Sunday, December 31, 2006
Dylan and I arrived home last night, tired from 12 hours of travelling. It was a fine vacation, full of indulgence and a few genuine laughs.
The first day, in Pasadena, I spent in bed, coughing, sniffling, sleeping, and blowing my nose. It must have been time well spent, since I felt noticeably better the next day, when we drove to San Diego.
The check-in process at the cruise terminal went quickly, and there we were, on board a 12 story floating hotel with 1800 guests and 800 staff. As we enjoyed our first drink, the ship pulled out of the harbor and San Diego shrank into a line of twinkling lights. There were 14 in our group, covering all major age categories from 12 to 95.
We spent two days at sea, getting familiar with the ship layout and giving in to the enforced over-eating, before arriving in Puerto Vallarta early the third morning. This period was the final run-up to Christmas, and the incessant Christmas music on the loud-speakers was really getting to me. After all, when you're hearing 'Jingle Bell Rock' for the 5th time in one day, while trying to read and enjoy the sun on the pool deck, one's teeth begin to grind.
The morning after Christmas, I was out on deck, and 'White Christmas' started playing again. I marched down to the Main Desk and reminded them that it was time to change the music. The lady there shrugged helplessly, and it was not until the next day that I realized that we had finally returned to the classic Ship music: Bob Marley, the Beach Boys, and 'Margaritaville'. What a relief.
In Puerto Vallarta, Karen, Dylan and I had signed up for a shore excursion, and were led thru the process of getting off the boat and connected with the group. We were driven in a bus to a country hamlet north of town. As we headed out, the bus-guy-with-the-mike said, "on your right, you see the US embassy." It was a Wal*Mart. I liked that.
A bit later, after we hit the boonies, he said we were about to pass an exclusive condo community, where they specialize in aroma therapy. It was a prison. Mexican humor.
We parked at what looked suspiciously like a tourist-trap (later confirmed) where, after a brief orientation, we headed out for a morning hike in the Sierra Madre foothills surrounding the town.
It was actually somewhat strenuous at the outset, climbing a steep hillside. The guide was a 'rah-rah' kind of tour leader, and Karen detested his enthusiasm. The trail wound up to and around a ridge, with more ups and downs. At one point, we had a brief view of a lovely valley, but the leader pressed us onward. He was pretty good about pointing out the local medicinal plants and trees, which was interesting, and seemed to know his stuff, then hurried us along.
After an hour or so of hiking, we descended steeply into a lush river valley, where we had a few minutes to dangle our feet in a pretty enclosure of warm, volcanic-heated water, before walking back, along the river, to a truck which took us back to the tourist-trap. It was a nice hike - great to stretch those leg muscles, walk thru the dense foliage, and breath the clean air.
The guide had urged us to keep up a brisk pace on the hike, saying that we'd probably have 10 minutes before getting back on the bus to return to the cruise terminal, but those 10 minutes extended into a couple of hours. They did have a cantina there, with real mexican ladies making real mexican tortillas, and the lunch that was served us was actually terrific: imagine four delicious chicken tacos, with peppers, homemade salsas, guacamole, and beans, plus two cokes (Karen and Dylan) and two beers (me) - all for $5.
After that nice lunch, we obviously had plenty of time to visit the many craft and trinket booths. Karen bought some cool stuff while Dylan moped (he didn't enjoy the hike) and I listened to the three-man mariachi band hoping to get some tips. It was two young guys (guitar and bass) and an older guy (alto sax) - a somewhat unusual combination. Their first couple of tunes were standard mexican cliches, but I couldn't help noticing that the sax player was contributing some very creative and thoughtful licks - quite a bit more musically sophisticated than what the others were playing.
They took a break and, after a short pause, the sax player picked up his horn and, seemingly out of nowhere, played, as a solo, the lovely old jazz standard "Poor Butterfly." It was gorgeous and moving, and I doubt anyone there appreciated it as I did. I was happy to deposit a couple of bucks in the tip jar, before they nodded and moved on. This was a real unexpected pleasure.
Back at the boat dock, Dylan decided he'd seen enough of Mexico for one day, and returned to the ship. Karen and I grabbed a taxi and headed into Puerto Vallarta. We have been there twice before - once, I believe, even before we were married - certainly before Ben was born. I had the driver drop us off at the little zocolo in front of the cathedral, and instantly remembered having been there, many years before, eating an ice cream by the large iron bandstand in the center of the square.
The two of us browsed around the neighborhood, without any particular goal. It was hot but not humid, and great to be there, surrounded by the many sights of a mexican town. As we crossed the foot-bridge over the river, we spotted Karen's aunt and cousin strolling towards us. It was nice to see familiar faces, and we spent the rest of the afternoon with them, the four of us enjoying the archeological museum and shops on the island (which was certainly not that developed and pleasant 20 years ago). Eventually, it was Happy Hour and we found a quiet, riverside bar, where Rion and I had mango margaritas. It was genuinely splendid being there.
Soon, though, it was time to head back to the ship. We found the bus stop, then the correct bus, as it made its way thru the very noisy, crowded streets. So, it cost Karen and me $9 to take a cab from the ship into town, and the four of us about $2 to take the bus back.
A half-hour later, we were back in Luxury Land, watching the golden glow of the late afternoon sun on the hills behind town, and get ready for yet another massive dinner, with the rest of the cruise community. Nice day.
The next morning, we woke up docked at Mazatlan. It's always amazing how this happens. Rion and I were up early, and felt ready to get going into town. I left Karen a note, saying that we would try to be at the Plaza Machado at noon, then the two of us headed off.
It was early morning in a real working mexican city. Our immediate goal was the looming Pacifico brewery, to see if we could get in a tour. It was a long walk, but pleasant, and we eventually approached a line of American tourists, by the door. Alas, we were informed that their rules prohibited shorts, backpacks, and several other things that we had with us, so no tour for us. Rion was disappointed, since this was one of his goals for the day.
Instead, we headed into the old part of town, to the large public market, which was by then humming with morning business. The fruit and vegetable stands were colorful and attractive, but I was there to see meat, and I was not disappointed. There were entire carcasses, in various stages of dismemberment. There were skinned cow heads, pig heads, and piles of animal parts that I could not recognize. There is nothing in the world like a Mexican meat market. I took some photos, but haven't yet had the stomach to view them.
The cathedral was just a couple of blocks away and we headed there, although I was certain that we would not be permitted to enter, dressed casually as we were. Surprisingly, I was only admonished to remove my cap, and we joined the throngs of worshipers and tourists, inside the cavernous, lavishly decorated church. Mexico never fails to surprise: shorts were OK in God's house, but not in the brewery.
The morning was advancing. We found the Plaza Machado, surrounded by restored 19-century buildings, with ornate metal-work. One of the guidebooks I had consulted recommended it as nice place to sit.
It was just a few blocks to the ocean, and on the way there, there was supposed to be an Archeological museum. It was, alas, closed, but we did check out an adjacent art-gallery, with a small, curious, exhibit of mostly-modern stuff, many pieces with religious symbols (after all, this was Mexico).
A nearby Internet cafe provided a chance to check email and dash off short notes to various family and friends back home. It was just over a dollar for an hour of time - a real bargain after using the .55/minute ship Internet.
Back at the Plaza Machado, I pulled out my book and spent a quiet 45 minutes reading and people-watching, before I was joined by a bunch of family members, including Karen and Dylan.
Enough of us were hungry to make lunch a priority, so we headed back to the waterfront, where we found outdoor seating at 'El Shrimp Bucket' (est. 1963). It was a gorgeous day, and we savored the breeze, the ocean views, and the wonderful ceviche, fish tacos, tortilla soup, and several beers.
Dylan and Leah headed to the beach, while Karen and I did a little more sightseeing before returning to the beach. We played there in the waves and sand for a while, but soon it was time to head back to the ship. We hailed a passing tourist-truck, negotiated a price ($5) and he drove us back to the terminal.
