It's Never Too Late

I'm not sure which story is more disturbing: The 67-year-old woman in Spain who gave birth to twins and is now the world's oldest mother, or the news that Harrison Ford is going to be filming "Indiana Jones 4" next year. Ford is currently 64 years old, and it's been 17 years since the last Indiana Jones movie; I would have loved to have seen another Indiana Jones movie in the early '90s or even the mid '90s, but that ship has sailed.

What are they going to call this one? "Raiders of the Lost Social Security Check"? "Indiana Jones and the Walker of Doom"? "Indiana Jones and the Last Quadruple Bypass"? Action movies should be the realm of younger men. On the plus side, at least Sean Connery is still around to play his dad. Film quickly, guys. Mr. Connery won't last forever.

Back to the granny story. The woman had gone to the U.S. for in vitro fertilization. What kind of doctor is going to agree to do something like that? Answer: One with no ethics. There's a very good possibility that the woman will be muerto before her kids get out of high school. She'll probably be buying Huggies and Depends at the same time (or whatever the local equivalent brands are in Spain).


On A More Cheerful Note

Murderous Iraqi thug Saddam Hussein was hanged last night while I was getting ready for work, which cheered me up a bit. Any day that an evil tyrant gets sent to his final justice can't be completely bad. Even if you are forced to work that day on your normal day off!

Somewhere in Hell right now, Saddam is singing "I Can Change" to Satan. (You must have seen the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut to understand the joke!)

Hopefully that cockroach Kim Jong Il is next. (And you need to have seen Team America: World Police to understand the cockroach part of that comment!)


Somewhere at work, a beancounter is goggling at a number and shitting a brick. I take grim pleasure in that thought. My night's work should stick out like a big red sore thumb, right in the eye. There are many ways that I normally cooperate with management to make them look good. Today, however, I did none of those things. I was uncooperative from the moment I arrived until the moment I left.

There was nothing subtle about it, but I didn't want to be subtle. I want the lesson to be learned: Mess with me and you'll regret it; force me to work on my weekend and you won't get the hard-working, motivated employee who shows up Monday through Friday. Hopefully I won't need to give them a further remedial lesson on Martin Luther King Day weekend.



"Two to three hours" ended up being six hours by the time it was all said and done, including travel time. The day was not, however, a total loss. Let me explain:

I got a road tour of much of Lee County. We went down to Dad's old office in south Fort Myers to pick up some furniture, along with Dad's handyman who helped with the lifting. The handyman drove the U-Haul truck, while I rode with the old man in his blue Caddy. Once we got everything loaded up, we stopped off in Jamaica Bay where we picked up a computer desk that Dad had bought from a little old lady. The next stop would be Dad's new office in Cape Coral.

Dad gave the handyman the directions, but unfortunately, when we made the turn into the little strip mall, the handyman missed the turn and drove on down the road. Dad had me stand by the road to watch for him and wave him in when he came back. Five minutes passed, then ten. This was getting ridiculous; the handyman could have made it all the way to Pine Island by that time. Finally, Dad and I got in the car and drove down the road a few miles.

We didn't see the U-Haul, which should have stuck out like a sore thumb. After a while, Dad decided to turn around. We drove back and I spotted the U-Haul parked at the side of a building. About this time, Dad's cell phone rang: It was the handyman. Well, we pulled into the parking lot by the building and Dad went in, chattering on the phone as he walked in.

I followed him in. The store was a Maytag appliance store, but interestingly, in one corner there was an amazing collecti0n of vinyl record albums, 45 RPM singles, VHS movie videotapes and even a few compact discs. Among the latter, I spotted Styx's Greatest Hits in a plain jewel case, no liner notes. $2.99. It had a bunch of great songs on it, and at that price, I wasn't going to say no. I paid the lady at the front desk and left with my souvenir of the day. Then we went to Dad's new office and unloaded the stuff, back to his new manufactured home in North Fort Myers to drop off the computer desk, and then I was outta there.

The CD turned out to have some minor scratches on it, and one song ("Renegade") skipped a bit on my car's CD player. However, when I got it home, it imported perfectly into iTunes. That'll do.

I also found out that two CDs that I ordered from Amazon.com arrived today: Simon and Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (1966) and Proto-Kaw's Before Became After - Special Edition (with a DVD) from 2004.

Who is Proto-Kaw? Well, the band Kansas that you are probably familiar with was the third incarnation of the band. Proto-Kaw is the lineup from the second incarnation, including Kerry Livgren. They had another CD out before this one, which I'll get if I like this one, which was mostly demos and unreleased tracks from the early 1970s. This CD/DVD set is the 21st century reunion of the band. Progressive rock, like Kansas, unsurprisingly. I put the CD on my iPod and will listen to it tonight at work.

Not a Happy Camper

It's Friday, and by rights, I should be in a cheerful mood. I most emphatically am not, however; the diametric opposite is true. I'm angry enough to spit nails. Why? Because I'm being screwed out of my three-day weekend by being forced to work my non-scheduled day tonight. Why? Because the people in charge are drunk with power. They've been pushing around the casuals and PTFs, because they can, and so they think they can do the same thing to regulars with a lot of seniority. They must not realize that they are not dealing with casuals and PTFs. This ain't my first rodeo. They need my cooperation in a lot of ways, and tonight, they are not going to get anything beyond the bare minimum.

Also, I've been roped by bonds of filial piety into going to North Fort Myers this morning to help my dad move furniture. He told me that "it will only take two or three hours," which shoots my whole day to hell. I'm not really happy about doing this, either, given the mood I am in, but I don't have much choice. I can say with certainty, however, that my dad is the last person who will get ANY cooperation out of me this year.


Godspeed, Gerald Ford

Former President Gerald Ford passed away last night in California at the age of 93. Those of us old enough to remember him do so mostly for his pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon. He also is remembered as a good, honest, decent man by just about everyone who knew him. There are far worse ways to be remembered.

Interestingly, just a couple of days ago I had looked at a picture of him along with comedian Chevy Chase, in the booklet that came with the Saturday Night Live First Season box set that my brother, Kurt, gave me for Christmas. We know now that the reputation that Ford got for klutziness was unfair and inaccurate, but that's the power of television for you. I thought it was pretty gracious of Ford to get together with Chase at the time.

So, for the next few days, we're going to be reflecting a lot on that period from 1974-76. It wasn't a happy time in our nation's history, the Bicentennial celebration notwithstanding, and it only got worse when Jimmy Carter was elected. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the Watergate scandal had never come to light. Nixon would have completed his term, but then what? Without Nixon's disgrace, there would have been no Ford presidency; without the weak incumbency of an unelected president, would Carter's disastrous administration have followed? And without Carter's impotent response to the Iranians holding Americans hostage for 444 days, would Reagan have been elected and implemented the policies that brought down the Soviet Union? If Watergate had not occurred, the Soviet Union might still exist.


Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday. Hopefully Santa brought the presents you wanted.

Here's a few things that I hope he brought to some other people:

Donald Trump: Ego reduction surgery.
Rosie O'Donnell: Ditto.
Britney Spears: Panties, panties, panties!
Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton: Ditto, x2.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Titanium Terminator skeletal femur replacement part 1001001-SOS-1984XXXL
Tara Connor, Miss USA: A copy of Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated, by Judith Martin and Gloria Kamen
Katie Rees, the former Miss Nevada: Ditto.
James Brown: A performance on center stage in Heaven, with God in the front row.
Retiring UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: A conscience.
The rest of the UN: Ditto.


Spotted in the Mail #3

The other day, I spotted an unusual Christmas card in the mail. It was a large glossy postcard, similar to the kind politicians send out during their campaigns. It showed a couple and their three children perched on a low, large tree. Mom and Dad had reasonably normal first names, but the children (two girls and a boy) were "Davis, Kennedy and Porter." No telling which one was the boy, although I'm guessing "Porter," simply because of country music singer Porter Waggoner.

Oh well, at least they didn't name any of them Biff or Muffy, and given that we're talking about the toniest part of Naples, those wouldn't have been out of the question.


Volcanic Jealousy?

I saw in the news from yesterday that the ongoing eruption at Mount St. Helens in Washington became a little more active yesterday, with a big plume of steam rising from the volcano. I have a theory about this: I think that Mount St. Helens was jealous about being upstaged by the search for the missing mountain climbers on Mount Hood in Oregon.

"Hey! Look at me! I'm erupting here, I'm erupting here!"

(Mount Hood is also a volcano, albeit a dormant one. So is Mount Rainier, near the Seattle-Tacoma area, and it gave off smoke as recently as the turn of the 20th century.)

