frenzied surfing reveals disappointing fact: the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM appears to be ignoring the mounting hydration catastrophe. I need to take a shower, people!!

6:25 a.m. – [Lightbulb] — I should sound the alarm!! The technology is in my hands!! But where to turn first? Here’s where more than a decade of brand development comes into play — I happen to know that Maplewood Online, Est. 1998, has a thriving complex of local message boards, and I have not seen anything comparable at the other sites. At 6:25 a.m., while others in the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM sleep soundly in their beds, I (me, Kirk Petersen!!) post the first emergency bulletin in a still-innocent world. At a mere 55 words, including the subject line, and if you count “a.m.” as a separate word, the message is a model of understated intensity and resolve:

Water Main Break in Tuscan Road Area

New Jersey American Water confirms a water main break in the Tuscan Road area. Service is out at our house on Tuscan near Springfield. The company expects to restore service in 4 to 6 hours from the time of the initial report at 4:25 a.m. today, Sunday, 3/8/09.

6:30-6:40 a.m. – Finish sending emails to the other four players in the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM. That’s right, emails. This is the 21st Century, people!

6:59 a.m. – At last! After more than a quarter-hour of clicking the refresh button (no wonder Jamie gets so many page views at MOL!!), the first confirmatory report arrives. Well, sort of. A person styling herself as “Joan Crystal” posts the following:

Thanks for the alert. We have water at 6:59 AM this morning and we are one block from Tuscan Road.

Is she doubting me?? Or is the crisis more contained than originally feared? (Ugly thought: if there is a break between the water main and my house, am I liable for the repairs?)

7:02 a.m. – Visual reconnaissance out the front window reveals no sign of water bubbling out of the front yard. (But would I even be able to see it?)

7:06 a.m. — “elsie” provides the following report:

Thanks – ours is out too. Had seen a truck and water gushing into the road around 6 last night, so suspected it was related.

Neither of my next-door neighbors are named “elsie,” so this provides the first welcome indication that the problem may be wide-spread. (In typical suburban busy-street microculture, I do not know the names of the folks across the street.) I ponder the bittersweet irony of my satisfaction at the knowledge that others are suffering, too.

7:32 a.m. – Two additional breathless outage reports have been filed, indicating at least four households are without water. With a humbling yet majestic sense of history, I note that all of the respondents have started their comments by thanking me. This touching response from a grateful public provides a rare opportunity for a vertical screen grab. I’m starting to think about a bagel run.

7:40 a.m. – Maybe later on the bagel. ZZZZzzzzzzzz.

9:56 a.m. — Nearly three hours after the initial emergency report, citizen-journalist Joe Strupp reports the outage on his newsblog, The Maplewoodian, and links to this site. (Thanks, Joe!) I’m not sure the powder-blue text works, but I love the graphic.

I met Joe the other night at the NY Times “The Local” launch party, and I remember thinking, this guy is toast — he’s up against the mighty New York Times, a Google zillionaire at Patch.com, and the online version of the venerable News-Record, which has been reporting from Maplewood for however many years it has been.

But just as Andrew Jackson said “one man with courage makes a majority,” Joe has proven that one man who checks his email on Sunday morning makes a news cycle.

10:15 a.m. – First photos from the disaster scene at Tuscan Road and Oberlin Street, where the tension was palpable. (I had to walk several blocks from my home, I might add.)

Photo below reveals a shiny red new plumbing thingy in a hole — first responders at the scene confirmed that the hole had been dug by the big yellow hole-making device pictured above. The hole undoubtedly will need to be filled before normal traffic can resume on Oberlin. Traffic on the much-busier Tuscan Road was thankfully not disrupted.

Service has been restored, according to one of Maplewood’s finest, who did not give his name. (Note to self: next time ask for name.) And here I thought New Jersey American Water was blowing smoke when they said 4 to 6 hours.

Wait… you mean I could be taking a shower right now?!?

Signing off from the Tuscan Road microregion of the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM, where it seems likely that some late-sleeping citizens will never know how narrowly they averted hygenic inconvenience.

11:30 a.m. — Quick update while my hair dries — Jamie Ross likes me! He included me in today’s edition of the Maplewood Dispatch!

