Just For Britney

The perfect song, by Suicidal Tendencies: "Institutionalized"

We Are Not Amused

That's not the "royal We," by the way. No, it's my friend Barbara and me. We are of an age, and it's an age that is still on the sunny side of 50 by a couple of years.

Well, yesterday Barbara e-mailed me a picture of a mailing that she got from the AARP -- whose membership is open to those 50 and over, and their spouses. Barbara doesn't meet either of those qualifications. I told her that there must be some mistake, and asked her if she might have perhaps had a fake ID at some point in order to purchase adult beverages. She denied ever having a fake ID. It was a mystery.

So this morning, I'm looking through yesterday's mail and what do I see? Sure enough, a mailing from the AARP, inviting me to join and offering to help me "make the most of life over 50." Only one slight problem: I don't turn 50 until 2010! They must be hard up for membership or else somebody really screwed up. It's strange, because usually people can count on "getting AARPed" right around their 50th birthday. Maybe their membership screener was having a "senior moment" or two.


Spotted in the Valentine's Day Candy Aisle

Walking along the holiday aisle, I spotted all of the usual Valentine's Day candy: Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, conversation hearts, Hershey's Kisses in various and sundry flavors (New York Cheesecake Creme? Cherry Cordial?), etc. And one thing I hadn't expected to see: Packages of all-green M&M's candies.

Now, why would there be packages of all-green M&M's in the Valentine's Day candy aisle? Because the urban legend has it that green M&M's are an aphrodisiac.

Is it true? Well, Ms. Green certainly hints that it is. "Green is the new color of love," the M&M's press release tells us. You'd better get them quickly if you want them, though, since the all-green packages will only be available through Valentine's Day.

You know, M&M's is actually missing a trick on this, since they should keep the all-green packages available for another month -- through St. Patrick's Day, the traditional "green" holiday. I'm not the one running their marketing department, however.


Teddy: Get In the Cah, Hillary

As if having JFK's daughter endorse Barack Obama wasn't bad enough for Hillary Clinton, now word comes that Uncle Teddy is going to endorse Obama as well: Ted Kennedy embraces Obama

The powerful senior Senator from Massachusetts is a major player in Democrat party politics, and many Hispanics like him because of his co-sponsorship (with Republican John McCain) of the amnesty bill for illegal aliens, which might peel off some of the Hispanic support that Hillary currently enjoys.

Like me, most Republicans find Ted Kennedy a repugnant figure, but for people in his party, he's as much a hero as Josef Stalin is to this day among many Russians. (Although, to be fair, Ted Kennedy has killed a lot fewer people than Stalin did.) This is not an inconsequential endorsement for Democrats.

One piece of advice for Hillary: Keep your scuba gear handy.


A Cautionary Tale From Across the Pond

As you no doubt know, one of the plans that all of the Democrat presidential candidates have for us is "universal health care." While perhaps a laudable goal in humanitarian terms, the de facto end result is that we could end up with the same sort of situation that exists in places like Canada and Great Britain, where health care is nationalized. Anyone who lives in a state that borders Canada knows about the Canadians who eschew their "free" health care and come south to the United States to get treatment.

Why? Because since the government medical system is not capable of treating everyone, care is rationed, and people have to wait for months or years to get their "free" health care, possibly dying before they can get it. Better to cross the border and pay for it and live to tell the tale.

The other problem with a nationalized health care system is that ultimately, the government (or its employees, the government-paid doctors) decides who gets health care and who doesn't. This results in nanny state abuses in places like Britain, where those who don't meet healthy lifestyle guidelines may not get treatment. If you're fat or a smoker or an alcoholic, well, you did it to yourself, so why should we treat you? If you're old, well it's just not actuarially sound to give you that expensive, life-saving operation. Sorry, old chap. Keep a stiff upper lip.

I cannot understand why anyone in this country would want to put the government in charge of health care. These are the same gimlet-eyed folks who do your tax audit. The system is bad enough without putting government bureaucrats in control of it.

Update: Richard Fernandez at The Belmont Club has an interesting post about this same subject. So does Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters.

