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Blog Posts for February 2005

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Black and White


As I'm trying to hone my art abilities, I'm wanting to do more sketching. I bought a couple of books lately on sketching and I find them inspiring. Good stuff. So I'm practicing.

Both books talk about using value sketches. And David's book touts the value of the all-graphite pencil. No wood. Just paper wrapping the graphite itself. I bought one today, and I love it.

Here's the color picture that I started with:

So the challenge of taking a color, textured and shadowed, and turning it into a black and white sketch is kind of odd. With paints, I just go for the smears of color. With sketching, you do a quicker look at it as though it were a black and white photo.

So here's what I did:

And after I finished it, I scanned the black and white version of the photo:

This is fun... I'll tackle more tomorrow at lunch. And did I mention that I love the pencil?


Read the whole story of "Multnomah Falls"
Tags: sketch
by Brett Rogers, 2/1/2005 12:00:00 AM

Multnomah Falls: Layers


I started on the Multnomah Falls picture. Oregon is like my spiritual home, so I remember this setting quite well. I was there several times and walked the perimeter of the pool before the big bus-sized rock fell a few hundred feet into the pool. Due to that, they no longer let people walk in that area, of course.

I'm doing this painting much different than the Trafalgar Pigeons painting. With Pigeons, I painted and finished each area until I was done. Here though, I'm applying layers of paint to the entire painting until I finish.

I went and bought a larger memory card for my Sony Cybershot, and tomorrow I plan to go in early to work and walk through the building to take pictures of the art that decorates the walls in the 50 conference rooms in my building. Here's one I found by Mari Giddings:

I'm doing this to explore different venues for the purchase of art. Corporate art is a huge market. I hope to talk to the buyer for my building and learn more about it. We'll see.

I went to my boss today, though, and asked him if he knew who I might talk to.

"There's art in the conference rooms?" he asked.

I think it's a left-brained (business) versus right-brained (art) thing.


Read the whole story of "Multnomah Falls"
Tags: painting | watercolor
by Brett Rogers, 2/2/2005 10:00:00 AM

Multnomah Falls: Layer 3



Read the whole story of "Multnomah Falls"
Tags: painting | watercolor
by Brett Rogers, 2/2/2005 4:00:00 PM

Multnomah Falls: Layer 4


It's been all big brush so far. Time to start the detail and break out the tiny brushes.

I didn't watch the president's speech. I talked for quite a while with my kids about life and stuff. Great conversation. Toward the end of it, my son Aaron is thankful that we talk, and in depth, about things. Wide-ranging, free exchange of thoughts and opinions.

My kids are my favorite people. It's cool to hear their foundation become sturdy under them as they grow and get a grip on how life works.

But regarding the president's speech, I expected it would be great. The consensus seems to be that it was. And of course it was - the vision behind it is solid and right. That makes the speech easier.

He's the right man at the right time.


Read the whole story of "Multnomah Falls"
Tags: painting | watercolor
by Brett Rogers, 2/2/2005 11:00:00 PM

Multnomah Falls: Layer 5


I'm close... time now for the tiny brushes and really small, time-consuming detail work.

I went in this morning and snapped pictures of half the corporate art in the building. Can you say "abstract?" Here are a few of them:

What's the criteria for selection? Don't know...

Someday, I'll try my hand at this, but I need to get a grip on painting reality first.


Read the whole story of "Multnomah Falls"
Tags: art | painting | watercolor
by Brett Rogers, 2/3/2005 12:00:00 AM



I wasn't going to bed until this one was done.

Here's me at my messy desk, starting the finishing work.

And here's the progression of the painting:

And the photo from which I started:

As I finished, I washed out whitewater in the foreground because, well, it just looks artificial. And I removed/simplified a few other things, while trying to bring additional colors out. I like it.

And so, content, I am off to bed.


Read the whole story of "Multnomah Falls"
Tags: painting | watercolor
by Brett Rogers, 2/4/2005 1:12:00 AM

My First BeatCanvas Post


Tonight was a great night. I picked up a new scanner and a new printer. Took my older sons with me and we had a great time just hanging out. Came home, spent more time together, and then after they went to bed, I worked on this site.

