Friday, December 28, 2007

Is it Time for a Tea Party Yet?

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was created into law in the late 60's to keep the wily tax-dodging rich from getting away without paying a dime. It was a good idea (although far too lenient).

But the AMT hasn't kept pace with inflation. Now middle and upper-middle income families are falling prey to this tax. Ok, let's not cry too loud. We're not talking about the poor. But this is on the heels of Bush's tax breaks for the rich, furthering the divide between the payers and the payers not.

Much ado is currently being made about how folks will need to be filing late becasue the IRS had to rewrite five forms related to the AMT. Why? Because Congress was trying to fix this tax. Now seriously, the tax needs more than the yearly patchwork to minimize its impact on the middle class. It needs a complete overhaul with its original intent reinstated. But at least Congress was trying.

The problem that faced Congress was the $50 billion shortfall that would result from the fix. And true to form, Bush growled and snarled and clashed his teeth when Congress mentioned raising taxes on the rich to make up the shortfall. So Congress caved and let the shortfall stand as a shortfall. Just more money to borrow from China.

Why do working class conservatives continue to believe this tyrant has their interests at heart. We are all (excepting you uber rich out there of course) being robbed blind. This is the biggest heist in American history and the law is just telling the gangsters to help themselves. And if they get bored not arresting the real criminals, they just round up patriotic citizens and arrest them instead.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men, #2

Priests brawl at Jesus' birthplace

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) -- Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests attacked each other with brooms and stones inside the Church of the Nativity as long-standing rivalries erupted in violence during holiday cleaning on Thursday.

The basilica, built over the grotto in Bethlehem where Christians believe Jesus was born, is administered jointly by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic authorities.
Any perceived encroachment on one group's turf can touch off vicious feuds.

On Thursday, dozens of priests and cleaners were scrubbing the church ahead of the Armenian and Orthodox Christmas, celebrated in early January. Thousands of tourists visited the church this week for Christmas celebrations.

But the clean-up turned ugly after some of the Orthodox faithful stepped inside the Armenian church's section, touching off a scuffle between about 50 Greek Orthodox and 30 Armenians.

Palestinian police, armed with batons and shields, quickly formed a human cordon to separate the two sides so the cleaning could continue, then ordered an Associated Press photographer out of the church.

Four people, some with blood running from their faces, were slightly wounded.

Goodbye Benazir

I'll readily admit that I don't know much about Benazir Bhutto. Until this past October when she returned to Pakistan out of exile (a self-imposed exile to escape corruption charges), I think I had heard her name, but nothing more. Or perhaps I only think I found her name familiar as it has become familiar since. It's all together possible I didn't even know of her at all until two and a half months ago.

But she seemed to embody something that was about the people instead of being about power and wealth. And maybe this also was spun out of whole cloth. And maybe not.

Ms. Bhutto defied a power-hungry friend of George Bush who, also like King George some fear, opposed free elections and fancied dictatorship as his due. She returned to Pakistan in hopes of building a coalition government with Musharraf. Instead he declared her an outlaw. He fired the Pakistani Supreme Court and declared marshal law. And now he takes no blame for her assassination.

George Bush sits and points his finger at "international terrorism." He probably ordered her death at Musharraf's behest.

I didn't know even a smidgeon of what could have been know about this probably very brave woman. But I find myself deeply saddened and disturbed at what was done to her today in a land that we call an ally.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hello Big Brother

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics
$1 Billion Project to Include Images of Irises and Faces

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2007; Page A01

CLARKSBURG, W. Va. -- The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.

Read More ...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward those who can afford it

I go back and forth with regard to my feelings regarding the criminality of the Bush Administration and what we the people should do about it. Sometimes I want to rant and rave with my utter frustration (and sometimes I do). Sometimes I want to merely despair and leave this country forever. Sometimes I want to take up arms (I do not own guns, and I am wont to interpret the 2nd Amendment as being about a well-ordered Militia, not about gun ownership).

Sometimes I listen to reason. I hear my brother who believes stability is paramount, not patriotism; not our Constitution. I hear seasoned scholarly activists cautioning us not to be too hasty; not to despair; not to consider this our worst hour. I hear my daughter speak of her ideology (which is more or less in alignment with mine), but I also hear her speak of friends antithetical to that ideology, as it that makes perfect sense.

I am truly torn. One part of me remembers the sage Taoist advice, "this too shall pass." Another side reminds me that our founders quelled such rhetoric as a form of giving succor to the Tories. And I don't know what to think.

The company I now work for employs the marvelous services of Cigna Insurance. Now I know these bastards are not the only ones who routinely allow, and even encourage, teenage kids to die in the interest of feathering their stockholders' nests, but I'm picking on them because this latest story
comes close to home for me since these bastards could do it to me and the ones I most love too now. What enrages me is the complicity of our government in this obscenely evil corporate greed.

So do we seek the forcible overthrow of these criminals? Do we continue to hope our elected officials grow a pair and in turn use constitutional means to oust and incarcerate the defilers of our democracy? Do we take to the streets and hope the corporate media airs a second or two of our ire before doing a fade to a Wal-Mart ad? Do we try to work from within; do we give the benefit of the doubt to the spineless, co-opted politicians who sit figuratively opposite our opponents in Congress?

I am too angry to make a rational argument for constrained compromise; for patience; for belief in the sure and certain inner workings of a democratic framework. Our world's history is too replete with stories of corruption, and too impoverished in stories of the success of liberty, for me to place much hope in the inevitability of the triumph of the democratic system. Another Boston Tea Party seems to me to be the only course. Destruction to the traitors to our liberty!

Or is it just Merry Christmas?

It's snowing outside as I write this. Falling snow has a way of bringing serenity to dark moods. I'll try to find that serenity. But there should be no Merry Christmas for Bush and Cheney. They need to rot in the polluted coal and oil that has ever been the only lining to their stockings. I won't say more because these traitors have usurped our land and redefined treason. One day though...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wrong Test

AP story reads "Obama Describes Faith Amid False Rumors." It goes on to tell of how Barack Obama dispelled rumors that he is "Muslim and poses a threat to the security of the United States."

I'm not necessarily an Obama supporter. Nor am I a Clinton or Dodd or Biden supporter (I do lean a little friendly toward Kucinich and Edwards, but that is neither here nor there). But this really pisses me off.

Just about the very last line of the pre-amendment US Constitution says that "there shall be no religious test" for public office. That is fundamental folks. This constant barrage of religious bullshit is getting on my nerves. And to be honest, if should be making all of us extremely uneasy.

No religious test means precisely that. Religion is not, cannot be, must never be, a criterion for electing our representatives or leaders. The very fact that Barack felt it necessary to repudiate the rumors of Islam as his faith of choice is way beyond disconcerting. We should be up in arms as a people decrying both the people who are creating such false issues, and the politicians who stoop to denying the "charges," whether or not they have any merit.

Personally I would love to see a candidate who comes out as a flaming gay, atheist, mixed-heritage, professional wrestling fan. Or any other group of things that bear not a whit on her or his credentials. This current trend in American politics is not just stupid (although it is very stupid); it is un-American, it is dangerous, it is unconstitutional.

