Sunday, November 27, 2005

Remember before Festivus got so over-commercialized? This once pleasant, anti-holiday joke has become exactly that which it was started to protest.

Festivus was introduced to the American public on a Seinfeld episode back in 1997. Frank Costanza (George's father) invented the holiday in response to the insanity and commercialization of the more traditional winter holidays. An un-adorned aluminum pole is the sole decoration for the holiday. The Festivus celebration includes such activities as the airing of grievances (you get to tell your family members how they pissed you off over the past year) and the feats of strength (wresting or other physical competitions). As a Seinfeld episode it was very funny.

But then, last week I saw a TV ad for Festivus Wine. Thinking it was not real wine, but rather a clever promotion for the new DVD release of the Seinfeld show, I went to the web site advertised and was shocked to see that it is, in fact, a real wine. Then, on a morning talk show, was a guy named Allen Salkin promoting his Festivus book.

My visit to Amazon also found a book by the true creator of Festivus, Seinfeld writer Dan O'Keefe. His book, The Real Festivus, is perhaps the only product made by anybody with any connection to Seinfeld. You might think, then, that Dan is the only person with any right to cash in on the idea. Except that it was actually Dan's dad who came up the idea about 30 years earlier.

A few more clicks and searches turned up multiple sites selling Festivus poles, and even a listing about Festivus in the Wikipedia.

Which brings me back to the start. As a Seinfeld fan, you know I love the concept of Festivus. But isn't the heart of the concept that it's a do-it-yourself anti-holiday? Doesn't all this success turn it into another mass-produced parody of itself? And if Festivus is now mainstream, what is there for the rest of us?

I'd take this time to tell you about St. Monty's Day, a holiday created by a few of my friends and I back in Jr. High School. But I don't want that to get ruined by success too.

Friday, November 25, 2005

For an example of somebody with an incredible amount of talent, and entirely too much time on their hands, see Main Street in Ruins.

I'm sure you've seen detailed mini-villages that go along with model railroads, but this guy has gone a few steps further. His town is huge, incredibly detailed, and has been hit by disaster. Brilliant modeling, great photography, and a sick sense of humor - what a combination!

(And, if you like, you can click from there over to "Main Street Restored", but it's not nearly as much fun.)

Meanwhile, hope your Thanksgiving was pleasant.

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's music and art time today at Ken's blog...

On the music front, I've recorded the classic "Ring of Fire" in honor of the new Johnny Cash bio-movie. I've actually always wanted to record this, and figured I'd better get it out before the film, rather than appear to be doing it just to jump on the bandwagon after the film.

Ring of Fire was written by Johnny's wife, June Carter, and her writing partner, Merle Kilgore, about falling in love with Cash while both were married to others, and Johnny had a drug problem. Years later they were each single, and Johnny was clean, and they finally wed. They were together 35 years until her death in 2002.

(You can also access my other recordings, if you dare.)

On the art front, my cousin, Rick Lipson, finally has a web page up of his recent paintings. While my "music" is just a hobby and a bit of a joke, Rick's art is quite serious and quite good. Check out his work at Rick is also scheduled to be the featured artist next month on

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yesterday, Leslie and I spent part of our day making phone calls asking people to vote No on propositions 74, 75, & 76; Governor Schwarteneger's attack on teachers, nurses, and firefighters. Leslie is one of the union reps for her school this year, so I accompanied her to make the calls (mouth healing nicely now).

Most of the people we reached were very polite and agreed to support us in defeating the Governor's agenda, a few disagreed, but were still polite about it. Only a handful of rude people, which was a very positive sign. Unfortunately, though, the largest group of numbers were no good; either disconnected or just wrong numbers.

Anyway, here are my recommendations for Tuesday's Special Election in California:
  • 73 - Abortion; parental notification & waiting - NO
  • 74 - Teachers; waiting period for permanent status - NO
  • 75 - Public Employee Unions; Cut 'em off at the balls - NO
  • 76 - State School Spending; Roll back previous guarantees - NO
  • 77 - Redistricting; Judges panel does it immediately - NO
  • 78 - Prescription Drugs; Industry's voluntary plan - NO
  • 79 - Prescription Drugs; Mandatory reform - YES
  • 80 - Electricity Providers; Re-regulate - YES

For me, the only tough decision in the batch was proposition 77, the redistricting. It's obvious that legislators drawing their own districts is flawed. That's been known for 200+ years. But I don't like this particular approach, the implementation (do it now, based on the 2000 census), or, frankly, the messenger. As part of Arnold's agenda, I just don't trust it or him.

As to the confusion between propositions 78 and 79, I side with the consumers for real reform. If the drug industry was willing to voluntarily discount drugs (as 78 calls for) they could do it now, without this phony attempt at reform. The drug companies, however, are spending a fortune to confuse the public as to which proposition is the real deal.

After the calling, and dinner, we went to see Capote, produced by and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Great movie. Fascinating and terrifying in an understated, get under your skin, and absorbing manner.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Seinfeld's Soup Nazi is back, and coming soon to mall near you...

The former purveyor of one of the finest soup stands in the nation is now turning his attention to franchising his famous soup in a chain of soup kiosks. Those who've tried the recipes say they are no match for the original.

Read the full article at

Monday, October 31, 2005

I've been having fun the past few days not eating. On Thursday I had gum graft surgery. Yeah, "gum graft." Don't read if you're easily disgusted.

What they do is take a couple of bits of tissue from the fleshy portion on the roof of the mouth. Then they stitch it where your gums are receding, which in my case was the lower front.

The operation is not half as bad as it sounds. They gave me a couple of shots to numb the mouth, but I was otherwise awake and alert, and even carrying on a conversation with the nurse, sort of. At the end they cover the palate with a retainer (oh, joy), and the graft with a bit of material that looks like used chewing gum.

The recovery is what sucks. I can't speak clearly, and I can't eat solid food. I've had more oatmeal in the past four days than in the previous 44 years. I've taken to eating bananas with a fork to get the pieces small enough for me to process. Jello and pudding cups and a couple of scrambled eggs (that took an hour to eat) have rounded out my diet.

As for pain, I'd really just describe it as discomfort. There are moments of pain when a bit of "food" gets into the affected areas, but mostly I'm just being hungry and uncomfortable.

Aren't you glad you asked? Trick or treat! No candy for me.

Friday, October 21, 2005

"The young mother charged with dropping her three sons into San Francisco Bay had a large extended family that tried to help her cope with the crippling effects of schizophrenia and a breakup with her children's father, relatives said.

"Yet the support, as well as occasional input from mental health professionals, wasn't enough to keep Lashuan Harris from moving into a homeless shelter, going off her medication and getting overwhelmed by her illness."

(article continues at the San Diego Union-Tribune)

The whole story is tragic, but that last line really got to me. In this last year that I've worked for a provider of emergency housing, I've personally seen this type of thing happen many times over, if with less dramatic endings.

Typically the county hospital will release a mentally ill patient with a few days worth of medication and a prescription that they have no money to fill. They are then literally dropped at the door of the shelter, where the meds are likely stolen the first night for their street value. It's not long before they're out on the street, attracting the attention of police, and beginning the cycle again.

I could tell the stories of at least a couple of our clients who've died over the past year, in part due to problems in the mental health system...

... A woman who left our shelter with her 30-day supply of medication and a two-liter bottle of vodka and consumed them all in one night at a nearby fleabag hotel. At least she had the courtesy to die off-site.

... A man released to us from the hospital with a feeding tube, a colostomy bag, and covered in his own shit. We explained that we were not able to provide the liquid diet he needed to survive, but the hospital would not take him back. He fought with staff and other clients and insisted on shitting in public and was kicked out of the shelter. (We tried to have the police pick him in protective custody, but they wouldn't help either). Within a week he was found dead behind our dumpster where he'd find the solid food scraps that he ate against the doctor's orders.

These are the stories that I'm not supposed to tell, lest I damage the reputation of my employer. There are good stories too, don't get me wrong. We do help a lot of people. But the system as a whole fails for many. Which brings us back to the woman in Oakland who just threw her three children into the San Francisco Bay...

... "She told my mama she was going to feed them to the sharks," said Britney Fitzpatrick, Harris' 16-year-old half-sister. "No one thought it was that serious."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Two quotes for today:

"If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem" - Richard Bach

"You are the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life" - Chinese cookie fortune received by my co-worker at lunch today. It was an apt description.

