December 15, 2005

Mimi Wins Barrymore Award for Outstanding Set Design

And the Barry goes to...

It's a couple of months old, but I did want to mention that my sister -- Mimi Lien -- won a Barrymore Award for Outstanding Set Design! Mimi won for her design for the Wilma Theater production of Outrage, in which she designed a "sprawling vertical set [that] looks like academe in collision with history."

The Barrymores are like the Tonys, but focused on the Philadelphia theater scene, so it's obviously regional and not national in scope.

Picture of set for OutrageStill, this represent a significant achievement as she was up against some pretty established set designers. Our entire family is so very proud of Mimi, and we're sure this is just the first in a long line of feathers in her cap.

Congratulations, Mimi!

September 14, 2005

House Project - Day ???: Tunnel<-Light

Keeping to my recent bi-monthly update schedule, I thought I'd take the opportunity to write-up another entry about the status of our house remodeling project.

In the last episode, the drywall had just been installed. Since then, as expected, a lot more has happened, and we're getting really close to being able to move in.

The kitchen cabinets got installed, and they really look nice and crisp and clean. The color we chose for the cabinets -- Bisque Glaze -- was a little yellower than we expected, especially when seeing them next to the flat white of the wall primer. It would all turn out for the best, as we shall see later.

On the exterior of the house, the existing roof shingles were taken off, and the entire house reshingled with the Certainteed Independence Weathered Wood shingles that we used on the new garage a couple of years ago. In addition, the existing furnace chimney was also rebuilt.

Then the siding crew came in and started to trim the windows and put up the siding. The trim for the older windows ended up being a bit wider then originally envisioned, and perhaps a tad off from a proportion standpoint. It was necessary to add this width due to the construction of the original window trim, and the fact that it was necessary to retain this original trim.

Meanwhile, work continued inside as Kevin the tile guy laid down the tile in the powder room, kid's bathroom, and master bathroom. We chose hexagonal ceramic tiles for the upstairs bathrooms, to try and retain some period flavor. For the powder room, we chose a simple, squarish pattern with natural stone, to complement the natural material richness of the kitchen countertop.

After the tile got laid, the bathroom vanities got installed.

New windows were punched through and installed in the dining room and Miranda's room.

John started milling and installing the window trim work, as well as the baseboard trim, trying to replicate the original trim work as much as possible.

Outside, the siding continued to go up, along with detail pieces for mounting lights. When done, the new siding gave the house a nice and cleaner look. The 5" clapboard might not be absolutely historically correct for our Dutch Colonial Revival style, but we think it looks good. The deck railings are PVC and maintenance-free (yea!), and look great!

It then came time to paint the interior of the house. Originally we planned on tackling the painting ourselves, but when it came time to paint, neither Wendy or I thought we could muster the energy to tackle the painting ourselves. So we hired a painter. And thank God we did, because the painting was truly a larger task than we had anticipated, and the painter we hired has been doing a great job.

Finally, within the last month, came the installation of various finish materials. First, the masons installed the brick surround of the fireplace. We had a choice of tumbled or non-tumbled brick, and we chose non-tumbled for, again, a crisper look.

At around the same time, the kitchen granite countertop and kid's bathroom countertop got installed by SMC Stone. They had to come back to install the master bath countertop, because the sink holes got cut incorrectly.

And the Kempas wood flooring was installed through the new portions of the house. The flooring installer originally started laying out the floor using a pattern, given the 4-5 differently sized pieces that the flooring came in. However, neither Wendy and I were very happy with the results, so we asked him to just use a random pattern, making sure that repetition in sizes, seams, and color was minimized.

The end is near, the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter, and we are tentatively scheduled to move back in the weekend of September 24.

And of course, as usual, there are more pictures uploaded to my Flickr "House" picture set than I've shown and/or linked to on this blog.

July 11, 2005

House Project - Day 113 - Drywall

It's been a long while since the last house project update. Since then, a lot has happened in the house: plumbing and electrical rough-ins were completed and passed inspection. More doors and windows were installed.

Our existing house did not have any insulation in the walls, so we took the opportunity to have insulation blown in during the remodeling. One place they didn't blow it into was the ceiling above the sun room. John the Builder still has to get the insulation in there somehow.

A central air-conditioning was installed in the attic to service the second floor. And the electrical system was consequently upgraded.

