Thursday, December 26, 2002

Ever wanted to own your own town? How about the lovely town of Bridgeville, CA? It's up for auction right now on eBay, and there's only 24 hours left to get in on the action. The price (as of 10:00 AM, PST) is $1.6 million. Considering it includes 80 acres, several houses, a post office, cemetery, bridge, and tractor, that's really quite a steal for California real estate.

Place a bid now!

Read the article about the auction.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The Author Before Christmas
By Ken Goldstein

‘Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the hovel
Not a creature was stirring, or writing their novel
The web site statistics were checked with great care
In the hope that more book sales were already there
“Now, Books-A-Million! Now, BN! Amazon!”
And all of the sites that I’m listed upon

Then up from the parking lot, there came such a noise
I logged off the ‘net to yell at those boys
There, at the window, to have me a look
I saw fifty strangers, and each with my book!
They waited in line, without any whining
So I grabbed my pen and went down for a signing

I swear, fellow authors, it can happen to you
A Christmas miracle! And me, I’m a Jew!
The readers are there, if just for the asking
Let’s pick up our pens and start multi-tasking
Now, I toast you with wine, and eggnog, and ales
“Happy holidays, all, and to all, many sales!”

(c) 2002, K.R. Goldstein –
Bizzare... Blogger screwed that one up! (and now won't let me edit it). Let's try this link:

Yahoo News article
If he stayed, there would be trouble. So he went, and now it's double. Joe Strummer, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter of the Clash, died yesterday at age fifty. Not may details yet, but the apparent cause is of a heart attack.

"The only band that matters," the Clash had a political edge that put them on a different plane than most of the other punk bands of the late '70's or early 80's, and the politics came from Strummer.

Strummer also took the band beyond the basic three chord pounding of other punk groups by adding a Reggae beat and a world-music outlook. Check out the albums "London Calling" ('79) or "Sandanista" ('80) to see what I'm talking about.

Friday, December 20, 2002

(this message was originally posted 12/20/02, but was messed up by blogger problems on the 24th):

Have I told you how famous I am? Tonight I'll be the special guest being interviewed on the Writer to Writer chat at iUniverse.

You can get to the chat through the Gotta Write Network (who sets up and hosts the chats), or directly at iUniverse.

The chats are each Friday evening, from 9-10 PM on the East Coast a.k.a. 6-7 PM out here in the West.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Not content to simply read about terrorism? Want to make a career in fighting it? Take a look at this from today's spam:
Click here to take part in the first Homeland Security program of its kind. A unique blend of comprehensive security and safety training.

Now more than ever, we need patriots in every town and city across America, trained to recognize threats to our country. NIT will give you the training you need to build a career as a Homeland Security Specialist.

Skills you will learn:
  • Threat analysis of domestic and international terrorism
  • Surveillance techniques
  • Theft, sabotage and espionage investigation
  • Intelligence gathering
  • First responder training
Financial aid for those who qualify…Day and evening programs...Job placement assistance

Last night I saw an commercial for this same scam while watching TV. In that ad, this guy comes on the screen and introduces himself as "the Director of Homeland Security" before going into the line about needing "patriots in every town and city across America."

Now, I'm sure what he meant to say is that he's the Director of the "Homeland Security" program at this school, but what it sounded like is that he's the guy who's been appointed by President Shrub to head the new federal Department of Homeland Security. But, I'm sure he didn't mean to mislead anybody. After all, he's a Patriot!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Why didn't anybody tell me?

According to, the FBI is circulating a memo warning corporate America to expect violent attacks from anti-war protesters the week of December 15-21 (see article here).

The article suggests that this is not so much a serious warning about a realistic threat, but a cheap attempt to discredit the anti-war movement just when it's building up steam. Forty percent of Americans are now questioning the need to go to war against Iraq, and that's got the folks in DC scared.

I agree that it must be mere propaganda, and not a realistic threat. After all, nobody told me to start making Molotov cocktails. If the FBI memo is real, then somebody's taken me off the anti-war mailing lists.

Monday, December 16, 2002

The rains are continuing... Last night a tree came down on Leslie's car. Actually, it tried to land politely between her car and that of our neighbor's, and managed to do some severe damage to each of them.

That was about 1:50 AM when we heard the crash. We didn't realize the extent of the damage until this morning when I went out, thinking I'd just drag off the bit of tree that was on her car and let her go to work. No such luck, we'd have to wait for the landlord to come out with the chainsaw before anything could happen.

So, I drove Leslie to work, then went to my office, explained what was going on, and returned home to start calling the insurance company, etc. What a mess. The power and the phones (land and cellular) kept going off and on all day, while waiting for the adjuster to call me back and tell me what to do with the car. (Still waiting for that call, by the way).

The car seems drivable, but the driver's door will not open. The entire left side of the car is rippled and poked with holes. Somehow the windows remained intact.

"It never rains in California, but girl, don't they warn ya, it pours. Man, it pours."

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Despite the torrential rains and the gale-force winds, the shoppers will not be deterred. Yesterday, we had to go out to Cupertino to do some rearranging of Leslie's classroom, and had a bit of a severe weather situation.

The storm we are having this weekend is actual weather. Really. This is is a storm worthy of states other than California. Don't believe me? Click here.

So, anyway, we're in the classroom when the power goes out. We have light through the windows, so we continue working. Then we try to take a box of books we just packed up out through the neighboring classroom - a short cut to the resource center. When the door is opened Leslie is taken out of one of her shoes and thrown against the outside wall, holding onto the door handle to keep from being lost forever. Inside, the heavy wall map comes crashing down into my wrist (still hurts) and papers are sailing through the two rooms.

Once we got Leslie back inside we did our best to straighten up and gave up the idea of bringing boxes to and from the resource center. I suggested that it might be time to leave the school, while it was only a lack of power and high winds to worry about. We didn't manage to get out of there, however, for another half-hour, when the rains had come with a vengeance.

When we left the quiet, deserted, neighborhood school (still in the dark) and pulled out onto De Anza Boulevard, however, it turned out we were not the last people stupid enough to be out of their homes on such a day. Hence, the line in the opening sentence about "the shoppers will not be deterred."

You see, Californians don't believe in weather. And if we ignore it, maybe it will ignore us. Lack of electricity and tree branches across all the roads could not keep these people from their holiday shopping rounds. It's good that they have priorities. Hope you've got all your priorities straight this holiday season.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Did I mention that I'm a footnote in history? A few weeks ago I received an email from a Canadian college student who was doing research on the 2000 U.S. presidential election, and the role that Ralph Nader played in it. She had read some of my articles (here and here), and wanted permission to quote me.

Well, of course I gave her permission to quote me - if properly cited. I also sent her some data that's not currently posted on the site regarding what would have happened if Nader had not been in the race. Based on exit polls it shows that Nader actually helped Gore by bringing out more progressive and liberal voters. Had Nader not been in the race, Gore would have still lost, but there would have been no question about it.

Anyway, she used that data, and some of the stuff from this site, and recently sent me her finished paper. It was a very good analysis of the election and the role that the Green party played in it. And there I was, in several of the footnotes and the bibliography, right along side such luminaries as Theodore Lowi and Ralph Nader himself.

I haven't heard back from her yet to find out what grade the professor gave her, or if he had her remove all of my quotes and only stick with more academically acceptable sources. Meanwhile, I got a kick out of it. It's the first time (that I know of) that my ramblings have been used as a footnoted source in a college course.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

This is probably the longest I've gone without posting, but damn things are insane.

Here's an example from last weekend:
- Friday, right after work, we went to Leslie's work holiday party. From there we went to the airport to catch a flight to L.A.
- Saturday morning was my brother's graduation from Pepperdine (more about which, later *), then to my parents house for a combined celebration for the graduation, late Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah.
- Sunday, after a quick bite for breakfast, it was back to the airport to fly back to San Jose, and then drive right up to Oakland for my work's holiday party.

And then it seems like we haven't stopped running yet since getting off the plane. Tuesday after work I spoke to a group of City Year volunteers about a career in nonprofits and applying for grad school. Yesterday after work was a holiday reception dinner of one organization we work with. This evening is the annual dinner of another group I'm involved with.

Sure, much of what we're running to and from are "parties" but it's exhausting never-the-less.

* OK - The graduation:

My brother graduated with his MBA in technology management from Pepperdine's Graciadio School of Business Management. The commencement address was given by the president of Raytheon - a major defense contractor (over $17 billion in profits).

It being the business school, and it being the year of Enron, the address was of course about Ethics. Most of the group assembled failed to notice the irony of hearing a lecture on ethics from a man who makes his living creating missile guidance systems.

Or, how about the note in his introduction about how he serves on several advisory boards for the various services (Army, Navy, Air Force) - not that that would imply any conflict of interest when bidding on government contract - no!

While the $17 billion in profits was so proudly hailed in his introduction, the fact that it came from our tax dollars was not. Still, this gentleman assured us that nobody was cooking the books at Raytheon, the way they were at Enron - and that makes them ethical.