Meanwhile, over at Highway 17 Music, I just got in some Epiphone Les Paul Juniors. I haven't made any money yet (just not quite breaking even), but I'm enjoying my little guitar business as a pleasant diversion from my "real" job.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Today another "urban legend", thought to be a wacko conspiracy theory with no basis in fact, proved to be true after all. Many brands of color printers do include information on every document to trace that document back to you.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has cracked the code on at least one line of printers, and is working on cracking the codes on others. (See stories: Washington Post - Red Herring). Industry leaders and government officials have now confirmed that they have been working together on the coding for years.

The official purpose of the coding is to prevent counterfeiting. By being able to trace a counterfeit bill back to a particular printer at a particular time, law enforcement can find out who is making their own money at home.

A couple of problems arise, however.

1) There's nothing to prevent government/law enforcement from using the codes to track other printing, such as protected anonymous speech. Those living under repressive regimes (here and elsewhere) can have their self-published works tracked back to their door. This is a high-tech, and more effective implementation, of how the Soviet Union used to track down dissidents by their typewriter imprints. The hidden data, placed there without the users knowledge, is a potentially dangerous invasion of privacy.

2) EFF reports that the codes were very easy to crack. There's nothing to prevent individuals with the proper knowledge and tools from cracking the codes and using them in order to commit crimes against others. This supposed "law enforcement tool" can easily be turned against us by criminals and terrorists looking to harm those they want to target.

The further we get from 1984, the closer we get to 1984.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It's time to pretend I'm a rock star again... Here's the first song I've written and recorded for a while - The Awfulizer.

"The Awfulizer" is a term my brother, Miles, came up with last summer to describe somebody who finds the worst in every situation. I thought it would be a great title for a song and asked if I could use it. I wrote the song in August, but haven't gotten around to recording it till now.

It is a rather bare bones demo (with a very sloppy lead), but I wanted to finally get it off my to-do list. I'm hoping that my nephews, Andrew and Keith, will be motivated to do a better version someday.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

One week into the official launch of my new used guitar shop, Highway 17 Music, I'm already closing my first eBay auctions, and looking like this might actually make some money! (If the buyers actually pay...)

I'm certainly having fun, at least, and learning a few tricks of the trade. It will certainly be a while before this can be my main income, but I'm offically declaring week one to have been a success.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

With age often comes obesity - "A 30-year study finds that most adults - 9 out of 10 men, 7 out of 10 women - are likely to be or become overweight as they grow older..."

Interesting. I've been conducting my own 44-year study and have come to the same conclusion. Seriously, did somebody get paid to spend their entire career figuring out that when we're old we get fatter and lazier than we were when we were twenty?

"Our results, while not surprising, are worrisome," said Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. Well, again, no shit Sherlock. There's nothing new here, either. Carrying around extra pounds leads to a variety of problems, including diabetes, heart problems, etc. We knew all that already. Why is this news?
Gee Dub, Yeah, Blues
© 2005 by K.R. Goldstein

Well, I woke up this morning
Feeling kind of strange
My country looked the same
But the nation somehow changed
I went to see my doctor
And I asked him what to do
He said my constitution’s sufferin’
From a case of gee dub blues

Oh, yeah, I’ve got them gee dub blues
Every time I hear the news
Another case of gee dub blues

I went back to my apartment
And found ten police inside
All my books and records open
And into my files they’d pried
They asked all sorts of questions
And I suggested they were rude
He said, “We’re just investigatin’
“A new case of gee dub blues,” oh, yeah... (chorus)

Born too late
For social security
Paid all my life
But there’ll be none left for me
Oh, why must it be my fate
To retire in 2028?

Well, I thought I’d see my brother
So I went to catch a flight
At the gate they lined us up
To the left and to the right
They pulled me out for extra searchin’
And I asked them how they choosed
He said, “You like you been sufferin’
“From a case of gee dub blues,” oh, yeah... (chorus)

I wound up in a courtroom
Where I thought I’d get my say
But by eminent domain
They paved through that right today
So I walked up to the judge man
And I asked for his excuse
He said free speech been quarantined
Through this case of gee dub blues, oh, yeah... (chorus)

And even though they’ve banned the news
I still get them gee dub blues

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hungry? Can you wait 'till Wednesday? Save your money and your appetite and go out to dinner on Wednesday, October 5, as part of "Dine For America."

Dine for America is a benefit for the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. Search the web site for a participating restaurant near you.

(The web site has been busy and slow to respond, but keep trying!)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I am pleased to announce the opening of my new business venture: Highway 17 Music. I will be selling used and new guitars online at my web site and through eBay auctions.

You will find Highway 17 Music at:

A few of you have seen snippets of this site and concept over the last month or so as I've been gathering permits and dealing with wholesalers, but as of today, we are officially open for business.

At this point this is a part-time operation, meant to supplement my income, not replace it. In the coming months we will see what the growth potential is and unveil additions to the store.

For now, take a look around and let me know what you think. And... If you or a friend are in the market for a new guitar, please stop by! (And feel free to pass the link along...).

Friday, September 30, 2005

His closing bit the other night on REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER, HBO:

"Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any more. There's no more money to spend--you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people. Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished."

"Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what you're saying: there's so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don't. I know, I know. There's a lot left to do."

"There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote."

"But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised that you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes."

"On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side."

"So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: 'Take a hint.'"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Yes, it has been a busy few weeks since I posted last. We're going through another round of budgeting woes at work, one quarter into the fiscal year. Fun!

But, we have had a chance to help out victims of the latest hurricanes, even out here in San Jose, CA. We've been able to put our usual procedures and such aside to take in, at no cost to them, several individuals made homeless by flooding in the Gulf.

Yesterday we took in an older gentleman from Florida. After the storms hit, he went up to New York to find his estranged daughter. He wandered her old neighborhood asking after her for days, but nobody knew where to find her. He then boarded a bus for San Jose, where he had lived years earlier, and showed up at our door.

These are the moments that remind us of why we're in the business we're in; providing shelter to the homeless. When so much of my job is given over to bureaucracy and spreadsheets, it's good when I actually get to work with a client for a few moments, and be reminded that what I do is worthwhile.

On another front, what's been keeping me busy is the big secret project that I'll be unveiling in another few days. Basically, I've been setting up a small business to do on the side for a little extra income. Stay tuned for the big announcement.

Meanwhile, on the National Front, the administration has begun a game of blaming the messenger. In a twist on the old search for WMDs, they claim that the accounts of crime, death, and abuse in the Gulf were greatly exaggerated without any proof. How this is somehow supposed to excuse their lack of movement on this disaster for several days, I don't know.

Need proof yourself? Read "Power crews diverted" and learn how Dick Cheney's office had emergency crews leave hospitals without power in order to help out the oil companies first.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." - Barbara Bush, former First Lady, mother of the President.

1) She's scared that "these people" might want to stay in Texas.

2) She believes that living on a cot in a sports arena with 15,000 roommates is a step up.

And some people wonder why the President can be so uncaring about hurricane relief? He is his Momma's boy.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Afraid that you'll be paying for hurricane relief through higher taxes? Have no fear! Republicans are here! US Republicans say hurricane won't stop budget cuts.

Yes, through mud and storm the Republicans march on, slashing Federal programs to help the most vulnerable and putting the savings into the pockets of the most fortunate.

Democratic leaders have said that budget plan "would likely cut programs that many victims of Hurricane Katrina will be relying on."

Republicans use their Super Math Powers to counter that. For example, they claiming that by cutting Medicaid, "Dramatically more people will be covered." Huh? Gosh I wish I were a smart Republican so I could understand that calculation!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Last night on MSNBC somebody compared the plight of Hurricane Katrina's victims to that of the Dustbowl Refugees of the 1930s, who escaped what the commentator called "the opposite of Katrina", a drought that wiped out an entire region.

I was thinking about this in light of what I posted yesterday regarding compassion, and why it's so easy for people to reach out to these victims, while ignoring the homeless in their own towns.

It's pretty much the same thing. When a disaster strikes quickly, we're a caring and compassionate nation, but over time we're not quite so warm-hearted. During the dustbowl period - a disaster that took years to destroy lives - the rest of the country did not respond the way they are now to the people of the Gulf.

The "Okies" were looked down upon, were chased out of town, and treated a problem to be met with violence - anything but compassion or welcoming them as victims of a natural disaster.