The new Majestic fireplace insert got installed into the fireplace bay in the family room. As is becoming the norm, Wendy and I struggled to find the unit with just the right combination of: size, efficiency, viewing area, refractory brick pattern, and install dimensions. Some compromises were made, as you might expect, and we ended up with a Majestic unit that had slightly less viewing area than originally planned. But the brick patter of the refractory ended up being just what Wendy wanted.

The door to the basement had to be relocated to the foyer, with the stairs re-routed to match. This would have made for a tight squeeze for moving anything into and out of the basement. Fortunately, the new foundation area has a bulkhead.

Most of the drywall was put up this past weekend. In the family room, the application of the drywall has predictably made the room feel smaller.

In particular, the ceiling feels lower than we otherwise would like. This may be because we recently visited my sister's new place in Brooklyn, with its nearly 10 foot ceilings!

With drywall in place, the new master bedroom has turned into the most dramatic new room in the house. The transition from hallway to raised bedroom level accentuates the feeling of the ceiling's height here, and the tray ceiling adds depth (I'm talking like an Iron Chef commentator). It's sort of a Frank Lloyd Wright thing happening there.

I hope to update with a little more regularity, but with an upcoming business trip, the next update probably won't happen until a bit after that.

As usual, there are more pictures uploaded to my Flickr "House" picture set than I've shown and/or linked to on this blog.

June 28, 2005


May 15, 2005

House Project - Day 53 - Sheathing

One week later, and the addition is almost fully framed and sheathed. The window plan is now fully evident from the exterior, at least for the new-built portion of the remodel. And there is now a more fully-developed sense of space on the interior.

One of the critical areas that we've been wanting to take a look at has been the area in the kitchen-to-family transition space around the peninsula. There are a lot of things happening there: the wall jogs in, the countertop peninsula wraps around the jog, the ceiling height transitions, and a window is placed in the area. The location of the ceiling beam that defines the height transition was moved about 1 foot towards the rear of the house, so that the bathroom cabinets on the second floor would not have to be cut to "ride" the beam.

This means that the ceiling height transition happens right at the left edge of the window. It also means, though, that the height transition does not happen right above the heads of whomever happens to be sitting at the peninsula. Plus, it gives us more flexibility to use drawers in our bathroom vanity cabinets.

My favorite feature of the new addition, so far, is the walk into the master bedroom. It's still a bit misleading at this point since the ceiling isn't in yet, and it appears as though the bedroom will have cathedral ceilings. Part of me wishes that we had specified cathedral ceilings in the bedroom, but I'll just have to see how the tray ceiling looks.

A note to those clicking on the links to the pictures: in these blog entries, I've only linked to a subset of what's available on Flickr, the hosting site for the photos. There are more pictures in the "House" set of photos, which you can browse through using the navigation on the right side of each picture's page.

May 09, 2005

House Project - Supplemental: New Furnace

Back when they were laying the foundation, they also installed a new furnace. Our old furnace was an ancient model that looked like it was at least 50 years old. In addition to being inadequate to heat the expanded structure, it was also probably horribly inefficient.

This new Weil-McLain unit comes universally recommended by many plumbers and heating experts, although if you squint at the yellow Energy Guide label you can see that it falls within the lower range, efficiency-wise, of other comparable units. Hmm.

You can also see from the picture that we're going to be set for 3 zones of heat: the original portion of the house (except for Miranda's room) will be on one zone. The master bedroom and bathroom, and Miranda's bedroom will be the second zone, and the new family room and kitchen will be in the 3rd zone.

May 07, 2005

House Project - Day 45: Framing

After a lull of about 2-3 weeks during which weather and delayed town inspections resulted in a slow-down of work, things have finally picked back up. Since the last blog entry on April 9, the foundation floors have been poured, and the foundation backfilled. The excess dirt that was excavated was then used to grade-off the backyard.

The delay by the town in the inspection of the foundation work resulted in the framing crew being reassigned to another job. When they finally finished with that job, the weather then conspired to delay them even more. However, they were finally able to start framing this past Monday. We've been told that this portion of the project goes relatively fast, and by Wednesday they had finished framing the first floor. And as of today, a portion of the second floor has also been framed.

From what they've done so far, we're able to get a sense of the rear exterior elevation for the first time. We can also start to get a sense of the interior of the new space: views from the kitchen sink, as well as across the new family room. One interesting view that I've always wanted to see was from the family room back towards the kitchen area, because of the fact that we designed the family room to have 9 foot ceilings, with a drop back down to 8 feet for the kitchen area.

