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What do you mean, like what? This is a significant change. I have declared 2004 The Year of the Graphic Element that Hugs the Upper Left Hand Corner. Usually I start the new year with the annual pointless site-wide redesign – that’s coming. This is a foretaste. Be prepared to look at this page for the rest of the month – I think I’m done with weekly redesigns at least until I finish the next book.

It’s 12:34 AM right now; must - bang - out - bleat. Just finished the Tuesday Backfence. (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, or cared, but my sneaky plan to turn the Fence into Bleats proceeds anon; I will still use reader letters when I want to, but I’m aiming for a 70-30 mix now. Already the Sunday column is an essay. Now the Tuesday column is an essay. Mwah! My long-term plan is working exactly as I foresaw. </vader>)

Speaking of newspapers.

Today’s lesson on the librul media is –

Well, let me back up and clarify my terms. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe that most papers have an explicit agenda; the morning huddle does not begin with a rousing rendition of “The East is Red.” No. Obviously, no. The “liberal” bias usually manifests itself as a certain comfy sort of groupthink. Most people in the newsroom are Democrats. They vary wildly from issue to issue, perhaps, but there are some tenets that bind the tribe, and a good number of them are based in certain attitudes about conservatives that were quite possibly formed at birth. Certainly in college. My favorite example: years ago I wrote a book review about a study of free speech on American campuses. It wasn’t one of those thinly-documented screeds; it was written by college educators horrified by PC speech codes, assaults on campus newspapers, and academic freedom. The copy editor had a question about one of the author’s names. I wandered over and read it to her. The author used all three names – first, middle, last.

“F*cking Republicans,” she said.

I was a bit surprised, and asked her what she meant. She seemed startled and suddenly a bit abashed, and said that the three names were pretentious. Like Hillary Rodham Clinton? One of the authors was a self-described Democrat, I noted. No surprise; to those of us who were Dems in the 70s and 80s, speech codes would have been anathema. The very words “speech” and “codes” would not compute; they would fly apart like magnets with opposite poles. Then again, I remember in 84 when our paper ran an article that angered campus feminists; they broke into the newspaper office and taped bloody tampons to the file cabinets. O the trouble this caused in the ranks. It was a protest, it involved symbolism – that would earn them a front-page story if they’d hit the administration building, but targeting us for printing something they didn’t like? What goes? Looking back, this was one of my first clues – it’s not about right v. left all the time. Sometimes it’s citizens v. thugs. And if that’s the current dynamic, the citizens had best find a way to bury the hatchets and get along, because the tampon-festooning burglars have already settled their differences and identified the problem. Which is you, because you print un-PC pieces on your editorial page.

I was editorial page editor for a year, so I know what I went through. Ugly stuff. And I ran Pacifica news wire pieces twice a week.

Anyway, my point: in any given newsroom on any given day, it’s usually safe to say “f*cking Republicans” to someone you don’t know, because if they didn’t agree they probably wouldn’t be in a newsroom.

That’s just how it usually works.


So. I saw this headline in the Arizona Republic last week, and it leaped off the page. Not because it’s intentionally biased – but because it isn’t. It made it through several copy editors. It was reproduced for the online edition. No one saw a problem here.

I suspect (he says, charitably) that the headline writer would defend the ad because it’s true. Right? Go-it-alone war, unilateralist war, spurning our allies, etc., ad infinitum; we all know that’s the case. Right? But of course it’s not true; we had an alliance with Great Britain, with Australia, with Poland; if we lacked Russian support, perhaps that’s because they were still supporting the enemy?

And so on. As usual, it boils down to the President’s mulish refusal to please the French. But the headline writer knew in his gut that it was true in a general sense – sure, we went to the UN and worked for eleventy million resolutions, but in the end we just did what we wanted, so we obviously don’t care about alliances, period. Plus, you know, Kyoto, and the ABM treaty, and stuff.

