Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Bachmann-Hinchey Scale

As an early Christmas gift, I present for your use in Internet flame wars and grudge matches, a new tool for evaluating the sheer craziness of comments made either by yourself or your opponents. Named the "Bachmann-Hinchey Hyperbole Scale," it will allow you to gage the relative sanity or sheer craziness of statements and charges served up on the web. It is primarily intended for use in political debate, as the name should imply, but it may also be used in arguments about pop culture, Hollywood starlets, sports, or most any other thing you'd care to vent about.

This fifteen point scale is divided into three sections, color coded for your convenience.

In the Green Band, meriting a score of zero through five, the debate remains "Calm."

A "Calm" debate will generally include measured, reasoned arguments, citations of established facts and links to respected reference sources. The opponents will treat each other's debate points respectfully, while perhaps not agreeing, and allow for the possibility that the other person may be correct, at least in some areas.

In the Orange band, the argument moves to "Heated" status.

Heated debates, with a score of 6 to 10, are generally characterized by insults - either thinly veiled or overt - resulting in ad hominem attacks, unlinked references to rumors or urban legends, and slippery slope arguments which take hypothetical examples to illogical, ridiculous extremes. There may still be valid facts and arguments included, but they are frequently overshadowed by angst and anger.

Finally, in the Red band, earning scores of 11 to 15, we finally move into "Bat Shit Crazy" territory.

To earn scores in this range, the author must really leave the realm of common sense behind. These arguments will include (as the name of the scale implies) claims such as New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey stating that President Bush intentionally allowed Osama bin Laden to escape in Afghanistan or Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann calling for Congressional investigations into the loyalty and patriotism of the rest of the members of Congress. References and citations in such arguments never include any links to verifiable sources and frequently involve assertions which are physically impossible. Bonus points are awarded in this category for comparisons to the Holocaust, slavery in early America, pedophilia or beastiality.

I hope this helps. Now, go forth and argue with all of the clueless twits around this wonderful series of tubes we call the Internets and give them a piece of your mind!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Every Day is Children's Day

My Dilbert calendar says that today is Human Rights Day. Seriously? Shouldn't that NOT be one day of the year?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Speaking of Monsters

I'm 41 years old, now. I cannot imagine what I've been doing all that time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Raaaaar! In which Jazz discovers he's a monster!

I just thought you should know. I've suspected it for a long time, but either the evidence wasn't strong enough or I just didn't want to face up to reality.

Oh, the clues were there if I'd really wanted to know... waking up in the middle of the night, standing in my kitchen with mud on my feet which clearly didn't come from my yard. Strange, rust colored stains under my fingernails with no memory of how they got there. Dogs sniffing around strange mounds in my yard which I couldn't bring myself to dig up. (And in my own defense, dogs bury things on their own all the time. I can't be bothered to dig up every random pile of dirt that turns up.)

Fortunately it must be very easy to cover your tracks as a monster, since I seem to do it entirely with my subconscious and no effort from my waking mind. And obviously there are lots of monsters out there... I mean, what are the odds that any of us are the ONLY one of ANYTHING in a world of roughly seven billion people? But the lack of modern day mobs running screaming through the streets with pitchforks and torches shows that we're doing a good job of remaining undetected.

As you may have guessed, one becomes rather curious about exactly what kind of monster they are under such circumstances. I mean, am I out there dragging young maidens away to dank, murky tunnels and eating them? Do I kill livestock and smear their entrails across the countryside? To find out, I set up my video camera outside my bedroom door on a tripod with a cheap motion detector from Radio Shack to trigger it. This led to my discovery of two things:

1. My cats run around a LOT in the middle of the night.
2. I'm the kind of monster that shuts off cameras and puts them back in the camera bag before heading out. Frustrating, I know.

So anyway, it's all still pretty much of a mystery. But if you happen to live anywhere in the New York region and are aware of a string of missing maidens or slaughtered cattle, try to get a picture and e-mail it to me so I can clear this up.

I'll try not to attack you if you do. Or, failing that, it will be a quick and merciful slaying.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Preventative Care is Never Stupid

In case you were wondering how I felt about the new "guidelines" for breast cancer screening, I'll tell you right up front: I think that they suck, and that they're designed to save the insurance companies money, and of course, right now I'm pissed off at insurance companies as a whole. I hate that they even exist. As an impressively fierce friend of mine says, "Everyone needs health care; no one needs health insurance."

I found an article with quotes that echo my sentiments on the latest news at "".
“I just think that’s irresponsible,” said Janet Cheney, 58, of East Bridgewater, a breast cancer survivor diagnosed in 2001 at age 50.

“The death toll is too high,” Cheney said. “It’s kind of like saying let’s lower the drinking age and see how many more people we can kill.”
“As a practicing surgeon who takes care of these patients, the surgeons I’ve spoken to, (we) are very upset with this,” said Dr. David Drinkwater, chief of surgery at Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital and president of Signature Medical Group.

The guidelines offer a “very narrowly focused” statistical view of breast cancer, stating the cancer rate in women between 40 and 50 is not high enough to justify the risks associated with mammograms and biopsies, Drinkwater said.
So there you go. It's true that the majority of women don't have breast cancer, but why in the world would you leave off a check on something like that for 2 years? And if you were - let's say that you're really concerned about radiation, and you don't want to have a mammogram every year, so you want to go the every 2 years route - not doing self-exams to make sure that you're lump-free in the meantime? Did I read that this government task force is recommending against self-exams because they can cause uncessary anxiety?

I call bullshit. Right there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not At All Important

And yet, one of the most thrilling new products of the year, for me.


Are you really naked under those gloves? For Pete's sake, put on some Handerpants! These 95% cotton, 5% spandex, fingerless gloves have the look and feel of men's briefs. Slip them on underneath your gloves for extra warmth and protection from chafing! Wear them on their own as a vaguely inappropriate fashion statement! Hundreds of uses! Fits most adult hands.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Hopes For the Future

I have one major hope regarding last night's election: that Chris Christie will be a better governor than Christie Whitman was. That's not too much to ask, is it?

I'm not expecting a Tom Kean, here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3rd

For the record: I voted this morning. The candidates that I voted for may not win, but I used my voice.

Have you, fellow New Jerseyan?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Current Events

I watched this weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live. The Rock Obama was a very funny sketch, in which they pointed out that Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize was ridiculous. I felt pretty good about that. Plus, I love Dwayne Johnson; he's awesome.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Give Peace a Chance?

OK, the comments at the Washington Post about Obama winning the peace prize are much harsher than what I would say, but underneath the vitriol, there is at least a point.

I like the President, I do. I think that he's trying very hard to turn around a country that was basically strip-mined by the previous administration. They took all they could as fast as they could without worrying about who else might need that, or if we'd be able to replenish the supply, and the new administration is basically screwed on getting things up and running quickly or efficiently; it just can't happen. Still, I have faith. I see less obvious evil floating around these days than I used to.

Still, I wouldn't have granted Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. When I heard the news on the radio this morning, I was stunned into the realization that there are people in the world who hated the fact that GWB was our President even more than I did. I kind of feel like the award was given to Obama for the virtue of not being GWB.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Well, Hello, There!

