Thursday, January 31, 2002

Let's talk about disingenuousness. You know, doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons? Pretending to do something nice for your enemies as a means of stabbing them in the back?

Well, poor women in this country have trouble getting access to proper prenatal care. All sorts of reasons for this, mostly revolving around our corrupt health care system. It's a big problem for all of us (poor or not, pregnant or not) because of the drain emergency care and ill babies put on the system - not to mention a humanitarian point or two.

So, Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has a novel way of making sure that all those women get access to health care: Declare the fetuses to be citizens with rights. Not that being a citizen with rights has helped any of the rest of us get decent health care. But good ol' Tommy thinks this is the solution to funding pre-natal care. Never mind that he could simply make the care available to the mothers as a right of their citizenship.

Why do I call this disingenuous? Because Tommy Thompson's (and the administration's) real goal in declaring fetuses to be citizens with rights to proper health care is an end run around Roe V. Wade. This is a side-door means of outlawing abortion. Why do it this way? Because being above-board and declaring their intentions hasn't worked. Despite all the debate and the yelling and jumping about on each side, most Americans still favor some legal access to abortion.

So they lie and try to sneak it in backwards so we think that they're leaving.

And just in case you think I'm playing favorites (either by way of political party, or side of the abortion debate), here's my rant against California Governor Gray Davis.

Gray's running unopposed in the Democratic primary for Governor. Richard Riordan (former mayor of Los Angeles) has the lead in a three-way race race for the Republican nomination. Gray (unopposed until after the primaries) has no real reason to start running TV ads, but start he has.

Gray's first ad of the season does not declare the glory of his accomplishments (there aren't any), but is a negative ad about Riordan. "Don't trust Riordan," we're told, "He claims to be pro-choice, but he's a rabid, Bork-supporting, clinic-blocking, pro-lifer from way back." It's a scare tactic - Never mind the fact that as Governor he'd have no power to make any policy in the matter of abortion rights. Gray's trying to scare us.

Why? Because if Riordan wins the Republican nomination, he's got the best chances of un-seating Gray in the November general election. If Gray can get all the pro-choice Republicans out to defeat Riordan in the primary, and nominate a weaker, more moderate candidate, Gray still has a chance (slim, but a chance) for re-election.

Negative ads in January for an election that's not happening until November. Thank you Gray Davis for lowering the bar once again. In the limbo dance of politics nobody can sink lower than that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

My end of the day rituals usually revolve around a small glass of Port, or sometimes a nice Zinfandel or Cabernet. Sure, I enjoy it. But, really, it's for my health. Red wine is good for the circulation, you know. And, it's essential for relaxation.

The perfect snack to go with that Port (or other rich red wine) is a small bit of cheese (a hard sharp cheddar, Mmmmm!) or a tiny bite of chocolate. I don't overdo the sweets - It takes me a month for me to go through one large chocolate bar - but a little bit goes a long way.

It's good to have these little traditions, mostly because it gets me to spend the last hour before bed focussing on relaxation. It's a time to be done with my work, done with hobbies, done with Leslie's work (I help with the homework grading), and do nothing but learn to do nothing.

And then in the morning, I try to write to jump-start my brain...

Monday, January 28, 2002

It's a chilly morning here outside of San Jose and, according to the weather report, it's snowing in the mountains between here and Santa Cruz. Of course, this doesn't compare with places that have real weather, but it's news around here.

You see, Californians have difficulty driving when it just rains. Throw snow at them and they completely flip out. This flurry, which will probably only result in about 1/4 inch of it sticking in patches to the ground, will tie up traffic for hours several miles in each direction of every snow flake.

Idiots in pick-up trucks will gather the kids and go up to see it. They'll attempt to shovel it into the beds of their trucks (try shoveling 1/4 inch of snow without also getting considerable mud) and bring it back down to their homes in the valley. Then they'll act surprised when there's nothing back there but slush and muck when they go to unload it.

But still, each winter we walk around asking each other, "Do you think it's snow here this year? - Do you remember that year it snowed all the way down to Stevens Creek Boulevard? - It almost stuck, too." And we'll watch the skies, and listen to the weather report, just hoping for a hint of white.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Yesterday, Leslie and I were discussing what movie to see (it being a rainy day, after all) - Would it be The Shipping News? Would it be I Am Sam, or Charlotte Gray?

Then the phone rang. It was my 10-year-old nephew - "We're going to see Snow Dogs, do you and Aunt Leslie want to come?"

Well, so much for intelligent, adult-oriented entertainment. How could we say no to an invitation like that? So instead of a healthy brunch at a lovely cafe, we ate at Taco Bell. And instead of a moving film experience, we saw a fairly mindless kids film. And we had a great time.

