Friday, December 31, 2004

Quick Hits

Lest you think that because I was away I was not checking out the blog world, let me assure you that this was not the case. Here are some things that caught my eye and/or amused me:

The Kama Sutra illustrated on gingerbread cookies. Complete with instructions!

A gallery of pulp SciFi magazine covers featuring women. I present, Babes in Space.

What do you get the person who has everything? How about a meat air freshener? Mmmm, meat.

Music from Bollywood has often fascinated me. I love how they often take western music themes and mix them up with Indian beats and their own melodies. It's particularly intriguing when you see the films as well, but the music often stands on it's own. The problem is where to jump in when you see a soundtrack in a store. There are compilations for sale as well, but why pay for a compilation when you can get one for free? Bollywood for the Skeptics is an excellent mp3 introduction that will hopefully inspire readers to buy more of these soundtracks. What's even better is that Rick Elizaga was inspired to put together album art for those of you who download the tracks. Enjoy!

Finally, lest you think that I don't listen to rock much anymore, take a listen to Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Leo's voice has an uncanny resemblance to early Joe Jackson. The music is sort of retro to early British punk and the lyrics on the latest album, Shake the Sheets, are mostly political. They'll be in Seattle on February 13th at Neumos.

New Year's

As usual, we're staying home for New Year's Eve. I really don't care much for going out on that night anymore. Frankly, the drunks on the road scare me. I'd rather stay in, enjoy a nice dinner, and watch a good flick or two.

We are going out today for some shopping. Shawn has the day off from work, so now's a good time to do it together. She starts back at school next weekend, so it's now or wait another 4 months. My parents gave us gift cards for Nordstrom's, so I think we'll drive downtown and spend those up. On the way back, we might pick up some crab, lobster, shrimp, or all three to enjoy for dinner. The grocery near us has a good deal on them. Note to self: pick up some coffee so you can remain awake until midnight. *smirk*

I dislike New Year's Resolutions. They seem to me to be shallow exercises that people feel the need to do and whether or not they are followed seriously seems rather arbitrary. When people look back on them, they often find that they didn't follow through on them for one reason or rationalization or another. I prefer setting goals when I see one that needs accomplishing. I do this at any time of the year when I feel the need to take one to task. Whether or not I show progress on that goal in a year's time, I don't feel the need to berate myself at year's end about it. In any case, some current goals:

1) Lose some weight by exercising more
2) Drink less or not at all (related, in part, to number 1).
3) Read more
4) Write more
5) Make peace with myself and my world (long term goal that is constantly in flux)


Well, we're back from Phoenix. Actually, we've been back since Monday afternoon, but I've been avoiding spending too much time on the computer. In the Seattle area, we're very enamored with ourselves as regards to our tech saviness. We tend to get reminded of this when we speak to friends or skelatives from other parts of the country who call us to just chat or, as if often the case, fix their computers. Frankly, I've been becoming a bit more skeptical of our tech world we've developed - not the technology itself, mind you, but rather how we use it and apply it to our lives both at home and at work. I wonder if we're moving forward in a meaningful way or if we're creating at artifice that one day is bound to collapse on us in big and small ways. This is a topic which I don't want to post about completely yet as the ideas are still fermenting in my mind, but it is an explanation as to why I haven't posted much lately.

Phoenix was wonderful, by the way. We stayed with Shawn's uncle Michael and his partner, Kathy, and their kids. The best gift this Xmas was seeing the look of shock on Shawn's grandmother's face upon realizing we were there. Our plane had arrived late Wednesday night and Virginia had gone to bed by the time that Michael had gotten us to his house. Shawn and I were up early the next morning, sharing a light breakfast and chatting with Kathy, when Kathy went off to get Virginia. They came out and the look on Virginia's face was precious. She was dumbfounded. She just stared at us for at least a full minute and Shawn said, "Hi, Gamma." Virginia continued to stare, not knowing what to say, not believing her eyes, thinking "This does not compute", and wondering what we were doing there as well as how did we get there. Shawn got up, went to her gamma and gave her a big long hug as she said, "Merry Christmas. We thought we'd come down and surprise you." Virginia hugged back tightly. The two embraced for at least a couple of minutes and when they parted, I could see a tear of joy in Virginia's eye. It was beautiful.

Michael and Kathy were great hosts. They were fun to be around. They both like to cook and Michael enjoys his drinks as well as his wine. The kids, Robbie and Grace, were well behaved, for the most part.

Thursday was spent hanging around the house and spending time with each other. We cooked and drank and talked a lot. We ended the evening around the fire pit in the back yard, but it was too windy, so the party died down fairly early. That was just as well as the real celebration and accompanying work was to begin the next day.

Friday, Shawn and I took the rental car Michael had generously gotten for us out to see Shawn's uncle, Tom. Tom is her stepfather's brother. He's a nice man who puts me to shame in the conversation department. He took us to lunch at a large Asian buffet place that had some good food. More important, we got to see Tom and catch up with him. Afterwards, we drove to the Desert Botanical Gardens, which are pretty cool. Shawn and I had each been there before, but not together. The place is filled with lovely and interesting species of cactus and aloe. It's a good place for a stroll. Bonus: we arrived with only an hour to go, so the admissions person let us in for half price! Kathy had invited us over to her parent's for dinner that evening, but we opted to spend a night out alone. So, I baked an apple pie and sent that with Kathy as a way of having some presence at her parents while Shawn and I went out to The Bamboo Club for dinner. We had been there before as well. It has a Pan-Asian menu and one killer Bloody Mary (made with Thai Chili sauce and hot Chinese mustard). When we got back, we helped Kathy out by wrapping the last of her presents for the kids and Michael.

Saturday was the big gift opening day. The kids were, of course, excited. Everyone got some nice gifts and all seemed pleased. Michael put me to work making breakfast and, with his assistance, I threw together a fritata and some toast. After breakfast, we did some prep work for dinner that night, then took Virginia for a walk, then I got humiliated by Robbie on his new X-Box games. Shortly before company arrived, we began pulling together dinner. Shawn made green beans cooked in white wine with almonds and mushrooms. I helped Michael with brining the salmon and putting it on his Texas smoker. Shawn and I through together an appetizer tray featuring cheeses and olives, smoked salmon, and - get this - smoked reindeer sausage. That last bit was Michael's contribution. It's a tad sacrilegious and I like that about him. The family arrived and we all shared a good time. I went out to the fire pit for a while, but I was sleepy and retired early, as did Shawn. The family was up until after 1AM.

Sunday, Michael had his oldest daughter and her family over. We had leftovers for breakfast (I got to taste my pie - it was good, but not as good as the apple crisp I made at home the prior week). Most of our meal was made up of leftovers, but one new thing we did was make tamales. I had never done that before, so I quite enjoyed it. Veggie and meat tamales were put together in assembly line fashion. They turned out pretty tasty. I'm going to have to make them at home sometime, now that I understand how to do them. It was another early evening for me. Shawn stayed up a little later, but she was having digestive problems, so she turned in early as well.

Our flight back was uneventful except for two things. First, our steward who read off the safety crap was pretty funny, though no one in the cabin seemed to notice except for Shawn and I. He said things like, "Pull the oxygen mask over your face and soon the nitrous oxide, I mean, oxygen, of course, will begin flowing." He was also quite helpful, pointing out as we got on the plane that the picture we were taking back (an old photo from the 50s of Shawn's grandfather training sled dogs outside of Anchorage, given to Shawn by Michael for Xmas) would fit in the portfolio compartment at the back of the plane. The second even was that our pilot flew us east and around Mount Rainier before landing. It was a bright, sunny, and clear day and the view was spectacular. I don't think I've ever flown in that way before. It was awesome. It was also a great feeling as I felt very much at home at that point.

When we got home, the cats were a bit skittish. Chaiyo was hiding behind some suitcases in our closet. We had to pull him out and show him that all was OK before he got back to "normal". The cats were out of food, which irked us, but all was well in the house. Two of my dear friends, John and Ellen, each had packages waiting for us when we arrived. We also had a book to read and a CD, so plenty to keep us occupied. Shawn clearly didn't want to do anything except sit and gel when we got back (she hinted about going out for dinner several times on the way home), so I threw together a pizza and a salad.

It was a good trip. Lots of sunshine, good food, and good company. We're lucky to have such thoughtful and nice folks such as Kathy and Michael in our lives.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Quick Hits

'Tis the season to listen to bad Xmas albums. I have a fascination with truly terrible music.

Speaking of music, a meeting in the mash-up world between The Beatles and The Beastie Boyz (calling it The Beastles) was bound to happen one day. And, it's not all that bad.

And, speaking of Xmas, here's a gallery of Santas and the kids they scare.

And, for some of those lonely men and women, here's a little holiday cheer: a video (Quicktime required) mixing music and erotica. Frankly, I find the music to be lame, but the video is, um, entertaining.