Let's see if the first post works... :)


Read the whole story of "Building My Own Blogger"
by Brett Rogers, 2/10/2005 1:03:50 AM

Big Blog Advertising


What in the world possessed the guys at Powerline to invoke popup advertising on their web site?? That seems antithetical to blogs...


Tags: blogs
by Brett Rogers, 2/13/2005 12:26:48 AM

The Choice to Grow a Goatee


I'm overweight, and I hate shaving. What do those two things have to do with each other?

I made the decision in December to shave off my goatee and to keep it off until I lost the weight. I figured that the daily shaving routine would remind me to watch what I eat.

That would have worked, except that my back suffered a herniated disk in late December, and I've been completely inactive until the past week. But I'm still clean-shaven. But no more...

In working to get this blog ready for prime-time, I did a computerized caricature of myself. Here it is...

Which scared the crap out of me. So I added my usual goatee back on (because I can do that artistically...)

And that decision was made for me. The shaving is over.


Tags: my life
by Brett Rogers, 2/14/2005 5:57:59 AM

King Dean


Now that Howard Dean has been christened King of the Democratic Party, I think it's harder for the Democrats to do exactly what the former governor sets out to do: rebuild the party and make it popular among voters again.

Personally, I like Dean's style. He's honest, and that's always a good first impression with me. That obviously played well with the thousands of people who lifted Dean to almost usurp John Kerry's expected role of Democrat challenger in the last presidential election.

But he's the face of the radical left. Which is fine if that sells, except that it doesn't. The Democrats lost seats everywhere.

I don't know that Dean can get past his reputation. Forget the scream. That's a hand overplayed. It's more than that.

Dean's base, the Deaniacs, are the radicals. They're the "George Bush is evil" left. The article I cite above talks about how Dean seems to suggest that he will pull the party more to the center.

Dean said yesterday he will spend much of his time in coming months in the red states of the South and West. "I think that's where we need a lot of work," he said. "I think that's where people are most skeptical about the Democratic Party, and I think the way to get people not to be skeptical about you is to show up and talk and say what you believe."

Which is fine if it sells. Except that it didn't.

Listening to Laura Ingraham on the way home from dinner with my folks last night, she had David Corn on, who authored "Bush Lies." David's position: the Democrats don't need to change. They just need to get their message out in a more effective way.

Which is what Howard says as well - in effect, "Get to the Red States and speak what we believe." Exactly what they did in 2004. Which is fine if it sells. Except that it didn't.

I like a good debate. I'm hoping that the Democrats rebound if only to make for healthy debate in our country. But I don't think the radical left can provide a serious debate because their central premise and huge blind spot is: George Bush is evil. They can't see any good in what he is doing, even if it is objectively good.

NATO Secretary General Japp de Hoop Scheffer said:

"Europe realizes now in this moment, after the successful elections -- and we must admit that President Bush was right there and the cynics were wrong . . . that this is the moment to support the political process from all angles."

So... I'm hoping that in Dean's quest to speak the truth, he'll honestly address Bush's good steps as well as Bush's missteps.

Which would be great if he would. Except that he probably won't. He'd lose the Deaniacs if he did.


Tags: politics
by Brett Rogers, 2/14/2005 6:34:17 AM

Comments Up and Running...


Tonight, I built the first stage of the comments here on Sometime this week, I'll finish them, but at least now people can comment anonymously.

How do you make it easy for people to uniquely identify themselves if they want to do more than just an anonymous comment? I've handled that two ways.

1) Allow even anonymous commenters to give themselves a display name, with "(Anonymous)" next to their displayed name so that it can't be confused with others who uniquely identified themselves.

2) After tossing it around, I think entering an email address is a good way, but that brings jitters. ("Will I get spammed?") I considered zip code and birth month /day. I've decided on all three, with the ability to change any one of them if you know the other two.

Why zip code? Because I think the next stage of blogs is local, and I expect a lot of networking through them. For this reason, I'm using a localization engine that I built last year that for those who want others to know that they are local, they can search for every registered blogger / commenter within X miles of a zip code in the US and Canada.

Once I'm very happy with and I've built the localization registry, I'll invite other bloggers / commenters to register their location (zip code only to protect privacy) so that it's an easy lookup for other like-minded folk. Then, with a protected email form on, people could send messages until they felt safe enough to share addresses / phone numbers and actually meet.