Finding more efficient means to kill people and advising to the same people (well, bureaucrats) that you sell to leave no blemish on Raytheon's ethical record. Ethics have been reduced to simply accounting practice (and getting caught cheating on the accounting).

Aren't you glad I'm back?

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

This is an interesting article that was forwarded to me by a friend online. I don't agree with 100% of what she says, or how she says it - but it does come close, and it does raise some interesting points to think about.

> In The Mainstream
> By: Pamela Troy - 12/02/02
> Near the middle of the twentieth century, a war was fought
> that was so shattering in terms of destruction, horror, and
> sheer human loss, that much of the history of that century is
> seen as either leading to or springing from that time. Those
> few years of Hitler's Third Reich offered a glimpse of what
> crimes a supposedly civilized western society is capable when
> citizens willingly relinquish the safeguards of an open society.
> And if I am to judge from much of the commentary I've been
> reading recently, what we have gleaned from this object
> lesson in tyranny is that it is the height of gaucherie to
> draw on it as an analogy unless the parties involved are
> guilty of outright genocide.
> Moderate and conservative writers react to any comparison
> with the Third Reich so violently that you can almost see
> their hands jerking up to cover their ears. And even many of
> those liberal writers who have finally gotten around to
> noticing some of the obvious parallels between the rise of
> the Nazi state and what is happening in this country today
> tend to preface their comments with an
> "I-don't-want-to-overuse-the-term-fascism" apology.
> To hear them tell it, twenty years ago the "f" word was being
> invoked in every critique of Reagan and Bush senior and
> hearings were being held with liberal senators sternly asking
> conservatives, "are you now or have you ever been a member of
> a fascist organization?"
> This is, of course, nonsense. The term "fascist" has not been
> abused to the point where it's lost its usefulness, and to
> avoid drawing comparisons with the most obvious example of
> the rise of a repressive society in the past hundred years is
> self-defeating. The Third Reich offers too rich a mine of
> information about how a formerly open and tolerant nation can
> descend into tyranny. Are we really prepared to claim that
> the only understanding gained from what happened in Germany
> 60 years ago can be summed up in the sentence, "Mass murder is bad?"
> We seem to have forgotten one of the primary lessons from
> that era, a lesson that was so powerful that in the three
> decades following the war, it was generally presented as the
> simple question, "How could it happen?" How could a
> civilized, modern society institutionalize mass murder? How
> could ordinary people watch their neighbors and friends being
> arrested, disenfranchised, driven from public life and
> stripped of their possessions, and remain silent, even
> supportive of such actions? How could they throw away their
> ability to hold their government accountable? The lesson lies
> in the answer, one that is so obvious that at one time, it
> hardly needed to be repeated.
> The answer is quite simple. "It happened." And it happened
> because repressive governments succeed by making repression
> normal and callousness an acceptable part of mainstream life
> and discourse.
> It is a sad fact that many people equate mass consensus with
> morality. Ask them as individuals and they will deny it, of
> course, but an examination of public discussion these days
> shows the power of the crowd. The term "mainstream" has
> become a soothing mantra used to dismiss concerns about the
> rise of hatred and intimidation towards those perceived as
> enemies of the current administration. Do threats predictably
> increase towards politicians and their families in the wake
> of inflammatory rhetoric by a prominent conservative pundit?
> It's all right. The pundit is "mainstream." Does a
> commentator accuse those who disagree with her of treason and
> imply threats of violence against them? It's all right. She's
> mainstream too. And if conservative spokesmen incite hate
> mail, angry crowds, threats against Democratic leaders and
> their families, well, what of it? Politics is a tough game.
> Such things should be shrugged off as ordinary because now
> they are ordinary. They are mainstream.
> Observe how smoothly, how blandly gross cutbacks in civil
> liberties are being presented as if they were barely even
> news at all, nothing that need concern the average citizen.
> The right to confer with a lawyer in private is gone,
> vanished with barely an arch of an eyebrow from the press.
> The president can declare an American citizen an enemy
> combatant and have him or her imprisoned indefinitely, with
> neither a lawyer nor a hearing, and there's hardly a ripple
> in the body politic. It's accepted as normal. Oh, there might
> be occasional rumbles from moderates. The words "troubling"
> or "disturbing" are trotted out, but nothing that's likely
> rock the boat. To use stronger terms is to risk putting
> oneself outside of the mainstream, and thereby becoming negligible.
> Bush does not need to be Hitler, nor does the United States
> need to descend into the same level of mass murder to warrant
> comparison with the rise of The Third Reich. The genocidal
> policies of Hitler's Germany are an illustration of how far a
> repressive society can go, but those policies should not and
> must not be used as the primary yardstick for judging a
> society repressive and inhumane.
> The most important lesson of the Second World War for 21st
> Century Americans cannot be found in the photographs of
> released concentration camp victims, the stacks of emaciated
> bodies, the lines of naked people waiting to enter the gas
> chambers. It can be found instead in a picture taken in 1938
> Vienna. Nobody is being shot, or beaten, there are no dead
> bodies, no blood. Jews are simply crouched on a pavement,
> forced by local Nazis to scrub the streets. The crowd that
> has gathered to watch is well dressed and civilized in
> appearance. Many of the people in it are smiling, plainly
> amused by the sight.
> But it's all right. Those smiling people in the crowd are,
> after all, well buffered by other smiling people standing
> around them. If any of them feels a twinge of doubt, all they
> have to do was look around and quickly be reassured.
> They are in the mainstream.
> Pamela Troy is a contributing writer for Liberal Slant
> 2002-2001-2000-1999-1998
> LIBERAL SLANT Web Publications.
> All rights reserved.
> Send this article to a friend.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

My boss, Jan Masaoka, has been named The NonProfit Times' "NPT Executive of the Year" (NonProfit Times is a national publication on nonprofit management).

Here's a link to the article on their web site - it's got a bit of good information about CompassPoint and Jan: NPT Executive of the Year

Monday, December 02, 2002

Here's an interesting development: We almost bought a house this weekend. Sure, you know we've been sort of looking a bit here and there, and that lately there'd been a few interesting possibilities.

But most of those were not realistic possibilities. They were major fixer-upers, which is a polite way to say "tear downs." The houses we'd looked at previously tended to have listings that read, "Contractor's dream," or, "The land alone is worth double." This one had none of that. It could use a little work, according to the inspection report, but it's quite livable as is. Even more amazing is that we could afford it.

I don't know what that says about either our rising personal economic status, or the general community's falling economic status, but we went so far as to get pre-qualified for the purchase - without any problems or warnings.

In the end, we've decided to pass on this one for now. We were going to buy it only because it's the first decent property that we could afford, not because we like the damn thing. Being idealistic dreamers, we want to like the house we buy as well as have it be practical.

The hope is that there'll be more listed after the new year, or in early spring. A lot of folks hold back their listings (we're told) during the holiday season, so this is not too unrealistic. That also keeps us from trying to make a decision on a house during this time of year that is stressful enough without spending hundreds of thousands of borrowed dollars.

Meanwhile, it's just bizarre that I'm walking around with a piece of paper that says I'm "pre-qualified" to have some idiot lend me that kind of money. But I'll get over it.

Back to work this morning, and I've got my annual review at 10:00 AM. It's probably best that I didn't put an offer on the house until I know whether I'm getting a raise, or being put on probation.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

The in-laws head home this morning, which is great. We had a nice visit, but now we get the weekend to ourselves to relax. Talk about things to be thankful for.

As well as it's the last day of November, and the first day of Hanukkah. This year is racing to a close and, over all, I've got to say it was a pretty good one. But there'll be time for looking back on it after we survive December.

How about breaking up the blog here with a joke?

A man goes to the proctologist's office and says, "Doctor, I've got strawberries growing in my ass."

The doctor says, "I've got some cream for that."

Have a great weekend.

Friday, November 29, 2002

I certainly hope that you all had a happy Thanksgiving, and found reasons to be thankful. They do exist, you know. Reasons, that is.

For our little gathering the primary reason was that it was the first time in at least seven or eight years that Leslie's sister came to sit at a holiday table with their parents. I think everyone was a little nervous about it at first, hoping that it wouldn't be too awkward. But once the evening started, it was as natural as if there had never been any problems.

These are difficult times, and there are also certainly reasons for stress and worry about the political situations at home and abroad. While we Americans were stuffing ourselves with turkey (etc.), there were multiple terrorist attacks against Israelis - a hotel bomb in Kenya (at an Israeli owned resort), an attempt at shooting down an airliner, and shootings at a bus station and a polling place.

It's hard to find something to be thankful for in all of that. Sure, I'm certain that some will say, "I'm thankful that the attacks weren't against us," but that's wrong for a number of reasons. In the general sense, we are all part of humanity, and violence anywhere hurts us all. In the specific sense, if you think the timing of these attacks on the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving is a coincidence, you're very naive. The victims may have been Israeli, but the target included us.

