So this is Eliot

Eliot Bitner Dunford was born Monday, 13 October 2008 at 10:01am in Salt Lake City, Utah, weighing 8lbs 11oz and measuring 19in long.

www.ideoverse.com/eliot/

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Review: The World Without Us

The World Without Us

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

rating: 3 of 5 stars

What an amazingly educational book, from underground cities in the Middle East to the mechanics of the Panama Canal, I’m unable to recall a time when I’ve learned such a wide variety of facts from a single source. Of course, the vivid depictions of an ocean teeming with floating plastic or the near absolute permanence of radioactive waste hammer home the sobering reality that humans have altered our natural world, certainly negatively, perhaps permanently.

Despite my pleasure at the book’s premise and execution however, I was disappointed that Weisman failed to address any practical methods that can be taken to reduce or replace our destructive behaviors. His one suggestion, that we somehow limit reproduction to one child per female and thereby gradually reduce total world population and resource use, was so slapdash, so haphazard and simplistic–no discussion of infrastructure, no attempt to explain the economic implications of an aging population–that it almost negated any credibility he had garnered from the previous pages.

I say almost because it remains a truly impressive attempt at explaining the complex reality of humanity’s impact on our environment.

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Baby Number 3

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Dunford Family Christmas Greetings 2007

Just so everyone has access to it: www.ideoverse.com/xmas2007/

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I love Charlie the Unicorn

Oh when you’re down and looking for some cheering up,
Then just head right on up to the Candy Mountain Cave.
When you get inside you’ll find yourself a cheery land,
Such a happy and joy-filled and perky merry land.
They’ve got lollipops and gummy drops and candy things,
Oh so many things that will brighten up your day.
It’s impossible to wear a frown in Candy Town–
It’s the Mecca of love–the Candy Cave.
They’ve got jellybeans and coconuts with little hats,
Candy rats, chocolate bats–it’s a wonderland of sweets.
Ride the Candy Train to town and hear the Candy Band.
Candy bells, it’s a treat as they march across the land.
Cherry ribbons stream across the sky into the ground.
Turn around, it astounds, it’s a dancing candy tree.
In the Candy Cave imagination runs so free,
so now Charlie please will you go into the cave.

See for yourself

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Relaunch

Although I’ve used this site fairly heavily for behind-the-scenes staging of client work and some non-public endeavors, I’ve never made much a go of updating the blog on a regular basis. The primary reason for this lack of initiative is not really knowing what I want the end result to be, accompanied by a very clear recognition that whatever that is, it won’t be changing anyone’s life anytime soon.

I don’t say that out of self-pity–after all, there’s something not just a little bit egotistical and exhibitionist in broadcasting one’s words to the general public. However, it is precisely in the effort of publishing for the express purpose of being consumed by others that one can get a glimpse into the rationality of my ideas and opinions. Does what I think or feel withstand scrutiny? Or are there aspects and nuances that I am failing to capture?

In fact the rigor required in formally arguing a particular position or articulating a peculiar perspective can serve as a refining process even before feedback, in the same way a teacher may learn more about a subject than those being taught just by engaging in the preparation.

When I first decided to have a site of my own, I chose the name “ideoverse” to convey the concept of a “world of ideas”, a place where thoughts (well, my thoughts) could develop and grow.

With this relaunch of the site, I’d like to make good on that choice.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife

Ever since I read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine as a child, I’ve been a sucker for pan-dimensional travel, so when The Time Traveler’s Wife was suggested for a book club, I was in. But at about the half-way mark, I wanted out, out, out. It’s been a while since I’ve been so angry about a book of fiction (I get frustrated with non-fiction all the time), particularly one with such an intriguing premise.

The Time Traveler of the title meets his wife for the first time when he is 28 and she is 20. But, because he suffers from a condition that involuntarily pushes him back and forth through time, she actually met him for the first time years before, when she was 6 and he was (is? will be?) 35. The mystery of the future is revealed through clever flashbacks to moments when he is 40 and she is 16, or he is 37 and he is 37 two weeks in the future (yes, he can meet himself, which is how he learns as a 5-year-old that he can time travel in the first place).

At a certain point however, the time travel became less an interesting plot constraint and more a convenient plot hole, with Niffenegger using the device as a substitute for character dynamics. I kept expecting to understand more of their motivations–why would a self-destructive alcoholic 20-something choose to change his ways just because someone knew him in the future? And why would a teenager commit her own future to this man who periodically shows up in her life? Instead the characters became flatter and flatter as the time travel becomes more and more gimmicky (like when he disappears on their wedding day but his future self miraculously arrives to fills in).