An accurate headline: Clark stresses need for “alliances.” Clark says “alliances” are crucial. Something that sets apart the idea of alliances to indicate that they can be construed in different ways
My paper gets beaten up a good deal in the blogoworld, so I should note that I ran the headline past my copy editor. He rolled his eyes. Never would have made it past him.

Funtime computer nightmare follows.

Goal: print off the book proposal for my editor.

Solution: turn on the printer!

Problem: printer is useless for reproducing images. We learned this when it was time for the Christmas cards; I printed one, and yea it was great. I printed another – it had black stripes. Hmm. Print another. Black stripes and green flesh tones. Hmm! Well, run the old printer utility program . . . which isn’t on this machine. Odd. Find the original installer disk (not a problem, I’m proud to say; all mission-critical discs are in blue CD sleeves, filed on the bottom shelf of the Closet of Wonders.) The installer does not install the printer utility. Odd. Well. Get out the previous Mac, hook it up, find the program, run the diagnostics. Clean the nozzles, realign the print heads. Result: all the pictures look green. Gnat looks like the Grinch.

Solution: go to Kinkos to print them off!

Problem: Kinkos photo printer runs out of paper after six copies.

Solution: wait in line to tell someone that the machine is out of paper.

Problem: they don’t have any more paper. But they’ll get some from a different store – come back later.

Additional problem: wife not happy.

Solution: there is no solution to that one, aside from turning up with 30 copies. Which I do, around 10 PM after Kinkos tracked down more paper.

So: that printer is hosed. It does resumes fine, though; no problem with plain text. It’s now given a new life as my wife’s printer.

Forget about the printer for 3 weeks. Remember that you have to submit proposal to actually get the whole book-selling thing in motion. Go to CompUSA for printer.

The shelves that once held computers and printers are now full of television sets. Hey, we need a TV – let’s go to the computer store! A salesman explains that the markup is better on Tvs than computers, and while that’s certainly true it doesn’t quite explain why COMPUsa would downplay, you know, comps, and sell TV sets and stereos. Why not cars? Why not Barbies?

Find a printer. Get it home. Run the installer.

Problem: the installer does not install any drivers. When you open the Print Center, it shows a file with a question mark for an icon: “HP 5650. No driver found.” This would seem contrary to the point of running an installer, eh? Run it again. Nada.

Solution: go to the HP website and see what’s what.

Problem: the printer hasn’t been the only problem today. I’ve been attempting to fix a wireless problem that has taxed me for a week. I can have broadband on my main machine, or I can have wireless broadband. I cannot have both.

Solution: get a hub! But of course. Modem cable into the hub, cable out to the wireless transmitter, cable out to the Mac.

Problem: doesn’t work. Just – doesn’t.

Solution: according to the salesman, I need the new Airport Extreme wireless hub, which has an extra Ethernet jack that goes to the machine. You’re on!

Problem: doesn’t work. At first. Futz around for a while. It works! The old 733 Mac, which will be going into my wife’s office, is online. The iBook is online. The Mac is online. I switch users the 733 to make some changes. Eventually I note: nothing works.

Solution: call Apple technical support. Over the course of 15 minutes we narrow down the problem.

Problem: The very act of talking about components seems to cause them to malfunction; by the time we’re done the modem itself no longer is able to connect to the Mac. He tells me the problem is my modem.

Solution: take everything apart, start again. It works! Quick! Call up the HP website for those drivers! (Remember that?) Start the 35MB download.

Problem: the iBook, which is doing the downloading, shows 9 % battery life, and wants me to plug it in. There are no available plugs in the room. Cross fingers; burn driver installer; transfer; install. Who-hoo: it worked! The Print Center shows the right driver. Print away!

Problem: no USB cord was included with the printer.

Solution: get the cord from the old printer; pray it works. It does.

Print off pages. Disconnect wireless base station from everything. Put computer back in its niche.

Problem: modem says it’s not connected. Computer says it’s not connected. Troubleshoot for 30 minutes with other computers around the house. Realize that the hub’s power cord was removed.

Solution: place nail gun against eye, pointing up at a 45 degree angle; pull trigger.

LINK of the WEEK