This is wonderful that we are all helping the victims of Katrina - that is the way it should be. I just hope that we can keep it up long enough to get people settled, employed, and housed, before the compassion runs out and we start looking for ways to run these poor strangers out of town.

Monday, September 05, 2005

From San Antonio: Advocates want homeless treated same as evacuees. Texas is not particularly well known for its efforts to help the homeless living there, making their hosting of Katrina's victims a touch ironic.

This is really quite typical after something like this. American's are generally giving and compassionate, but they sometimes need to be shaken into acting on it.

When they see something like Katrina, they understand the need to help those made homeless by tragedy. It's immediate and dramatic, and points out clearly how easily any of us can be destroyed by forces beyond our control. We can see ourselves in the eyes of the victims and so we reach out without hesitation.

The slow tragedy of economic destruction is not so immediately dramatic. When a community - or even an individual - is dragged down by a confluence of circumstances smaller and open to interpretation, it's easier to look away. Was it the closing of one factory? Was it the over-crowded classrooms? Or was it just laziness?

A hurricane is clear-cut. We know why they were homeless and there's no arguing about whether the victims brought it on themselves. It's easy to give there.

Economic ruination is a little different. If we admit that there are causes beyond the victims' control then we have to recognize the potential for chaos in our own lives. Now that's hard.


On a different subject, yesterday we saw "Grizzly Man." This documentary by Werner Hertzog tells the story of the last few years in the life of Timothy Treadwell, including his violent death. For the last 13 years of his life, Tim had spent late Summer and early Fall in the Alaska wilderness among the bears. In 2003 he and his partner stayed later in the season than usual, when most of the animals entered hibernation, and the salmon had stopped running, and where killed by a hungry bear.

Tim studied the bears, photographed them, and (he claims) protected them from poachers. His detractors say that poaching is not that big a problem, and that Tim harmed the bears by acclimating them to human contact. During the off-season he brought his stories and pictures to schools across the country and never charged a speaker's fee. You watch the movie and decide for yourself whether Tim was a great naturalist, or a crazed fame seeker, or something in between.

Sometimes a movie is not just a movie. What made this so difficult for Leslie and I to watch is that we knew Tim. During his time away from Alaska he was a neighbor of Leslie's parents, and became a family friend. Tim even named one of the bears "Freckles" after my in-law's family dog.

Hertzog relys heavily on Tim's own footage that he shot over the years, and skillfully combines it with new interviews and narration to tell the complex story of this very complex man. I think it's a brilliant and beautiful movie, and it does Tim justice even as it shows the bad along with the good.

Learn more about Tim's legacy at Grizzly People (the foundation he started to fund his work).

Friday, September 02, 2005

Listening to the radio I was beginning to wonder if the rest of the world had forgotten us. Voice after voice was complaining how upset they were that the international community was quietly watching the U.S. Gulf Coast die without offering any aid.

So, I went to Google News and searched for "Katrina international aid". Along with a few editorials railing against the world for ignoring us and calling for an end to our foreign aid, I found several news articles that called that thesis into question:

* International Offers of Aid Pour Into U.S. in Katrina Aftermath (Bloomberg)
* Oil price drops as Europe plans US oil aid (Reuters)
* Aid for us? (New Hampshire Sentinel)
* Australia, Japan, Germany Offer Relief (Washington Post)

If you take the time to read a few of these articles, what you learn is that no less than a dozen nations have offered help so far, despite what the right wing commentators would have you believe.

The help includes cash aid from governments and individuals, French rescue workers from the Caribbean, and a release of gasoline from the Europeans' strategic oil reserves.

What you also learn from these articles is that this help has all been offered, despite the fact that President Bush has not asked for any assistance. Bush even went so far as to turn down the Russian offer of help, saying that the U.S. had "all the necessary means and equipment to conduct relief works."

In other post-hurricane news; this morning I received my first hurricane relief scam spam. It was an email soliciting donations to help in the relief effort. One link, buried within the email, was a legitimate link to the Red Cross (, but the more prominent link was completely suspicious.

Yes, we should all be giving generously to this effort; but don't be fooled by scams. Give to organizations you already know and trust (such as the Red Cross) through links you can verify through a reputable source.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The "gun that won the west" is also responsible for one of San Jose's architectural oddities, the Winchester Mystery House.

Sarah Winchester, widow to the gun's maker, moved here about 120 years ago and started building her mansion. At the advice of psychics, who were trying to help her escape the ghosts of all who had died by the Winchester rifle, she continued building until her death in 1922.

And now the story is the subject of a new musical comedy! Sarah, her architect, and a collection of ghosts, will be dancing and singing and building their way across the stage of the San Jose Repertory Theatre beginning next week. "The Haunting of Winchester" kicks off the Rep's 25th season this weekend and plays through October 2. Buy your tickets now, or read more about the show at the Mercury News.

And, just in case you hadn't yet, get over to the Red Cross and put something in the hurricane relief fund.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Here's an interesting statistic... While the military deaths in Iraq are still a bit short of 2,000, a different milestone has been reached. More journalists have now been killed in Iraq than were killed in Vietnam.

In the just over two years of fighting in Iraq 66 journalists have been killed (and 22 kidnapped) compared to 63 journalists killed in twenty years of fighting in Vietnam (1955-1975).

More from Reuters/Alternet: More journalists killed in Iraq than Vietnam

Thursday, August 25, 2005

How blunt should doctors be about a patient's weight problem? Would you want your doctor to tell you when your girth was in danger of affecting your health? I would.

Several years ago, when my gall bladder was first identified as the source of some of my problems, I asked the doctor, "Would it help the situation if I lost any weight?"

He would not commit to answer, or come right out and say that I was overweight. After much pressing, however, he did imply that, yes, I would put off the inevitability of surgery if I ate a lower-fat diet and maybe lost a few pounds.

I was not overly obese, just a bit overweight, but I lost over 30 pounds, and it definitely eased the pain I was feeling. Three years later I still wound up having to have the gall bladder surgery, but I had put it off and felt better for it by losing weight.

Still, I always wondered why the doctor refused to say the obvious; that was eating poorly and it was having a negative effect on my health. Now I see why:

A New Hampshire woman is suing her doctor for advising her to lose weight. There's no question of whether or not the advice was medically sound; only that it hurt her feelings.

Although he wrote her a note of apology, Dr. Terry Bennett may now lose the ability to practice medicine in the state. The woman's weight was not disclosed in the news article.

- - -

Update: I just found another article at the New York Daily News, "Hefty complaint leveled against doc", the woman weighed in at 250 pounds and has diabetes.

I'm sorry, but if you are a 250 pound diabetic, you need to try to lose some weight. Get over yourself and admit it: you're obese and it's hurting you. Perhaps there's some reason why you can't lose weight, but don't be insulted when a doctor suggests it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Eminent domain, Palestinian style... Now that the Israeli settlements have been removed from Gaza, thousands of Palestinians are looking forward to going back to their family's old farm lands and rebuilding their lives. But, they might not be allowed to go there.

They won't be denied access by their former occupiers. They will be denied access by their own government.

According to Freih Abu Meddein, director of the Palestinian Land Authority, "We will only give back the land if it doesn't serve a public use, like streets, schools or any assets left behind by the Israelis."

The Palestinian Authority claims that before Israel occupied Gaza, following the 1967 Six Day War, that 91% of the land was public land. Obviously they are laying claim to that land. The Authority is also laying first rights of claim to the other 9% as well.

So much for the right of return that the Intifada was supposed to be all about.

Read more at the Guardian Unlimited

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Over the past twenty years, which product do you think has risen more in price, milk or gasoline? Most of us would probably guess that it's gas, even just by the jumps in price of this summer. We would also be wrong.

Over the longer term, milk has actually had a larger price increase, as has bread and groceries over all. Gas is right behind them, of course, but food is getting to be more expensive than gasoline.

So why do we pay far more attention to the spikes in gasoline prices? An interesting article in the Seattle Times, Gas-pump angst: Why rising price riles us up, takes a look at that question.

I think most of the analysis in the article is right-on, and I found it very interesting. One thing it glosses over, however, is the connection between gas prices and political issues. Yes, food prices (particularly farm subsidies) have political overtones, but to the same extent, and not for the population as a whole.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Baby's got something deadly in her diaper, and that ain't no shit!