Eventually, what little empathy I had for the characters was obliterated by one particularly distasteful and dishonest act of betrayal near the end of the book, something so completely jarring that the entire book felt false. In the first few hundred pages, I was intrigued and excited. Now that I’m done, I just feel manipulated.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(PS The only reason I give it any rating at all is for the concept, but when a concept fails so spectacularly, I can’t help but be pissed about the whole thing.)

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‘Brokeback’ Miller: the economics of protest

Event: Larry Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, a television station, a number of car dealerships, and a few movie theaters, was confronted on a local radio show that one of his theaters was going to be showing “Brokeback Mountain,” a movie about two gay cowboys. A day before opening, the theater pulled the film.

Reaction: Critics contend he’s limiting free speech. Supporters counter that he is merely exercising it. Handwringers bemoan how this will affect economic investment and tourism in the state. And the film’s distributor might sue for breach of contract.

My take: It’s about money.

Although he is inclined to make knee-jerk decisions, Larry Miller hasn’t achieved the financial success he has by being an idiot. He knows what his customers want, and he caters to those desires, but only as far as it makes him money. Although he might be influenced by personal taste or morals (cf. his investments in Mormon cinema), I know enough people that have had direct dealings with him (my late father-in-law included) to say that he doesn’t run his business by asking himself, “What would Jesus do?”

In other words, he’s like any other business owner, and he is in the movie business to make money. Likely hearing how well “Brokeback Mountain” was doing at downtown’s independent Broadway Theater, he (or likely his theater chain manager) booked the film. When he sensed there might be negative publicity, he pulled it.

Whether it was a morally correct decision for Larry Miller honestly doesn’t figure in to it, in strict business terms. Thomas Sowell put it this way: “Capitalism knows only one color: that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it.”

Businesses that take public stands on certain issues have done so because it makes good business sense. It might save them money, it might score points in a consumer market, or it might attract a lucrative demographic—whatever the reason, the business benefits, and I think Larry Miller has decided that aligning himself with Utah’s dominant conservative majority places his businesses in a better financial position.

Now for individuals who are disappointed (or frustrated or indignant or whatever) about this decision, they must keep this financial aspect in the forefront of their minds. Again, it’s about the money, so while posting to message boards or writing letters to the editor are pretty effective means to air grievances and let off steam, the better way to successfully challenge a business’s practices is to boycott it.

The consumer boycott is a powerful weapon in producing change and one that is too often overlooked. With the recent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the passing of Rosa Parks last autumn, I’ve been thinking of the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott and how the success of that protest arguably sparked the civil rights movement. While rereading some of the specifics, I am struck by how difficult it was to actually maintain the boycott. Black taxi drivers were fined for offering reduced-rate rides, police officers harassed carpoolers, some protesters resorted to horse-drawn buggies to get around, and after 381 days the united and disciplined actions of the boycotting African-Americans (along with their white sympathizers) resulted in not only desegregated buses, but the successful demonstration of non-violent resistance in effecting change.

Boycotts don’t always require so much of us, but we as a people have become so used to convenience and comfort that to protest in a real, substantive way is quite nearly beyond us. Unfortunately, we also have fallen victim to the mindset that “I am just one person, I don’t make a difference,” and these twin attitudes of laziness and helplessness only further enforce repetitive behavior that is not in our personal, moral, or financial best interests.

Instead, recognize the power money has and actively use it to influence business behavior. If you dislike what a movie portrays, don’t go see it. If you disagree with how a business acts, boycott it[*]. And if you believe in a movement, use your money in support of it.

* okay, that’s a somewhat silly example, but valid nonetheless.

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messing with 3.2

I’ve got some changes for this site up my sleeve and so have been exploring what software out there can accommodate these modifications. I’ve been using WordPress for another project of mine and have been pleased with the results, but I wanted to give MovableType another shake and see what comes out before I make that switch. So I’ve upgraded to MT v.3.2 to see what new functionality it has, which has unfortunately necessitated reconfiguring the templates I used to use. The one you’re seeing now is a canned template, serving as a placeholder until I can determine what software will accomodate what it is I’m hoping to unveil.

Stay tuned.

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Dunford Family Christmas Greetings 2005

Good grief, it’s the middle of January and I’m just NOW finishing this up? Lazy, lazy, lazy…

www.ideoverse.com/xmas2005/

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