A great day in Mazatlan. We had been there many years ago, but had, inexplicably, never seen the old part of town. This was turning into a great vacation.
The next morning, we were docked at Cabo San Lucas. However, due to engine trouble on the boat, they had drastically shortened our time ashore to a measly 4 hours. Karen and I walked very slowly with Sylvia, Karen's 95 year-old Mom, and didn't cover a lot of ground before we all headed back. Dylan, however, spent the morning sleeping late and watching TV in his room, which makes my son able to truthfully state that he's probably the only American who has visited Cabo San Lucas twice, without ever actually seeing it (the first time we were there, 19 years ago, he was still a fetus).
After leaving Cabo at mid-day on Thursday, we had the rest of that day and all day Friday on the boat, slowly making our way back to San Diego, where we docked early Saturday morning (was that just yesterday?). There were the usual dinners, chance encounters with family members, spectacular sunsets, cheesy ship activities (our family team was 2nd in the final, fiercely-competitive Team Trivia challenge), and simple lie-in-the-sun-and-do-nothing on the Aft pool deck.
Cruising is certainly a comfortable, odd way to spend a vacation. It's absurd, articifical, and horribly wasteful in terms of food and energy. In the future, people may look back on this institution, and shake their heads in total bewilderment. It would only increase that sense of unreality if they were to witness, on the next-t0-last-night, the Parade of Baked Alaskas, each with a lit sparkler.
Saturday morning, the process to get off the boat went very quickly, and the Customs folks simply collected our standard one-per-family form before waving us thru - no passport check or anything resembling identity-verification. We got back to where we parked the cars, drove to Pasadena, and, an hour later, Karen drove Dylan and me to the Burbank airport. She is staying there, helping her Mom, until tomorrow afternoon.
Dylan and I got home around 8:30 pm, and the dog was overjoyed at our return. After a couple of hours, Dylan announced he was heading off, and I don't expect to see him until tomorrow afternoon (just talked to him on the phone).
Today, I have had the entire place to myself (and the dog). We took two walks in the neighborhood, I did a little cooking and a lot of laundry and reading. It's New Years Eve, and the plans we had to get together with friends fell thru, so it's pretty quiet. I have to go to the airport in an hour, to pick up my neice, Leah, then return home for a quiet, solo evening.
So, having completed my third cruise, how do I feel about it? I admit that I've always been pleased to talk disparagingly about this form of vacation, as totally artificial, self-indulgent, and resource-wasteful. It is all these things, but, I have to say, it was a fun week, with a lot of laughs, great sights (both sailing and at the ports-of-call), and family fun.
However, one of my long-standing fantasies was shattered. I have always thought that being the piano-player on a cruise-ship would be a great life. You get to play for people who have been drinking for days and enjoy the air and sights of ocean travel. What could be better?
Well, one night toward the end of the cruise, Dylan and I found ourselves in one of the lavish lounges around 10:30 pm. It was mostly deserted, except for the piano-player, who was pounding out Beatle songs. Soon, he took a break, stepped away from the (digital) piano, turned on the recorded music, and walked off. I approached and asked if I could play a little, and he said (with a thick Russian accent) 'sure.' I played a few bars of 'Cheek to Cheek', and he came over.
"This piano is shit," he sneered, "I hate it." This was my opportunity to find out how wonderful his job was, so I asked a few questions. Turns out that he has to play 5 hours a day, mostly in that one lounge. He repeated that he hated this piano, that it sounded awful. I asked him if he was free to play whatever he wanted, and he said 'yes', but that the guests always asked him to play the same five tunes, the most-frequent being 'As Time Goes By.' "I hate it," he said, again and again.
I asked him how often he got off the boat and he looked at me as if I was crazy. After a little more of this, we left him, an angry, frustrated prisoner of the cruise-line. It was a revelation.
The next night, Karen and I strolled past the midnight dessert buffet (an amazing assortment of goodies, with chocolate fountains, ice sculptures, butter sculptures, etc). Over in the corner, I saw the same piano player, at another electronic keyboard. He played 'Killing Me Softly with his Song', and the sound quality was awful. Then, there was a fanfare, and the announcer made a big announcement, about all the chefs and the goodies they had created, and how wonderful everything was. There was a smattering of applause, before the crowd returned to attacking the trays.
There was a brief pause, and then the piano-player launched into 'As Time Goes By.' Karen and I passed him on the way out. He and I made eye-contact and I know he recognized me from our chat the prior evening, as he nodded, as if to say "I know you understand what I'm going thru".
There was hopelessness on his face, as we left the area.
Time to head for the airport. Happy New Year, everybody.
It's New Years Eve. Big Deal.
The cruise was actually mostly fun - will write some anecdotes one of these days. After 10 days of concerted family/group activities, it has been great today to have the whole house to myself (and the dog), reading, snoozing, doing laundry, etc.
It's now about 4 pm. I have another 4 hours before I need to leap into action.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
There are a dozen family members, from 12 to 95, in our group. Fortunately, it's a pretty genial bunch.
It will definitely be a break from the Oregon death-news and rain.
We hope. Happy Solstice, everyone.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Between our reputation for Assisted Suicide and the current wilderness catastrophes, it could be ammended, for maximum impact, to "Come to Oregon, and Die here."
Mt. Hood was looking gloriously beautiful this morning, as I took the recycling out to the street. A band of color lay above its snowy, deadly crest. It's darn cold here in Portland - it must be amazingly inhospitable up there.
Meeting with a client this morning, to discuss upcoming work, then I have a concert with the Jewish Old Folks chorus (visiting another facility) this afternoon. Tomorrow, another concert with the same group, at their own facility. 'Tis the season.
At some point, today or tomorrow, I will pull out my large travel bag - the one I need to use when I'm taking more shoes and better clothes than my usual stuff. We leave Thursday night for our California/Mexico trip.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
It was the local authorities who had neglected to secure the gate. Was it carelessness, or simply a low priority, due to other concerns? We need to know.
Meanwhile, up on Mt. Hood, the families of the lost hikers are still putting a brave face on things, but, now that they've been out there for a week, and with a record-breaking storm about to hit in a few hours, things are not looking good.
Finally, on Thom Hartmann's radio show this morning, there was an Islamist scholar discussing the distribution of Sunni and Shia throughout the middle east. Everyone knows that the Saudi royal family is Sunni - that's no secret - but did you know that the majority of the population is Shia? That was news to me. Given the long-suppressed hostility towards the royals in that country, it's easy to visualize a coup that would institute yet another Shia government.
Another surprise - Syria, Iran's closest buddy in the area, is predominantly Sunni, not, as I would have expected, Shia. I supposed that makes sense, since, after all, Damascus was the original Islamic center, before Bagdhad was even founded.
It's a complicated world out there, and a stormy one, too. Karen, unfortunately, had to drive to Eugene for a hearing this morning - she just left the house a half-hour ago. Later this afternoon, when the wind and rain really hits, she will be driving back to Portland. Fortunately, she took my Subaru, which has better tires and traction than her Matrix. It will be a relief to see her arrive safely, late this afternoon.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The notion of the Jewish State allied with the most repressive, right-wing, Islamic fundamentalist regime in the area is mind-boggling, and the US occupation of Iraq was the catalyst for this whole mess.
But I thought the whole 'project' was going to be a cakewalk.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Meanwhile, I sure am getting a kick out of my WiFi iPaq. This noon, I had plans to have lunch with two former bosses (!), but had a chore downtown first. After doing that, I sat in Pioneer Courthouse Square, successfully logging into the free WiFi to check my mail.
As I sat there, tapping away, who should walk up but Ben, on his way to lunch at Todai, the all-you-can-eat sushi place. Today is his 20th birthday, and a friend was taking him to lunch there. It was nice running into my boy, and we walked together for a couple of blocks. He's no longer a kid, but not quite an adult.