Plus, with easy identification of the commenter, I can enable other features, such as allow you to view all of the comments across articles, and give you the ability to play editor by screening out posts of a certain category. (Don't like my politics? Choose not to view those articles.)

I though about expanding that function to include privatizing some of my articles. For example, I'm uncomfortable posting about my children, what with creepy people on the web and all. So what if I could password-protect your access to a category, such as family? Then give the password to family and friends. When they choose the content categories that they wish to view, they'll be prompted that one time for the password. That would allow family to get updates/pictures of the kids and allow me to keep their privacy.

And now, time to do the dinner dishes...


Read the whole story of "Building My Own Blogger"
by Brett Rogers, 2/15/2005 1:32:07 AM

The Purveyors of News


Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my younger sons from school and brought them to my place. I had the radio on. I typically don't listen to music while driving, but rather talk/news radio. The news feed at the top of the hour came on and went something like this:

Michael Jackson has flu-like symptoms and is in the hospital. A fan, holding vigil for Jackson at the hospital, fainted... A fifteen-year-old boy is found guilty for shooting his grandparents... and so on...
These were the most important stories of the day for ABC to tell us. Nothing else in the world had more consequence to our lives than these stories, according to the editors and chiefs at ABC News.

And we're supposed to trust the news judgment of these people.

What drives the selection of the stories? Public interest? Best guess? Polls? Advertisers' choice?

It was once the case that DJ's made the choice of music that filled our day because it was all that was available. Then the Sony Walkman came along and that was the end of the power of the DJ. Anyone could be a DJ and make their own playlist. The iPod embodies that power today.

I wonder what the transport mechanism will be user-driven news selection. It's not here yet, but it's coming. I suppose when that day arrives there will be a lot of fretting about how consumers just pick the news that they want to hear. They'll miss the important and confrontational news of the day that they need to hear.

Such as a fan fainting because Michael Jackson has the flu. Oh - wait. Breaking news. We've learned that Michael is expected to make a full recovery.


Tags: media
by Brett Rogers, 2/16/2005 5:17:26 AM

Flatulent Self-Esteem


A friend of mine just sent me a link to an article in USA Today about the impact of boosting kids' self-esteem in the last two decades. The verdict of this treatment of children: not good.

Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, says he had "high hopes" for the benefits of boosting self-esteem when he began studying it more than 30 years ago.

But his lengthy review of 18,000 articles, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, ended with the realization that only two clear benefits emerge from high self-esteem: enhanced initiative, which boosts confidence, and increased happiness.

"There is not nearly as much benefit as we hoped," he says. "It's been one of the biggest disappointments of my career."

Overall, research shows that self-esteem scores have increased with the generations, says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who compared studies on self-esteem of 66,000 college kids across the USA from 1968 through 1994. Such studies are typically based on self-ratings.

She also has noticed that the undergraduates she teaches tend to have an inflated sense of self.

"When you correct writing, they'll say, 'It's just your opinion,' which is infuriating. Bad grammar and spelling and sentences being wrong is not my opinion, it's just bad writing," she says.

So when the criticism flows, some college students are increasingly seeking counseling.

Sam Goldstein, a neuropsychologist at the University of Utah, likened some students to bubbles - on the surface they seem secure and happy, yet with the least adversity they burst.

The article asserts that kids know when they're truly not great at something... do they? Has anyone watched American Idol? Countless peope think that they have a voice that can be on the radio... and oh my god they're so wrong.

All we do when we overly praise mediocrity is lower kids' expectations of what they will need to do to succeed in life. Which can only set them up for indignant failure.

More Simon Cowell, less Leo Buscaglia.


Tags: self-esteem | children | psychology
by Brett Rogers, 2/16/2005 9:31:44 AM



One of my favorite bands is Rush. I have no idea what their current song list sounds like, but when I was in a band oh so long ago, all of us in the band loved Rush. I played bass, so I mimicked Geddy Lee, my drummer was a spot-on Neil Peart, and Kelly channeled Alex Lifeson with amazing attention to detail. I remember the first time that we rehearsed Spirit of Radio. If Rush played the song as an instrumental, we did it justice. We were pumped after that!