Yeah... guess who pretty much forgot that she had a blog. Wow, that's embarrassing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why Am I Liberal? (pointed out to me by a friend who reads "Sadly, No!")
For most American Jews, the core of their Jewish identity isn't solidarity with Israel; it's rejection of Christianity. This observation may help to explain the otherwise puzzling political preferences of the Jewish community explored in Norman Podhoretz's book. Jewish voters don't embrace candidates based on their support for the state of Israel as much as they passionately oppose candidates based on their identification with Christianity -- especially the fervent evangelicalism of the dreaded "Christian Right."
-- Michael Medved

The order of the symposiasts has been re-arranged to allow Medved to have the last word for a reason: He's nailed it.
Sad truth - Medved *did* nail it. My dad bases his decisions on whatever's not Christian the way he roots for baseball teams that aren't the Yankees. OK, Medved nailed it with the qualification that by "Jews", he means "My Dad".
Never mind that evangelical Christians are overwhelmingly pro-Israel and philo-Semitic.
Holy smoke. I had to look up philo-semetic. I'd never heard that phrase before in my whole Jewish life.

Obvioulsy, I'm not the intellectual Jew that I thought I was. So if I'm not smart, why am I liberal? Am I liberal because I'm stupid? Oh, wait, am I a liberal any more? Didn't I go "centrist"?

Obviously I didn't get the memo that went out to all Jews everywhere. My bad.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Which Jazz Gets the Mail

I've always hated the Post Office. Not just because they are part of a an outmoded system which stretches back past the Pony Express to wandering tinsmiths who took missives scratched out with quills from people who never knew if their message would ever reach the intended recipient, up through a time when ARPANET would spell out a death they never accepted. No. And it's not that they don't provide a valuable service. It still amazes me that you can stick a four bit piece of pre-glued paper on an envelope and have someone take it across the country in a few days. It's none of that. It's just the crappy, horrid, world ending things which the postman delivers to you every once in a while, with or without ringing twice.

Obviously not all the news is like this. You certainly enjoy the occasional birthday card from gram gram with a twenty slipped inside. You like it when your next DVD arrives from Netflix. But most of the movies are mediocre at best. And I guarantee you can't recite any of the Americanized Hallmark haiku from any of your grandmother's cards. These are not the ones that lodge in your brain.

What you remember is the day your draft card arrived. More to the point, the letter saying that your number had come up and you were to report for duty. Your mom certainly remembers that letter which began, "We regret to inform you.."

The postman arrived at my place today with a letter. It wasn't from the military or the attorney of some scorned business partner. It was from the AARP and it had my membership card. There's a smack in the kisser for you. The major problem with this is that I immediately thought of my wife. She's married to an old guy.

It's not like I totally robbed the cradle. I was married to her a bit later in life than the old Romeo and Juliet story. But the fact remains that - given the genes in her family - she still has a great likelihood of a full half of her life or more in front of her. Her old man is... well... an old man. I normally don't think of it much. I try my best to be youthful and energetic. I try to service her in the boudoir at a satisfactory level. But that's the point, which this poison pen missive brought home. There are times when I try. Young men don't try. They just do. It doesn't require any thought.

And then, one day, the mail comes. And you're old. I really hate the mail.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In My Inbox Paradox

From my MSNBC Daily Headlines email:

Candlelit dinners spark romance - and toxins You may be ingesting more during those romantic, candlelit dinners than a nice cabernet and a lamb chop. Side of benzene, anyone?

Life expectancy reaches all-time high in U.S.
U.S. life expectancy has risen to a new high, now standing at nearly 78 years, the government reported Wednesday.
So which is it? Will candles cause my early death, or will I live extra-long? Will having candlelight dinners bring down the national average. I'm confused, here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Busy Weekend

(meatloaf mix-meat, 1 egg, worcestershire sauce, parmesan cheese, prosciutto, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme)
Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes
(baby red potatoes, butter, cream, salt, gorgonzola, parsley)
Roasted Fennel
(fennel, olive oil, salt, pepper)
Roasted Asparagus
(asparagus, olive oil, salt, pepper)
Roasted Chicken
(chicken leg quarters, salt, pepper, sage, thyme, oregano, olive oil)
White Peach and Apricot Pie
(pie crust, white peaches, apricots, vanilla vodka, honey, cinnamon, butter, sugar)

All fresh herbs are from my tiny container garden on my deck. That makes me happy, too. Any or all recipes available upon request.

When I asked myself the question, "What can I do with a free Saturday afternoon that would make me the most happy?", the answer in my head was "Cook enough for 10 meals". Now, on Monday, with meatloaf and roasted fennel in my lunchbox, I feel the full effects of that happiness.

Tonight there's a town hall meeting with a Congressman whose district I no longer live in. I may go anyway. My father thinks it will be fun to go and see people yell at him.

I wonder if he'd write me back now that he no longer represents me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Favorite Example

Songwriters: Hamilton, Nancy; Lewis, Morgan

Somewhere there's music
How faint the tune
Somewhere there's heaven
How high the moon
There is no moon above
When love is far away too
Till it comes true
That you love me as I love you

Somewhere there's music
How near, how far
Somewhere there's heaven
It's where you are
The darkest night would shine
If you would come to me soon
Until you will, how still my heart
How high the moon

[Guitar Solo]

Somewhere there's music
How faint the tune
Somewhere there's heaven
How high the moon
The darkest night would shine
If you would come to me soon
Until you will, how still my heart
How high the moon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Which Jazz Notes That You Never Write Anymore

You don't write. You don't call. Are we breaking up?

No. We're not. But it's summer time, and for reasons I can't adequately explain for you, my online activity always seems to take a bit of a downward turn, and my creative writing juices don't flow quite as quickly. It's not as if I'm just hibernating, though. So what's up with me in the summer?

Well, I've been doing some reading. I just finished Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford, which I highly recommend to anyone, particularly all of us who work in the "knowledge economy" rather than making or fixing actual things with our bare hands. We also dug up a few more of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries which we'd previously missed, including The Rubber Band, The Red Box and Curtains for Three. Stout wrote a ton of them, but I fear we're finally getting to the end of the list.

I've also been out working on my yard and in the garden. My tomatoes have grown like trees, producing dozens of big toms, not one of which has turned red and ready to pick yet. The weather has been unusually wet, cloudy and cool this year and it's really slowed things down. I also went on a few really anal retentive jags about my lawn, mowing it too often, trimming the edges and digging dirt out of the cracks in the sidewalk so weeds won't grow there. Fascinating, I know.

When I do feel the need to be online, I've spent far more time than is good for me playing the best game in the world. I don't care what anybody says, a one time payment of ten bucks by Pay Pal is a small investment for the many, many hours of fun I've had with Fantastic Contraption.

I also had some dental work done which turned into an even bigger pain than I had first imagined, but I don't really want to talk about that right now.

Anyway, I suppose that sums up most of it. So... what have you been up to this summer?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Man, I'm Spoiled

I was seriously annoyed when I read the condition that Homestead rebates are only available to those who earned 75,000 dollars or less (if under 65) last year.

I am so spoiled. I don't get one of those because others need it more than I do. That doesn't mean I wouldn't take it, though.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Need to Start Losing Weight Again

6400 calories worth of cake.