That design choice also means that there will be a couple of steps up to the new master bedroom on the second floor, which in turn should afford some nice views of the wetlands/Ash Creek behind our property, as well as Long Island Sound beyond.

And at long last, we've reached a point where we can finally start to get a sense of the proportion of the addition as it relates to the old house, especially when seen from the road. We had been mildly concerned that the addition would loom gigantic, but thankfully that appears not to be the case. From the north west vista, the addition actually appears quite small, given that it is set in from the west side of the old house. From the north east side, the addition does appear larger, but the road is more even with the level of the house instead of being below the house as from the northwest, so the effect is diminished.

April 09, 2005

House Project - Day 17: Foundation Walls Finished

The masonry crew has essentially completed the buildup of the foundation walls. The exterior of the walls has been smoothed over by a layer of cement, and is awaiting the application of some sort of tar-based waterproofing agent before the backfill goes back in.

That waterproofing agent can't be applied until the cement layer is completely dry, which won't be for another couple of days. Also, they have to punch through from the new foundation area back into the old basement, and this will happen in the area of the old rear bump-out. After that, the floor slab will be poured, and then the foundation will essentially be complete.

There was a basement window placement issue that popped up, which Wendy's eagle eye caught today from the dining room window. She saw that the two northern basement windows were not lined up correctly. I teased her by saying she was in a horrible position -- being essentially perpendicular to the alignment plane -- to determine whether that was truly the case. Still she ignored me, grabbed the plans, and went out to discuss with the foundation subs.

Turns out she was right.

The foundation sub had built the bulkhead slightly off spec because:
a) the spec was for a prebuilt bulkhead, and they were building a full bulkhead
b) the foundation subs thought there should have been more space between the old foundation and the bulkhead wall for drainage purposes

The architect had originally specified a prebuilt bulkhead, which is more space-saving than a fully built one, as well as a fourth basement window for symmetry. And he squeezed both of them in the area to the left of the family room exit door landing and stairs.

With the moves the foundation subs made, the fourth window was now intruding into where the exit landing and stairs would be. The sub didn't know this because he was only working from the foundation plans and didn't have the elevations to see how the basement windows fit in with the structures above.

After a short consultation, we decided that the moves were made for good reasons and that sacrificing a fourth basement window was a small price to pay, so we asked to sub to fill in the fourth window.

Meanwhile, you can see the overall shape of the addition now from the 2nd floor hallway window. And eyeballing down the west wall back to the existing house, you can start to see how it'll lay out on that side of the house. The dining room and bedroom windows will be shifted left, and the family room exit will have a landing and stairs parallel to the driveway.

It's still a little bit hard to get a sense of scale just yet, although the addition certainly doesn't seems as massive as we feared it might have been when the foundation pit was first dug. "It's the perfect size addition for this house," John the Builder said when we asked him for his opinion, and we think he's right.

April 06, 2005

House Project - Day 14: Foundation Footings Poured, Basement Walls Started

Work on the house stalled over the weekend and into Monday as we waited for the town to inspect and approve the forms that were laid late last week for the foundation footings. Apparently, someone at the town thought the rains over the weekend would have turned our foundation pit into a muddy mess since our house is located among other properties that are within a flood plain, even though ours is not. They thought they would not be able to climb down into the pit to do the inspection. But we apparently have very good draining dirt so there was no reason to delay.

So John the contractor put a call in Tuesday morning to the town hall asking for an inspector to come out immediately so that the concrete truck, which was due to arrive later Tuesday morning, would not have to be turned away. The inspector came, gave his approval, and they poured the concrete for the foundation footings Tuesday afternoon.

From the very beginnings of this project, we knew that our driveway, being very narrow and hemmed in on both sides by retaining walls, would pose a clearance issue to any large-sized vehicle that needed to get up the driveway to the back yard. And the concrete truck was foremost in all the contractors' minds when we discussed the projects with them during the bidding phase.

As we saw last week, the backhoe barely fit in the driveway, and the same was true for the concrete truck. Wendy's great decision to spend the $2800 to replace and push back the left side retaining wall once again proved prescient, as the truck barely made it past the house, and probably would not have fit between the 2 original retaining walls at the bottom of the driveway.

Today, the masons are scheduled to come and build up the foundation walls with concrete block. I hope to have an update on that this evening.

UPDATE (10:00pm): They've removed the forms from the footings, and have started building up the basement walls with concrete masonry blocks. The blocks arrived Wednesday morning, and got forklifted up the driveway and deposited in front of the garage.