Today, I'm listening to a long playlist on my laptop while working and Time Stand Still comes on. It's a good song and I've listened to it a great deal. But today, I caught something that I'd not heard before. About midway through the song, in the chorus, Geddy riffs this very subtle but very fat melodic bass line that has me double-take and replay that section a few times. Never heard that.

The Sundays have a song like this called She from their album Static and Silence. David Gavurin's guitar work throughout the song is varied and surprising. Enjoyable many times over, just to hear what he's doing.

Times like this are like walking along a favorite and frequented path, but today noticing a break in the bushes that leads to a lovely garden. One that you had never noticed before. Or like learning that your lover has an interest in photogrpahy and is quite good at it. You wonder how you missed that in 10 years of being together. But it's like discovering them all over again.

I never listen to lyrics much. Most lyrics are fairly nonsensical or trivial. They really don't do much for me, although there are a few exceptions. A turn of phrase or a deep wisdom conveyed in lyric will catch my ear. But mostly, I listen for the music. I can write code and listen to music at the same time with no problem. The music happens for me in a different place than my programming. The separation of right and left brain activity, I suppose.

But all of this has me thinking... that "aha!" sense is something that we all enjoy. I've been studying Betty Edwards' book on Color and I've been looking at others' works of art... something that I hope to do one day is to somehow capture in my painting that possility for "aha!" To somehow bury an Easter Egg into the work so that the viewer can one day spring off their couch and study it closer and marvel at how they missed something. I think if I can do that someday, I'll have done in art what I want to do.

And I suppose that this desire of mine is probably what will lead me to larger works. The larger area will allow me more detail and play within the work.


Tags: music | rush | the sundays | betty edwards
by Brett Rogers, 2/16/2005 1:59:30 PM

Moving In


Today is the day that I move in, here at

If you didn't know, I'm building this site from scratch. Which means that I'm not using blogger or typepad or any other blogging tool for this. I decided about a month ago to make my own dogfood, as a friend of mine would say. I'm a database web developer by trade, so why not go for it and see what happens.

I spent the latter part of my evening getting the RSS feed to work as I wanted. Woke up early this morning and got the email notification of comments going and set it up so that each post has its own title, meta keywords, and meta description when you open the page for it.

Lots of work yet to do, but all of the basic blogging elements are here. At the risk of boring you with the to-do list, I plan to blog the development of the site. So here's what is on my plate:

  • Let people register themselves and log in to the site. This will open the door to some of the items that follow.
  • Let people browse all of the comments made by registered users, regardless of post.
  • Give registered users their own profile page, with a link to their own web site (think: marketing).
  • I hate spam, as does everyone. Why it is that comments engines display a person's email address is beyond me - it's an invitation to spam the commenter. That's just dumb. Instead, I'll setup a private email form here on the site to email someone, if they give their email address. That way it's hidden and un-spammable.
  • Allow registered users to filter the content by categories. Much like Yahoo lets you customize Yahoo's home page, this would allow you to filter out my posts that weren't in your interest, such as political rants or blogging my artwork.
  • Let people choose from different BeatCanvas templates and change the look of my web site. This could get chaotic, but I like the idea. I've built the site so that each article can have its own look. This way, anyone could come here and choose from the templates available and set the look for the entire site or for just a single article.
  • I want bloggers to add themselves to my links list at left. That too could get chaotic, but we'll see how I might be able to manage that.
  • Set up a blogger/commenter directory, so that you could type in your US or Canadian zip/postal code or city/location and find those within your area. I haven't seen that something like this exists today, but why not? As I mentioned in another post, I built an engine for this on a different project last year. And I think that commenters should be treated like bloggers in this sense. It would be great to allow local and like-minded people to find each other.
  • In addition to categorizing articles/posts, I want to create "threads," which would allow a discussion across posts to be linked together. Then allow the thread to be viewed by itself, but instead of using the blog's normal order of putting the most recent posts first, it would show the thread in chronological order.
So that's the wish list so far.

Have some of your own? Have additional thoughts about this? Let me know in the comments.


Read the whole story of "Building My Own Blogger"
by Brett Rogers, 2/17/2005 8:37:43 AM

What's This?