It Figures

We have an artificial Christmas tree at work. Going around the base of it is a small toy train, about five cars long, that has been around for several years. In the locomotive car is a jolly Santa, giving an open-handed greeting that reminds me of a Nazi salute. This year, for some reason, the train won't run forward; it will only run in reverse. This seems oddly appropriate. Santa is taking the toys from the little children and sending them in reverse back to the North Pole. Given the holiday schedule for next week, which is requiring all of our PTFs and casuals to work 12 hours on Christmas, the grinchiness of the backtracking sieg-heiling Santa fits right in.

Even though I'm a regular with 15 years seniority and am getting my three-day weekend, I don't like seeing other people getting screwed over. I went in to the office and put in my two cents with the supervisors about the holiday schedule, given that there won't be anywhere near enough work to justify having all of those people there, but it didn't do any good. The supervisor who does the schedule told me that because some regulars on one of the other tours are being forced to work their holiday, it means that ALL of the PTFs and casuals have to work as well. His hands are tied. I don't understand why ANY regulars are being forced to work, considering that there are NO dispatches on Christmas. But because someone in charge on one of the other tours was a Scrooge, all of the PTFs and casuals are getting lumps of coal in their stockings. I only hope that the Scrooge on the other tour gets a visit from three ghosts, or perhaps gets that three-sizes-too-small heart enlarged.

Traditionally, we've always only had a skeleton crew of greedy volunteer regulars work on Christmas, since they get paid double-time-and-a-half that day. I've done it myself once or twice, a long time ago. Non-volunteers were rarely if ever forced to work Christmas, because there really was no reason for them to have to do so.

A common refrain among my co-workers is that in retrospect, perhaps the old plant manager wasn't so bad after all. He suddenly has a golden glow about him that wasn't just the glare of the lights beaming off the top of his bald head. I heard the saying "Better the devil that you know than the devil that you don't know" from more than one co-worker today.


What's Wrong With This Story?

Record high winter temperature set in Moscow
MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti) - A winter maximum temperature record for Moscow was set Friday, the capital's weather bureau said Friday.

Friday's maximum of 8.6°C (47.48°F) is the highest winter temperature on record for the Russian capital, the spokesman said.

The previous winter record for Moscow was 8.1 °C (46.5°F), set on February 17, 1989.

Extreme deviations in weather patterns have been observed before, but over the past decade they have become more and more frequent, the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring said.

Following near-record low temperatures during last winter's cold spell, which saw the mercury plummet to -31°C (-23.8°F) January 19 - one degree above the all-time low for Moscow - European Russia has experienced record warm temperatures this month.

Forecasters believe the temperature may be even higher in coming days, possibly reaching 9°C (48.2 °F).
So, what's wrong with that story? Look at the date. And then consider the fact that "winter" doesn't officially begin until December 21st.

Also, there's the question of how long the Russians have been keeping record of daily high and low temperatures. It all sounds alarming until you realize that their temperature records probably don't go back more than a century at most. It's not like Moscow is suddenly going to become a winter vacation destination like Florida!


Gott Sei Dank I'm Not German

Or I'd be in jail for life if this silly legislation goes through in Germany: German gamers face jail for acts of virtual violence
Players and creators of video games could face imprisonment for acts of virtual violence under draft legislation being drawn up by two of Germany's state governments.

Politicians in Bavaria and Lower Saxony have proposed a new offence that will punish "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters" inside games. Early drafts suggest that infringers should face fines or up to 12 months' jail for promoting or enacting in-game violence.

Ach du lieber! Those krazy Krauts* actually want to put people in jail for cruelly murdering PIXELS! It doesn't get any sillier than this. Don't the polizei have some real criminals to pursue? How about those Muslim terrorist cells working out of Hamburg, for instance? Nein, they want to go after the komputerkriminalen, who are much less likely to have real guns than Mohammed Atta wannabes. That game controller doesn't do scheisse against real cops.

* - Being part German, I'm allowed to use the term "Krauts," just as black people can use the N-word with impunity. It's a term of endearment. If you have a problem with that, es tut mir leid.


I Comment on the News

I'm sure you've already heard about Nicole Ritchie getting busted for DUI in California the other day. If not, here's the skinny (pardon the expression): Somebody called 911 when they spotted her driving the wrong way on a highway. The cops stopped her and she admitted to have taken Vicodin and and to have smoked marijuana. The cops arrested her, and her booking information got leaked to the press. She told the cops she was 5'1" tall and weighed 85 pounds. 85 pounds?! Two thoughts came to mind when I read that: First, I thought dope smokers got the munchies! Evidently she didn't, though. Second, girl, have a sandwich! Better yet, have two. She should stay away from tomato juice, though, because it would make her look like a thermometer.


Toyland, Toyland

When I was a kid, the harbinger of the Christmas season was the arrival of the J.C. Penney Christmas catalogue, with its pages and pages of toys. My brothers and I would leaf through it, looking at all of the things we wanted. We didn't always get everything on our lists, but we usually had a pretty good haul.

The other day when I was on jury duty, CNN was on in the waiting room, and they had a story about nostalgic middle-aged Baby Boomers seeking out the toys of their youth. They showed Mr. Potato Head (and some of his other vegetable friends), Gumby and Pokey, G.I. Joe and Barbie, etc. They were all very familiar, but then again, I'm one of those middle-aged Baby Boomers myself. It got me to thinking about some of the cool toys I had many years ago.

The world has changed, of course. I don't imagine that they sell toys like Mattel's Thingmaker any more, which cooked "Plastigoop" into rubbery toys (my favorites were the Mini-Dragons, which was made in several parts and then put together with arrows through loopholes, and the original Creepy Crawlers set, with molds for bugs, spiders, rats, snakes, etc.). Can you imagine the lawsuits from children burning themselves if they put out something like that today? I had a chemistry set, too. I don't know if they'd let kids have them these days, especially without adult supervision. Too dangerous. (I also rode a bicycle without ever wearing a helmet, and for that matter, I don't think we even had seat belts in the cars we had back in the 1960s. Amazingly enough, I survived to adulthood.)

A lot of things are still around. Hot Wheels cars, for instance. I got them back in the late 1960s when they first came out. We also had the orange plastic strips of track so we could race the cars. The kid who had a Supercharger to propel the cars around an oval loop of track was an object of envy. My favorite cars included the Red Baron (with its silver German helmet) and the Evil Weevil, a modified VW Bug, but I had dozens of them over the years.

We also had a lot of Lego blocks. Lego wasn't the only kind of plastic construction blocks we had, though. There was TOG'L, colorful plastic cubes about an inch square, with holes in some of the faces, pegs sticking out of others and some of the faces were hinged and would open. My brothers and I would make robots out of the TOG'L blocks and have boxing matches with them, moving the shoulders to throw punches at the other robot's head to try to knock his block off.

I had the Major Matt Mason ("Mattel's Man in Space!") action figure, as well as G.I. Joes at a time when they were still the same size as Barbie dolls and still military men, complete with toy weapons and uniforms, rather than some sort of sci-fi ninja figure. And we had Gumby and Pokey, as well as Mr. Potato Head. Also lots and lots of plastic toy soldiers, plastic cowboys and Indians, plastic Roman soldiers and Crusaders, and Lincoln Logs to build forts for them to garrison.

We also had a square wooden game table, with a netted pocket in each corner. It came with miniature wooden pins like bowling pins, and colored plastic rings in red and green and white and black. I'm not sure what they were actually supposed to be used for, but we made up our own games with them.

Finally, we had some early electronic games. We had a game system (Atari?) that attached to the television and allowed us to play Pong and Hockey. And we had a hand-held electronic football game that was actually just three rows of red LEDs, and the arrows would allow the runner to move up and down and forward trying to avoid the bright red tacklers. A kid today would roll his eyes, laugh at it and put it back on the shelf, but we didn't have XBoxes or Playstations or computers back then. Pong was high tech thirty-odd years ago. We're far more jaded now.


Must Be December

It's chilly outside today here in Florida. It won't reach 70 today, and will drop down into the 40s tonight. Overcast. Windy. A good day to stay inside and drink hot chocolate and shop online.

To get into the spirit of the season, I'm importing my Christmas CDs into iTunes so that I can put them on my iPod. So far, I've imported Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors' Horny Holidays, a collection of Easy Listening classics called Do You Hear What I Hear?, and A Very Special Christmas 1, 2 and 5. I'll have to clear some space on the iPod so that they'll all fit... Ah, there we go... 70 MB to spare.


I'm Not the Only One...

The Hollywood Reporter web site says [Britney] Spears tops Yahoo!'s searches:

Bereft of any new music to promote, Britney Spears was nevertheless the hottest thing on the Internet this year, judging from Yahoo!'s annual list of popular search terms.

Of course, a surge in online voyeurs seeking recently posted pictures of Britney sans panties didn't hurt. But a Yahoo! spokeswoman said "Britney" had the title of No. 1 search term sewed up even before the risque photos surfaced.