Back to the iPaq (sorry, just can't help talking about it). Finally, this afternoon, I got everything working to my satisfaction, including syncing my calendar (Yahoo) with the handheld, and getting send/receive working with my email provider, using Pocket Outlook. Turns out that I had to upgrade to their 250 MB package, in order to get SSL, which is required to do wireless email. Naturally, there was nothing on their website telling me about the SSL requirement, and I spent many hours, the past few days, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.
Now, it's a snap, and amazingly cool to have everything working. I have also downloaded a few free utilities and games, and even the Opera browser (which works incredibly well). In the past, I was always dubious about the usefullness of handheld devices for me, but, with the WiFi, it now becomes an amazingly useful extension of my cyber-life. They even have a Skype client for Pocket PC - may have to give that a try one of these days.
Monday, December 11, 2006
It's brutal out there.
Went out to dinner last night with my two boys (Ben turns 20 tomorrow, believe it or not) and Dylan's girlfriend. We went to our local mexican place, and the boys ordered the 'macho nachos'. The waiter looked dubious, so I cancelled my order and said I'll dig into the nachos, too.
All heads in the restaurant turned our way when it was delivered to the table - the largest mound of food I've ever seen. With three of us on the attack, we made it all the way down to the bottom layer of encrusted chips and melted cheese, but I certainly had carnivore's remorse afterwards. Still, it was nice to have a family dinner - it doesn't happen very often anymore.
My work-load is pretty slim for the near-term, as things are getting wrapped up for the year. I have a lunch scheduled tomorrow with two former bosses (Randy from Blue Cross and Dan from Enron), neither of which still works in the big-business world. Should be fun to compare notes, especially since Dan just became a father for the first time, a couple of months ago.
Still having fun with my new WiFi iPaq. I don't have everything in place that I need just yet, but it's close. I can't get Pocket Outlook to consistently send and receive to my usa.net mailbox - something is still not right, but the Opera browser for Pocket PC is incredible - it really renders pages well, with zoom and display tools for moving around.
Lots of chat this morning about Gordon Smith's recent anti-war statements: are they a sincere epiphany, a bald-faced pandering to the Winds of Change, or is this simply how the system is SUPPOSED to work, according to Thom Hartmann's famous explanation of the Politician Mind:
"Politicians look around for a parade. When they see one, they march to the front and say 'follow me - this is MY parade'. In order to effect change, it's the Public's job to create the parade."
Sunday, December 10, 2006
They killed James Kim.
Were they looking for a place to go snow-mobiling? A secluded spot in the woods to have a party? Were they part of the "the Government can't tell ME where I can't go!" crowd, or just simple idiots?
Somewhere down in rural southern Oregon, I just believe that some guy is looking down into his beer, muttering about stupid Californians who don't have enough sense to know about winter travel, and another yahoo who is looking down into his beer and muttering 'oh, shit.'
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
We depart from San Diego, and will visit PV, Mazatlan, and Cabo - all places I've been before.
We had a pretty good time on the Caribbean cruise last year, once you get beyond the surreal notion of a giant ship, burning all that fuel, in order to make a round-trip, carrying a boat-load of overfed, often-demanding, generally well-to-do Seniors. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Every time I go on a trip, I like to take along some new toy. For Spain, it was a new digital camera. I just discovered that the cruise ship has several WiFi hot-spots. I hadn't planned to take my laptop, hoping to avoid work, but it would be convenient to be able to check my email without having to wait for a terminal at their Internet center, or rent a laptop for WiFi access.
So, off we go to craigslist.
Within minutes, I found a guy selling a souped-up iPaq, with *built-in* WiFi, a 512 MB SD card, and, best of all, it runs the new Windows Mobile 5 (so it can rotate the screen portrait or landscape). He's asking $130, which is a darn good price.
I need a Windows Mobile 5 device for testing software that I wrote and support, so it's a tax-deductible purchase. Plus, the guy has a detachable keyboard, originally for a Palm device, that *might* work (he's looking for drivers now), that he said he'd throw in for free. Plus, he bought a 2-year replacement warranty from Fry's, that he can transfer to me (for a slight charge).
What could be cooler than sitting in the sun, with tropical breezes wafting about, and a drink-with-an-umbrella at my side, while listening to MP3s and checking my email for penis-enlargement ads?
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Meanwhile, I can't help thinking about poor James Kim, still lost in the wild canyons of south-east Oregon. Looking at the map, it's clear that his intuition about the direction to take to find help was totally wrong, and he headed off into an even-more-remote region.
If they don't find him today, I can't imagine his strength and clarity of thought lasting much longer. Very sad, and, after 9 days, I can easily see myself making the same decision he did, despite the traditional wisdom of 'stay put until they find you'.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Just looked at my calendar for the next couple of weeks. I have 7 scheduled music performances, mostly with the chorus at the Rose Schnitzer (Jewish Old Folks) home. There's also a bar mitzvah (the klezmer band) probably two get-togethers with Brooke and Richard, and a private party (solo piano).
Then, on the 21st, we fly to southern California for a week - a couple of days in Pasadena and then the cruise down along the Mexican coast (with about a dozen family members). Lots to do before that surreal scene happens.
But, at the moment, I am enjoying my cereal and the sunrise.
Heard there's a new book out, advising blog newbies on what not to write. It's called something like "Nobody cares what you had for Lunch.' Probably applies to breakfast, too.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
They can try to cloak it in any number of phony rationals, but I really think it all comes down to 'keep it flowing', and that applies not only to the crude.
I also believe that, at some level, these people sincerely believe they are acting in the best interests of the American people (to keep our society moving and fed), and that, once our oil supplies were guaranteed (at the expense of everyone else in the world), the American Consumer would understand that all the sacrifices were worth it. Further, they believe they are entitled to be well-compensated for doing all this 'hard work' on our behalf.
If only we would shut up and keep driving.
Meanwhile, I saw a great clip of Al Gore on some show, talking about the 'An Inconvenient Truth' DVD. Apparently he was asked a question something like "isn't it true that people will be terrified by what they will learn?", Al replied, "it's not nearly as alarming if you watch it in slow motion."
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Reminds me of the old Groucho joke, quoted by many, including Woody Allen: "I'd hate to be a member of a club that would have me as a member."
I'd hate to live in a Universe populated by the people who have populated this planet. Sure, we've developed Open Source software and milk that doesn't need refrigeration, but there's also the troubling propensity to Ethnic Cleansing.
My suggestion: enjoy whatever pleasures you have, be kind to as many people as possible, and try to limit the extent to which your pleasures come at the expense of the sufferings of uncountable millions.
In other words, God had the right idea with The Flood, and delivering Noah to another planet may not turn out to be such a great idea, again.
Re-reading too much Vonnegut these days (just finished 'Breakfast of Champions' last night). So it goes.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
Now, as the glow wears off, it's time to get back to business, and the world of business have been trying to tell us something for a long time. The chickens let loose by the borrow-and-spend GOP are beginning to come home to roost. Why do I feel like I'm at the top of a roller-coaster?
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Just have to run the dishwasher and work on appetizers. Guests should start arriving in an hour.
Kitchen frenzy has been going on for 5 hours now. Good thing the prep work started three days ago.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
So, in the past 2 hours, I managed to:
1) Download and install Microsoft's free SQL Server Express and its separate management tool on my laptop.
2) Using the management tool, built a new database with one table.
3) Using Access wizards, built an html data access page that displays the table, permitting updates and deletions.
4) Built a separate Access application, with a standard Access form, to display the table and permit any kind of programatic manipulation that anyone could dream up.
5) Played around with Windows Services, to convince myself that I know all I need to do about starting and stopping SQL Server on my laptop.
6) Go to the Multnomah County Library web site, and put on hold 4 books about ASP.NET development.
