Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Democrats Conspire to Re-Elect Arnie?

Okay, I'm not serious. I don't think that the California Democratic Party is deliberately trying to help re-elect Governor Schwarzenegger. I just think that is the likely end result of the current primary battle between Phil Angelides and Steve Westly. As the ads between the Democratic front-runners get nastier in this final week before the election, Schwarzenegger must be sitting back, laughing, and taking notes.

At the beginning of the primary season, I was actually have a small twinge of regret over not being a registered Democrat so that I could participate in the primary. But, they have proven once again that I was correct a decade ago when I changed my party registration to Green.

The latest attacks from Westly focus on Angelides' friendship (and the attached $9 million in contributions) with Angelo Tsakopoulos, a major Sacramento area developer. The implication is that by taking $9 million from Tsakopoulos, Angelides might be in the pocket of the developer and his pro-growth, anti-environment agenda.

Developer gives millions for Angelides - Gifts not directly to campaign, but to groups backing candidate (SF Gate)

I'll stick up for Angelides here. I don't think the $9 million will change his point of view or potential stance on any issues pertaining to development. "Why not?" you ask. "How can you be so naive?" Here's why: Angelides doesn't need Tsakopoulos to tell him to favor developers. He's a developer himself.

Angelides would have you believe he's the dedicated public servant running against the evil businessman, Steve Westly from eBay. The truth is that even with all that eBay money that Westly may have, Angelides is actually the richer of the two men, and he made that money through suburban sprawl. One need only drive south from the state capitol through Elk Grove and the surrounding environs to see the handiwork of Mr. Angelides.

Not that being a developer should disqualify somebody from holing public office. Just if you would like to encourage some sustainable growth policies, like re-using urban brown fields, recycling existing developments, and leaving the main watershed alone.

If you liked Gray Davis, you'll love Phil Angelides. He's grayer than Gray.

Now, does all this mean that I think Steve Westly is any better or cleaner? Probably not. But, until the barrage of negative ads I would have given him a better shot at defeating Schwarzenegger. Now, I think the primary is a waste of time because they've already assured Schwarzenegger's re-election.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day, 2006

This is a difficult day on which to post. There is the desire to honor and remember the 2,700+ Americans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past several years sitting side-by-side with the revulsion over giving any credit to their mission.

Memorial Day, however, is for all fallen veterans of all wars, not just the current quagmire. Wars and battles are rarely as heroic and virtuous as we like to pretend they are, even when their causes are just and the results for the better. It is difficult to say that the ends always justifies the means on a day when you remember that "the means" involves burying thousands of young men well before their time.

Here are some more thoughts about this particular Memorial Day:
* From the Nation, My Soldiers, My Veterans
* From, Remember And Resist

We honor, yes. And we grieve. For the dead, and for our nation.

Reminder: Next week I will debut the first installment of my "blog carnival," The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy. You may submit your entry into the carnival anytime before Friday.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Won't Get Fooled Again?

Conservatives have to ruin everything, don't they? The National Review has now put together their list of top 50 conservative rock songs of all time. Their choice for #1 right-wing anthem? The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," a song which could just as easily be a warning against the current administration as any other.

Some of the songs on the list do have a deliberate conservative bent ("Sweet Home Alabama," "Taxman," anything by Oingo Boingo). Others are open to interpretation ("Brick" and "You Can't Be Too Strong" - both songs about abortion that show the emotional pain of the decision, but stay far away from condemnation). And then there are some that are just trying to squeeze round pegs into square holes.

I'm sure John Lennon would be rolling over in his grave to find out that "Revolution" made the list. It took some editing of different verses together to help the case "We all want to change the world . . . Don't you know you can count me out?" Huh? The line about counting him out came after "But if you talk about destruction..." It was a statement of non-violence; hardly a conservative value. (Yes, in the second version of Revolution Lennon says "in" after the "out" to show that all options are on the table). Bottom line; despite the jab at those who carry around pictures of Chairman Mao as a symbol of coolness, the song was a case for change, not against it.

On a less severe note, tell me, how does "I Fought the Law" become a conservative classic? It it because the law won? The song celebrates the fighting, not the losing.

Also on the list is "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" thanks to the lyric "She said no huggy, no kissy until I get a wedding vow." Again, like "I Fought the Law," the point of the song is the attempt to get laid, not the failure. The song is not about upholding the conservative value of chastity.