Hmmmm... I must admit, I was one of those with prurient curiosity. And after tracking down the Britney pics, I then had to go looking for the similarly exposed Lindsay "Firecrotch" Lohan pics. The verdict: Ehhh. Nothing I haven't seen before. Lindsay's at least didn't have a C-section scar. The funny part was that after Britney was caught flashing panty-less for about the third time in a week, she went out and spent $3000 on lingerie.

As I told a friend, P.T. Barnum reportedly said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Robin Williams said that "Cocaine is God's way of telling you you are making too much money." There's probably a corollary to that one involving a $333 yellow bra-and-thong set.

I think I'd rather see the money in the hands of the lingerie boutique owners than Britney. God bless capitalism! God bless America!


Friday's Jury Duty

Friday was a pretty boring day, sitting around at the Justice Center (the postmodern terminology for "courthouse"). I spent most of the day waiting around, until we were all finally called up to the courtroom. There was only one judge working Friday, and everything on the docket had been settled by plea bargaining except for one case. We stood in the hallway outside the courtoom for about ten minutes, then they led us in. I noted with some interest that the sign on the door said "Felony Court." The judge quickly informed us that he had only brought us in to tell us "hi" and "bye," because the final case had just been settled. A good thing too, as he told us that if the case had gone in front of a jury, it would have been a two-day case.

One other oddity I noticed while waiting around: All of the other prospective jurors in my group were white. The jury pool in our county is selected from driver's license registrations, so you can't get out of jury duty by just not registering to vote. There were somewhere between 40 and 50 of us present (and some 250 others had not had to come in). And yes, there are a lot of minorities living in the county. Might just have been a quirk in the system, but I certainly wouldn't have wanted to have been a prosecutor trying a minority defendant if everyone in the prospective jury pool was white, because I'm sure any defense attorney worth his salt would have used that as grounds for an appeal of any conviction.


Jury Duty Tomorrow

I really would rather have gone to work tonight and started my weekend tomorrow morning at 7:30. Instead, I have jury duty. They called the first 60-some numbers in, and the other 250 or so were excused. They got me by three four numbers. Three Four lousy numbers. *Sigh*

I guess this means I get to watch Thursday night football and drink a couple of beers, since I won't be going in to work tonight. Whoopee. It's past my normal bedtime now, but I'm going to try and stay up for a while longer so that I can hopefully sleep through most of the night and then be alert during the day tomorrow. And oh, joy, I get to drive in rush hour traffic. Normally I'm driving the other direction and I never run into any traffic. I'm wondering how much extra time I should allow to get downtown? Probably at least a half hour. Tomorrow promises to be most annoying.

Absinthe of Malice

As you might have guessed from the title, today's topic is alcohol. Here are a couple of stories for you.

First, I read this online yesterday in The Scotsman: Grapes of wrath for French vineyards as millions of bottles are destroyed

The article notes that due to a huge glut of wine overproduction in France, 8 million liters of wine (that's around 2 million gallons to us) are being distilled into pure alcohol for other uses. Also noted is that fact that French consumption of wine has dropped dramatically over the past couple of generations, from 3.1 bottles per week per person in 1960 down to 1.4 bottles today. I wondered how much the growing Islamification of Europe might have to do with this number, since Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol. One of the commenters at the bottom of the article (#22, Jericho, Anytown, USA) summed it up nicely.

Second, I was talking with a friend at work about the French wine glut story and the conversation moved to a show he'd recently seen on television about absinthe. We were both pretty sure that absinthe is still illegal to sell in the U.S., although I told him I'd seen ads for what claimed to be absinthe on some political web sites, and had seen a product called "Absente" at the liquor store, which it turns out is made from a different kind of wormwood than true absinthe, thus making it legal to sell in the U.S. I told him I'd look it up on Wikipedia when I got home, and those links are the fruits of my search labors. I'm not sure that I'd want to drink anything with that high an alcohol content anyway, although I might try it once if it was available, just to see what all the fuss was about.


A Warning For the Ladies

I was reading the local section of yesterday's Naples Daily News in the break room this morning, and found this story: Man arrested at Beall's outlet store in women's dressing room

When 48-year-old Christopher Reed Oslin walked into the Beall's Outlet Store in East Naples on Sunday, authorities say he had more than Christmas shopping in mind.

At about 2:40 p.m. a Collier County sheriff's deputy received a telephone call from his wife who was shopping at Beall's at 2710 U.S. 41 E. and reported seeing a man acting strangely in the women's dressing room. When the deputy arrived he saw a person with "manly looking hairy ankles" standing in one of the stalls, an arrest report stated.

When a woman entered the next stall, the man with the hairy ankles placed what appeared to be a bundle of clothes on the ground. He then reached down to turn and angle the clothing, authorities reported.

The deputy called for backup, talked to a store manager and then knocked on the stall door and asked to speak to the man. Authorities said the man, identified as Oslin, of 265 Georgetown Blvd., opened the stall door dressed only in socks, white underwear and a T-shirt.

Oslin appeared to be sexually aroused, an arrest report stated.

After Oslin put on his pants and exited the stall, the deputy found a pair of blue work shorts on the ground with a Sony camcorder hidden inside them.

Authorities said Oslin was inside the dressing room for more than an hour. Investigators reviewed the video from the camcorder and observed several people changing clothes, including several scenes of people in the nude, an arrest report indicates.
Amazingly, he was only charged with "loitering and prowling," because for him to be charged with "voyeurism," the cops would have had to know who the victims were.

This is the second recent case of a peeping Tom in a department store dressing room. The other guy had drilled peepholes to look into the next dressing stall. The store security people had found the holes and filled them up, but he came back and re-drilled them! Amazing chutzpah.

So ladies, the next time you go to a department store and are going to try on some clothes, check the walls for peepholes and the floor, etc., for pervs with cameras, before you disrobe. In this day and age of miniaturized electronics, you can't be too careful. If the voyeurs down here in Florida are doing it, the odds are that your local ones are thinking of ways to do the same sort of thing.


While I'm On a Video Kick...

This song is getting played a lot on my iPod:

Yes, it's the classic "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors, off their 1980 New Clear Days album. I don't think the CD format was out yet at that time; it seems like it didn't come out until the mid-'80s. Great song, but man, that lead singer looks way too scrawny to be slinging a katana around. Of course, that wasn't really what the song was about... Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more! This is a very early music video, and looks pretty primitive by modern standards. Sometimes, of course, that's a good thing. Newer isn't always better.


"All Your Bsae Are Belong To Us!"

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I saw this picture on Power Line of Peppermint Patty Cindy Sheehan protesting against America in South Korea. Note the sign. And all I could think of was "All Your Bsae Are Belong To Us!" Heh!

One More For the Road

If Susanna Hoffs is your cup of (Ming) Tea, then you should go to Bill Bonk's web site, click on the Songwriter tab and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Under "Unreleased Tracks" is a song by Susanna Hoffs titled "Pride," in both RealAudio and MP3 formats. It's a fairly quick download, and a good song. I like it better than some of the ones she actually used on the 1996 album!

Other leftover weekend stuff: The nice folks at Gillette sent me a freebie Fusion razor, which came in my mailbox on Saturday. I haven't tried it out yet, but I will soon. Interesting tidbit: The razor's shipping address shows that it came from Devens, Massachusetts. Yes, the same Devens that used to be Fort Devens, where I went for Advanced Individual Training in 1981 (after Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey), and where I returned in 1985 for a two-month course at the Army Intelligence school there. They closed it down back in the 1990s; I think they consolidated all of the schools for the Intelligence branch at Fort Huachuca, Arizona after that. It couldn't have been good for the little town of Ayer, which was just outside of the post. And yes, in the winter, it was definitely a "cold Ayer, Mass." I have fond memories of my times in the Bay State, and Boston was one of my favorite cities to visit.


What I'm Listening To

Lately, a lot of Susanna Hoffs, both solo and with others. She was in the Bangles back in the '80s, of course, and then she put out a pair of solo albums, When You're A Boy in 1991 and the eponymous Susanna Hoffs in 1996. This year, she and Matthew Sweet came out with a superb collection of '60s cover tunes titled Under the Covers, Vol. 1, which has been in heavy rotation on my iPod.

When You're A Boy is one of my favorite CDs, because it showcases her clear, sweet voice so well. All four of the Bangles took turns on lead vocals on their albums, which often left fans of Susanna wanting more, and her first solo album delivered. Here is a video of one of the songs, "Unconditional Love":

I didn't really like her second solo album all that well. Her voice sounded a bit worn and strained, and she wasn't able to hit the soaring high notes that she had five years earlier. She had also taken more of a folk turn, thinking that her previous work had been too commercial and over-produced.