Next step will be to start up Visual Studio and see how easy it is to do a VB application that does the same thing as the Access application. Once that's done, I feel like I'll have all the tools in place, to begin actual work on the new project, next week.
I feel better already - maybe it's the coffee in my bloodstream, and the Beethoven on the radio.
So, as the cloudy, rainy day begins, I settle in, down here in my computer dungeon, scan the blogs, and think about bigger pictures than Michael Richards' recent failure to invoke Lenny Bruce.
I look at my species and I see Earth as a petri-dish, where one organism has been so successful in exploiting the local food and energy resources, that its unrestrained fertility now threatens the dish's environment with total collapse. Our ever-increasing demands on finite resources, and the growing detritus from our waste is poisoning the wells, and, unless we can manufacture our own agar, it is inevitable that many of us must die.
Biological reality is not something we can deal with by shouting "it ain't so" or holding our hands over our ears and humming loudly. Our ingenuity and engineering successes are amazing, but the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Cheap gas, fast cars, and electric hair-straighteners have been great, but what about their unintended consequences?
Last night, with my elderly mother-in-law arrived safely here for the holidays, we settled down in front of the TV for an hour. On PBS, they showed the salute to Neil Simon, who won the 2006 Mark Twain prize. It was mildly amusing, with one genuinely-wonderful film-clip (Jack Lemmon as Felix Ungar, clearing his sinuses in the resturant - need I say more?).
Mark Twain was certainly a sublimely funny guy, but Sam Clemens was a deeply angry, bitter pessimist, who saw his species as clueless buffoons and, I hasten to add, rightly so. Although many of the previous-winners of the Mark Twain prize are genuinely-funny people, there is really only one legitimate living heir to His true spirit, and I doubt he's on anyone's short-list of future recipients. It just wouldn't make for a cheery, bubbly hour of television.
Again, it's a nice idea (i.e. honoring Mark Twain) gone terribly awry, due to our confusing honesty with belly-laughs.
Ultimate question - what about the flight crew? Aren't they supposed to have training in both detecting and calming passengers' unreasonable fears? I know it's not their job to be experts in Religions of the World, but, since 9/11 'changed everything', wouldn't it be reasonable for them to, by now, know what the alarmed passenger didn't know?
One often encounters statistics about Americans being the most 'God-fearing', religious people on the planet. I guess that only refers to the God with long brown hair, a white robe, and a nicely-groomed beard. You know, the commonly-displayed graven image.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
But I digress.
Now, I have three cell-phones on my account: mine, Ben's and Dylan's. Karen and I continue to pay for the boys' phones, for obvious reasons. The phones we have are two years old and all the same model - a very basic LG, with no special features. Plus, they were still on the old AT&T network and plan, which always causes the Cingular folks down the street to sigh whenever they look at my account.
My phone is still in great condition. However, the boys' phones have been dropped and abused beyond belief, and look battle-scarred. The other day, Dylan said he heard that, if we all go into the Cingular store together, they will upgrade all our phones for free. It sounded too good to be true, but, the other day, I happened to have both of them with me, so we stopped to inquire.
It took almost an hour, but all three of us now have new Cingular camera-phones, with a much better display and so many other goodies to be discovered. Plus, we got moved over to the Cingular network without increasing the monthly cost. Once we get the rebates, the total cost of the three new phones will be $30. Everyone is happy, and I have actually replaced the boring wall-paper with a photo I took while walking the dog in the park.
We plan to donate our old phones to a worthy cause (women's shelter, or something like that). So, the old phones were sitting on a table, having been stripped of their SIM cards. Discarded, worn-out, beat-up pieces of obsolescence.
We were going about our daily lives when we heard an odd buzzing. I walked around the house until the sound led me to the pile of old phones. I picked one of them up. It was Ben's phone - he had set a future appointment, reminding him of a haircut.
You know how they say that your fingernails keep growing after you die? That's how it seemed holding a brain-dead phone, that was desperately trying to deliver a message, calling out to be heard. A last gasp before expiring forever.
Too much coffee on a Sunday morning.
Thanksgiving preparations continue. We pick up the turkey tomorrow and Karen's mom arrives tomorrow afternoon. Today, I clean out the fridge.
Outside: rain, rain, rain.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Pass a one-line law, that any corporation doing business with the Military will be permitted to recover its costs, but ALL profits will be taxed at 99%.
That will put an end to the 'permanent War for permanent profits' that's been going on since WWII, reduce the Pentagon budget dramatically, free up whatever money is left in the Treasury (i.e. not much) for other priorities (there are a few), and put a lot of CEOs and upper managers out on the street, where they can see what it's like to work for minimum wage.
All in all, a win-win for the Earth (which could use a break).
Thursday, November 16, 2006
'Operation Relentless Smear' Is Launched In Iraq
In a bold change of strategy in the war in Iraq, President George W. Bush announced today that the U.S. had begun bombarding Iraqi insurgents with negative ads in the hopes of bringing the insurgency to its knees.
At a White House briefing today, spokesman Tony Snow said that the new military campaign, called Operation Relentless Smear, would focus on attacking the personal missteps and hypocrisies of key Iraqi insurgents on a twenty-four-hour basis. "This new strategy is playing to our strengths," Mr. Snow told reporters. "The insurgents are good at blowing things up and creating chaos, but no one is better than we are at creating negative ads."
According to Mr. Snow, Operation Relentless Smear will re-deploy thousands of negative ad producers, directors, and voiceover artists who were momentarily idle at the conclusion of the U.S.'s midterm election campaign. Masterminded by the White House's top political strategist Karl Rove, the bombardment of negative ads began at midnight Wednesday, interrupting all local Iraqi programming with a nonstop diet of half-truths, corrosive accusations and character assassination.
By Thursday morning, there were already signs that Operation Relentless Smear was working, as Iraqi insurgents in such key cities as Baghdad and Tikrit appeared worn out by the onslaught of slickly produced attack ads. "The air strikes and the curfews were one thing," said Hassan El-Medfaii, an insurgent who is based in Baghdad's Sadr City district. "But this is messing with my TV."
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Omits Words 'Mama' and 'Yo' in West Point Appearance
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) found himself in the middle of another botched joke controversy today as the 2004 Democratic nominee for president misread a classic "yo mama" joke while making a speech to military cadets at West Point.
After his failed attempt at humor one week before the midterm elections, many observers assumed that the Massachusetts senator would retire from the comedy field once and for all. But according to one of Mr. Kerry's aides, the former Democratic standard-bearer was determined to prove "just how funny he really can be."
Mr. Kerry decided to leave nothing to chance in his latest attempt at comedy, however, choosing a time-tested joke in the "yo mama" format and having it written on a large cue card which an aide held aloft just yards away from the podium.
According to the plan, the Massachusetts senator was to entertain the cadets by saying, "Yo mama so stupid, it take her an hour to cook Minute Rice."
But inexplicably, Mr. Kerry decided to depart from his prepared remarks and instead told the cadets, "You're so stupid, you're going to wind up stuck in Iraq."
According to a new Newsweek poll, a majority of Americans want Mr. Kerry to get out of comedy altogether.
You, too, can follow the exciting give-and-take, here.
It would be more fun if the consequences of my view being correct weren't so dire.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Good thing we can all relax, now that the elections are over, and there weren't any major oddities. Hang on, what do we see here?
Hmmmm - according to official Connecticut FEC postings, the number of people who voted for Ned Lamont in 2006 (2nd place to Lieberman) was the EXACT number of people who voted for Lieberman's REPUBLICAN challenger (who came in 2nd) in 2000.
Those wacky Connecticutians! You just never know.
Let me repeat: you just never know (and that's the point).
Saturday, November 11, 2006
End result was just a couple of inches, and this morning is bright and sunny. I heard that Minneapolis got a bit more snow, but, by the time I get there, late this afternoon, I don't expect any major impact on air traffic.
