Tasty Treats

Sometimes you're at the store and you see something new that looks good, so you buy it on impulse. That's what happened to me the other day when I spotted the new Caribou Coffee Chewy Granola Bars in the snack food section. I bought a box of the Chocolate Mocha flavored bars, and I must say that they are, indeed, tasty. When I opened the foil wrapper, I was rewarded with the savory eye-opening scent of coffee. The chocolate mocha layer at the bottom of the bar goes very well with the granola. If you like chocolate, coffee and granola, then you'll probably want to try them. Don't expect them to replace your morning cup 'o Joe, though, because they only have about 5 milligrams of caffeine, compared to about 85 milligrams in a cup of coffee, according to this article I read about the Caribou Coffee bars. And no, I'd never heard of Caribou Coffee before.


Say It Ain't So, Floyd

So over the weekend, American cyclist Floyd Landis pulled off a great comeback in Stage 17 of the Tour de France, and then went on to win the race. It was one of those great sports stories where an athlete battles through a painful injury to victory. Or so we thought.

Today, the news has broken that Landis failed a drug test after Stage 17, testing positive for high levels of testosterone. They're going to do a test on another sample, and it could theoretically just be a false positive, but it looks like Landis may soon join the ranks of disgraced cheaters like Rosie Ruiz and the 1919 Black Sox.

What's really amazing is how Landis thought he could get away with it, assuming that he's guilty. I mean, they test these guys' urine samples almost every time they unzip their pants, and they freeze it to test later in case a new "gotcha" test comes up ten years from now. Ask Lance Armstrong. The cycling federation probably has a full freezer of his samples at their headquarters. If you ever go there and they offer you a popsicle, don't take one of the lemon ones.

Well, they never could get Lance, so I'm sure they'll be happy to nail another American to their cross in his place. One of the Europeans will win instead and all will be right with the world.

Say it ain't so, Floyd...

"I'm sorry, kid, I'm afraid it is."


Cool/Not Cool

Cool: Could this be YOUR next car? A Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car that can go up to 250 miles on a single charge and achieve speeds of 130 miles per hour! What's the catch? The price tag (estimated at $100,000+, according to the CBS News story I saw about it the other day) and the fact that you will have to live in California or the New York City, Chicago or Miami metropolitan areas in order to buy one, since that's where the service centers will be, at least initially. But if you're a high roller and live in the right place...

Not Cool: Maybe you saw that snarky MSNBC moonbat Keith Olbermann pulled a juvenile stunt at some TV critics dinner over the weekend, donning a paper mask of FOX News host Bill O'Reilly and then giving the crowd a Nazi salute. Well, Ace at Ace of Spades HQ has Olbermann's number, and that number is "ten":

Top Ten Ways In Which Keith Olbermann Alleges Bill O'Reilly Is Just Like Hitler

Perfect, Ace!


Kiwis to Cop: Don't Give Up Your Day Job, Honey

Funny story of the day:

Cop's Night Job As Hooker Is Nixed

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A New Zealand policewoman has been censured for some unauthorized "undercover" work - a stint moonlighting as a prostitute - but is being allowed to keep her day job after giving up the night duties.

While prostitution is legal in New Zealand and police are allowed to take approved second jobs, a top officer said sex work and police work don't mix.


A spokeswoman for the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective said that depending on the brothel in which she worked, the police officer could have earned 500 New Zealand dollars (US$312) on a busy night.

Had she heard of other police officers moonlighting as sex workers?

"We have law students that are sex workers, we have doctors that are sex workers, I mean anyone can be a sex worker," the woman said, asking that she not be named due to the sensitive nature of her job.

The "New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective"? Brings a whole new meaning to the jingle "Look For the Union Label", doesn't it?


The Long View

I'm annoyed, because this post has gotten munched twice, either by Blogger or more likely by Internet Explorer. I've REALLY got to download Firefox and give IE the heave-ho.

I'm reading Collapse by Jared Diamond, which is about "how societies choose to fail or succeed" in dealing with environmental issues like climate change, deforestation, soil and water depletion, pollution, etc. One recurring theme in the book is how societies settle in places where they can thrive when the climate is optimal, but where they may not be able to survive when the climate changes.