As of tomorrow, we're off to Phoenix for a few days. We'll be back in town on Monday afternoon. It's just a short trip to surprise Madame S's grandmother for Xmas. Merry Xmas, folks!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Time wasters

A few things that amused me yesterday:

For all of your villain needs, there's the Villain Supply Company.

For smokers of the UK persuasion or simply those with a sense of humor, there's FakeFags.

Got some extra time to waste? Why not watch these 30 videos. Very cool.

Oh, and for Ursula K. Le Guin fans, she trashes the SciFi Channel's "Earthsea" movie in a Slate magazine essay.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Desktop Search engines

Microsoft is set to release their desktop search engine this morning. This won't be the real release of the product (that will come next year), but Microsoft is feeling the heat from competitors and wants to show that they are in the mix. Google's beta release has been out for some time. Yahoo announced their search engine last week. Other brands, such as Copernicus have been around longer. Why am I not posting links to these products? For one thing, I haven't tried any of them out yet. Why? Because I have no pressing need. Sure, I've got 200GB of storage space on my PC, but I tend to organize things in such a way as I can generally find them. It's an anal habit of mine back from my days as an archivist. Hence, I find all of the current hoopla about desktop search engines to be rather puzzling. Is there a real need that people have for these things? Is this technology premature since the average person doesn't have large amounts of disk space yet and also doesn't record video on their PCs (also, yet)? Why are companies anxious to tout their technology for a product that they are giving away for free?

I must admit, I'm puzzled by this. It's a bit like which browser you use. There is no inherent monetary value in using one browser over another. The browser costs the user no money and, near as I can tell, brings in no revenue for the builders. I suspect that in part is why Microsoft let IE's capabilities slip and let other companies at first build shells on IE, then build competitors to it altogether.

Be that as it may, I will point out an open source desktop search engine does exist and it's called Beagle. I've not used it, but you should be aware of it when making a choice to download one of these products for whatever reason you might have for it.

Since I was just kicking around browsers and IE, and since regular readers are aware that I'm an advocate for browsers other than IE and use Firefox, let me point out that, according to Information Week, Penn State has sent an alert to faculty and students to drop IE for security concerns and switch to one of a number of other browsers. That's another 80,000 potentially lost customers for Microsoft. Not that it brings in any money...

Continuing on in Geekdom, are you stuck for what to get the geek in your life for Xmas? She already owns the latest games, has the mother of all boards, more RAM than Dodge ever dreamed of, and you're at wit's end because you want to avoid another gift certificate. No worries. Why don't you give her a gift that she can, and more importantly - will, wear: a t-shirt with outdated computer error messages.

Finally, this doesn't really belong in this series of posts, but anyone in geekdom should love the idea of a ramen noodles theme park.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Quick Hits

For a long time, I avoided supermarket "discount" or "club" cards. I didn't care that the only reason I could get the special price was through the "club", I'd just buy it somewhere else at a slightly higher price, but I'd have a greater sense of security and peace of mind. When we moved to Monroe, I finally broke down and got an Albertson's card. There were several reasons for my change of heart. First, Monroe has only 3 grocery stores and all of them are big chains: Fred Meyer's (Kroger), Safeway, and Albertsons. Secondly, of those 3, Albertsons is the only one with Northwest roots now that Kroger has bought Fred Meyer's. Third, and most important, I read the Albertsons legalese on applying for their card carefully. They do not share their data with anyone or for any reason (assuming that you're not smuggling bombs in your butternut squash, that is). Of course, this doesn't prevent Albertsons from buying data and coordinating it with the data they have on hand about you.

This turned out to be a slippery slope. Eventually, I got a Safeway card as well. The rationalization for this was that Safeway was teamed with Alaska airlines and I could get travel miles on my airline card by making purchases with Safeway. It's a lame reason, but it works for me.

Today, I read Bruce Shneier's piece on this same topic: sharing our data with corporations. He has some similar concerns and points to a book on the topic that he just read and recommends. I think that I'm going to have to pick up a copy of this for some light reading.

Here's a video of conservatives Anne Coulter and Tucker Carlson (on different programs) dissing Canada. Bastards. At least Tucker has his tongue firmly in his cheek. Coulter's an idiot. (requires QuickTime)

There's some good information on Firefox tips over at WindowsSecrets. I'll be tweaking my browser today with the help of the page.

One of the beauties of the internet is being able to see extraordinary things like someone who built a 7 foot grandfather clock from Legos. Excellent. Let this be an inspiration to one and all who view it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Adding to the quick hits

All About My Vagina is featuring a music issue called Radio Vulva. It's worth looking at.

My Chistmas Name is: Smiley Snotty-Cheeks. What's yours?

Quick Hits

Some sites that are fascinating me today:

Ever want to know what the skeletal system of your favortie cartoon characters looks like? Now you can.

Knit a fuzzy, huggable uterus.

And, if you think I have too much time on my hands for reading those sites, here's a geek site that actually provides good info: Secrets of Firefox 1.0 has loads of good ideas, including how to deal with the memory leak issue.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

OK, one more

I love pin-up art. This site is da bomb.

tentatively dropping toe in water again

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted! My, how time flies. Sorry for the neglect, dear reader. I made a point of staying away from the computer during the Thanksgiving hollydaze and found it difficult to catch up. The hollydaze were fine. We had a house full of people who, for the most part, danced around each other's sore nerves. We actually ended up with 5 or 6 cooks in the kitchen and we worked well together. The meal was outstanding. Shawn made sweet potatoe rolls, cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier, and porcini stuffing that was to die for. John brined and baked the turkey. Shawn's mother, Debbie, did a LOT of prep work and made the mashed potatoes (using Yukon Gold potatoes) and the gravy from the turkey drippings. Kim, John's wife, did more prep work and helped out with dishes in the end. I made the pumpkin pies with brandy, the Asian pear mincemeat tart (which John and Kim kept saying was soooo, sweet while wolfing down helpings of it....note "helpingS"), a four grain pilaf (wild rice, brown rice, wheat berries, and pearlyy barley with dried cranberries and using a mushroom stock base), and the salmon. Oh, and I also made drinks, opened wine and poured all night.

Everyone enjoyed the meal and no one hesitated to dive back in the next morning. The next night, we made use of the leftover salmon by making salmon patties for dinner. SophiaKitty had brought us a gift basket of 5 different types of mushrooms from Whole Foods, so on Saturday, I put that to use as a base for my cream of mushroom soup. Sunday, I reduced some of the soup by half and used it as a pasta sauce on some fresh pasta.

The rest of the past week was a seeming blur. Lots to do, but no time to do it. It will suffice to add that we did get our IKEA tree, as usual, on Friday. And we had our traditional dinner at the Imperial Garden restaurant at the Great Wall Mall in Kent. We do this every year to wait out rush hour traffic, which is terrible in the area. Plus, it's a great excuse to enjoy some fantastic Chinese food - just top notch. On the way back, we forgot and left my car at Shawn's office.

Yesterday, we sat around and did a whole lot of nothing. It was wonderful. I did manage to throw together a breakfast and we went to Shawn's holiday party last night for work, but other than that...nothing. The holiday party was nice. We sat with Shawn's co-workers, Mische, Greta, Molly, and Molly's friend, Jonathon. Mische was wearing a dress (!) with a scarf and knee high boots. I leaned over to Greta and commented how the scarf and boots combo made the outfit and she was in total agreement. You could tell that Greta wanted to get home and tear the dress off of her woman that night. Jonathon and Molly were their usual charming and witty selves. The food set up was from 3 different regions: Middle Eastern, American, and Indian, so we got some good bites. The drinks were weak, though it was Bombay Saphire. The DJ, poor sap, tried out 70s disco at first and no one hit the floor. Then he tried a ballad and got a few dancers. Then he tried out a 60s tune and that cleared the floor. Finally, someone mentioned that he should play Usher and that packed the floor. Next, he played Outkast and created a more packed floor. It was interesting to see the best shaking going on to 2 African American rappers by the mostly 30 and 40 something crowd.

While we're on the subject of music, let me point you to a timely mix with a link by Culture Deluxe. Merry Mixmas is a DJ set, about 30 minutes in length, featuring versions of holiday tunes. It's done very well. The link above takes you to the mp3 at 192 kbps. While on Culture Deluxe's site, check out the Loo & Placido XFM Superchunk. I haven't finished listening to it, but the mash up of Hendrix, The Doors, and No Doubt (with a touch of Was (Not Was) thrown in) was very good.