Seaman Recruit Harry Kirk Petersen, United States Navy

The other day I sat in a restaurant and watched my son become a man.

Harry recently bailed out of college. He was in the third year of a five-year construction management program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and he hated the place. He had been working at the Philadelphia Housing Authority through Drexel’s co-op program, and he hated that. His grades were good and he fulfilled his modest duties at PHA, but he was bored and sick of it.

Classes had started up again, and he was working part-time while going to school full-time. And he pulled the plug.

Plan A was to enlist in the Marines. This idea was not well received by many in his family and social circle. Consternation ensued. Harry went to live with an uncle and his family in Maryland for several weeks.

Much as he enjoyed getting to know his toddling cousin girls, there wasn’t much for him in Maryland besides a temporary refuge. The weekend before Christmas he came to stay with the Web Goddess and me in Maplewood while he figured out what would be next.

Job prospects were not bright — turns out there’s a recession. He looked for work after the holidays, but found nothing. All the while he kept talking about the service — now he was looking at the Navy Construction Batallions. The Seabees. Plan B.

I live in a deep blue town in a deep blue state. There’s not a great deal of enthusiasm for military service in this corner of New Jersey. When the Web Goddess or I would say Harry is thinking of joining the Navy, well-meaning friends would say things like, “I hope you’re trying to change his mind.”

Well, no.

Over the past several months, in part through this blog, my conservative leanings have been coming out of the closet. In the run-up to the election, I grew used to being the only McCain supporter in virtually every conversation. Nobody has shunned me, at least not that I’ve noticed, but they don’t seem to know how to respond when I say things like, “I continue to support the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein.”

The Web Goddess and I canceled each other out on Election Day, but she’s more financially conservative than I am. She’s pulled the levers for more Republicans than I have, although not recently. As is so often is the case, she knew exactly the right thing to say in talking with our friends.

I’m talking here about good Christian people whom I cherish and respect, and I have no interest in the kind of Internet flamewar that includes “words” like dhimmicrat and rethuglican. Here’s the conversation I’m prepared to have with liberal friends: “Do you think the United States needs to HAVE a military? Yes? OK… who should serve?”

I run a consulting business from home, and my business is every bit as robust as the rest of the economy. Harry and I have had plenty of time to bond while seeking work. When he wanted to borrow the car in January for the first of many trips to the recruiting office, he went with my blessing.

Turns out some of that book larnin’ sunk in — he aced the Ass-Vab (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test, and was eligible for any enlisted field in the Navy. He said that when he told the recruiter he was still interested in the Seabees, the recruiter said no — “you’re going nuclear.” Plan C.

Harry signed up for a six-year stint — basically two years of Nuclear Field training on top of a normal four-year enlistment. He’ll get a $21,000 “signing” bonus if he successfully completes nuclear school, and will end up serving either on a nuclear submarine or an aircraft carrier.

He’s a disciplined athlete and body builder — where the hell that comes from I’ll never know — and he’s not deterred by tales of my own long-ago Coast Guard basic training. He’s been working out more to get in better shape — his only frustration has been that because of the timing of his training class, he was not scheduled to report until October.

That changed earlier this week — he got the message that a slot had opened up — could he report on March 10? He told me this with great excitement when I got home from running an errand. He said the downside is that his 21st birthday is March 15, and he’d have to postpone his first legal purchase of a drink.

I sensed a parenting opportunity. “Suck it up, son.”

“Oh yeah, I already said yes.” He took a shower, and I heard him singing Anchors Aweigh.

We went to a restaurant and talked while we ate. He kept getting calls on his cell phone — it turns out that despite what he’d earlier been told, he needs a copy of his transcript when he reports on Tuesday, so he drove to Philadelphia today to get it. He spent the night at his mother’s house the night before and picked up his birth certificate there. In between still-kind-of-a-teenager enthusiasm — “If I get to kill a pirate, my grandchildren will never hear the end of it” — I watched as a mantle of determination and gravitas settled over him.

I don’t want my son in harm’s way any more than any other parent, and I’m glad he’s not going to be in the infantry. As near as I can tell, the Afghan Navy is not terribly formidable, but America’s enemies are resourceful, and have proven they can strike at sea.