I will not place my vote based on such false attributes. And while I really could relate very strongly to an Atheist candidate, I would not ever vote for one based on that conviction. I would do so only at the expense of our democracy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What comes around...

Call me an idiot, but wasn't it the Emergency over California's Budget that Arnie used to launch his bid to overthrow Gray Davis a few years back? If Davis was fiscally irresponsible then, and therefore subject to recall, why isn't the Governator now?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bumper Crop

Bonnie and I saw a bumper sticker today that made us laugh, so I went searching for it on "the internets." Here's the sticker:

Of course I found the sticker.
Stamp and Shout dot Com has a bunch of good stickers. Here a a few that made me chuckle:

Of course to be fair, and one should be, Ann Coulter is not the Chancelor of our country. Do you think maybe she wants to be?

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Today is my older sister’s birthday. She turns 52. I need to remember to send her a greeting. I’ll email it; we’ve all pretty much settled down to the ultra-last-minute email for birthday greetings in my family these days.

And really, who wants birthday cards hanging around? If you’re anything like me, you read them (when they arrive at all) with a swift mental “thanks for remembering;” you note to yourself that the card’s canned joke (or worse, “sentiment”) is either Dixie®-Cup camp or saccharine. If it’s from older generation family you shake it open upon first inspection, and look for any cash that might fall out. You toss the card on your current pile of things you know you should file or read or give money for, or something. The card gets buried a few levels down and you notice it one day, re-read it and smile. And then you toss it in the trash.

Emails are much more efficient and don’t add to land fills (I’m sure moldering birthday cards must account for something on the order of 0.002 percent of the annual American refuse output). I’m doing my small part. Each card not sent, may add one one-hundredth of a second to humankind’s longevity.

Or some such.

But there are cards worth getting. I have one on the fridge that my aunt sent years ago. It shows a ponderous, but none too bright, cowboy on horseback with the sky as backdrop. He’s saying to himself (and to the sky), “But what if everybody does Wang Chung tonight? Who’s gonna look after the herd then?” On the back of the card my aunt wrote, “What in the world is Wang Chung?”

And there’s a card Bonnie got from her sister several years back. I’ve seen it on her dresser ever since. It’s of a young girl, maybe seven, with red shorts, sitting on steps of a house. It makes me think of how Bonnie would have looked at that age. I think it does for her as well, and I think that’s why she keeps it; her sister connected with her when she gave her that card.

And these cards, now that I think of it, are the exceptions that prove the rule. They will forever be enshrined, on a refrigerator, on a dresser top, or even in a drawer. They will find their way to a landfill only once mankind has learned balance. One hopes.

Happy Birthday, Mary.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Princess

Once upon a time there lived a king. The king had a beautiful daughter, the PRINCESS.

But there was a problem. Everything the princess touched would melt.

No matter what; metal, wood, stone, anything she touched would melt.

Because of this, men were afraid of her. Nobody would dare marry her. The king despaired. What could he do to help his daughter?

He consulted his wizards and magicians. One wizard told the king, "If your daughter touches one thing that does not melt in her hands, she will be cured." The king was overjoyed and came up with a plan.

The next day, he held a competition. Any man that could bring his daughter an object that would not melt would marry her and inherit the king's wealth.


The first brought a sword of the finest steel. But alas, when the princess touched it, it melted. The prince went away sadly.

The second prince brought diamonds. He thought diamonds are the hardest substance in the world and would not melt. But alas, once the princess touched them, they melted. He too was sent away disappointed.

The third prince approached. He told the princess, "Put your hand in my pocket and feel what is in there." The princess did as she was told, though she turned red. She felt something hard. She held it in her hand.

And it did not melt!!!

The king was overjoyed. Everybody in the kingdom was overjoyed! And the third prince married the princess and they both lived happily ever after.

Question: What was in the prince's pants?

M&M's of course.

They melt in your mouth, not in your hand.

What were you thinking??

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Corpses are Dying

Since the spring of 2005 I have contributed to An Exquisite Corpse, a website for collaborative art. This has been a wonderful community to belong to with its marvelous, and sometimes stunning, art, and endless discussion, artistic and otherwise.

Phineas, the site owner and moderator, announced yesterday that the site will be finis following the last posting (there are seventeen remaining "corpses" in the pipeline). He promises to keep the site available as an archive. I am glad for that at least.

To date I have contributed to 42 corpses (the name for the collaborative art pieces). I've been pretty proud of some, and much less so of others. I guess I can at least say that I have been ashamed of none. And it has been a real honor to work with so many other talented artists. I am going to miss this community. A lot.

There's already some talk amongst us of trying something new. I hope we do. I'll do my part to help make it happen. But it will be very difficult to match the spirit that has made An Exquisite Corpse so successful. Please check it out.

Thank you Phineas for everything.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Liberal Consensus

As recently as a year ago if I discussed politics with other liberals, Democrats, progressives, left-wingers, pinkos, or the like, I would most likely find little to disagree with. Sure we'd quibble over the actual meanings of the labels we use for ourselves or that others call us; I'm progressive, not a liberal because of the negative connotation, etc. But we'd all agree that Bush is evil, Cheney is Satan incarnate, Iraq is an unmitigated disaster, the US Constitution deserves better protection, surveillance of Americans without warrants is illegal, suppression of the black vote is a tactic of the true evil empire: the Bushies, and so on.

Now that the light at the end of this administration's dark tunnel is in full view though, I find myself arguing with those with whom I am most politically aligned. I for instance believe impeachment is the honor-bound duty of the Congress of the United States. And since Nancy Pelosi had the gal to "take it off the table" without the American people's consent, I think she should be one of those impeached. Cheney and Bush are traitors and should be tried as such. Nancy is obstructing justice and so should be tried in a like manner.

But that's my point of view and while I know it's held by many, there are also many, who would consider themselves well left of center, who would adamantly disagree. My brother visiting for the holidays is one such. Here I was secretly happy we had ended up with only the liberal element of my family over for the festivities, when I found myself in a very heated debate over that precise issue. And other issues grew out of it as well. War funding for instance: I believe Congress should simply cut it off. Period. My brother thinks that would be abandoning the troops. He calls me naive. I have heard his point of view (Congress itself keeps spouting it in defense of their inaction) and it's enticing. Any time you can say "here's the problem with that solution," you’re looking to get a free pass. But I think you need to offer up a solution before shooting down another.

Liberals are often accused of just complaining about the problems and not doing anything about them. In other words, we are accused of being negative. But within our own ranks, if some of us posit solutions - and I won't deny that those I suggest are drastic - we're often accused of being too, well, drastic. But those who say that generally don't have any suggestions themselves. They just argue why the proposed solution will not work. And truly I'm not trying to argue that all the kinks have been worked out of my solutions. But debate and consensus has its hallmark of greatness in its ability to achieve synthesis. You can't achieve that goal by dismissing extreme solutions out of hand. Extreme solutions are usually proffered only after it has become clear that a) the danger inherent in following the status quo is itself extreme, and b) that something has to be done and that current approaches are tantamount to doing absolutely nothing.