Before you scroll down further, take a guess - what is this?

Did you guess a face?

Scroll down and see the whole picture... how about now?

It's weird how we're wired to know a face when we see one. In the drawing above, it's a bunch of multi-colored splotches. But we make sense of it as a face...

Computers will never touch that capability. But then they will never mistake a strange pattern on a grilled cheese sandwich for the Virgin Mary either.

ETC: After reading the story and sleeping on it, I knew that I'd heard of before. You see, is an Antigua-based online casino. They bought that grilled cheese sandwich off eBay.

But that's not all that they bought from people selling unusual items on eBay:

  • Remember the father who sold his kids' Christmas presents on eBay? bought them.
  • They bought an "authentic" plate from the Titanic from a homeless man.
  • eBay's first "haunted" item, a cane said to be inhabited by a ghost.
  • The ex-wife of baseball's Jeff Bagwell sold 30 days of advertising space on her cleavage to
  • A pregnant woman sold the advertising on her belly to the online casino.
And so on...

Follow the link. They pay less than $100,000 per item and get controversial items that end up in the "Odds and Ends" news around the world. It's relatively free marketing. Genius.

I wonder if they'll buy my art??


Tags: ebay
by Brett Rogers, 2/17/2005 4:34:35 PM



Watching Professor Reynolds blog his wife's hospital care today, here's wishing him, his wife, and the rest of the family best wishes for her speedy recovery.


by Brett Rogers, 2/18/2005 7:03:31 PM

Categories and Threads


This afternoon, I had a conversation with the PR person of a company to which I've consulted before. They're considering blogs and RSS feeds to improve communication with their clients. Part of the challenge for them, though, is that some of their content should be private to protect their competitive advantage. How does a company act transparently without giving away business? Moreover, is that really the right question?

As I build this site, I'm thinking through these questions. Corporate blogging is up and coming; it's a means for better communication externally - and internally too. Make no mistake - ultimately, blogs are marketing. If email newsletters were push marketing, are blogs to be regarded as pull marketing? Should a company have both? I believe that they should. Email newsletters don't have to be "spam."

I spent a few hours today working on beatcanvas, adding in Categories and Threads. I'd work for 20 minutes at a time, and then do something with the kids for a bit, and then come back to it. I actually like working this way. I get 20 minutes of thoughtful work, and then 20 or 30 minutes of time away. This allows me to back-burner some of the problems I could encounter before I continued.

Blog Categories aren't new. I know that TypePad offers them. Steve Rubel uses them well.

But I haven't seen anything in the way of Blog Threads.

A "thread" offers a trail of crumbs between posts. Where two posts in the same category might have nothing to do with each other, two posts in a thread should read like a continuing story.

There've been lots of times in reading the blogs of others that I wished for a thread. I wanted the background on the current post to put their current comments into context. It happens a lot with Glenn Reynolds and Jeff Jarvis. They tend to have "threads" that span months.

Next up on the agenda for me is the consideration of users registering and customizing their own page. I've set up the database for privatizing categories. ("My Kids" is my first private category, which will require a passcode to view it.)

I think corporate blogs must have privatization control. Companies strive for good PR and for secure transparency. Blogs can offer these, but the current tools on the market don't offer them. But they'll have to offer them. And companies will need to hire good story-tellers. Imagine product development threads, open to the public for ideas and input. It makes a company and its products "buzz-worthy." Which is smart business...


Read the whole story of "Building My Own Blogger"
Tags: typepad
by Brett Rogers, 2/20/2005 7:24:23 PM

Print is Not Dead - Just the Content Is


Hugh Hewitt has a great note on the decline of print media.

"'Print is dead,' Sports Illustrated President John Squires told a room full of newspaper and magazine circulation executives at a conference in Toronto in November."
Which is silly. I like print. I can't imagine my life without my subscription to Wired magazine, which my kids also read avidly.

But I would never consider a subscription to the local newspaper.

The reason for declining readership at newspapers and magazines is not what they imagine.

Under sustained assault from cable television, the Internet, all-news radio and lifestyles so cram-packed they leave little time for the daily paper, the industry is struggling to remake itself.

Papers are conducting exhaustive surveys to find out what readers want. They are launching new sections, beefing up Web sites and spinning off free community papers and commuter giveaways in hopes of widening their audience.

