Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Demo Convention

I was working last night, so I missed large chunks of the speeches. I did hear the tribute to Ted Kennedy. While people were clearly roaring in the convention center, I wasn't inspired by it. Then again, I guess that's part of what separates this liberal from the Democratic Party - the fact that, while I appreciate much of what Kennedy has done and he deserves praise for it, I'm also keenly aware that he is just a man and I am not a sheep willing to swoon for him. Is that too harsh? Perhaps, but I am not one for following the crowds.

In any case, the speech I most wanted to hear was Michelle Obama's, but I missed that too. Instead I was stuck in Pagliacci Pizza working out a mistake on my order (not entirely their fault, by the way). I arrived at the restaurant as Obama's brother was introducing her and got in the car to hear the pundits taking their stab at the speech. Oy! I'll probably catch it today on YouTube.

My expectations for the speech are pretty low, as is my expectations for the convention. I dislike the conventions. They are nothing more than stage shows for the party faithful and junkets for the people attending. They are over produced and over scripted. They tend to be presented with a sheen covering them and we're unlikely to hear much genuine sentiment coming from either one. Perhaps more amazing is that both parties have faithful who actually believe in the importance of these off off Broadway productions. Note to the faithful - most people aren't tuning in and most people won't until after the kids are in school and the leaves are turning color. In other words, the 10 to 15% of folks who are going to swing the election are too busy balancing school supplies and end of summer margaritas.

I liked Nick Gillespie's, of Reason, take on yesterday's activities:
Even the talk on Iraq was muted and fully of hooey: There were more than a few of us who saw Iraq as a non sequitur from the War on Terror before it unfolded. Most Democrats did not, and they don't have a compelling reason to be against the war other than that it didn't go well. Obama is different than Joe Biden in that case (the latter a big hawk at the start) and it will be interesting to see if they lay out a foreign policy that isn't just about not intervening if you're not going to win in a rout.

I realize this is basically just a libertarian's lament: Why can't the Dems give me what I want (or the GOP, for that matter). But just who is going to decide this election anyway? Both candidates are polling under 50 percent and there's that 10 percent to 15 percent who can swing just about everything.

The Democrats want to win this one so badly that they aren't willing to confront Iraq and foreign policy head on. These are the same folks who were given a Congressional mandate to deal with that issue during the last election and who have thus far squandered that mandate. And why? So they can win the Presidency? Hey, that role is important in shaping the government, but haven't they learned that the real power is in Congress? Oh, right, I forgot, they are trying to maintain the power of said Presidency rather than bring it back into historical constraints. I digress, but these are exactly the kind of things that won't ever make me a Democrat. Republicans have their issues as well and are generally more repugnant to my political leanings. Still, the alleged "liberal party" in this country needs to work on what ideals it represents if they are to win my whole hearted support (something neither party has done in decades, for that matter.)

Gay Really Straight Republican Trading Cards

It's all a pack of lies. Funny stuff. I wish them well.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finally, a candidate I can support!

I'm not talking Obama/Biden either.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

FDA: Cocks must ring True!

From the Star-Telegram comes this tale of government idiocy gone wild:

Penis enlargers and constricting rings to maintain erections can be seized at U.S. borders, U.S. regulators said Thursday, citing inadequate safety labels.

The devices have inadequate directions for use and can have harmful effects, from rupturing blood vessels to causing gangrene of the penis, the Food and Drug Administration said in guidance to import inspectors posted on the agency’s Web site. The guidance was a revision to guidelines on "external penile rigidity devices" the FDA published in 2004.

“Basically, the labeling of these devices falsely states or implies they will treat impotence, prolong erection, and increase the dimensions of the penis,” the FDA said in the new notice.

The FDA said such devices fall into several categories:

  • Mechanical stretching devices, which "employ weights or lines tied to other parts of the body such as the knee, to affect tension on the penis.
  • Vacuum operating devices, "those employing a sealing principle in the area of the base of the penis and an evacuation mechanism to drop the atmospheric pressure around the penis, thereby affecting increased blood flow."
  • Constrictive rings, which "constrict the base of the penis after erection has been achieved and cause the erection to be maintained by blocking the normal circulation of blood from the penis."
  • Supportive devices, which "function as a splint or cradle in order to maintain a resumblance of turgidity."
  • Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Election day!