Should be in Portland by 7, and at a friend's art show by 7:45. One more visit to Mom's place this morning before I head out. Yesterday I played piano for the crowd and, as always, it was pretty well received (and good for me, too).
Each visit shows her slowing down a little more, but, now approaching 93, she still reads the paper and takes a short walk outside every day, weather permitting. Her hearing isn't great, and her memory is fading, but she's still there keeping going. I should do so well, at that age.
Sure looking forward to being home - it's been an amazing week, with the election news. I almost feel like I'll be reborn, when I step off the plane in Portland.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Scanning the blogs and news outlets shows a flood of voting-machine failures, not to mention outright voter intimidation in Virginia.
This is going to be a dirty election. The US has lost all credibility, in our efforts to 'spread Freedom thruout the world'. It is shameful.
Please, people, be patient. Stick it out no matter how long it takes, then, in the next Congress, let's pass vote-by-mail nationwide, as Ron Wyden is proposing. It's been working great here for a decade - no lines, no fuss, no touch-screens, and lots of paper, that can be examined again and again.
Will they steal it? Can't wait to get to Minneapolis to find out!
See y'all later.
First of all, their 'About' page is, strangely, unavailable this morning, and their phone number was removed from their home page. Fortunately, you can see it here (fax number, too).
Going down the list of hits, we find this little piece from last month, that cited a poll claiming Marilyn Musgrave (the gay-bashing idiot from Colorado) was moving ahead. The poll, the article claims at the very bottom, was conducted by....wait for it....Conquest Communications.
Here's their list of funders in Virginia. All Republicans, of course, and look at the list of services being supplied.
Looks like the National Republican Congressional Committee pays about $3000 per candidate, for phone-bank services. Nice work if you can get it. If the violations of the 'Do Not Call List' are pursued ($500 per call), maybe we can bankrupt these guys by the end of the year.
Here's the guy behind it. Here's his home address and the fact that he gave $1000 to Bush.
We can only hope, although the reports of broken voting machines, long lines, and scrubbed lists are flooding in. On Air America this morning, Thom Hartmann revealed that the GOP-controlled company that is doing the cross-country annoying robo-calls is named 'Conquest Communications'.
I bet they all had a good laugh when they filed the incorporation papers. By the way, at their web site, here's their logo:
Can you read that tag line? "Guide Opinion, Lead People, Make History"
Seems a bit chilling to me.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Is there no end to the cynicism of these people? Their willingness to degrade our democracy, while proclaiming they are its champions (and the possibility of them getting away with it yet again), is truly depressing.
25 years of inadequate public education and media complicity has transformed large numbers of people into frightened self-righteous homophobes, very well trained to consistently vote against their real interests.
Meanwhile, the Treasury continues to be emptied and the US is viewed as the greatest threat to world peace. December 2000 will go down in history as the time when the American Republic tipped over to the road to fascism.
Who will rid us of this troublesome band of maniacs? I know you're out there.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Today is my 55th birthday. Last night we had dinner with my best friends, and the food and wine were wonderful. I'm always slightly embarrased to be the center of attention in any non-musical setting (a notable exception), but this was fun. To top it off, the presents that my friends gave me truly showed that they know me well.
1) the complete (70,000+) New Yorker cartoons, on CD.
2) a book about Soccer as a metaphor for globalization
3) a book on the political genius of Lincoln
I am heading for Wisconsin Tuesday morning. I should get some election news running thru the Minneapolis airport between planes (it's always a long way to make this transfer). By the time I get to Milwaukee, polls west of the Rockies will be closed and projections ought to be starting to appear.
When we wake up Wednesday morning, we'll know a lot more about the shape of future American History textbooks. Will it be the morning 'America finally came to its senses', or will it be the morning when the re-education camps started 'accepting repentant dissidents'.
Maybe I should have been dropping hints, the past few weeks, that what I really wanted for my birthday is hand-grenades.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Sure got us scared, though, didn't it?
Sure allowed the TSA to appear to be 'doing something to protect the Homeland', didn't it?
I'm flying to Wisconsin next week. I'm not scared.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
Cautiously optimistic about the election, which is a dangerously-vulnerable position, given the track record of these criminals.
In the meantime, while we occupy our days with little things, the big issues are continuing. There was a Yahoo headline a couple of days ago - something along the lines of 'new study from WWF (World Wildlife Fund) claims that Earth is living beyond its means'. I couldn't read it.
Motto for these times, from the perspective of 200 years from now: "It was a Wonderful Life, but What Were They Thinking?".
By the way, for an alternate version, try this. Better.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
He stopped at her diner with his entourage for breakfast. However, Dick didn't order off the menu - actually, he brought his own food to eat.
After all, you never know when Terrorists might find a way to slip poison into one's hash browns.
This is the guy's mentality. Totally paranoid. Don't trust anybody.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Deducting attorney fees, it might about cover the $650 we spent tonight on wire, at Home Depot (big electrical project in the back yard - details and pictures coming soon.
Ah, Skilling - I met him twice and he seemed about the most smug, oily guy imaginable. Maybe they'll offer to reduce his sentence if he tells them where Ken Lay is hiding, and what he looks like now!
Nah, he can't tell. If he did, the Bush mafia would have him suffer an unfortunate 'accident' in the prison laundry.
Oh, by the way, don't forget to stay the course.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Woke up this morning at the home of an old friend of Karen's, in a quiet neighborhood on the border between Berkeley and Oakland. Got packed up and walked over to the corner of Alcatraz and College, where I found a coffee shop with free WiFi.
Ate a bagel and drank a gallon of coffee, while I dealt with my email, browsed my favorite left-wing blogs, and actually did some work. Then, around 11, gassed up the rental car, grabbed some lunch, and headed down to the San Francisco Estuary Institute, for this afternoon's meeting of the Northbay Information Commons Developer Group, of which I am a member.
Got here in plenty of time to find the meeting room, then take a walk along the pathways adjacent to the expansive wetlands, with many herons and other bird/animal life happily cavorting in the warm sunshine. As I was starting to doze, sitting on the bench overlooking the scene, I headed back to the meeting room.
Things should get underway in 20 minutes, but, at the moment, I am the only one in the room. We are to meet this afternoon, report on our various projects, and make some plans for the next couple of months.
Fortunately, the meeting place is about 4 minutes from the car-rental return, and I am scheduled for a 7:30 flight back to Portland tonight. Wonder if I can get out of here any earlier?
At any rate, it's a gorgeous day here by The Bay. It would be a great place to live, say around 1880.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Then the short drive to Napa to visit friends (and maybe have a bite to eat) before returning to other friends in Oakland, to spend the night.
Wednesday meetings start at 9:30, and should be ending in enough time for me to comfortably return the rental car and grab the 7:30 pm flight back to Portland. It will be a rushed couple of days, but, heck, I'm not paying for any of it so bring it on.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
All that remained was to reconnect to Karen's computer and printer, for sharing of those resources. I had to tweak the Zone Alarm settings to make the connections (the IP address had changed, for some reason), but all was well.
So, the task 'resize partitions' ended up taking 9 hours. My questions are:
1) Are the 'Mac vs. PC' commercials correct?
2) Could using a more sophisticated (i.e. not free) utility have made it simpler?
3) Does my ignorance about disk partitioning reflect poorly on my political judgements?
The best part of the whole story was that Karen called me last night just at the point where my panic and frustration were maxing out. Never fails.
She returns in 5 hours.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Then I upgraded to something more powerful and it became my back-up machine. Then it developed some weird behaviors, and it sat dormant for a while. Then Karen's assistant's computer started acting flaky, so I put a new CD drive and a new hard-drive into the Dell.