And, I'm sure, Mr. Mellencamp would point out that the values of being from a "Small Town" are not all on the conservative side of the aisle.

But, of course, when you see that "Janie's Got A Gun" is listed because of the way it demonstrates how "the right to bear arms can protect women from sexual predators," you realize this is all a bad joke.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go listen to Neil Young's new album, "Living With War," a few dozen times to clear this list out of my brain...

BTW: This is posting number 800 on this blog since I started in April 2001

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Luddites Unite! You Were Right!

Remember how computers were supposed to replace typewriters in offices? But every office still has at least one typewriter that serves no purpose except to type addresses on envelopes. It's just too time consuming and frustrating to format a document and your printer everytime you want a letter to go out.

Remember how your old $25 Kodak camera from the drug store would take a picture the very instant you pressed the little button? Now, with your $300 digital camera, you press the button and wait a second or two before the shutter clicks. Meanwhile, your subject has moved out of range.

When you made all your calls from what we now call a "land line" did you spend half your conversation asking, "Can you hear me now?"

A posting on asks why advances in technology are so frustrating. They quote a Wall Street Journal article that calls that the frustrations I mentioned above the "important virtues of their predecessors." Yes, I suppose expecting a new product to work at least as good as the one it replaces would be a virtue.

And, of course, you can get those virtues back if you're willing to spend for it. An $800 camera will solve your shutter lag problem. A $300 phone will be less noisy. A special label-making printer can be had for under $100.

And, for those of who work for a living, who use the phone that came free with the service, and the camera that's only slightly over-priced, and has no room on their desk for specialty printers, well, we'll just have to work a little bit harder, won't we?

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Alien Face Appears in X-Ray

"Their testicles, for instance, grow to three times the size of their brains, but they have never been known to sprout an alien head," Travers said.

alien head sticking looms large in x-ray

I had to check the date several times to make sure it's not April Fools Day, but this comes straight from the San Francisco Chronicle... If it quacks like an alien ... Unidentified facelike object peeks out from X-ray...

You'll have to read the story to find out who's x-ray it was, but these are real scientists and it's a real x-ray. It's also not the first "proof" of alien life in the Bay Area.

Is it the weekend yet? I need to have a drink and a nap...

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Word From the Damned

Here's a lovely little wake-me-up I've seen posted on several web sites as of late:

Did You Know That 150,000 People Will Die Today?
The counter to the side is ticking off the number of people who have died since you opened this webpage. The vast majority of those people are entering Hell. Christ commanded his followers to share the Gospel with those who are perishing. Have you shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone today?

(In the actual ticker I've witnessed, the little red numbers rapidly add up the lost souls on their merry way to Hell. Personally, I didn't feel like linking to the real thing, so I just faked an example for you to look at.)

I'm very happy for people who are secure in their faith. But faith is a personal thing. So, if you find me "perishing," please leave the Gospel out of it and just call an ambulance.

In God's Debris by Scott Adams, he talks some about the odds of picking the "one true religion" (if one exists). If Christians are right, then the majority of the planet's population is wrong (as the counter text implies).

Adams goes further in saying that to be wrong in something like a core belief means we're also delusional. Consider that if Christians are right, then the majority of the planet's population is delusional. Kind of scary, huh?

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

True Confession...

I admit it: I watch American Idol and I'll be watching tonight as the final results are revealed.

Yeah, I'm 44, I don't have teenagers, I'm well-educated, I listen to good music, I should pretend to somehow be above this trash. But I'm not. It's not that I care that much about it; I just think it's great entertainment.

Those who I've heard/read bashing Idol all have pretty hollow cases. They blame Idol for the downfall of everything from Rock 'n' Roll to civilization itself. And they're idiots. Rock's been dying a slow death, with small bouts of remission, since 1974 - well before any of the Idol contestants were born. Civilization's been on a decline for at least that long.

Idol did not invent Top 40 / Pop / Bubblegum / whatever label you want to put it (can we all agree to blame Don Kirschner for that last one?). Idol did not invent the amateur talent show (from Ted Mack in the early days of TV to Star Search, it's all been done before). Idol did not invent the prime-time reality game show that turns unknowns into overnight sensations.

All Idol has done is combine these elements into a well-produced show that had the good fortune to debut at the right moment to be a hit. Don't like it? Quit your whining and change the channel.