We lefties have trouble achieving consensus. A large part of that is inherent to our cerebral wiring. We are generally critical thinkers who understand not only the value, but also the necessity, of free thought. It's very difficult to broker single-visioned compromise under those circumstances.

The problem with that is that the Right enforces unity of vision very well. Admittedly that becomes less obvious during the primary season. And Republican candidates must spend copious energy distancing themselves from this administration while also doing the opposite (to appease both the centrists and the hard right – or as I like to call them: the righty-uptighties). But all you need to do is to listen to the right-wing punditry (something I try to avoid) to hear that day’s talking points faithfully regurgitated. These guys know how to present a united front.

So while it’s long been the hallmark of the enlightened left to be in discord due to our superior critical thinking abilities, I call complete bullshit on the notion that we cannot be united. The difference is that we need not to unite ourselves under the banner of a strong man, but rather to unite ourselves via the mechanism of debate and consensus. It’s a great tool that can be used very effectively by clear-thinking people and it’s time we do so. If impeachment is too drastic (it’s not, but I’m allowing for debate), then let’s discuss what will work. Let’s come up with a plan. You don’t need to strong-arm the solution; you just need to come to the table believing that consensus is mandatory.

Monday, November 12, 2007


When I was a kid I guess I liked sweets as much as any other kid. If something tasted nice with a sprinkle of sugar, how about three tablespoons? Up until maybe 5 or 6 years ago I continued to put sugar on my cereal. And I still put brown, or even better raw, sugar on my oatmeal. But other than natural sugar in fruit or the rare bowl of icecream, I can pretty much take or leave sweets. In fact if someone eliminated all access to sweetness tomorrow, I wouldn't shed a tear.

Except for chocolate. I only eat chocolate rarely. But not because I could take it or leave it. On the contrary, I could just take it and take it. And it really needn't be particularly sweet. I love bitter chocolate. And I used to nibble on unsweetened bakers' chocolate as a kid.

So I read this evening that chocolate is 3000 years old. 500 years older than previously thought. And it all started with making beer in Honduras. I found this quite interesting.

And did I tell you I like beer too?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just Stuff

I think I have blogger's block. I feel an obligation to write something here. Anything. But I have no idea what to write about. So I figured if I sat down and just started writing, something would come to me and we'd be off to the races.

Still nothing.

China rescinded the exportation license for the manufacturer that was making those whatchumacallit dots that administered the date rape drug to kids. Interesting: They can't export the dots. But they presumably can still manufacture them. For Chinese kids, you think?

We have family coming for Thanksgiving and so we're spending this weekend cleaning up and organizing. Or at least Bonnie is. I'm sitting here typing. As soon as I'm done I'll shower and help with the cleaning. That is, unless I can come up with another diversion.

The fall is beautiful this year. The weather started cooling in September but has not become really cold yet so the colors are hanging in there for a long time. I took this photo a couple of weekends ago (same weekend Bonnie and I built our front steps). This is the southwest corner of our back yard, in what we refer to as Bonnie's Sanctuary. It's very pretty isn't it?

I got my computer back from the shop on Thursday. It blue-screened again Friday night. I don't know why, but I'm waiting to see if it blue-screens even one more time. If it does I'm going to demand my money back (wish me luck). But I hope it blue-screened due to a random high-energy photon from outer space or something. I really like this machine - when it's not in crash mode.

I'm getting hungry and I refuse to eat before I shower so I guess this is it. I hate cleaning. Oh that's right; I just remembered one of the things I need to clean is the garage. Hooray! I love spending quality time in the garage. I can stretch that out for a long time.

Happy Sunday.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Red Nose

Ever notice how the press keeps saying "In a surprise move, Pat Robertson backs Rudolph Giuliani?" Surprise my ass.

Get a clue you right-wing religious nuts: this was never, will never be, could never be, is laughingly not, about religion!

Pat Robertson is a billionaire. Or did you know that? He has helped foster child labor. Also true.

Pat Robertson is not endorsing Giuliani because Rudolph plays in any Evangelical games. He is endorsing him because of MONEY.

I really pity those of you who love the right because of your Christian religion. You've been had.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Life without Left Turns

This story makes me smile.

By Michael Gartner

My father never drove a car.

Well, that's not quite right.

I should say I never saw him drive a car. He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

"In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s, "to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."

At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:

"Oh, bull——!" she said. "He hit a horse."

"Well," my father said, "there was that, too."

Continued here...

Game for Anything

What will those crafty Chinese think of next? I know aphrodisiacs are as common a feature in Chinese pharmacology as aspirin is in the West. But this really takes the cake:

A favorite of Australian children, the Bindeez game is a Chinese export. Apparently the game includes tiny beads. Normally this would merit a ban for small children on its own. I guess Australian kids don’t choke as readily as American kids do. Nonetheless they do seem to need a little coercion on a date.

The beads turn out to have been coated with a date rape drug. No, this is not a joke. The Australian authorities have responded appropriately, banning the game. Read more here.

But this begs some questions. Are the Chinese secretly planning on invading Australia and dating their children? What is up with that? Are the toxins in the Chinese environment beginning to damage the chromosomes of Chinese women? And are Australian women just too large for diminutive Chinese men? This could explain the use of the drug in children’s toys.
Or they may simply have run low on plastic resin and, under pressure to meet a shipping deadline, they innocently added a little date rape resin they just happened to have sitting around in a barrel. Nothing nefarious in that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Producers

Somebody please explain to me how the Congress works. I learned all about "how a bill becomes a law" when I was a kid. But seriously, what fuels the process?

Those of us with a brain, er, I mean those of us who lean to the left of Hitler just can't understand for the life of us what the hell happened to the Democrats in the House and in the Senate. I myself have suggested that maybe Bush kidnapped our elected officials' loved ones and is holding said people, plus our representatives' gonads, hostage in some secret prison (for his maniacal amusement I'm sure).

All jokes aside though, what the fuck are these nut-cases all about?

Kucinich is probably the last truly honest politician in Washington (and you Ron Paul supporters can just stuff it). He forces the impeachment of Cheney to the floor of the House today to the immediate response of the majority's axe. Only to be resurrected by the Republicans. What the fu*? Huh?

What am I missing? And before you go raising your hand shouting "I know, I know," yes I have heard several supposedly plausible ploys of the Repugnants and of the Scardycrats. I just don't believe any of them because they all sound to friggin' contrived.

Every one of these wicked whackos in Washington is sold out to such a great degree that all that is left is the choreography of each individual to fulfill the greater purpose of the whole. What happened today? Who knows? I know who knows; the corporate interests that are acting in the role of executive producer to the George and Nancy show. But why direct their actors to play the very uncharacteristic roles played out today? Again, I have no idea. But they do know. And it's all very choreographed.

I guess this is a plea for publicly financed elections as much as it is anything else. Our "representatives" are as meaningless as fangs on a marshmallow otherwise.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dress Rehersal?

The news abounds with stories of Musharraf's declaration of "Emergency Rule" and the United States' condemnation of same.


Let's see: Musharraf is condemning dissent as anti-democratic. He has accused the judges of the Pakistani Supreme Court of being activist. He says he has no choice; terrorists have attacked his initiative for democracy. And so he must crack down.