Caroline, No

Where did your long hair go
Where is the girl I used to know
How could you lose that happy glow
Oh, Caroline no

So not only did Hillary Clinton get clobbered by Barack Obama in yesterday's South Carolina Democrat primary, but now Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president John F. Kennedy, has endorsed Barack Obama in a New York Times editorial. It seems that she sees him as better embodying the legacy of her father than Hillary Clinton does.

Who took that look away
I remember how you used to say
You'd never change, but that's not true
Oh, Caroline you

The Clintons, like most middle-aged Democrats, have fond memories of the short administration of President Kennedy. Indeed, one picture that Bill Clinton used extensively was one of himself as a starstruck teenager posing with President Kennedy.

Break my heart
I want to go and cry
It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
Oh, Caroline why?

Ms. Kennedy has always been a very private person and has rarely if ever endorsed a presidential candidate. She thinks that Obama could be as inspirational to this generation as her father was to young, idealistic people in the early 1960s. That may or may not be true, but it certainly is an unwelcome endorsement to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Could I ever find in you again
The things that made me love you so much then
Could we ever bring 'em back once they have gone
Oh, Caroline no

(lyrics by Brian Wilson)


Just a Rock

Perhaps you saw the story in the news where NASA debunked the conspiracy theorists:
NASA: Mystery Creature On Mars Is Wind-Carved Rock

An image of a mysterious human-like creature on Mars that sparked a flurry of Internet activity is not an alien but a feature of the atmosphere, according to NASA.

The image, which was captured by NASA's spacecraft Spirit last November, circulated the Internet this week.

After seeing the photo, some called the image the equivalent of Big Foot pictures and evidence of an alien presence on Mars.

A version of the image was even magnified to show the apparent creature walking with his head tilted to the side.

However, NASA said the creature is a feature of the atmosphere -- a rock 2 inches high and carved by the Martian winds, according to a CBS News report Thursday.
Darn! That would have been pretty cool, wouldn't it? It just goes to show that the human eye sees what it expects to see. We see images in the clouds, we connect stars together into constellations, and we see a humanoid shape in a picture of a rock, because our eyes are very good at seeing humanoid shapes. Our minds try to make order out of chaos and sense out of nonsense, because we don't like chaos or nonsense.


Tragedy Averted

For someone, at least. Seems that Chicago radio station WJMK-FM 104.3 decided to cancel their "Win a Date With Drew" contest. "Drew" being Drew Peterson, the ex-cop whose current wife disappeared a few months ago and whose most recent previous wife died under circumstances that the coroner has now declared were homicide.

Now, how hard up for a date would a woman have to be to want to go out with a guy like that? I think that any woman who does decide to go out with Mr. Peterson should invest in one of those radio chips, so that the authorities would at least be able to find her body, as opposed to the current missing Mrs. Peterson. It would be the considerate thing for such a hypothetical woman to do.


Exit Fred, Stage Right

I was a bit disappointed to see that Fred Thompson has dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. I liked his policy positions better than any of the other Republican candidates. At this point, I'm going to have to look seriously at the other major Republican candidates, since the Florida primary election is next Tuesday. (Florida is a "closed primary" state, so as a registered Republican, I can only vote for Republican candidates in the primary.)

When I went to the library on Saturday, I found out that it was one of the five "early voting" locations in the county. Floridians are allowed to vote early if they want to do so, but instead of going to their local precinct, they go to one of the central locations. Also, Floridians are allowed to vote by absentee ballot if they wish to do so. The post office encourages postal employees to do so, since it increases the first class mail volume.

However, this Fred Thompson situation is a perfect example of why I wait until Election Day to vote: So that my vote isn't wasted if circumstances change between voting early and Election Day. Had I voted at the library on Saturday, I would almost certainly have cast my ballot for Fred Thompson. I can say for sure that I won't be voting for Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee, since they both rub me the wrong way. Other than that, I'm officially "undecided" at this point.


Pass the Popcorn

Did you see that Democrat debate last night on CNN? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton got downright nasty with each other. "Corporate lackey!" "Slumlord mouthpiece!" Such malice! I found it quite entertaining. John Podhoretz at Commentary magazine noted about Senator Clinton:
It was not a good moment for her, to put it mildly. Angry and condescending in the same instant, not to mention proudly triumphant, she looked like a Disney villainess at the second she finished her attack.
I'm thinking Cruella DeHille.