Harry knows that, but feels good about his decision to join the Navy. He’ll end up with a college degree and money to pay off his Drexel student loans, and officer candidate school will be an option. If he decides to put in 20 years in the Navy, he can have a pension at the age of 41. In the meantime, he’s got guaranteed stable employment for the next six years, at a modest salary on top of room, board and free medical care.

He also has one other powerful motivation. It’s not the motivation he talks about the most, but it’s the one that came first.

My son is a patriot. He wants to serve his country.

(Photo by the Web Goddess. This post was written earlier this week, and published March 7 with minor changes. In the time-honored military tradition of “hurry up and wait,” Harry’s reporting date has been postponed. The current expectation is that he will report for duty on March 23.)

Step Aside, NY Times — Patch Is Bringing Google Zillions to Hyperlocal Maplewood

I got interested in the hyperlocal Maplewood BlogolopolisTM because the mighty New York Times was wading into the fray (and I happen to know the local Times reporter). But it turns out the Times is only the SECOND-best capitalized hyperlocal effort in Maplewood. The newcomer to watch is something called Patch.com.

I barely noticed Maplewood Patch when it launched in … well, whenever it was. Recently. Their logo clearly says “Beta”, and besides I’m not nearly as well tuned in to the local scene as a lot of my Maplewood neighbors are, so I just wasn’t that interested. I visit the (extremely active) Maplewood Online (MOL) bulletin boards sometimes if I’m looking for a referral for a handyman or whatever, but I never got into the social gestalt of those boards, and I don’t follow local politics. Every time I peeked in, however, I was impressed by how vibrant the community was. And MOL honcho Jamie Ross has always been good about publicizing our events at St. George’s Episcopal Church, where the Web Goddess and I are both very active.

Well, I’m interested now.

Yesterday I wrote mainly about the launch of the NY Times “The Local” site for Maplewood and environs. I noted that Patch.com and the NYT both chose the same three towns for their respective pilots — Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange — and I said something snarky about it being hard to reach somebody who could speak on behalf of Patch.

Today I got a call from Brian Farnham, Editor-in-Chief of … well, I guess of Patch.com, although their About Us page is fuzzy on the name of the entity, referring to “the people behind Patch.” Brian confirmed what I was starting to realize yesterday — that although it looks on the surface as if the New York Times and Patch.com have exactly the same business model for Maplewood, they are in fact closer to being exact opposites.

Brian, who had read my snarky comment, was very gracious and started by apologizing for not getting back to me more promptly. I parried that with an apology for not reaching out sooner.

Brian acknowledged what is obvious once you see the list of more than 20 employees at Patch’s NYC headquarters — Patch has national ambitions. He confirmed that all or virtually all of those 20-plus people are devoted full-time to the Patch.com effort. And yet, the only Patch.com sites currently in existence are the ones for Maplewood, South Orange and Millburn. (Each of the three towns also has a local Patch editor, supported by college students and freelancers.)

Brian wouldn’t let himself be pinned down about a timeframe for expansion, and he wouldn’t give me an estimate for the company’s monthly “burn rate” (a dot-com-bubble term that seems so last-century now). But the company is backed by a Google zillionaire, and they’re making a serious upfront investment.

About half those 20 people are fairly junior, but at the VP and Director level, everybody has serious online and/or media credentials. Brian, for example, is a former Editor-in-Chief of Time Out New York, and his fellow poobahs include seasoned Harvard MBAs and executives from non-trivial media ventures (Gannett, CBS, etc.) None of the senior people are working for just stock options and food.

The New York Times, OTOH, is taking its first tentative steps into the hyperlocal “space.” They’ve assigned one full-time reporter each in New Jersey and Brooklyn — and the paper says even that level of commitment is economically unsustainable in the long run. Maplewood resident Tina Kelley and her Brooklyn colleague at the Times were interviewed today on WNYC Radio, and they both freely acknowledged that the business model may look very different down the road.

Brian considers his company to be in competition with the awkwardly named NY Times “The Local” in this market, but he doesn’t think he’s really in competition with MOL, although obviously there’s some overlap. “I have enormous respect for Jamie Ross and what he’s built” at MOL, Brian said. “I hope people will get to feel less threatened by us — we’re not trying to put anybody out of business. We’re trying to be a news and information hub.”

