A Frame of Mind

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I can’t say that I have ever really mastered taking what’s on my mind and converting it into the spoken word. Sometimes I get tongue twisted. Often times I mean to say something in a totally unbiased light but end up saying it in a way that can be misconstrued as being blunt or manipulative, opening myself up to being read incorrectly. Or there’s logic in something I’m trying to explain but fumble at the words to explain it. Oddly enough, though body language and tone can be difficult to express in writing, I think I usually express myself better when I take to the pen or keyboard since I’m not required to get the words and phrasing correct off the cuff. I usually do a fairly good job of expressing myself, however, if I’ve got enough time and can revise my words to my heart’s content (as I’m doing with this blog entry).Looking for ways to improve my command of language, I often ponder the details of conversations that I have taken part in or witnessed. I think about the body language, the tone of voice and the particular choice of words when describing or labeling something within the conversation. It’s not always obvious, but choosing a particular set of words to describe an idea can frame in such a way that can subtlely influence on the outcome of a conversation.I recently came across an interesting pair of articles by a professor at the University of California Berkeley named George Lakoff who has studied the influence of framing and how it is applied in politics. I found the article quite interesting, as he analyzes how the Bush administration and the “conservative” movement in general craftfully phrases its words to influence how its propagandaagendas are perceived and discussed by the public. He has also written a number of books (which of course I’ve added to my already frighteningly long reading list.)Of course, framing is everywhere, not just in politics. Public relations and marketing rely heavily on framing to influence how people perceive a corporation or product. Most of the time it’s not entirely obvious, especially to the uncritical eye/ear. For example, nutrition is a topic that’s become increasingly dear to my heart. Have you ever noticed how the recommendations in the US Department of Agiculture (USDA)’s Food Guide Pyramid never say “eat less?” I didn’t think so. Instead, pro-active phrases such as “eat a variety” or “choose a diet moderate in…” are used, which are much more open-ended. And that’s intentional, considering that the USDA is an organization that is looking out for the well being of the food industry, not your health. What sense would there be in the food industry telling people to eat (and therefore purchase) less food?The next time you listen, watch, or read the news or any type of media for that matter, pay attention to the words that are being used and see if you can identify any frames. You might be surprised what you find.

There’s something in the water…

As someone who has married into a family of avid anglers I have a feeling that we’ll be eating a bit of fish from Lake Michigan once we move back to Michigan, as that’s where my wife’s grandparents now reside.With that in mind, I was disappointed to see that the EPA has issued its highest level of caution yet with regards to toxic contaminants such as PCB’s and mercury in our nation’s bodies of water, including Lake Michigan. It is truely sad that we as a nation have polluted our lakes and streams to the point where one of our healthiest natural resources is no longer safe to eat.


I let Kaija “help” me do some work today, though I’m not sure if I’m going to let her do it again for a while. I’ve learned my lesson.Sitting on my knee at the table, I let her pound away on the keys to my laptop after saving my work and quitting all of the active applications. Inevitably a window would pop up here and there, which I would promptly close. Based on past experience, I figured the worst she could do was rename something on the desktop. Jennifer and I have deduced that that’s how the hard drive on my PowerBook formerly known as “Macintosh HD” became known as “dghf”.But of course, I’m a software guy, so that’s all I had really considered. Kaija had other plans. She was more interested in the hardware. As she raked her hands across the keys, she managed to rip the right Shift key off of the laptop keyboard. I was loathe to discover that repairing it was no simple matter. It wasn’t just a cap that I could pop back on. There were several small moving parts under that key that weren’t easy to put back into place. About twenty minutes later after Jennifer and I had both put a lot of blood and sweat into it (okay, no blood), I was finally able to get it back to its pre-Kaija encounter state.I guess I’ll need to pull out the old PC keyboard in the closet to let her practice before our next work session.

Church of Stop Shopping

You have to admit, this guy is pretty creative.

During the past seven years, Talen has made himself a thorn in the paws of Walt Disney, Nike, Home Depot, Barnes & Noble and any other chain he says he views as casually destroying the essence of neighborhoods. Just one day before the Reseda Boulevard Starbucks intervention, he led 40 disciples to a Los Angeles Wal-Mart for a bit of protest theater known as a Whirl. The participants enter separately, discreetly, as if they don’t know one another; each grabs an empty shopping cart and simply circulates through the acres of aisles without stopping, falling in line behind other empty carts as he or she encounters them until a silent conga line of nonshoppers forms, snaking through the store in a hypnotic display of commercial disobedience. It gets under the skin of the store managers in a spectacular way.

New York Times Magazine: Reverend Billy’s Unholy War.(care of randomWalks)

Baby Kaija Walk

Well, I haven’t posted in a while, so I figured I owe it to the friends and family to make this one a good one.As I previously noted, Kaija started walking a few weeks ago. When sufficently motivated, we’ve taken out the video camera or used the movie mode on the digital camera to record her walking.Now, through the magic of iMovie, I’ve compiled all of these film segments into a short (8 minute, 15 second) movie that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve supplied different encodings appropriate for various Internet connections speeds. Quicktime 6 or better (or software that can play MPEG4 encoded video) is required.High [45 MB] (for faster broadband connections)Medium [17 MB]Low [6 MB] (for slower modem connections)And as an added bonus, here’s some raw footage of Kaija walking the width of our apartment (complete with a livingroom strewn with toys) [14 MB] that I hadn’t downloaded from the camera to the computer before starting the project so it didn’t make it into the movie.


I’ve started to become consumed by RSS feeds. What are RSS feeds? Basically, they are sources of content from the web, stripped down to the bare essential information and formatted in a (mostly) standardized way. Software is available to read and organize the feeds.I started reading three or four feeds several months ago, mostly news sites that I noticed were publishing RSS feeds. Then a number of personal friends started publishing weblogs (“blogs” for short) along with RSS feeds. In order to monitor when new entries on their blogs were posted, I began the search for a decent RSS feed reader. Continue reading

Slick or Sick?

I’m sure DuPont would like to prevent this news from sticking in the public’s mind. Apparently Teflon has been shown to release toxic fumes containing a chemical called Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), bad enough to cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and birth defects in pregnant women. DuPont allegedly has know about this since the 70’s and 80’s but illegally withheld the research findings.I guess it’s time to look into some alternative cookware options. The non-stick frying pan we have is long overdue for replacement. We registered for and received Calphalon Kitchen Essentials cookware as wedding gifts a while back but have yet to break them out of the box. Looks like they are in the hall of shame, too. Oh, and all that outdoor gear I have with Gore-Tex in it? PFC’s. *sigh*

Building A New Pyramid

The final revisions to the federal dietary guide [registration required *cough*] are in the midst of being completed. I wonder how much sway the food industry will have on the new pyramid. Considering the Atkins Diet and South Beach Diet have become so prevalent and how they have made Americans at least a little more aware of the impact of certain foods on their health, will the general public allow the wool to be pulled over their eyes again?

Walk This Way

Well, I’d say it’s official. At 8 1/2 months old, Kaija is walking. She has taken about 20 steps at a time without holding onto anything. When she wants to get from Point A to Point B, the distance is quickly becoming less of a factor in deciding to walk or crawl. She’s focusing less on each step and more on her destination.We’re doomed.