I'm impressed that something that looks so mediocre can be so incredibly fattening.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whoa - They Got Caught?

I quote the insightful Traveling Wilburys, "In Jersey, anything's legal, as long as you don't get caught".

They got caught.
NEWARK (WABC) -- Two mayors were among the dozens arrested this morning in a major federal corruption sweep in New Jersey.

Eyewitness News has learned Hoboken's newly elected mayor, Peter Cammarano and Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell were both arrested, as was Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Baldini.

According to officials the dozens of suspects, including several rabbis, were being brought to FBI Headquarters in Downtown Newark.

Numerous Jersey City political officials were also arrested this morning.
My first reaction is, "Wow. I wonder how much they were getting away with." I also wonder what will happen as a result of these arrests. Will there be convictions? Will things change? Will things speed up in local government because of these arrests, or slow down? Will money get to places that it was being blocked from, or will it just get misdirected elsewhere?

I never know the answers to those questions, but I always suspect that the "misdirected elsewhere" scenario is the one that plays out. I'm cynical.

Nothing drives home to me the corruption in my lovely state so much as my daily trips to the mailbox. I get mail, my housemate gets mail, and the previous residents get mail - to all of their aliases. I'll never forget when I saw a letter from the Department of Community Affairs addressed to someone who doesn't live in my house. I thought calling them would be wise. They informed me that a home inspection was scheduled because of the tenant receiving section 8 assistance that lived at my address. Boy, was I surprised! I was even more surprised when the office handled the situation like absolute idiots. I was put on hold, and the office worker came back on the phone saying, "I've just contacted Ms. J****, and she says that she only moved out last month!". Wow. I mailed them a photocopy of the documents that show that I bought my house 6 months before that. No home inspection ensued. I find myself wondering if the previous owner of my house still gets that money from the state, even after all that. I wonder what was in the envelopes from the Social Security office that I sent back marked, "Return to Sender: Addressee not living at this address". I wonder how many people are ripping off the state every day.

And then I'm surprised that somebody got caught.

My second reaction to that story was, "Wow, I bet if my dad sees this, he'll be really upset about the rabbis part".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tough News Night

I noticed last night that the news was all about people being shot and dying. ALL about people being shot and dying. The local news has not been happy lately.

If you know me at all, you know that when the going gets tough, I get baking. This weekend's project was the King Arthur Flour Ancient Grains Blend bread recipe. See the blog post about it, here, if you like.

The picture on the blog is high, light-colored, and very white-bread looking. Mine is not. I can attest, though, to the bread being delicious. I marvel at the fact that it weighs a ton, so is very satisfying, and at its astonishing 5 grams of protein per serving. Astonishing! Anyway, did I mention that mine does not look like white bread?

Ancient Grains Bread Sangwich

Yeah, I probably should have taken that out of the sandwich bag before photographing. I'm really lazy. The sandwich, by the way, is pesto, american cheese, and low-salt ham. I haven't tasted it yet, but it sounded pretty genius when I was putting it together this morning while the coffee brewed.

Ah, there you go, a whole 3-5 minutes without thinking about people getting shot. You're welcome.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Which Jazz Praises Joe Biden

If nobody else, at least our Vice President has something on the ball.

“And folks look, AARP knows and the people working here today know, the president knows, and I know, that the status quo is simply not acceptable,” Biden said at the event on Thursday in Alexandria, Va. “It’s totally unacceptable. And it’s completely unsustainable. Even if we wanted to keep it the way we have it. It can’t do it financially.”

“We’re going to go bankrupt as a nation,” Biden said.

“Well, people that I say that to say, ‘What are you talking about, you’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?’” Biden said. “The answer is yes, I’m telling you.”

In the bad old days, we had to burn the village to save the village. Today, we must spend more money on the nation that's going bankrupt to avoid bankrupting the nation.

Say what you like about the current administration, you have to love Joe Biden. The guy is in the last job he's ever going to hold, he's enjoying the hell out of it, and he doesn't give a rat's arse who knows it. You go, Joe.

Monday, July 13, 2009

To the Mattresses

OK, today I saw the question, Should We Sell Choice to Get Change? National Health Care, as a concept, apparently gets bogged down by the concept that abortions would be effectively paid for by all taxpayers.

I answer this question, "No". We should not sell choice to get change. We should fight and fight and fight and fight and fight to include a legal medical procedure in a National health care program. We should fight and fight and fight and fight and fight for the right to have abortions covered. They can mean the difference between life and death, between poverty and prosperity, between sanity and insanity. These issues are not diminished when they are only the life, death, poverty, prosperity, sanity or insanity of a single individual - a single female individual.

We should fight.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Personal Blog Gets Even More Personal

An open letter to the asshole who threw a rock through my father's front window last night:

Dear asshole who threw a rock through my father's front window last night,

What the hell is wrong with you? He's an old guy who was just sitting in his house, minding his own business. He's not feeling well, and he has to get his gallbladder taken out tomorrow, so you come along under the cover of darkness and do physical damage to his house? What kind of dick are you? Oh, wait, I know, you're the kind of dick who breaks other people's things and then runs away. Perhaps dick is the wrong word for you, perhaps the phrase "dickless coward" fits better.

Sincerely - and I MEAN that,

Yes, I do indeed feel better having written that where the world can see it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Weekly Posting

OK, the sad truth is that I don't know what I can add,but I feel an obligation to post, to communicate with you stalwart few who continue to check in.

No one ever needs to say anything else about Michael Jackson, but if I were to give an opinion, I'd say that it's sad that so many people of astounding talent end badly after too short a run.

When I was a little girl, I wanted hair just like Farrah's. It's the truth.

Ed McMahon is a giant in my memory. Once again, as a little girl my impressions were indelibly formed. He just made Johnny Carson look short.

Also RIP, Karl Malden, Billy Mays, and thousands of others that we didn't hear about.

Hooray for Al Franken! Just 7 months to decide that one, it went so fast! (not) Did anyone else see the statement he made about actually sleeping with his own wife? No one sees that coming from a Senator! Someone I know isn't a fan of his, and posted a photo to a bulletin board of Franken wearing a diaper and bunny ears, holding a teddy bear lying on the floor of a nursery next to a big package of Luv's. Congratulations, Senator Franken, you're the first elected official able to pose like that without anyone even blinking.

Finally, to leave you with an actual original thought, I baked a brioche loaf on Sunday, and for lunch tomorrow before I leave for the barbecue, I plan on toasting two slices up, spreading them with a lovely French soft cheese, and then a bit of spiced pear chutney, topping them with a couple of slices of prosciutto, and feeling REALLY smug about it.

Everyone have a happy holiday.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Governors Should Govern, Right?

Today, I looked at an article about Mark Sanford, and I started to read the emails between he and his mistress. Then I stopped. Those aren't any of my business.

I don't care who he's sleeping with, I don't. I do care that he disappeared for several days when he should have been in contact with, oh, say, his OFFICE. He's governor of a whole state. That's his job. He should do his job, or else he becomes unworthy of keeping it.