In more than a dozen documented cases, over-zealous airport screeners have singled out infants under the age of two for extra security measures and prevented them from boarding flights. Why? Because their names were on the official "no fly" list, created to combat terrorism.

Babies on the no-fly list? Well, obviously, their names were just the same as or similar to names of individuals on the list. TSA guidelines specify not to stop anybody under 12 because of similarity to names on the list, but at just about every major airport in the U.S. screeners are doing just that.

Do you feel safer yet? I know I do. I hate the smell of poo on planes.

Babies caught up in 'no-fly' confusion S.J. Mercury News

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Last night we saw The Beatles. Well, okay, not quite "The Beatles." We saw Best of the Beatles.

At the Brookdale Lodge, a place known for its ghosts, we saw "the man who put the beat in The Beatles", The Pete Best Band.

If you recall the name at all, it's as the biggest loser in Rock 'n' Roll history. Pete was the Beatles' drummer from 1960-1962, during the bands' rise from local Liverpool favorites to cult rave in both Liverpool and Hamburg, and up until the moment when they were about to achieve stardom. At that moment, for reasons "never fully explained to Pete," he was dismissed from his job and replaced by Ringo Starr. The rest, as they say, is history.

So why, forty-three years after being fired by The Beatles, was I going to see Pete Best perform on Friday night in the Santa Cruz mountains? That's what I was wondering up until the minute the band started.

Pete was being interviewed on the local radio earlier in the week, and my reaction at the time was, "Why is this loser on my radio?" As the interview progressed, there was nothing to change my mind, until the final moment when he said where the band would be playing. Then morbid curiosity got the better of me. I went home and told Leslie, I called my brother Miles and told him. Neither talked me out of it, and each agreed it would be an "interesting" experience. We were going to see the show.

We had our dinner in the world famous Brook Room (no sign of the ghost), and took our seats the Fireside Room to get ready. First out was local band, Cruzin. I never would have thought that such fast-tempo music could be played with such low energy, but they did. I wondered if it was ploy: pick the worst possible opening act so that Pete will look good by comparison. I considered screaming words I never would have thought I'd be stringing together, "Bring out Pete Best!"

The Pete Best Band finally gets ready to go and the first thing we notice is the drum sets: there are two of them. The only drummer/band leader that I was aware of who toured with another drummer to back him up, was Ringo Starr. Pete needs a drummer too. Not a good sign.

But then the guitars ring out and the music gets going, and it's good! The band rocks the house. Most of the band wasn't even born yet back when Pete was sacked by the Beatles, but they play a high energy set of 1960-1963 music that takes you back to where you've never been - the Cavern Club in Liverpool, or the Star Club in Hamburg.

The set consists of mostly the same cover songs the Beatles would have played then, from Twist and Shout to Please Mr. Postman to Money, to the Beatles first recordings with Tony Sheridan that Pete actually played on, My Bonnie, to early Lennon-McCartney songs that they were working on back before they were recorded, P.S. I Love You, One After 909, etc. (I know, you're thinking, One After 909 was from Let it Be, at the end of their career - Yes, it's true that that's when it was finally recorded, but it was actually one of the first songs they wrote).

Bottom line: This is a great bar band! Pete is still essentially worthless as a drummer. But he's a nice guy, and he's hired the right people to put together a great show. When the Pete Best Band comes to your town, you gotta go to the show.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

And then there was the one about the Air Force officer charged for anti-Bush graffiti. He'd been finding cars with Bush or Bush-Cheney bumper-stickers on them and spray-painting over them.

"Police set up a bait car with a pro-Bush bumper sticker, parked it at the airport with a surveillance camera, and waited. On July 1, the camera recorded a man spray-painting over the bumper sticker with an expletive."

According to Major Tina Barber-Matthew, spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force Space Command, "Until we can validate or invalidate the charges, he is still on full-duty status."

And an un-related quote:

"They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years and we're not using it anymore." - George Carlin

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thanks to a church group in Kansas, we can now prevent the deaths of any more American soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere. These geniuses have decided that dead soldiers are evidence of God's wrath, and there's obviously only one thing that He could be angry about: Gays in the military.

The platform these good Americans have chosen to spread their message is to protest at the funerals of soldiers. Not just gay soldiers (how would they know, anyway?), but any and all soldiers killed in Iraq (etc.).

Yes, our soldiers are falling because they've been forced to accept homosexuality and other "sinful acts" as normal. (Read more at the Chicago Tribune)

But don't worry about this. The problem is being solved. The military is doing all it can to get rid of the gays in their midst.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was arguably the most important piece of Civil Rights legislation since the Civil War, one hundred hears before. And, if left unauthorized, could expire in less than two years.

Aspects of the Act would remain law. Open discrimination in voting will, thankfully, remain a violation of U.S. law. What will expire, however, are the parts of the Act that provide the tools for enforcing non-discrimination.

Many people cheer this expiration. It's not that they are necessarily racists, it's just that they feel discrimination is no longer a problem and that such strict enforcement is no longer needed.

Here's an example of how the enforcement sections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) - those sections set to expire in 2007 - work to protect voter rights:

In Kilmichael, Mississippi, the all-White town council cancelled their municipal elections at the last minute, when Census data revealed that African Americans had become a majority in the town. Enough black candidates had qualified to run so that—for the first time—the town council could have had an African-American majority. The all-White council cancelled the election to prevent that. The Justice Department was able to act on this and prevent the cancellation because of the enforcement sections of the VRA. Without them, the town council would have had their way - legal or not.

Now, that example doesn't come from 1965, when the VRA was new. That example is from 2001. It is fresh. It is new. It is now. The full VRA is still needed and used to keep elections open to all Americans, regardless of race.

Read more examples and background in "Ballot Box Equality" by Stuart Comstock-Gay on

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On the radio just now, the host was arguing that it's time to get over our overly PC squeamishness and start some racial profiling in the War on Terror - er, excuse me, in the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" (or "Global SAVE" for short).

His point is that random searches of bags at subway stations is not a good use of resources. By picking every fifth passenger, for example, we'll end up stopping somebody's granny (who just happens to be number five) and, according to the radio guy, allowing the young Arab-looking man who was number four to get onto the train with his backpack full of explosives.

His example is geared to elicit an "of course he's right" response. Why would granny want to blow up a train? And so, he gets reasonable people to go along with the notion that the enemy is "Arabs" or "Muslims" and target only them.

The answer is that searches should be conducted based on a reasonable suspicion, but that race is not enough of a reason to suspect somebody - or to let them off the hook. Yes, sometimes the suspicious looking character will be Middle Eastern. But if we want to avert the next tragedy, they had better be looking for suspicious White guys (and gals) too.

In addition to the above, they still need to be doing random searches, even if that might mean picking on your granny. It won't take recruiters long to figure out that they need to send out bombers who don't "fit the profile." It's also important to remember that Islamic extremism isn't the only philosophy that wishes us ill will.

I would certainly like to help prevent the next Osama inspired bombing. But, if we're serious about the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, shouldn't we be looking for the next Timothy McVey or Eric Rudolph follower as well? I don't know about you, but I'm more scared of Redneck Extremism than any threat from across the globe.

Monday, August 01, 2005

In case you hadn't noticed, the "War on Terror" is over. There was no treaty signed, no major battle won, no white flag raised, and no end to the fighting. What there was was a meeting. Very quietly, administration officials last week stopped using the "war" word and began referring to the "global struggle against violent extremism."

Now, back when all us crazy liberals were shouting about the impossibility of winning a war against an abstract noun ("terror"), the administration hawks kept using the war metaphor to describe the conflict, gather power, and go about their agenda.

Then the London bombings happened. And [almost] happened again. And, very quietly, the separation of the "global struggle against violent extremism" and the wrap-up of war-like operations in Iraq. (U.S. Officials Retool Slogan for Terror War - NY Times)

In some ways this is an admission of the failure of the administration's policy. The excuse of fighting the "war on terror" in Iraq "so that we don't have to fight it at home" vanished in the explosions that rocked London in the last month.

A "struggle against extremism" suggests that some solutions might not take the form of large armies going to far away lands. The solution to a struggle might be found in diplomacy, education, and smaller-scale police actions.

In some ways, however, the new phrasing could prove more dangerous. In the eyes of many conservatives, "violent extremism" is a way to describe environmentalists who spike trees to prevent lumbering, or who release lab animals before they can be experimented on. Does the new phrasing signal a new crack-down on domestic dissenters?