Yes, I know a lot of the other criticism, specifically how it leaves behind a lot of other musical genres and styles. I agree, and I would love to see other Idols hit the airwaves, from Soul Idol to Folk Idol to Rap Idol to Geezer Idol. Yeah, Geezer Idol. I want a show with a minimum participant age of at least 35 or 40.

But, I can hope for producers to create these other shows without wasting my time blogging or calling radio stations demanding the death of American Idol.

I've got a busy day to start on now, including a board meeting that will run till about 8:30 tonight. But when it's done with, I'll be rushing home to tune into the season finale and seeing whether Taylor or Kat is our new American Idol!

(BTW: Kat's hot and I definitely have the McPheever, but frankly, I'm rooting for Taylor).

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's the end of our country as we know it, and I feel fine

Really, I feel just fine about the death of the fourth amendment. I didn't post even once about how the collection of all our phone records violated it. The past six years have properly anesthetized me to expect it. So, there's nothing left to do but to hold a carnival!

Yes, a carnival. I am pleased to announce the launch of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, a virtual carnival of bloggers chronicling the end of the American experiment. (What's a "blog carnival?")

Here's the official description:
From questionable election results to collecting the phone records of every law-abiding citizen, we have recently witnessed a massive erosion of our civil liberties and freedoms. Some would say it's just a matter of time before elections are cancelled for our own protection.

This "carnival" will link to those blog posts that best chronicle the decline of American democracy. Editions will be posted every other Monday. (Note - Not every link submitted may be used; we will select based on writing quality, factual accuracy, and space available).
I've even chosen a tag line for the carnival:
Blogging till the secret police take us away.

Here are the details that you will need to enter your blog posting in the carnival:

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyName: Carnival of the Decline of Democracy

Dates: Every other Monday, beginning June 5
(submissions due the Thursday prior)

Carnival Information - Submit Post

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Giving One Day's Take

Blogger Darren Barefoot has floated an idea for an online fundraiser he's calling "One Day's Take" that I am eager to participate in.

His idea is that one day be chosen and set aside for the event. On the given day, bloggers and webmasters across the globe all track their revenue from advertising, affiliate sales, or whatever, and donate it to the charity of their choice.

There would be one web site that would collect the data on who participated, how much was raised, and what organizations were supported by the proceeds.

As somebody who makes his living in the nonprofit sector and does a bit of fundraising, I really like this idea. Not that the revenue from my web sites for one day is going to add up to much of a donation. I just like the idea of using other activities - such as blogging - to promote everyday philanthropy.

I think it would be interesting to see what the total amount raised would be, and for blog readers to realize the dollar power of their casual reading habits. What would all those clicks on Google ads add up to if thousands of web sites participated?

If this event actually transpires, I'll be posting more about it. Stay tuned...

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Striding Man in San Francisco

Some people look forward to the Burning Man events; I just look forward to the Striding Man events. The Striding Man, for those who don't recognize him, is the logo for Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskies and, if you join the "Striding Man Society" you will receive occasional invitations to go drink lots of Scotch for free.

Friday night was the third such Johnnie Walker event I've been to in the City, the theme of this one being "The Journey of Taste," and featuring tastes of all five currently available drinks: Red Label, Black Label, Gold Label, Green Label, and Blue Label.

When I buy Scotch to drink at home, I generally stick with single malts. Johnny Walker only makes blends, which single malt drinkers tend to look down on as inferior. All of which make me precisely the type of whisky snob that they want at these events. Growing up, my father was a Black Label man (although he's also gone over to single malts these days) so I've always been familiar with the Striding Man.

The events themselves are always classy affairs, in well-chosen locations. They begin with appetizers and cocktails before going in to the official presentation and tasting. Each event I've been to has also had a tasting theme. First, I went to a Black Label event, then a Blue, and now the "Journey of Taste" that features all five.

The Black Label event explained the concept and process behind blended Scotch. What we tasted first were five different single malts (yummy) to learn the different qualities of the different regions of Scotland (the smoke and peat from one area, the creamy vanilla and honey overtones from another). Then we moved on to the Black Label to see how the marriage of the different regional characteristics work together for full, smooth combination.

The Blue Label event focused only on that one product (no single malts), which is their current top of the line. Blue, however, is one of those blends that puts us single malt snobs to shame. In a blind taste test, any single malt drinker would claim the Blue as a work of art. It's complex, refined, and smooth as silk.