The masons didn't arrive until the afternoon, and started building up the southwest and southeast corners of the basement walls, as well as the east wall which contains the fireplace bumpout.

One thing that will be interesting to see is how they join the new block foundation to the old fieldstone foundation. It won't look quite as jarring on the dining room side of the house, since the new foundation starts in on the old foundation, but on the kitchen side the old rear bumpout was demolished, which means the new foundation will have to continue flush from the old foundation. They'll stucco the exterior, but it'll still be a jarring juxtaposition, I think.

March 31, 2005

House Project - Day 8: The real work begins

The remodeling project began in earnest today with the arrival of a backhoe and dumpster, a demolition crew, and plumber.

The plumber came by first at 7:30am, and disconnected the plumbing from the rear bump out. To do so, he also had to drain the radiator system. Around 8am, the backhoe showed up. They unloaded it from the flatbed in the street and drove it up the driveway. We had just recently had the driveway widened by replacing the concrete retaining wall with a stone block wall about 18 inches in, widening the driveway. It turns out, had we not done that (and it was Wendy's idea) there was no way the backhoe could have fit.

The backhoe immediately got to work digging up the cedar tree stump, as well as collapsing the old abandoned septic tank right next to the stump.

After the plumber completed his job at around 8:30am, the crew sealed off the kitchen doors that led to the rear bumpout, and sawed off the rear bumpout with a sawzall so that it could be pulled away from the rest of the house. There was no great precision in the process. It seemed as if they were relying on their knowledge of construction techniques and the fact that the rear bumpout probably share few if any common structural elements with the rest of the house, and could simply be ripped away.

Video of rear bumpout demolition: lower quality (~121KB), higher quality (~1.4MB)

When the demolition had been completed and most of the debris cleared away, they set about digging down to expose the corner of the bumpout foundation to see how far down it went. Code requires that foundation footings be at least 42" to support multi-story structures, and we had to determine if that was the case with the existing foundation. If it was 42" deep, we could retain the existing foundation along that length of the house.

Unfortunately, the bumpout foundation only extended about 12-15" below grade. This would not meet code, and thus had to be demolished as well.

For the rest of the day, they'll be digging out the hole for the foundation. More pics and an update later...

UPDATE (3:15pm): The foundation pit has been dug out, and the masons will arrive tomorrow to lay the concrete blocks that will form the new foundation. Then the project will wait until the town can inspect the foundation work and give the go ahead to proceed. They will then backfill around the foundation with the displaced dirt.

John, our contractor, says that the dirt is very good, with good drainage and stability, and should provide a good base for the foundation.

The act of ripping out the rear bumpout also caused some collateral damage to the plumbing and electrical: the cold water feed line to the kitchen sink, and an electrical wire to the kitchen overhead light were accidentally severed. The plumber rigged up a temporary cold water feed to the kitchen sink, and we'll just do without the overhead kitchen light for the remaining month that we are staying in the house.

Miranda checked out the work for the first time this afternoon. She was initially nonplussed by the change in scenery, but eventually pronounced good the day's work.

March 29, 2005

House Project: Getting ready to rip and dig

Our contractor showed up today and pounded in some stakes. These will mark our property side lines, so that workers won't inadvertently trample on our neighbor's property. He also drove in stakes to mark the corners of the new addition.

He also scheduled the plumber to come by this afternoon to disconnect the plumbing in the existing rear bump-out that must be demolished to make way for the addition. Once he arrived, though, he decided to postpone any plumbing work until Thursday, when the main demolition work will be done. After looking in the basement at the pipes he needed to cut off, he said the existence of a radiator in the rear bump-out complicated matters, since it necessitates the draining of the entire radiator system in the house.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the electrician arrives to cut off all electrical to the doomed rear bump-out.

On Thursday, actual demolition is scheduled to happen, with the digging for the foundation due to take place on Friday and Saturday.

Things are moving!

My dental hygienist today joked that to ensure speedy completion of the project, we should move into his house when we get displaced. Not a bad idea!

March 23, 2005

House Project Commences

Our long-awaited, much-discussed, frequently-postponed house remodeling project has finally commenced! We signed the contract with our builder last week, and this past Monday we had asbestos abatement contractors remove the asbestos cement shingles from the exterior of our house.

Doing so exposed some very nice, thick redwood siding, painted gray. It was also covered in sheets of tinfoil, which as best as we can tell acted as sort of a Tyvek moisture barrier of its time. Unfortunately, it was supposed to have been anchored by the asbestos shingles placed on top of it. Now that the shingles are gone, the tinfoil is left to blow in the wind. And blow it does, frequently into our neighbors' yards.