But now, ten years after that, she teamed up with Matthew Sweet on a their cover song project, and her voice is back in fine form. The songs run the gamut from familiar favorites originally done by the Beatles, the Who, Neil Young, the Mamas & the Papas, etc. to more obscure songs done by groups like The Left Banke and Sandy Denny, but there's not a bad song in the bunch. For anyone who enjoys her music, this one is a must have and well worth buying.

Here's a video of them singing Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl":



This Morning's Moment of Zen

I was up around 4 a.m., channel-surfing. VH1 Classic had a show on called "The Vault," featuring music videos from the '80s. Back in that distant mist-shrouded time, MTV and VH1 actually showed music videos most of the time. Think of that!

Anyway, after a while, a video comes on by Billy Bragg, titled "Waiting For The Great Leap Forward":

It's a paean to communist revolution from late 1988. It starts with lots of black-and-white hagiographic imagery of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong and Nikita Khruschev, and lots of shiny happy communist youth parading in front of their leaders and chanting slogans, with Bragg moving Forrest Gump-like through the scenes, intercut with other scenes of Bragg on tour somewhere in Eastern Europe, probably the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan makes a cameo appearance at the end, hawking Boraxo soap in a vintage commercial. He is obviously a figure of derision, a dangerous cowboy who is trying to prevent the historically inevitable victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. The fool!

Now, ANYTHING from 1988 involving the possibility of a victorious communist revolution looks ridiculously dated today (and indeed, ever since 1992). Bragg was one of those who was on the wrong side of history in the 1980s, he just didn't know it yet. (And indeed, perhaps like many socialists in Europe today, he may not yet know it even now!) The Soviet Union was a doddering 71-year-old and only three years away from its winding shroud. The Berlin Wall, which I was still three months away from vandalizing, loomed high and dark, but was only one brittle year away from falling to hammer-smashed rubble.

And here's this guy who thinks it's the wave of the future. It actually made me laugh as I watched it, because he was so earnestly, spectacularly wrong. He probably had a Betamax videotape recorder, too.

Plan B

In which Thanksgiving Dinner doesn't go exactly as planned:

I went over to my dad's around 11:00 this morning. He had said that he would cook. Unfortunately, when I got there, I learned that he hadn't read the directions on the three-pound turkey loaf thoroughly, and had only just discovered that it was supposed to thaw for a couple of days before being cooked. We're not always good at reading directions in my family.

Dad tried defrosting it in the microwave, but that didn't seem to be going very well. While all this was going on, I went out to the back porch and called my brother up in Kansas City, where the rest of my family is celebrating the holiday. I chatted with both of my brothers, my mom and my niece. Then, after about twenty minutes, I went back inside. Dad then informed me that we would be dining out, as he wasn't pleased with the defrosting turkey experiment.

So we went to Perkins. There we met Dad's friend Dick, who had been in the hospital until yesterday and thus wasn't in condition to travel up to Ohio for Thanksgiving with his family, as he had planned. We had a nice lunch, even if the service was slow and somewhat inattentive. Dad wasn't pleased; the waitress got a smaller tip than she might have otherwise. He also didn't particularly like the stuffing, and was amazed to learn that pie no longer came with the traditional turkey dinner, as it did as recently as a couple of years ago. And then the waitress didn't even ask if we wanted dessert, just brought the check. No, she didn't deserve more than the minimum.

I myself had the Ultimate Club Melt sandwich (which did contain turkey, meeting the requirement for the day) and fries. I could have done the traditional turkey dinner like Dad and Dick both did, but sometimes you just have to blaze your own trail.


Another Victim in the War on Drugs

Perhaps you've already seen this story, which is your "what the hell?!" moment for today: Questions surround fatal shooting of woman, 92

There are more questions than answers this morning in a northwest Atlanta neighborhood where a 92-year-old woman was killed in a shootout with police on Tuesday night. Three officers were wounded in the shooting.

State Rep. "Able" Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) on Wednesday called Kathryn Johnston's death "unfortunate" and said a number of upset neighbors and other residents called to say neither Johnston nor her Neal Street home were in any way connected to illegal drug activity, as police suggested.

Thomas said neighbors who have contacted her described Johnston as a "good neighbor" and "law abiding."

Johnston, who lived alone, allegedly fired on three Atlanta narcotics officers who broke down her front door trying to serve a search warrant. The officers were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Now, I don't know what the facts are in this case, regarding whether the 92-year-old woman was dealing drugs or not. But the very fact that the cops are engaging in this kind of behavior, bashing down people's doors and shooting them, is troublesome, and is far worse than than any potential lawbreaking going on in the home of a nonagenarian.

There have been numerous cases of the cops breaking down the wrong door and shooting people, and God help the homeowner who sees potential home invaders breaking down his door and shoots them. People who were innocent of any other crime have gone to jail for shooting non-uniformed cops that broke down their doors.

And now some thieves have taken a page from the cops' book and have broken into people's homes announcing that they are cops and then proceeded to rob them.

The War on (some) Drugs makes criminals out of people who are engaging in consensual activities that may cause harm to themselves but don't usual cause harm to others. It means that we, the taxpayers, have to pay for the room and board of non-violent consensual criminals in our state prisons. Frankly, I'd rather have the drug "criminals" out in the community paying for their own room and board.

And I'd certainly rather see drugs legalized (and taxed, heavily) and the cops going after REAL criminals rather than blowing away little old ladies. You know, murderers, rapists, thieves, that kind of thing. Not somebody who wants to smoke a joint or snort a line of coke. If they're stupid enough to use drugs, it should be their own damn business, not the government's. If they commit a real crime, whether one of violence or against property, while under the influence, make that an aggravating factor in sentencing. But for chrissakes, it's time to stop throwing dopers in jail just for being dopers!


Not Funny

Another thought on Michael Richards' offensive rant: What is wrong with these idiots like Mel Gibson and Richards? You can't use ethnic slurs in America today, period. And you especially can't use the N-word. It's the third rail of public discourse today and will electrocute anyone who touches it.

Frankly, it's not even funny when most black comedians use it. The only exception I can think of was the scene in Blazing Saddles when Cleavon Little, the black sheriff, runs afoul of a group of redneck cowboys. He quickly whips out his pistol and holds it to his own head and yells menacingly, "One move and the n----- gets it!" Then he bugs out his eyes and looks pleadingly at the cowboys, saying, "He means it! He means it!" That was funny. Unfortunately, most of what passes for comedy today is just offensive insults and foul language.


Since Murdoch Cancelled the Fox O.J. Interview...

Maybe they could use that time slot for a 10-round cage match between O.J. and Michael "Kramer" Richards. Give 'em each a chair to bust over the other's head. I think a lot of people would find that appropriate.



Would somebody please tell O.J. Simpson that unless he kills someone else, his 15 minutes are up?


Patience Rewarded

I had holds for two books at my local library. One, S.M. Stirling's A Meeting At Corvallis, had been on hold for several weeks. It's the sequel to Dies the Fire and The Protector's War, and I've really been itching to read it. I had to fight the impulse to just buy it in hardcover instead of waiting on the library (I own the first two books in paperback, and will get the third when it comes out in paperback to complete the set). The other one, for Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker, I had just put on hold last Friday. I had been noodling around on Wikipedia early last week, reading some articles about various genres of fiction, and Carey's name came up. I read some reviews of Banewreaker on Amazon.com, and while some claimed that the book was highly derivative of both J.R.R. Tolkien and David Eddings, others claimed that her plot twist of having the "world-saving" quest written from the point-of-view of the "evil" characters made it rather interesting. I decided to at least try to find a copy at the library, and while there were two available, they weren't at my branch.

Anyway, yesterday morning the phone rang, with a recorded message from the library, telling me that I had one item being held until November 20th. I figured that it was probably Banewreaker. Since it's about a 20-mile round trip to the library, and I was doing some cleaning, I decided to go in to get the book today. However, today the weather was rather unsettled, so I figured I could wait until Friday. Then, around noon, the phone rang again: Another recorded message from the library, telling me that I had one item being held until November 21st.

Aha! Now my second book was in as well. The rain had stopped, so I decided to go get my books and then grab some lunch on the way back home. Sure enough, both books were there, and surprisingly enough, A Meeting At Corvallis wasn't even stickered as a New Book, which would have only given me two weeks to read it. Being as how it was "in transit," it's almost certain that this was an oversight, but I'll take the added flexibility having a full month to read the two books gives me.

And lunch? Wendy's 1/2-pound bacon cheddar melt sandwich and fries. Mmmmmmmm... I'll sleep like a log later this afternoon.