This rings true to me. Think about Patch’s business model — if they don’t start expanding soon and build a broad base for advertising, even the most patient angel investor will get antsy. Salaries alone have to be costing them six figures every month, and their current revenue from the three initial Patches is either zero or something that rounds to zero. While the current faceoff looks like Googliath vs. Jamie Ross, by the end of 2009 I expect Maplewood Patch will be just one of dozens or even hundreds of local Patches.

MOL has an extremely loyal user base, as I (re)discovered when I posted what one loyalist described (accurately enough) as “your own self-serving advertisement to your blog” on MOL’s “Mostly Maplewood” board, which is only one of more than 20 active MOL boards. 80-plus comments ensued on the thread I had started, and to his credit Jamie not only left the thread posted, he personally took part in the discussion: “BTW, we got over 6,000 visits yesterday!” (Roughly 200 of those visitors clicked the link to my post, a nice boost for my humble blog.)

Patch.com’s business model will either work or it won’t — and if it works, Maplewood will be a tiny part of its traffic. The financially cratering New York Times will either find a business model that works or it will sell the extremely valuable brand to someone else — and either way, the Times‘s Maplewood blog will be a footnote (sorry, Tina, but I suspect you agree).

In any event, I don’t think MOL needs to worry. In fact, once the economy improves, I could envision a very nice payday for Jamie Ross, if he has any interest in having a partner with deep pockets.

Think Twice Before Having Fun on Facebook

(I subsequently wrote a followup to this post.)

(Insert cruel joke here about my apparent IQ)

I love the Internet. For starters, I met the Web Goddess on an online divorce support group. Thanks to the Internet, I have been able to pontificate on this blog to an audience of literally dozens of people who otherwise would be bereft of my wisdom.

But it’s still the Wild West on the World Wide Web (WWWWW). Web-enabled social media platforms such as Facebook lend themselves to scams that depend on social engineering as much as they do on TCP/IP. I think of myself as a reasonably sophisticated Internaut, but I got pwned this morning — before church, no less.

The Facebook message claimed that four of my friends had challenged me to an IQ test, with the smartest of them scoring 127. I was encouraged to click Continue to find out who they were and see if I could beat them. OK, Facebook friends — it’s on!

The welcoming page at the IQ site included a screen (see top image) with the words “Answer the questions quickly and accurately to find out your IQ.” OK, speed counts, good to know — bring it!

After racing through 10 multiple-choice questions (sample: of these four presidents, which was America’s 16th president?), I get to the screen below. My heart’s pumping — I just know I aced all those questions! But now they want me to tell them my cell phone number… am I going to get junk calls?

Oh well, I can always hang up, and at least they’re not asking for a credit card number. After I enter my cell number and click Next, I get a screen that tells me I have been sent a text message with a code number, and I have 30 seconds to enter the code number in a field on the web page. Crikey, my cell’s in the other room, the webpage is counting down the seconds, and I’m not sure how to retrieve a text message, I rarely use that service.

I get the code number entered with about four seconds to spare… which leads to a screen telling me I have to accept the Terms and Conditions. Damn! I’m out of time! But maybe it will still work a few seconds late. I select the Terms and Conditions approval box and click Next.

The next screen tells me to select the special ringtones I have ordered… and I start to have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I hit the back button to get to the page where I entered my cell phone number, and I see the virtually camouflaged reference (in the calculator screen in the picture above) to a $9.99 per month subscription. In small type at the very bottom (click the image to see a full-size version), there are five nondescript links, the fourth of which is the Terms and Conditions I didn’t read because I was running out of time.

The Terms and Conditions are a true work of art. (They were in a pop-up and I don’t know a way to link directly, but I’ve captured the complete text just in case.) In addition to telling me that my high IQ will now cost me 10 bucks a month until I cancel, the term sheet contains this cheeky statement: “YOU AGREE TO REVIEW THIS AGREEMENT FROM TIME TO TIME AND AGREE THAT ANY SUBSEQUENT ACCESS TO OR USE BY YOU OF THE SERVICES FOLLOWING CHANGES TO THE AGREEMENT SHALL CONSTITUTE YOUR ACCEPTANCE OF ALL SUCH CHANGES.” In other words, if they change the price to $10 a minute, it’s on me to opt out — and if I use the ringtone in the meantime, I’m hosed.