It would be nice if the original redwood siding could somehow be rehabilitated, but there's just too much neglect as well as damage from the installation of the asbestos shingles. In addition to the tinfoil sheets and the asbestos shingles that were nailed into the original siding, the clapboard gaps were also feathered in with nailed in shims to create a more flattened surface on which to mount the asbestos shingles.

So for now, we've got a pseudo-space-age-looking house. Our builder hopes to be able to begin the project in earnest sometime mid-to-late next week, when he will block off a couple doorways in the kitchen, demolish the single-story rear section, and start digging for the foundation.

We've had the plans set for a while, so it's exciting to finally be on the move with the project. At last, the dishwasher is within reach!

March 09, 2005

If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers...

If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers... "Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted."

February 17, 2005

Video: Miranda Climbs High Chair

Miranda climbing high chairHere's a video of Miranda climbing her "antique" high chair -- the one that Grandpa B refinished for her.

Wendy says that one day she had placed Miranda down to go do some cleanup, only to turn around later to find Miranda sitting up in the high chair! She had done some climbing before onto lower-height surfaces like her toy bin, but we didn't think she could climb something so high.

Lower-quality video (smaller file, shorter download time, ~176KB)
High-quality video (larger file, longer download time, ~1.4MB)

UPDATE: New and improved chair climbing! Now, with improved speed! And the ability to climb back down!
Lower-quality video (smaller file, shorter download time, ~158KB)
High-quality video (larger file, longer download time, ~833KB)

February 14, 2005

Interactive Data Zooming Java Applets Series, Part 2


zipdecodeQuick, tell me where this ZIP code is: 54321. Somewhere in the midwest, right? How about this one: 98765? Must be out west, you say. Or how about 12345? Gotta be somewhere in the east.

Everyone knows the basics of ZIP code numbering: lower numbers in the east, higher numbers towards the west. This cool applet will let you zoom in digit-by-digit and see, interactively, how ZIP codes are assigned geographically.

Once the applet is loaded, click on it so that keystrokes are sent to it, and start typing digits. Each digit you type will highlight a portion of the country, each portion getting successively smaller as the ZIP code zooms in on its assigned town/city/area.

Alternatively, there's a Zoom option in the lower right corner which, if turned on, will zoom the map in each time a digit is entered.

Incidentally, of the 3 hypothetical examples I gave, only 12345 seems to be a valid ZIP code (Schenectady, NY)

February 10, 2005

Interactive Data Zooming Java Applets Series, Part 1

The Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager "Explore the sea of names, letter by trends rise and fall, and dive in deeper to see your favorite name's place in the historical tides."

babyname_wizardThis nifty little Java applet gives an interactive drill-down into the popularity of baby names over the last century, graphing relative popularity of names, as well as their trends.

Typing each letter narrows down the names that are displayed.

For example, by typing 'M' you can see that Mary was the most popular girls' name of the first part of the century, but has since fallen to #61 in 2003. Michelle gained popularity in the 60s and 70s, Megan in the 80s and 90s, and Madison has come on strong lately.

Other names:
Patrick: #32 in the 60s, #92 in 2003
Wendy: #47 in the 60s, #288 in 2003
Miranda: #160 in 2003

Coming soon: Zooming Applets Series, Part 2 - ZIP Codes!

January 31, 2005

Signs of Hope

The news of wider-than-expected voter turnout in Iraq on Sunday is the first glimmer of hope I've seen about the Iraq situation in a long time. I think the world was expecting horrific violence and low voter turnout, but the opposite happened. Yes, there were election-related attacks by insurgents. But the Iraqi electorate, through sheer force of popular will, seemed to rise as one to take control of the future of their country.

Through their collective acts of courage to make it to the polling centers to vote, they highlighted the following points:

1. They dispelled the notion that Arabs are somehow disinterested in the notion of democracy. One of the more compelling stories I witnessed was shown on NBC News Sunday night. They showed an 80 year old Iraqi man, supported by two family members, struggling to walk over a mile to his polling place just to cast a ballot. I know people here in the US who won't vote because it rains. That story of the old Iraqi man just reinforced my belief that those in the United States who don't exercise their right to vote are dishonoring the thousands of American soldiers through history who have died to defend that right, as well as those who have died bringing that right to the Iraqis.

