Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Last Fiver 'til next year!

1. What was your biggest accomplishment this year?
Either getting the new job or buying the car.

2. What was your biggest disappointment?
Leaving the old job or wrecking the old car. Or letting the year slip by without realizing where it was going.

3. What do you hope the new year brings?
Inspiration, joy, and further carefree steps toward the trappings of adulthood

4. Will you be making any New Year's resolutions? If yes, what will they be?
I resolve to be less flaky and more committal. And to meaningfully give a damn again.

5. What are your plans for New Year's Eve?
We'll have to see how the threatening cold develops, but hopefully a night out so filled with fun that I miss the moment we're celebrating.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Word of the Day

Words of the day, in honor of yesterday's California quake: Temblor and Seism

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Comments?

Based on the suggestions of several people and an interest in improving my expression, I have added a comments feature.

At this point, I'd say they are under advisement and review. I'm initially dubious/ skeptical about their value to me, but we shall see. I also see a value in both receiving feedback and, for my own purposes, refining, updating, addending my posts in an out of the way fashion- spiderwebbing the mind if you will.

I will state up front that I will not hesitate to censor comments based on language and tone (if for no other reason than accessing the site at work becomes dicier as the language degenerates) as well as a broad interpretation or relevance. Censoring may consist of either editing the comment or outright deleting it.

One more thing, I promise not to Mary Rosh it.

Most Amazing Post Ever

The importance of random acts of kindness, as well as their non-random kin, cannot be overstated nor can the need for more be exaggerated. That said and out of the way, what the world really needs is more Random Acts of Hilarity.

Why? Because laughter is said to be the best medicine. Because it makes us not strangers. Because we realize we're not just passers by, but co-inhabitants. Because we want to, even if just a little bit (or at least we should). Because extended laughter seems like it might be a good ab exercise(?). Because spreading humor and smiles is kindness. Because the liberation will remind you what living is really about. Because there's no reason. And no reason not to.

update: Upon doing some "research" (code for a lazy Google search) into the matter, I am both encouraged and disheartened; slightly more than 10 pages are produced by the search.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Reports from the Front

Returning home from Christmas shopping, I am happy to report the parking wasn't too bad, the lines weren't terrible, and the experience looked like it would be far less painful than I had anticipated. Except, it wasn't. Every store was a maze, a confusing labyrinth of piles and people and signage.

And it is with sadness that I report, I am now a befuddled urban male. No. That's an overstatement. I'm on my way to becoming a befuddled urban male, but I'm not there yet. I can still handle the grocery store with relative ease. I give my self 3 to 5 years before I will be forced to give up independent living in the interest of survival.

Befuddled Urban Male (BUM may, or may not, be the appropriate acronym) is a degenerative condition afflicting primarily males (do not be misled, women are also at risk and far too many suffer silently) and is primarily marked by confusion, indecision, and, well, befuddlement at modern consumer environments. Have you ever seen a guy stand in front of one pile of clothes for an extended period of time? Leafing through the merchandise, unfolding and partially refolding, seemingly pondering and examining the product (what is this, how much is it, is it worth it, what is this?), but completely perplexed by it? Then you have encounted a befuddled urban male. The conditions onset with a slight fear, a general unease progressing to sheer panic and "deer in the headlights" powerlessness and ultimately, defeat. In its earlier stages, it is treatable through a rigorous schedule of controlled environment shopping and support therapy. Should it progress to the grocery store stage a wife (or husband as the case may be), PeaPod, or reliable carry-out and delivery service plainly becomes necessary. Plainly, at this advanced stage treatment can become incredibly expensive but is as of yet uncovered by traditional health care plans.

Fortunately, I am not there yet and hope that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent a further deterioration of my condition.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Scenes on the Metro

On the Metro this evening a sat facing a man and his girlfriend/wife. He was reading Why Men Cheat. Minimally, this is among the more emasculating scenes I have yet witnessed. It may very well be an appropriate punishment for the crime (assuming he cheated), but Ouch!

the Friday Five favorites

1. List your five favorite beverages.
Cider, tea (hot or iced as seasonally appropriate), crisp water, beer, hot choclate

2. List your five favorite websites.
20 Questions, In Passing, the Semi-Daily Journal, ESPN, and Mr. Picassohead

3. List your five favorite snack foods.
Not a snacker. Not in the least. Granola bars, Apples, Grapes. Whatever I can find, seems worth it (read cheap) and non-scary in tmes of hunger crisis.