What he does with his private life matters only to he and his family, and anyone else directly involved with those parts. When he neglects his public duty, then it's the absolute right of the public to get all uppity about it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In Which Jazz Solves the Condom Crisis

Some of you fans of the One True Tami (blessed be Her name) may not be aware of this, but when I'm not hanging out with Tami and solving the world's problems, I publish the odd article here and there on a variety of subjects, largely political in nature. This has, on occasion, resulted in my being asked to weigh in with a comment by some of the major news services. I've been interviewed over the last few years by NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and Fox, for example. This weekend I added another outlet to my resume, but not for a subject which I would have liked.

While I generally try to write about serious topics, I'm rather playful and snarky by nature and I will, on occasion, write some light hearted, humorous pieces. Such was the case this weekend when I tossed up what was essentially a throwaway piece on a new NIH study on condoms... specifically why guys don't like wearing them. (Duh.) It seems like a rather silly subject to spend taxpayer money on.

Well, getting back to the original premise of this entry, you'll never guess what happened next. ABC News contacted me and wanted to do an interview. About what, you might ask? I've published recent pieces on Iran, Iraq, health care reform, the economic crisis and NASA. But what did ABC want to talk to me about? Yep. Condoms.

Because I am, above and beyond all else, a narcissistic media whore, I agreed to the idea at once. I should also note, in a lame attempt at self defense, that I had a double root canal last week and was on codeine this weekend for a fair amount of pain in my jaw. This is not, as you might imagine, a good combination for critical thinking and wise judgment.

During the course of the interview I also forgot one of the key rules of such engagements: you never get too comfortable with the interviewer and begin joking around. If you do, that's the one quote they will snag out of the whole thing and run with.

To bring this tale to its tragic end, you can read the full article ABC did from our interview at the ABC News web site. When you skip forward to page two of the article, you will find this quote from yours truly prominently displayed.
"Men wear them because they are slightly more desirable than a combination of embarrassing diseases, 20 years of child support payments and death," Shaw said. "And if you took the death part out of the equation, a frightening number of us would probably still roll the dice on it if the lady was willing."

There isn't the least indication that this was something of a tongue in cheek comment.

But hey... they spelled my name correctly and got the right link to our news portal. According to the basic rules of media, that's all you're allowed to hope for anyway.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Post in Which I State the Obvious - Again

I state the obvious whenever I think people are missing it.

Public Health Plan = great idea.

I want everyone to be able to get medical treatment without bankrupting themselves or the doctors. I want it to be possible, and I do NOT understand why it can't be.

I've been reading this: Holes remain as Senate panel crafts health bill. I'm not going to quote it, it lists a lot of costs, and the fact that many people don't like the plans that have been presented so far. There, it's like you've read the article.

Here's my opinion on what should be happening (remember, OBVIOUS):

Congresspersons should come up with the best, pie-in-the-sky ideas, ever. Then they should figure out what the different parts cost. Then, after people are treated for the heart attacks, they should hold committee discussions deciding which parts can reasonably be offered to the public without causing financial disaster. The people they should focus on are those who are not insured through their employers, up to a certain income level (which doesn't count the same for families as it does for singles, DUH), and those who have no employers to receive unemployment benefits *through*.

Anyone think this is really happening? I read in the MSNBC article that companies are worried that "...the plan requirements will be so robust that our members' plans won't meet those requirements" (Jeri Kubicki, the National Association of Manufacturers' vice president for human resources policy). There should be requirements, and they should be reasonable.

Make a plan, then make it as affordable as possible without taking it to the "does no one any good" level. There, you have your orders Congress, get to it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More News That Affects Me Personally is a web site created by FedEx. UPS is supporting legislation that would reclassify FedEx truck drivers as truck drivers instead of airline workers. Business Week has an article on it, which kind of slants towards the legislation, but pretty much gives the facts.
The dispute involves the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009, which contains a provision that would change the labor law covering FedEx workers. Language introduced in the bill by U.S. Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn.) would subject FedEx workers to the same rules as those performing similar work for Atlanta-based UPS. The measure affects employees of FedEx Express, which along with FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, and FedEx Office comprises FedEx, but not the status of FedEx Express workers who are air-based, such as pilots and airplane mechanics. The bill passed the House on May 21 and is now in the Senate, where a similar House measure failed in 2007.
Personally, I think that unions serve a purpose, and that the worker needs to look out for his/herself. If I was driving a truck, I'd want the option of joining a truck driver's union. That's just me, though, and it's all theory. I make computery thingies for a living, and I'm management. There's no drive to organize here, nor do I expect one. Tech-nerds are like housecats, we don't band together for the common good all that often.

I know that UPS is supporting this bill because it will cost FedEx money, but isn't that what rival companies do? This has nothing to do with the government handing taxpayer money over to UPS to cover their losses, UPS is still earning profits. Yes, lower profits than last year, but that's not running in the red by any stretch of the imagination.

Whether or not this bill passes is for our legislative representatives to decide. I can see that there are two sides to the story, and the issue merits discussion. Calling it a "bailout", though, that's just slinging mud. It feels to me like crossing a line.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Still the "Chosen People"?

This morning I got an email pointing me to, and a poll there asking whether a person supports Palestine or Israel. Palestine's winning. I don't put much stock in this, it's a "create your own poll" site, and what does that actually mean? What's the sample? Who's voting? There's only the condition that you cannot vote more than once an hour, and that's not very restrictive. The email claimed that CNN was "pushing" this poll, which I saw no evidence of, and that annoyed me, but it annoys me that the poll is out there in the first place.

In my opinion, the reason that there isn't a cohesive Palestinian state is the Palestinian people, and their extreme leadership which rules by oppression and teaching children violence. I admit I'm biased.

Also this morning, a friend pointed me to an op-ed story at the NYT. It's a very sad tale of Jews who were forced to leave Egypt. It sounds like a bible story, but it was in the 20th century. It makes me think about all the people who lose everything in wars, and how sad that is, and unfair, of course. The author of the op-ed piece, though, was not a war refugee, he was just a refugee. Persecution exists every day and in every country. I read about how the Jews control things, and how Jewish influence is unfair, and how the U.S. plays favorites for Israel, but there are so many more nations out there that spread the idea that Jews are enemies, Jews are inferior, Jews are bad - because they're Jews. The prejudice remains pure for much of the world.

I feel that tolerance makes the world a better place. Personal conflicts are unavoidable, but can be kept personal - it's a big world, and we can avoid individuals in it. I wish that the word of acceptance and living together was spreading, but it's not what's being taught to children across the world, and that's going to keep the cycle of hatred growing.

How do you reach millions of people spread across thousands of miles? One person at a time, I guess.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

In which Jazz has an epiphany on food

And you know, the epiphany market is a bit tight at the moment. They're coming few and far between, which is kind of disappointing because I think Skynet is supposed to take over the planet in a couple of years, and I still feel like there's so much that I don't understand. But at least I can scratch one thing off the list.

You see, as people get older, you often hear complaints about how they are "losing their appetite" and just "not eating like they used to." These are frequently taken as detrimental signs of the aging process and harbingers of worse to come. As it turns out, though, that's not the case. As you get older, it's not that you're less hungry or not as excited about food. It's that you fall into a pattern of eating the same stuff over an over again. I think we decide on some things we don't like, and some things that we do like and we do it earlier in life. Then we whittle down the "like" list based on things that are too expensive to buy regularly, take too long to prepare, or are seasonal in nature. Eventualy, you're just eating the same eight to ten meals over and over and over again.