That's it for now. I'll try to get back onto a regular track tomorrow. Today will be spent decorating the tree, replacing Shawn's headlamp (a pain in the ass, I assure you), and doing a few things around the house for the hollydaze.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Quick post

We were pleased to attend our friend's, Kris and Stephen, wedding last night. They had a beautiful Celtic ceremony. Both the bride and the groom looked lovely. Plus, SophiaKitty, whom we were sitting with, revealed 2 joyous tidbits of news. First, she'll be joining us for Thanksgiving! Yaaayyyy! That means we will have 5 serious cooks in the house, which is always a good thing. I've cooked with all of these folks and I find that they are easy to work with in the kitchen and navigate around each other well. Now, the question becomes: is our kitchen big enough for 5 cooks? *smirk* I'm sure we'll work around it in shifts. Chairs on the other paw, are going to be another matter. I was already thinking of pulling out the footstool for Shawn (her suggestion) as we don't have enough as it is, but with SophiaKitty coming, we're in a quandary. Shawn and I will discuss it later. I'm really looking forward to Thursday.

The second tidbit that SophiaKitty revealed was that she was the anonymous commentator on my spelling error when reporting the Feminist Blogs site. Though I admitted to SophiaKitty that when I read that, it was nearly 3AM and I was a tad annoyed, it did spur me on to look for a spell checker for Firefox. That's always a good thing. I thanked SophiaKitty for it. Sometimes we learn from the things that, at first, annoy us.

We've got to work on the house and clean it today in order to get ready for visitors. In lieu of my more attentive presence here, I present some of the things that caught my eye this morning.

Shut the fuck up is an article from a man directed at men involved in the feminist movement. I love this type of read. It makes some good points that should be learned by any man, not just those in the feminist movement. It's good to be reminded to be silent and respectful once in a while. On the other paw, it's also good to be reminded that there are times when silence is not a good thing (this article being one of those times). Choose your battles and your actions wisely.

Afghanistan is a failed state and it's drug production is growing. This is an antidote to the propaganda proposed by the Bush Administration. Hey, if Afghanistan is such a success story, then why, as the article mentions, are U.S. officials discussing transporting drug leaders out of the country to bring them here for trial (a completely idiotic suggestion as it will invoke more enmity amongst Muslims)? Shouldn't the Afghan government try these people? Don't get me wrong. I'm a drug legalization proponent. However, there is a disconnect between what America is seeing on the news and what's happening on the ground.

Further proof of that disconnect is provided here: Amnesty International's report on the state of Afghan women. Note: the Bush Administration previously touted that fact that Afghan women were voting for the first time in an election (and no one would argue that this is a bad thing...well, I wouldn't). The report notes that as of October 2004, no one is certain how many women voted. Many women were held back and told not to vote by male family members. Women participating in voter's registration teams were attacked. Violence against women is still a pervasive problem with many attacks not being reported to authorities for fear of reprisal.
"A large number of women in Afghanistan continue to be imprisoned for committing so-called "zina" crimes. A female can be detained and prosecuted for adultery, running away from home or having consensual sex outside marriage, which are all referred to as zina crimes."
Keep in mind, this was exactly the type of thing that the Taliban did that outraged feminists everywhere.

On a lighter note, watch out PhotoShop, GIMP 2.2 is about to be released. Look for it sometime next month. Just in time for Xmas, a free, high quality, picture editing tool.

Finally, for all of you iPod and Zen users out there who have lots of CDs, but little time to convert them to files to load on your player, a new service has been announced to do that for you. Granted, it costs $1.10 per CD, but how much money is your time worth?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Bright spot

Susie Bright has a blog now. Today she is ranting about some Christian woman complaining to her about gay marriage. She has a rather good reply which includes a reference to Betty Bowers. Anytime one can reference Betty Bowers, it's a good thing.

I highly recommend scrolling down and catching Susie's post on her thoughts about this coming Xmas and Thanksgiving and dealing with her mother's ill health and impending death. It was the first post I read on Susie's site after subscribing to it (in Bloglines) and it solidified in my mind why I wanted to read Susie's blog. She's intelligent, funny, sexy, a well (g)rounded person, and she's a damn fine writer to boot.

Oh my...

Fleshbot has outdone themselves this week. First up, is this new Vodaphone ad from the UK a picture of a girl getting a snowball in the face or a porn allusion to a facial?

Next up, Strap-on Veterans For Truth has a crusade dedicated to exposing Ann Coulter as being a former drag queen.

Target is selling Anal Massages. At very reasonable prices, I might add.

And who can resist a crochet penis? Start now and hand them out at Xmas.

Spell checkers

I just went back through the post below and ran a spell checker. I am normally a pretty good speller, but when I post early in the mornings I am often sloppy about it. As noted in a comment to my post about Feminist Blogs, it would be wise for me to use a spell checker more often.

As you may be aware, I use Firefox by Mozilla as my browser. I've been using it since earlier this year when it was still in beta. It's a great browser. It's more secure than Internet Explorer and I love the extensibility of it.

One of the things I was missing in Firefox, however, was a spell checker. I have one for IE, which doesn't get used anymore since the only thing I use IE for is Microsoft Updates andthe occasional issue I find between a site and Firefox. A few months back I looked for a spell checker for Firefox, but couldn't find one available. After the above mentioned comment, I searched for a one again and this time I found one. Like the spell checker for IE, it's free.

I use several other Firefox extensions. Among them, TinyURL creator, Chatzilla, Adblock, FireFTP, Blogger Notifier, Gmail Notifier, Googlebar, Search Keys, Livelines, Image Zoom, Bookmark Backup, IEview, Show Old Extensions, and Chrome Edit. Are others adding as much as I? Let me know.


Shawn's birthday approaches in January, as does the 10th year anniversary of when I conned her into moving in with me. A couple of years ago, I bought tickets for us to get away to Canada for a weekend. The Victoria Clipper has what they call their Triple Play package. We took a ferry to Victoria on Saturday morning. We spent the day there touring their museum and taking high tea at The Empress Hotel, where we also spent the night. After breakfast in our room the next morning, we boarded a bus which took us to a ferry back to mainland, B.C. where we drove to the bus station in Vancouver. We then took a cab to the Fairmont Hotel, dropped off our bags, did some shopping, had a glorious dinner at our favorite restaurant, Delilah's, then back to the hotel for a good night's sleep. Next day, we did some shopping, then picked up our bags and caught a cab to the train station where we boarded a train back to Seattle.

The trip was brief, but fabulous. The Clipper folks made it very easy by stapling each ticket/reservation/pass in order as we would need them on the trip. This included ferry passes, hotel reservations, bus and cab vouchers, and train tickets. Everything went off without a hitch. It was top notch and I highly recommend it.

When I made reservations, the person told me that I would either need a passport or a birth certificate in order to get back into the country on the train from Vancouver. I've often thought about getting a passport, but have never done so. My parents have the birth certificate. Luckily, I was able to go online with the state of Indiana and order a certified copy of my birth certificate. Unfortunately, despite what the state said about rushing it to me, it didn't arrive a week and a half later. I called the Clipper folks and inquired as to whether or not this was going to be a problem. After all, having lived in Detroit and Seattle, I'm accustomed to crossing the border without need for anything other than a driver's license, if that. The person at the Clipper company told me that this was a relatively new requirement, so it shouldn't be a problem. Shawn had a passport, about to expire, but she had one.

On the train ride back, customs officials stopped and boarded the train at the border. They walked through the cars and asked everyone for their passport or birth certificate. The person behind me didn't have either. He was a white man in his 60s - certain terrorist if I ever saw one. The customs official berated him for traveling without ID. Ah, but he DID have ID - his driver's license. The Customs agent told him that was unacceptable and that he needed a passport or a certified birth certificate.

When said Customs official got to me, I got the same treatment. I suppressed my true thoughts and tried to look deferential. No doubt that the strain on my face made me look more like a terrorist. Luckily, I was traveling with Shawn and she was a good daughter of the State and had her proper ID. She could be trusted, so I was given a talking to and let go. I wanted to scream at this agent: "You supercilious idiot! NOTHING changed after 9/11 except how America views it's place in the world. This is NOT SECURITY. It is a show. It's NOTHING except an ego boost for you and a false sense of protection. Security would not entail showing you a passport or a birth certificate, both of which can be easily forged. Shit, I had just ordered a replacement birth certificate from the state of Indiana OVER THE PHONE. No ID check for them. All they needed was a social security number. No picture on a birth certificate EITHER you blithering talking asshole!"

As soon as the customs agent was away, the other guy who was without proper ID and who had also crossed these borders many a time shared similar thoughts with his friends and myself. Of course, we discussed these things in more civilized tones and calmer demeanors. I've been terribly annoyed ever since, and sometimes amused, at what Americans consider to be security. It seems a lot of measures have been set up under the pretense that it's better to do something than nothing. While true, it's best to focus on the "somethings" that might actually make a difference rather than harassing citizens and furthering the culture of negativity and fear, which is where this country has retreated to since 9/11 as evidenced both by my tale above and by our election.

