Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Today is the centennial of John Steinbeck's birth. Born in Salinas, California, on Febuary 27, 1902, Steinbeck went on to write some of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century:

The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, The Red Pony, Cannery Row, The Pearl, Of Mice And Men (my favorite), and many more.

Both Salinas, where he was born, and Monterey, where he lived, turned their backs on Steinbeck while he was living. His books gave honest portrayals of the sometimes less-than-honest ways people lived in those particular towns, and the people he wrote about were not too happy about it.

Since then, they've each managed to learn how to show a bit of pride where Steinbeck is concerned (and where money is to be made). Monterey's Cannery Row is a virtual Steinbeck Theme Park, these days - the irony of which would have both made Steinbeck ill, and amused him to no end, I'm sure.

Raise a glass tonight, and join me in a toast to a great American, and a great writer: Wherever people are drinking tonight, he'll be there.

More info: Steinbeck Centennial Celebration (official site) - Steinbeck fresh at 100 - San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Amidst all the latest rounds of violence in Israel & Palestine, there's actually a new stab at peace that may be supported by both sides, and it comes from a most seemingly unlikely source: Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi plan has the usual land-for-peace provisions (Israel's land in exchange for Palestinian's peace), but also adds a vitally important element that's been missing for 55 years: Broad Arab recognition of Israel's legitimacy as a state.

The land asked for is more than Israel's been traditionally willing to discuss (back to pre-1967 borders), but many within Israel are thinking it may be worth it.

Arafat, of course, is delighted with the plan. Cynics will say that the Saudi's are doing this as a PR move to regain the good graces of the US after 9/11 (many of the hijackers were Saudi nationals, even if they were "working for Al Quida"), but so what? If they want to do something nice to apologize, that's okay with me.

Will this pan out? Could it work? Nobody knows, but it will be very interesting to see - and we can all hope.

Israeli Defense Chief Hails Saudi Plan - Yahoo! News

Monday, February 25, 2002


Scroll down to #58:
"How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?

"Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. Just send it to us with a form VA application and the $30 filing fee. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph."

Does this question really come up as frequently as "How do I put a copyright notice on my work" or are they just yanking our chain here? And I have I just committed a major violation of copyright law by posting that question here, or is covered under fair use?

Sunday, February 24, 2002

We just got back from a three-day mini-vacation in Napa. We love to go up there, but it's been too long since we've had the time to do it.

This came about because of a contest I won back in December. I'm on the mailing list of a local PR firm called "Marketing Maniacs" and in their December newsletter it said, "click onto our website and enter to win a weekend for two in Napa." I clicked, a couple of weeks later they called to tell me I won. Not too bad, eh?

The prize package included two nights at the Yountville Inn (value, over $200/night) and a hot air balloon ride for two (value, over $350). So, not only did we have a nice weekend in Napa, we did it in high style.

Wineries visited: Turnbull, Folie a Deux (one of our favorites for Zins), Dutch Henry, Wermouth (we actually don't like Wermouth's wine, but we had to go visit with Ralph Wermouth, who's the coolest, funniest, bad wine makers around), Rombauer, Prager (another favorite, for Ports), Sutter Home, and Hakusan Sake.

Restaurants: Mustard's Grill (California cuisine), Bouchon (French), Gordon's Market (lunch cafe), and (on the way home, in Vallejo) Earl's Texas BBQ.

Highlight: The balloon ride was incredible. Leslie was nervous at first, and almost chickened out of going at a couple of points, but once we were up in the air she quickly loosened up and we both loved it. The weather was perfect, and the visibility was great. We could see all the way up the Napa Valley, up past Calistoga, into Sonoma, and southward to the tip of the San Francisco bay. The flight was smooth and easy. Definitely a great experience.

Other Big Activity: Hanging out in the pool and hot tub at the hotel.

We're tired now, so I'm just going to turn on the closing of the Olympics. Just wanted to get all this down before I forgot.

Friday, February 22, 2002

It's 1980 all over again. Yesterday I bought a new CD - I don't buy nearly as much new music as I used to, something that Leslie was commenting on recently. She was regretting the fact that we didn't have any new music.

So, what new CD did I get? "Don't Worry About Me" - The new, posthumous release by Joey Ramone. I heard a cut on the radio and I just couldn't resist. Joey, lead singer of the great original American Punk band the Ramones, died of cancer a few months ago, but was just about done with this disk when he left.