Still - We would have rather seen an R-rated version of Snow Dogs - but that's a different story.

Saturday, January 26, 2002

I've been in Santa Barbara the last two days at a meeting. Santa Barbara is a great little city, and the weather was perfect: sunny and clear, with just a hint of a cool ocean breeze. The night was clear as well, and after dinner several of us took a nice walk out and around the yacht harbor, under the stars.

I used to spend more time in Santa Barbara , when I was a Southern Californian - always on the road between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. This was the first time I'd ever flown into town. The airport is so small that when I got in Thursday morning, and when I left Friday night, I don't think there could have been more than 100 people there, including passengers, employees, security, etc.

Sitting in the outdoor, second-floor, patio bar (I had time to kill) I got a kick out how peaceful an airport could be. Most of the air traffic going in and out seemed to be of the private, two-seater variety. The largest of the commercial planes I saw were about 30 seater jets. I came and left on a 30 seater turbo-prop (a Brasilia 120).

I've gone on several trips now, since September 11, and this is the first time I really thought the armed national Guardsmen were completely out of place. Arriving in these cute little planes, into this tiny, adobe-style airport, could make you think of a long-ago, more innocent time - like flying into 1962. Then the guys with the machine guns walk past and forty years flash by in an instant.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

I've always been comfortable in the water. I'm a good, but not excellent, swimmer, but most of all, it's just being surrounded by liquid, the feeling of being buoyed by my environment, that I love.

From ages nine to twelve I went to the same summer camp that my brothers and mother had gone to before me. (The "old guy" who was the director of the camp when my brothers and I went was a camper when our mother was a counselor twenty-five years earlier). Lake Babusic, in Amherst, New Hampshire, was the setting for CYJ. We always complained about it being polluted, emphasizing the "sick" part of "Babusic," but in reality, it was one of my favorite parts of growing up.

The clearest water I've ever swam in, however, was probably close to ten years ago, not long after Leslie and I moved to Sacramento. I had this crazy friend from work who wanted to go gold-panning up in the mountains. He did tons of research trying to find what should have been a good spot for gold, and one that did not currently have a claim on it. He found his spot, mapped it out, and convinced Leslie and I to join his wife and him on an adventure.

Before we got to the clearest water I ever swam in, we went on the longest, hardest hike, any of us had ever attempted. By the time we reached the spot my friend wanted to stake his claim on (did I mention that "stake a claim" is a literal expression? We had to carry in his stake, as well as the gold pans) we were all soaked to the bone with sweat. And that's when we found a natural swimming hole not far from the claim.

At a break in the otherwise rocky streams was a calm and wide pool of sparkling cool water surrounded by smooth limestone. Three of us stripped to our underwear and dove in for the most refreshing swim you could imagine. My friends wife was too angry to enjoy herself (a typical condition for her, as it turned out) and sat, sweating, on the bank watching us.

The hike back up and out of the mountains was even harder than the one going in, but three of us enjoyed it, still high from the swim. The fourth is a story for another time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

In the meantime... I'm putting the final touches on a collection of short stories that I will self-publish through This time it looks like it's really going to happen. I've considered projects like this in the past, but for one reason or another never followed through with it. This time the momentum is pushing it along and it doesn't look like there's anything that can stop it.

Of course, if you'd like to be notified when the printed volume is available for sale, please you can join my mailing list with the form down below...

Monday, January 21, 2002

My father always told me that it was better to have loved a short woman than never have loved a tall, but I'm not so sure. Leaning over to kiss Leslie and constantly having to slouch to see her eye-to-eye has certainly contributed to my lower back problems.

Look at any couple where one partner is more than an inch or two taller than the other. The shorter partner gets in all sorts of healthy stretching, while the taller one is constantly craning their neck and arching their back - not healthy behavior.

Of course, I'm just kidding - no nasty emails, please. But I do believe that this observation may have been behind the invention of high-heeled shoes. And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

So many things have happened by accident. Or, I suppose, you could call it fate - but really, they feel like accidents. Fortuitous accidents.

An example: In 1984 I was spending the summer in San Luis Obispo where a couple of my friends moved to from Los Angeles. I was scheduled to finally go to college (put off for several years) at San Francisco State that fall as a film production major, but there was a wait-list for the dormitories, so I needed to find housing.

As the summer wore on, I made a few short trips up to SF to look for an apartment and found nothing. Okay - I found places, but nothing affordable, and few without rats, roaches, and other un-paying roommates. I began to wonder if I would be a homeless student, living in a bus shelter.