It's not the competition. I still have to visit the library once a day and need reading material for my 5 or 10 minute excursion. A newspaper would be ideal for this.

But no, it has nothing to do with competition. It has to do with lousy, lop-sided, biased, negative content. There is nothing provocative in the newspaper any more. It's predictable. The editors will always choose the Democrat running for office and denounce Iraq as an abject failure. If it bleeds, it leads. Even the cartoonist is never a surprise.

In today's fast news cycle, where I generally know the headlines the day before they appear in print, analysis and alternative points of view would make print valuable. Give me information from multiple points of view and let me form my own opinion. But it ain't gonna happen. The Des Moines Register and its AP newsfeed can't help but lean left, which only sends it circling toward nowhere productive.

Therein lies newspaper's mortality... but it's not because it's "print."


Tags: media
by Brett Rogers, 2/20/2005 7:50:59 PM

Who We Are


I hate predictability. Which is odd, because I like firm principles in life, and firm priciples will drive predictable outcomes.

So I'm playing HALO 2 last night, and another player says that someone in the game is cheating. And then I heard him mention my gamer tag, B Strat. He announced to everyone that I was the cheater.

"If you think I'm cheating, then turn me in. I have nothing to hide."
"Okay, I will."
"But I have a question for you. If I were cheating, wouldn't I be winning?"
Silence. "Well, maybe it's not you, but someone was cheating."

The game soon ended. I finished 3rd out of 8 players. The post-game conversation picked up on the cheating accusation.

"Dude," I told those who stayed, "you can't just throw out accusations like that willy nilly."
"B Strat, why are you so worked up about this?"
"Because to accuse someone of cheating is dumb unless it's blatant. I didn't see anything in the game to suggest that, and it obviously wasn't me - I didn't come close to winning - but you threw my name out there."
"You must be a computer programmer," someone replied.
I started laughing. "I am, but how in the world did you guess that?"
"Because I work with programmers every day and they act just like you." Then he laughed.

I was dumbstruck. Was I that obvious in such a short time frame? Am I that predictable? And what exactly was "computer programmer"-ish about my behavior? Before I could ask the questions, I exited the room after wishing everyone a good night, but I wish that I had remained and asked the question.

We all fit certain patterns or traits, and we all see the world through a different lens. But in some ways, it's a shared lens. At least to some degree. The Myers-Briggs scale, or MBTI, has found success because it successfully catalogues certain behavior and filtering that we do to earmark us as 1 of 16 types along 4 axes. I'm an ENTP, but narrowly the extrovert. I have many introvert tendencies.

A friend of mine recently spoke of her travails on I hear commercials for eHarmony on the radio, and it touts its personality matching service along its 29 dimensions of compatibility. Yet this same person tried eHarmony and wondered how in the world it chose her matches because they could not have been more wrong for her.

What do you want to be when you grow up? With whom should you spend the rest of your life?

I don't know the answer to either of those.

I like principles because they simplify life. As my kids have grown up, they have all heard the four rules:

  • Do what you're told without talking back, unless you can't do it.
  • You are responsible for your things. If you need help, ask.
  • Treat other people as you want to be treated.
  • If it's not yours or you don't know what it is, don't touch it.
It has made family life simpler. Just about anything that needs correction with them can boil down to one of these rules.

The bright lines that principles provide can simplify life. Is there creativity in that? Bright lines limit us. Most of us appreciate a bit of rebelliousness now and then. Can we color outside the lines? Should we?

I teach my kids that there is no such thing as a bad word. All words are fine; certain words are just inappropriate at times. You shouldn't say "shit" in school.

But is there a time when it's appropriate? Think of the teacher confronted by a student who just pulled a gun. I think "shit" is very appropriate at a time like that.

Can everyone agree on principles? Can we all agree on the "Rules of Life?" I don't think so.

Can those who oppose the killing of innocent life, such as the wrongly accused convict in prison, also be okay with abortion? What are the principles involved? Are they contradictory?

Those who believe that God's rules best suit society - can they also believe in freedom of religion and freedom of speech? What are the principles? Don't they conflict?