So, in addition to the impending anniversary of this trip, why these thoughts this morning? Bruce Schneier posted on his blog yesterday under the title, Amtrak "Security", that Amtrak is expanding this program. Only now, they are randomly checking IDs. Schneier also wrote a rather good Op Ed piece back in February which expands on the thoughts above and presents them more eloquently than I have here. I particularly appreciate his thoughts on profiling as well as what constitutes security. It's a good read and a short one.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Disney's Queenie Jealousy

As reported here and on Messiahbomb, the Queen Mash-up tribute by The Kleptones is quite excellent. In fact, I listen to it regularly. Now, Boing Boing reports that Disney has issued a cease and desist order. Fuckers. Oh, note that the Boing Boing post includes links to the tunes. Download them while you can and take a leak on the mouse.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Feminist blogs

I read feminist blogs. As I've said in other contexts, women make up about 50% of the people I love in my life and it behooves me to be aware of their interests. Besides, I like the politics and the discussions as well as the smart and often humorous remarks made on some of them. Now, a group of them has banded together, presenting some of their work under one heading, aptly titled, Feminist Blogs.

Since I already subscribe to some of these on bloglines, this was a no-brainer. One can never have too many intelligent women in one's life.


Your government dollars at work via the Secret Service investigating some kids because they dare to sing Bob Dylan songs. Actually, I think the folks that reported this should be arrested for filing a false report. Get over yourselves, people.


A short rant: All of the squawking heads out there who are wringing their hands over the election, trying to discern lessons from it, hear this: it wasn't about morals, you fucking morons. If it were about morals, then how, pray tell, do you explain that so many counties were so close? How do you explain this sudden shift? Reagan won many of those same counties. Clinton did as well. And how do you explain Republicans salivating at the thought of changing the constitution to allow a Schwarzenegger candidacy (some pretty conservative Republicans at that)? Wouldn't their time/money/efforts be better spent searching for a charismatic, conservative, religious candidate rather than supporting a charismatic, moderate, pro gay rights, pro choice, secular leaning candidate?

Fuck that. You still don't get it. It's not about the goddamn moral questions and it's not about issues. It's about winning, taking the office, and about the marketing of the individual; not marketing the ideas. Find a charismatic, moderate liberal and you might take the office again, if it means so much to you. Kerry couldn't cut the mustard. He's boring, arrogant, and not terribly charismatic.

In fact, if you want to take something positive from the election it's this: For the second time in a row, Bush failed to mop the floor of a candidate that he should have easily defeated. Gore and Kerry should both have lost by huge margins, but Bush's politics and his religious stances actually drove votes away from him that he should have easily won. If the Republicans are able to amend the constitution, liberals are not going to have as easy a time with Schwarzenegger. Granholm cannot beat him and Hillary will have a tough fight.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Weak dollar

The LA Times (registration required) has an editorial today about the weakened dollar. A quote:

The weak dollar reflects growing concerns that Washington is unwilling or unable to get its books in order. Foreign investors also worry that the president and Congress will bend in the face of growing protectionist pressure from apparel companies, furniture makers and other industries being pummeled by cheaper foreign goods. Anything that hurts confidence in this country's economy would be bad news, because the United States is increasingly dependent on foreign investment...

...he dollar will remain hamstrung by the administration's refusal to raise taxes or cut spending. The danger is that in order to continue attracting foreigners' money, the day will come when the Fed will have to respond to a weak dollar and widening federal and trade deficits by raising interest rates more abruptly than otherwise prudent.

Continuing on the the theme, The American Street reports on the same issue.

The BBC reports that, thanks to Secretary Snow, the dollar's slide has halted today. But they also note:

Policy makers in Europe have called the dollar's slide "brutal" and have blamed the strength of the euro for dampening economic growth...

That is where the concerns come in, economists said, adding that the fundamentals, or key indicators, of the US economy are looking far from rosy.

Domestic consumer demand is cooling, and heavy spending by President Bush has pushed the budget deficit to a record $427bn (£230bn).

The current account deficit, meanwhile, hit a record $166bn in the second quarter of 2004.

For many analysts, a weaker dollar is here to stay.

As I complained

during the election, where was the discussion about fiscal policy and foreign policy and how they are tied.

Oh, no surprise here, but the BBC also reports that Colin Powell is resigning.

America and Empire

Yesterday's NY Times featured an Op/Ed piece by Robert D. Kaplan. Kaplan chides both neoconservatives and internationalist liberals for attempting to impose western style democracies in the Balkans and Iraq. He points out that democracies must spring from internal desires to form such a government and that it may take years to establish one in Afghanistan and Iraq, if they ever get there. The interesting quote for me was this:

But rather than a replay of the Balkans in 1995 and 1999, Iraq has turned out like the Indian mutiny against the British in 1857 and 1858, when the attempts of Evangelical and Utilitarian reformers in London to modernize and Christianize India - to make it more like England - were met with a violent revolt against imperial rule. Delhi, Lucknow and other cities were besieged and captured, before being retaken by colonial forces.

The bloody debacle did not signal the end of the British Empire, which expanded for another century. But it did signal a transition: away from an ad hoc imperium fired by an intemperate lust to impose domestic values abroad, and toward a calmer, more pragmatic empire built on international trade and technology.

In that vein, it seems inevitable that the coming four years will be a time of consolidation for America rather than of expansion; for it may take that long to bring Iraq to a level of stability equivalent to that of the post-conflict Balkans. Only after Iraq is secure will it be possible for our diplomats to work credibly on behalf of democracy throughout the Middle East.

As for our overstretched military, increasingly it will have to work unobtrusively through native surrogates in the hunt for terrorists: for as the histories of Rome, France and Britain all reveal, the successful projection of power is less about direct action than about the training and subsequent use of indigenous troops.

Moreover, in a world where every field operation is subject to intense scrutiny by global news media, the only empire that can be broadly acceptable is one consisting of behind-the-scenes relationships. That, in turn, will require an increased emphasis on what academics and diplomats call "area expertise."

James Wolcott has been thinking over American Empire as well. He's noted that anti-American sentiment seems to be affecting sales of US goods abroad.

In late October, the Financial Times had a front page story "Well-known US brands see sales in Europe fall."

Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Marlboro, and GM were all revealing problems echoing those "already faced by Disney, Wal-Mart and Gap."

Corporate chiefs dismissed the connection between falling sales and rising anti-Americanism.

And later adds this comment from a Coca Cola representative:

"We want to promote the bigger global ideas that are based on universal human insights."

Aye, but here's the rub.

America itself no longer promotes universal human insights. It thumps its exceptionalism everywhere it stomps. It is perceived as the overdog unchained.

An entire chapter in Emmanuel Todd's After the Empire is devoted to America's retreat from universalism. "One of the essential forces of empires, a principle behind both their dynamism and stability, is universalism, the capacity to treat all men and peoples as equals."

Instead, the US has curled up into an angry ball at home while lashing out at much of the world.

"it pretends to incarnate an exclusive human ideal, to know all the secrets of economic success, and to produce the only movies worth watching. The recent boasting about its presumed social and cultural hegemony, the progress of its ever expanding narcissism, is only one of the many signs of the dramatic decline of America's real economic and military power and of its universalism most of all."

At what point will corporate chieftains in the US, particularly those who rely heavily on exports, going to realize and acknowledge that Bushism is bad for business?

Heh, I think that the past 4 years should have been a big clue to the corporate shills that Bush is bad for business. Instead, they are locked into their aggressive world view that we can crush any opponent in the world and ignore the possible long term effects of their policies. Shareholders would be wise to oust these idiotic louts, who are more often than not put up on pedastels for little to no good reason anyhow and earn outrageous perks for their efforts at self promotion when those monies would be better spent on shareholder wealth anyhow.

But I digress from the point I wanted to make. The Bush policies may succeed in the short term, but they have also dangerously exposed our vulnerabilities. As Kaplan noted, it is the "projection of power" that maintains the empire. For ages, the Pentagon has maintained that it had the strength to fight a war on 2 fronts. We are now in Afghanistan (though barely) and Iraq and we're finding great opposition. As North Vietnam will attest, once that weakening is perceived, it bolsters the opposing forces and lends credence to America's foes that they actually might be able to take us down or at least, force a retreat in our policies. Likewise, the American branding on foreign policy, economic policy, and it's own goods becomes tarnished.

Even before 9/11, Bush has supported a weakening of the American dollar on currency trading markets. This was a reversal of decades of policy on the American economy. Since Bush took office, the dollar has fallen 30% on trading. The consequences of this are now being seen and one can feel a change looming on the horizon. If this policy becomes a change for the worse, Bush will have succeeded in not only exposing our military underbelly to our foes, but also our economic vulnerabilities. He will have exposed the country the way that no one else has done to attack and put us in greater danger than ever before. How will those famed marketing experts on Wall Street account for this and what will they propose to get us out of the quagmire? Stay tuned for election 2008.