On the way back from one such trip I stopped by Cuesta Community College just outside of SLO. A couple of people I knew had talked about their broadcasting program. They had a fully equipped TV studio and a radio station that had decent coverage. It turned out to be the last day of walk-in registration for the next semester. I signed up on the spot, figuring I could still transfer to SF State later.

The two years I spent in SLO, going to Cuesta, were two of the best and most important years of my development. I wound up working in production at the local NBC affiliate (KSBY), and eventually was directing the weekend and late-night newscasts. That period led me to forego SF State and eventually return to LA, where I worked as a production assistant on music videos.

As you've probably figured out, if you read my blog often, I tired of the Hollywood life and decided to change courses, again. The point of the story, however, was the series of accidents that kept me from my planned course of action (going to SF State), but sent me on other adventures that have helped to make me who I am.

Call it fate, if you like, but Shakespeare was right: The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. And, sometimes, it's just what we need.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

This has been a very busy week, work-wise, and not much time to post, but I wanted to you in on a couple of things...

Tuesday night my brother, Miles, and I went to see Scott Adams speaking in Palo Alto about his new book, "God's Debris." It's quite different than his other work - Dilbert is NOT a character, there are no cartoons, only words - but the intelligence and wit was ever-present.

"God's Debris" is billed as a "thought experiment" rather than a novel, or a philosophy book, and takes the form of a dialogue between a UPS driver and an old man who may (or may not) know everything about God, the Universe, etc. The challenge to the reader is to figure out how much of what the old man says is scientific fact, and how much is just creative BS.

It's also good for testing your faith, as you debate along with the characters in the book. At the beginning of the talk Adams said that by the end of the evening some of the religious folks would become atheists, but that some of the atheists would discover God. He wasn't trying to convert anybody, he was just trying to maintain the balance. The introduction to the book suggests reading it, then discussing it with some intelligent friends over a refreshing beverage.

The other thing to catch up on here was my second acupuncture appointment on Monday night. This time I laid on my back and he did the needles in my forehead, top of my head, neck, ears, hand, and feet. It wasn't quite as relaxing as when he did the back last week, but it did make me feel surprisingly good. On Friday, we do the back again.

Monday, January 14, 2002

"My mother always said when you're eating pretzels, chew before you swallow. Listen to your mother." - Gee Dubya Bush, 1/14/02

I got a boo boo. Mommy kiss it, make it better.Late yesterday we almost wound up with Dick Cheney as president when G.W. choked on a half-masticated pretzel and passed out while watching a football game on TV. It certainly would have been an historic succession from one president to another, and certainly would have been a fitting farewell to W, but I think it's more interesting (and humiliating for him) to have survived.

Will the gloves come back off now? Will the comedians and talk show hosts make the appropriate jokes? Or will they continue to tip-toe around the war-time commander-in-chief, lest they disrupt the bipartisan harmony that's surrounded us since September 11?

I'm quite serious when I say this is a vital test for our democracy. This must be mocked if we're to retain the right of satire which are inherent in the first amendment. Letting this go, un-parodied, would set a dangerous precedent and make other forms of less-popular speech all the more difficult.

I urge you to stand up for democracy, protect the Constitution, and mock the President! It's a matter of vital national security. Won't you make fun of W today? Thank you.

Sunday, January 13, 2002

This is an idea that came out of a meeting I attended last Monday and Tuesday of nonprofit executives from around California: Where's Our Economic Stimulus Package?

Right now Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar corporate tax rebate that would effectively return every penny the effected companies have paid in Federal taxes for the past fifteen years. Following September 11, money was found to make sure the airlines would survive through their laying off of over 100,000 employees. This is nothing new: we've bailed out Chrysler, we've bailed out a thousand other companies because it was "good for the economy."

At this same time, however, we're tightening our fiscal belts when it comes to services for the poor, the elderly, youth, and all those millions of newly unemployed or "displaced" workers. Grants and contracts to nonprofits are being slashed, not only by the Federal government, but by state governments too as the dominoes fall closer to home. The full effect won't be felt until July 1, when the next government fiscal year begins.

Following July 1, start looking for nonprofit social programs to be closing their doors. We did a brief study of local nonprofits, their funding sources, and the expected cut-backs from those funding sources, and anticipate that about 400 such programs will close just in the San Francisco Bay area.

When a business goes under, you can usually assume one of two things: Either there's no demand for the product or service being offered, or poor (or corrupt) management. This is not necessarily the case when nonprofits close their doors. It is most often because of increased demand coinciding with major cuts in funding. That is the situation currently developing.

So, we ask, where's our economic stimulus package? In truth, the nonprofit sector is just an important and vital sector of the economy as any of the others that benefited from previous bail-outs.