Thoughts on the Democratic Government Experiment

I read a novel over the weekend by Harry Turtledove. His ouvre is alternative history, and he's a very prolific writer. This particular book is titled The Disunited States of America and it is the fourth book in his "Crosstime Traffic" series. The series' plot supposition is that while time travel is not possible, it is possible to move into alternative realities at the same point in time. In the late 21st Century, scientists in our timeline discover how to do this, and send traders to other timelines in order to trade for resources that have become scarce in our future but not in the other timelines. Naturally, they don't tell the natives of those other timelines who they are and how they got there.

Unlike the novels in many Turtledove series, Disunited States can stand alone; you don't need to have read the first three books in the series (and indeed, I haven't) to understand what is going on, since Turtledove fills the reader in early about what is going on. The timeline that the traders are visiting was identical to ours until the late 1700s, when their U.S. constitutional convention failed to come up with a compromise between the small states, who wanted equal representation for each state, and the large states, who wanted represtation to be based upon each state's population. In our timeline, we ended up with a constitution with a bicameral legislature. In theirs, the United States continued to muddle along under the Articles of Confederation until the early 1800s and then things fell apart. The states became separate countries, fighting innumberable little wars with their neighbors. There was no central government.

The traders are based in Charleston, Virginia, and a couple of them, including Justin, the teenaged protagonist, get stuck in a town near the Ohio border when war breaks out between those two states, and Ohio sends a tailored virus into Virginia, causing a quarantine. Justin meets Beckie, a girl about his age from the state of California, who is visiting the small Virginia town with her grandmother, who was born there. They are all stuck there for several days as the story unfolds.

The story's concept is intriguing: What would have happened had our Founding Fathers not had the wisdom to compromise? Our democratic experiment could have ended a long time ago, and we could be living under any of a number of types of despotic government. Instead of a powerful nation, we might be living in the North American equivalent of Portugal or Belgium.

I thought about this as I looked at what is happening in Iraq, and it seemed to be relevant. Just as in Iraq today, there were various factions among the early United States who didn't like each other and who had conflicting interests. What was good for a Yankee merchant might be bad for a western frontiersman or a southern slaveowner. But with a still-unfriendly Britain perched along our northern border, with many Tories settling into being Canadians who might have wanted to return to claim what they had left behind when they fled America, it was urgent that there be a federal government so that the states could act in their common interest. As Benjamin Franklin said, "We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

As individual states, they were weak and vulnerable to British aggression. As a unified nation, they were too strong to be conquered. Look at the bundle of thirteen arrows that the eagle clutches on the back of a (non-state design) quarter: The symbolism is that an individual arrow can be easily snapped, but a bundle of arrows cannot.

Iraq has three main factions as well as many smaller ones, and unlike the early Americans, some of them may see their interest in siding with others outside of Iraq. Many Iraqis don't think of themselves as Iraqis, but rather as Sunnis or Shiites or Kurds, or members of a particular tribe. Early Americans were more likely to identify themselves as residents of their home state than as Americans, and this was true up through the Civil War, which decisively settled the struggle for power between the federal government and the individual state governments. Look at how many U.S. Army generals resigned their commissions to join the Confederate Army and defend their home states (Robert E. Lee, for instance). Today, however, we are all Americans with a strong sense of national identity. It took a while to achieve that. It's an open question whether the Iraqis are capable of doing the same thing or not. For their sake, I hope so.


Line of the Day

It comes from Howard Gensler at the Philadelphia Daily News, in an article about the Britney Spears sex tape:

The home video is alleged to show the couple early in their relationship two years ago, holed up at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Said a source: "They did nothing all day but have sex - and play the odd game of chess."


(Could we go from "One Night in Paris" to "One Knight in Britney"?)


The anchors on one of the Fox News shows mentioned this story yesterday, with the addendum that "Britney is worried about the tape affecting her 'wholesome' image," and then they all dissolved in helpless laughter. Somebody commented, "Chess?! Britney plays chess?!" More laughter.

It's comedy gold, folks. Comedy gold. "Is that a bishop in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" Etc. Feel free to come up with your own chess-related Britney joke.


"Dude! Your Shirt Rocks!"

From today's news: Scientists in Australia have come up with a t-shirt that would be a "virtual instrument," allowing aspiring air guitarists to actually make music with the t-shirt. Really! For the Bill & Teds of the world, this promises an excellent adventure.

The T-shirt has motion sensors built into its elbows that pick up the wearer's arm motions and relay them wirelessly to a computer which interprets them as guitar rifts, said Richard Helmer, an engineer who leads the research team from the government's Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

One arm is interpreted as picking chords while the other strums. The "wearable instrument shirt" is adaptable to both right and left-handed would-be rock stars.

"It's an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music making even by players without significant musical or computing skills," Helmer said in a statement.



Rectum? Darn Near Killed 'im!

"Scorched colon." Those are words you don't see in the same phrase every day, but this fellow made it necessary:

Man injured by launching firework from his bottom

A man has suffered severe internal injuries after trying to launch a powerful firework from his bottom on bonfire night, it emerged today.


The man is reported to have got down on all fours, lowered his trousers and fixed a Black Cat Thunderbolt rocket to himself in front of a group of friends at the end of a firework display in the Monkwearmouth area of Sunderland on Sunday.


The man, whose injuries include a scorched colon, is still in hospital.

Bonus points if you know what "bonfire night" is all about. (And yes, I know the British holiday that occurs on November 5th; I'm just wondering if you do. The Grauniad's article certainly says nothing about it. I think it's no longer politically correct.)

Hat tip: Winds of Change


"Bitter Much?"

I'm sure that's what some of my readers are thinking. The answer is "No, not really." I'm not upset about the rejection of the Republicans per se. But I am upset about the fact that the voters who showed up voted against the only party that is serious about how to deal with those people in this world who hate our guts and would kill us if they could, and are actively trying to do so. I remembered that we are at war, a war with Islamofascism that WE did not start; unfortunately, the majority of the voters who showed up did not. I took the lesson of 9/11 to heart, but then again, I was off that day and watched the whole damn thing on television, all day long. Apparently most of the rest of the nation wasn't, and didn't. I learned the lesson about the Islamofascists on that awful day. Most of the rest of you didn't. You'll have to learn it again when the next attack comes, and your votes on Tuesday made that attack all the more likely. Thanks a lot.

Perhaps you heard Democratic House Speaker-Elect Pelosi saying that Iraq isn't something to worry about "winning," but "a problem to be solved." When you aren't concerned with "winning," the solution to the problem is easy: Leave, ASAP. Get the hell out of Dodge. Devil take the hindmost. Don't worry about those Iraqis hanging onto the runners of the last chopper out of Baghdad. Not our problem. Right?

A lot of this is the fault of Republican leadership for failing to emphasize all along the dangers that confront us. We've become complacent because there has been no follow-up attack to 9/11 over the past five years. Be assured that it hasn't been due to a lack of trying by our enemies. We've been able to hold off the barbarians at our gates, so far, but we owe no thanks to the Democrats, who would hamstring those trying to protect us out of some misplaced sense of "fairness" for the terrorists. And now they've been elected to leadership roles in both the House and the Senate. I shudder for the fate of our nation.

So was this a "Democrat tsunami"? Hardly. Turnout nationwide was about 40%. About 52% of that 40% voted Democrat. So we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 21% of the nation's registered voters who have decided that it's a good idea to lay down before our enemies and be "humbled." Just remember, Democrats, that YOU are the ones who live in New York and Washington and Los Angeles. YOU are the ones who are most likely to be killed in the terrorist attacks that the people YOU elected are likely to enable. Don't come crying to me when it happens, because I'll only say "I told you so." If you're looking for Sympathy, you'll find it in the dictionary between Shit and Syphilis.

And the rest of you gutless pukes, the 60% who couldn't be bothered to show up to vote this time? What's your excuse? I'm talking to YOU, 2004 Bush voters who were nowhere to be seen on Tuesday. Do you think that bin Laden and Zawahiri and their evil henchmen have forgotten us? Do you think that if we bug out of Iraq that they'll say, "Okay, that's all over and done now, we'll let bygones be bygones, have a nice day, Americans?" If so, you're too damn stupid to still be breathing. "Oh, those nasty Republicans were corrupt! They were sending nasty messages to teenagers!" And so you were willing to put the fate of this nation in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? You idiots! Do you have any idea how badly you screwed up? You will when the bomb goes off in New York Harbor or the Port of Long Beach! And then it'll be too damn late!

A Few More Things

Finishing up my post-election post-mortem:

1. The Democrats disproved the old axiom that you can't beat something with nothing. They did. All they had to offer to the electorate was that they were not George W. Bush and were not Republicans. Apparently, for a majority of the people who turned out to vote in an off-year election, that was enough.