The Journey of Taste (the one we went to on Friday) compares the entire product line-up. From the Red (suitable for mixing only, this is not for real Scotch drinkers to have straight), to the Black (a good, drinkable blend - not up to the single malts, but a fine drink), to the premium flavors of the Gold (what they call "the Champaign of Scotch"), Blue (top of the line), and the Green (the newest addition).

The Green Label was the only Scotch that night that I hadn't had before, and has only been on the market for about 18 months. Green is what is technically called a "pure malt." Other blends use a neutral spirit (basically a grain whisky distilled so many times as to impart no additional flavor) to bring the various malts together. A "pure malt" has no such neutral spirit; it is all from single malts, each one at least 18 years old. I was quite pleased with the Green and at a price that's in line with a lot of the single malts I drink, I may end up keeping some Green in the house.

If you're a Scotch drinker (and if you've read this far, you probably are), I'd suggest heading over to the Johnnie Walker web site and joining the Striding Man Society (free) so you can get invited to these tastings when they come to your town.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

When He's 64

Sir Paul and Heather Mills McCartney have separated after four years of marriage. Paul, who never asked Heather to sign a prenuptial agreement, is shocked by those who think that Heather is planning on taking a good chunk of his fortune with her.

Excuse me, but, just how freaking stupid is he?

McCartney, who turns 64 next month, is about to find out just how expensive a mistake he made. I'm not saying that Heather is evil or greedy or vindictive or anything at all. But, if you are on your way out of a room, and you see $1.5 billion sitting on the table, and half of it legally could be yours, are you just going to leave it there?

Talk about your fool on the hill...

CNN: Paul McCartney faces expensive divorce

Okay, now for my rude joke. If only they'd had a prenup. Then she wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sending Autistic Kids to War

This one is tough to write about, mostly because it's just impossible to think of without screaming out loud and annoying the neighbors. I'll recount it as simply as I can without tearing my hair out...

Army recruiters in the Portland, Oregon area are so desperate to meet their quotas that they picked up 18-year-old Jared Guinther. Jared was receptive their pitch because he thought that the recruiters were his friends, and he has trouble making friends. He has trouble communicating and making friends because he is autistic.

At the time Jared was first approached a few months back, he wasn't even aware that there was a war going on in Iraq. His parents had to explain it to him when he told them about his new friends and how he was going to join the Army.

Mr. and Mrs. Guinther didn't think much of Jared's desire to sign-up, but assured themselves that the Army wouldn't take an autistic kid. Boy, were they wrong. Not only did they accept Jared, but they signed him on to be a cavalry scout - one of the most dangerous assignments available, and a sure death sentence for a kid who thinks it's all a video game, not to mention the other soldiers whose back he's supposed to have.

Because of the publicity, it now looks like Jared will be released from his contract. One small victory for sanity.

Military rules are supposed to prohibit enlisting anyone with a mental disorder that interferes with school or employment. Supposed to... A family in Ohio reports that its mentally ill son was signed up... There's more. There will be more.

Read more about this at

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

MySpace - NoReason

I'm sure it was a total waste of time, but I've now signed up for and set up my MySpace page. I can see why teens are thrilled with it, for the moment, but can't quite understand why anybody over 18 is there (except, of course, to meet those under 18).

I resisted it for a long time, but every article I read about the "future of the Internet" and online community ends up being about MySpace. And each article says that the members are not just teens, but include adults into their 80s. So, I'm doing my research. Yeah, that's it: research.

So, now I need friends. It's pretty pathetic only having the one default friend, "Tom," listed in my profile. Tom's got about 78 million friends. I don't expect I'll be getting a lot of his attention. Won't you be my friend? Visit MySpace and add me to your friends list.

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Merc on Net Neutrality

In today's editorial section, the San Jose Mercury News finally took a stand on the Network Neutrality legislation currently before Congress. According to the Merc:
The choice facing lawmakers is stark: keep the Internet as a decentralized network that no single company controls and where all users and all Web sites are treated equally; or hand control over it to an oligopoly of cable and telephone companies.

Shamefully, Congress appears inclined to do the latter by refusing to adopt so-called "network neutrality" rules. It's a choice that would be disastrous for Internet users, for Internet companies and for innovation itself.
Fairly clear where they stand now - Thank you! (Read the full editorial online).

Yes, all this Save the Internet! stuff is for real, not just an imagined threat or blogger-driven urban legend.