Sucks To Be Them

Once upon a time, Zimbabwe was a reasonably prosperous country, at least by African standards. That has all been changed by the corruption and foolish mismanagement of the government of President Robert Mugabe, whose land reforms have lead to food shortages and hyperinflation. How bad is it?

Zimbabwe bank issues $10million bill - but it won't even buy you a hamburger in Harare

A hamburger there runs $15 million Zimbabwe dollars, which is around $6 U.S. That's if you can actually find a hamburger, what with shortages of bread, meat and just about everything else.

This, by the way, is after they slashed three zeros from their old currency in August 2006. Zimbabwe has hyperinflation running at an official rate of about 25,000 percent, but as the article notes, unofficially it's probably closer to 150,000 percent. Official unemployment is around 80%.

Thank your lucky stars that you are not a Zimbabwean.

Coming Attractions

What do Harrison Ford (age 65) and Sylvester Stallone (age 61) have in common? Both have action movies that will be coming to theaters soon that reprise their starring roles in movie series from the 1980s. Ford will be starring in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which continues the popular Indiana Jones trilogy that came out between 1981 and 1989. Stallone's Rambo, which comes out this Friday, brings back the popular character from the Rambo trilogy that was released between 1982 and 1988.

Twenty years is a long time to go between films, especially when those two decades are the ones between an actor's 40s and his 60s. There's a lot of water under the bridge there. Stallone, at least, looks great for his age. I saw him on Letterman the other night and he appeared to be really fit, especially for a man of his age. The Wikipedia article about the upcoming Indiana Jones movie notes that Ford "spent three hours a day at a gym, and relied on a high-protein diet of fish and vegetables" to get in shape for the role.

Of the two movies, I'm far more likely to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, simply because I really liked the Indiana Jones movies. I hope that this sequel can live up to the quality of the rest of the series and not just be an exercise in nostalgia.


Say What?!

Sometimes you read something that is just gobsmackingly stupid. This article from the London Daily Mail is one of those things:
Government renames Islamic terrorism as 'anti-Islamic activity' to woo Muslims

Ministers have adopted a new language for declarations on Islamic terrorism.

In future, fanatics will be referred to as pursuing "anti-Islamic activity".

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said that extremists were behaving contrary to their faith, rather than acting in the name of Islam.

Security officials believe that directly linking terrorism to Islam is inflammatory, and risks alienating mainstream Muslim opinion.

In other news, the Holocaust is being renamed "the Period of anti-German activity" and the Spanish Inquisition is being renamed "the Period of anti-Catholic activity." Politically correct history departments may have future recommendations for other renamings as well.

My comment, which may or may not be published on the Daily Mail's web site, was that "Jacqui Smith needs a new wardrobe to go with her new language. On with your burqa, luv. We wouldn't want you to offend any Muslims by walking around half-dressed like that."

Note also the picture of "The alleged terror attack on Glasgow Airport last summer," with two alleged men putting out the alleged fire burning where the alleged SUV had allegedly crashed into the alleged building. Allegedly.


More Than Meets The Eye

There are a lot of strange things out there that we miss because they are just too small for us to see. Fortunately, there are microscopes out there to magnify them for us.

Offered for your consideration, the EIPBN 2007 Nanofabrication Bizarre/Beautiful Micrograph Contest, sponsored by Zyvex Labs (Note that there are a LOT of pictures on this page, so it may take a while to load). If you want to see the winners from previous contests going back as far as 1995, see this page. EIPBN stands for Electron, Ion and Photon Beam Technology and Nanofabrication, by the way.



Here's a story about an Aussie bloke who tried to use his disarming charm on a couple of sheilas, and found himself disarmed: Waving at girls costs man his arm
CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian man who waved out of a car window at two young women was expected to lose his arm Monday after it was almost severed by another passing vehicle.

The 20-year-old was a passenger in a pick-up truck at Bunbury, in Western Australia state, when he waved at two women in a car wash.

But as he put his arm out the driver made a right hand turn and the man's limb was struck and almost torn off by an oncoming four-wheel-drive.

"His left arm was partially severed and doctors believe the limb may need to be amputated," police said.