Finally, one day you realize that the list of things you really like to eat has turned into the list of things that you're so freaking sick of you could just CHOKE THE EVER LOVING CRAP OUT OF SOMEBODY. And the other stuff is still just as expensive, complicated or seasonal in nature. So now you either need to go exploring for a whole new set of foods you like, or sit and stare at the foods you've burned out on.

And the older you get, how much time do you really want to expend on experimenting on foods that might leave you sitting in the john all night?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I do not believe that abortion is murder. Not everyone agrees with me, but it is what I truly believe. My reasons are not important, right now.

I do believe that gunning down an unarmed doctor in a church is murder. No one should disagree with me.

My new, clear theory goes like this: People who gun down unarmed people are murderers.

That's all I've got. Well, besides this crushing sadness about people's inability to live peacefully with others.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jazz Solves the Maternity Crisis

Just at a quick glance, I can think of the following things I've said regarding some people and their children over the years.(Paraphrased for brevity, convenience, and to make them fit my premise regardless of accuracy.)
  • There really should be a test you have to take before you're allowed to procreate.
  • How does anyone that stupid even find somebody to screw them, say nothing of have a kid?
  • They should do that kid a favor and send it to a sweat shop now.
  • We've clearly run out of chlorine for the gene pool.
  • How has somebody not just buried you in cement by now?
Ok, I think that last one was actually for my sister, but you get the point. I've often felt that some people were probably too stupid to be raising children, but our system of laws really doesn't allow you to do anything about it. But even with that opinion, I don't think I was talking about this woman.
Mother too stupid to keep child

A MOTHER is taking her fight to the European Court of Human Rights after she was forbidden from seeing her three-year-old daughter because she is not “clever enough” to look after her. The woman, who for legal reasons can be identified only by her first name, Rachel, has been told by a family court that her daughter will be placed with adoptive parents within the next three months, and she will then be barred from further contact.

The adoption is going ahead despite the declaration by a psychiatrist that Rachel, 24, has no learning difficulties and “good literacy and numeracy and [that] her general intellectual abilities appear to be within the normal range”.
This should probably make me feel bad about all of the heartless things I've said about parents and their satanic spawn over the years, though obviously it doesn't. It does give me pause, though. I don't want the government jumping in at the drop of a hat and saying that somebody needs a special degree in order to keep a kid or a dog or a kitten. That's not right.

It should also be left to those of us in the mocking classes to make fun of them if they venture out to the movies.

Friday, May 29, 2009

So That's My Problem

Word of the Day for Friday, May 29, 2009
sybarite \SIB-uh-ryt\, noun:

A person devoted to luxury and pleasure.

Friday, May 22, 2009

When I'm Down

When something's wrong, I want to bake. When something's right I want to bake. When there's a celebration, I want to bake. When I don't feel well, I want to bake.

This means I bake a lot.

Yesterday I had the unreasonable urge to make cream puffs. It was suggested to me by a friend when I expressed the desire to bake something complicated. OK, she suggested croque en bouche, but I didn't get past the cream puff stage. Still, that's a pretty good stage!

I pre-heated my oven to 425F, then boiled 6 Tablespoons butter, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt in 1c of water. I turned off the heat and added about 3/4 cups flour. I say about because I start with 1/2, and then add teensy bits until it's right. That's how I deal with humidity differences and baking. I incorporated the flour and put the pot back on the heat until I had a beautiful shiny dough ball. I dumped the pretty dough in the mixer bowl and let it cool off for a few minutes. I cracked 4 large eggs into a cup measure and discovered that they were a whole liquid cup. What were the odds? I added the eggs about 1 egg at a time while the mixer mixed on low. I scraped down the sides and gave it a good shot of speed until the dough looked very beautiful to me. I plopped it into a ziploc bag, clipped off the corner, and piped golf-ball-sized lumps onto my silicone mat.

Don't do that, this sticks to silicone. No, I don't know how that's possible. Use parchment.

I put the lumps on a cookie sheet into the hot oven. I set the timer to 10 minutes. I got out the ingredients for chocolate pudding, plus some kirsch. I'm too lazy to tell you how to make pudding right now, that's for another post. I'll just tell you that I use skim milk instead of whole milk or cream or half and half. I made chocolate pudding. I added kirsch. It's yummy. I put it in the fridge to chill up.

When the 10 minutes were up, I turned the oven down to 350 and turned on the light so I could check for golden brown-ness. Oddly, this occurred at about 9 minutes, 50 seconds, so I let it go the full time. I removed my new puffy pastry shells, and poked them with a knife to let out the steam. They were lovely! Look!
Lovely golden brown shells

Anyway, after everything had cooled and chilled, I plopped a bunch of pudding into yet another ziploc bag, pumped some pudding into the shells, and made a pretty pile.
not nearly enough for a mountain

Cream puffs. Hooray! I ate one, I fed one to my room mate's boyfriend, I fed one to her aunt, I fed one to her mother, I wrapped up the rest and put them in the fridge.

My room mate doesn't like cream puffs.

Anyway, the ending of this story is that there are cream puffs in my fridge, and that while baking is a science, if you don't know how things are supposed to look, you really can't make them correctly. I feel really bad about not taking a picture of the dough stages, now.

Anyway - cream puffs!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jazz Fixes Nothing

Jazz here. (As the title might have already led you to believe.) I was on the phone last week with The One True Tami (blessed be Her name) talking for a very long time about really not very much at all, but it led me to some realizations. You shall now be burdened with this information.

First of all, I obsess over things. I'm also paranoid. (And I mean that in the medical sense, not in the Comedy Central, did that guy dip his chip in the nacho cheese twice sense. I once began testing various beverages in my house to find out if somebody - narrowed down to my wife or two of my best friends - was slowly trying to poison me.) The major problem with paranoids with a tendency toward obsession is that you eventually begin to obsess over being paranoid. But enough of that. I'll start boring you before too long if I stick with that line of thought. (OH MY GOD! Are they getting bored????)

Anyway... the point is that I've come to realize that I've spent a great deal of my half century on Earth veering off in different directions, all in the name of "refitting my priorities" or "sorting out what's important" or "dropping what doesn't work." All of those sound like fine and noble pursuits. The problem is that they don't translate very well into practice... at least not for me. I'm currently in the middle of a two week hiatus from pretty much "everything that doesn't directly pay me cash."

This break was allegedly to allow me to dive into and wrap up a couple of very important projects and reevaluate the various activities which have been clogging up my days to the point where I was getting stressed out. Many of those activities were not doing anything for my family life or my career. I enjoyed them for the most part, but only in small doses. Too much on my plate, even if it's all absolutely optional, was driving me to distraction.

So what did I wind up doing with all of this free time? I'm up to a level two farm in the 1990's vintage PlayStation One game, Monster Rancher. I've decided that I like the series "Scrubs" so much that I've ordered them all on Netflix and am watching the first season front to back. In short... I dropped the other things which were cluttering up my life and eating my time, and immediately found new, equally useless things to fill in the free hours.