4. List your five favorite board and/or card games.
Scrabble, Parcheesi, Spades, Asshole, chess/checkers (hey, they use the same board)

5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games.
I'm not even close to current here. Let's go with GoldenEye, High Heat Baseball, GameDay football (i'm omitting the years to make me seem more up to date), intrigued by the Sims Online, and Spider Solitaire

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Rants from the Angry Man

An interesting confluence of news (or more accurately news stories) today have really ticked me off.

Let's start with the Post's piece on Iraqi sentiment toward the capture of Saddam. Filled with "Iraqi on the street" type quotes which generally say versions of: "We feel he either should have fought, or if he was surrounded and there was no other way, committed suicide. That's what we were expecting," he said. "When he didn't, it wasn't a surprise for us. It was a shock." Or, "He was the head of state, the symbol of the country. It was his duty to fight," Abu Yasser said. "Frankly, he let us down." Is this simply the voice of Arab culture which celebrates bravery to death over survival instincts (however temporary the survival may be) or the voice of an invaded and occupied Iraq chafing at the personification of Iraq not doing Iraq proud. In short, are their comments about Saddam the man or Saddam the symbol. The latter is troubling question for the hearts, minds, and success of Iraq.

Next, a couple of articles on the squabbling among the Democratic presidential candidates which put neither reporters nor the non-Dean campaigns in a good light if you ask me (and the point of the entire article is to cast the Dean campaign in a poor light, leaving no victors at the end of the article). First, a classic journalistic work, seize on one key word or phrase and build your own paraphrase around the surrounding context. The resulting impression created is of a campaign which says one thing and later clarifies or alters its stance. Unfortunately for accuracy in reporting, the clarification is often embedded in the surrounding context of those key words and phrases (don't believe me? Look up the text for Dean's recent comment that the US isn't any safer with Saddam in custody from his foreign policy address Monday. Suddenly the clap line isn't incendiary or head in the sand at all. I'd dig out a link for my reader(s), but I'm practicing being a reporter at the moment). Of a sort with this type of crappy reporting is the general Democratic assault on Dean since Saddam's capture. Now, Michael Dukakis probably wasn't going to win the White House regardless of what August polls indicated. But Willie Horton was a powerful message ensuring that he lost. And Willie Horton was discovered by Al Gore during the primary campaign. Relevance? The sudden bout of attacks on Dean arguing he is dangerous to American security, weak on terrorism, etc. Serious charges- serious charges a fellow Democrat shouldn't lob unless he seriously believes them. Believes to the extent he could not support such policies and such a candidate in a general election or governing sense. Terry Neal grasps their tone appropriately- "But Dean's opponents have made his opposition to the war nearly the equal of sedition." True or not, accurate or not, plant the sedition seed early and watch it rage out of control, burning the entire Democratic apparatus in the process. Like a little kid with matches.

Finally, the Bush administration's alleged deficit reduction planning. The plan? To halve the half trillion dollar deficit in 5 years (meaning the current accounts will be 50% closer to balance 5 years from now while the debt has increased by $1.5 to $2 trillion in the meantime) through the use of standard budget balancing tools- controlling expenditure growth and cutting revenues. Yep, making expiring tax cuts permanent is somehow part of the "solution." What's the problem we're trying to solve again?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Computers Do Everything Else, Why Not This Too?

Can't decide who should get your vote? Do what any informed voter should do... let a website pick your candidate for you.

I'm a big skeptical of the process- particularly the questions which identify particular interest groups. In a battle between a smokestack (and I do mean a simple smokestack spewing for the hell of it, not a metaphor for industry or anything like that) and the League of Conservation Voters, I'll side with the LCV. Against anything less stereotypically evil than a smokestack and I come down somewhere in between. I'll certainly lean toward the conservationists (an argument for another day, other than to say that conflating more with necessarily better is deeply erroneous) but come down somewhere inbetween. This lack of polarization on my part does not make the issue unimportant to me however.

The choices available are imperfect, but they beat the hell out of letting the so-called Gang of 500 (the press charged with covering the campaign and campaigns) inform my selection. To them, policy is a nap break between the interesting sentences they take out of context and blow out of proportion. Maybe I'm not so skeptical about the Presidential Candidate Selector afterall.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The God Primary

David Frum- former Bush speechwriter and self-outed coiner of the "axis of evil" phrase- wrote recently:
"let's say that while the President's opponents have made much sport of the idea that God called George Bush to the presidency, it's becoming increasingy difficult to doubt that God wants President Bush re-elected."
I've always had trouble with the entire notion that God gives a damn about the US presidency. Or any post of world leadership for that matter.