Boy, thank god nothing like that could occur in the United States.

It occurs to me that people create democracy, not governments. And when your democracy is in trouble, the last place to look for repair of the breach is from your government, because only governments can attack democracy. Get it Bush? Terrorists cannot attack democracy. By definition you traitor.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Costume Party

A couple was invited to a swanky costume Party. She got a terrible headache and told her husband to go to the party alone. He being a devoted husband protested, but she argued and said she was going to take some aspirin and go to bed, and there was no need of his good time being spoiled by not going.

So he took his costume and away he went. The wife, after sleeping soundly for about an hour, awakened without pain and, as it was still early, decided to go the party.

Since her husband did not know what her costume was, she thought she would have some fun by watching her husband to see how he acted when she was not with him.

She joined the party and soon spotted her husband cavorting around on the dance floor, dancing with every nice chick he could, and copping a little feel here and a little kiss there. His wife sidled up to him and being a rather seductive babe herself, he left his current partner high and dry and devoted his time to the new babe that had just arrived. She let him go as far as he wished , naturally, since he was her husband.

Finally, he whispered a little proposition in her ear and she agreed, so off they went to one of the cars and had a little bang. Just before unmasking at midnight, she slipped away, went home, put the costume away and got into bed, wondering what kind of explanation he would make for his behavior.

She was sitting up reading when he came in, and she asked what kind of a time he had. He said: "Oh, the same old thing. You know I never have a good time when you're not there."

"Did you dance much?"

"I'll tell you, I never even danced one dance. When I got there, I met Pete, Bill Brown and some other guys, so we went into the den and played poker all evening. But you're not going to believe what happened to the guy I loaned my costume to......."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Help Make this a Reality

I wanted to send this to but I can find any way to contact them (let me know if you have an email address or link please).

Here's what I would like to pitch: Billboards placed in large metropolitan areas (and anywhere else money allows) with gigantic close-ups of Bush and Cheney in jail, hands grasping the bars. Caption reading "Help make this a reality. Tell your congressperson to vote for impeachment."

Why? Because the vast majority of the public - even those against this war (and the next war too) get all the news they see from the mainstream media. They have no idea how rotten our government really is, or how close we have come to the complete ruination of all our founders really fought for. Put it out there on the freeway where they can't avoid it. Make the pictures big and plain and very obvious. And have everybody start envisioning Bush and Cheney behind bars whether they like them or not.

If this actually led to impeachment it would be nothing short of wonderful. But even if it just led to a greater awareness by everybody, that would itself be fantastic. You know without question that the right would be up in arms. Good. Even better, the local news would be all over this because of the outrage from the local right wing crackpots.

MoveOn would get the right's panties in a worse snit than when they called Petraeus a betrayer. This could really be big. And by the way, in case MoveOn really does get to read this: thank you MoveOn for not caving on your Petraeus ad. Thank you from all of us true patriots.

Keeping in Step

Two and a half years ago when we bought our house we bought two pallets of pavers for a project parallel to the driveway. This was a planter with a couple of juniper bushes and ugly white gravel. There was also an old basketball hoop on a bent post. Adios to the hoop and gravel and a couple of yards of dirt. Addition of filter fabric and crusher fines, then sand and the pavers and we had a beautiful new space.

And we had a good load of pavers left over as well.

Many moons ago I stacked these pavers against our front porch to create an additional step (Gerry complained that the porch slab was too high for a single step - and she was right). I stacked pavers at each end to create short pilasters and it looked kind of cool if a bit uneven.

I have since drawn up plans for the steps many times, in several configurations. Then with family coming for Thanksgiving this year we decided to make the installation permanent.

We had to buy a few more pavers (not many). Other than that I had crusher fines, sand and filter fabric left over from a back yard project from this past spring. I got some pressure treated wood for edging and that was it. Well actually we did shell out a bit more (a bit more than we expected too) on some landscape lighting to be included in the project.

We started the work last week Sunday - it was colder than Cheney's heart outside and we were both bundled to the hilt. We dug and compacted and laid filter fabric and laid crusher fines and sand and placed pavers nice and tight in place. It was tricky work because the stoop slab slopes away from the porch for drainage, and it twists to match the lateral slope of the driveway slab. But I needed to have the back of the pavers on either side of the stoop (the "wings") level so the new pilasters would sit plumb (my temporary installation these past two years always included tilting pilasters). The result is that the step I added now has two "faults" in it where its slope is discontinuous. It was either that or allowing the pilasters to tilt.

We completed the work yesterday (Saturday). It was an all day affair and we are both sore today, but it was well worth it.

Most of the plans I came up with earlier included the use of mortar between the pavers. But one thing I love about pavers and landscape masonry in general is that these things are usually laid dry (without the use of mortar). That works great for the ground level wings we laid last weekend, but not as well for the steps or pilasters. They tended to shift a little here and there and I needed to occasionally put things back in place or risk pilasters falling down, or folks tripping on a loose step paver.

But I really didn't want to use mortar. For one thing it's more of a mess to work with, but more importantly I just like the dry laid look. So we used Gorilla Glue. The instructions say it will work on masonry. They say it's waterproof (it can be used on under-water parts of boats). In fact, water is the catalyst that activates the glue.

So we glued our steps and pilasters together. You can see some whitish foam oozed out between the pavers in a couple spots. I'll clean that out today (a screwdriver does the trick nicely), and you won't even know that these pavers aren't laid dry.

Each pilaster has a small light placed near the bottom to illuminate the steps. Additionally we added five landscape lights in the planter to the right of the steps. We're going to plant ivy next to each pilaster and let it grow where it will.

Bonnie and I are very happy with this project. And we're closing up shop on outdoor projects for the year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Search and Rescue

When the intrepid Steve Fossett disappeared a few months back, Google made its popular “Google Earth” program available, with a live feed, to amateur search and rescue buffs. This was all to no avail, I’m afraid, as Fossett has managed to stay lost – something I have contended all along he intended to do.

But I digress.

I would like to implore Google to lend their live Google Earth capabilities again for an even larger and more profound search. There is an island somewhere on this earth where George Bush and company have secreted away the families and loved ones of such folks as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, and Jay Rockefeller to name just a few Democratic Senators and Congresspersons. That is the obvious answer to the question so many of us have been asking; i.e., “what do the Republicans have on the Democrats to force them to continue voting in favor of tyranny?”

It’s likely we’d find a few dozen balls stockpiled on that island as well.

Even Hillary seems to be a victim of this kidnapping. Come on, when’s the last time you heard anything about the whereabouts of Chelsea? I’m sure the covert Bush team considered kidnapping Bill, but then decided they ought to kidnap someone Hillary loves.

Do you think maybe Tony Blair has kin there too? I’d take that bet.

While we are at it, busily searching every square inch of the Pacific and Atlantic and Indian Oceans, we might as well search for Amelia Earhart’s missing plane and Kennedy and Monroe’s hidey-hole as well. Who knows, maybe Steve Fossett is hanging out with them.