Crikey! It's all fun and games until someone loses an arm. I'm a bit confused, though. Australians, like Britons, drive on the left side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right side, and the passenger side is the left side, the opposite of American cars and trucks. So this guy is waving his left arm out of the passenger side (left) window as the driver makes a right turn. The oncoming traffic should have been on the driver's side of the truck, right? So how did the oncoming 4x4 smack into the passenger's arm?


Other Movie Stuff

Spotted in the previews the other day: The live action version of Speed Racer. Yes, they're tapping old cartoons for inspiration for new movies. Not like it hasn't been done before. I also saw a poster (but no preview) for a new movie version of Get Smart, based on the television show from the 1960s. Sorry, but you just can't replace Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.


Movie Review: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

I had lunch with my dad yesterday and then we went to the movie theater and saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets, starring Nicolas Cage. I had read a review in the local newspaper which gave the movie only 1-1/2 stars, calling it "Dumb fun, emphasis on 'dumb'." We enjoyed the movie, but there were some plot holes big enough to drop Mount Rushmore in. It was kind of like Indiana Jones meets Mission Impossible, with beautiful scenery and nonstop action that was moving so quickly that it was difficult to say, "Hey, wait a minute!" while the movie was going on. Afterwards, in retrospect, there were plenty of things to say that about.

Spoilers follow in white text. Drag your mouse over the white block to read them.

First, after the big car chase scene in London, with multiple crashes and much gunfire, how in the world did they get out of England and back to the U.S. without being detained by the authorities? You have to show identification to get on an airplane, and the cops and Scotland Yard would have been watching the airports and the Chunnel very intently at the customs points. Second, after Gates kidnaps the President at Mount Vernon, and escapes with the Secret Service and the FBI hot on his heels, how do they all make it all the way to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota without being captured? Again, there's no way that they could fly, since they would be at the very tip-top of the FBI's most wanted list. And there are only so many routes going to Mount Rushmore. Gates tells Wilkinson (the movie's villain) that the FBI is on the way, right behind them, as they walk up Mount Rushmore. What, the FBI doesn't have radios and telephones any more to call ahead and capture them? Dumb.

But the movie was beautiful to watch, and fun while it lasted. Worth seeing if you saw the first one and liked it, as long as you have a very strong ability to suspend disbelief, at least temporarily.

Other things: Before the movie, there was a Walt Disney cartoon short featuring Goofy, with a title something like "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater System." It was hilarious. Made in 2007, there were a lot of little retro touches, like when Goofy goes to the Shiny Things big box store to get his electronics. The parking lot is filled with cartoon cars that look like they came straight from the 1950s.

There was also a trailer for the movie Hancock, starring Will Smith, that is scheduled for release on July 2nd. This one really looked funny, with Smith's down-on-his-luck superhero crashing through freeway signs, derailing careening freight trains and hurling a beached whale back out into the ocean -- and knocking over a sailboat in the process.

That trailer may not be representative of the whole movie, but if it is, then it could very well be one of the biggest movies of the summer.


How's That Global Warming Thing Going?

Snow falls on Baghdad for first time in memory

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Snow fell on Baghdad on Friday for the first time in memory, and delighted residents declared it an omen of peace.

"It is the first time we've seen snow in Baghdad," said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. "We've seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished," he said.

When snow starts showing up in places where it hasn't been seen in living memory, it tends to make a person skeptical about global warming.


It is human nature to complain when things go wrong, as I did yesterday. We blow things out of proportion, we dramatize them more than we should: "Oh, woe is me."

Sometimes something happens to instantly snap things back into perspective, to show that things really aren't that bad, and that instead of grousing about minor things, we should be thankful that we are even around to complain. Last night, when I got to work, I learned that one of our maintenance supervisors had died while on a hunting trip, apparently from a heart attack in his sleep. He was 43, according to the death notice in this morning's newspaper. Mike was a good guy, and it's a damn shame that he died so young. The tragic news really cast a pall over the whole night.

So for today, I'm not complaining about anything. Any day that you're on the right side of the dirt is a good day. Carpe diem, folks.


One of Those Days

Some days are effortless; everything comes together like it should and runs smoothly.

Today was not one of those days.

I was running on short sleep, since I had stayed up past my bedtime reading a book. Add on various petty annoyances, a paper cut near the end of the day, and a horrifically bad mailing that came apart running through the machine, and you had all the ingredients for a forgettable day.