Ah, it was a fine birthday weekend. After seeing Stan Ridgeway on Wednesday, Thursday was a quiet evening. Friday, Shawn took the day off from work. After having a relaxing morning and discussing what we wanted to do, we opted for skipping going out to see "The Incredibles" and instead went to Scarecrow Video. It turns out that Shawn had never seen a Marx Bros. film before. We looked at their rental section and the new Marx Bros. box set was out. They did have copies of the original releases on DVD of the films, but they wanted a $200.00 deposit on those discs. Deciding that I love the Marx Brothers, we threw down the cash for the aforementioned box set. While there, we also picked up the new Looney Tunes 4 disc set (I have the first volume already). Shawn grabbed another disc for me for my birthday, but I was unaware of that at the time since she was extra sneaky and got it out of the store without me knowing. For those of you who have not yet seen Bubba Ho-Tep: Shame on you! Get your ass to the store and prepare to laugh hysterically at this (often) dark comedy starring Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as John F. Kennedy.

After some shopping at Whole Foods and a stop at the liquor store, we headed home to settle in for the evening. Shawn made Phad Thai for dinner while I mixed Manhattans. Neither of us had made phad thai before. I had brought home some pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe's, we had the rice noodles on hand, and some bottled sauce. It turned out really good! We curled up in front of the fireplace and watched "Duck Soup" on DVD and then disc 1 from the Looney Tunes set, which is all Bugs all the time.

Saturday was another lazy day. Shawn made me breakfast - eggs over easy, potatoes, soy sausages. We meandered through the entire day - not rushing for anything. That afternoon was sunny, so we took a walk outside. It was fairly warm - probably in the upper 50s, many of our neighbors were wearing shorts. Speaking of neighbors, we met Gale and her husband (Shawn will remember his name). They live 4 houses down from us. We've admired the work that they've done on their yard this year. Saturday, I was explaining to Shawn how I liked the construction job done on their fence when Gale came walking out of her backyard and we said "Hi". We've actually met Gale before, but not her husband - he's away a lot for business. Nice people.

Saturday evening was a night out for dinner. We left at 4:05 and I knew it would take an hour to get to Seattle. It took almost exactly an hour to get to Uptown China at the bottom of Queen Anne hill. Shawn and I have been going to Uptown China since we started dating 10 years ago. Over the years, we've loved the food, the drinks, and the kind people that work there. We've taken many people to dinner at Uptown China and have never been disappointed. This was no exception. Scott, Davo and his pregnant (!) wife Nancy, and Kris were already there when we arrived. Scott, sadly, had to leave early to make a casting call. Jennifer showed up as did Shonda and her partner. It was a good group. The conversation and the drinks flowed freely. The hostess of Uptown China, I'm not going to try and write her name properly here, but phonetically it is "U Mae", is opening a clothing store in the International District under her own name. She's always dressed stylishly, so I hope it's a great success. This will be her day job as she keeps her night job at the restaurant. She told us a funny story about her teenaged son and then surprised Shawn and I by remembering what we always used to order when we started going to the restaurant 10 year's ago: Crispy eggplant and Hot Saunas (a drink that I've found nowhere else). We still marvel at the fact that we left a big enough impression that they remember such details 10 years later.

The food was remarkable, as usual. The restaurant bought one of my Manhattans for me (don't worry folks, Shawn drove the rest of the night). The conversations were terrific, even if I hogged them a bit - hey, it's my birthday and, therefore, my perogative. We had a great night out. A few friends were missed due to prior obligations, but it was a great group. It was also a nice way for Shawn and I to share our 10 year anniversary with folks. I am humbled that friends would come out to share both with us. We are lucky to have such good people in our lives. Talented, intelligent, loving - a salute to them all!

Davo, Nancy, Shawn and I went to Cascadia for dessert. They are a top end restaurant, but we went and sat in the bar and enjoyed some wonderfully tasty treats and more conversation. After saying our goodbyes, it was home to bed for Shawn and I.

Sunday was a quiet, lazy day again. I was a tad hungover - no headache, but I was tired. I made a frittata for breakfast. We watched some BookTV, which was featuring live footage from the Miami book festival. Eventually, we got around to watching more Looney Tunes and eating left over Chinese food for dinner. Shawn did some homework, talked with her grandmother, did some organizing in the office. Like, I said, a quiet, lazy day - just perfect.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

a variety of posts

Hey, it's my birthday and I'm posting a bunch of unconnected oddities that have come across my path this week.

First up, thanks to Feminsting comes the best article title ever.

We'll follow that up with the joys of sexual physics. With articles such as "Ejaculation at the speed of light" or "Sex with genital piercings is a matter of electrodynamics", how can you go wrong?

What could possibly top that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. However, I give you genetiate - a company that wants to insert a jellyfish gene into deer so that they'll glow at night, thereby preventing car accidents and, presumably, allowing hunters to work without night vision goggles.

Gmail is going the way of POP3, therby allowing users to access their mail via email clients like Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc. One caveat: I set mine up, but they haven't updated my account so that I can actually access it yet. You first have to go to account settings, then to the Forwarding and POP3 tab. Unfortunately, mine only says "Forwarding" and doesn't mention "POP3", yet.

Today's curiosities end with a good rant from Neal Pollack regarding all of the Democrats who are saying a big fuck you to the southern states that voted for Bush. A small quote from the relatively short rant:

The south gave us Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Michael Jordan, Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams, fried chicken, Gone With The Wind, Truman Capote, pecan pie, barbecue, Mark Twain, and manned flight. The list goes on and on. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both from Virginia, both founding fathers and both gun-toting slave owners. If you say 'fuck the South," you're saying fuck Nashville and Charlotte and Charleston, and Atlanta, and Austin, and New Orleans, and Athens, Georgia, the city that gave us the B52s and R.E.M. and...OK, well, fuck R.E.M. But that has nothing to do with the South.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I wasn't going to post today, but

I was going through other blog sites and came across this site which is a satirical site that encourages Canadians to marry single liberal Americans in order to save them from extinction. Funny idea and I love the profiles.

Anyhow, I gotta run and get the day started. We're going to see Stan Ridgeway tonight at The Triple Door. We've got a dinner booth reserved. It should be a good time. I haven't seen Stan perform in over a decade, though I have kept up on his recorded output.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Firefox 1.0 released!

Firefox is making it's official debut today! Firefox 1.0 is released. Ads in the NY Times will announce it as well. OK, folks, there are no longer any excuses not to switch from IE. You're no longer testing a beta product, which has been VERY stable for months. It's time to drop your insecure browser and go with a better product.

FTP of Firefox 1.0 is here.

Or go to the official launch site, (site is running slow this morning, no doubt it's being hit with a lot of traffic).

Monday, November 08, 2004

Music Pirating

The Economist has an article about the fall in sales of the music industry.

According to an internal study done by one of the majors, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the drop in sales in America had nothing to do with internet piracy. No-one knows how much weight to assign to each of the other explanations: rising physical CD piracy, shrinking retail space, competition from other media, and the quality of the music itself. But creativity doubtless plays an important part.

This is definitely worth the read. For a long time I have argued that making P2P the bogeyman in this discussion was the current equivalent of the 80s saying, "Home Taping Is Killing Music". It wasn't true then and it's not true today. Most people would love to pay for music. Just ask all of those iPod owners. Paying for music is not the issue. Delivering music cheaply and conveniently and making it convenient to play are the issues.

Why should I pay $18 for the whole album when only 3 songs on it are any good? Sadly, I do think that this means that, in most cases, the album as an art form is seeing it's demise. Some artists will still be able to put together a good one, but many just cannot do it these days. On the internet, though, I can listen to the tune and decide whether or not to invest in the album or even a few of the songs. It seems to me that such distribution would increase sales because it would get people like me, who may not be willing to fork over hard cash for an entire Pink album, to buy songs by artists (remember those things called "singles"?) that I wouldn't normally trouble with, thereby increasing the base for sales. In fact, I envision a day when pop artists dispense with the album concept altogether and just release songs as they are completed. Eventually the album comes out collecting the "greatest hits". Only then will the record companies bother to package a CD with already proven material.

However, the RIAA chose to prosecute their consumers. They also chose to blame the public rather than recognize the public demand for new channels of consumption. And there are new reports that suggest that the music industry is once again thinking of messing with consumption. They are already demanding a tightening of the way consumers can copy the media from one format for personal use to another format (from iPod to your notebook to a CD, for instance) thereby thwarting the concept of fair use. They are also thinking of raising the prices of the downloads (already too high in my opinion, considering that I'm not getting a professional disc, a printed booklet, liner notes, etc). If the RIAA continues down this path, rather than coming up with innovative and consumer friendly methods, they will continue to create an outlaw public that will continue to grow.