And still, somehow, it was a beautiful day, and today will be another. Somehow the sun rose this morning, and I'm looking forward to a walk in the woods after breakfast. Then, we may all go up to Oakland to see one of Leslie's cousins, and play with their new baby. I'm willing to bet that by the end of it all, we may be thankful for this day as well.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Did you know that if it's your 80th birthday, the President will send you a personal greeting, but not if it's your 79th birthday? How about a nice note from W on your 50th wedding anniversary? Just don't expect him to notice if it's only your 49th.

Birthday, anniversary, and Bar Mitzvah greetings must be requested at least six weeks before the event to be commemorated. Birth and wedding greetings, however, may only be requested after the event. I guess the White House was tired of being burned by people requesting greetings and then not getting married, or having a still-born child. (All recognized babies must be born during the Bush administration - no sneaking in any two-year-old Clinton legacies.)

And, (need I mention it?) only U.S. citizens will be greeted. Everybody else gets the boot.

Send your written requests to:
The White House
Attn: Greetings Office
Washington, D.C. 20502-0039

Click for more rules and regulations from the official White House Greetings Office

Monday, November 25, 2002

I realize I didn't manage to post here very much last week, and I apologize for neglecting you, dear reader. It's getting to be that busy time of year, with many demands on what feels like a shrinking supply of time.

Each day I've gone to work thinking, this will be likely be a slow day, and I'll be able to catch-up on a a few things, and each day I've been swamped with more than can be done in eight hours or so. And, of course, this week, I'll only have three days in which to do the over 40 hours worth of work.

We did manage to get out and do a few fun things over the weekend. Saturday we went to the auto show. You may recall my review from last year's auto show. At that time I probably said that we were thinking of replacing Leslie's car. Not much has changed since then. We're still thinking about it. Meanwhile, the car has lasted another year, and will probably survive another if we continue to stall (no pun intended).

As far as big purchases go, the car may be delayed if we get any more serious about buying a house. We saw another over the weekend, and it actually has some promise. At least, more so than the haunted one with the mummified gopher in the basement that we saw last week. It's still a big scary decision, however. And expensive. Better we should stay put and get a new car.

Movies: We saw "Punch Drunk Love" - Adam Sandler's dramatic debut that's been the subject of many mixed reviews. We loved it, but then, we're a little weird. Definitely not mainstream stuff for your typical Adam Sandler fan. But, if you loved "Magnolia," you'll really like this.

Finally, of course, another thing that's been taking up my time is writing. I'm still working on that NaNoWriMo story, although I haven't been updating my word count so much. Not much point to it since I'm not really shooting for 50,000 before next week. But it has been a good motivator in getting me to put down this particular story.

And now, back where we started, it's off to work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

My friend, Nan, sent me the following link:

Nude Peace
click image for full size & article

West Marin (north of San Francisco) women strip for peace. It's actually a wonderful, attention grabbing way to bring attention to the peace movement, and I support them completely.

However... I do need to point out one little problem. According to the organizers, one of their goals was to "show solidarity with the people of Iraq." Maybe I've been getting the wrong image of people in Iraq, but it seems that they're a bit less comfortable with public nudity than we Californians are. Can you show solidarity with a people through an act that's likely to offend them?

Again, I'm all for peace, I'm all for free speech, I'm all for protest, and I'm all for nude women on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. But I still found this kind of funny.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

This weekend I made it past 15,000 words in my NaNoWriMo novel. That brings the completed work just past the mid-way point in my outline. Yeah, I know - That means I'm heading for a 30,000 word novella, but that's okay with me.

Most of what I'm writing now is dialogue and key action - I've got to go back in December and January to flesh out a lot of the descriptive passages and fill in a few rough spots, plot-wise -- It will hit 50,000 words or above ... eventually.

When I started this NaNoWriMo madness I decided that I'd rather have a good and complete 30,000 story that could be turned into a novel, than 50,000 words of garbage. Of course, if I had the time to write 50,000 words in a month, I'd like to, but I'm just happy to be making it this far, and still have a job.

An interesting theme that has come up on the NaNoWriMo discussion boards is dead animals. It started with one woman's discovery of a dead squirrel, and has continued with other posters.

Well, yesterday, Leslie and I were looking at this house up in the Santa Cruz mountains - a real "fixer upper" (more like, light a match and run) - and in the doorway to the basement was a mummified gopher.

Not a freshly dead gopher, but a dried out, well-preserved, long dead gopher - One that the various wild and domestic dogs and cats of the hills failed to eat. Not even any insects came to claim it.

While Leslie considered whether or not it was a sign about whether or not we should purchase the house, I realized it was a sign that I needed to be home, NaNoWriMo-ing.

Now, how to work the mummified gopher into my story...

Saturday, November 16, 2002

This morning I'm going to share items from my mailbox. These each came yesterday, and are examples of the kind of thing you get when you add a feedback form to your site. Here they are in all their un-edited, non-spellchecked glory.

First, a reaction to an article I wrote a while back called Spontaneous Human Combustion Explained!:
You had all them theories about what SHC could of been, such as aliens etc. Well what about time travel? I know this sounds stupid but think in 50-60 years time scientists or home workers could of produced time travel! If this was possible and some person or people went back to the time of a older ladys younger days and accidently killed her that would mean she would never of excisted! So wot could happen is the body of the older lady could just Implode and set a fire from inside causing everything to burn around her and the intense heat to melt plastic objects around! Well that is only my theory I know it sounds a bit stupid but we will never no. Like I said its just a theory!! Thank You for your time in reading this and i would be very thankful if you could reply to me about what you think about my theory!!

And now, an Elvis fan speaks out on a little tongue-in-cheek thing I did called The Elvis F.A.Q. :
In response to question 11 about his birth certificate, the reason that elvis only had one A in his middle name is because he had a twin brother, named Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborne. Because of that, Elvis's middle name was ARON, in commemoration to his brother. Elvis later adopted his middle name as Aaron with two A's because he wanted to be more Biblical. Either that, or the reason that there are two A's on his gravestone is because he was really superstitious and... being still alive, wouldn't want his complete real name on his fake grave... bad charma, ya know

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Quick review here... I realize I never got around to telling about the Tom Petty concert a week or so ago. Well, it was excellent, of course. Since then, I picked up the new CD, "The Last DJ," which included a bonus DVD, and that, too, is highly recommended.

TP just keeps getting better, as far as I'm concerned. There were a few years, back a ways, where they were just turning out pop music that was fun, but not as exciting as the early stuff, and not as important or lasting as what they're doing now. That period is long over.

The TP of today is a thoughtful, mature, artist - who can still rock the house. Some of the songs on the current CD are among his best ever. Thematically, he's returned to one of his best topics; biting the hand that feeds him.

Much of the album is about the current, sad state of the music industry, and the mediocrity that we've all come to accept. While the songs are about artists selling out, the themes apply to much more of what's going on in our society than just the music.

The DVD which came with the CD includes performances of most of the songs on the album, shot in the recording studio, cut together with an interview of TP talking about the project, and the above stated themes. He also lamented how the business uses people up so quickly, and that new artists don't get the nurturing, tutoring, and chances that he was given starting out 26 years ago.

TP's commentary on artists selling out also carried over into the concert. In these days of "Bank of American presents the Rolling Stones" (or Budweiser, etc.), this show was conspicuously without corporate backing. In case anybody missed that, from the stage TP announced, "This show is sponsored by You!"

The Heartbreakers live on! Tom Petty is the last great, honest rock star standing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Just a reminder, that this month posting here is spotty because I'm taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). An online event in which thousands of fools (myself included) attempt to write a novel in a month.

Yesterday, my word count passed the 10,000 mark. That's pretty good, and my story is progressing the way I want it to, but it's a little behind pace to hit the 50,000 word "official" target by November 31. I'm not so worried about the 50,000 figure, however, and just want to get the story fully crafted and drafted. I'll worry about adding a few layers of flesh in December and January.

Follow my progress on the NaNoWriMoe web site.

Monday, November 11, 2002

This weekend I went shopping for new pants. For the first time ever I needed to buy slacks that were smaller than what I have in my dresser.

Since losing the 25 pounds I've been walking around everyday with constant habit of pulling my pants up and re-tucking my shirt - not a pleasant sight. At work I look like a hip-hop-yuppie. When the kids wear their pants down low enough to show off their boxer shorts, they're not wearing Dockers.

There's probably some of you saying, "Ah, quit your bragging." You're just jealous. Nyah, nyah, nyah. I feel good, and you're just going to have to deal with it.

Speaking of feeling good, my cholesterol is also lower than it's ever been since I first had it tested year and years ago: 164. Not perfect, but far from questionable, health-wise. I just may be healthier now than I've been in a decade. So why the hell am I so tired?

Friday, November 08, 2002

When I posted on Wednesday morning I made a rude remark about the Republican sweep of the Congressional races on Tuesday. In California, however, the Democrats made clean sweep of the statewide offices. (Although, one race may still be challenged to a recount, as the tally shows a margin of less than 1/2 of 1%).