What does a hiatus fix? At least for me... nothing. Not a damned thing. So, rather than dropping everything and spending days at a time in fruitless navel gazing, I really need to just do the things I need to do, then do some of the things I want to do, and if the latter builds up to the point where it becomes stressful, I need to say no to some of them.

Ok.. maybe I did fix something after all. I would explain this further, but I need to stop writing now before I become even more paranoid about something else. I have corn on the cob cooking on my grill right now. For all I know, one more paragraph and the whole freaking house will be engulfed in a deadly inferno.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Open Sea, Myself

I'm just here to wish Jazz good luck in his quitting smoking endeavor. It's a noble pursuit.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 18: No Land In Sight

Jazz here.

Here's a news flash which will elicit virtually no sympathy with the assembled masses. For those of you who weren't aware (and why would you care?) unlike the One True Tami, I have remained one of those disgusting people who smoke cigarettes for almost my entire adult life. I stopped 18 days ago. I was under the impression that if you made it through three and seven days, those were the big barriers. Today my willpower is starting to crack. It's would be hugely disappointing to have a setback after getting more than two weeks under my belt.

I'm white knuckling it here, so cross your fingers and grit your teeth for me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Technology I Don't Get

OK, so I'm reading an article on how in Windows, when you hide known file type extensions, people can name their viruses virus.txt.exe and change the icon so that unwary people are fooled into clicking on it.

Why did they hide the file extensions? If I'm looking at a file name, I want to know what kind of file it is, don't I? I never got what that was *for*, you know?

Does anyone know why you'd want to do that?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Amusing Spam

Beyond emails that assure me that they can increase the size of my manhood, I found a real gem today. It was an ad for religious schools. Whomever sent the email asserted that they could help me find a college that supported my faith.

Poor bastards never stood a chance in my faithless world.

Maybe that's not as funny as I thought.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In Restless Dreams

Jazz here... once again awakened like a shot in the dark by the same damned dream I've been having for three straight nights.

We're in the past. Georg and I are not married yet, but the day is drawing close fast. There are problems with the arrangements... nothing serious, like place settings or something, but it's one of the few things that I'm responsible for and I've not worked it out yet. But instead of the rental where we were actually residing, we're living on the third floor of the middle school I attended while growing up. It's an old, fifties era, blockish red brick affair. But the third floor has been converted to apartments in an almost college dorm style, with sets of three apartments opening up onto one joint lounge / entry area. Oh, and in real life, one end of the school wasn't jutting out into this dark, oily body of water (think of the tarn in Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" for imagery) coated with a slight greenish scum on the surface.

So we're in the lounge area in front of our apartment - me, Georg, her friend Sheri, and some black guy I don't recognize. He's a real sleazeball, with the too baggy pants, hat on wrong, bling chains... the works. I don't know who he is, but I know he's a criminal. Unfortunately, he's also a friend of Sheri's, apparently, so I've been informed that I have to tolerate him. We're talking about some detail of the wedding plans, but there's this pay phone ringing in the lounge and NOBODY is making any move to answer it. (For you younger, cell phone generation kids, there used to be phones in public places with the handset attached to the main body of the phone by a wire. You'd put a quarter into a slot on top of the phone and you could make calls.) It just keeps ringing and ringing and ringing.

Finally I'm exasperated and I storm over to answer it. Nobody there. In fact, nothing at all - no sound of somebody breathing, no clicks, not even a dial tone. I realize that the phone is, in fact, dead. For some reason it doesn't strike me as odd that it was ringing. But that's also when I realize that I need to make a phone call to work very badly. There's something important going on and I can't afford to lose my job now, particularly just when I'm about to get married. The slick looking black guy informs me that I should probably use the phone on the roof at the far end of the building over the water. Amazingly, this also fails to strike me as odd.

Now I'm on the roof, but the building isn't exactly square in shape any longer. It's got those rounded, tower like attachments at the corners such as you see on medieval castles. This has the effect of allowing you to look down from the roof and see the corner of the main building below you at a sharp angle. There, on the outside of the third floor, next to some painted over windows, is another pay phone attached to the wall of the building. And it's ringing. The same ringing I heard in the lounge. Now I have got to answer the damn thing. And I still need to call my office, too.

I jump lightly, almost cat-like, and land on a narrow, decorative brick ledge which encircles the building below the third floor windows. Using the word "ledge" is being generous. There's barely room for my toes and the balls of my feet. I make the jump easily and am momentarily proud of my athletic prowess. I grab hold of the pay phone to catch my balance and lift up the receiver. A recorded woman's voice, pleasant and helpful, says, "The IRS has detected recent work performed in another area code..." (Here the recording breaks for a moment and is replaced by the voice of a different woman who obviously recorded herself saying all of the individual numbers) "Two. One. Two." (it switches back to the original recording) "We have now added this area code to your cell phone for your convenience." Holy crap! I've got a cell phone! What the hell am I doing using a pay phone stuck the outside of a three story building???

(In waking life I just returned from a two day business trip to Manhattan, so I guess that's where that came from.)

I'm reaching for some change in my pocket to call my office when the unstable nature of my current position finally hits me. It's a long way down to the water... much farther than it should have been. The mortar between the bricks of the tiny ledge I'm perched on is crumbly and old. The rusty bolts holding the pay phone to the wall (which I've only just now noticed) look very insecure and the body of the phone is rocking back and forth a bit. A slight breeze has come up, rippling the oily waters of the tarn below. I'm in trouble.

I turn and look back where I came from... the edge of the roof above. It's a fair gap, but I can probably make the jump. I look down. If the water is deep, I'd probably survive the fall into it. But I have no idea how deep or shallow it might be. Visions of ancient masonry fallen from the building and lurking a foot or so under the surface come to mind. This won't do at all.

I turn my attention back to the ledge. Behind me, the bolts on the pay phone are creaking. They're going to give way in a moment. I have no choice. I jump for the edge of the roof. It's a lot further than it looked. I'm clearly not going to catch the edge.

And I wake up.

So, are any of you expert dream analysts? It's taken a few runs of this for me to remember all of the details upon awakening, but tonight I got up to set them all in my mind and logged on here to jot them all down. What does it mean?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Free Giving - What?

Today I got an email from Crate and Barrel saying that they were giving me 25 dollars to give away to I didn't get the money of I didn't immediately give it away to the charity that they named. Unbreakable strings attached.

Donor's Choice seems like an interesting place. I logged on, read about some projects that were requesting funding, and tossed Crate & Barrel's 25 bucks at a program to help kids learn to read.

So it's publicity, really. I might not have known that Crate & Barrel was donating to this group if they hadn't made me look around the website. Kind of slick. I feel as if I've been tricked into helping someone by an adorable bunny or something.

It's weird.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Springtime is Food Blogging Time

Just thought I'd let you all know that last night I put together a meatloaf.

I took about 2 pounds of ground beef, and hand-mushed in 1/2 cup of shredded asiago, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, salt and coarse ground black pepper (not a lot of salt, there's plenty other salty going on here), and one egg. Mush, mush, check to make sure that the shredded cheese is distributed throughout, wash my hands, because, ew, and done.

I then took this mixture and placed it on to some plastic wrap laid out on my counter. I flattened the mixture into a reasonable rectangle, nothing too precise, and then I laid down pieces of prosciutto on top of it. It took 4 slices to cover.