Some things I'm looking at today:

BBC reports that a woman with cancer has remained fertile by having doctors implant one of her ovaries in her arm. Cool technology with a worthy goal and kind of weird as well. My sort of thing.

IM Smarter is an interesting approach in expanding the capabilities of instant messaging clients. It's cross platform. It works with Apple, Windows, Linux, etc. It also works with AOL, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, Trillian, Jabber, and more. You can post to blogs, receive data that a friend's blog has been updated, search conversations going way back, and more. The company plans on expanding services and features in the future and to make money eventually by selling premium upgrades. What they do is they route your messages through their proxy servers. The features described, therefore, are not part of the client you're using, but rather part of their servers. It's a pretty neat idea for extending Messenger capabilities. They are encrypting the messages and so on for the user's safety. They are using a very safe server network. They claim that privacy is their greatest concern (it has to be in order to succeed) and you can delete conversations from their servers.

Now for SQL programming geek links. First, there's an article on MSDN on unit testing your T-SQL. It contains links to this open source project called, TSQLUnit that is used for just that purpose. Pretty damn cool.


Overarching themes: Mike and Heather's baby is born! Cooking. Relaxing. Consoling Democrats that the world will not fall apart, that they are still thinking in the bubble, and that they shouldn't allow the media or the Republicans to write the lessons of the losses of the last election.

The big news is that Messiahbomb has a new addition to the blogging family. We're happy to see that and pained to see that labor lasted 26 hours.

On Friday I stopped by Trader Joe's and did some shopping. While there, I found a 1 pound can of crab claw meat in the refrigerated section. Having already picked up some artichokes, I thought that this would be a convenient way to make a dip. I also grabbed some green beans, various tofu products, and some staples. That evening, I surprised Shawn with the artichokes (steamed in our pressure cooker) and crab dip. The crab meat was pretty damn good. I found out that Yuki likes it and Baraka and Chaiyo won't go near the stuff. Yuki was a happy kitty with a full belly. The rest of the evening was quiet. I listened to the Redskins album, "Neither Washington Nor Moscow", a classic bit of socialist soul music, and I typed up the bread recipe and mailed it off to Kris.

Saturday, after chatting with John and reading the paper, Shawn and I headed off towards Mill Creek to shop at the new Central Market. We stopped at the Maltby Cafe for breakfast, which was REALLY good this time. The new Central Market looks as if it has a tad more room than the one in Lynwood. I was disappointed to see that they did not have the flour grinding machines in their bulk foods area, but other than that, it was a great experience. We picked up a lot of items, including a fair amount of bulk foods and veggies. The bill surprised both of us, but a large chunk of it was batteries.

On Thursday, a rather annoying thing had happened - our fire alarms began to go off for no apparent reason. We weren't cooking at the time and hadn't been cooking in a long time. It was about 9 PM, when they first went off. The downstairs one was the culprit. Shawn, scared to death of dying in a fire, glared at me with an accusatory stare. My look proclaimed my innocence and wondered what she was up to. Heh, the alarms shut off as quickly as they had started. At 9:30, they went off again. They shut off again. At midnight, they went off for the final time as I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs, and disconnected the alarm from the ceiling. Someone suggested to Shawn on Saturday that perhaps our batteries were getting low. These things are wired into the house, but they also have batteries as a back up. Hm, that didn't seem right, but it wouldn't hurt to replace the batteries. Hence the market purchase and surprisingly, no more fire alarm surprises - yet. "Replace you batteries every Halloween" we were told. If this does the trick, I'm making it part of my regular maintenance.

On the way home from the market, we stopped for our first of the season eggnog latte. Oh, man, I forget every year until November comes around how much I love these treats. They are totally unhealthy, but so damn tasty. After we got home, Shawn set about changing the license plates on her truck. Every 8 years the state makes car owners buy new plates for their cars. Shawn needed to get hers on right away (insert bitching here). I put away the groceries then headed out for my own car maintenance - getting the oil changed. That didn't take too long as I got lucky and made it in between heavy customer periods. Shortly after getting home, I settled down to make dinner. We had a lot of crab left over. I had read the recipe on the can for crab cakes to Shawn and she said that it sounded a lot like the ones she makes, so I tried it out. The recipe called for "seafood seasoning" which I took to mean Old English Bay seasoning, which I didn't have around. Instead, I added a combination of tarragon, summer savory, dill, salt and pepper. I put the crab mixture away in the refrigerator and helped Shawn. She cut some delicatta squash rings, peeled and seeded. She fried them in some oil and then steamed them to finish cooking. At the market earlier she had picked up some pistachios and dates. We used them to sautee up with some onion, garlic, almonds, parsley, mint, and cinnamon. After all was done, we placed the squash rings in a baking dish, topped them with the sautee mixture, and baked in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. That, along with the crab cakes, and a small side salad made up our dinner. We enjoyed some left over peach crisp for dessert. We watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (which Shawn had missed at Halloween because she was busy working on her group project for school), and "The Muppet Show" with Vincent Price as guest.

Sunday was a mostly lazy day. We took a walk as it was beautiful outside (63 and sunny!). We did a little yard work. I made pancakes for breakfast. I did the dishes. We talked a lot. Dinner consisted of left overs. I watched some TV and read some and also got the laundry done. Nice day.

We still have some crab dip left over from the artichokes. I think I'll make wraps tonight using some steamed broccoli, carrots, bean sprouts, sunflower seeds, lettuce, and crab dip. Easy and tasty.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Well, it looks like Kerry lost. Much to my dismay as well. As we approached election day I saw encouraging trends that suggested a good win for Kerry. Giddy, as I am wont to get before the election, I proceeded to suggest a 52% win in the popular vote for Kerry. Keep in mind, this is from someone who doesn't even like the guy, but I felt he was less harmful to have in office than Bush. Yep, I have a little egg on my face this morning (and, unlike most politicians, I can admit that), but I am also not surprised. Here's why:

I have said all along that the vast majority of Americans do not vote for President based upon the issues. Rather, they tend to vote based on personality and gut feelings. Let's face it, Kerry is not a likeable fellow. He doesn't come off as warm, fuzzy, and confident, much like Clinton and Reagan did. Of course, Bush doesn't come off that way either, but people can imagine having a beer with him on their front porch and one doesn't imagine Kerry in that way. If I had stuck by my position on this rather than letting myself feel giddy, I wouldn't be wiping the egg off now.

In this scenario, the Democratic Party is to blame for nominating a poor candidate. However, they had help along the way from the Republican Party in making this choice. Let me explain. When the Democrats appeared ready to nominate Dean, Republican surrogates (no doubt instructed by Rove) went on talk shows and in print media to declare that they were foaming at the mouth to face him. This was weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire. When Clark entered the race, again, Republican surrogates announced their pleasure at facing him in the election. In fact, when Edwards looked viable, Republicans declared that they'd love to face HIM in the general election. But, when John Kerry was mentioned, Republicans would only say that he was "a formidable candidate" and a great "debater" plus a "strong closer". Guess what? Democrats listened to this and in it they saw the makings of an "electable" candidate and someone who would win the hearts of middle America (an area that they already conceeded the Republicans knew more about). Rather than nominate a candidate who could be elected, Democrats allowed Republicans to manipulate their primary process to pick the "electable" candidate who was an unlikeably guy named John Kerry.

Despite the gains made in the House and Senate by Republicans (hey, even though the Democrats lost ground, I'm happy to see Daschle go as I never thought much of the man and Democrats will need a stronger leader now that they have a smaller minority and a Republican party that is bound to view this election as a mandate for their views), the fact that it appears as if Bush barely won the popular vote should bring caution about considering this election a mandate. Democrats made that mistake in 1992 and it didn't take the public long to correct them on that point. Also, Democrats still hold a sizeable margin in the Senate which can prevent some of the crazier plans by Republicans (though it could be a viable strategy to let them hang themselves in a noose of their own making). Still, it is clear to me that , if he wins, Bush barely beat an unlikeable candidate that he should have wiped the floor of (just like he should have wiped the floor of Gore in 2000). That indicates to me that Kerry's ideas resonated with a lot of people and that they feel uneasy about Bush's mistakes in his first term.

Republicans in the legislature should look at this with caution, though I doubt that they will. They have some formidable problems to tackle and the legislative branch has been pretty ineffective in dealing with these issues in the last session. Among the problems are: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - both will cost money and lives and Bush has handled them extrordinarily poorly; a rising deficit - Congressional spending is through the roof and they continue to support tax cuts, with more kicking in in 2006 along with the medicare prescription drug program...given that Defense spending and entitlements are off the table, social programs will have to be drastically scaled back; a falling dollar on the currency trading market - this bodes poorly for the US as investors are showing decreasing faith in our economy, one that is growing with few jobs gains - if we lead into a recession we could take the world with us and be in danger of a return to inflationary pressures. If these and other issues are not approached with caution, then the 2006 election season is likely to bode poorly for the GOP. Also, the Republicans should keep in mind that they now have a lame duck president.