2. Human sacrifice had long since fallen out of fashion here in the Americas, with the last recorded cases occurring among the Aztecs and the Mayas. Well, at least until yesterday, when Donald Rumsfeld was dragged to the top of a pyramid in Washington, D.C. and had his still-beating heart ripped out and offered to the new goddess Pelosicutli. It is unknown whether this will guarantee good crops next year.

3. Article that sums up my views perfectly: Abandoning Iraq by David Warren:

So far as President Bush can be blamed, it should be for showing insufficient ruthlessness in a task that could not be accomplished by half-measures. Alternatively, for failing to grasp that America was psychologically unprepared for real war, not only by the memory of Vietnam, but by the grim advance of "liberal" decadence in domestic life over the generation since.

The great American jurisprude, Robert Bork, expressed his foreboding to me four years ago, before Iraq had even been invaded. "It took the New York Times five years of war in Vietnam to turn on President Johnson; but this time they are at the President's throat from day one." As he further noted, the whole approach to the impending and inevitable Iraq war was being skewed by the need to assuage political and diplomatic adversaries.

As Fouad Ajami argues in his new book, The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq, the invasion was so surgical that not even the functionaries of Saddam's regime suffered heavy casualties when he fell. The "Sunni Triangle" -- that patch of the country that had profitably ruled the oil-bearing remainder through decades of Saddam's terror -- in which he murdered Shias, Kurds, and uncooperative fellow-Sunnis by the hundred thousand to maintain his power -- capitulated quickly. How different from the scenes of national devastation that persuaded Germans, and then Japanese, at the end of World War II, to accept American-imposed democracy. For them, resistance was futile. For the Sunnis of Iraq, terrorist violence would be rewarded by the collapse of American will.

Exactly. Read the whole thing.


American Fools

There's an old saying that "it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

A majority of the minority of the American electorate that actually votes has spoken and removed all doubt.

The Democrats have promised a "NewD irection for America." Congratulations, voters. You're screwed. I'm screwed. We're all screwed. All of us.

I'm going to get a bumper sticker next year that will say "Don't blame me; I voted Republican." For those of you who didn't vote or who voted for Democrats, you deserve what is going to happen to you in the next couple of years.

Here are a few things you can expect:

1. Your taxes will go up. The Democrats will claim, "Oh, we're only going to raise the taxes on the rich who aren't paying their fair share." A number of people who thought that they were middle-class are going to be shocked to learn that the Democrats have decided that they are "rich" and thus deserve to pay more in taxes. Well, open up your wallets, you kulaks! "For the Greater Good!" (which will be Hillary!'s campaign slogan in 2008, since "Peace! Land! Bread!" has already been used.)

2. The stock market is going to slide. That 12,000 Dow? Your bullish retirement funds? Kiss 'em goodbye, sweetheart. That's for rich folks, and they're gonna be facing more taxes and regulation that will make it more difficult for business. Also consider that many of the owners of small businesses will be included among those "rich" folks who will be paying more in taxes when the Bush tax cuts are allowed to lapse by the Democratic congress. Bad times are coming for the economy.

3. The minimum wage will be raised, leading to higher unemployment and inflation. Wonderful for those poor folks at the bottom of the ladder, right? Wrong. It will just lead to higher unemployment among the minimum wage demographic AND to inflation as well, since the increased cost of labor will be passed on to customers. Enjoy your $10 Big Mac in 2007, as well as your $40 meal at a downscale restaurant. Maybe we can break out the old Gerald Ford 1976 "Whip Inflation Now!" buttons for 2008.

4. Illegal immigration will no longer be a problem once the new Democratic House signs off on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform package. They won't call it "amnesty," but that's what it will be. Esperanza que no es una problema para Ustedes!

5. The Iraq War and the War on Terror are over. The American people were given a choice between the Stupid Party, which took them seriously, and the Dangerous Party, which does not. The voters chose the Dangerous Party. Expect the Iraq War to be de-funded and the troops quickly pulled out, just as the Democrats did in Vietnam in 1975, and also expect the Iraqis to get the same treatment that the South Vietnamese got: Having their financial and military assistance slashed to nothing and being left to the tender mercies of the wolves in their neighborhood.

Remember the scene in the movie "Animal House" where the Deltas have taken Flounder's cousin's Lincoln Continental out on a road trip and trashed it, and Flounder is sobbing about what his cousin is going to say. One of the leaders of the frat house says to him, "Hey, you fucked up! You trusted us!" THAT is how America will be remembered if we abandon Iraq the way we abandoned South Vietnam. Unfortunately, it is exactly what I expect from the Democrats. And it will damage our foreign policy efforts world-wide for decades to come. No one will ever trust us again, nor should they if we cut and run.

The Democrats will block anything that is effective in the War on Terror. They will bend over backwards to preserve the non-existent constitutional "rights" of terrorist suspects, and will block wiretapping of possible terrorists overseas. The end result of all of this is predictable:

6. The odds of terrorist attacks will increase exponentially beginning on January 20th, 2007, because our Democrat congress will make it easier for our enemies to pull them off.

As I said, if you voted for the Democrats or failed to vote for Republicans, you deserve what is going to happen to you in the next two years. You buy it, you own it. I only hope that the body count isn't too high, and that if it is, we'll finally get serious about the War on Islamic Fascism. I don't expect that to happen unless something a couple of orders of magnitude worse than 9/11 happens, and I don't take much solace in the fact that most of the victims are likely to be Democrat voters in big cities in blue states. This time, though, unlike 9/11, they won't be able to say that they didn't see it coming.


Vote or Shut Up

It's election day here in America. If you're an American citizen and a registered voter, this is your chance to select your congressional representative for the next two years, and possibly those who will occupy other offices as well, including the senator and/or governor for your state, and various other state and local officials as well. You also may have an opportunity to vote yea or nay on various amendments to your state constitution. This is your opportunity to make your views known.

None of this will happen if you do not go to the polls. In a presidential election year, turnout in American elections seldom tops 60% of registered voters. In an off-year election, it's significantly less, perhaps less than 40% . Frankly, I think that is shameful. I vote in EVERY election, including the primaries. In the Florida primary in September, the turnout in my county was a pathetic 23%, but I was there.

Elections have consequences, and the people who are chosen today to run our government will make the decisions that will affect this country for the next two years. There are two competing world-views out there. You know what they are. If you don't, then you shouldn't be voting anyway. If you are, however, reasonably well-informed, then you will have an opinion about which party better represents your views. Vote accordingly. If you can't be bothered to vote today, however, then you have no right to complain about the decisions that will be made by your representatives in your name. In other words, get out there and vote or else just shut up for the next two years about anything having to do with politics.


A Thoughtful Essay From Orson Scott Card

The Only Issue This Election Day

There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.

And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.

If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.

But at least there will be a chance.

I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.

But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.

Read the whole thing. It may challenge your world-view, but you'll be better off for it.


You Know It's Gonna Be A Bad Day When...

1. You manage to remember to grab your cell phone, iPod, wallet and keys on your way out the door, but forget your lunchbox. You discover your error when you get to work.

2. You find that you have some $20s and three $1 bills in your wallet, as well as another dollar's worth of change. Unfortunately, the machines won't make change for a $20. Bright side: There is that bag of Milky Way Dark miniatures in your locker. You won't starve. Your $4 will get you three soft drinks and a strawberry cheese Danish for lunch.

3. You find out when you get to work that the power had gone out earlier in the day and that everything is fouled up. Trays of mail are being spread manually, like you did it back in the 20th Century. You find that "retro" isn't really that cool after all. And yet, even with all of the inconveniences, the mail still goes out on time. Yeah, you're that good.

4. Finally, when you go out to your car to scrounge for change on your first break, you take a look at the mail you grabbed out of your mailbox on the way to work. Oh, joy! A jury summons for Friday December 1st. Yesterday, I waxed eloquent about "civic duty." Well, jury duty is another one. Hopefully I'll get lucky and not have to serve.


Kerry: Still A Douchebag

Just watched the asshole's press conference. What an arrogant prick! First he makes a stupid statement last night in Los Angeles, about how if you don't study hard and be smart, you'll end up stuck in Iraq. Many have interpreted that to be an insult to the intelligence and education of our troops, although Kerry insists that he was insulting President Bush, not the troops. Perhaps that was what he intended, but it was clumsily done, as was Lurch's trademark in 2004.

In any case, he came off looking like an asshole in his press conference. I still despise him and everything he stands for and am glad I voted against him in 2004. I hope that this boomerangs against both Kerry and the Democrats next Tuesday. Go ahead and offend veterans, you stupid dick! See how it pays off for you.

Hint: I suspect that on November 8th, Kerry is going to be as popular as a California arsonist during the Santa Ana season.

One More Week...