    It's election day in Washington. Our primary election is today. Of course, most of us mail in our ballots, so election day occurred a while ago for many. However, Shawn and I were slow to take care of the ballot thing so we did so last night and will mail them in today.

    This is our first primary under the top 2 system. Our Democrat and Republican parties sued our state saying that the voter passed top two system violated their rights to A) state which candidate they supported and B) to put one of their candidates on the ballot in November. They lost their case in the Supreme Court earlier this year.

    Sure, some areas will end up having 2 candidates on the ballot in November that support the same party, but who cares? If 2 Democrats end up on the ballot in November, isn't that better than having a "show" election between a Democrat and a Republican who isn't going to be elected anyhow? Same for the Republican districts. That scenario of the "show" election reminds me of the NFL playoffs when, almost every season, the real deciding game happens in the last game of the playoffs and virtually everyone knows who is going to win the Super Bowl. Boring, waste of time...which is why the NFL spends so much time promoting the commercials each year rather than the game. Sadly, most political commercials are not as entertaining.

    Suffice to say that I like the top two primary system. Also, it turned out that there weren't many instances on our ballots where more than one person supporting one party were running anyhow. My state Senate race featured one candidate "favoring the Democrat party" and one candidate "favoring GOP". Safe to say that in November we'll be voting for the same 2 people. Interesting thing about that race - I don't like either candidate. Both are corrupt, bought and sold politicians. The Democrat being slightly better than the Republican. I wish that I had more choice in that race. Note also that the Republican doesn't have the guts to own her party affiliation. It's a tactic being widely used in Washington this cycle - claim the GOP rather than Republican. It hearkens back to better days and doesn't associate with that nasty Bush/Cheney regime. Since McQueeg will be trounced here anyhow the members of his party have no problem disassociating themselves from him.

    Other races had more than one candidate. I saw several "favoring Democrat party" in the governor's race. Since our governor is a Democrat we know who the party is supporting in that race. I also had no problem picking out the Republican candidates, especially for offices such as Secretary of State (since the sitting candidate is a Republican). I even voted for members of both parties, supporting their desired candidates despite the party's worries that I wouldn't be able to do so.

    Well, with the election upon us, I had to think of what to serve for dinner last night. I picked some cauliflower and made soup, seasoning it with white wine and dill weed. Fresh from the garden goodness. I served it with toasted French baguette slices topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and fresh from the garden tomato slices. Yum! And what all-American election night meal be without apple pie? Yep, that was dessert. I bought a variety that I hadn't seen before: Transparent. It was grown in Washington and the sign at Yakima Fruit Market suggested that it would be good in sauces and pies. I made a pie crust using, for the first time, the food processor (saved time and was a better crust to work with, actually). While the dough rested in the refrigerator, I peeled and sliced the apples, mixing them with sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and Amaretto. The apples rested a bit before I put them in the bottom shell and then added a lattice topping, a little more sugar and a little more cinnamon. It turned out really well, though the apples were still a bit crisp.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Morning quick links

    Pot, kettle: Bush decries "bullying" by Russia. Does anyone take him seriously?

    McQueeg doesn't believe in copyright protection. At least he's following in Reagan's footsteps.


    One comment on Georgia: Isn't the former Soviet Union supposedly Condaleeza "No one could have seen that coming" Rice's alleged area of expertise? Then again, for someone who got the fall of the Soviet Union wrong, it's not hard to see her missing this battle as well.


    A friend of mine who was in the military has spoken with me before about McQueeg's military service. He acknowledges the man's service as a captive and torture victim, but goes on to speak about how McQueeg's relatives couldn't seem to get him a higher ranking upon graduation even though his family had members in high places. The media in the U.S. seems cowed by the fact that McQueeg's story has for so long pushed the Vietnam portion of the tale (with media assistance) that they fail to investigate his former student status let alone his career upon his return where he wasn't given the most presitigious duty, although he likes to promote it as otherwise.

    Popbitch, that celebrity gossip site from the U.K., isn't bound by American media's (lack of) standards. This week they decided to state it plain in their email round up:
    John McCain v Barack Obama

    For anyone that didn’t know. John McCain was
    at the bottom of his military class at Annapolis,
    but still got to pilot a fighter plan due to
    his father’s connections. He is the son and
    the grandson of admirals. He finished
    894 of 899 in his graduating class. Despite
    crashing five aircrafts, John McCain was never
    disciplined. And son-of-single-mother Obama is, of course, the privileged elitist.