Next, using the method I call "the jelly roll method", and maybe other people do, too, I pushed the meat up a bit with the plastic wrap to start rolling it up, moved the plastic wrap out of the way, and continued until I had a nice meat roll. I then sealed this up in the plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Not because it needs to chill before cooking, but because it was after 9 by that point, and I was tired.

Tonight this meaty delight shall be placed into a loaf pan and cooked in a 350 oven for an hour or so. About halfway through the hour, I'll pour a little tomato sauce over the top, just enough to cover it. I'm partial to sauces that are heavy on the basil.

This recipe varies from the original that I got from a Food Network show. That one had parmesan, and not asiago, and it also included chopped red pepper. I didn't have those things in the house. I'm also thinking that the original didn't have Worcestershire in it, but what the heck, it was next to the pepper in the cabinet.

I am going to have great lunches for a few days.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Tami Underwear Conundrum

Tami just posted today about one of the pressing issues of what is, frankly, wrong with women. And I'm sure you'll all agree. It all comes down to the underwear. Women seem to be fixated on whether or not their underwear "matches" or not. Speaking as a guy (and yes, whether you believe it or not, I am) I can tell you that in a half century of living, I have never needed to worry about whether or not my "foundation matches" on any given day.

Why? Simple. Most of the time I only wear one piece of underwear, so there is no question of matching. During the winter, if I put on a suit, I will wear an undershirt in addition to my "tighty whities" They are both white. They match. I can put them on without thinking and move on to allowing my wife to decide if my shirt matches my pants and if the tie goes with the rest of the ensemble.

Why does this matter? It's obvious. This is why you women earn, on average, less money than men for the same work performed in the same period to time as men. It's why women only account for less than 5% of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. It's why so few of you are represented in Congress and why Hillary isn't the president today.

You spend too much time worrying about your damned underwear. If you would just stop wearing bras, you could slap on any old damned pair of panties each morning and there would be no questions asked. Men INVENTED THE BRA, ladies! Hello? It was a plot to keep you occupied so you wouldn't take over the world. It's worked perfectly and we still have that glass ceiling pinned firmly over your heads. Same thing with high heels! How in the hell did we EVER talk you into wearing those?

SUCKERS! As long as you keep falling for this crap, men will keep on running the world. Wake up, women!

Thursday Tami Update

I don't actually have a topic in mind, but I've been posting every Thursday, so I figured I'd just go stream of consciousness or something.

This morning someone said that I looked nice. My reply was, "Thanks. I'm wearing matching underwear today. Once you've got a good foundation, everything else just falls in to place".

I said that, even though I know it's not at all true. Your outer layers can crash horribly down about your head, even with a good foundation. Without one, though, you don't stand a chance.

Let's see, what else... Oh. Right. I don't care at all about Basketball.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why Newspapers are Sucking Air

You don't have to look very far to see that newspapers in the United States are failing. Today is the last day that the Seattle Post Intelligencer will publish a hard copy, paper edition. Other papers are failing or restructuring their corporate model to stay in business. The day may well come when giants such as the N.Y. Times (already dodging bankruptcy) and the Washington Post may go under. Some of my friends, primarily on the Right wing, feel that this may actually be a good thing. The main stream media is too liberal, they cry! People recognize the bias and they are mad as hell and they won't take it anymore!

An exciting line of thought, but sadly it is pure horsehockey. Newspapers are indeed swirling near the bottom of the toilet, but it's hardly anything to do with partisan political opinions or journalistic slant. The answer, as usual, will be found by following the money. Newspapers put all of their content on line and they never figured out a way to monetize that channel. Advertisers don't want to pay big bucks for online banner ads because they don't generate any sales for the advertiser. It's really as simple as that.

If you're old enough to remember some of those classic black and white movies, you've seen the newsboy out on the street shouting, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" Do you know what "extra" means in that context? Newspapers, once upon a time, put out one edition per day in the morning or the evening. If there was a really BIG story breaking, they would actually put out an extra edition and send kids out on the street to sell it. This, of course, doubled their overhead costs for the day and cut into profits massively.

In the modern era, nobody else has to do that. The 24 hour television news beast can update their broadcast schedule on a moment's notice. Web sites change as fast as you can refresh them. The newspaper is running out of ways to make money at the same time that its news delivery capability is looking like three toed sloth in a world of velociraptors. It simply isn't profitable to compete with the beast.

So what can papers do? They can go back to a local model that subscribers will actually pay for and deliver things that you still can't get on the web or from the big national outlets. You deliver coupons for shoppers. You deliver the local sports news for high school teams that parents still want to save and show off. You deliver obituaries! Families will still want them for their scrap books and memories of family members since departed. This is the market you hit and your readers will pay the fifty cents to buy it and advertisers will spend their money to support it.

Print media isn't dead, but it MUST evolve for a new, more compact generation. Otherwise, it goes the way of the dinosaur. Adapt or die. It's the same for every other business life form on the planet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Substance Abuse, of a Sorts

OK, Twitter turns out to be really fun. Who knew? I can't tweet from work, but I can put up little things with my phone when I get a minute here or there.

This morning, I left my phone in the car. I work in a big office building, and going out to the car is actually more trouble than it's worth. This means that I will not be checking Facebook or Twitter at all during the day, and the concept makes me a little twitchy.

Time to make myself not use it for a day or two, huh? Addicted to social networking like I'm addicted to caffeine. So sad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

21st Century Gal

OK, I've signed up for Twitter. At first, it was just to stalk Steven Page, you know, like you do, but then I found out that I could follow w00t and The Onion, as well. Awesome.

Now it's actually useful. Who would have guessed that?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

And This Is Your Life

They were the best of times. I just wish somebody had taken a moment out of their busy day to tell me before they were gone. I looked into her eyes and this time I saw it, hiding there like a cat ready to finally hit the canary’s cage on one last leap. I’m ready to tell her about the best of times – how good it was and how nobody today could possibly understand. The long nights of youth when you were so close to having it all right, but the tiny, key bits you had wrong turned it all into a tragedy. And now, decades later, you’ve figured out the missing pieces but the original body was dead, never to be reclaimed. I was ready to tell her all that. Again.

But staring into her eyes I saw the moment when the canvas was ready to paint you instead of you taking the brush to it. She’d heard it all before. I’d tried to tell her, so many times, each one a failure on some small level. I never managed to get it across. Always coming close, but missing by those small key bits, just like the ones we missed in the Good Old Days. They were the important ones, almost within reach. But there was something stopping us from seeing them.

So close. Blood on the Tracks was playing in the background and we were certain… so gods damned certain, that Dylan had figured the whole thing out. He’d managed the puzzle and if we listened and applied the words it would all come clear. But it didn’t. It never did. Maybe Dylan was full of shit after all.

But I clung to it. Not “it” as such… not a real thing, but the memory of what I thought I had and somehow lost. The trouble with time is that it flows through your mind in the same way that a stream cuts away a river bank and adds to the other side in sedimentary deposits. It takes the bits you can’t stomach and replaces them with things not yours. Things you borrow from Dylan and Springsteen and Jane’s Addiction and When Harry Met Sally and Trainspotting. You let the bad pieces float away down the river until they were Somebody Else’s Problem and you replaced them with the debris of people who seem wiser but are probably just as fucked up as you are.