The Norse settlements in Greenland are a perfect example of this. The Norse settled there around 1000 A.D. when the climate was warmer than it is now, but died out when the climate became much colder in the 1300s. Another example is the Anasazi tribes of the American Southwest, who thrived when rain was plentiful, but died out during a prolonged drought, which recurred in that area on a multi-decadal cycle.

We are not well-equipped to discern those kind of long-term patterns. We see things as they are and we believe, deep down in our gut, that they have always been that way and more importantly, should always remain that way. We see the coastline and see it as something permanent, never mind the occasional hurricane that rearranges a barrier island or two. We see the continents and think of them as fixed and immutable, not as drifting around and even bumping into each other.

But the Himalayas continue to grow higher, and the northern portion of the North American continent also rises a little bit every year, because it is still rebounding from the crushing weight of the ice sheets that melted away more than ten-thousand years ago. The world is not in a state of stasis, nor has it ever been. The climate is always constantly changing between warm and cold, wet and dry. Nothing stays the same; everything is cyclical.

This all crystallized for me yesterday when I read a comment on another blog about the Middle East situation, which noted "After all, we are in a 'Fourth Turning' now." That brought to mind that book, The Fourth Turning, which I read back in 1996. It was eerily prescient:

The Fourth Turning offers this bold prophecy:

Just after the millennium, America will enter a new era that will culminate with a crisis comparable to the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. The survival of the nation will almost certainly be at stake.

Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history as a series of recurring 80- to 100-year cycles. Each cycle has four "turnings"-a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling, and a Crisis. The authors locate today's America as midway through an Unraveling, roughly a decade away from the next Crisis (or Fourth Turning). And they recommend ways Americans can prepare for what's ahead, as a nation and as individuals

You might find their web site interesting, since it has several excerpts from the book. And again, nothing stays the same. Everything is cyclical.


This and That

Name spotted in the mail last night: Jo King. And no, I'm not...

I watched the Shuttle land on television a little while ago. I was hoping to be able to see it come in over us from the southwest, but all we got was the loud double sonic boom as it crossed overhead. I went outside and looked, but not so much as a contrail. I was just glad that it made it down okay.

Fox News has a new musical theme for their "Mideast Turmoil" graphic. It's more ominous and foreboding than the martial drumbeat music they have been using whenever the Israelis and the Arabs are in conflict, although that's just my impression from one hearing. (Update: It might have been a one-off thing. They're back to the martial drumbeat music now.)

Yeah, it's a slow news day here.

I'm just watching the news to see what's going on with the war. I read an analysis on OPFOR called "Prepping the Battlespace," and it's well worth reading for anyone who wants to understand what is really going on. The comments on that post are also interesting to any would-be military analysts.


Hell In A Handbasket

I was going to write at length about the scourge of Muslim terrorism, but you probably already know how I feel about it and I've already vented in the comments of several other blogs. Short and sweet: Israel needs to kick some serious ass, going all the way to Damascus and Tehran, since that's the source of the current shitstorm swirling around the Middle East. As Machiavelli said, it's better to be feared than loved, and since nobody is going to love Israel (or the United States), then it's best that their enemies know that attacks on their citizens will be met with overwhelming punishment. Go get 'em, Israel. Mazel tov!


Be Careful What You Wish For

I saw in the news that a Texas judge has denied the Republican party's request to replace former Rep. Tom DeLay, who resigned his seat in June, on the ballot for November's Texas 22nd congressional district election, since DeLay won the Republican primary earlier in the year. The Democrats wanted his name to remain on the ballot, thinking it would give them an easy win in November. They should think again.

They think they've driven the stake through the vampire's heart. They think they've slain the dragon. They should think again.

All they've done is rile up the Republicans who make up the majority of the voters in the Texas 22nd district. A lot of them are going to resent the Democrats' tactics here, and they'll go out and vote for DeLay just to spit in the eye of those who say they should vote for the Democrat or not vote at all. The man in that article who says that he would have been undecided until the judge's ruling but will now vote for DeLay is a perfect example of pure Texas orneriness.