And then we can get this election over and done with. Frankly, I'm sick of hearing about it, but I will go out and vote because I consider it a civic duty. I think that a lot of the same people who were disappointed on Election Day 2004 are going to be disappointed again, no matter what the mainstream media and the pollsters say. I'm deeply, deeply skeptical of the polls, for one simple reason: The people who are sampled in the polls are people who choose to cooperate with the pollsters. Most people don't have the inclination to give 15 or 20 minutes of their free time to some nosy stranger. However, there are some people who are deeply unhappy, and it is human nature to want to share that unhappiness with others. Those are the people who are delighted to give their time to the pollsters, to bend their ears with how much they hate George W. Bush and how unhappy they are with Republicans being in charge and how angry they are about being out of power. The Republicans, who aren't that dissatisfied, say, "Sorry, too busy to talk now" and hang up. Happy people don't take part in polls. This is why the polls have said what they have for so long. Those who are counting on those polls to predict the results of the elections and to "measure the drapes" for their new offices may be in for a rude shock on the night of November 7th.

The bad news is that the would-be candidates for the 2008 presidential race are already starting to scuttle out of the woodwork. A congressman from California made his announcement of an "exploratory committee" yesterday. Ugh! Give us a few months, people! Have the decency to wait until 2007, at least! I think that when the 2008 Florida primary rolls around, I won't vote for anyone who announces his or her candidacy in 2006, just to make the point.

P.S. Happy Halloween!


Things That Make Me Angry

I'm a libertarian at heart. I don't care who sleeps with whom, as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. Note that teenaged girls are not "consenting adults," so I have no pity for Warren Jeffs' polygamist cult. But when I read this AP story, I was ticked off:

Boy Killed in Crash on Sect's Land

ELDORADO, Texas - A 3-year-old boy was killed and another child was injured Thursday when a minivan they were riding in crashed on a ranch owned by polygamist sect led by Warren Jeffs.

Allen Rulon Jeffs was pronounced dead at a local hospital, and 3-year-old Richard Rulon Jeffs was in critical condition Thursday night. Isaac Steed Jeffs Jr., 3, and the driver, Barbara Joy Jessop, were treated and released, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported Friday.

It was unclear whether the victims were related to Warren Jeffs, who has been arrested on charges of forcing a teenage girl to enter a spiritual marriage with an older man. His attorney has said Jeffs believes the case is religious persecution.

A news release from the Schleicher County Sheriff's Department said the minivan hit a boulder while traveling on a gravel road in Eldorado, about 190 miles northwest of San Antonio.

The boys were not wearing seat belts, Sheriff David Doran said. No charges are expected, Sheriff David Doran said.

"No charges are expected." Excuse me, Sheriff, but did you know that it is required by law in the state of Texas that all children under the age of 5 and 36 inches in height be buckled into an approved child safety seat when riding in a car? At the very least, the driver is guilty of breaking that law, as well as negligent homicide in the death of that little boy.

As I said, I'm a libertarian at heart, but not when it comes to wearing seat belts. Seat belts save lives. People who don't buckle up are stupid, and people who don't buckle their children up are stupid AND negligent. I'm sure that the woman's heart is broken, but the law is the law, and it should be enforced so that everyone knows that children have to be buckled up in the car, even if you're a religious cultist. If you have so many kids that you can't afford child safety seats, then get a horse-drawn buggy like the Amish.




First, I'm sure you're wondering about the rest of those Samuel Adams beers I wrote about the other day. I liked the George Washington Porter, which was a strong, thick dark beer. The James Madison Dark Wheat Ale was pretty good too. It was noticeably thinner than the Porter. I didn't like the 1790 Root Beer Brew at all. I had a few sips, said, "Yuck!" and poured the rest down the sink. Three out of four ain't bad, I guess.

Second, on the new 8 GB iPod Nano: This is the best thing since sliced bread. I've had it for a couple of weeks and it lets me carry an astounding amount of music around with me at work. With m0re than two thousand songs to choose from, I can't complain that there's nothing to listen to.

I'm also getting a chance to get re-acquainted with some parts of my CD collection that I haven't listened to in a long time, as well as finding the holes in it when I find that I don't have a certain song that I want to hear. Usually it turns out to be something that I had on cassette at one time or another.

Today, listening to some early Beatles albums (Beatles For Sale, Help!, Please Please Me), I was reminded of the sheer songwriting genius of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Most of the best songs were theirs, and the ones that didn't hold up so well were the ones that others had written. There's some mediocre stuff on those albums, but the ratio of hits to mediocrity is very high. And these guys were putting out two albums a year, plus singles, in the early '60s. They were amazingly prolific.


Testing YouTube

Let's see if this works. This is a Republican campaign video made by David Zucker, the director of movies like "Scary Movie" and "Airplane." I found it at DrudgeReport.com. It's the campaign video that was too hot to handle.


Changing the Subject

I was going to write a lighthearted post today about Columbus Day and wonder how much longer such a politically incorrect holiday could survive.

However, due to certain current events that you might have heard about, I've decided to write about something else instead. One thing's certain: The subject of political discourse is about to change, from a really nothing sex scandal to a serious discussion of national security, missile defense (and those who would block it), and foreign policy mistakes.

For one of the biggest ones, see the archival picture. I really hope that in retrospect, it isn't remembered like the one of Neville Chamberlain getting off the airplane and telling the British people that Herr Hitler was someone that they could work with and that there would be "peace in our time."

Thanks, Madeleine. Thanks, Jimmy. Thanks, Bill. You gave away the farm for absolutely nothing. Way to go.

P.S. Given that the NorKs officially went nuclear on Columbus Day, by which holiday will the Japanese join the club as well? Easter? St. Patrick's Day? Presidents' Day? Martin Luther King Day? The other countries in Asia probably won't like it, but tough shiitake, as they say.


"Have You Ever Seen This Much Lively Robot?"

Steven Den Beste at Chuzumatic pointed me to this site:

"Doukoku" Animatronics & Robots

It brings to mind Frau Farbissener from the Austin Powers movies, shrieking "Bring in the Fembots!" Except these Japanese "Actroids" don't shoot bullets from their jubblies. There's a little bit of Engrish on the page, but most of the sentences make sense. Note that the robots shown on that page appear to be the DER model, but the pictures on Chizumatic are of the new Actroid DER2 model. Here is another picture of the new DER2.

Definitely cuter than C-3PO or R2-D2.


What's On My iPod

Last night, the answer was "not much." I messed up when recharging and synching things up on my iPod yesterday, and clicked on the option to synch my Top 25 Most Played songs. Unfortunately, that was ALL that was on my iPod last night, since it cleared everything else off. It was easy to fix that this morning, and I now have everything back on the iPod. Anyway, here were my limited options for listening last night:

1. "She May Call You Up Tonight" - Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (2006) - This is one of three songs from that CD in my Top 25. The CD is a collection of fifteen covers of '60s songs, some well-known, some obscure. This one is one of the obscure ones, with the original performed by The Left Banke (whose big hit was "Walk Away Renee"). Needless to say, I really like the song.

2. "It's All Been Done" - Barenaked Ladies - Stunt (1998) - A great song with a storyline crammed into 3:26. Have we met before... and before... and before?

3. "And Your Bird Can Sing" - Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (2006) - The original version was on the Beatles' Revolver album, which is also on the iPod. I also have a version of the song on the Beatles' Anthology set where John Lennon giggles his lyrics throughout the song.

4. "Monday, Monday" - Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (2006) - The Mamas and the Papas were the original artists on this one. This version is in a slightly different key. It works for me; it might not work for you.

5. "I'm Down to My Last Cigarette" - k.d. lang - Shadowland (1988) - Yeah, I like country, too. I love her vocals...

6. "I Touch Myself" - Divinyls - Divinyls (1992) - Speaking of vocals, there's only one Christina Amphlett. You'll probably recognize the song if you saw the Austin Powers movies. Remember the scene when he made the Fembots heads' explode? Yeah, it's that song.

7. "Family Tradition" - Cracker - Countrysides (2003) - This comes off an album where Cracker went out and played honkytonks under the name of Ironic Mullet. This is their cover version of one of Hank Williams, Jr.'s signature songs. Sobriety strictly optional.

8. "Mr. Wrong" - Cracker - Cracker (1992) - An amusing song from Cracker's debut CD. I love these guys, so you'll see some more of them further on down the list.

9. "American Jesus" - Bad Religion - Recipe For Hate (1993) - Driving guitars and sardonic lyrics. Great song.

10. "The Metro" - Berlin - Best of Berlin 1979-1988 (1988) - Quintessential '80s synth-pop. The first time I heard it, I thought that it was Debbie Harry and Blondie, but it turned out that I was wrong.

11. "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" - Cracker - Cracker (1992) - "What the world needs now is another folk singer, like I need a hole in my head."