The hard-drive was only 8 GB, which was fine for Karen's assistant's needs - it cost just a few dollars, at FreeGeek. It had been used as a dual-boot Linux/Windows drive, so the partitioning was weird. I spent a little time trying to reconfigure the partitions, and settled for one 2 GB and 1 6 GB partitions, and installed Windows XP on the 2 GB.
You can see it coming, right? XP started complaining that 2 GB was just not sufficient and that disk space was consistently running low. So, in the closing hours until Karen's return tomorrow afternoon, I thought I'd go up to her office at 5 pm this afternoon, use an old copy of Partition Magic to resize the partitions, and go merrily on my way.
Nice try. Partition Magic ended up having to erase everything in both partitions (there was no actual business data on this computer - it only needs to see Karen's computer and have a local install of Office). That was inconvenient, but I figured that all I had to do was boot my XP install disk and away we go.
No luck - it couldn't boot from the XP CD. I broke out in a cold sweat, as I realized that I had totally wiped out this computer. Right then, my cell phone rang, and it was my sweetie, checking in about getting picked up at the airport tomorrow around 5 pm. I gulped and informed her that I had just totally hosed her assistant's computer.
I stayed with it for another hour, trying every combination of BIOS boot configurations, but the thing appeared to be brain-dead. I unplugged the box and brought it home, and ate some dinner while I tried to figure everything out.
I had two copies of Windows 2000, and tried them. One made it about 50% thru and froze. Back to Partition Magic to wipe out the 2nd partition and just make one big one. This time it worked, and, an hour later, Windows 2000 and Office were installed.
Pushing my luck, I tried the XP install CD and, voila, this time it worked fine. It is now 11:45 pm, and XP is just now coming up, looking blessedly normal.
I've been sweating and swearing for almost 7 hours, but the end is in sight. Tomorrow morning, I'll take the box back up to her office, and hopefully complete the networking stuff and get it connected to her DSL line.
With any luck, when Debra gets in Monday morning, she'll never know that, for about 2 hours Friday night, her computer had total amnesia.
What a world. Good night (after the Letterman Top 10, that is).
Thursday, October 12, 2006
That, in addition to dealing with needy clients on three different projects. At the moment, everyone seems to be happy, and there are no fires needing to be extinguished today.
Last night, Brooke, Richard and I played a gig at a great little Asian bistro on NE Fremont. We auditioned there back in June, and the owner was quite enthusiastic about having us play there regularly. Then came summer, with travels keeping the three of us apart (frequently on different continents) until last week.
We finally got together at my house Tuesday afternoon, to see if we still remembered enough tunes to play for a couple of hours, and the rehearsal went very well. So, we had some degree of confidence, going into the gig, that we'd be fine, and we were. I was very pleased with the music.
Unfortunately, Brooke tells us that there is a possibility that her husband will be transferred to Boise early next year, so that might be the end of this group.
You might think that, for the time being, at least we could rely on weekly gigs for the next couple of months, but you'd be mistaken.
I just made plane reservations to fly to Oakland next Tuesday and will be there thru Thursday morning, meeting with clients on two different projects, so no gig next week.
Then, the week after that, Richard is unavailable, so it will be just Brooke and me. Music is an uncertain business - good thing I don't rely on it to put food on my family.
Looks like a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l Fall day here in Portland coming up. I hope to ride my bike over to the accountant, to pick up some tax stuff that needs to be signed and mailed by next Monday. Maybe I'll pick some more apples today, too.
Of course, all these plans could change in a moment, if an October-surprise email comes thru, from a panic-stricken client...
Saturday, October 07, 2006
'Scuse me, but isn't this the same pResident who, last week on the campaign trail, denounced Democrats whose philosophy is to 'wait until we are attacked before taking any action'?
Friday, October 06, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Nice crowd, enthusiastic and ready to rumble. There were several good speeches especially one by a guy dressed as Ben Franklin, and (very good) Thom Hartmann.
Thom's best line was when he said we shouldn't confuse our elected officials as being our 'leaders'. Instead, he said, politicians are simply people who are always looking to see if there is a big parade going on. When they see a parade, they move to the front carrying a flag, and then say "this is MY parade." The American people need to get that parade going.
I hear on the radio that the crowd is getting out of hand, and the police are considering deploying tear-gas. I left after one young lady got the mike, and exhorted the crowd to ignore the police instructions and the agreed-upon-rules (i.e. stay on the sidewalks and don't block the streets). Apparently, many listened to her.
I left at that point, because I had a sense that trouble was coming, and it's my belief that the Police are NOT the enemy here. This is a developing story.
Meanwhile, here's a photo I took, while things were still well-behaved.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
To paraphrase: it's unfortunate that many people will likely be imprisoned indefinitely, without any opportunity to hear the evidence against them (if there is any), and any chance to make their case that for their utter innocence. It would be 'too expensive' to make the government do the research to examine the particulars.
I am sickened at this callous disregard for human rights. As I recall, we hold certain truths to be self-evident, that among these are that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. (The above typed from memory, not pasted).
Maybe someday there will be justice, and these people will be imprisoned under the same conditions they have decreed for hundreds (thousands?) of unfortunates. Unfortunately, it seldom happens that tyrants get the same treatment they brought to others.
The Betrayal of American Ideals is complete. We don't give a shit for your so-called 'Human Rights'. It's 'too expensive' to do this, just as it's 'too expensive' to reduce carbon emissions.
Better not think about this. Maybe I'll go shopping.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Remember the JonBenet killer hysteria? We don't hear too much about that guy any more, do we?
The latest: Bob Woodward's book gets people beginning to seriously question statements made by Rice, Rummy, and Bush, and, a couple of days later, it's Foley-gate.
My guess is that the Foley story coming out on Friday was a Rovian sacrifice-him-to-divert-the-masses ploy, that has now curiously snowballed out of their control. Whether or not it takes down Hastert as well is still an open question, but you have to admit that, once again, the public is diverted from having to look at Iraq/terrorism timelines, and do the 'hard work' of reconciling Condi's statements with the inconvenient truths.
How convenient that the media has salacious IMs to play over and over, instead of real issues. Karl is indeed The Master - now if only he can find a single Democratic predator, his work is done.
"[The] presentation comes just days after PricewaterhouseCoopers issued a report stating that it will cost $1 trillion to curb emissions of climate warming gases over the next generation."
Too bad - we already spent that trillion in Iraq.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Updated Saturday, September 30, 2006 3:04 PM EDT
IRAN WAR PLAN EXPOSED!
PREPARE FOR THE SINKING OF A U.S. AIRCRAFT CARRIER – The USS Enterprise - CVN-65!
The existence of a hideous plan to sacrifice a U.S. Aircraft Carrier as a pretext for war with Iran is presently being uncovered! The Hal Turner Show has been told that within the next five (5) weeks, the United States will "suffer" a missile attack upon the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, presently on patrol near the Persian Gulf. This attack will appear to be from numerous "Silkworm" and/or "Sunburn" missiles which will sink the vessel and kill most of the 5,000 crew onboard.
The "attack" will be blamed on Iran and thus provide the Bush Administration with an excuse to go to war with that nation.The Hal Turner Show has learned that the missiles used to attack the USS Enterprise will not be fired from or by Iran, but rather will be a "false flag operation" made to LOOK as though Iran carried out the attack!
The USS Enterprise is the worlds first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. It was Commissioned in 1961 and is due to be decommissioned in 2014 or 2015. The ship was selected to be the "victim" of this "attack" due to its age.
THOSE PLANNING THE ATTACK ARE INSIDE THE U.S. AND ISRAELI GOVERNMENTS and view the loss of the Enterprise crew as a necessary sacrifice to induce Americans to support war against Iran.
Put bluntly, the ship and crew are to be cannon fodder. I am being fed more information and expect to be able to name names as to who is behind this plan. Check back often."
So, I only post it here so that, should this actually happen, I can point to this October 1, 2006 entry. If it doesn't happen, that would be a very good thing.