That mailing was one of the worst I've ever seen. I didn't feed it through the machine the first time, but it didn't really look that bad until it went through the machine, popped the seals on the back end and ripped the cover part with the address off on most of the mail pieces. By the time we were through running that mail, I had a half-tray filled with shredded pieces for the Rewraps people to play with, and I would cheerfully have signed the death warrant for the person who designed that mailing. And not some wimpy "lethal injection," either! Whoever came up with that mailing deserves to suffer for a while.


What A Difference A Day Makes

Hillary Clinton is on Fox News Channel right now, talking with the Fox & Friends morning crew about her surprising victory yesterday in New Hampshire over Barack Obama. As a registered Republican who doesn't plan to vote for her, I have to say that she sounds good, and seems to be much warmer than we usually see her. When she's speaking in a normal tone of voice, rather than raising her voice to orate, she doesn't sound too annoying. She even sounds convincing when she talks about wanting to help other people. At the very least, she sounds like she believes it.

Senator Clinton has a lot to be happy about this morning. All of the polls said that Obama was probably going to win by a comfortable margin. Instead, Hillary won in a close contest, 39%-36% over Obama, with John Edwards finishing a distant third and Bill Richardson an also-ran. Yesterday, all of the news was that Hillary's campaign was in panic mode and that there would be a shake-up coming today, with veteran Democrat pit bulls James Carville and Paul Begala coming in with crash carts to slap the paddles on an arrhythmic campaign. Now, all of that talk is on hold. The reports of Hillary's demise seem to have been greatly exaggerated.

Why are the New Hampshire results so surprising, other than the fact that all of the polling had Obama in the lead? Well, the Granite State has an open primary, meaning that independents who are not registered as either Democrats or Republicans can still participate in the primaries. Indeed, members of either party are free to cross the aisle and vote in either primary. The independents were expected to break heavily for Obama, with an expected bandwagon effect after his Iowa victory. Everybody loves a winner, right? It appears, however, that the independents who voted for Obama weren't enough to offset whatever support Hillary had from the Democrat party base. And many of those independents might have thought that Obama's victory was a fait acccompli, since he was up so much in the polls, so they may have decided to vote for Republican John McCain instead.

Two things are certain after yesterday: People will take those polls with a grain of salt, and Hillary and Obama seem headed for a long, hard battle for the Democrat nomination. It should be entertaining.

After Hillary went off Fox News Channel, they had Madeleine Albright on. It appears that at least Hillary's campaign has overcome the Democrats' aversion to FNC. I know that many Democrats are suspicious of the network, since it doesn't have the liberal bias of other news networks like CNN and MSNBC. A few months back, the Democrats canceled a debate sponsored by FNC, mainly because of pressure from some extremist elements in the party. At this point, it looks like the Democrat candidates will take free news exposure where they can get it, even from networks with a more conservative viewpoint.


Hot On the iPod Today

This is "Everything I Wanted," one of the new Bangles songs I added to my collection from the Glitter Years: Rarities & Gems CD. It was also on their Greatest Hits CD. It's a great song and I've been pumping the play count. This video is made from footage compiled from their other videos. Enjoy.

Gazing At the Granite State

New Hampshire primary today. The vote count is already in from the tiny hamlet of Dixville Notch, which votes just after midnight. If this is a preview of how the day is going to go for Hillary Clinton, it's going to be a very, very bad day for her. Barack Obama got seven of the ten votes cast for Democrats, John Edwards got two votes, and Bill Richardson got one vote. Hillary? Donut. Zip. Nada. Zero.

If Hillary does come back to win the nomination and the election, I would not want to be a resident of Dixville Notch, which would probably be the future location of the Hillary Clinton National Nuclear Waste Storage Facility.

And then there were the two protesters at one of Hillary's rallies yesterday, who stood up and yelled "Iron My Shirt!" and waved signs with the same slogan. Security removed them and Hillary was able to comment, "Ah, the remnants of sexism — alive and well," scoring applause from the crowd. Am I the only one to wonder whether the men might have been planted there deliberately by the Clinton campaign, perhaps to garner sympathy for her and to allow her a clever riposte? Now, some people might think that's being overly suspicious of Senator Clinton, but then again, she did have planted questioners during a debate. I wouldn't put it past her to plant fake protesters in the crowd.