I think it's pretty good, too. Much of it is reminiscent of classic Ramones, but with an updated (or retro?) adult touch too. The cut I heard on the radio, which inspired my purchase, was a remake of "What a Wonderful World" ("I see trees of green, red roses to, I see them bloom for me and you, And I say to myself, what a wonderful world..."). Okay, Joey ain't no Louis Armstrong, but this is pretty friggen' cool. It makes me smile, at least.

The Olympics has also put me in a kind-of retro late-70's, early-80's mood, as well. I was recalling how the U.S. boycotted the 1980 summer games in Moscow. Remember why? It was to protest the Soviet Army's presence in Afghanistan...

And have you seen this U.S. speed skater, Apollo Ohno? I swear he looks just like Leif Garret - and if that doesn't bring you back to 1980, I don't know what will.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

News item: "A developing Pentagon campaign to influence public opinion in both hostile and friendly countries could include planting false information." Propaganda. Disinformation. Or, to you and me, "lies."

"This is a battle for minds," says Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and the Bush II administration doesn't care how they get those minds.

The plan is to use third-parties to plant news stories in the foreign press. Some of the stories will be true, some of them, well, ..., is it really a lie if the point is to get people to like you?

The only problems here (beyond ones of, oh, I don't know, ... maybe morality?) are that a) Most lies are eventually exposed, which might not be too good for our credibility, and b) In this high-speed, cross-border, information age, it's kind of hard to keep the disinformation over there, and the "real" information over here.

According to Ted Galen Carpenter, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, "We're already viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. If we're caught in blatant lies, that hostility will increase."

For his part, retired General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said he doesn't believe the reports. "We don't deliberately lie to other people. ... That's not America. That's not what we do." Yippee. Stormin' Norman didn't deliberately lie to us during the Gulf War. Maybe.

The use of propaganda and disinformation by the U.S. is nothing new, of course. It was a daily process during the cold war, and was used extensively in our efforts to topple a few regimes (sometimes successfully, other times, not so) in Central and South America.

In the late 1980s, former newsman Bernard Kalb quit as the State Department spokesman after reports that the Reagan administration devised a misinformation policy. That policy included leaking false information to reporters in an effort to convince Libyan leade Moammar Gadhafi that the United States was about to attack.

But since the fall of the Berlin Wall we've lived in a kinder, gentler, possibly more honest, nation. Not to worry, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters last fall, he would never lie to them.

Gosh, thanks for the reassurance, Don. I feel much better now.

More information and sources on quotes? Pentagon Plan to Influence Opinion - Yahoo! News

Monday, February 18, 2002

The book thing is really going to happen. I've got all the material in place (14 stories and short memoir). I just need to enter the changes & corrections from the last round of proof reading - a few hours work - and then it will be ready to submit to iUniverse.

I'm a little ahead of my schedule to get it to them by mid-March for a release date of early- to mid-summer. John's book is available now - I'm still waiting for my copy in the mail - and that's exciting enough. It's going to be quite an experience to finally hold a copy of my own book in my hands.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Thanks to my on-line writer buddy, Nan, for these topical links:

Enron Owns the G.O.P.: This Texas-based site details the amounts given by Enron to various Republican politicians. Many, both Democrat & Republican, nationwide have given back the money, or pledged it to charities for out-of-work Enron employees. This site tells who's refused to give the money back, and offers sample emails to send to them. (Warning: Site sponsored by a group of Texas Democrats, may not be a fully balanced point-of-view).

Why did the idiots at Arthur Anderson, formerly one of the most respected accounting consulting firms in the world, shred all those Enron documents? The answer is revealed here...

Friday, February 15, 2002

Last night was Valentine's, and I spent it at home alone. Why? Because Leslie's got a class on Thursday nights. We met at home briefly, after work, and went out for a romantic dinner of bacon cheese-burgers and onion rings. And then, she went off to school.

We will be celebrating in about week. We've got a three-day weekend booked in Napa, complete with a hot-air balloon tour. We've been to Napa a few hundred times, but we haven't done the balloon thing, and we always have good time on our little wine country excursions.

Meanwhile, Valentine's didn't go completely un-noticed - I had a card for her, waiting on her pillow, when she got home from school.