Maybe Google would be kind enough to expand the search capabilities to dialysis-ready caves on the Afghan/Pakistan border. Then we might find the guy who helped give Bush and Buddies free reign over freedom. We’d probably interrupt Bush and Osama high-fiving each other over a meal of miniature rocky mountain oysters.

Demographic Reality

Gerry sent me this yesterday: World Population

It’s a clever demographic breakdown of the Human Race along all sorts of lines, using an imaginary village of 100 people to represent the entire species.

There are a lot of shocking truths buried in this report – spend a few minutes checking it out. The one the blew me away the most was this:

“1 (only one) would have a college education.” Only one person in our imaginary village of 100 people representing the entire human race has a college education. I find this disturbing in that it means the intellectual future of our species is being determined by a handful of white westerners. Look what wonderful things the white west has introduced to the world in the past century. If nobody else is being educated we have nobody else to champion an alternate path for our world.
I have contended for years that education is the highest goal we can achieve as a society. I renew that contention. But not only must we improve the state of education for our own (American) children to create parity with the remainder of the West (and some parts of Asia); we must be looking to educate the children of the world. Yes, I know, they need to be fed first. What is an education to a starving child? Of course the old adage, of teaching a woman to fish and thus feeding her for life, does come to mind.

FEMA Favoritism

Comparisons between FEMA’s response to the Southern California fires versus their response to Katrina in Louisiana are all over the place now as one might imagine. Mostly I see people voicing concerns that FEMA’s ineptitude will come to the fore before all this is done. I see others (like this article in the Christian Science Monitor) already celebrating the implementation of lesson’s learned from Katrina.

My observation is that comparing FEMA’s response between disasters is like comparing Marie Antoinette’s diet to Tiny Tim’s.

Demographically speaking, fires in Southern California are an occurrence primarily restricted to the hills. This means the primary victims are rich white people. We had the same situation when I was living in Oregon; the primary victims of landslides were rich white people (as opposed to poor white people, the only other demographic in Oregon).

The point is, the most numerous victims of Katrina were poor black people (along with some poor white people). Now I am not suggesting for a minute that accusations of racism by FEMA are founded. We all have our opinions on that and I’m not going to go there. But the fact remains, any comparison of FEMA’s response to these two very demographically different catastrophes is meaningless. Let’s compare the efficacy of diethylene-glycol in antifreeze and in children’s cough syrup.

If FEMA proves to be as bumbling in dealing with the California fires as they were with Katrina (What can Brown do for you?), we may actually be on to something. If on the other hand FEMA comes though this with high marks, we can really draw no conclusions. If we say, “well FEMA must have learned their lesson – look how well they performed,” we need to stop and ask ourselves, “or was it simply because the victims were of the kind favored by this administration?” On the other hand, if we begin with the supposition that FEMA is going to be predisposed to favoring white rich folks then we still can’t draw any conclusions from an improved response.
So ironically, we can only glean potential new understanding of FEMA today from a repeat failure, not from a success. Stories lauding success too early really are meaningless.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Overpass Art

I'm typing this on my laptop. My pretty new desktop is a brick. I'm going to go into the expensive paperweight business. Anybody want a $2k paperweight?

A techie was sent over by my desktop's manufacturer last night. He was there to exchange motherboards in hopes it would solve the Blue Screen of Death problem I have been experiencing on occasion. Well I guess success is all in how you define it. I am no longer occasionally experiencing blue screens. Now my computer won't do anything but blue screen.

(I was just looking at what I have written; realized I had used blue screen as both a noun and a verb, and considered what my mother's reaction to such sloppy language would have been. Then I realized that she died long before computers became ubiquitous and blue screen became part of our lexicon. Lucky her.)

And as my luck would have it, I have finally instituted a backup regime that turns out to have saved my data's bacon. I could go and drop the damned machine off a freeway overpass, into the path of a Mac truck, and I would not be in any worse shape data-wise than I am now. Of course the machine's makers are sending UPS out to retrieve my computer. I assume they will cannibalize it for needed parts, and throw the left over screws and chips to their children. They will be the ones to enjoy the evisceration of this infernal machine-turned-brick. I will only have the enjoyment of waiting to see if the new/refurbished/hand-me-down machine they send me is more flawed than the first or only sucks just as bad. At this point I'd almost be happy with a computer that blue screen's just occasionally.

If any of you truck drivers who read my blog (and I'm sure you are legion) see a computer drop into your path from an overpass, it won't be by me.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Colorado Rockies from a Train

Bonnie, Brandy and I spent last weekend in some of the most beautiful country I know. And relatively speaking, it’s in my back yard. I know some who visit these pages have never been “out west.” There’s no shame in that, but it’s a shame nonetheless.

Brandy turned 21 a month or so ago. One of the treats we conspired to make hers to savor was a ride in the “Parlor Car” of the Durango & Silverton Railroad in Southern Colorado. Bonnie and I spent a wonderful day in early January two years ago riding in this car pulled along as the caboose of an old train. This train rides the narrow rails laid down a century and a half ago through rough mountain country. The railroad itself was first laid in 9 months – right through the winter. The laborers lived in box cars. Or – and I’m not kidding – in caves.

Tracks have been ruined in floods in the intervening years. Between storms and fires and land ownership disputes, this quaint railroad has persevered. It is of course now protected by the Federal Government as a national treasure.

Look at these pictures. It really is a ride to be treasured. My stomach started that Saturday morning a week ago a little weak; I could have slept in a couple more hours. But I rode the rails where you need the legs of an old sailor to remain standing (and the stomach of a cast iron stove to remain sitting). The wheels on the tracks don’t clack … clack …clack. If they make any noise it’s a discomfiting crash and jangle, and you wonder what’s going to fall off the train. But the wheels do present the riders of these rails with a cadence nonetheless. This somnolent rhythm is like nothing so much as that of a small boat forever destined to ride the wake of a larger vessel. Back. Forth. Back. Forth.

Brandy loved the train ride. Either that or she’s a better negotiator than I give her credit for. No, I think she really liked our attention to the detail of her experience on this one. Despite urpy stomachs and an obscenely expensive dinner in Durango later that evening, this was an absolutely wonderful weekend. I love so much spending time with my wonderful daughter. Her powers of observation – now that they’ve matured beyond “whatever … ,” are really pleasant to observe.

John and Sandy – this is where you ought to go when you get here ahead of Thanksgiving this year.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What He Said

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours"
- Stephen Roberts

Alright I guess I shouldn't just dump that quote there. I know several folks who frequent these pages are religious (or devout, or spiritual, or something else that I am not). I don't mean to disparage your belief system.

It's just that I'm an atheist. Some of you know that. Well, of course, now all of you know that. And it's no big deal. I rarely discuss it here. There are forums for that; forums where's I'm not one of a 15% minority. But I was listening to the radio yesterday and the host (with whom I generally agree, and whom I respect) stated categorically that atheism was a religion. I shot back at this absurdity by obtaining a membership to his cabal and starting a discussion on his forum.

The responses have been rapid and avid and often ridiculous. And a few have been brilliant. I wish I could say the same for my comments. Regardless, I found the quote I posted above and find I love it.