The positive side of Tuesday's Congressional sweep is that some of the Democratic leadership responsible is stepping aside. Better yet, it looks like the replacement team may be a return to "real" Democrats.

Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, is poised to be the new Minority Leader in Congress, now that her chief "moderate" rival, Martin Frost of Texas, has stepped aside.

Frost still maintains that his policy of going along with the President and the "mainstream" is what will return the Democrats to power. It's fairly obvious, however, that this strategy has finally proven itself fatal. Having failed to offer any alternative to the Republicans, the Democrats have now also failed to defeat the Republicans.

Personally, I hope that Pelosi's impending victory (she was one of the few, and certainly the highest ranking, representatives to oppose the Iraq resolution) is a sign that the Democrats may, once again, actually stand for something. Maybe, just maybe, they'll even turn back into a party I can support.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

"When a Republican runs against a Republican, the Republican will win every time" - Harry S. Truman

And that's all I have to say about that. At this time.


Hey! I'm famous! (Sort of). There's an interview with me posted on Writers Manual (.com). The interview is actually a few months old, but it's jut now been published. Take a look, it was a fun interview.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Governor Jesse Ventura has named his key adviser Dean Barkley as interim senator Monday, leaving the U.S. Senate split 49-49 with two independents. This goes against his previous statement that he'd replace Senator Wellstone (a Democrat) with another Democrat.

Why did he change his mind? Could it be because the two major parties f***ed up again? In making his announcement, Ventura indicated he was angry that the Independence Party's Senate candidate, Jim Moore, was excluded from Monday's Senatorial candidate debate. You would think that, at least in Minnesota, they'd learned their lesson by now.

In Ventura's statement, he said, "Today, three very powerful institutions, the Republican Party, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-Party, and the Minnesota media are conspiring to limit the hard-earned rights of ordinary citizens."

Of course, members of those three groups immediately pounced on Ventura for being paranoid, mean-spirited, and a spoil-sport, but I have to agree with him, and honor his choice for the interim Senator.

Today, of course, is election day, and I want you all to go out and vote, no matter how nauseous it makes you. In fact, I think a little up-chuck on the ballot would make just the right statement.

This has been one of the most difficult elections ever for me to get excited about. I didn't even finish reading all the voter's guides and marking up my sample ballot until about 9:30 PM last night. But vote, I will. And then I'll drink.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Yesterday certainly began well enough, with a notice on our door from the property manager. That's usually not good news, and we pulled the paper from the door with a bit of trepidation. It was only the second, so rent was not late. There's no garbage piled up outside our door that needs to be cleaned away. We haven't had any parties or done anything else to disturb the neighbors. All that was left in our concept of possibilities was a rent hike.

Reading the notice, and seeing that the figure under "new rent" was actually 6% less than what we're currently paying, we were naturally confused. Was there a typo? Were the numbers transposed somehow? Was this some sort of cruel joke? I chase the property manager down and demanded an explanation.

Our rent has actually been cut, she explained. The owners wanted to make sure that their good, long-term tenants remained happy. Imagine my surprise at a business person looking at the long-term and recognizing the importance of their customers, rather than looking at the short-term and only seeing their wallets. I nearly kissed her, but Leslie was watching.

Later in the day we saw other tenants walking around with the notices in their hands and dazed looks on their faces. "Did you get one of these?" being cautiously asked. "Is it for real?" An early holiday gift, and a great start to the month.

This is, of course, National Novel Writing Month or "NaNoWriMo" for short. Idiots, such as myself, sign up to begin writing our novels on November 1, and expect to complete at least 50,000 words by November 30. You can track my progress on my profile page.

Finally, yesterday we also say Michael Moore's new movie, Bowling for Columbine. This is an excellent and important film that every American should see - and before election day, if possible. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you get off your ass and do something. Yeah, right now! Shut off the computer and go see it!

Saturday, November 02, 2002

San Francisco Anti-War Protest

This is a picture taken last weekend at the San Francisco anti-war protest by a friend of mine. (Yes, she gave me permission to distribute it, saying that she wanted as many people as possible to see it).

The text around the black-and-white photo in the lower right asks, "Are you willing to kill her to get Saddam?"

Thursday, October 31, 2002

My traditional Halloween joke (must be told every year):

Q: Why couldn't the witch have a baby?

A: Because the ghost had a hollow-weenie.

And now, for your card:

Sorry, there's not much time to post anything else - It's been another insanely busy week at work. We did get out last night to see Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers along with Jackson Browne at Shoreline Amphitheater. Fantastic show, but you'll have to wait another day or two before I'll have time to post a review. Gotta run...

Monday, October 28, 2002

There is no joy in Mudville today. Or in the San Francisco Bay Area. So close... We were so damn close... Two-thirds of the way into game six we still had it. The title was not just within our reach, but was pretty much ours. It had our name on it.

And then those SOBs from Southern California rallied, may they rot in hell.

But am I upset about a silly little baseball game? Of course not. It's just the World Series, that's all. What's to get upset about? It's an honor just to be nominated, right?

Between the humiliating loss last night, and the usual grumpiness people feel after changing the clocks, there's going to be some dangerous drivers on the freeways around the Bay this morning.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

An important announcement in Sunday morning's news: Students Asked to Test-Run Condoms.

"The condom testers will be asked to give a pleasure rating. They will not be asked to test quality -- that has already been done," according to marketing manager Victoria Wells.


Saturday, October 26, 2002

Well, it took long enough (six-and-a-half months), but has finally posted the cover graphic for my book, Aaron's Intifada and Other Short Stories.

At this point, my sales rank has dropped down to 1.5 million. I wonder if having the cover art posted will help raise that any? Anyway, check out the new, improved listing - with cover art!

Meanwhile, my folks arrive for a visit in a couple of hours, so I've got to go vacuum and scrub a toilet or two...

Friday, October 25, 2002

Sen. Paul Wellstone, seven others killed in Minnesota plane crash

One the last real progressives and Democrats worth a damn died today in a plane crash, along with his wife and daughter. This is truly a loss for America, and for progressive issues.

Of course, coming as it did less than two weeks before an election day in which he faced stiff competition, this will create no end to political speculation and "what if" scenarios. I don't care to get into that right now.

At this time, let's just take a moment to remember one of the few politicians who understood the meaning of public service.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

From "NextDraft" - an excellent newsletter I subscribe to, and highly recommend (follow the link for details):

Pentagon Papers 2?
Daniel Ellsberg is the former Pentagon official who leaked a report that was later named the Pentagon Papers and was part of a chain of events that helped to bring an end to the Vietnam War. Ellsberg sees many connections between the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the one just passed by Congress. He also thinks the public is being misled when it comes to the real reason for a potential war in Iraq: "It's not about stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, like the administration claims -- Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld know better than that. The real reason is right there, like the purloined letter, though saying it stamps you as some kind of vulgar radical or cynic. Oil."

The full article from the SF Chronicle

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Here's something I've been writing for work. It's not final or approved yet, so don't take it as an official CompassPoint statement. The final version will probably be about 400 words, compared to the current 623, so it will change considerably before it's published. I just thought some of you might find the full-length, un-edited version interesting. It may give you a bit of an insight into the kinds of things I'm thinking about during the day.

“I don’t think any foundation should exist in perpetuity,” said Richard Goldman, of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, one of the Bay Area’s largest foundations, in a recent San Francisco Chronicle article. Goldman is one of a handful of philanthropists leading the movement towards “giving while living.”

Foundations and other endowed nonprofits are required by law to distribute a minimum of five percent of their assets each year. Most have kept their payouts at that level, thereby maintaining their endowments for future generations. This practice, however, has been called into question this year in reports published in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the McKinsey Quarterly. As the McKinsey article points out, “The minimum has become the maximum.”

In the New York Times, former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley wrote that foundations “should be judged by their achievements, not by their endowments.” Bradley went on to say that more could be done for the 13 million US children who live in poverty, or the nearly 41 million who have no health insurance, if foundations spent “more of their money now instead of saving for the future.” Bradley concluded that to not spend more now “suggests that for some, the endowment has become an end in itself.”

Not only does it make social sense to spend more than five percent of endowments now; it makes economic sense as well, according to several of the articles. Using the economics concept of the “time value of money,” Bradley and others show that foundations could be more effective by having a higher payout rate.

Would you rather have $100 today or a year from now? Most people would rather have it now, discounting the future value of the $100. In business it is recognized that future returns are to be discounted, or treated as less valuable than money earned this period. Similarly, by sticking to a strict five percent payout rate, a foundation may make $6 million dollars in grants over 50 years from an initial $1 million endowment, but the present value of those grants would only be $600,000.

During the 1990s, when foundation assets were growing, with grants growing along with them, the subject of increasing payout rates was rarely raised. In today’s economic climate, with government funding cuts and fewer individual donor dollars, coupled with rising unemployment and requests for the services that nonprofits offer, we need foundation grants more than ever. Foundation grant budgets, however, are being cut - despite the fact that their endowments are still huge. As the S.F. Chronicle pointed out, “Bay Area foundations are becoming stingier just when their money is needed most.”