Other lessons for the Democrats: Republicans will try to spin these results as, in part, a failure on the Democratic Party to recognize middle American values. That's code for "supporting gay marriage". Frankly, the Democrats shouldn't let themselves be bothered by this as they are on the moral side of this debate. In fact, if the Democrats had had a better candidate, then they still could have won the presidency while the anti-gay marriage amendments to state constitutions continued to pass throughout the country. Republicans used the gay marriage amendment, something I don't think that they seriously supported on a national level, as a get out the vote campaign tool. That should not be equated with costing Democrats the election.

Some Democrats will argue that the motivation by the religious right cost them this election. As above with the Republicans, this is political spin with all of the substance of fog. It is an attempt to place blame on outside forces rather than taking responsibility for their (Democrats) own mistakes. The fact is that social conservatives make up about 30% of the population yet only about 20% of those can be considered safe votes for Republicans. When Clinton ran in 1996 against Dole, one of the things that dismayed Republicans the most was that, despite Clinton's sex scandals, he still garnered some of the social conservative votes (because Dole was not a likeable candidate and Clinton was). Likewise, in this election, many people who voted for Bush were not social conservatives or even conservatives at all. In fact, it is likely that many of them are considered to be generally leaning towards Democrats, but that they found Bush a more attractive candidate. Social conservatives are a strong base, but they don't win elections. And that is another reason that Republicans should be wary of taking these results as a mandate.

I look forward to the 2008 presidential election - no matter who wins - so I can vote for a Democrat I can like: Hillary Clinton.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Zofby conducts a cell phone poll

Zogby is a generally good polling firm. This is new territory for them and it will take some time to refine the methodology. A lot of young people say that they are likely to vote, but historically many have not shown up on the polling date. If they do show up this year, then this will provide some relief to worried Kerry supporters.

From the CNET report:

Among 18- to 29-year-old likely voters, 55 percent favored Democratic candidate John Kerry, while 40 percent preferred incumbent George Bush, according to the study, conducted by polling firm Zogby International and nonprofit group Rock the Vote.

The Power of Nightmares

A couple of weeks back, I posted about the BBC program called The Power of Nightmares. It traces the origins of two fundamentalist groups: "neoconservatives" and "Islamic jihad" and shows that they share backgrounds, both philisophical and real. It goes on to show how these groups have shaped our politics and our fears. The series began airing on the BBC on October 20th. You can find a transcript of the first episode along with a bit torrent to download it, here. Highly recommended.


Bah! I hate the time change. As I was saying to Shawn, I'd be happy if they just picked daylight savings or standard time and stick with it. One or the other. As a morning person, my sleep pattern is disrupted for about a week after the shift in the fall. This morning, I was up at 2AM. The Seattle Times reported yesterday that there's another good reason not to shift, other than my feeling that it's just plain idiotic.

Well, we had an interesting weekend. On Saturday, Shawn had classmates over who are working with her on their group project. The class is on how information is gathered by people. It's pretty interesting stuff to consider, from my database and archiving background. We don't tend to think about how we come by the knowledge that we gain and share. A lot of people in this area use the internet, of course, but there are many other methods - from interacting with other people to reading books, magazines, to hearing broadcasts, and on and on. All of which meshes well with my hobbies of thinking about artificial intelligence, memory, and our innate ability/desire to make associations between things in the world.

In any case, the group met here on Saturday to record audio for their Powerpoint lecture and to work on the slides. They have to present their work to their classmates. Under normal circumstances, they would offer presentations in front of the class, but under the distance program, they are forced to use tools for presenting their research on the web for download by their classmates and the instructor. Talk about your information sharing scenario! Now, they've had practice watching their instructors' attempts over the past year at using the same tools. I'm interested in seeing how they have applied that knowledge and experience to refining their own presentation, assuming that they have. (The hall of mirrors grows: taking an information course on how information is gathered and presenting a lecture on research into how information is gathered in the "new educational medium" of the internet and trying to avoid the mistakes made by instructors who have previously used these tools to present information in information gathering). It will also be interesting to see how the other groups manage the same issues. Shawn's group is one of the first ones up.

Before the arrival of the group members, I cleaned up the office. It's a project Shawn has been trying to get me to do since around this time last year when I got 2 file cabinets from the UW surplus store (2 medical file cabinets built to survive most disasters for $10 a piece). I sorted through several boxes of papers and filed them away dutifully. A lot of stuff was tossed out, so I'll be disposing of that in the recycling bin over the next couple of weeks. The plus side is that the job is done and the room is ready for our Thanksgiving weekend guests.

Shawn had to pick up Carl at a bus stop in Woodinville. While she was away, I wrapped up cleaning the house. Two members of the group arrived. Shawn came home about 5 minutes later with some croissants and a veggie tray in hand. That was much appreciated by me since I had not eaten breakfast. Having gotten caught up in cleaning, breakfast had slipped my mind completely. Shortly, the group set down to working on their project. While they were upstairs, I decided to make some bread. Last weekend I made 2 loaves of bread using mostly whole wheat, but adding some unbleached white and some rye flours as well. I used honey as the sweetener. The reason for the mix of flours was primarily that I didn't have enough whole wheat flour.

This week, I used only whole wheat flour plus I used molasses as the sweetener. The flavor was nuttier. The texture was lighter. I'm happier with the results. My goal is to make 2 loaves per week until I can do this without looking at the recipe. It takes about 4 hours to make the bread from start to finish, but it is well worth the time. Besides, there are a lot of things one can do while the bread is rising.

The meeting went on well past dinner time. The group came downstairs periodically to stretch their legs and munch on the veggies. The bread baking was probably a nasty tease, though I offered some to people and no one took the opportunity. I did get comments on how the loaves looked. For dinner, I had some smoked tomato sauce to use up, so I added some capers to it and tossed it and some cheese onto gnocchi. Salad and, of course, bread accompanied the dinner.

It was around 8:30 when the meeting broke up and everyone raced out the door. Shawn had to get Carl to the bus stop. The other 2 group members had to get back home in Bellingham. While Shawn was out, I fell asleep on the sofa. When she came in the door she was loud. It turns out that she was rushing on adrenalin from the excitement of the working on the project. I told her what to find for dinner, then I went to bed. She followed me up and kissed me goodnight, then went to the bathroom to wash up for the evening. When she left the bedroom, she slammed the door. She proceeded to make a lot of noise downstairs. Uh, oh, I thought, what did I do wrong? As it turned out, I did nothing wrong. Shawn was just rushing from the adrenalin. But, because of the racket and my guilt monitor, I found myself awake, drinking water, and listening to Shawn describe the day. I got back to bed about an hour later.

Sunday, I was groggy. I woke early and, due to the time change, it was earlier than I expected. Eventually I got my act together and did the dishes from the night before as well as made breakfast. Rather than our canned ginger peaches, I got a jar of our canned cinnamon-basil nectarines from the pantry. This was an experiment this year and I was anxious to see how they turned out and whether Shawn would like them. They were quite good and Shawn suggested that I use the same recipe for some of the peaches next year.

After breakfast, I was knackered. Shawn needed to work on stitching the wave files together for the presentation, then synching them with the Powerpoint slides. I went upstairs, read, took a nap, and read some more. I finished Orhan Pamuk's The New Life. It's a great read - one of those pieces of literature that ties together much of the book in the last 70 pages. I liked My Name Is Red better, but this was still heads and tails above most writers. Hi latest book, Snow, is next on my list, then I'll probably go back and read a couple of his earlier books. One thing that I really enjoy about his work are the layers of detail that he adds to the novels. They work on many different levels and leave me thinking about the work for weeks. I might even have to go back and re-read The New Life one day, which is a true statement, but is also somewhat of a joke, given the story line.

We didn't hand out candy this year to trick or treaters. Unfortunately, with Shawn's project due on Tuesday, I didn't feel it was right to have kids ringing the doorbell while she was trying to concentrate. As it was, this was the right decision for another reason. Her group is a bit short on the time limit, so Shawn re-recorded her bit again and slowed it down a little. Of course, some kids still rang our bell. I suspect this is because we handed out so much candy last year. Still, did they not notice that our porch light was off? In fact, my whole section of the hood had it's lights off - about 5 houses. Damn shame. Hopefully next year will be different.