"Network Neutrality" basically means that all content providers and users are treated equally with equal access (to legal content). AT&T, Verizon, and the other large pipeline owners would like to slow down or cut off access to those who don't pay them extra.

Remember: Network Neutrality is not some new concept that radical libertarians are trying to sneak past the public. Network Neutrality is the existing paradigm that has accompanied the growth of the Internet since the start. What is new is the strength of the corporate backlash against it, and the attempt to sell off the Internet to the highest bidder.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Was May 1 A Day Without Crime?

Yes, I am posting about the May 1st "Day Without Immigrants" demonstrations yet again. This time it's the racist aftermath that gets my attention.

You may have already received one of the many emails circulating that declares that with all the Latinos busy protesting, violent crime and theft were down all across the country. The emails have various percentages listed for different crimes, and claim the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, or even the FBI as the source of the data. Some of the emails also reference reports on CNN or the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, there are no such statistics. None of the agencies listed were aware of any change in crime patterns. And none of the news sources listed ran any such reports.

This is yet another urban legend, but a particularly nasty one in that it plays upon negative stereotypes of illegal immigrants as dangerous criminals.

The spreading of some urban legends is fairly harmless, and potentially humorous - like the one about the little old lady, her new radio, and her nasty roommate or the one about the wrong song being played at funerals.

This new legend of "A Day Without Crime," however, is not harmless. It has a political agenda behind it, and that is to turn ordinary email users into spreaders of racist propaganda. Don't fall for it. If you get one of these emails, do not forward it, and let the sender know that it is a racist lie.

Whenever you get an email with some astounding data you've never heard before and a request that you "forward it to everybody you know," please verify it before forwarding! The urban legend search engine will find the scoop behind most current forwarded emails. Also search Google News for legitimate news sources.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Farewell West Wing

The West Wing came to a quiet end last night - not quite with a whimper, but certainly no bang. A few things I need to say to begin this post:

1) I loved the show, even in the last couple of [comparatively lame] seasons.

2) I fully acknowledge that the show was nothing but liberal pornography.

3) As much as I loved it; I'm glad it's over.

Unfortunately, at the end, it was pornography that required viagra in the form of Alan Alda. Alda as viagra? Yes, I said it was liberal porn. Even for all the shark jumps and the drop in writing quality after Aaron Sorkin left, it was still one of the more intelligent shows on TV.

Okay, that's damning it with faint praise, too. How's this? As much of an oxymoron that "intelligent television" may be, this show managed it for a good long time.

But I'm glad it's done with. There's no conspiracy here. The show was not killed by a nation leaning to the right. It had simply run through its natural lifespan. These characters had gone as far as they could. They'd done every story, examined every crisis, and put off getting lives for as long as possible.

Farewell West Wing. Thank you.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

No Conference Agenda Left Behind

Patricia Polacco is a popular author of children's books as well as an outspoken critic of the administration's No Child Left Behind policies. This post isn't about NCLB (bad as it is), it's yet another post about the not-so-gradual eroding of free speech in this country.

Ms. Polacco had been invited to speak at a conference of the International Reading Association in Chicago last week - an invitation that she gladly accepted. Then she started getting requests from the organizers for detailed outlines of her presentation. No problem, she assumed, they would need information for the conference program, promotion, etc. But then a phone call revealed that was not why they needed her comments in advance.

It seems that the event sponsor - McGraw Hill publishers, which stands to make a bit of cash off of the testing requirements of NCLB - wanted to make sure that she was not planning on bashing NCLB at the conference. She replied that she would not edit her remarks to suit anybody. Her offer to appear was, of course, rescinded.

(You can read the full story currently on her web site:

Now, technically, this isn't a First Amendment case. She's not been prevented from criticizing NCLB by any official government entity. She's only been asked not to present at a private conference held on private property. She's perfectly free to organize her own conference at a different site nearby.

She has, however, been silenced by a major corporation that stands to make a lot of money as a result of policies that more and more educators are saying is destroying education.

She was invited to speak so that her name could be used to sell tickets to the event. That invitation was sent with full knowledge of her opinion on NCLB. The invitation was withdrawn too late for people who registered hoping to hear her. Now they will hear only speakers in favor of NCLB. A little under-handed, wouldn't you say?

Whether or not No Child Left Behind is good or bad may be open for debate, but that debate can only happen if both sides are allowed to speak at public forums, such as a conference of reading educators!