There is no question that nonprofits are hurting, locally and nationally. At CompassPoint we hear it from our clients every day. Many organizations that we know are on the brink of bankruptcy. Some have already ceased operation. Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, has put out a challenge for large foundations to step forward, saying, “...the ones with significant assets. They are in a position to rescue nonprofits.”

Philanthropists like Richard Goldman are already ahead of the call. The Goldman Fund gives out a minimum of ten percent of their assets annually. Goldman has also ordered the foundation to spend all their money and cease operations within ten years of his death. Others ahead of the curve include the Atlantic Philanthropies’ founding chairman Charles Feeney, and George Soros, chairman of the Open Society and other efforts.

While we recognize that many foundations are bound by bylaws that strap them to the federally determined five percent payout rate, we applaud Goldman, Soros, Feeney, and the others for leading the trend towards “giving while living,” and encourage others to follow in their path.

Now, like I said at the beginning, this is my personal draft - It is as yet unapproved as an "official CompassPoint statement." If you have an argument with it, speak to me, not my boss. Until further notice, my opinion only. (Think I put in enough disclaimers?)

Monday, October 21, 2002

"Sometime in your life you will go on a journey. It will be the longest journey you have ever taken. It is the journey to find yourself."
- Katherine Sharp

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Here's a newsletter I just sent out to visitors of my "13th Story" web site - If you haven't visited the site before, this will serve as an introduction:

Dear Reader and Supporter of The 13th Story,

The latest feature added to The 13th Story web site is an independent fiction marketplace. We already have book listings in many categories, including: Mystery, Science Fiction, Historical, Short Stories, and, of course, Mainstream/Literary.

These are titles you may not find out about in any other forum, by some of the newest and most exciting authors working today. You can start your search for your next book at

You'll also still find the "Short Fiction Randomizer" - Each click on the randomizer brings you to a different short story written by one of our excellent authors.

Please stop by the site and take a look at what we're doing today. As always, the site is transforming, with new features on the way.

Thanks for your support, and keep on reading!

Ken Goldstein
Editor, The 13th Story - "Fiction for fiction's sake"

So, that gives you an idea of one of the things I've been working on lately, on the days that I'm not posting here.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

It must be an election year because I just got an unexpected check from the state of California. Yes, even though it's been over a year since I was unemployed and receiving benefits (which I only did for a few weeks), yesterday's mail brought a nice healthy check from the Employment Development Department.

I knew they had voted to raise the maximum benefit amounts, but apparently they also decided to make it retroactive. And what a coincidence that the checks went out three weeks before a statewide election!

Unfortunately for Gray Davis, this check was not enough to buy my vote. I'll still be voting Green, and making my mark next to Peter Miguel Camejo's name.

The gubernatorial election has been so dirty and so off-putting, that I've actually been avoiding anything to do with this election at all. I've not read the propositions, or looked at any of the other issues that will be on the ballot, all because the choice at the top makes me so nauseous.

That I feel this way is not surprising. You all know that I've been fed up with the two major parties for some time now. What is surprising, and I think I may have said this here before as well, is that everybody else feels the same as I do. When I say I'm voting Green, people give me honestly positive reactions instead of the usual, "You idiot, you're throwing away your vote!"

Now, three weeks from the election, there's even rumors that each of the top candidates will pull out of the race and be replaced by write-in campaigns. It being California, the write-ins being proposed are not your typical politicians. It's Arnold Schwartzeneger for the Republicans and Rob Reiner for the Democrats.

Times have changed. It used to be that James Garner was the actor being courted by the Democrats to be the anti-Reagan. That was something I would have loved to have seen, but I guess old Jim's day has been and gone. It's the Meathead's turn now. (Off topic note: the spell check in MS Outlook accepts "Meathead.")

Reiner has been involved in several statewide issues campaigns, most notably Proposition 10, the tobacco tax initiative that passed a few years ago. The prop 10 money has been a great boost to education and children's health issues, and has actually earned Reiner a place at the progressive table. But I don't really think that qualifies him for governor yet (and that goes the same for Arnold).

Unfortunately, I have no faith in the abilities of our celebrity candidates to anything more than further polarize voters. Arnold and Rob are great citizen advocates, and I hope they each continue in those endeavors, but I won't be writing in either one on my ballot. I'll simply be putting on my surgical mask to block out the stench of this election, carefully entering the voting booth, marking my ballot for Camejo, and getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

"The need to find meaning... is as real as the need for trust and for love, for relations with other human beings."
- Margaret Mead

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The Ghost of Hiram Plink
by Ken Goldstein

"Boil the breakfast early, Ma. Me and Seamas is goin' fishin'!" Hiram read that opening line, looked up over the manuscript page and gave me a sly grin, then went back to the draft before him.

I am the ghost of Hiram Plink. That is to say, I am his ghostwriter; he has hired me to write his "autobiography." But Hiram likes to refer to me as his ghost.

The process to this point had taken nearly a year; a little longer than usual. We started with months of interviews, just the two of us, meeting over coffee or a light meal, avoiding the formal setting of my office, only the tape recorder on the table to point out the nature of our relationship. When I am hired to write somebody's autobiography they are inviting me into their life. It is a bold step, and my first job is to make them comfortable enough to open up.

Writing somebody else's book for them requires you to adopt their attitudes, their style, and their voice. Hiram's reaction to the opening showed that I did my job well. Over the next two hours I sat and watched him read. Smiling, nodding, and giving me signs that it is the book he would have written himself. During that time I recalled our year together.

On projects such as this I will often write the memoir from just a few interviews with the subject. There have been occasions when this has transpired entirely with phone calls, the "author" of the book and I never meeting face-to-face. Hiram, however, wanted to hold nothing back. Early on in our relationship he invited me to his home to meet his wife.

Florence Plink doted on her husband in a truly loving way, and accepted his assessment of other people; if he said somebody was friend, that would be good enough for her. When I entered the house and Hiram introduced me as his ghost, she embraced me like a long lost brother, welcoming me into their home and their lives.

Before long I'd met each of their four children, their spouses, and the grandchildren, and all took me aside to tell me stories that "just had to be in the book." They made me part of the family and included me birthdays and holiday celebrations. All took their lead from the patriarch of the family, Hiram, with even the seven-year-old grandson introducing me to a stranger as "my grandpa's ghost."

With other ghostwriting assignments, I've always had a clear client-author relationship. With Hiram it became more of a partnership, but it still took him five months to introduce me to a key character in the later part of the book; his doctor. Hiram was being treated for lung cancer. Or rather, cared for, but not treated; his cancer was inoperable and what care he received was only to make his final months more comfortable.

Hiram had known this fact from before he'd hired me, yet I'd had no idea he was dying. From the constant laughter in the family house and the positive attitudes of everybody I'd met, I had to wonder if I was the first to find out about Hiram's diagnosis. When the doctor explained the path of the treatment to me I looked over to Hiram, shocked and mute. He must have understood what I was thinking because he replied, "Yes, they all know."

In the best of assignments, I am invited into my subjects' life. In agreeing to write Hiram Plink's autobiography I was invited into his death. This was not a part of the story I was used to writing, and was at a loss as to how to accomplish this.

I attempted to incorporate his acceptance of his fate into the final several chapters. Writing in Hiram's voice I gave his thanks for seventy wonderful years, full of love, and luck, and all that could be desired. In Hiram's own words I closed the book by saying that to ask for any more would be purely conceit, then went on to tell how much he loved his family and would miss them.

Then, sitting, watching him read that section, I saw the first signs of disapproval in the long time he'd been reading the draft. He tried, without success, to sit himself up in the hospital bed, an impossible task with all the hoses and wires and needles attached to various parts of his once strong, now virtually disintegrating body.

"Did I tell you to end the book with that maudlin crap?" Hiram demanded of me. "Have you learned nothing? This book is to be a celebration of life. Yes, you've got to mention the cancer, but it's not take up fully one-third of the book. You're not done with this project yet, young man. Not by a long shot."

I didn't know what to say. Each day, the doctors expected would be his last. "How do you want me to wrap it up, then?"

"You'll know when the time comes. You'll write it without me, after I'm gone."

"But, Hiram," I said. "The job of a ghostwriter is to work with the subject. I can't do this on my own. We need to finish it together."

"Have you paid attention at all to my story? Forget the rules, this is our book, and I trust you to go on without me. I need you to go on without me. I've finished my part; it's time for you to do yours." With that he settled back into his pillows, exhausted. Florence stepped forward and pulled his blanket up to tuck him in, then she led me out of the room to allow him some rest.

When I returned to the hospital the next morning Hiram was gone. His youngest son was still there packing up his personal items. He took me in his arms and told that Hiram had passed a little after midnight. We then rode together to the funeral home where the rest of the family was busy making arrangements for the memorial.