California’s nonprofits employ three-quarters of a million individuals, and deploy the services of another ten million volunteers. Nonprofits have staggeringly low overhead compared to other businesses, and they use their dollars, staff and volunteers to help the people who are most suffering. Where better to give a stimulus package?

In a small sense, this is rather tongue-in-cheek. I don't really expect anything called a "stimulus" package for nonprofits. But, perhaps, maybe it does suggest that this is the wrong time to cut back on social spending. And maybe, just maybe, it points out the idiocy of promoting other "stimulus" packages when resources are needed for people in pain.

Friday, January 11, 2002

The acupuncture was great. I don't know yet if it cured anything, but it was an extremely relaxing and enjoyable experience.

I could barely feel the needles going in - less, even, than when he was pressing on my back with his thumbs. Once in, I was not aware of them at all. I'm not sure the exact number, but I think it was about a dozen needles from the top to the bottom of my spine, plus one in each ankle.

Once the needles were in, he put a heat lamp on my and left me to rest for a while. This was the most relaxed I'd been in a very long time. Actually, I think I did doze off for a minute or two.

After he took the needles out, he rubbed some oils into my back and gave me an excellent massage, putting pressure on the points that he was concerned about.

I left feeling wonderful, calm, and peaceful. I was so relaxed, in fact, that it took several minutes just to get myself dressed and ready to drive home.

I still felt great this morning, although I did have a very long, hard day. I was working a conference and had to be there to set up at 6:30 AM, and carry a lot of boxes in. But, still, I think I benefited from the experience and am looking forward to going back for another acupuncture session next week.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

I'm trying something new after work today: Acupuncture. Actually, I suppose, I should say I'm trying something very old, but new to me.

Yesterday I went for an initial consultation and examination. I called because of my back - I think I mentioned here that I threw it out just before Christmas - but we also discussed my other health problems: digestive troubles and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

First we talked for about 30-35 minutes, as he took my history to get at the root causes of my troubles. He went through the physical, mental, and chemical possibilities and asked good questions about my medical history. Then I got on the exam table and he took about 20 minutes more to slowly examine the length of my spine, pressing in on either side to see how tender the nerve endings were.

The places where I felt the pressing the worst, where I was the most tender, he marked on my chart. On his wall is a poster explaining where these nerve endings go to, and what parts of the body they control. The marks on my chart lined up precisely with the areas I was complaining about: ears, back, and digestive.

Acupuncture works (hopefully) by first numbing, then re-energizing the nerves that control the areas that trouble you. Like throwing the circuit breakers to different areas of your house, you control the current of energy flowing through your body. The acupuncture also stimulates the flow of seratonin, which should help make me feel better too.

The plan of action we decided on was that I will go in for four sessions over the next two weeks or so. He's sure that my back pain will be cured and that I'll have a noticeable improvement in the digestive areas. If the tinnitus is caused by the nerve problems, we'll know by a marked decrease in the volume of tinnitus that I'm hearing. If all that goes as planned, we'll work out a longer-term schedule to deal with the remaining symptoms from there.

Maybe I'm a sucker, or maybe I'm finally on to something good. I don't really care which, frankly. I'm just willing to try most anything. Check here again over the next days and weeks to track any progress.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Sorry - Been offline for a couple of days at a big meeting (or was it a mini-conference?) here in San Jose. I've just been so busy with work that a lot of my personal side projects have been sliding [again].

Leslie's back at work now, too, following the holiday break at her school. Now, with the season officially over, we'll soon settle back into our normal life. Maybe then I'll be able to make more time for some of the things I want to do.

Meanwhile, it's off to work again. Not much of a blog entry - but at least it's an honest portrayal of what life's like.

Sunday, January 06, 2002

Bush: Tax Increases 'Over My Dead Body' - You know, I mean the president no ill will, but this is a little ridiculous. On the one hand, I'm pleased that he didn't ask us to read his lips, but on the other hand, his disconnection with the real American economy is frightening and his taking advantage of the war on terrorism to extort political advantage is nauseating.

First of all, nobody's called for a tax increase [yet]. This is a preemptory move against the Senate Democrats, led by Tom Daschle, who have so far refused to pass Dubya's "stimulus" package of tax giveaways.

A quick reminder - This is the tax rebate package that would give $1.4 billion to IBM, $833 million to General Motors, $671 million to General Electric, and $572 million to Chevron Texaco - essentially every penny these companies (and others) have paid in federal taxes over the last fifteen years.

How much of a tax rebate did you get in 2001? $300? Maybe $600? I don't think it was anywhere near every penny you paid in federal taxes over the last fifteen years. Was it?