And a happy Valentine's Day to you, dear reader. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Yesterday, we had a very special staff meeting at CompassPoint. We were nearly all wearing wigs, most of them quite silly.

It was in support of a returning employee who's been out getting chemotherapy for her cancer. She walked into the room, expecting to be the only person wearing a wig, and saw about 35 so-called "adults" sitting around looking like a cattle-call audition for the B-52s, Spinal tap, and Duran Duran combined.

She really appreciated the support, and the effort, and was nearly in tears, she was so touched. Yes, she's got a great sense of humor, so there was no chance of her being insulted by the gesture (in addition to her other duties, she's the official staff cartoonist).

My wig was a long purple job with a page-boy cut. I looked quite excellent, if I do say so myself. Although, I couldn't get my hair to sit down straight for the rest of the day.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Today I have to give a little plug for a new book:

Mud Bay: A Richard Esher Mystery, by j.d. chandler, is the first novel by one of my best friends for the past 25+ years. It's actually quite good - I read a draft of it last summer and (hopefully) contributed to the final version through my comments and proof-reading.

In this exciting murder mystery set in Olympia, Wa. a private detective, Richard Esher, searches for the killer of his partner and - maybe - for D.B. Cooper. j.d.'s written several Richard Esher short stories (and part of the second novel) and has this character down really well.

So, what are you waiting for? Buy the damn book right now!

Sunday, February 10, 2002

Plucking out gray hairs
While underneath in the night
Crickets are singing

Basho (1644-1694)

Actually, I don't pluck out the gray hairs. I've earned them, dammit, and they stay where they are. The only thing I don't really like about them is they lack the fullness and manageability that my hair used to have. Oh well.

Sure, last summer, as I was approaching 40, I was a little concerned about these signs of age. But once I made it past that milestone I realized how meaningless it was. I don't think that I currently have any aging issues.

I can listen to the crickets, and let them lull me to sleep, without them symbolizing the passage of time. I've got nothing against the crickets; I'm singing too.

Saturday, February 09, 2002

Overheard in a restaurant last night:

"Gray Davis is like Clinton, without the brains or the personality."

Friday, February 08, 2002


Presidential Candidate George W. Bush: "When you total up all the federal spending he [Al Gore] wants to do, it's the largest increase in federal spending in years. And there's just not going to be enough money.... This is a big spender, he is. And he ought to be proud of it. It's part of his record. We just have a different philosophy."

President George W. Bush: "My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades ... Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay ... our budget will run a deficit."

Check out CHECK IT OUT!

Thursday, February 07, 2002

'Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance. Everybody thinks it's true.' - Paul Simon

Sometimes that train whistle is singing your praises, talking about the great things you're going to do, pulling you forward. And sometimes it's asking you who you think you're kidding and leaving you behind.

Usually the pulling forward, however. And often pulling so hard, and in so many different directions, that it's difficult to get your footing and evaluate exactly where you're headed. I'm in one of those places right now.

Tonight will be the third straight late night of work. It's all good stuff, but just several things happening at once. Plus, I've volunteered for a project with the County that landed me a few hundred pages of reading and analysis to do over the next two-and-a-half weeks. And, as you know, I've got one or two personal writing projects that I'd like to finish up.

It's another busy, sleepless time - but that's not unusual. I'll get through it, and everything will get done. I know, 'cause I hear that train whistle off in the distance, and it's singing my tune.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

A Death in 26 Words:

"Always been catatonic?" Diane enquired frankly.

"Good Heavens. I'm just keeping low, minding nobody; only praying."

"Quite respectable, Steve," Terri uttered.

Vultures waiting, x-rays yellowing; zero.

Saturday, February 02, 2002

Last night was certainly a new and different experience! I haven't filled you all in on the last few visits to the acupuncturist, but I've got to make a note of this one.

Previously, he's done traditional acupuncture all up and down my back, on my legs and feet, my hands, stomach, and various spots all over my head. He's also done some acupressure on my back and neck areas.

Last night, we did electro-acupuncture! It's pretty much like the traditional, but then he clips on these little wires to the needles, turns on the power, and well, it's just a sensation that you've got to experience to believe. It's not like being electrocuted, it's just that the needles pulse gently giving a kind of massage effect.

I found the experience extremely relaxing (I was sound asleep and snoring away at one or two points), but I'm still not sure of the lasting medical benefits of acupuncture beyond "relaxation must be good for you."

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