For several weeks after that I walked around the city in a daze, ignoring calls from our publisher asking where the final draft was; ignoring the calls from Florence asking how I was doing. I couldn't write anything, not even a note to my agent to say that I was giving up writing. I thought about my career: seventeen books, and not one of them with my own name on the cover. I'd always been a ghost, never able to create anything on my own. None of the great novels I'd envisioned in my head ever making it to paper.

Then, one Sunday, I turned on the TV and saw an old interview with Hiram being replayed on "60 Minutes." A young Hiram sat with Mike Wallace telling him that the secret to his success was being too damn stupid to realize that failure was an option. It's not that he was any more brilliant than anybody else; it's only that he got out there and tried.

I turned off the television and fired up my computer for the first time printing out the draft that I'd taken with me to the hospital the night Hiram died. I opened a new document and started typing; "I am the ghost of Hiram Plink."

(© copyright 2002, K.R. Goldstein, as is everything original I post here)

Monday, October 14, 2002

Now isn't it interesting that shortly after posting about that "novel-in-a-month" insanity that I disappear for several days without having anything to say? I sign of writer's block to come, or just legitimately busy? Perhaps a little bit of each.

Or, maybe, just spending some time with my wife, who had a really bad week last week? Hoping to make her weekend just a little bit better, not dividing my attention between her and any writing projects? That sounds noble. I'll stick with that story.

Among the people we saw over the weekend were my brother, who is now once again employed. He took us to a nice dinner (and drinks) to celebrate his first paycheck and thank us for our support during his difficult last year.

We also got a surprise call yesterday afternoon from a friend who we thought had disappeared into love-land. Her new boyfriend, who we each thought was a potentially dangerous control freak, had such a hold on her attention that she'd apparently given up on the need for outside friendship (he also convinced her to give up working and her college courses and just stay home to cook and clean for him). Until, that is, she called yesterday at 2:00 PM.

What we've missed, while he's been hiding her from us, is that he's attempted to have her committed, but is also trying to get her pregnant, but has yet to broach the subject of marriage. This is just a sampling of what's been going on in her life. The impression that Leslie and I had of this guy as a potentially dangerous control freak now seems to be both prophetic, and only the tip of the iceberg.

We, of course, encouraged her to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, and that she's not the crazy one in the relationship. It also made us realize that whatever problems we were complaining about last week were absolutely nothing in comparison, leaving us ready, once again, to face a new week upon rising this morning.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Now here's a new market I'm not sure I want to submit my writing to:

Toilet Paper Novels Hit Stalls. Yes, now you can read your favorite authors, poets, and philosophers while on the pot, even if you forgot to bring your book with you.

"We want our books to be used. That's our philosophy," said the German publisher, noting that about half the population likes to read while on the john. Well, you can't argue with that, it's just a matter of what the books will be used for that disturbs me.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

I have very foolishly signed up for NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writers Month. Participants attempt to write a complete novel between November 1 and November 30. No cheating and starting in October (other than a few notes or a brief outline).

Why, if I have not completed a novel in 41 years, do I think I can write one in a month? Well, surely I have. In my head at least. I've written dozens of novels while driving along the 280 corridor running between San Francisco and San Jose. All I've done here is committed myself to capturing one on paper. How hard can it be? You all know about all the writing I have completed - this is just increasing the scale a little bit.

I signed up while at CompassPoint's SF office yesterday morning. By the time I returned to my San Jose office later in the afternoon, I had the outline of my novel-in-a-month in my head. This just might work - if I can only remember it all on November 1st when I'm allowed to start typing.

National Novel Writing Month Participant

Monday, October 07, 2002

So I stayed away from the blog for a couple of days worrying about this: Some guy on the BookTV channel was talking about the use of old journals and such for writing history. This is also a technique used quite a bit in documentary films. Since Ken Burns did his acclaimed Civil War series, any documentary worth watching has had actors reading from old diaries and letters over the photographs of the period being studied.

The historian/professor on BookTV was saying that appearances aside, that didn't mean that most people in the nineteenth century kept journals. Quite the opposite, actually. But when they did keep journals was during a time of change or crisis, and only for brief periods. The Civil War was one such experience that led many people to keep journals, the westward movement of the pioneers was another. He pointed out the common root of the words journal and journey; that this is not a coincidence.

Journals of these epochs abound, but that doesn't mean that everyday life in nineteenth century America was at that level of intensity on a daily basis. Only the days that anybody bothered to record. The average person could not just take a few snapshots to remember seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, they couldn't phone Mom and tell her about the battle of Bull Run, they could only sit at night by the light of a kerosene lamp and write about it in their journal to share with their loved ones much, much later.

Of course, what I got out of that (in addition to the above) was just how self-obsessed those of us with blogs must truly be (myself included). That we choose not only to record the events of the most mundane days (how many of my posts are along the lines of, "I'm really tired - long day at work"?), but we then post it to the web to share with the world. Even more amazing is that there are people who actually visit this site on a regular basis to see what I'm up to. And so I didn't post anything over the weekend.

Let me just tell you; I didn't make any overland journeys by wagon train, and I didn't battle to save the Union. But it was hotter than Hell here in San Jose. It had started to cool off a few weeks back, but now, getting towards the middle of October, we're looking at 90 degrees again tomorrow. I believe that this is as mundane a post as I can muster. But who knows? One hundred years from now that weather report may hold the key to understanding life in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century. But I doubt it.

Friday, October 04, 2002

A couple of personal landmarks have passed in the last 24 hours. First, I have celebrated my one-year anniversary and started my second year of employment with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. I guess that means I passed probation. It's been an interesting year, with lots of challenges and changes, but I'm still excited about it and enjoying my time there.

The other landmark is having lost 12% of my body mass. My diet is officially a success, as I've gone from 205 to 180 pounds in the last two months. I'm now height-weight appropriate and am entering the maintenance phase of my new way of eating. The temptation is to celebrate with a two-pound steak smothered in onion rings accompanied by French fries and garlic bread and washed down with a couple of pints of Guinness' Stout. I shall try, however, to restrain myself.

Meanwhile, check out the look for The 13th Story. I'm in the midst of re-working it as a marketplace for self-published and POD fiction.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

I spent the last two days in a Santa Clara courtroom, going through jury selection. No, I wasn't busted for anything - I was called to jury duty and was nearly nabbed for a six-week journey into Hell.

Tuesday morning I didn't even make it into the courtroom; we were held in the waiting room downstairs while hardship cases were being heard. Jury selection started at 1:30, which was when we found out the case and that it would be six or seven weeks before it was over. This news, of course, started another round of people asking for hardship excuses.

Over the next day-and-a-half, the initial group of over 125 potential jurors was whittled down to about 35 in the search for twelve jurors and four alternates. We all sat patiently as names were called up to the box, questioned by the judge and lawyers, then went through several rounds of challenges when the lawyers would veto the jurors they didn't like. After the challenges, new names would be called to fill those seats, and the process would repeat itself.

By about 4:00 PM on Wednesday the twelve seats in the jury box were full, and there were enough people up in the hot seats to fill the alternate positions, even if each lawyer used all their available challenges. I breathed a sigh of relief that I would be set free shortly. Then it got surreal...

One of the seated jurors had a panic attack and had to be quickly excused and led out of the courtroom. Two of the potential alternates had spontaneous nosebleeds and the row filled up with bloody tissues. More names would have to be called. At 4:20 I was asked to fill the final open seat.

After answering the questions from the judge and attorneys it was challenge time. If each attorney used all the challenges they were allowed, I'd be moved up into an alternate position. Thankfully, the prosecution passed on his last two vetoes. I would not be needed. At 4:35 I was thanked and excused and left with those who had spent two days waiting in silence.

On the way out of the courtroom several of them congratulated me on my narrow escape. Feeling lucky, I bought a Lotto ticket on the way home - the Jackpot was up to $57 million. I just checked; I did not win the Lotto. But I am glad to be able to return to work today.

Here's the details of the case:

The case was the People vs. Steven Allan Ristau. Ristau is charged with six counts of securities fraud and two counts of filing false state income tax returns and one count of state income tax evasion, all worth up to 18 years in prison and $10 million in fines.

Ristau supposedly bilked more than 700 investors out of more than $3.7 million by selling unregistered securities based on technology that did not exist. That this is a crime was apparently not known in 1999 and early 2000 when the activities allegedly occurred in this case, and all over Silicon Valley.

Ristau's company,, was supposed to have developed a new wireless technology for broadcasting movies wirelessly over the Internet. During demonstrations he claimed that the company's set top box was receiving a digital movie from a source located 12 miles away when the box was actually receiving a signal from a commercially available wireless LAN hidden in the ceiling a few feet away.

Read more about the charges in the San Jose Business Journal.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Today is the launching of a new e-zine site called BookBanter. The premiere issue just happens to include a short story of mine called "What's in a Name?"

Please take a look at BookBanter - not just for my story, but for all the great writing!

Monday, September 30, 2002

"With an economic rebound nowhere in sight, some veterans of the dot-com bubble are abandoning the Bay Area for places as far afield as Haiti, Honduras and Ghana. ... Their road to the Next Big Thing is the same one taken by a previous generation of idealistic young Americans: the Peace Corps."