Equating the refusal to give away the Federal treasury in a time of crisis with raising taxes is disingenuous at best and, in my opinion, downright deceitful at the core. This is partisan politics pure and simple. But to avoid that charge, Dubya also through in a plea to return to the bi-partisan spirit that had followed September 11.

If you agree that bankrupting the country for corporate rebates is a foolhardy way to jump-start the economy, why don't you write to your Senators and tell them to stand behind Tom Daschle and put together a real stimulus package.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

January is Poverty in America Awareness Month

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development spotlights the tragic reality that one out of every six children in the U.S. lives in poverty. On Monday, January 8, CCHD will release a national survey of attitudes and awareness related to poverty and offer evidence of effective community-based solutions that help break the cycle of poverty.

Find out how much you know about poverty in America by taking the "Poverty Quiz" (and get more information on Poverty in American Awareness Month) by visiting:

1 in 6 children in America are living in a state of poverty --

On the lighter side of the news, Amish teen at buggy reins charged with drunken driving. Those Amish are always such troublemakers, don't you think?

Friday, January 04, 2002

My grandmother came to live with me for about a month, back in the autumn of 1984. The odd thing about it was that she had died the previous June. Well, considering we'd always knew she had certain paranormal powers, maybe it wasn't that odd.

Nana had run a couple of tea rooms in the Boston area throughout the fifties and sixties that specialized in the reading of playing cards and tea leaves to tell the future. She was a pretty good reader herself, and some of the women who worked for her were phenomenal. Nana was also skilled at the laying-on of hands to heal minor bruises, and occasionally seeing the future in her dreams.

Her posthumous visits to me could be written off as dreams, but they were decidedly un-dreamlike. In my usual dreams, I float from location to location, and any manner of odd things might happen. The "dreams" of Nana's visits were strikingly and boringly real.

For the month of Nana's visit, each night I'd go to sleep, then be awakened an hour or so later. She'd sit on the foot of my bed, I'd sit up, and we'd talk until the early hours, when I'd drift off to sleep again, only to be awakened by the alarm a short stretch later. I spent the month in a sleep-deprived daze, wondering if the visits were real or imagined. Finally, one night, she explained that she had other people to visit and say goodbye to, but that I'd see her again sometime later. The next night I resumed my previously normal sleep patterns.

Years later when I explained these visits to my parents, they confessed that the month before my experience, they too had lost several weeks sleep because of her visits. Finally, my father had had to ask his mother-in-law to stop bothering them and get on to the next world. That's when she moved in with me.

The last time I saw Nana was about twelve years after death, almost to the day. It was the night before my wedding, just after the rehearsal dinner. We'd been dining on the second floor of the restaurant, and we were on our way out.

I was heading down the stairs walking alongside my soon-to-be bride, Leslie. Without a word being exchanged between us, I realized that the extra wide steps were suddenly feeling very crowded and I hesitated a moment to allow her to go ahead of me. Once I was behind her I realized that the reason it felt crowded was that my grandmother was cutting between Leslie and I. With me out of the way, Nana took hold of Leslie's arm and escorted her the rest of the way down the stairs and out of the restaurant.

Later that night, when Leslie and I were alone, she asked me, "Was that your grandmother?" I answered, yes, and she said, "I thought that was rude the way you were stepping on her feet. I'm glad you gave us some space to be together."

Leslie, by that point, knew many of the stories about my grandmother, and so wasn’t too surprised by their post-mortem meeting. She knew what she was getting into by marrying into my family; she realized that if she hung around long enough, she’d be seeing ghosts too, someday. I'm just glad she had a chance to meet Nana (and that Nana approved of her).

Thursday, January 03, 2002

Buddy, the Presidential DogIn today's news, Buddy, the Presidential Dog, has died. The Clinton's dog ran out into traffic and was hit by a car near their home in New York.

I was too busy today to turn on talk radio and find out if Rush has accused Hillary of the murder yet. (Personally, I think it was Socks, the Cat.)

Also in today's news, Eric Clapton got married to a woman 31 years his junior - she's only 25. They were in the church for the christening of their six-month-old baby and figured, what the heck? So they tied the knot.

Congrats to EC, and good luck to the young lady.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Okay, here's the last 2001-in-review year-end post... Dead Deer in Bathroom puzzles Arkansas Police - the best of the News of the Weird for 2001 from Yahoo! News.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Happy friggin' new year! And it's about damn time. I wasn't going to say this while it was still 2001, but, just between you and me, 2001 sucked. I think 2002 has got to be a much better year. And I'm not just saying that to kiss 2002's ass. I don't need to do that. I'm just saying, things have got to get better, and it may as well be this year.

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