Think that could never happen here? Think of the recent appointment of John Bolton to the U.N. post in an end-run around Congress to avoid confirmation. Bolton, who was part of the legal team that James Baker brought down to Florida in 2000 to help W "win" the presidency. And that other recent nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Roberts, who voluntarily went to Florida in 2000 to give advice to his good friend, Jeb Bush. Expectations of democracy are largely unfounded in the New American Republic.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

An odd and slightly disturbing little "trick" my 11 year old nephew showed me last night was how to fold a $20 bill so that it shows a picture of the twin towers burning on 9/11. The trick also works with a $10 bill, but with not as accurate a depiction, and to lesser extent with a $5 (*see conspiracy theory below for explanation).

Before taking the time to scan a bill to show here, I figured if I googled "20 dollar bill twin towers burning" I'd find somebody who's already done the scan. Here's what I found:

The full illustrated instructions on how to fold a bill into this sick picture can be found at It turns out that if we'd looked at the front of the bill, we'd have also seen the Pentagon burning on 9/11 too.

Now, if simple instructions to a parlor trick are not enough for you, and you want the full conspiracy theory of why the image is there (there are no coincidences, only conspiracies with clues that only the highly intelligent can decipher), the site you want is On this site I learned that the old-style $20 bill had a picture of the Oklahoma City Federal Building on fire. Coincidence? These guys think not...

So, why do the twin towers images on the $10 and $5 not look as clear as the one on the $20? Because you must put them into sequence: The $20 bill represents impact, the $10 is burning, and the $5 is the remains.

Friday, July 29, 2005

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed..."

And so begins Dan McKay's winning entry into the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest sponsored by San Jose State University, which rewards the worst opening sentence of an imagined novel.

My favorite among this year's honorable mentions was this little gem, submitted by Lawrence Person:

"Inside his cardboard box, Greg heated a dented can of Spaghetti-O's over a small fire made from discarded newspapers, then cracked open his last can of shoplifted generic beer to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his embarkation on a career as a freelance writer."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." - Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (Republican, 1901-09)

A few weeks ago we noted the passing of Admiral James Stockdale, who was a POW in Vietnam, and later Vice Presidential Candidate running-mate of Ross Perot. Stockdale, who had been in Vietnam from the start of the war, later called the Gulf of Tonkin incident a "false pretense" for war. My posting here noted the similarities of our current war based on false pretenses.

A few days ago another early leader of our efforts in Vietnam died. General William Westmoreland commanded our forces during the crucial early years of the war and was largely responsible for the escalation of it.

Each time he got more troops he'd tell President Johnson, "If we can just have a few more, we can win this thing." The lie of his leadership was shown to the public in 1968 when U.S. forces were surprised by the Tet offensive. As a child I remember hearing the saying, "Westmoreland or Peace." After Tet, he was relieved of his command in Vietnam with a promotion to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Years later, a CBS news documentary suggested that Westmoreland knew that the Viet Cong were stronger than he let on, and lied to get the President and Congress to commit more troops. Westmoreland sued CBS for libel and the case was settled out of court.

Once again, as with the Stockdale story, I'm reliving the history and noting the parallels to the situation in Iraq. Each time we're told that the insurgency is almost under control, another wave of violence erupts. Each new suicide attack being a tiny Tet, exposing the lie of the Generals.

General William Westmoreland has been laid to rest at West Point. "The season of war is gone," an academy chaplain said at the memorial service. "Now he will experience a season of peace."

I hope we can all soon experience a season of peace in this life.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

According to a recent poll, Americans are more likely than others to believe that World War III is coming in their lifetime. Many people believe that WWIII has already begun. What's interesting is that those who hold such beliefs are not critics of the administration, but conservative columnists [example 1, example 2] trying to emphasize the importance of why we must stay in the fight and win the war in Iraq.

Your choice: Do you want this to be the third world war, or do you want this to end now?

In other end-of-the-world news: Tomorrow is my 44th birthday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"... and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court..." - U.S. Constitution, Section 2, Clause 2, the powers of the President

Okay, Bush's first Supreme Court nominee is a little-known fellow called John G. Roberts. No surprise: he's fairly conservative. We wouldn't and shouldn't have expected anything different. And, if he's not confirmed by the Senate, we won't get anything terribly different from the next nominee.

And so the conservatives on the TV and the radio and in the papers are already screaming about the "obstructionists" in the Senate who will drag their feet by extending the confirmation process. They would like the Senate to simply rubber stamp any nominee the President sends them.

Except for this pesky little thing called the Constitution. Democratic Senators are not obstructionist: they are doing their job. The President did not heed their advice, but he still needs their Consent. That's the law.

Roberts is comparatively young - only about 50. He could be on the bench for the next 30-40 years. The American public deserves to know who he is, and where he stands on a few issues, before we give him a job that will last a generation.

Yes, Abortion is the big one that most pundits are talking about. We won't get a pro-choice nominee out of this President. Not going to happen. That's not the main thing I'm worried about.

Some of the other things I've heard that concern me more regard Roberts' views on school prayer (he thinks it's a good idea) and flag burning (he thinks it's unconstitutional). At this point it's only bits and pieces. It's the Senate's job to ask the tough questions, put the puzzle together, and find out exactly what kind of man the President has sent them.

Only after they've given it their full and complete consideration can they give their Advice and [perhaps] their Consent.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Back from vacation... three-and-a-half days in Portland... driving up the historic highway through the Columbia Gorge... visiting with J.D. Chandler, author of Mud Bay and member of the Morro Four.

In the news on our return: FBI Monitored Web Sites for 2004 Protests []. The agents doing the "monitoring" weren't just any agents; they were members of the Bureau's coutnerterrorism unit.

When did peaceful protest, once allowed under the 1st ammendment to our constitution, become a terrorist act? Oh, yeah, that's right: when the Patriot Act became law.

"It's one thing to monitor protests and protest organizers," said Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice. "But quite another thing to refer them to your counterterrorism unit."

(As always, if you need a password to get into, or any other site, please visit

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Kansas' "BTK" killer, Dennis Rader, confessed to his crimes last week in matter-of-fact testimony that I'm sure you've all read or heard by now. Today, his house was auctioned off, and was purchased by a local bar owner for $90,000 - far more than the assessed value of $57,000.

Some read this story as shocking because of who lived in the house. They're sickened by the idea of buying a part of this type of history. They're even more disgusted at the idea of living in the former house of a mass murderer.

I was shocked when I read this too, but for different reasons. Living, as I do, in California's Silicon Valley, my reaction is, "A three bedroom house for $90,000! And that's over the assessed value? Maybe I should move to Kansas?!" Hell, for a $90,000 home I'd let a mass murderer stay in the extra bedroom.

"Kan. Club Owner Buys BTK Killer's House" - Washington Post
While politicians and pundits argue about replacing the progressive income tax with a flat tax, the dirty little secret of recent reforms is the flat tax is already here. Thanks to Bush's latest cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans, the top fifth of taxpayers now pay 19 percent of their incomes in taxes, while the bottom fifth pay 18 percent.

The result of the Bush tax cuts, combined with Republican budget cuts aimed at services to the poor and middle class, levels of income inequality in America are at their highest levels since 1929.

According to David Cay Johnston, NY Times tax reporter for the past 10 years, and author of, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich, and Cheat Everyone Else, "The tax system is becoming a tool to turn the American dream of prosperity and reward for hard work into an impossible goal for tens of millions of Americans and into a nightmare for many others."

Read more about it: COMMENTARY - Rich Pervert Tax Code for Themselves (

Monday, July 11, 2005

Personal notes: This past weekend was mostly spent at the hospital with my mother. Actually, it started on Friday when I took Leslie (my wife) in for a previously scheduled procedure and ended with both my mother and Leslie's grandmother each in the hospital.

Leslie's procedure was for an ultrasound-guided needle aspiration. That is, to have the fluid drained from a cyst that was causing a breast lump. Everything is good, the procedure went well, and there's extremely little chance that this incident is a sign of anything like breast cancer developing.

My parents happened to be visiting as well, mostly to see our nephews (their grandsons) who are out for the summer. On Saturday morning, when we thought we were meeting them for brunch, came the call to meet them in the emergency room instead.