But I'm friends with anybody, no matter your religion. Just don't try to shove it down my throat.

And don't vote Republican. Your god won't forgive you that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

There is a Point.

When I was a young teenager I experienced a world that had gone for awhile crazy enough to filter into my politically neutral life. I was going to say "my normal life," but my life wasn't normal. It was however separate from the strife in the streets of the 60's.

But then my dad went to Viet Nam, and subsequently quit the Reserves after his stint there. My parents started befriending Hippies. Our family went skinny dipping. My folks enjoyed weed on occasion (as did I with a more voracious appitite a few years later). And discussions of society pervaded our lives.

I cried out to be an adult then. It wasn't the pot (not especially anyway). It was the sense of belonging to something bigger than me. Or maybe it was simply something big in its own right. But the war was over before I got out of high school - and I missed the draft by mere months - and the counter culture lost its meaning overnight.

And I missed the boat.

But I think a new boat is a-sailing. I think we are finally reviving the life blood that moves slow and deep in our American veins. Since growing up during Viet Nam and its aftermath and consequences, I have harbored the ambivalence toward our country that many liberals do. Not so anymore. I have found what it is about America that I am fiercely proud of, and what it is I most fear we are going to lose forever. My ambivalence about the concept of patriotism has finally been resolved. And those who lie about their patriotism in order to rape our citizens and the citizens of the world are largely responsible for helping me understand that.

I am a small part of something that is big. It's big because it must be. It's big because the dream of America (no, not to be rich - that's a lie perpetrated by the right; but to be FREE) is the best possible future for humankind. And if humans can evolve so that at least the most enlightened of us can understand, perhaps we can evolve enough to embrace FREEDOM as a species.

Be very careful though; FREEDOM is probably the most masqueraded attribute in the world. Don't let Ron Paul fool you into thinking that freedom from all government regulation for corporations is FREEDOM. The freedom to work (or not) is touted by the anti-unionists. That is not FREEDOM. I guarantee you that thousands of Americans and Iraqi's did not die, and do not continue to die, for FREEDOM's sake.

Freedom is a child living from birth to death without fear of its government or those who have a natural advantage over it due to size, might or power. Freedom is the ability to engage honestly with the world and with our neighbors.

And freedom is my right to ramble. And it's a bad habit. But I am willing to die for my right to ramble. Or for yours.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pundit Phlem

I just realized what's been nagging at me for the last few days. Rush Limp Paw calling our slain and wounded heroes "phony." The Ditto Master himself doctoring the recordings and lying to his fans about what he really said later. The power of the Senate reproving Right America's drug addled favorite's employer for his vitriolic comments.

We have a war in Washington over this fat gas bag's verbal farts. Republicans say it's no more than comeuppance for Move On's Betray Us ad. And honestly, I agree. If nobody had jumped out (and I like David Brock of Media Matters, so this is not an attack), and condemned Rush, his tirade would likely have played to the troops in Iraq, un-cut. The damage to Rush (and his corporate puppeteers) would have been much greater.

But do you remember the news a week earlier? Bill O'Riley had provided anecdotal evidence of his bigotry towards blacks. The left was jumping up and down on that and the Billy Bumbler* sputtered his denials with reasoning and subterfuge almost equal in gall to Limbaugh's. Jesse and Al were notably outraged. And which Senator was it who called for the censure of Riley? Oh yeah, that's right. Not a one. Not even Barak Obama if that should make a difference.

I have great respect for our troops. I mean that. But we do not have a draft, so therefore every one of our troops is a volunteer. I understand that poverty and hopelessness play an enormous part in enlistment, but these youngsters made up their own minds nonetheless. Somehow I cannot quite accept the argument that soldiers deserve the rights of our constitution just a little more than anyone else. It's like the idea that cop killers are more culpable than civilian killers. Bullshit. Nobody is forced to be a cop.

Citizens (black citizens) are being threatened with more vitriol than we have seen in at least 2 decades. Ok, that's an opinion. It would take some studying (and careful definition of parameters) to determine if what I am opining is true or not. But I can see it happening and I'm saying what I feel in my gut (sue me). O'Rielly is openly (with an oh shucks, you thought I meant WHAT? attitude) racist. The Jena 6 lynching is dividing black and white like nothing since the 60's. Blacks are being targeted for intimidation by those perpetrating election fraud.

Are we supposed to be surprised? We have a Decider in Chief who is an open bigot (his brand of religion is racist against Arabs).

And it's not just divisions by race that are being targeted. The poor are thrown aside to near insignificance. Children are eyed as slaves were of old; they will become workers and consumers - keep them nourished ... economically. Education is only for the rich. Or bought at the high cost of indebtedness.

I honor our soldiers. But I cry for our children.

*Name stolen with fondness from Stephen King

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Clean Sheets

Interesting results to my when do you wash your sheets survey. So when I'm suffering sleeping on a sheet crisp from the dryer, I should instead be enjoing another 3 or 4 months on a soft well worn sheet.

I think there are a lot of people who do things because they assume (for all kinds of reasons, including none at all) that it's the right thing to do. Reason isn't employed at all. People go to church because of it. It's a major factor in people buying (and eating) things they don't need, and maybe shouldn't have. It helped shape an American public into one ready and willing to go to war without reason, and at huge detriment to ourselves, the Iraqi's and the world.

A lot of what people think they are thinking isn't their thought at all. They have learned what people they feel akin to do and think, and they merely adopt conclusions reached without thought.

Question everything. Look at what you see. Think about the things you touch and use. Understand your connection.

And leave your sheets alone for six months.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Missing the Point

I just saw a headline which read, "Does Britney Deserve to Lose Custody?" I won't even bother reading the article because we're already deluged ad nauseum with information about this sad person.

But isn't the question being asked a complete non-sequitur? Isn't the real question, "Do Britney's children deserve to have a better-suited guardian?" I know celebrity news is all about vacuous-minded bimbos and nimrods. And I know this "news" is deliberately delivered with all the depth of a dried-up puddle. But this article comes from Time Magazine. Doesn't Time claim to be a little more than a celebrity rag? Doesn't Time claim to be relevant?

And isn't the relevance, in any discussion about this sad state of affairs, the children? I mean the tragedy of Ms. Spears' life is (IMHO) all about childhood's premature end. It reeks of a greedy industry wantonly using and using up those who supply talent to that industry. People like Britney Spears should be the expected product of this industry. And then not only is this all about children with regard to how they are treated by this voracious industry; it is also about children with regard to the neglect the starlet's own children have ultimately received. It is least of all about the fortunes of spoiled adults.

Why is nobody examining the music industry as a culprit? Why is nobody making a case for child protection? Even the "fans" who stand up for Britney seem to be missing the point. Does she deserve to lose the custody of her kids? The kids are the victims all throughout this story.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bill the Baffoon

A lot has been made recently about Bill O’Really?’s quasi-racist remarks regarding his visit to Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem and his attendance at an Anita Baker concert. The favorite flavor has been complete disapproval for his buffoonery. But the specials menu includes a “Give Bill a break for at least trying” entrĂ©e that looks quite savory.