2. They disavowed the terrorist tactics of the insurgents. It seemed to take something like a framework of a national election, where many voices could speak out "as one," for Iraqis to voice their opinions on the insurgents. It was too dangerous to speak out individually, for they could become targets of the insurrection. Also, to have spoken out individually against the insurgents would have risked labeling them as US sympathizers or collaborators. But in voting in a national election, they could display their nationalistic pride whilst at the same time sending a message to the insurgents: "We do not approve of your tactics."

That being said, this is but the first step. Many other things have to happen in order to make sure that this first, positive step taken by the Iraqi people is not a wasted opportunity for real democratic progress:

1. The Sunni question. At the time of this writing, it is still unclear to what extent the Sunnis participated in this election. Regardless of the actual turnout figure for Sunnis, it is vital that efforts be taken to include Sunnis in the next phase of the rebuilding of Iraq. It would be disastrous if the Shiites, who are widely expected to gain power through the results of these elections, allowed the Sunnis to feel disenfranchised and gave them any sort of excuse to disregard these elections as invalid. Diplomacy is vital here, and I hope that the newly elected government can make its way through the Sunni Question. US participation can help, but I feel that the UN must take the lead here. US participation will just give the Sunnis another excuse to claim the election is invalid.

2. Infrastructure improvements must accelerate. Despite the enthusiasm shown in voting, there must be tangible improvements in the day-to-day lives of Iraqis if democracy is to take root. Participation in democracy in an of itself is meaningless unless the Iraqi people feel that it has made a difference in their lives. The US must put its money where its mouth is and spend the capital necessary to improve the infrastructure that has been destroyed in the war. Yes, the insurgents are actively sabotaging that effort, but if no effort is shown to be made what motivation will Iraqis have to rise up and defend their country? If an Iraqi hasn't had running water since the US invasion, he's going to wait until the US rebuilds his water supply.

3. There must be progress made in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. US policy in this area is at the heart of many Muslims' antagonism towards the US. The passing of Yasser Arafat, whom President George W. Bush famously refused to work with, and the passing of power to Mahmoud Abbas and his more constructive and progressive attitudes, have created conditions where the Palestinian-Israeli peace process can finally make some significant strides. Up until now the US has done virtually nothing to promote the peace process. I hope that the Bush administration can finally see the enormous opportunities that have presented themselves in that region, and move strongly and decisively towards helping both sides achieve peace in the region.

This is as important, if not more so, to the fight against terrorism than the nascent democratic process now unfolding in Iraq. Just because Iraqis have participated in free elections does not mean that terrorism will decrease. Local insurgent activity in Iraq will most likely increase as Sunnis try to de-legitimize the election. And the underlying realities of war mean that a new pool of young men and women with anti-US leanings are ready to be recruited into the terrorism network. Even if democracy successfully takes hold in Iraq -- and it is still an "if" -- it will take a generation or more for its effects to make a meaningful difference in the attitudes that promote terrorism. I believe that progress in the Palestinian-Israeli issue will have more of an effect in the shorter term.

January 20, 2005

The Face of War

A shooting after nightfall "...children started emerging, crying, their faces mottled with blood in long streaks."

This is the face of war: a 5 year old girl's face splattered with the blood of her parents as she cries out in terror.

I do not blame the soldiers. They are put into an impossible situation, trying to secure their security in an increasingly hostile and unstable environment. I blame those in power who put those soldiers, and that family, and that 5 year old girl, in that situation.

This is why millions marched against the war when the Bush administration started making noise about invading Iraq, and why the majority of the American population now no longer thinks the war is worth the cost.

I do not doubt that there are good things going on in Iraq that are not being publicized. But one incident such as this -- even if it was an accident -- undoes any goodwill towards the US that may have been built up.

Take a look at the little boy watching his sister cry. Let me tell you: I think there's more of a chance that he'll join the jihadists than become a peaceful supporter of the US as this incident becomes seared into his young memory.

Having abandoned the search for WMD in Iraq because -- surprise! -- there are none, Bush now hangs his Iraq policy hat on "bringing democracy, freedom, and liberty to the people of Iraq." All of you war supporters out there, I ask you: If, during the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Bush came out and said that the US was going pull troops out of Afghanistan to invade and bring democracy to Iraq, what would your response have been?

Yes, I know that bringing democracy to the Middle East is a cornerstone to this country's effort of stopping terrorism against the US. But look at the picture of the young girl. Do you think we're succeeding in capturing hearts and minds?