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    From WaPo - Georgia

    The brutality of the Russian response is a function not just of their own regained self-confidence thanks to oil and gas money, or of their propensity for dominance, but also of misguided Western -- particularly American -- policies. If the United States cannot control a two-bit client such as Saakashvili (who turned out to be no better than the person he replaced, Eduard Shevardnadze) and keep him from taking this utterly destructive step, then what good is American policy? Would any self-respecting power tolerate the kind of 'in your face' attitude the Russians were expected to digest? When the United States supported Kosovo's independence and recognized the government in Prishtina, did it not think what would follow next or listen to what Putin had to say?

    I support the independence of Kosovo. I find the Russian assault against Georgia illegal and disproportionate and I think the Kremlin's regime is brutal. But then again, would anyone take seriously Paris, whose complicity in the Rwandan genocide was recently reiterated, or Washington, which invaded a country (illegally and illegitimately by the judgment of most of the world) and made torture legal, when they accuse Russia of anything? So for every country that wants to contain Russia you may find one or two that see it as a counterweight to the United States and a good response to Western conceit. What I am getting at is the question of legitimacy. The West has lost the upper hand on this because of double standards and increasingly misplaced arrogance, not to mention the lack of a coherent strategy supported wholeheartedly on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Read it all here.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008


    on Medical Marijuana. Pretty funny. Plus, he sets the tone perfectly for the discussion.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Geeky music post

    I recall buying my first album by Klaus Schulze some time around 1983. I found a copy of Trancefer at a music store and bought the LP on a moment of whimsy. It was an electronic music album featuring some gorgeous synth work of the likes I had never heard before. Later I came to understand that the sound featured some standard elements of Schulze's music. At the time, however, I was merely entranced. I went on to collect many more LPs and CDs of Schulze's music. I've only been really disappointed once or twice by the quality of his output. At the same time, I've realized that I'm the only person that I know who really digs his music. This despite the fact that the man has been a prolific producer of albums, has been mentioned by dozens of more popular artists as a major influence to electronic music, and did some major releases in the 90s with Peter Namlook and Bill Laswell. Indeed, AllMusic Guide gives a cursory overview of his biography, but doesn't mention much about the music itself which ranges from modulations of white noise (Cyborg) to ambient (Trancefer) to dance to classical and beyond. Wikipedia actually does a better job covering the works.

    Similar to Schulze, a whimsical mood was upon me when I bought my first CD by Dead Can Dance. It was about 4 years after I bought Schulze's Trancefer that I picked up DCD's album Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. It was a fall day - September or October - and I saw the album at Dearborn Music. It had just been released and I was curious. The album was on 4AD and I tended to trust that label's output at the time. When I took it home and gave it a listen I was instantly hooked. Archie and I went on to listen to that album a lot. I bought their first 2 CDs within a week later. Of course, DCD went on to become considerably more popular that Klaus Schulze. Their last concert tour of North America (2005) sold out instantly. By contrast, I am not certain if Schulze has every played in North America. My appreciation of their music has not waned with their popularity at all. In fact, I think that they progressed over time, particularly Lisa Gerrard whose jaw dropping gorgeous vocals and amazing compositions have consistently left me awed.

    So, imagine my geeky happiness when I found out this last week that Schulze and Gerrard have collaborated on a new album. It was released in July and it's called Farscape. Samples can be found on their MySpace Page. It's gorgeous and more in the ambient/classical vein and it makes me giddy to listen to it. Wikipedia has a short article on it as well. The album will be available in North America on August 26th, according to Amazon. Like most of Schulze's releases it will be available as an mp3 download as well.

    Bonus Geek:
    Here is a fundamental quality of music. Note names repeat because of a perceptual phenomenon that corresponds to the doubling and halving of frequencies. When we double or halve a frequency, we end up with a note that sounds remarkably similar to the one we started out with. This relationship, a frequency ratio of 2:1 or 1:2, is called the octave. It is so important that, in spite of the large differences that exist between musical cultures - between Indian, Balinese, European, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and do on - every culter we know of has the octave as the basis for its music, even if it has little else in common with other musical traditions.

    Excerpt from Daniel Levitin's excellent book, This Is Your Brain on Music, which I was reading last night before bed. Emphasis is mine.