In this age of instant public retort, it’s not surprising that I just finished reading a comment, written by a self-proclaimed black man, defending O’Defiley’s present pound of preposterous punditry.

Look, on balance black citizens have every bit as much right to make fools of themselves as do all other races. I neither defend nor decry this particular idiot’s right to the same. But the implicit understanding we have developed in our society that we are not allowed to question the motives of the perceived underdogs when they defy that status is simply ridiculous.

As is well known to those who know me (though I don’t believe I have written of it here), I grew up as a Caucasian recipient of what is quaintly referred to as reverse racism. Of course the term reverse racism is itself an idiotic term. Racism is racism (is racism).

I was brought up by forward thinking parents on a sugar plantation in Hawaii. Other “sensible” white parents sent their superior offspring to private schools for the best possible education … and distance from the unwashed. Not so my folks. I admire their egalitarianism. But the practical application was a little less to my liking.

I stood on the bus when 8 years old while others sat. I came home bloody-nosed without a champion to defend me. I was called all sorts of things that had nothing to do whatsoever with my name or my inclinations. I spent years friendless, hating the color of my skin and my “social” status.

That was long ago. The point is, I have a valid point of view as a white man regarding racism. And I can say with complete certainty that racism is racism (is racism).

Even the most progressive of us tend to give a free pass to things that are less than atrocious. We make, and really we all need to do so to keep from going completely off the deep end, exceptions for behavior that is not immediately threatening. What we fail to appreciate when we do so, however, is that in so doing we are playing the role of enabler. Racism is racism is … I think you get it.

I will not accept any apologies for Bill (even from those supposedly “entitled” to grant them). One thing I understand from the circumstances of my upbringing: children are the most ignored victims of the outrage of bigotry. No apologies are acceptable.

School Days are Here Again

This is the post I’ve really wanted to write. Brandy is going back to school. Ok, to be fair she has been going to school all along since she graduated from high school. But school has been a side line for her for a long time. She has taken just two classes a semester for the past two or three semesters, and focused instead on her job and her photography. I paid a little more attention to school at her age, but I also eventually let work supersede my devotion to an education. I didn’t get back to school again seriously until my early thirties.

But Brandy never quit school as I did. And she knows how she wants to make her living. She has a major leg up on me.

Bonnie and I spent two family intensive days last weekend in Claremont California. My siblings were there as well as my aunts and uncles, and my cousins were there with their children. Brandy, as one of the oldest of that generation, was working and could not be there. I wish she had been. She would have loved seeing all that family. Next time, hopefully in another year or two, I’ll make sure she gets to the reunion.

This family get-together was in celebration of my long gone grandfather who would have been 100. The centerpiece was a retrospective of his art in a building named for him, at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds (largest fair in the country) in Claremont. The show included perhaps 200 pieces of his art. Our family met en mass there a week ago and spent two or three hours enthralled in our shared heritage. Much has been made of my grandfather in my lifetime. Our family elders (now down to one uncle and one aunt) laud him and his accomplishments. We all pay homage. And with good reason, for he was an undeniable talent and force. But he was human too, with his own foibles. And I tend to diminish his genius rather than indulge in hero worship. But I can handle a love fest in his honor from time to time.

And Brandy deserves to enjoy that as well. My grandfather was especially fond of his grandchildren who exhibited artistic talent. At one time he thought highly of me as I made a feint into that career path.

It was in that atmosphere that I sat and talked and thought and pondered last weekend, missing Brandy and thinking about how much she would have grown in her life had she been there. Bonnie started telling me how she had finally managed to convince Brandy to check out this art school in town. She had spoken of it before and I had listened with half an ear. I knew Brandy couldn’t afford the school. Brandy blew her state lottery scholarship her first semester in college, and I guess we all had come to the conclusion that she was on her own now. To buttress this conclusion, Brandy has made a point of becoming financially self-sufficient these past two years.

Then it suddenly dawned on me; why shouldn’t we send her to art school? I know this should have been obvious. She is after all an only child. But our shared paradigm made this seem like a revelation. Bonnie and I discussed this and both instantly knew we were on to the right path. Brandy was scheduled to visit this college the following day, so I called her to ask how much it would mean to her to earn a bachelor’s degree in photography. Her response was what I expected; she would die for it but couldn’t possibly afford it. I let her know she could dispense with that impediment, and that she should make her visit to the school a serious effort toward fulfilling that goal.

Brandy followed up as one might expect. She will be starting her new school this coming January. Bonnie and I will be putting some plans and dreams on hold. I can’t think of a better reason to do so.

In fact I am envious of Brandy. She will now have a formal art education, with a practical career; photography.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Favorite Season

I’m not obligated to in any way, but now that it is over, I thought I ought to say something about my survey on favorite seasons.

I was really pulling for Oregano and it lost. How sad. What really surprises me is that the survey produced four votes each for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. My bet was that Autumn would win out. I don’t remember for sure what Bonnie’s bet was, but it seems she might have actually agreed with me. I may have merely referred to it as a wager because I wanted to get some responses.

My suspicion is that some nefarious somebody deliberately stacked the deck by voting so as to even out the field. Bastards. Assaulters of Science!

Well Autumn did not win. However neither did it lose. Fall will forever remain my favorite time of year.

And coincidentally we are one week into this best of all seasons as I write this. Deal with it you Summertime Suck-up’s.

By the way, does anybody know how I can archive the survey without losing it?

What's Up

I’ve been remiss in my postings of late. I blame it on my job; I’ve been busy dammit.

I do have a few things I want to post though. To be honest, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by how much I “need” to post, and often end up posting nothing at all.

I’ve added background music to this blog. Let me know if you like it. Yes, you’re right: you can’t turn it off without muting your system. It would piss me off too. But Brandy gave me the idea (and in fact encouraged me to do this). I won’t put any head banger or rap music here I promise. I’m sitting here listening to Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun as I write this and enjoying it. If you don’t like it, well then I’m not so sure I like you.

It’s late September. Where did the year go? I was thinking today that the next time the weather will be as warm as today should be about 8 months from now. For someone who hates the heat (and only lives where I do by coercion) that’s a happy thought.

Bonnie’s mom had her second heart attack this month, so Bonnie is over there now at Connie’s side where she belongs. It seems things are going to be manageable for the foreseeable future with the use of nitroglycerin. I’m glad. Connie and I have fought over the years but she is a really decent person.

I have never understood how they keep these pill bottles from blowing up. A couple of my favorite movies (Sorcerer and Wages of Fear) involve men moving hundreds of gallons of nitroglycerin in trucks over rough roads in remote places. Obviously some of the trucks (and their drivers) blow up. Good times. And actually really good movies. Sorcerer stars Roy Scheider, and enlists the music of Tangerine Dream. Wages of Fear is better. It’s an old French film – and worth reading the subtitles. Both movies have wonderfully developed senses of suspense.

I avoided foreign films for a long time. My excuse was that I could stand neither dubbing nor subtitles. And in truth I cannot stand dubbing, but subtitles really aren’t all that bad. I often find myself forgetting to read them as I get wrapped up in the movie. Once I realize I’ve allowed myself to drift off I go back to the subtitle and make sure I didn’t miss enough of the dialogue to lose the meaning. I rarely rewind.