Talking with one of my co-workers last night, I asked her what she thought of Mike Huckabee. "He scares me a bit... He was a preacher, after all..." she told me.

"You know what scares me about him?" I asked. "He lost all of that weight. You know how the people who are the toughest against smoking are the reformed smokers? It's the same for fat people. Today, he was on television showing off a Huckaburger made of bison meat and bean sprouts. People who have made drastic lifestyle changes often want to push them on other people. I don't need a nanny state, though. I already have a mother."


Obama vs. Hillary

I've been watching the Democrats' presidential primary campaigns with a certain sense of bemusement. The conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was the Democrats' presumptive nominee, and that the amount of money that she had raised and her party connections, especially her husband, would be enough for her to steamroll the competition. And then, in Iowa, Hillary finished well behind Barack Obama and narrowly behind John Edwards for third place. The key to Obama's victory in Iowa was getting the youth vote out to vote for him.

Now, Obama is a charismatic politician and a fine orator, a comparatively youthful and handsome Senator with a photogenic young family. He shares at least that much in common with another man who ran for the presidency and won almost half a century ago: John F. Kennedy. Most importantly, he is significantly younger at 46 than his two main competitors' for the Democrat's nomination, Edwards (54) and Clinton (60), and his life experience falls on the other side of a significant divide.

Both Clinton and Edwards no doubt remember JFK and the assassination in November, 1963, a major traumatic event for those who were old enough to be aware of it at the time. They were shaped by the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, as well as the cynicism about America and its government. By contrast, Obama was too young to remember the Kennedy assassination, and by the time he came of age, the Vietnam War and conscription were history. The Watergate scandal was something that the adults were talking about, and those of us who were young teens at the time breathed in the cynicism like second-hand smoke, but it was not the main formative experience of our lives as it was for people a decade older than us. Instead, our formative events were the hard economic times under Jimmy Carter, as well as the embarrassment of having Americans held hostage in Iran, and the resurgence of American pride and power under Ronald Reagan when Carter was voted out.

While all three candidates are "baby boomers," those of us at the tail end of the boom had significantly different formative experiences in our lives, which have permanently affected our world view in a lot of cases. For a lot of leading-edge Boomers born in the late 1940s, every war that America gets involved in is Vietnam all over again, and every president that they disagree with is another Nixon. They cannot escape this prism through which they view the world and which distorts their vision of reality.

It may be shocking to Hillary Clinton to think about it, but she's not so young any more. The 14-year age gap between Obama and her is the difference between a perception of youthfulness and a perception of age. The younger voters in Iowa apparently noticed the difference, and felt more of an affinity for Obama than for Hillary.

There was an interesting article in The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza about Hillary's final campaign rally in Iowa, which was at a museum in front of the skeleton of a mammoth. The theme music in the background was classic rock from the 1970s and 1980s. Boomer music, the music of the middle-aged. Is Obama's campaign using music from Bachman-Turner Overdrive? The Clintons have long since stopped thinking about tomorrow, and perhaps Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" would be more appropriate theme music.

To put the youth vote into perspective, let's look at one person who will able to vote in November for the first time, my niece Rachel, who is almost exactly thirty years younger than me. Rachel was born in 1990. For her, the end of the Vietnam War is farther back in time than World War II was for me. The Berlin Wall came down before she was born; the Soviet Union went out of business before she turned two, so she has no memory of the Cold War. For her entire life, someone named Bush or Clinton has been the President of the United States. Is it any wonder that any youth voter who wants "change" won't associate Hillary Clinton with that word?

To be honest, I'm not sure why so many people seem to want "change," because historically, these are pretty good times, at least as far as the economy goes. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and people who weren't taking foolish chances in the housing market during the bubble aren't doing badly. Those who think these are bad economic times probably have never seen a real recession, much less a depression. They don't remember the Jimmy Carter years when the term "misery index" was coined. Any "change" that comes about is not likely to be for the better.


New Stuff

I got a shipment in from Amazon today. I got the Bangles' Return to Bangleonia DVD, which is a live concert from September 2000 at the House of Blues in L.A.; a Bangles CD, Glitter Years: Rarities & Gems, which has four songs that I didn't already have on the Bangles' four studio albums; and finally, the four-disc Collector's Edition of Blade Runner.