Playing the next night was Dweezil Zappa and friends, in a program of Frank's music. Both boys would have loved to go to that concert, but, alas, we missed it by about 4 hours, having to head to the airport instead.
Fast forward to yesterday.
Dylan comes home with this week's Willamette Week, and there is a large ad for that same concert, coming to Portland in December. He said, "maybe this time I'll get to see it."
Sadly, no. About the time that Dweezil takes the stage that night in Portland (Dec. 21), Karen, Dylan, and I will be in the air, en route to Burbank, for a Christmas-week trip to California and Mexico. This time, we miss it by 2 hours.
I suppose that's progress.
In other news, it was great hearing George McGovern on NPR this morning, with his plan for Iraqi withdrawal. Ah, what might have been...
Finally, a very large number of Brazilians are heading to the polls today to elect a new government. Gee, national voting on Sunday - what a concept. One would almost think that having national elections on Tuesdays is a calculated way to make it difficult for working-class folks to vote. Naaaaa - couldn't be.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
In a couple of hours, Karen and I are meeting up with my two boys and other friends at one of our favorite Pearl District restaurants (Pho Van), then Karen and I have theater tickets for tonight's play.
So, all in all, it's been a pretty nice day, with no outward appearance of fascism in the neighborhood.
To cap it off, in today's mail there was a check for me, for $945, representing the conclusion of yet another Enron class-action suit. Let's see, with the $18 I received in a prior settlement and the $50K in severance payments that I received before the bankruptcy, that makes 4% of the value of the stock and options that I watched disappear.
A small price to pay for the experience of having met Jeff Skilling, twice (and once sharing an elevator, in Houston, with Ken Lay).
It being the end of the month, I spend a while writing up invoices for my computer work in September. It has been a productive time - I am happy with stuff I developed and know the clients will be, too.
I make and slowly sip a cup of strong coffee. It is cool in the house, but I sit in t-shirt and shorts, looking out the window at the quiet neighborhood. Leaves are beginning to accumulate under the big maple tree. They said that yesterday would be the last 80 degree day of 2006 - sounds about right.
On 'The McLaughlin Group' last night, time was spent on the NIE flap, Bill Clinton's FOX interview, and other assorted matters, but no mention was made of the serious hit to the Constitution - odd - to me, since I think that is the story of the year. The show concluded, as usual, with the pundits making predictions. All agreed that the Dems will take the House in November.
I am not so sure.
I'd like to believe it, but have the sense that the fix is in already. Daily Kos reports another insidious erosion of the separation of Church and State, that flew totally under everyone's radar. Why is it that, in this country, sexual indiscretions are grounds for public outrage, but financial and political corruption, and outright violations of Oaths of Office, are shrugged off?
Greenland continues to melt.
The sun is just about to clear the trees that border our property. It will be sunny, dry, and 72 today. In other times, one would call this 'perfect'.
It is very quiet in the house. I think I will put on a sweatshirt.
October is coming - prepare for surprises.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Then, I went over to the bookshelf and picked up a PG Wodehouse anthology, and read a couple of Jeeves and Wooster stories, and began one of the shorter novels ('Quick Service'). It was utterly soothing, to read something genuinely funny, describing a world so thoroughly different from Bushland.
This morning, I am back in Full Outrage mode, but, at least for a couple of hours, it was great to get away.
Hello, Supreme Court? It's all up to you now - take out those Pocket Constitutions and re-read the Bill of Rights, PLEASE!!!!!!!
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Today's vote to eliminate Habeas Corpus and give the President the right to declare anyone he wants an Enemy, and try them without revealing the evidence against them, is It.
Well, it's been a heck of a good run since 1215.
Here's something to think about:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
As one of the Governed, will someone please tell me how I can best withhold my consent?
I don't feel Safe or Happy anymore.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I had quite the evening last night. On the answering machine was a message from my Bar Mitzvah rabbi, from back in upstate New York, who I haven't been in touch with for many, many years. He had come across a letter I had written to him, God knows how long ago (!), and just wanted to say hello.
We connected later in the evening and talked for at least a half-hour. He is now semi-retired and living in south Florida. He wanted to know all about my life, and was delighted to hear that my mother is still alive and doing well.
This man was a major influence on my life - a real mentor who encouraged my questions and curiosity, and was a great role model - very smart and eloquent, with a young good-looking wife actually named Marilyn. I spent many hours in his study, talking about matters Jewish and otherwise. It's certainly been almost 40 years since we actually spoke with each other.
At the beginning of the conversation, he asked "how are you doing", and I said "in two months I will be 55." There was a pause on his end, as he absorbed this reality.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
After the dinner, we all went upstairs and joined the rest of the congregation for the short evening service. It was all pretty good, except for the slightly embarrasing references to a God who listens to our needs and gives us what we pray for - I've always had trouble with that part. Fortunately, our rabbi is heavy on the social obligations to work for peace and justice, and light on the 'Eternal One, blessed be He'.
Karen is singing in the choir, so has to be there early this morning. I can't decide if I'm going or not. Yom Kippur generally works for me, as far as ritual cleansing goes.
Maybe I'll stick around the house, experience my various epiphanies doing chores in the yard, and keep coming back inside to read this piece, from a History professor in Kentucky.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
It wasn't hard, because I was calling other MoveOn.ORG members. I made 85 calls, and actually got 4 people to commit to make one hour of phone calls in the next week. The trainer at the office said I'd be doing good if I got 3 people.
Even the folks who could not commit to volunteer action at this time expressed the expected revulsion at Our Leader and his horrendous record of Constitutional abuses. Always pleasant to hear.
It all comes down to who counts the votes, though, and the prospects are not totally encouraging. Is it all for nought?
Meanwhile, Olberman strikes again!
Friday, September 15, 2006
Folks, let's remember that it's in the interest of every nation to follow the Geneva Conventions in order to safeguard THEIR OWN soldiers. The arrogant abbrogation of these standards by BushCo is only one of their many sins, but, strangely enough, since its enforcement is outside of Republican control, it's one (maybe the ONLY one, since the 'Elections' are already fixed) that could actually happen.
Since the penalty for causing the death of illegally-treated captives is death, it will be interesting, if prosecutions ever occur, to see the sentence, when Rumsfeld, Cheney, and His Idiotness are standing in the box.
Nah - never happen. I can easily see The Cabal deciding that Bush has to be eliminated, for the good of the Profit Center. Maybe the October Surprise will have us mourning a Fallen Leader? Wouldn't that be Karl's masterpiece? Now, all they need to do is find a body that looks as much like Bush as that other guy's body looked just like Ken Lay.
Too much coffee. Time to get to work.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
With the frequent evidence that, as one wag put it, "these people would steal Jesus if he wasn't nailed down", I am not surprised that, in this atmosphere of "screw you, I'm going to grab whatever I can", we have the following story, from NPR this morning.
It seems that thieves all over the country are grabbing copper wherever they can, due to its recent significant uptick in value. The NPR story told of property owners whose construction project was flooded when bad guys broke into the basement of their building and ripped out all the copper pipe, and folks in hot places whose air-conditioners stopped working, because a passer-by got into their unit and stole the piping.
But, the reason I am writing this - the reason I am most saddened by our growing kleptocracy, is the news that robbers are prying the bronze plaques off of war memorials - you know, the ones that list names of soldiers who died fighting for Our Freedom.
I guess if the Government doesn't honor our troops, by failing to give them adequate body armour, cutting veteran benefits, sending them to illegal wars, and condemning them to what amounts to involuntary servitude, it's no surprise that that message has filtered down to the less well-connected vultures.
No, nothing is sacred, but the lust for cash, in an atmosphere where "everybody's doing it", has brought down other countries, and now it appears to be our turn.