"Peace Corps recruiters nationwide have noticed a jump in applications since President Bush called on Americans to volunteer in his State of the Union Address in January. But in the Bay Area inquiries began to pick up back in spring 2001, coinciding with the dot-com collapse."

The Peace Corp is also pleased to be reaching out to the former dot-comers, and has been targeting them in their outreach. They're "looking for applicants who can innovate and be flexible -- skills many dot-commers learned on the job. 'They are coming from a unique work setting, where creativity and the ability to think outside the box are at a premium, ... We need creativity to think of new solutions to age-old problems.'"

Read the whole article from the Mercury News

Saturday, September 28, 2002

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
- Hermann Goering, Hitler's second-in-command, Nuremburg trials, 1946

"When Fascism comes to America it will be called anti-Fascism."
- Attributed to Huey Long, governor of Louisiana, 1930's

Friday, September 27, 2002

New season, part two: "West Wing" continues to be the only show worth paying attention to, and "Scrubs" continues to be the only comedy to be anything close to original (well, not that close, but closer). The season premieres of these two shows did not disappoint. "Ed" came close, with a guest appearance by Danny Devito as a psychologist/grifter, but could easily get lost this season with re-treads of the Ed & Carol are they / aren't they storylines.

"Friends" - hopefully in its final season - did amuse me slightly, I'm embarrassed to admit. But this show has always been like that; a guilty little pleasure that you know is a waste of time, but can still make one laugh.

The final new show that I watched last night was "Good Morning Miami." A strong supporting cast may get me to watch this one or two more times before passing judgement, but the lead characters look like they might get very annoying and very cliche very quickly.

Look, I know that two posts in a row reviewing television shows is a total waste of time. But isn't it a slight relief from fretting about the situations in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Don't worry, I'll get back to fretting about impending doom soon enough.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Another new television season is upon us, and from what I've seen so far, go buy some new books. Last night was my first taste of several new shows (through the magic of the remote I was able to be disgusted by two or three shows at a time). Here's what I saw:

"8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter," "In-Laws," Bonnie Hunt's new show (what's it called?), "Hidden Hills," and "Frasier."

The first three of those are "new" shows, but from very old molds. I actually had hope for "8 Simple Rules" (despite its awful title) and "In-Laws" because of the casts. Even familiar, pleasant personalities couldn't save these shows from their complete lack of originality. Then there's Bonnie Hunt. Why the Hell does she have another pilot on? Hunt had made 8 pilots in the last 12 years, and all of them have bombed. Why does she still have a career?

"Hidden Hills" was not copied from an old mold. It was copied from a recent mold ("Malcolm in the Middle"). Of the new shows, this is the one with the most promise. Of course, that's not saying very much.

Finally, "Frasier" rounded out the night, with the wedding(s) of Niles and Daphne. The only truly funny moment (of the show, and the night) came towards the end with Saul Rubineck showing up as Daphne's former fiance, Donny. We can only hope that this will be the final season of "Frasier," a once great show that has gone well past its expiration date.

Actually, the funniest thing on all night was a Bud Lite commercial. Woman calls man at work and says, "Tonight let's play 'Stranger.' When one of us gets home, the other will be dressed up in a French maid's outfit, wearing a blonde wig, and carrying a six-pack of Bud Lite." (Guy's expression shows he's into it). Later, the woman, now dressed in the sexy maid's outfit and wearing the wig, picks up the six-pack and goes to answer the door. There's the man from earlier, dressed identically to the woman (and holding a sixer of Bud Lite), "Oh, you meant you were going to dress up..." She slams the door in his face. The neighbor down the hall opens his door, looks over at the guy in the French maid's outfit and says, "Well, hi there, stranger!"

Tonight I'll be watching the season premieres of "Ed" and "West Wing" (as well as the finale of "Big Brother"). Let's just hope that these two shows still have the power to entertain that they did last year.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

After my "no hope" posting of a few days ago, I'm pleased to share the following article with you:

Palestinian girl gets life-saving kidney from Jewish victim of suicide bombing

"On Friday, a Jewish student from Scotland died of the injuries he received when he was
the victim of a suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv bus. On Monday, his kidney was transplanted into a Yasmin Abu Ramila, a seven-year-old Palestinian girl living in Jerusalem."
Read the article here

This touching little story is the first glimmer of hope I've seen from Israel/Palestine in a long time, and yet it was nearly invisible to the major news media. Sure, they don't want to be accused of serving fluff in the face of a serious situation, but without this human face of the people involved we don't get the full story.

Read this article, and remember that there are human beings on each side of this war.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Here's another way to sell books that I hadn't considered. Just stand on the sidewalk of a busy street holding up a half-dozen copies in your hand. Don't say anything, no shouts out "Books for sale!" No signs "Author will sign own work." Just wait for people to come up and ask what it's all about.

That's what Bert Glick was doing along Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz on Saturday when I spotted him. The low key approach worked. Walking past him one way he probably had five or six books. There wasn't time to stop, but I made a note to check out his book on my way back. Forty-five minutes later I passed again, and this time stopped to talk to him. He had one book left, which I bought for $10.

1) His poetry is quite good - and I don't normally read much poetry. You can find his books for sale on his web site:

2) I need to gather the guts to go out next weekend and do the same thing with a stack of my books. No need to make a big production about it; just stand there holding up a few books and see what happens. But how should I dress?

Sunday, September 22, 2002

It's the end of September, so why the Hell is it over 90 degrees out there today? It's quite a scorcher, so we ducked into the movie theatre to suck up some air conditioning for a couple of peak-heat hours.

We saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - It was very funny, but not as great a movie as we'd been led to believe. The best parts: Lainie Kazan and Michael Constadine as the bride's parents. If you haven't seen it yet, don't be in a rush to go (unless you need to escape the heat), but do put it on your rental list for later in the year.

Now, it's back to avoiding the news of the real world. I think I've got some fiction to write...

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The news is just too depressing to even write about. This week started for me with Yom Kippur, a day of reflection, spirituality, and a search for redemption and peace (both within and for all). Tuesday and Wednesday I took part in a local conference that addressed multicultural issues, and attempted to build bridges among the many different ethnic and racial communities within the San Jose area.

During the second day of the conference came the first of two new Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel. By weeks end, the Israeli's had retaliated by laying siege to Arafat's headquarters, and blowing it apart along with any hope for peace that may have existed a week ago. Not surprisingly, that's precisely what the suicide bombers wanted; to end the hope for any negotiated peace.

Through it all was the constant sounding of the war drum from our "leaders" in Washington (or should that be war drumb?). Like the Israeli's foolish attack on Arafat, this will only escalate tensions and terrorism, rather than calm them. The very ills that these acts of war seek to prevent, or retaliate for, will be fertilized by these actions.

Somehow, I need to get back to the space I was in during the first part of this week. But that's not enough. Unless we can all find our way there, I'm finding it hard to see any hope on this sunny morning.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Death by proxy?

I've been thinking a lot about our "leaders" rush toward a "preventive" war with Iraq - who hasn't been? I've, of course, wondered if it's just an election year stunt, I've wondered if they actually know something that they're not able to share with us that would show the need for such an attack, I've ruminated on all sorts of possibilities. But what I keep coming back to is that we're just using Saddam as a proxy for Osama.

Our army has been unable to kill the guy we really want, so we're going after the guy we think we can get to make the administration feel better. The American people are terrified of the unknown terrorist who may repeat the attacks of September 11, 2001, so we focus our anger on the known terrorist we think we can get.

Saddam, in this situation, is like the virgin being prepared to be thrown into the volcano. He can be sacrificed (who'll miss him?), and the world really would be better off without him (probably). So, what's wrong with that?

If what we're really worried about is Iraq's potential use of biological or nuclear weapons, then our attack, and his imminent demise, are the one thing sure to release such an attack from Iraq. Which again leads us to the policy options explained by Arthur Schlesinger in the article linked in the post below. Read it, if you haven't yet.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"The policy of containment plus deterrence won the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, everyone thanked heaven that the preventive-war loonies had never got into power in any major country. Today, alas, they appear to be in power in the United States."

This article, by Arthur Schlesinger, perfecty and succinctly puts the case as I imagine it to be. I encourage you to read it, and to pass the link on to others.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is a day of forgiveness, prayer, and redemption - not just for the individuals, but for the community. Over and over again, through all the liturgy, was the thread of creating peace as the means to righteousness, and that aggression, violence, and war are sins. Throughout the day, we prayed for peace.

This is one of the prayers, sung in Hebrew as "Oseh Shalom." May God who makes peace in heaven cause peace to descend on us, and on all Israel, and on all the world. Amen.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

(a copy of the newsletter that I just emailed to my subscriber list)

Dear Friends,

Since my last message to you all I've posted two new short stories to my web site and garnered several excellent reviews on my book, "Aaron's Intifada and Other Short Stories."