I just finished watching the Bangleonia DVD, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's too bad it took them seven years to put the DVD out. The concert consists of 18 songs which are a mix of older material and new songs that the group had not yet recorded for their Doll Revolution album that came out in early 2003. There are also a couple of acoustic songs in the extras, as well as a commentary track for the concert featuring Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson, and a photo gallery. This DVD is a must for any Bangles fan.

The Blade Runner set includes four different versions of the movie, including the Final Cut from 2007, the original 1982 U.S. Theatrical Cut, the 1982 International Cut and the 1992 Director's Cut, all of them digitally remastered. It will be interesting to watch all four different versions and note the differences. I could have spent another $25 and gotten the super-duper-deluxe five-disc set with the Working Cut as well, but that seemed like overkill. Indeed, four different versions probably is overkill. It all comes down to whether or not you like Deckard's voiceover and the happy ending of the original version that was in the theaters in 1982. I'll have to wait until later to watch this, since there's football games for the rest of tonight...


My $0.02 On Iowa

Re: The Iowa caucuses, I think far too much is made of them, especially since nobody ever gets a clear majority. Sure Obama and Huckabee "won," until you consider that 62% of Democrats preferred someone else to Obama, and 66% of Republicans preferred someone else to Huckabee.

The other thing is that the number of people who actually participate in the caucuses is ridiculously small, and almost all of them are half-crazed political junkies of one stripe or another. The normal people were at home, watching the Orange Bowl or having dinner with their families.

I think Huckabee got fewer than 45,000 votes in a state of 3 miillion people. The anecdotal evidence is that Democrat turnout was about twice as high as the Republicans, since the Iowa nutroots types were more "fired up," but that would mean that Obama got maybe 100,000 votes at most.

The Democrats don't release the actual vote counts from their caucuses, just the delegate counts, which is hardly a transparent system. I heard some convoluted explanation this morning on the talk radio show, and apparently the delegate counts aren't completely congruent with the number of votes the candidates actually received. Some animals are more equal than others, apparently, and some voters are, too, making the party name an oxymoron. At least there wasn't a People's Soviet Duma involved, as far as I know.

But Hillary has lost her aura of inevitability. I can't foresee any
combination of circumstances that would result in me voting for any of the Democrat candidates in November, but of all of them, she would probably be the least dangerous to the country.

This is not to say that I don't think that her socialist policies would be bad for the country, but I think that the rest of them would likely be worse. Hillary is cold and vindictive, and any country that attacked us on her watch could expect prompt retaliation. I don't think that would be the case under Obama, and it certainly wouldn't be the case under Edwards, who would probably make Carter seem bold and bellicose by comparison.

Obama gives a nice speech, but his record is far to the left of Hillary's, which is a bad thing. An Obama administration's policies would likely be even more collectivist and confiscatory than a Hillary administration would be, and more likely to try to give away American sovereignty and prosperity to unaccountable international organizations like the U.N.under boondoggles like "fighting climate change."


Bearded Late Night Hosts

It's called the Law of Unintended Consequences, and it describes what happens when someone does A expecting result B, and at the same time, C occurs. In the case of the Writers Guild of America strike, the late night talk shows went dark for a couple of months, since they didn't have writers to write jokes for them. For the past two months, it's all been reruns on late night. In the last few days, however, David Letterman's company made a separate peace with the writers and settled that part of the strike. Last night, Letterman was back with his writers in tow. Letterman's competition (Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel) came back without writers.

The unintended consequence was that Letterman returned to the small screen with a beard, as did Conan O'Brien. Now, this may seem odd, but when you think about it, perhaps not. You don't normally see bearded talk show hosts because they're all clean-cut when they're hired, and if you're on television on a daily basis, you simply cannot go through the inevitable scruffy phase of beard growing during that first two or three weeks. But if you are off-screen for two months because of a writers' strike... Ah, then you can come back, fully bearded and looking wise and distinguished, without having to go through the scruffy phase on camera. A well-trimmed beard can add a sense of gravitas. But it can also be hot and itchy, and if it's much grayer than the hair on your head, it can make you look much older, which isn't necessarily a good thing.

Cold Enough For You?