Thanks to my wife, Leslie, a second grade teacher, who brought this one to my attention.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Neil Diamond, Latino Leader

The music at several of last week's immigration rallies included the expected modern Latin sounds, traditional mariachi, classic Civil Rights era folk songs, and Neil Diamond.

What's a sixty-five-year-old Jewish guy doing on the agenda? The L.A. Times reports that Latinos have latched onto his "America" as an anthem. The song - written for the 1980 flop remake of The Jazz Singer - touches the heart of the immigrant experience like few other songs do.

Yes, it's schmaltzy kitsch - it is still Neil Diamond after all - but the story it tells rings as true for this group of immigrants as it did for the Eastern European and Irish immigrants of Neil's grandfather's generation, for whom the song was written.

The L.A. Times reminds us the "America" began its Latino association through its use in Cheech Marin's Born in East L.A. (a much better film than the Jazz Singer remake). An editor had put the song in as a place keeper during a rough cut of the climax. Marin loved it, as did Neil, and the song stayed with choruses of "They're coming to America!" echoing across the U.S./Mexico border.

Of course, not everybody at the rallies appreciated hearing an old white guy singing in English (and even a lot of us old white guys don't appreciate listening to Diamond anywhere), but it looks like the song is back to stay.

Personally, I don't see it. "Sweet Caroline," maybe. But "America"?

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

When I was your age we had these places called "independent book stores" ...

Last week San Francisco landmark "A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books" went up for sale, with one long-term partner wanting out completely and the other unable to raise the capital to buy out the partner due to years of declining sales. Last month Neal Sofman, the still-active partner, sold their domain name for "an undisclosed sum."

Sofman, who first opened Well-Lighted in Cupertino in 1975, is not out of the book business entirely. He'll be opening a new (smaller) store called Bookstore West Portal in the next month. Meanwhile, there are still book signings and other events scheduled nearly every day of the week at Well-Lighted even as he searches for a buyer.

Today, Berkeley landmark Cody's Books announced that they'll be closing their flagship store after 43 years on Telegraph Avenue. Declining sales and competition from the big chains an online retailers was again cited as the cause. Their two smaller stores will remain open, but the massive main store - a great resource for book lovers and researchers alike - will be gone after July 10.

What's wrong when even UC Berkeley students can't sustain a store like Cody's? Cody's was not simply a store, but an active part of the Berkeley campus community. In 1968, when anti-war protesters were teargassed and clubbed out on the street, Cody's became their first-aid station. Their "finest hour," however, came twenty-one years later.

During the 1989 controversy over Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses," Cody's would not bow to pressure to remove the book from it's store -- despite having been firebombed over it. (For those too young to remember, some Muslims felt the book insulted the Prophet and called for the faithful to find and kill Rushdie.)

Cody's was rewarded with a rare public appearance by Salman Rushdie, with a five-minute warning to set up a signing for the author who was still in hiding at the time. The firebomb had left a hole in the information desk over which somebody had written "Salman Rushdie memorial hole." Rushdie saw this and said, "Some people get statues, others get holes."

It's hard to imagine telling stories like these about a Borders, B&N, or That leaves quite a mighty hole too.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Then and Now: Gas Prices Again

Five years ago today I wrote in this blog about gas prices hitting over $2/gallon, and the President's refusal to enact price controls (See Post). His excuse then - and it was good one - was that temporary measures like price controls wouldn't solve what was going to be a long-term problem. While I didn't expect him to seriously pursue any long-term solutions, I did appreciate his admitting that there was a problem.

May 2001 was, of course, before 9/11, before the war, before his "re-election," before Katrina, etc. The rise from $2 to $3 to nearly $4 in some places did not occur gradually over that time; most of that rise has been in the past year or less. And we're still waiting for Bush to come up with those long-term solutions that he promised five years ago today.

Or, maybe the long-term solution he was talking about in May 2001 was invading Iraq? Not to suggest a conspiracy or anything, but maybe?

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Steal This Post

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The New York Times reports that Raytheon CEO, Little Billy Swanson, "accidentally" stole other people's material for his book, "Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management."

Most of the book was lifted from a 1944 book,"The Unwritten Laws of Engineering," by W. J. King, with other material coming from such sources as a Wall Street Journal article by Donald Rumsfeld, and - to lighten things up a bit - a section from "Dave Barry Turns 50."