I always marveled at the stories about home-front rationing during World War II, where kids scrounged for newspaper and rubber, and families reduced their consumption of everything from meat to nylon, to help The Country fight its war on Fascism.
The pResident keeps saying "we're at War", but one look at our TV/consumption culture quickly dispells that notion. Bush's War is his Class's convenient excuse to steal, and everything downstream from him is corrupted by it.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
We have to disrupt the protests over Here before we do so over There.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Fact 1: Halliburton had aquired Dresser Industries' asbestos liabilities.
Fact 2: The WTC had a substantial amount of asbestos in its construction. It would be ENORMOUSLY expensive to clean this up using traditional methods.
Fact 3: Bomb-sniffing dogs were inexplicably removed from the Twin Towers five days before 9-11
Fact 4: The Twin Towers had been evacuated a number of times in the weeks preceding 9/11
Fact 5: There was a power down in the Twin Towers on the weekend before 9/11, security cameras were shut down, and many workers ran around busily doing things unobserved.
Fact 6: Marvin Bush, W's younger brother, was a principal with the company that managed security at the trade centers, thus giving it free reign to the buildings.
Fact 7: In WTC 7, the building that collapsed hours after the towers (and had not been hit by any of the planes), had a CIA office. Unfortunately, all of the documents that were being stored there were destroyed. What an unfortunate coincidence.
Connecting the dots is pretty easy here, especially in regard to the many eye-witnesses who, in the early hours of the attack, reported hearing explosions just before the towers actually collapsed.
So many more coincidences, like the Air Force's war games that had been planned for 9/11. This caused many first-responders to delay taking any actions, since their first assumption was that the initial reporting of the crashes was part of the drill.
By the way, Marvin Bush's frequent baby-sitter was killed in a 'freak car accident' on 9/29. I guess these things could happen to anyone at any time. Probably doesn't mean that she heard something she shouldn't have heard...
Bottom line: So many 'problems' for Cheney and his associates were conveniently resolved in a single day. Kinda makes you wonder...
Monday, September 11, 2006
We had a short run for that day - only 35 miles to Diamond - a piece of cake after the prior day's 74 miles (including a long gravel stretch). It was a normal Cycle Oregon breakfast, then off for a leisurely bike ride thru the vast emptiness of southeast Oregon.
As I approached the 2nd rest stop, I saw people congregating around one of the support vans. It took a couple of minutes to have it explained and comprehended - the Trade Center was gone. I remember looking out over a zillion miles of empty sagebrush desert and thinking that my immediate reality could not possibly be any more opposite from that of much of the rest of the world.
We continued biking on to Diamond. 'Did you hear the news?' people would say as they passed by. At Diamond, I quickly pitched my tent, grabbed my trusty shortwave radio, and headed to the staging area where they had buses to take a lucky few to the top of Steens Mountain, one of the scenic highpoints (literally) of the week's itinerary.
While waiting for the bus, I did find some stations that were delivering still-fragmentary news, and conveyed what I was hearing to others. We got on the bus, and made the bumpy ride to the crest of Steens, where we got out and marvelled at the astonishing vista, looking down over the east escarpment to the vast panorama. It was completely quiet, except for the sound of the wind.
This is my chief 9/11 memory. No planes, no balls of flame.
Eventually, we reboarded the buses for the ride back to Diamond. By then, we were hearing rumors that San Francisco and Los Angeles were also going to be targeted (not true), and that all air traffic was going to be shut down (true). There were a bunch of New Yorkers on CO, and they were talking about trying to get home (which, realistically, was a LONG way from the flanks of Steens).
That night, a trumpeter played taps and Jonathan Nicholas offered some good words. He said that, after considering shutting down the ride, the directors had decided that continuing on made the most sense. Some riders did leave (I wonder how they got back to Portland, and how many days they had to wait there before getting a flight home).
The rest of the ride continued somewhat normally, with news from the outside world largely filtered by what we could divine from the morning newspapers, and what I could find on my radio in the evenings.
We got home late the following Saturday night, and it was probably Monday before I had a chance to view the footage of the actual planes-hitting-buildings. Therefore, I had no participation in the prior week's obsessive media blitz, and, for me, 9/11 does not carry the shock and horror that the rest of you experienced.
I am able to look at it a bit more objectively. When I hear Bush constantly mentioning it, I am not filled with the traumatic associations that many still feel - I am filled with revulsion for a man who uses Fear to manipulate damaged people, and who, incredibly, misses no opportunity to remind folks of the tragedy, somehow failing to acknowledge that the greatest breach of national security in our Nation's history occurred 233 days into his watch.
'Scuse me, but I need to get some work done today.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Great to be back.
Best moment while traveling: Standing in line in Minneapolis, waiting to get on the plane to Portland, I overheard the gate attendant asking a passenger, in a stern confrontational voice, "do you have any salad dressing in there?"
Oh no, it's the 'War on Salads'.
At least the grandmother in line ahead of me got her shoes searched - I feel so much better.
Here's another great euphemism for our times: at the entrance to the security-check area, the TSA had thoughtfully provided a receptacle containing plastic booties, that folks can use while their shoes are being X-rayed (by machines acknowledged to be ineffective in detecting explosives). These little blue booties were cheerfully referred to as 'Air Slippers'.
Sounds kinda soothing, eh? Why you can be just as comfortable as when you wear your slippers at home, in your Homeland.
Anyway, the flight was terror-free, and I read and dozed. I can't tell you how happy I was to see the Snake River down below, cutting north thru Hell's Canyon, and, a few minutes later, the big bend of the Columbia appeared, heading west to my home.
Back in my back yard, I dug potatoes (got a grocery bag full, and I know there are more to be found) and picked plums.
Now, I hear Karen watching the fictional ABC 9/11 'dramatization' (or, as I hereby officially dub it, "The Triumph of the Swill"). Could there possibly be a more straightforward demonstration that Fascism is here? Hint: click 'Click here' at the top of the page.
Shame, shame, shame.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
This afternoon, my brother, Mom and I went into downtown Milwaukee to the wonderful Public Museum, that I have visited many times. We saw a great IMAX film about the Moon landings, a traveling exhibit on the ancient Chinese astronomers, and, of course, the magical butterfly room.
This evening, my brother brought out a stash of 11 year-old VHS tapes he had made of a Twilight Zone marathon, back in California. We watched about six of them, and one was an absolute gem.
It was a delightful film with Buster Keaton, directed by Norman Z Macleod (his final directing credit). Keaton is one of my all-time heroes, and to see him in this marvelous tale, free to reprise many of his famous bits in the service of an appropriately Twilight-Zonish script, was a true pleasure. I can only begin to imagine how much fun they had making this.
Friday, September 08, 2006
I spent yesterday with my Mom at her assisted living place. She is doing remarkably well, for 93. On oxygen 24/7, with a live-in attendant (the attentive, gentle Leonora, from the Phillipines). They make a great pair.
Naturally, I played an afternoon piano concert for the gathered masses, and, as always, it's a great audience to play for. Gave me a chance to stay limber, and play a bunch of their (and mine) favorite old songs. In the evening, I showed Mom my Spain/Morocco photos and she enjoyed them tremendously.
More of the same today - more of the same tomorrow - back to Portland Sunday.
Have to admit that yesterday was a lovely day - temps in the high 70s, with some humidity, lots of great puffy clouds and blue skies, and enough breeze to make sitting outside a pleasure. Trees are beginning to turn.
Time to grab some breakfast and head over for another day of geriatric amusements.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
A half-hour ago, we had Maisie euthanized.
It was clear that she had stopped eating and the time had come. Karen and I drove her over to the neighborhood vet, who kindly administered the barbituate overdose.
After a couple of seconds, her head drooped over - I sat directly in front of her as the light went out. Very peaceful.
I am now taking her out to the back yard, to the grave that I dug back in June. What a tough, smart old lady she was.
Ten minutes later.
She is buried.