Yeah, me too. It's 31 degrees outside. I don't think we made it down into the 20s, but we have definitely broken the old record for this date of 34 degrees back in 1979. This appears to be the coldest day here since 1996. You're probably thinking, "Gee, 31 degrees doesn't sound so bad." And where you're at, it probably isn't. It's probably warmer than what you have right now, unless you're in Hawaii. But if you want to compare it to how it feels to us Floridians, just go to your local newspaper's weather section, find the record low for today and subtract three degrees. THAT is how cold it feels to us.

It was kind of funny at work last night, because a few people were having cognitive dissonance with reality and were wearing shorts! I told one friend in shorts that he reminded me of a tropical bird that got blown off course and ended up in the Arctic, and didn't know what to do. Another friend in shorts told me that he doesn't even own a pair of long pants any more, just shorts. With the exception of one black guy on the earlier tour who was wearing long baggy shorts that hung down past his knees, all of the guys wearing shorts were white. The Haitians and Hispanics were all bundled up; they're no more acclimated to cold weather than I am.

Final weather comment: Al Gore is a charlatan. If this is "global warming," then we need to build a few more coal-fired power plants and run them full blast for a while.


"At the end of the day, it just tells you that honesty sometimes does not pay."

That was what former Malaysian health minister Chua Soi Lek had to say, after he was forced to resign after admitting that he was the man in two widely circulated sex tapes. He'd hoped that his pecadillos would be forgiven, but alas, as he put it, "Some Malaysians have a holier-than-thou attitude."

Mr. Chua was in two tapes that ran 56 and 44 minutes respectively, so stamina was in his favor. There is no mention in the article about whether he was using protection, however. Frankly, if he wasn't wearing a condom, then he probably should have been fired for not being a good role model as health minister. One must lead by example.

Slingshots and Vodka?

That's what the New York Post claims a source told them that the Tiger Boys had on them when they were mauled by the tiger at the San Francisco Zoo. Well, the empty vodka bottle was allegedly found in their car, but supposedly they had the slingshots on them. Not the sort of item that a totally innocent victim would be carrying on his person.

Now, if it comes out at the civil liability trial that they did, indeed, have slingshots on them, do you know how much money I would give them? Nada! I'd say that the zoo was liable to the point that I wouldn't make the Dhaliwals pay to replace the tiger, but I wouldn't give them a dime. They're lucky that I won't be on their jury at the civil trial.

It sounds like they are India-Indian, so maybe one of their relatives might want to explain to them about the concept of karma coming around to bite you in the ass (and other places) if you do bad things. If the Post's report is true, then they got what they deserved: Karma in the incarnation of an angry tiger, coming to chastise them for their evil deeds.

In a place like liberal San Francisco, with its large contingent of vegans and Animal Liberation Front types, the Dhaliwals and the family of the dead boy might have a hard time getting a sympathetic jury if their own wrongdoing led to their injuries. They'll be lawyered up with high-powered shysters, but that might not be enough if the people on the jury feel that they brought it on themselves.

It's almost makes you believe in God, albeit an angry, Old Testament God. The only thing that would have been a better indication would have been a pack of wild dogs attacking Michael Vick.


Meet the New Year, Same As the Old Year

Or, "We Won't Get Fooled Again," the perfect theme song for an election year.

I was thinking about the subject of the arbitrariness of the concept of the new year, and about the fact that December 31st, 2007 has more in common with January 1st, 2008 than it does with the first 363 days in 2007. Watching the numbers roll over on the calendar gives the illusion of change, but in reality, things are still pretty much the same as they were yesterday.

Change IS coming, though, and not for the better: We have a major cold front on the way that is likely to give us record cold temperatures for January 3rd on Thursday. The newspaper has threatened us with temperatures in the upper 20s, which could be the coldest day since 1996 (29 degrees) or even back to The Great Christmas Freeze of 1989 (27 and 28 degrees on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, respectively). The all-time record low for Fort Myers of 26 degrees was recorded on December 13, 1962. (Update: That's the modern record at Page Field, the old airport. The all-time coldest temperature in downtown Fort Myers was 24 degrees on December 24, 1894.) The Great Christmas Freeze was my first winter in Florida, and it killed off a lot of palm trees and other tropical plants.

"Global warming," my foot.