Sure, maybe he does. But then shouldn't those who trumpet the Bush as endorsed by God line also hold that Clinton was endorsed by God. Or should we believe that God only "gets involved" in certain elections (and would that make 2000 and/or 2004 the Second Coming?).

The standard for the Christian God is all good, all powerful, all knowing. God could not have been opposed to Clinton and still be all powerful (upset of the century?). And he couldn't sit the Clinton years out knowing that such bad would bring "the chosen son" to power- that hardly seems in line with all good. To do so requires the "one step backwards, two steps forward" logic employed by Nader and company (admittedly with a stacked deck of "all knowing and all powerful" on his side) which is an argument for the "greater good," something substantively different from "all good." In a word, permitting Clinton to enable Bush is strategic- which is the province of neither the all good nor the all powerful. It would seem then that God either wanted Clinton to be President or he sat out a couple of elections. (And a similar line of thought exists for all of history's worst leaders- God somewhere between wanted them there and didn't care enough to involve himself but did not actively want them ousted during their reigns.) That is, if he's (or she's, or gender neutral possessive) inclined to ever pick sides.

But back to giving a damn. Does God? About earthly elections and leaders? Is there any evidence he gives two bits for the "kingdom on earth"? My impression has always been a strong indifference to a mild hostility to the kingdom on earth on his (or her, or gender neutral term) part. The religious history of the Christian God is one of a God who speaks to and acts through the ordinary- your Jobs, your son (sorta) of a carpenter, your tax collectors and other salt of the earth types and the sons of power (say, Moses) were on the outs with the powers that be. But not for the purpose of enacting tax cuts or any other earthly concern. The organized celebration of religion has broken down over similar lines throughout history. Among the central reasons for the Protestant split- the Catholic church hierarchy had come to give a damn about its kingdom on earth to the detriment of its focus on the eternal. The idea is that God and those concerned with godliness have bigger fish to fry. The breaks from that represent corruption. Right?

Monday, December 15, 2003

Horoscope, addenda

In fairness, sometimes my horoscope isn't all that bad.

Your sensitivity looks for peace and your body for relaxation. Your soul yearns for the port of true love.

Friday, December 12, 2003

The Friday Five with a Holiday Flavor

1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays?
The cold, no. Not in the least. Snow, yes. If they're a package deal bring 'em both. But cold without the snow is just brutal punishment

2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect?
Home, fire, warmth, hot beverages, family, laughter

3. Do you do have any holiday traditions?
I'm sure I do, but nothing which feels out of the ordinary

4. Do you do anything to help the needy?
I must say the CFC (combined federal campaign to those who, like myself, don't speak acronym) has soured me a bit this year. I'm definitely up for giving something (i.e. my gloves, etc) to someone on the street, but nothing coordinated.

5. What one gift would you like for yourself?
Inspiration

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The "Kucinich Campaign" Scores, well sorta

If you recall, Dennis Kucinich the Bachelor Candidate became the subject of a "dating game" recently. Well, the winner has been picked, the date has been had, and, well, I was wrong.

I predicted "She'll be a lovely consolation prize when he doesn't win the nomination."

Turns out she lives with her boyfriend and, as if that weren't enough, lives in New Jersey. Poor guy can't get a break, can he.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Dear Abby, You Suck.

In what may become a semi-regular feature,

Each day, I make a point of reading my horoscope, an advice column or two, and try to do a crossword as well. They're one of my forms of fun. My routines have had a rough time of it these past few years. Sydney Omar, the Washington Post's source on the horoscope died in January 2003. His replacement, is well a joke (and in the field of astrology, that's really saying something). Seriously, I had a horoscope tell me a toaster was in my future. In June of 2002, the writer of Ann Landers died. Now, Ann was an advice columnist extrordinaire. She lifted her readers up and empowered them when needed and smacked them down when appropriate. The Post replaced her with Dear Abby- interestingly written by "Ann"'s twin sister. Well, Abby is no Ann. There was only one competent advice columnist in that family, and she's now dead.