I think it's going to come back and bite the Democrats in the butt. They were rid of DeLay, he'd already moved out of state, and all they needed to do was run their candidate against an unknown Republican without the advantages of incumbency. Instead, it looks like they'll get a reinvigorated Tom DeLay who will be cast as a sympathetic figure, not as an ethically-challenged career politician. And truth to tell, he's certainly no worse than Senator Harry "Fight Club" Reid (D-Nevada), the minority leader of the Senate, or Representative William "Cold Hard Cash" Jefferson (D-Louisiana) or Representative Alan "Ethics, Shmethics" Mollohan (D-West Virginia). And I won't even mention the latest Pardongate allegations involving the Rodham and Clinton families (although I will say the Latin phrase "quid pro quo").

The dragon wasn't dead, only wounded, and the would-be dragonslayers capering around what they thought was a corpse may be about to get a very nasty surprise. I hope that DeLay roasts them good, just so that I can listen to the Democrats scream.


At the Movies

I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest yesterday, like a lot of people did over the weekend. I went to an 11:15 a.m. showing, and our theater was probably about 3/4 full.

If you've read the reviews, you probably know that they're mixed. Some reviewers thought it was too long, some didn't like the cliffhanger ending that requires you to go back next year and plunk down more money, and some though the movie was hard to follow, especially some of the dialogue and plot points. I thought the movie was pretty good, and if you saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and liked it, then you're probably already planning to see it.

Warning: If you didn't see the first movie, don't make the same mistake as Slate movie reviewer Dana Stevens, who went to PotC: DMC and didn't like it, and freely admits in her review that she didn't see the first one.

Man, it's too bad that there's no way to have movies on DVD or something like that, so you could watch them at home. Oh, wait, there is such a thing, isn't there? C'mon, Dana, you're a journalist. How about doing a little background research and watching PotC: CotBP first, so that you actually understood what was going on in the second movie?

It's kind of like going to see The Empire Strikes Back without seeing Star Wars first. And indeed, it's a similar situation, because it was only the success of the first movie of each trilogy that led to the second and third movies being made. You can't start a trilogy by watching the middle part first, if you want to understand who the characters are and why they are doing what they are doing. So see PotC: CotBP first, if you haven't already, or don't waste your money.

Anyway, back to PotC: DMC: It is, indeed, rather long at 2 hours, 30 minutes run time, but it's such a thrill ride that the time passes quickly. Be sure to take care of any necessary restroom visit before the movie starts, and don't order the super-jumbo sized drink, even though it's only 50 cents more than the small drink. Your bladder will thank you.

All of your favorite characters from the first movie appear in this sequel, including one at the very end that I was not expecting to see. Spoiler warning: Highlight white area to reveal hidden text, if you want to know who it is. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), the villain who apparently was killed at the end of the first movie, but shows up in the final scene of PotC: DMC.

The verdict: It succeeds as a summer action/adventure movie, and it sets the stage for what will likely be my next visit to the movie theater to see the next part of the story around Memorial Day weekend, 2007. I don't really like going to the movies, since people's heads are in the way, etc. I've been spoiled by DVDs, which allow me to see the whole screen, pause the movie if I want to deal with something else momentarily, etc. There are, however, some movies you really do want to experience on the big screen, and this is one of them.


By Their Steps Shall Ye Know Them

You can generally tell how evil a nation's government is by the way their soldiers march while on parade. If their soldiers are goose-stepping, the odds are pretty good that they are also oppressing and killing their own people, as well as anyone else they can. North Korea, the former regime in Iraq, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany... All goose-steppers. American soldiers, by contrast, don't goose-step.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. I saw some footage on television of Palestinian terrorists marching down the street, and not only were they not goose-stepping, most of them were completely out of step, which was hilarious to watch. They're not military professionals, just thugs and goons, and they have to use bombs to kill people because they usually can't hit anything with rifle fire. Well, they can hit the air when they fire their guns up in the air to celebrate a terrorist attack, but that's about it.