So after all my rushing, I ended up spending 28 minutes in voice-response hell with Verizon, before I got a human to tell me that I can cancel the ringtone “service” and I can dispute any charges that may get applied. I spent the 28 minutes rethinking my arrogant attitude toward the clients of Ponzi artist Bernie Madoff — clients who, I recently opined, should have known better.

Look, I freely acknowledge that I screwed up here. But shame on Facebook for enabling this. There apparently have been a variety of IQ test scams, none of which look any more dangerous than the standard Facebook fare offering superpokes, virtual hugs, good kharma and the like. If you Google “Facebook IQ test scam” you’ll get 86,000 results, some of them going back at least to 2007. (Let’s make it 86,001.)

I’m tempted to say “shame on Verizon” as well, but the ability to charge goods and services to your cell phone is at least potentially useful, and the nice Verizon lady assured me I would lose no money over this. Even though I “agreed” to the Terms and Conditions.

But here are other candidates for the IQ Test Hall of Shame: The aptly named Shadylizard.com, a ringtones peddler; Media Breakaway LLC, which according to the Terms and Conditions runs Shadylizard.com; quizyou.net, the site that hosts the phony quiz; and the “service” providers used by Media Breakaway to deliver ringtones: Flycell, Ringaza, Jamster and SendMe Mobile.

Media Breakaway LLC, according to its Flashy website, is based in Westminster, Colorado, and offers “performance-based marketing solutions for our business partners.” If you have any comments or suggestions about their “solutions,” their phone number is 303-464-8164. The CEO, Scott Richter, can be reached at scott@mediabreakaway.com.

(Images above may be subject to copyright; publication here is believed to be permissible under the fair use doctrine of U.S. law.)

Live, From Maplewood:Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

OK, enough with the financial crisis, the porkulus bill, the new president, Iraq… we’re going local here.

Next weekend, Feb. 20-22, a talented troupe from my church, St. George’s Episcopal in Maplewood, NJ, will stage Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, complete with live music.

My wife, the lovely and talented Web Goddess, and I are not in the production, but we’ve been involved in helping to publicize it. By “we” I mean mostly her. Here’s the scale of our respective contributions — she conceptualized, designed and executed the colorful banner you see here, combining a stock image rainbow swirl with a coat outline she drew herself, and tweaking the words endlessly to get them to fit.

Me? I looked over her shoulder when she asked me to, talked through some ideas and made encouraging sounds. At one point near the end, I said “maybe you could put a narrow white border around the coat,” and then left her alone to figure out how to actually do it. If you look closely you can see the little white border, which really helps the coat pop out more from the rainbow background. That was my idea. I also sent a rehearsal photo, caption, and an ad to our local weekly. (The Web Goddess took the picture and designed the ad.)

Not that I’m proud of her or anything, but I actually think the poster my wife made is nicer than the official image from the London revival. It’s certainly easier to read. And the white line is a nice touch.

Oh yeah, the production itself… it’s gonna be great. There is some amazing musical talent in our parish, and a couple of the performers have done the show professionally. They’ve been preparing and rehearsing since October — our church puts on a musical show every two or three years, and it’s always fabulous. I strongly urge all of you to attend — even the 13% of you who live outside the U.S. Details on tickets and show times are here, and you can see a two-minute rehearsal teaser on YouTube.

That’s it from Maplewood — regularly scheduled political grumpiness will resume soon.

Photo of the Web Goddess by Kirk Petersen (I borrowed her other camera).

Bush Punts Auto Bailout to Obama’s Team

Color me unsurprised.

The Bush administration said it would lend $17.4 billion to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, buying them a few weeks of financial relief but leaving the biggest decisions about the industry’s future to President-elect Barack Obama.

Another WSJ article suggests, contrary to the opinion flagged by my new BFF Mickey Kaus, that Ford can share in the upside without suffering from the downside.

As the lone Big Three auto maker passing on a federal bailout, Ford Motor Co. won’t have to undergo an intrusive government review of its books and its business plans to become a viable company in order to qualify for –and keep — the low-interest loans authorized by the Bush Administration Friday.At the same time, the Dearborn, Mich. car company is likely to benefit from many of the concessions that General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC exact from the suppliers, unions, dealers and debt holders shared by all three companies.