The thing I really like is listening to the song of the other language. Americans are often chided for being illiterate with respect to other languages. I am guilty myself. I speak a little German and even less Spanish. But I love listening to the sounds even if I don’t know the language. Subtitles allow me to discern a little of the meaning of the sounds. That’s enough to get some sense of immersion into their culture. And it’s really what Bonnie and I love traveling for.

Tell me what foreign films you like and I’ll reciprocate.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Midlake - "Head Home"

I found this on my friend, Shae's blog. Thank you Shae. I've never heard it before. This band has wonderful harmony. I need to listen to more of their music.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Long Pier

Letting your kid go is a lot tougher than I had imagined it would be. I'm becoming the parent I wish I'd had. I'm sure if my parents had doted on me I would have begged them to chill out a little as I entered my twenties. But the fact is, I didn't have doting parents and I'm totally unashamed to be one myself.

I don't do it on purpose. I mean, I'm not consciously saying to myself, I'm going to be to my daughter what my parents failed to be to me. I just love my daughter, that's all.

I still remember how Bonnie and I argued over whether or not to let Brandy stay home by herself as we headed off to Colorado for the 4th of July weekend. She was 16. I argued in favor and Bonnie eventually agreed, and everything turned out fine. But that wasn't guaranteed at that age.

We spend our time as parents letting our grip slip a little at a time as our children dangle off the end of a pier. Let go too soon and they could drown. Let go too late and they may never learn to swim.

What I didn't realize is that that grip becomes habitual. You could gladly dedicate yourself to your child's safety, and letting go on purpose, when you know there might be an undertow, is hardest of all.

So Brandy is spending her first night in a hotel alone a couple hundred of miles away. Bonnie and I both remind her that unsavory men are attracted to women out on their own. Brandy resists the urge to roll her eyes and gently reminds us that she knows. And I let that be enough.

I managed to call her this afternoon. She was still on the road, a little past halfway to her destination. All is good. The drive is beautiful for photography. She and I discussed how even the air is golden in the Fall.

Have a great time Brandy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Been a Long Time Since I Rock & Rolled

Led Zeppelin is having a one-time-only reunion in London on November 26th. My friend at Beth's Blog provided this link to Led Zeppelin's only official ticket site. She noted that tickets are in high demand and even the website isn't likely to let you in. I had found this to be true a couple of days ago, but I clicked on the link anyway and got right on in to the site. Once there I proceeded to sign up for the ticket lottery.

And now I am officially on the list for potential ticket buyers. The price is $250. Of course the plane ride would be another $800 to $1,000. If by any slim chance I actually do get to buy a ticket, I'm sure I could get a lot of money for it on eBay.

But if there was actually some way I could afford to go, I'd do it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What I Did before Getting My Ass Back to Work

I've been wanting to post these photos for a long time now. The catch? I didn't get them until this past Monday. Unfortunately I neglected to take "before" pictures. Brandy was sweet enough to take these photos here with her wide angle lens.

This past Spring and early Summer I remodeled our upstairs bathroom. I had to. The toilet seemed as if it was about to fall through the floor and the vanity was a mass-produced piece of something you normally put in the toilet. So, apart from the tub/shower, I gutted the bathroom and started from scratch.
As it turned out, the floor had been rebuilt once before. Some water damage, primarily from the toilet, and a little from an earlier tub installation, had been cause for a previous effort to make things better. The sub-floor, luckily, was and is in very good shape. But the previous do-it-yourselfer pulled up a limited amount of floor where it was in the worst shape, filled it with a gypsum filler and installed the new vinyl on top.

I tore the whole thing out, leaving the subfloor behind. I installed 1/2" cement board on the subfloor and ceramic tile on top of that. I threw out the old vanity and built my own. I rewired for lighting, outlets and a wall heater (across from the tub - we used to have heat lamps - over the sink where they were much less effective). I built a medicine cabinet to replace the old metal one and put up a nice big mirror.

I found an abandoned, live, outlet inside one of the walls. I discovered that the toilet "closet" ring seal was nearly non-existent (my guess is the last "craftsman" decided to save $2 and used the old wax seal). I nearly panicked when I tried texturing the drywall work I had done, and ended up having to remove something like three gallons of "mud" from the walls before it dried on both the wall and in the damn texturer I rented from Home Depot (I resorted to canned touch-up texture in the end).

Bonnie is in love with this new bathroom. She takes a bath at the slightest provocation just so she can stare (honestly, this is what she tells me). I am waiting on cooler weather. It's too damn hot still to enjoy a bath.

But it is pretty.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sometimes you're homeless because they take your home from you

I'm struck by how inappropriately gross the current mortgage market situation has become. Industry people, government officials and the "free" press are all acting out a great imitation of shock. Who coulda seen it coming after all?

I read about the inevitability of this months ago. I wish I could remember where. Some less-than-mainstream liberal rag or another. You know? The ones you can actually trust. May have been The Nation. It doesn't matter. The fact is this act of shocked surprise is a disgusting lie.

And of course our Dissembler in Chief has promised the industry to have the Fed do everything possible to lighten the blow on the mortgage industry. But there isn't so much as a whisper of promise for help for those poor bastards who were talked into taking out these mortgages in the first place. These people (with other bills to pay and children to feed and pride to salvage) are being scraped off into the garbage pail of convenient disposal. Real unemployment (not that reported by the liars in Washington) is on the rise. Wages are being assaulted. Nobody in government gives a damn about insuring the working poor (yeah, the working poor. Who else do you think the predatory lenders went after?).

Just wait. In a few months or maybe a year, the increase in the homeless will be blamed on (who else?), the homeless! They should have remained in rented houses and apartments. They shouldn't have had the temerity to think they were worthy of owning homes and taking out mortgages. A few lenders will fail (and that will be blamed on "bad risks" [meaning of course, "worthless" people]), but most will sail through fat and sassy. And nobody in the fucking Bush Bunker will lift a finger to make this whole practice illegal. And it god damned should be illegal. And don't hold out any hope that our pantie waisted Democrats in Congress will do anything.

You know, I am really pretty pedestrian when it comes to finance and the economy, and even balancing my own checkbook. But I foresaw the bursting of the Internet Start up bubble. I made this prediction to this very Republican CPA who worked for the same company that employed me at the time. He thought I was smoking pot (well I may actually have been doing so at the time, but that's beside the point). Now I actually liked this guy and he and I had lots of very interesting conversations. But I can't really believe that someone as smart as him couldn't see that crash coming. I just think he had his head up his ass. And I think conservative ideology is what stuffed it up there.

And I think the slavering sickos in their 3-piece Italian suits knew this mortgage crisis was coming. But I think greed has a way of sticking your head up your ass and making judgement (even selfish judgement) difficult. I think they just wanted to see how far they could push this before it all caved in on them. Of course they were all hoping to see the tell-tale signs of a collapse and ditch moments before the cave-in. But as I said, eyeballs behind intestinal walls are pretty useless. I hope some of them end up homeless.

Dream on Yar. When pigs fly.