My mother had woken up shaking violently and unable to eat or drink anything. At the ER, they discovered she was de-hydrated and that her temperature was too low. They brought up her temperature and gave her fluids and started working on the cause. At first they thought maybe a kidney infection, and by about 6:30 PM - after nine hours in the ER - they checked her into a regular room for observation "over night."

On Sunday they concluded that the infection was in her blood, and decided that she should stay there "for a few days" until the infection is completely gone, and be sure it does not lodge itself into any other organs. She's looking much better, and feeling good, but not having a great time there.

Meanwhile, back to Saturday, Leslie called her parents (in Malibu) to tell them what was going on, and they told her that her 92-year-old grandmother had just gone into the hospital with "a touch of" pneumonia. She's got advanced Alzheimer's already, so this does not look good at all.

We had been planning to go on vacation later this week, but will likely cancel that so she (or we) can go down to L.A. and (hopefully) see her grandmother before it's too late.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I found out about this morning's terror attacks in London at about 7 AM when I arrived at my first meeting of the day. "Have you heard the news yet?" I was asked when I walked up. And so I've been picking up bits of information all for the past seven hours as I've been running around in a busy day.

"The heroic mujahideen have carried out a blessed raid in London," an Al Qaida web site apparently has posted on it. "Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters."

Fortunately, that message is a lie. The British, unfortunately, have lived through much worse and came together today to help their fellow citizens get through this attack with their resolve unshaken, and [perhaps] even strengthened.

Far from "burning with fear", Britons are fighting back. One statement I just heard on the radio (I'm sorry that I didn't catch who the speaker was) came from a critic of the Iraq war and the Blair government, but he stood up for Britain. "We don't like our government either," he said. "But we have better ways of dealing with it."

Now, as we did on 9/11/01, the civilized world stands together on this point. We may not agree on many things, but what we do agree on is the power of the ballot over the bomb.

London will survive long after the war on terror is forgotten.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Who was he? Why was he here?

Retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral James Stockdale has died at age 81. Stockdale is best remembered as Ross Perot's 1992 running mate, but it's the reasons why Perot chose him that had already earned him an important place in U.S. history.

Stockdale was an early critic of LBJ's handling of the Viet Nam war, and the reasons for it. In statements foreshadowing our current war, Stockdale disputed the official version of events at the Gulf of Tonkin (an attack on a U.S. Navy ship was our excuse for going to war; the attack is now widely accepted to have been a lie). "I literally led the initial strike of a war I knew was under false pretenses," he later said.

Stockdale was taken prisoner and spent more than seven years at the notorious "Hanoi Hilton" POW camp, including four in solitary confinement. In a show of inner strength reminiscent of Papillon, he prevailed, and helped an underground resistance of American soldiers in the POW camp that probably saved many of their lives.

You know I'm not a militarist type of guy, but you don't have to be a right-winger to recognize the heroism and importance of Admiral Stockdale. RIP.

Read the full story at Reuters

In the lighter side of the news, Bono gets his trousers back.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Yesterday we went to Monterey for the big fireworks spectacular with my nephews. A bit of a crazy scene there at the beach, with a few too many drunken teenagers aiming bottle rockets at the back of my head, but the [official] fireworks were great and it's always nice to spend the day with the boys.

And so, today's links are to my nephew's web sites...

The Official Frostbyte Web Site tell the story of the band, Frostbyte. You haven't heard of them? You just aren't going to the right Connecticut middle school talent nights, are you? Well, Frostbyte's broken up now, but the members are still ranting at each other through the guestbook. Andy (guitar, vocals, songwriter) is my nephew who'll be 14 this summer.

Keith's Site also has some of his musical accomplishments featured in the pictures, but also has a bit of politics featured. The new phrase he's coined and is trying to get into general usage is "Don't Bush me." Did somebody lie to you, get in your face and do something really stupid? The new response is, "Don't Bush me!" Other uses: "I've been Bushed," or, "Watch out, he'll Bush you every time." Keith will be 10 this summer.

It's great when they're out in California for a visit.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

In the news: Official secrecy reaches historic high in the U.S. (International Herald Tribune) - Our government is now keeping secrets from us (classifying documents) at a rate of 125 per minute. Meanwhile, the rate of de-classification of old secrets has "slowed to a relative crawl, from a high of 204 million pages in 1997 to just 28 million pages last year."

Sure, security issues in war time drive a large part of this, but that's just the start. In 2001 Dubya extended the power to classify documents to the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture. "At the Agriculture Department employees can visit the agency's Web site and easily print out a bright-yellow 'sensitive security information' cover sheet."

Just what do you think the USDA or the EPA want to keep from you? In what new and creative ways are they letting industry destroy our environment and poison our food supply with genetic modification? Now we may never know.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

For your holiday weekend reading enjoyment, I've posted a new article in my column at

Some Thoughts on July 4, 2005 - "On this July Fourth I will be celebrating the radical ideas that shaped our constitution and the founding of our nation, not the current actions of our government. What do I think the true patriot should be doing for the next year? Read and see."

Friday, July 01, 2005

Taiwan bowled over by toilet-theme restaurant

"It may take a strong stomach to eat curry or chocolate ice cream out of a toilet bowl, but a commode-themed restaurant in Taiwan does booming business serving up just that."

You just don't want to know about their urinal soda fountain.
July First - The start of a new Fiscal Year!

Okay, so that's not a very exciting way to begin after not posting for nearly two months, but that's about it.

Since you've last heard from me I've been budgeting hell. We lost a few people in the cutting necessary to make it to this FY (that's short for Fiscal Year), and I had to be in on a few of those.

I've also acquired a few more duties in that shuffle (but no additional pay - it was budget cutting, after all), moved my office to another site, discovered some minor bit of corruption at that site, and started to clean it up.

So, I was understandably busy and a bit depressed over the whole mess.

But, today is New Year's Day, as far as the accounting department is concerned, I survived it with my income intact, and it's time for a fresh start. Happy New Year to you, and have a wonderful summer.

I'll be back shortly with something interesting to say. Meanwhile, I've done some minor re-designing of the web site, so start clicking on the main menu to the left.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Just when I get to thinking that I can't possibly get any more cynical, somebody goes and proves me wrong...

Background: From time to time I get fed up with the bureaucracy, low wages, and lack of benefits or security in the nonprofit field and I start brainstorming business ideas that will make me filthy rich. The business criteria, of course, still include some sort of social consciousness; some way of doing good by doing the right thing.

So, last week the process went something like this: What's the most profitable way to make money online? Pornography! So, in my cynical state of mind I conceived of a web site that would combine public service messages with smut. Picture a screen with choices like "Click here to feed hungry children - Or click here to continue on to horny red-headed sluts."

A joke, right? Cynical, right?

Apparently not cynical or ridiculous enough.

Fuck for Forest (.com) has taken my idea, added to it, implemented it, and created the worlds first "Eco Porn" site. Nubile young models are photographed doing what comes naturally out in nature. If you don't mind a little message with your porn, this could be the site you've been waiting for. Of course, it is a membership site, but 100% of your membership fee goes to save the forests. I have not (yet) paid to enter the site.

Now, the question: Did I miss out on a good idea? Or are they sicker than I am? I'm not quite sure yet.

Curious, but don't feel like clicking on a porn link? Read about "F* for Forest" in the SF Chronicle.

Monday, April 11, 2005

"A fter weeks of posturing about a single feeding tube, Congress can now get back to what it really wants to do:

"Cutting back on feeding people.

"It's always a relief to return to basics."

read more at the Oregonian

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Cookie is a Sometime Food... ???

The Cookie Monster is going on a diet! (ABC News) Yes, the big blue mess of fur from Sesame Street is learning to control his cravings and eat his vegetables.

Have they thought this through at all? How can you have a Cookie Monster if he'd rather chomp on a carrot than a cookie? Don't they think the kids will notice the irony in his name?

Teach nutrition through a new character, damn it - Leave our cultural icons alone!

All I have to say is:
'C' is for Cookie; That's Good Enough For Me!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

You scored as John Lennon.

John Lennon


Jim Morrison


Syd Vicious


Keith Moon


Jimi Hendrix


Which Famous Dead musician are You?
created with
Not to beat a dead horse but...

Those who say that there's a one in a million chance that the exit polls could have been so far off last November are wrong. According to a group of statisticians, the odds were actually one in 959,000.

Yes, the analysis points to corruption (big freaking surprise).