The most exciting of the reviews comes from Midwest Book Review, who gave me five stars on, and concluded by saying that Aaron's Intifada was "...strongly recommended as an impressive and engaging anthology that reflects Goldstein's skillfully original storytelling talent."

You can find more information about the book, including sample stories and links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others, at the official book web site:

The two latest stories posted to my site each came about as the result of writing contests. One was the winner, while the other was 1st runner-up. See if you can tell which one got the higher score:

The Fortune Cookie
"One day in her life, Cora Lynn decided to stop being the custodian of other peoples' memories." An old woman searches for herself in the gifts that others have brought her.

The Forgotten Key
"I no longer predict the future, and with the way things have worked out, I'm beginning to doubt I ever did." A psychic searches for the key to his own hidden past.

And, of course, there's nearly always something new posted on my weblog:

Thanks for your support, and keep on reading!


Ken Goldstein

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Looking back, I see that I haven't posted any book reviews for a while, so here are three quick reviews of last month's reading...

The Cadence of Grass - Thomas McGuane
Dysfunctional families at their most entertaining and devious. This novel has both the wide open scope of the Montana it takes place in, and the uncomfortable intimacy of a jail cell. Family ties are questioned and pitted against loyalties of marriage and business, and none emerge unscathed. A few small parts of this novel dragged for me (multi-page descriptions of a horse's actions), but each time it returned to the family, it pulled me in deeper, pushing me on to the satisfying end. A truly great American novel. My grade: A

Who Moved My Cheese? - Spencer Johnson, M.D.
Advice books is a genre I normally avoid, so perhaps I shouldn't be reviewing this - or, at least, you shouldn't care too much about my review - but somebody gave me the book, and it was short enough (94 pages), so I read it. Mainly I continued to read it only to see how much worse it could get. The simplistic point of the book (don't panic, move with the cheese) is made in the first paragraph, and then just repeated hundreds of times. Because Dr. Johnson thinks we're all morons, he gives this advice in the form of a parable. The parable, however, reads like an un-edited children's book manuscript. My wife's second grade class would be bored with this story, and think it beneath them. Yet, Johnson somehow sells millions of these to "adults." The book did inspire me, however, to write my own simplistic advice book and make a million dollars too. My grade: D-

Oh, the Things I Know! - Al Franken, Ph.D. (Hon.)
Apparently, Al Franken also thought it would be easy to get in on the advice book bandwagon (and dollars). This hilarious send-up of the genre was just what I needed to get over my cynicism and recover my sense of humor after the Cheese book. Though not his funniest book (I love the political aspects of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" and "Why Not Me?"), this is still a must-read for fans of Franken's dry wit and intellectual humor. My grade: A-

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I've been finding it difficult to handle all the 9/11 tributes and memorials on the television and radio the past several days, and don't know how I'll make it through today without succumbing to participating in some ritual.

The only 9/11 TV show I watched all the way through was on PBS this past weekend. It was about the undocumented workers ("illegal" aliens) who worked and died in the World Trade Center. Nobody's sure how many there were, since many of their families and friends are afraid to ask about them, lest they be deported.

The show (which was in Spanish, with English subtitles) focussed on four women from Mexico who each lost their husbands. At the beginning, one of the women, in her remote, poverty-stricken village, tried to imagine what happened in New York. Surrounded by one and two room adobe huts, she says that her husband worked in a "big house - maybe four of five stories tall."

A few of the women then traveled to New York in search of their husbands, or, failing that, at least some answers. Coming from such rural remoteness, it was difficult for them to fathom that people could be turned to dust, leaving no trace, in just a moment.

Lacking documentation, they couldn't prove their husbands even existed, let alone had jobs and died in the attack, and therefore couldn't apply for the survivor's benefits that were available. One woman stayed on in New York with her children, to start a new life. The others returned to Mexico to tell their families that their search was in vain.

I just re-read my entries here from last September 11, and my recollections of that day, posted on September 12. I think I'm avoiding the pain right now, because it's just so hard to go through it all again.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Monday, September 09, 2002

It wasn't the most exciting weekend, with spending Friday night and a good part of Saturday in temple for Rosh Hashanah, but we did get some things done.

We went to the movies and saw One Hour Photo. We each really enjoyed it, although it was somewhat flawed in certain areas. Robin Williams was excellent - actually, all the performances were very good, as was the production design, and the music. Only a few holes in the story line kept it from being a better film.

One thing for certain, this movie will help sell a lot of digital cameras. In fact, I think setting up a digital camera concession stand outside any theatre showing One Hour Photo would be a great investment.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Affordable housing a higher priority than new tax cuts
Americans say Congress should spend to help low income people, economy"

A report just issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition says that while the Bush administration is pushing "additional tax cuts to revive the economy, a majority (52%) of likely voters says spending more money to make sure low income people have housing they can afford to rent is more important than Congress cutting more taxes... In addition, 61% say that Congress spending more money to make sure low income people have housing they can afford to rent is good for the economy."

Read the press release and see they survey results on their web site.

You can certainly put me in that majority. What's amazing is that 48% of people think that tax cuts are more important, when these cuts only benefit about five to ten percent of the population. No matter how put upon the working poor and middle class have become, many still believe that they're part of the elite. Not so; the gap between those in the top ten percent income bracket and the other 90% of us has continued to grow wider.

Many of us now think that we're in a recession. Why wouldn't we think that? The Tech sector is moribund, layoffs are common, the stock market is down. We're certainly in an economically stagnant, downturn situation. But, as Michael Moore suggests, take a look at those at the top. They're not hurting. There's no recession for them. (The proof here locally is that even with 7.5% unemployment, you still can't buy a house for less than $450,000).

The stock market may be "down" - but it's still about three times higher than it was at the start of this economic expansion. The majority of the wealth created in the '90's is still there. But the folks who have control of it don't want any to trickle down to you or me. And so they create the myth of a recession so that we won't ask for our share. At least, that's what Michael Moore suggests in his latest book, "Stupid White Men."

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Happy New Year! This is the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashanah) today, and the beginning of a ten day period of introspection that ends with Yom Kippur (day of atonement) on September 16.

Looking back over this last year, I see it has had its stresses and changes, but has been a better year for me, personally, than the year before. A year ago I was unemployed and not sure where life was heading. There are still questions, of course, but I'm in a far more secure spot than last September. I enjoy my job, have received nothing but praise and promotion from my employer, and am looking forward to my second year there. I've also published my first book since last Rosh Hashanah. I was just starting what would become the title story one year ago.

For my family, it has been a mixed bag. I was realizing last night that we've not been to any funerals within this last year. In the previous few years Leslie lost several of her older family members. On the other side, my brother's divorce, and our nephews moving to Connecticut, has been at least as hard as many of the deaths had been.

The world situation, too, has gotten both more stable and more frightening, if that's possible. At Rosh Hashanah services a year ago we were still in the shock of September 11 (the Jewish calendar does not line up well with the traditional Roman calendar - last year Rosh Hashanah came just after the 11th). We were living in a state of complete uncertainty and fear. Now, we've gotten used to the added airport security and the never-ending war on terrorism. An impending war on Iraq (which may have already started) depresses us, but hardly more than a mumbling of protests have been heard. We're becoming more accepting of losing our freedoms to a security state, and that's more dangerous and insidious than any mad bomber could be.

So, as we enter into these "days of awe" I recognize my personal blessings, and search for ways to extend that good luck to others around me. Happy new year.

Friday, September 06, 2002

The California Gubernatorial race is getting uglier by the minute, with most voters looking for any choice besides the two major party candidates.

You've already read here my endorsement of Green Party candidate Peter Miguel Camejo - but that's nothing new for me to be openly going Green. What is new is that when I tell that to people they're not giving me the "you're crazy" scoffing look. I'm getting looks of interest, and consideration.

I've also heard several associates saying that for the first time, they're thinking of not voting at all - which would be a terrible waste.

In one recent poll, Dick Riordan came out in the lead. The only problem with that is that Dick Riordan isn't running. He was defeated for the Republican nomination several months ago. It seems Republican voters are having a change of heart about who they did nominate.

That nominee is Bill Simon, whose latest bit of scandal (he's had many) involves his many positions on gay rights. To a survey conducted by the Log Cabin Republicans (a gay Republican group) he said that he supports domestic partner benefits and a state-wide Gay Pride Day.

When asked about those answers at an event for a more traditional (right wing) Republican group, he said he supported neither of those positions, and explained his survey answers with something along the lines of, "When I gave those answers they were answers to the questions that I was given at that time" (or something like that).

After having time to sort things out, the official story now is that a staffer had filled out the Log Cabin questionnaire and used the auto-pen to sign it. Bill Simon was immediately dis-invited from a Republican fundraiser in Hollywood set for the following day.

Not that incumbent Governor, Democrat Gray Davis, is doing much better. He just managed to pass a new state budget (months late) that he openly admits is insufficient, has very little to do with reality, and will lead to deficits. Not the sort of sound bite you want to put out in an election year.

Is it any wonder I'm depressed about the state of the state?

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