We all see life through a different lens, and in some ways, we're stuck with our lens. We're predictable that way. And we're built for conmflict with others, I'm afraid. It's unavoidable.

I suppose it's all in how we handle it. Margaret Thatcher said, "The veneer of civilzation is very thin." Yes, indeed. Truth doesn't come in a stream of 1's and 0's. Programming offers a bit of solace that way.


Tags: rules of life
by Brett Rogers, 2/23/2005 11:33:54 AM

Exploration Ahead


A old client called me a few days ago and asked if I could squeeze him in. It's an interesting project that he has in mind, so today we met and I've agreed to shoehorn the project to the tune of about 8 to 10 hours per week. My job is to write software to help manage support for his wireless and terminal services network.

This will help with two of the goals that I have for the year: to get mighty close to being debt-free, and to acquire a few creativity items. On the creativity list: a new computer, a few musical instruments, flash animation software, and a film-quality camera.

I know musical instruments. I know software. I know computers. But I don't know video cameras to save my life. I'm flying blind here.

I've scouted around and after much reading, I think I've settled on the Panasonic AG-DVX100A MiniDV. It gets great reviews and offers film-like quality. The only other camera that seems to be in the same league with it is the Canon XL2, but the XL2 is $2,000 more expensive. And it seems that soon enough, the next generation of cameras will offer HD format. If I like filming, then I'll definitely be upgrading later, so I'll save money now and get a high-quality camera for my needs.

What to do with such a gizmo?

I'm sure it will be documentary work. I've been tossing around ideas...

  • I could chase down Iowa's local art talent and film a bit on each one. I own,, and, and I could release the continuing thread of stories on one of those, if I chose.
  • Find people who have chased their passions here in central Iowa and document their processes, their stories, and highlight their successes and failures.
  • Find people on both sides of the political spectrum in central Iowa and ask the question, "Who has the better, more provable, and more successful ideas: the left or the right?" And then just film their answers and their examples.
All of these appeal to me. I'll have to pick a direction, but I have plenty of time. Fall is my timeframe for purchase, and in the meantime I'll be writing software.

Once I'm debt-free, I can work less if I need to so that I can pursue one of my creative outlets should one really take hold of me and demand more attention.

Life is so cool. You know, my kids thrill at the idea of these new toys in the house. I hope to teach them how to use all of these things and let them go crazy with them. Or, sorta crazy. They'll just need to be gentle with the video camera...


Tags: ideas
by Brett Rogers, 2/25/2005 8:57:27 PM

Economic Blue Skies


BusinessWeek reports that our economy is rock solid.

The economy clocked in at a 3.8 percent pace in the final quarter of 2004 -- faster than initially thought -- and is now cruising at that speed or better. That could be good news for jobless people hoping for companies to increase hiring.

In the newest reading on the economy's fitness, the gross domestic product exceeded a previous estimate of a 3.1 percent annual growth rate for the October-to-December quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States.

"We are now at a comfortable cruising altitude," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Banc of America Capital Management. "What is significant is that all parts of the economy were pulling their own weight."

What gets the credit for this strong economy? (Sidenote: strong despite the claims of many just a few months ago who said that Bush had ruined the economy, as a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette election editorial shows.)

I mentioned in yesterday's post that a former client called me to work on a project. That client, whom I will not name, last used my services in 2001. They owed me about $7,000 when the project was over, but it was fall and 9/11 had just occurred. Some of their clients were in lower Manhattan, and because they weren't getting paid, I wasn't getting paid. It took about 6 months to collect all of the money due me.

If I asked you to fill in the blank, would you get the right answer? Here's the oft-repeated statement: "Markets hate _______________."

If you said "uncertainty," then you would be right. And 9/11 was a horrendously de-stabilizing force that created uncertainty.

But today, we haven't had a terrorist attack in over 3 years. In fact, we're on the offensive, and we're installing democratic thoughts in the Middle East. Even Lebanon, as told to a journalist for the Washington Post and cited in the Quad City Times.

Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing America and Israel; but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative.

He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Partially, I give the credit for our strong economy to our country's reaction to 9/11, which is becoming a period of increasing stabilization, especially in the wake of the spread of democracy.

Partially, but not as much, I give the credit to tax cuts.