12. "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" - R.E.M. - Eponymous (1998) - I'm kind of surprised that I've played this one more than "It's the End of the World As We Know It," but there you go.

13. "True to You" - Ric Ocasek - This Side of Paradise (1986) - This was the Cars' lead singer's first solo album, and on this song, he has the entire Cars lineup except for drummer David Robinson backing him up. It has the Cars' sound in spades.

14. "Surrender" - Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight (1978) - "Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself awaaay-aaay-aaay-a-hey."

15. "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" - Cracker - Countrysides (2003) - This time, they do Merle Haggard. Again, sobriety strictly optional.

16. "Ain't Gonna Suck Itself" - Cracker - Countrysides (2003) - This was the only song on the CD that wasn't a cover. It's Cracker's way of kissing off their old label, Virgin Records. Rude and funny.

17. "Pictures of Matchstick Men" - Cracker - Hello, Cleveland! (Forever bonus disc) (2002) - "Hey, waitaminute! That's a Camper Van Beethoven song!" you say. And you're right. But David Lowery was in Camper Van Beethoven, which is why he's doing the song on this live disc. Love the wailing guitar chords that open this song.

18. "Used to Love Her" - Guns N' Roses - G N' R Lies (1988) - Yeah, it's misogynistic. Hey, it's a song. Get over it.

19. "Raspberry Beret" - Hindu Love Gods - Hindu Love Gods (1990) - This was Warren Zevon and all of R.E.M. except for Michael Stipe, getting together and jamming on a bunch of classic blues tunes, and this cover of the Prince song. Kicks ass!

20. "She's Vibrator Dependent" - Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper - Root, Hog or Die (1989) - Mojo's not for everyone, but most of his stuff is funny as hell, and this story about a man who's "been replaced by batteries" is one of his funniest.

21. "I've Done Everything For You" - Rick Springfield - Working Class Dog (1981) - Great '80s pop/rock song, written by Sammy Hagar. My favorite song by Springfield was "Bruce," where everyone gets him confused with Springsteen, including his own mother! Unfortunately, I don't have that one. Yet.

22. "Hanging On the Telephone" - Blondie - Parallel Lines (1978) - Unlike the Berlin song listed earlier, I always knew this one was done by Blondie.

23. "Banditos" - The Refreshments - Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy (1996) - Another story song, about a cross-border bank robbery, with the classic lyric "Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people..."

24. "The Riverside" - Cracker - Greenland (2006) - This is my favorite track off their newest CD. It's got an uchronic feel to it, as well as a weird wailing hollow sound that reminds me of the cry of a lonely sea monster. Don't ask me why...

25. "Flagpole Sitta" - Harvey Danger - Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? (1997) - "I'm not sick but I'm not well..." Great song.


Marlins: Stuck On Stupid

In a move that surprised absolutely no one, the Florida Marlins have fired manager Joe Girardi after one season of his three-year contract. This happened despite the fact that Girardi is likely to win the National League Manager of the Year for his heroic achievement of keeping the Marlins in the N.L. wild card race well into September, even though the team had the league's lowest payroll and was largely made up of untested rookies. The team started a horrific 11-31, and it appeared that the prognosticators who had predicted that the Marlins would have the league's worst record were well on the way to being correct. But Girardi helped turn the team's fortunes around, and the Marlins briefly went over .500 in September and were contenders for a wild card playoff berth until a late-season slump. They finished at 78-84, much better than anyone had hoped at the beginning of the season.

So why fire Girardi? Because he had disagreements with the general manager and the owner, including one memorable case where the owner, Jeff Loria, was arguing with the umpire from his box and Girardi told Loria to knock it off because he wasn't helping. Needless to say, almost all sports team owners are self-absorbed egomaniacs to some degree (See Steinbrenner, George; Cuban, Mark; etc.), and Loria was no exception. How dare this, this hireling!, tell him to shut up! At that point, Girardi's fate was sealed, even if the team had managed to sneak into the playoffs and then win the World Series, as they did the last two times they won the wild card berth.

Let's be honest: Girardi did one helluva job getting the young Marlins to play as well as they did and to stay in contention in an admittedly weak National League for as long as they did. Will new manager Fredi Gonzalez be able to do as well? It remains to be seen. The Marlins' loss will be someone else's gain, however, and I expect that Girardi won't be unemployed for very long. He's a Chicago native, so don't be surprised if he ends up managing the Cubs next year.


8 GB? Yes and No

My new iPod arrived on Friday. I had imported more than 7 GB of CDs into the iTunes program on my computer, and was surprised to find out that when I plugged in the iPod to synch it that the actually amount of space on the iPod was not a full 8 GB but only 7.45 GB; I think that the rest of the space is taken up by the operating system. When everything was synched, I only had about 150 MB of space left! Ah, well, time to do some pruning. I unchecked some songs on the CDs where I only really wanted one song anyway, and then put another CD or two on. I've got some more CDs coming from Amazon, so when those arrive I'll have to do some more pruning.

The iPod itself is impressive. It's about the size of one of those Skor candy bars and now contains a sizeable chunk of my CD collection, more than 2000 songs total. It could play for about six days and not play the same selection twice. I can't say "not play the same song twice" because there are some redundancies where I have the same song on one CD and also on a greatest hits CD by the same artist. Don Henley's "Boys of Summer," for instance. I hate to prune the one off the regular CD because it would break up the flow of the disc. (I keep wanting to type "album," which dates me.) Decisions, decisions.


Ripping Tunes

I finally broke down and ordered one of the new-generation iPod Nanos. I got the 8 GB version, which comes in any color you want as long as it is black. There were some cool color options in the 4 GB version (I really liked the blue and green ones), but I decided to go with double the capacity for an additional $50. I downloaded the iTunes 7 software yesterday and now I'm busily importing tunes into it, so that I can synch them onto the iPod when it arrives. The one I got is supposed to be able to hold about 2000 songs. So far, I've ripped about 20 CDs. Right now, I'm just doing the ones where I want the whole disk. Later, I'll go after single songs to fill things out.

So why did I get the 8 GB Nano rather than the 30 GB iPod with video that was about the same cost? Well, to be honest, there are a couple of reasons. First, I'm not gonna be watching videos on that little screen. I wear bifocals, for chrissakes. I wanted a small music player with large capacity and good battery life. The new version of the Nano says it has a battery life of about 24 hours (your mileage may vary), which is twice as long as the older version. It's about the size of a small candy bar, only a quarter-inch thick, and weighs 1.41 ounces, and it has an anodized aluminum casing, which should be much more scratch-resistant than the older version of the Nano. Finally, the main reason I went with the Nano is that it stores the songs in Flash memory, rather than on a hard drive like the 30 GB video version. That means it has no moving parts and isn't going to give me any trouble if it gets bumped or jarred like a hard drive version might. Flash memory is more expensive than a hard drive, but again, the new Nano has about double the capacity of the old one for the price.

Back to ripping...


The Fox News Clinton Interview

I watched Chris Wallace's interview of Bill Clinton on Fox News Sunday earlier tonight. In my opinion, Clinton didn't come off very well. The more he talked about how hard he tried to take out Osama bin Laden during his presidency, the less credible he was, and the finger-wagging just brought back the whole "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" vibe.

The hard fact is that he had numerous opportunities to take out bin Laden and didn't do so. His administration wasn't serious about Islamic terrorism, any more than the preceding administrations going back to Jimmy Carter were. Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton: All were guilty of fecklessness to a greater or lesser degree. However, the political will was not there to deal with Islamic terrorism; the American people wouldn't have supported a major war to stamp it out, prior to 9/11. Indeed, even after 3000 people were murdered on 9/11, there still is a significant portion of the American people who won't support the war on terrorism, because their enemy isn't foreign terrorists but rather the current Republican administration. And that, truly, is a problem. Those who feel more in common with Hugo Chavez than George W. Bush should probably take a good, hard look at themselves, not that it would likely do them any good.

Carter and Reagan, and to a lesser extent Bush 41, at least had the excuse that Islamic terrorism was a secondary priority because the top priority was dealing with the Soviet Union. From 1946-1991, that was the number one foreign policy issue: Containing the Russians. Clinton didn't have that excuse. Instead, he was holding down the no-fly zones in Iraq and conducting a bombing campaign in the Balkans, while trying to deal with the domestic scandals brought on by his personal peccadillos. He was standing on the beach, facing the wrong way as the tsunami approached, and he didn't even see it coming. But the rest of us didn't see it either. Our "holiday from history" mentality wouldn't let us take seriously the "declaration of war" on us by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

And so the Towers fell.

Like a lot of people, I don't really care about pointing fingers of blame about what happened prior to 9/11. EVERYBODY dropped the ball, and nobody is blameless. What I care about is where we've gone since 9/11, and what we are doing to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Clinton's self-aggrandizing defensiveness doesn't help.