So that's the corollary to the "Goose-steppers are evil" rule: "People in pseudo-military uniforms (and ski masks! Don't forget the ski masks!) who can't march in step are evil, too."


Short and Sweet

North Korean Missiles: Looks like Kim Jong Il needs some of Rush Limbaugh's Viagra. When you can't keep it up for longer than 40 seconds, you have a problem.

Islamists in Somalia Shoot, Kill Two Soccer Fans: You know a country is a real armpit of the world when the anarchist warlords they used to have are a better, kinder form of government than what they have now.

Turning 60 Today: President Bush and Sylvester Stallone. Really! They both share the same birthday. July 6, 1946 was a good day for the cowboy-Rambo types.


Not Peachy Keen

Offered without comment:

Little Mr. Apricot Flips Off Crowd, Loses Title

It was another weekend of royalty in Patterson, and the parade queens were on their best behavior.

“I would never do it, it’s not queen worthy,” said one of the queens.

What she's talking about is what happened last month at the Apricot festival, when the newly-crowned Little Mr. Apricot, 4-year old Matthew Burgos, raised his middle finger to the crowd!

One For the Ladies

I called my mom yesterday afternoon and we had a nice conversation. She mentioned that she had gone to Boston recently for a Microsoft conference, and then she regaled me with an anecdote which I know that my female readers will probably appreciate. This isn't word-for-word, but it's close enough:

"You might not find this amusing, but I did," she told me. "Most of the people attending the conference were men, probably between 80-90%, which reflects the ratio of men to women in the IT field. Well, during the breaks, when people would head to the restrooms, there were long lines coming out the door of the men's restroom but no lines at all for the women's! In fact, I probably never saw more than a couple of other women in the restroom at all. It was an interesting turnabout from the usual situation."


The Road Not Taken

The road to Titusville, to be exact. I had been planning to drive up there yesterday for the possible shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center, but when I read the weather reports on Friday, I realized that it probably wouldn't be a good idea to go. The weather predictions were for a 60% chance of thunderstorms and anvil clouds in the vicinity, which would scrub the launch. Given that it's a 200-mile drive each way, a seven-hour drive round trip, and about a dozen gallons of gas, those odds just weren't good enough. I'm willing to invest all of that for a couple of minutes of close-up sound and fury if the shuttle actually goes up, but for a scrubbed launch...

Anyway, sure enough, the launch was postponed by the weather, so I felt vindicated for making the right decision. I still want to see a shuttle launch, though. It just needs to be in the winter or spring when the weather is more pleasant and predictable, and on one of my days off. Maybe someday.

Not Ready To Make Nice With the Dixie Chicks

When my dad and I got together for lunch a couple of weeks ago, we talked about the new Dixie Chicks CD, as well as the challenges they are facing in getting their fans to show up for concerts in "red states" after their recent comments. I made pretty clear my disdain for Natalie Maines' airheaded "Why do we need to be patriotic?" buffoonery. My dad likes their music, however, even if he doesn't necessarily agree with their Bush-hating political views.

I mentioned that I had a gift picked out for him for Fathers' Day, but that it wouldn't come out until July 4th, and that if there was a book or a DVD or a CD that he would like, to let me know. He said he'd think about it.

I called him a few days later on his birthday and asked him if he'd decided on anything he wanted, and he then told me that he would like the new Dixie Chicks CD.

"Okay," I told him evenly, "if that's what you want, that's what I'll get for you."

I called him again a few days after that to set up a lunch date for this past Friday. I told him that I'd gotten the CD for him and would bring it with me.

"Did it bother you to buy it?" he asked. "I mean, I didn't really mean it to be some sort of test or anything like that. I only realized it might sound that way after I asked for it."

"Dad, it was no problem," I told him. "I love my dad more than I loathe their politics. I didn't really think of it as financially supporting them as much as getting something for you that you wanted. And I bought it at Wal-Mart, which I'm sure that the Dixie Chicks would disapprove of."

He chuckled and offered to let me listen to the CD if I wanted. I told him that I'd pass.