I’ve written so much about the auto industry lately that I feel like I ought to have more to say about yesterday’s development. But as the first excerpt above points out, all this does is buy the companies a few weeks of grace, with any longer-term resolution to be overseen by the Obama Administration. And so I’m like, whatever.

Besides, I have to go out now and chip and shovel the snow that turned to rain late yesterday before freezing solid overnight. I suppose I could have written (or shoveled!) last night, but I had to sit on the couch and watch the original Die Hard on DVD with the Web Goddess. It’s always something.

McCain Gets More Gay Votes Than Bush

I meant to follow up in a more timely way on an earlier post about the conservative gay vote. From that earlier post:

Along the same lines, I also want to note estimates that nearly one out of every four gay voters pulled the lever for Bush in 2004 (as did I), despite Bush’s odious support for the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (As for this year’s GOP nominee: “In the Senate, McCain has been an ardent opponent of a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, arguing his case on federalist grounds.”)

Today I belatedly found a GayPatriot post from last week, quoting the Log Cabin Republicans as saying that McCain got about 27% of the LGBT vote. This is clearly up from what Bush got in 2004, but the Log Cabin Republicans estimated Bush’s tally in 2004 as 19%. Where I say “nearly one out of every four” up above, the actual tally was 23%, so there’s a discrepancy.

Turns out that if you stick consistently with CNN exit poll data, the numbers are:

This progression makes sense to me — Bush got higher support overall in 2004 than in 2000, but his support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage cost him some votes among gays. McCain’s opposition to the amendment helped him hold on to a few more gay conservatives. The striking thing is that the one-out-of-four ratio, in rounded terms, has been quite steady.

So where did that 19% number the Log Cabin Republicans cited come from? Annoyingly, they kind of made it up, averaging the 23% CNN number with a 17% result from an LATimes exit poll, and deciding that was “about 20%,” which somehow became 19% in their earlier missive. Hmm.

What’s the point of all this? Well, it’s about me being defensive, I suppose. The Web Goddess and I have been involved for years in our church’s efforts in support of full marriage equality for same-sex couples. (The Web Goddess designed the shirt above — click it to order a copy from Cafe Press, at no profit to us.) Some gay friends have taken issue, politely, with my support for McCain. I’m just trying to show that a vote for a Republican shouldn’t be considered beyond the pale by people who support gay equality. Even in our deep-blue town of Maplewood, I know at least one gay couple who are “out” Republicans.

I suppose there’s also a message here for those who would caricature all gay people as being driven primarily by their sexuality. In each election cited above, of course, any gay voter who voted primarily on the basis of issues important to gay people would have voted for the Democrat. But one out of four gay voters felt strongly enough about other issues — presumably national security or taxes — to vote for the less gay-friendly candidate.

Purple Finger Majesties

The Web Goddess and I got up early this morning to perform our solemn civic duty of canceling each other out at the election booth.

The polls in New Jersey nominally open at 6 a.m., but voting was already under way when we arrived at 6. At 6:04 I estimated just under 100 people in the cafeteria at Tuscan Elementary School, where three districts vote. We were out of there by about 6:25, and the crowd had swelled to well over 100, in part because the line for the next district over wasn’t moving at all — apparently a voting machine problem.

Neither of us remember ever seeing so many people at the polls. Conventional wisdom holds that high turnout normally favors the Democrats. There’s no doubt that will be true in New Jersey, where electoral-vote.com‘s average of four recent polls shows Obama with a 16-point lead, 55% to 39%.

I voted straight Republican. Aside from the Presidential race, I was voting in the interests of divided government, not because I prefer the positions of whoever the GOP Freeholder candidate was over the positions of whoever the Democratic Freeholder candidate was. The Republicans did not field a candidate for Congress, so I couldn’t vote against Donald Payne, short of writing someone in. I’ve got nothing against Payne other than the fact that he’s a product of the Newark Democratic machine who has served 10 terms in Congress already.

While standing in line, it was tempting to think of voting in a lopsided race as a waste of time. Then I thought of all of the pictures of Iraqi and Afghani voters waving their purple fingers after voting, at some risk to their lives, in their first meaningful election in decades. And I shuffled ahead as the line moved forward.