The statistical analysis "shows that the discrepancy between polls and results was especially high in precincts that voted for Bush -- as high as a 10 percent difference."

The official excuse from the polling companies was that Bush voters were more shy about filling out exit polls in precincts with more Kerry voters. But, if that' true, "then the precincts with large Bush votes should be more accurate, not less accurate as the data indicate."

The report concludes: "All voting equipment technologies except paper ballots were associated with large unexplained exit poll discrepancies all favoring the same party, (which) certainly warrants further inquiry."

Why beat a dead horse? Why not get over this and move on? Because the rest of the world is watching. You know - the folks all over the planet that we're trying to convince to try it our way. What credibility do we have, for example, talking to the Egyptians about Democracy when the person doing the speaking is regarded as having stolen an election?

Note: Need a username or password for the above link? Try

Sunday, April 03, 2005

See Dick. See Dick Run.

Could our mysterious VP, the main just an electrically charged heartbeat away from the Presidency, be on the verge of announcing his candidacy for the office himself? Apparently, the Draft Cheney Movement is growing.

What about the other presumed front runners? McCain, Giuliani, or Rice? The hardcore conservatives, the real true believers in what W's been doing to us, suspect them each (including Rice!) of being too liberal to continue the revolution. So, who better to carry on the W legacy than the architect of the whole damn thing? So, Draft Cheney it is.

First, of course, he has to get over the whole "I pledged not to run" stuff. Easy enough. He pledged that he wasn't a candidate for VP when he took charge of the effort to find a running mate for W back in 2000. He got over that quickly enough.

I for one think this is great news (assuming Dick lives long enough for it to happen). I'm sure Democrats everywhere are thinking that it's a slam dunk to win against that nasty old f***. Hell, the Dem's could probably bring back Dukakis and win against Cheney. All it would take is a little organization; is that too much to ask?

Friday, March 25, 2005

"...although repulsive, the finger fragment was well-cooked..."

Have you heard the disgusting Wendy's finger-in-the-chili story yet? Well, it happened the other day in San Jose, around the corner from my work. And, yes, I ate at that very same Wendy's earlier that day. I did not have the chili, I had the chicken. Please don't ask if the chicken was finger lickin' good.

Authorities seek hand with a missing finger SF Chronicle

In happier news, I've recently discovered It's a community site that links up progressives with each for discussions, petition signing, news, and more.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Less than seven hours to go before the 77th Annual Academy Awards, so I guess it's time to put in my two cents worth before the Oscars are handed out...

Best Actor:

My choice: Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda. He carried this very difficult film and made it the most important picture of the year (if not "best" picture). I've always liked Don Cheadle, but this performance stands out as something everybody must see.

Will probably win: Jamie Foxx seems to be the favorite, but I think there'll be a bit of a backlash against Foxx's ego. My guess is that tonight is Clint Eastwood's night. He's great, and I loved Million Dollar Baby, but he'll get it for being Clint, not for this performance.

Supporting Actor:

My choice: This is where Jamie Foxx should win. Collateral was a very good, if flawed movie, but what tied it together and made it work was the stand-out performance of Jamie Foxx. Without him in that role, the audience would have walked out on Tom Cruise half-way through.

Will probably win: Morgan Freeman seems to be the favorite here. Again, he's always excellent, but I don't think Million Dollar Baby stands out as his best work. I think we could have a surprise win here by any of the other three.

Best Actress:

I'm at a loss because I haven't seen all the nominated pictures, but I think Hilary Swank could easily take Oscar home. Kate Winslet was great in Eternal Sunshine, but she was even better in the non-nominated Finding Neverland.

Supporting Actress:

Can you give somebody an Oscar for doing a bad impression of Katherine Hepburn? If so, Cate Blanchett could win. Personally, I'd vote for the unknown Sophie Okonedo for the incredible Hotel Rwanda.

Art Direction:

Finding Neverland was a beautiful movie, and the Aviator was visually stunning, but I'm voting for the kid's movie: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Beautiful, stunning, and original: this movie will live on as a classic.


The Aviator. What else could it be? Unless the academy just hates Martin Scorsese...

Costume Design:

See Art Direction, above.

Screenplay - Original:

There's some great movies nominated here, but to me, the "original" screenplay category belongs to any movie written by Charlie Kaufman; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Screenplay - Adapted:

Hard to say, because are you voting for the screenplay, or the adoption? In which case, are you qualified to vote if you saw the movie, but didn't read the original source? What the heck, I'll pick Million Dollar Baby for it's use of multiple short stories, using one as the main plot with other stories by the same author serving as background.

Best Director:

Tough, tough choice. I am first an always a Martin Scorsese devotee, but is the Aviator his best ever work? Probably not (besides, Hollywood hates filmmakers who insist on living in New York). Taylor Hackford did a phenomenal job with Ray, but expect the academy to pass him by.

This year's winner will be Clint Eastwood, and I think I might agree with that. Some of the votes will be out of guilt for passing over Mystic River for the big Elf movie last year, but Clint Eastwood is somebody who has who has had to earn the respect of his industry slowly over the years, and is without a doubt doing his best work as a director now.

Best Picture:

Another tough choice. This was, in the end, a very good year for the cinema. All the nominated pictures were excellent, and there were many more that could (should?) be on the list of nominees (Hotel Rwanda for one).

Sideways will not win - or, rather, it should not win. Don't get me wrong; I really enjoyed this surprising little movie. But it's not a Best Picture. Sideways is great, but it's not Annie Hall.

Finding Neverland is the next film I'll eliminate. I found it beautiful and moving, and I'm shocked that the kid who played Peter was not nominated for Supporting Actor, but in such high competition I'm afraid this one will be brushed aside.

The Aviator will also not win, because, as we know, Martin Scorsese couldn't handle living in L.A. and moved back to New York. How dare he make a movie about another Hollywood outsider?

That leaves Ray and Million Dollar Baby. Because of the Foxx ego backlash and the pro Clint movement, Baby could win. But the real Best Picture of 2004 is Ray.


I think this will prove to be the Year Of Clint and Million Dollar Baby. Much of it earned, some of it out of guilt or personal dislike of the other nominees.

The Aviator will go down as the biggest victim of the night, and will be robbed of any glory it should have received.

If there are not at least two African American winners in the performance categories, then there will be no doubt left about Hollywood's latent racism.

Ray will pick up several Oscars (including, hopefully, Best Picture), but not as many as others are predicting.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A few days ago a story broke in the news in which tapes of G.W. Bush admitting to have smoked pot were released. It did not get as much attention, however, as you would have expected. The media in the rest of the world is having as much fun with it as they can, but in the U.S. it's buried in a longer a story about a friend who betrayed the President by releasing the tapes.

Is this because the marijuana admission is really no big deal? Or is it because the "liberal" media is afraid of being accused of attacking the President? Probably a bit of each. Clinton proved it was no big deal by saying publicly (if stupidly) that he'd tried it. Bush is proving it's no big deal by not denying the authenticity of the tapes.

But it's not entirely true that nobody cares about youthful pot smoking. Bush's conservative base claims that they do. Bush himself has made some fairly harsh comments in the past about illegal drug users. And that's the story that timid press is shying away from; not that W smoked pot, but that he's a hypocrite. Of course, that's not really news either, though - is it?

(Washington Post: Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A major earthquake has struck Iran (see news coverage) with a death toll likely to climb over 300, at least another 1,000 likely to be injured, and entire villages flattened.

Will our government see this as an opportunity to reach out, provide emergency assistance, and open up a diplomatic approach to engaging Iran on the nuclear issue? Or will we ignore the earthquake and continue to rattle the sabers? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I've got to call the phone company and change my number. Ever since Paris Hilton's phone book was posted online my phone just hasn't stopped ringing!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hey, kids - I've discovered a great new source of obscene video clips on the web! Wondering where to find scenes of "gratuitous teen sex" or necrophilia? Follow me over to the Parents Television Council.

Yeah, that's right, the very same Parents Television Council that's responsible for turning Janet Jackson's tit into a rallying cry to turn our country back over to G-d. These uptight, pro-censorship, so-called "guardians" of the airwaves have a page on their site called "Worst of the Week Clips Gallery" where you can find all sorts of offensive materials.

You don't have to actually watch TV to be offended and complain to the FCC - All you have to do is check the web site of your favorite pressure group, and they'll show you the clips and give you the link to complain direct to the FCC, all without the bother of watching the programs.