Instead, I made a stir fry and listened to some music: Tuatara's Cinematique and Alison Moyet's Voice. The latter is really growing on me. Moyet's voice has been a favorite of mine since I heard the first Yazoo releases. The new album of cover tunes ranges from the work of Elvis Costello to Gershwin to Jaques Brel. The arrangments, by Anne Dudley (a Grammy winner in her own right and a former member of the Art of Noise) are restrained and beautful, framing Moyet's vocals perfectly for each tune. The Tuatara album is a favorite of mine for the last couple of years. It features the work of several prominent Seattle musicians. This album is like an imagined film soundtrack. It mixes elements of jazz and exotika in an other worldly album that stands up quite well on it's own without a film.

The evening ended with my annual viewing of "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on DVD. I also watched the election Charlie Brown episode on the same disc. I meant to watch something else in the Halloween realm like "Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas", "Army of Darkness", "Hellraiser", or even "Harold and Maude", but I was too tired by the time 9:30 came around.

Oh, I did catch the first story on 60 Minutes last night about our troops in Iraq not being fully equipped. It's not just body armor or armor for their vehicles, folks. They also are getting walkie talkies, computers, and more on their own and using them as needed in the field. John McCain called it disgraceful during his interview and blamed it in part on pork barrel spending (yep, some of it by those high minded, security conscientious Republicans as well as the Democrats). Apparently the Pentagon wasn't prepared for an insurgency, despite the Bush Administration's claims that this was what they wanted - to fight terrorists in their own backyard rather than in America.

Links for programmers

Here's a site featuring Object Oriented Programming tips. I'm going to keep this one bookmarked (now, if it were only syndicated). From the site's intro:

The purpose of ootips is to allow developers to keep up-to-date with object oriented technologies, without having to read through high volume, low signal-to-noise sources. I try to extract the most useful and interesting posts from other mailing lists, newsgroups and web forums, and post about one article every week or two.

Check out ScottGu's Blog for reports on the upcoming Whidbey release as well as testing ASP.Net 2.0. Good reading.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Election day

Jesus fucking christ, baseball fans have taken over election day results. To explain: Baseball fans are the penultimate of taking a standard human trait to the extreme. The human trait? To make associations. It's one of the things that humans do best - whether or not you agree with the results. How do baseball fans fit in? Well, they are the sport that relies most upon statistics. Mind you, most of the people who quote the statistics haven't a fucking clue as to how irrelevant statistics might be as applied to the situation presented, but they are fond of pulling numbers out of their asses much like people who like to read horoscopes or read palms. Of the most goddamn idiotic things I have read from either party's hacks, this has to rank at the top.

News to pundits associated with political parties and the blogosphere: no matter what happens on November 2nd in the US, the world will go on. Now, I'm not saying that I'll necessarily like the results, but to be honest, I haven't liked the results of any election in the States since before my voting years...oh, I did like Clinton for about 2 weeks until he caved to the military over equal rights for homosexuals in the armed forces. So, to state it from my perspective, I'm used to being disappointed and I'm already prepared for that outcome. The question is really how disappointed will I be? And, given my experience, all sides should tone it down considerably.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Bin Laden and, separately, weapons in Iraq

It is interesting and informative to see how Al Jazeera translates Bin Laden's words into english as compared to how Reuter's (re-published in the NY Times) did. Subtle differences, but as anyone who has read Hofstadter's book on the topic, differences in translation can make all the difference in the world.

On the other hot foreign policy topic of the week, the missing explosives in Iraq, (yes, they are still one can say definitively what happened to them according to the Pentagon), Jon Lee Anderson writes in the LA Times that those explosives were not unique. Rather, it was pretty normal and easy following the war to find weapons in Iraq.

Inexplicably, the looting in Baghdad was not halted after a few days, but went on for weeks. Hospitals, museums, ministries and even some of Saddam Hussein's palaces were looted and, in some cases, burned.

The U.S. inaction was bewildering and a source of great anger and frustration to most of the Iraqis I knew. There have been few public explanations from U.S. officials about this, but, off the record, senior U.S. military officers have told me they did not intervene because they had insufficient numbers of troops.

Today, most also acknowledge that this period of anarchy helped lay the foundation for the Iraqi insurgency by souring the perceptions of many Iraqis toward the occupation troops while simultaneously revealing the extent of U.S. intelligence weaknesses to the members of Iraq's fallen regime, who had melted away to watch and wait. It was not long before they began attacking Americans.

And at least some of the weaponry they have been using comes from unguarded arms caches like Al Qaqaa's.

In June 2003, two months after the invasion that toppled Hussein, I visited a vast dumping ground for war detritus on the southern outskirts of Baghdad — just up the road from Al Qaqaa, in fact. There, I found live rocket warheads, howitzer shells and large quantities of live ammunition lying around, being picked over by scavengers and looters. There were no Iraqi sentries or U.S. soldiers in sight.

Whenever I have mentioned my visit to this place to U.S. officials — and the dangers it seemed to pose to U.S. soldiers — the reaction has always been the same: They grimace, acknowledge the problem and, once again, cite the lack of troops to guard such sites.

Recall, if you will, dear reader, Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks about the looting in Iraq:

"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," Rumsfeld said. "They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."

Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens," Rumsfeld said...

And, from the UPI report at the time, Mr. Rumsfeld said:

"And for suddenly the biggest problem in the world to be looting is really notable."


Props for a couple of posts on blogs this morning. First, my friend, Scott, has a blog that deals mostly with acting and his life. Today he has a posting during which he vents about politics for a bit and wonders where the special prosecutors are for this administration's crimes. Good question.

The second posting was by William Gibson on his blog. Gibson notes the symbiotic relationship between Bush and Bin Laden explaining that they have a need for each other in order to maintain their power and standing in the world. It's a short, but interesting piece.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Just because

This cracked me up:

Feeling Secure at home

Dear reader, you needn't be so worried about your security. After all the problems are all over in Iraq. Here, in the U.S., we have a Department of, sorry, Homeland Security that is guarding us. In fact, it's a highly successful organization. It's so successful that earlier this month they threw themselves a big bash on the taxpayer's tab, celebrating their good work. Never mind that lower level employees - you know, the ones who actually work - got much lower percentage bonuses, if anything at all.

Those lower level employees are sure to be well rewarded for their efforts next year. Surely businesses will kick in something for those employees as they are out in the field in such places as St. Helens, Oregon, protecting the copyrights of toys. Yes, Homeland Security agents confronted a toy store owner and asked her to remove what they mistakenly thought were illegal copies of Rubik's Cubes. Said a spokesperson for the protection agency,

"One of the things that our agency's responsible for doing is protecting the integrity of the economy and our nation's financial systems and obviously trademark infringement does have significant economic implications."

Nice to know that our security agents are protecting us from terrorists importing toys. Feel safer yet? I thought so. Let me put a nail in this coffin (oh, how I wish it were so, but it's only a cheap Halloween reference) by offering up this article in Conressional Quarterly. The Homeland Security Department's top intelligence official, retired U.S. Army Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, told a public forum 8 months before he was appointed by the White House the following:

“Set aside what the mass of people think. Some things are so bad for them that you cannot allow them to have them. One of them is war in the context of terrorism in the United States,” Hughes said, according to a transcript obtained by CQ Homeland Security.

“Therefore, we have to abridge individual rights, change the societal conditions, and act in ways that heretofore were not in accordance with our values and traditions, like giving a police officer or security official the right to search you without a judicial finding of probable cause,” said Hughes.

Now, then, there's the beginning of your Halloween fright.

More on the missing explosives

Mr. Bush has certainly stepped into it this time. He's out on the campaign trail calling Kerry's charges of incompetance regarding the Iraq war in general and the missing explosives at Al Qaqaa, in particular, "wild accusations".

Yet, a Minneapolis television station yesterday reported that they had a film crew in that military base on April 18th and that they saw boxes of explosives there. You can now view some of their footage online. As good reader, Albatross, noted in comments yesterday, this station is not a bastion of liberalists. He should know. He lives in the area.

Now the NY Times has chimed in on the tale. They showed the video footage to none other than former Bush point man for inspections, David A. Kay. Attempting to maintain some credibility in the world, Mr. Kay had this to say,

"The photographs are consistent with what I know of Al Qaqaa," said David A. Kay, a former American official who led the recent hunt in Iraq for unconventional weapons and visited the vast site. "The damning thing is the seals. The Iraqis didn't use seals on anything. So I'm absolutely sure that's an I.A.E.A. seal."

As pointed out by NY Times editorial writer Paul Krugman, the criticism leveled by Mr. Kerry goes far beyond just Al Qaqaa. It's a good read. For instance,

"It's remarkable that the right-wingers who dominate cable news and talk radio are still complaining about a liberal stranglehold over the media. But, that absurdity aside, they're missing a crucial point: Al Qaqaa is hardly the only tale of incompetence and mendacity to break to the surface in the last few days. Here's a quick look at some of the others:

Letting Osama get away...

Letting Zarqawi get away..."