Take, for instance, today's letters:

Dear Abby:

I am a freshman in college and live in a dorm with one roommate, "Mary." Mary has had a boyfriend for two years. I'll call him "John." John goes to school a couple of hours away and visits Mary on weekends once or twice a month. This usually isn't a problem for me, as I can plan ahead to go home for the weekend, or go out with friends so Mary and John can have the room to themselves for a few hours.

Yesterday, on short notice, Mary told me that John was spending the night. I frantically tried to make plans to be "elsewhere," but nothing worked out. I told Mary I'd camp out in our dorm lounge, but she said not to worry because John was dead-tired and wanted to go to sleep right away. After he arrived, I sat at my desk doing homework on my computer and listening to music with headphones while Mary and John watched TV in bed.

When I glanced over at them a half-hour later, they were having sex! I didn't know what to do. I tried to ignore them and continue "studying," but it was very distracting to have my roommate and her boyfriend "going at it" five feet away. When I woke up this morning, they were doing it again! I pretended to be asleep until they went to breakfast.

Mary has never done anything to embarrass me before. Talking about the incident would make me extremely uncomfortable, but I know something needs to be said before John visits again. Should I talk to Mary -- or just pretend this nightmare didn't happen?

Anonymous Roomie

in a Well-Known College Town


Take the bull by the horns. Tell Mary that although you are open-minded, you're not a voyeur -- so in the future, she should take that X-rated show elsewhere. It may be embarrassing, but if you don't speak up, the situation will become even more embarrassing. It's your room, too, and what your roommate did was inappropriate and disrespectful.

What Abby should have said: You should have gone over and sat down on your roomie's bed. Disturbed them, interrupted them. And then reacted in mock horror/ surprise when you realized. Tell them you're shocked and were sure they weren't up to that, not with you there and all. Assure than that you are mortified for them. "I am so embarrassed for you." Problem, solved and solved.

Or try

Dear Abby:

Please answer this quickly. There is no one else I can talk to. I am a devout Christian woman, prominent in my church and have an impeccable reputation. My late husband's family treats me with respect and generosity.

I was unhappy when "Henry" and I were married and I wanted to divorce him, but the man I was having an affair with at the time would not leave his wife for me. In spite of being devastated, I was also blessed because Harry died a short time later. I have been free now for 10 years.

I love my freedom and the relationship I have with Henry's family. But recently I have begun to wonder if I should confide in my brother-in-law, "Rick" (who is getting a divorce), that I was unhappy enough with his brother to have had affairs much of the time we were married. It might make Rick feel better about his own "mess" and possibly bring him closer to me.

Should I open my heart to him? He thinks of me as a sister.

Unsure in Charleston, S.C.


Your brother-in-law thinks of you as a sister because he is under the impression that you were a faithful and loving wife to Henry. If you shatter that illusion, you will spoil the relationship you have enjoyed so long with your former in-laws.

Since you feel a compulsion to confess, confess to your spiritual adviser. Confession is good for the soul, but in your case it should be completely confidential.


Abby doesn't do too bad here, except she forgets to call this woman out. A devout Christian woman with an impeccable reputation? Impeccable only because nobody knows the real you. Devout? You cheated on your husband multiple times and stayed in the marriage for the sake of said impeccable reputation. So, you sin like crazy but show up in church every Sunday.

And I do hope your deceased husband was abusive- it's the only thing which would make up for your joy in his death. The family is great, it's just your husband was in the way. If only you could have your cake and eat it too. From what I see, you have trouble accepting consequences for tough choices. Grow up already.

In short, your life is a lie. You start opening your mouth, it's all going to unravel. Are YOU actually willing to risk that? Everything I see says nope.

Monday, December 01, 2003

You were really missed

I'd like to note my support for the return of lyrical music. I'm probably a bit belated in my recognition, but hey, that's me. It's nice to see that the words matter for their message more than their rhythm or shock value, or whatever the reason was once again. The music is real (i.e. produced by instruments) and somewhat stripped down. The overwhelming band/ stage sets, out. Synthesized lip syncers and their back up dancers who are truly nothing without their sound and lights shows, out. These are all fine ways of providing entertainment (and making money) but not my idea of art.

Replace them with a guy or girl and their guitar, and some simple words belying something deeper. It's too bad for Jewel that she jumped into her electronica style just as her core talent powered its comeback. Welcome back lyric driven music. I've missed you.