Partially, I give credit to the Federal Reserve's handling of interest rates post 9/11. Very helpful.

All of this builds confidence, which spurs people to feel safer to spend money, which is why when I took this gig with my former client, I didn't have any concerns about payment. This is a different, and better, time.


Tags: economy | bush | america | politics
by Brett Rogers, 2/26/2005 10:36:54 AM

Meet the Bloggers


Tonight, a bunch of us Iowa bloggers got together and met/chatted.

It was very cool to meet everyone, although about halfway through the good conversation that was starting to heat up, the folks at Wellman's Pub cranked up the music. I can't distinguish voices in that kind of environment, and the only person I could hear was Stefanie, who sat next to me. She spoke in her "high voice," and amazingly, that cut through just about everything pretty well, so I was able to stay and chat for a while longer.

I don't often do things like this. Generally, if I'm not working, I'm at home with my kids. It was very cool to step out a bit...


Tags: iowa blogs
by Brett Rogers, 2/26/2005 11:42:54 PM



Condoleeza Rice has President Bush calling her "44" and web sites are springing up, and so an air of excitement - even inevitablity - is building.

But what the hell does she stand for?

Before any candidate runs for any office, we need to know:

  • What's the plan?
  • Can you show that it's a feasible plan?
  • Why are you and your team qualified to execute your plan?
She might be great. She might have the juice necessary to be a wonderful president, but really - what's her plan? And does she even want to run?

Republicans and conservatives and anyone else getting all woozy over her potential run for the White House should gear back a bit and ask these questions, as we should for any candidate.

The last thing the Republicans need is a cult of personality around Condi.


Tags: politics
by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2005 11:41:31 AM

Work work work work work...


Doing a lot of work on the site today and I'm just about done with the Login feature. Probably release it by the end of the day - as soon as I'm done with revising comments so that it uses your login.

One thing I want to do with the Login feature is to let users define themselves by issues, interests, and activities. When filling out the profile page for this, it will display your answers.

So like for abortion, the answers would be:

1. Abortion is always wrong.
2. Abortion is always wrong, except when saving the life of the mother.
3. Abortions will happen, and the government shouldn't fund it or legislate it.
4. Abortion should be available to all women, but parents of minors should be informed.
5. Abortion should be available to all women and girls/minors.

So I'm thinking of other issues and the answers to those. The purpose of this would be that you could find like-minded people.

If you have any suggestions, leave them in comments!


Read the whole story of "Building My Own Blogger"
by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2005 3:41:47 PM

Ah, Politics...


Bella commented earlier that my choice of images to represent Right-Wingers and Left-Wingers was offensive. The images were in my links list in the left-side column.

Other than the proverbial donkey and elephant, what images can you select for these two polar extremes?

Right-Wingers are often labeled as "jingoistic" and as people "wrapped in the America flag." Coming from left wing folks, these aren't intended to be compliments.

Left-Wingers, on the other hand, are often seen as protesting and flag-burning, so to go with an obvious polarization, my image for the Right-Wingers was a flag waving, and for the Left-Wingers it was a flag burning.

As I posted them, I thought it was a bit over the top, but I posted it to see if anyone responded. Bella did, and took me to task for it, and rightly so (or is it leftly so??).

So for now, I've changed the images. You can scroll down to view the change. But these images are only good for the next four years, and Bella, who heralds from Iowa, is certainly pained to be portrayed as a red stater, I'm sure. The change is temporary until I can be more brilliant or be supplied with better iconic image ideas from my readers.


Read the whole story of "Building My Own Blogger"
Tags: politics
by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2005 10:12:13 PM

Login - Released


I need your patience... some of the more robust features of are on the way. The first step is in place: login.

To give a quick recap, I'm building my own blogger to give me more versatility and to give the reader a richer experience. If you've been reading beatcanvas, that's about all that non-registered people will have. Which is fine, and much like other blogging tools.

But by registering a login, access to some pretty cool features are coming.

This being the first night out, login could be buggy, so I ask your patience. Gotta run... the younger boys' mom is in the hospital (she's okay!) and we're going to see her, now that she has a room.


Read the whole story of "Building My Own Blogger"
by Brett Rogers, 2/28/2005 7:47:09 PM