Complaining about what other people are watching on TV and providing a download of the sexiest clips on a web site accessible by children - Am I the only one who finds these things offensive? Am I the only one who sees all sorts of hypocrisy and a bit of creeping fascism in all this?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

It's been a while since I've dropped in a movie review here, but yesterday we finally saw Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. An incredible movie about a major American figure of the twentieth century. A tribute that is worthy of the man it depicts; Howard Hughes.

First, a bias confession: I love Martin Scorsese and consider him to be one of the greatest directors of all time. I've not, however, always been a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio - I'm one of the few people who hated his big boat movie - but he's excellent here.

Interesting choices were made, primarily in showing the development of Hughes' OCD and mental disability as a lifelong struggle. In truth, I believe that there's still some controversy over whether Hughes' eccentricities were innate from childhood, or the result of brain damage from his many accidents (depicted brilliantly here).

If we want to wax symbolic here, and try to find greater meaning where it may not exist, we could call The Aviator the story of America in the twentieth century. Great promise and great innovation brought on by determined, but troubled, genius, and brought down by darker side of that same genius. It's most prominent features were the birth of mass entertainment, advances in technology, and superiority in war, all tied together through a love of spectacle that in turn threatens our own desire for privacy and quietude. Okay, enough of that bullshit.

As to the choice to end the picture with some twenty years of Hughes' life story left untold, I have to accept that. While the last chapters of the story would have been interesting, they've already been covered in lurid detail, and they add nothing to the story of Hughes' breakthroughs in the field of aviation.

Also interesting; the use of color and tinting - sometimes subtle, sometimes almost disturbing, but always helping us get into the mind of Howard Hughes and elicit our sympathy for this very difficult man. Yes, this film shows all of Hughes' blemishes that earned him a reputation as a tyrant and an emotionless beast, but it managed to do so in a loving way that demonstrated the full range of who he was.

Some Howard Hughes rentals for your further enjoyment:
  • The Carpetbaggers (1964) - A not-so-nice depiction of Hughes as an evil tyrant. Based on the Harold Robbins novel, this is a fun soap opera about a "fictional" industrialist millionaire who directs movies, builds airplanes, and destroys the lives of beautiful starlets. Not to be taken as history, but just to provide a balance to The Aviator.
  • Melvin and Howard (1980) - The true (?) story of Melvin Dumar, who once picked up a dazed hitchhiker claiming to be Howard Hughes in the Nevada desert and helped him out. On Hughes' death, one of the many wills that were found named Melvin as beneficiary for his kindness, although the Hughes estate made certain he would never collect. A great American story, and a great early film from Jonathan Demme, starring Paul Le Mat as Melvin and Jason Robards as Howard.
  • The Outlaw (1943) - Hughes' own classic western for which he turned his Cal Tech taught engineering skills to designing the push-up bra for star Jane Russell. As Leonardo DiCaprio (as Hughes) says in The Aviator, "Who doesn't like tits?"

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Intifada Over? - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ended a meeting in Egypt announcing an end to all military and violent actions against each other. Whether militants on either side will cooperate, or spoil this chance for peace, remains to be seen.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who summoned the two leaders and has been a key mediator, said, "The challenges today are large and deep, but the mission is not impossible. If the road is long, we today took the first step." Egypt and Jordan will each resume diplomatic relations with Israel.

As with so many things lately, I will do my best to hold cynicism aside and hope and pray that this is the start of a two-state solution that will bring peace back to the Holy Land.

Source: ABC News

Also - Ever follow a link to a news site and then find out you need to register with the site to read the story? Ever a little reluctant to give out your personal information and email address to each site? Check out - They've got anonymous usernames and passwords for most of the major sites that you may borrow.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I've just posted a new article at Suite101: "Rejoicing in Democracy", in which I take a look at the recent Iraqi elections and see if there's any lessons there to be applied here in the U.S.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Just in case you needed more proof that the current administration has no sense of morality and is leading this nation directly into Hell, here's a collection of current headlines:

* Rumsfeld actually felt a twinge of conscience and tried to resign twice when the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke, but was refused by the Commander in Chief. (ABC News)

* Meanwhile, the legal mind responsible for defending the use of torture and called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" is our new Attorney General. (SF Chronicle)

* Of course, all this has nothing to do with a General making a speech in San Diego in which he says it's "a lot of fun to shoot people." (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

* It's not all bad, of course: New Secretary of State Condi Rice says attacking Iran is not currently on the agenda, and she's never lied to us before. (Reuters)

Should I be allowed to point out the idiocy being committed on my behalf by my government?

* A survey of 100,000 High School kids says, "No!" The First amendment goes too far. (Chicago Sun Times)

Note to self: Remember to buy more whisky today. (BevMo)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Today was the bloodiest day yet for U.S. troops in Iraq, with 37 fatalities (Reuters news). The majority of those died together in a helicopter crash. The others were killed in attacks by insurgents.

The violence is, of course, part of the lead-in to the Iraqi election on which W hopes to make his mark on history. A group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, warned voters to stay away from the "infidel election centers" or "face the consequences." Consequences like those that our troops faced today.

Yes, in that last paragraph you did see that al Qaeda is operating in Iraq. Yep, it seems that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the center of activity for this organization. They like operating in an atmosphere of un-governable anarchy, and that's what we have created.

According to one senior intelligence official, "The sad thing is we have created what the administration claimed we were intervening to prevent -- an Iraq-Al Qaeda linkage." Success!!!

In other news, Condi Rice has a new job. Congratulations, Condi!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Good night, Johnny. MSNBC - USA Today
An "Operational Error" in FAA speak is when two planes get closer together than they're supposed to be. In other words; it's when you nearly collide with another plane while flying at 30,000 feet. And, each year, there are thousands of "operational errors" - two or three each day.

And what is the FAA, the organization that's supposed to make air travel safer, doing about this problem? As of last Thursday, the FAA has cut in half the required separation between planes. Yep, because we're having so many near accidents, they're allowing planes to fly closer together.

Is this supposed to make the air safer? Hell no! It's supposed to cut fuel costs for the airlines, helping to make them more profitable. (More on the FAA at

This is just one small example of how the policies of the current administration come out in less visible ways. Profits Over People; that's their theme. So, when they tell you that their Social Security plan is to help you - and not to help their Wall Street buddies - don't believe them for a second.

(My rant on Social Security from last month)

Monday, January 17, 2005

You may have noticed that I'm trying to ignore the "big event" that will be happening this week in Washington, D.C. This is necessary to maintain my sanity and a safe blood pressure.

It's okay - I've been keeping busy preparing for a big event myself: Casino Night '05 - our big annual fund raiser for the EHC LifeBuilders Singles' Division. This (and some other stuff) is keeping at the office late most days this month, and that saves me from the headlines surrounding the second inaugural for Dubya.

The other big event around here is more personal: Leslie and I have adopted an eight-year-old kitty named George. He's the big, fuzzy love and I've already posted some pictures of him. The name, just in case you're wondering, has nothing to do with the occupant of the White House. He's been George for eight years, and it would be cruel to change it now.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

It's fully appropriate that the world would (and should) come together to provide support for the victims of the recent natural disasters in South East Asia. When hundreds of thousands of people are killed in one tragic moment, it's hard not to take notice. But there are also tragedies happening elsewhere in the world, nearly every day, that don't carry the dramatic impact. Sometimes the other tragedies are overlooked because of the slow pace of the killing, sometimes because the victims are not perceived to be "innocent", and sometimes the oversight is entirely political.

In the Boston Globe, Derrick Z. Jackson writes about The 'tsunami' victims that we don't count. In this piece, Jackson compares the tragedy of Asia to the tragedy of Iraq. "Tens of thousands of people die by an act of nature and we say we cannot imagine the horror," writes Jackson. "We say it defies comprehension. We call it a catastrophe... In Iraq we kill off thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of innocent civilians with our own hands, and we reject any attempt to comprehend what we have done. Countless Iraqi civilians are homeless. We call it liberation."

Jackson goes on quoting President Bush's speeches wherein he prayed for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami, and for those who are still missing. "In a nation that supposedly reelected Bush on 'moral values,'" Jackson asks, why have "there have been no prayers from the White House for 'all the people whose fate is still unknown' in Iraq.?"


Smoking gun found: Read about the memo in which Bush okayed the use of torture in Iraq and Guantanamo.

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