Mr. Swanson, of course, regrets the error -- but claims it wasn't his fault. He had given all the source material to one of his assistants to assemble. Swanson isn't the plagiarist - it's his aide. Swanson's only mistake was to trust the poor worker bee and not check it against the sources himself.

The Raytheon board has punished Swanson by taking away certain bonuses and perks, but not his salary or his job. After all, it was an accident. It's not like he actually wrote the book that bears his name. No mention in the story of whether or not he's fired the assistant.

This is not the first time that the Raytheon CEO has made it to this blog. Back in 2002 he spoke at my brother's graduation from Pepperdine's MBA program. His topic that day was "Ethics."

Friday, May 05, 2006

The New Blinking Clock

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It used to be that you could tell if a friend was a techno-klutz by looking at their VCR and seeing if the clock was correctly set, or if it was doomed to be blinking 12:00 throughout eternity.

I have determined that the new blinking clock of the blogger age is the empty link list in the sidebar on the majority of blogspot blogs [random example]. You've seen them:


Recognize it?

Now, it is not my intention to insult anybody here. I mean this will all due love and respect for my fellow bloggers. But, please, either put in some links, or delete the links section. If you click on the "Edit-Me" link on your blog it will take you to a very simple explanation of how to modify your blog template.

Hints: You are not required to keep the link to Google News. You may have more than three links if you like. You may also have less.

I thank you. Your readers thank you. I'm sure the folks at Blogger/Google thank you as well.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Uninhibited Bloggers and Our Egos

This blog got a mention (and a link) this morning in Melissa McNamara's "Blogophile" column. She quoted me from last week's "Save the Internet" post.

The main focus of her column this morning, however, was blogger reaction to a Wall Street Journal article about people using their blogs for "self-therapy." WSJ came to the conclusion that all this "uninhibited online culture is not something to be proud of."

I was pleased not to be chosen as an example of a self-centered blogger who gives out too much private information, but I do admit that I've been guilty of that sort of behavior. Mixed in with my political rants, movie reviews, and general banal observations, I've been known to post a few items of a more personal nature.

When I have, I've sometimes wondered whether or not it was appropriate. But here's the thing: The personal posts get more hits over time than the more topical ones.

The reason is pretty simple. On any given day, there are thousands of bloggers complaining about the President. Over the course of a year, however, there are only a handful who post about having gum graft surgery.

The more topical stuff - the posts that the WSJ might consider public-worthy - gets lost in the noise. But something personal stands out and remains relevant in the search engines for a good long time. People who are going through a tough situation (be it surgery or otherwise) look to Google to help them find others who have gone through it before.

I may have written about my various health issues out of uninhibited self-therapy, but those posts have helped many people through their problems. Meanwhile, some of the writing that I am more proud of gathers virtual dust. Stick that in your Wall Street Journal.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

O'zog, kenstu sehn?

O'zog, kenstu sehn, wen bagin licht dervacht,
Vos mir hoben bagrist in farnachtigen glihen?
Die shtreifen un shtern, durch shreklicher nacht,
Oif festung zich hoiben galant un zich tsein?
Yeder blitz fun rocket, yeder knal fun kanon,
Hot bawizen durch nacht: az mir halten die Fohn!
O, zog, tzi der "Star Spangled Banner" flatert in roim,
Ueber land fun die freie, fun brave die heim!

- Dr. Abraham Asen, "the foremost Yiddish adapter of English poetry," 1943

Links: Balkinization (blog of Jack Balkin), image of the full Yiddish text

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Living With War; Three Years Later

"My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed, and now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." - George W. Bush, May 1, 2003

Today is the third anniversary of Bush's infamous declaration of "Mission Accomplished" and according to a new CNN poll, 9% of the American public still believe that's true. Who are these 9% who think we've accomplished our goals in Iraq?

We've removed Saddam Hussein from power, that's true. But that's about it. The country is as much - or more - of a terrorist recruiting ground as ever. The nation is still in chaos and the people are no better off for having voted a couple of times. The killing has barely slowed down, let alone come to an end. And there's no end in sight.

You know all that already. I just wanted to point out the anniversary. You come up with your own list of goals for U.S. involvement in Iraq and see how many you can check off.

Meanwhile, I'm listening to Neil Young's new album, Living with War. He has made it available as a free, streaming audio download, so if you haven't heard it yet, click the link and get rocking. It's one of Neil's best ever - certainly in recent years - and a fitting statement on where our country is heading. It's to the point, and yet somehow optimistic.

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