And then you find yourself in that room. You’re looking at her. The words well up in your throat. You’re going to find a way to make it all right.. to turn back the clock. You’re going to explain exactly what that little, key item was that you missed and, in doing so, you’ll make the world of the future a better place, even if you – like a latter day Moses – will never live to see the Promised Land.

Then I look in her eyes. She doesn’t see Moses looking back at her. She sees a sad old man who missed his chance and now wants to pin his sorrows on the breast of the next world like a funeral corsage for the Prom of the Dead. She sees through the mask. She’s heard all of your music, but she has new music of her own. She has her own answers. And the one reason she’s sure that she’s right is that she knows.. KNOWS in the most certain terms possible.. that you were wrong. You messed it up totally, but she’s seen through the feeble warts of the aged and found the right answer at last.

She doesn’t need you. She’s learned what she needs from you and discarded the refuse while keeping the golden bits. She’s ready to take on the world. She’s the new mirror looking into the old mirror.

And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a b-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free

Keep telling yourself that, sister. Enjoy the freedom. It comes at an awful price, but thankfully you won’t have to pay it for a while yet. The final price you pony up is to the ferryman, and the fare is two pennies. I wish I could take them from your eyes before you board, but that’s a task beyond any mortal.

Ride captain, ride, on your mystery ship. What the cartographers didn’t tell you was that there really is an edge out there, and someday you’re going to sail over it. Beyond that? Dragons. And they’re really not as romantic as the poets make them out to be.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Tower

Anybody know tarot cards?

My favorite band is no longer the same. I was at their final concert, even though I didn't know it at the time. I'm sad about it.

I wonder what I'll find to fill in the hole.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Personal Space

Not sure why I feel the need to do this, but I'm posting about my mom.

It would have been my mom's 66th birthday, today, had she not passed away in 1987.

My mom was a great lady. She was friends with every kind of person; she broke all type barriers. She was a good teacher, kids actually liked having her most of the time. Yes, of course there are exceptions, she was a teacher. She could cook and bake reasonably well, some dishes, like her spinach lasagna, were really excellent. She wasn't a fastidious housekeeper, but we grew up in a decent environment that we weren't afraid to live in. She loved soap operas, yet was nervous around the VCR. That's a really sad combination. She was tall. I've always wished I was as tall as my mom.

When my mom knew her days were numbered, she never told my sister and I. She did that so that we could live every day with her without worrying that it would be our last. It worked pretty well for 4 years out of the 5 that she was sick.

So that was my mom.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ernie and Bert

Anyone ever notice that down the right hand column I've got a Sesame Street "Current Terror Level Alert" button? It's been at Ernie/Bert for so long that today I wondered if my widget was no longer working.

Well, I checked with Homeland Security, and yup, it's working. We're still at orange (Ernie) for all air travel and yellow (Bert) for everything else. Good to know.

I traveled by air a couple of weeks ago. I get the xrays, and the metal detectors, but the shoe thing kills me. I never remember to wear slip-ons.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speaking of Animals

The New York Post is running a shameful cartoon. Shameful. I don't even want to show it, here, but I've linked it in a new window so you'll know why I'm sad.

I wrote Sean Delonas an email.
OK, the cartoon with the dead chimp and the policeman saying that someone else would have to write the stimulus bill is shameful.
If you're saying the President is a chimp, because people compared Bush to a chimp, you're not figuring in the race card, which always counts. I don't want it to count, but it does.
If you're being that racist, you should hang your head in sadness over your own ignorance.
If you're saying that other people are racist, then you're missing your mark, because my first thought was that *you* should be ashamed for putting this out there.

Please think long and hard about how this insults so many people, at so many levels.

T. Yaches
Anybody think I'm over reacting? I don't.

The Day the Miracle Whip Died

Today we take a sad look back at the dark day in 2006 when Kraft Foods made the horrible decision to change the recipe for Miracle Whip. In one fell swoop they destroyed a classic American tradition and pushed civilization one step closer to the abyss. We've never fully recovered.

They took the soy oil out of the product and replaced it with a larger volume of water. This not only killed some of the flavor and thinned the consistency but also shortened its shelf life. At the time of the change, the Elementary Chef bemoaned the loss.

This is problematic, because like a lot of other people, I like to make the potato salad or coleslaw the day before, to let the flavors mingle. Only now I can’t, because it turns into a watery mess and tastes like I forgot the dressing!

I first noticed this change over a year ago, and have been scrambling to find a replacement ever since. I’ve tried lots of store brands, and found they vary widely by store. Some have an unpleasant aftertaste because of the kind of oil they use. I’ve also tried half a dozen different recipes, because my usual response when a product becomes unavailable or changes is to make my own. Yet none of the substitutes quite come up to snuff. The closest I’ve come is to add sugar and vinegar to Kraft mayonnaise, but haven’t quite achieved the magic formula.

They claim to have tinkered with the recipe in response to public demand, but it's still not the same as the product I grew up with. And you won't get any sort of admission of guilt from those bastards at Kraft. Their history page lists all sorts of wonderful things but no mention is made of this nefarious plot.

At the time, even the vaunted Instapundit weighed in on the subject and provided a letter from a Kraft employee who explained the atrocity. Some of us thought that it was another of those nanny state plots to force people to eat healthier, but it turns out that the culprit was the same old suspect. It was all about the money.

I work at one of only a few places that make the stuff. Every year, the cost of the raw material goes up, and every year the price that Wal*Mart and others want to buy it from us for goes down.

So there's compromise; and even those of us who make the stuff miss the old Gold Standard. But the decision is out of our hands, out of R&D's hands probably out of Corporate or even Wal*Mart corporate's hands. The consumers don't want seem to want to pay a premium for the good stuff.

I normally don't approve of the use of soy for anything except sauce, but in this case I will make an exception. Clearly the oil was a large part of what gave Miracle Whip its flavor and texture. There just isn't a good substitute. I was making a sandwich today and realized that I just can't enjoy them as much as I used to.


Monday, February 16, 2009

If I Could Talk to the Animals

Last night I was flipping through the channels and came upon some old, black and white film where a woman very World War 2 era clothes was doing a swirl turn in front of her friend, saying, "Oh Gawd, no! I don't want to wind up being one of those old women who sits at home and talks to her cats." It's a funny line. In fact, with some level of embarrassment, I suspect I've used the phrase myself. But why is that bad?

Some more deep confessions and introspection. I talk to my pets. All of them. Just this week we lost one of our cats.

I had to start another paragraph because that last sentence was a lie. We didn't lose Fat Cat (as most of us called her) so much as I gave up. She was old, diabetic and no longer had much in the way of any quality of life, but I gave up on the fight. She could have pushed on a bit further, but I bailed out on her. I'm finding it hard to deal with that. But my talking to animals started long ago.

It used to be that I only talked (at least out loud) to my dogs and cats when my wife was out of town. Then I began doing it when I was downstairs and she was still asleep upstairs. Now she frequently comes out to ask me what I just said and I have to admit that I was talking to one of the animals. Have I gone around some bend?

Aside from my spouse I have very little desire to speak face to face with anyone else anymore. I enjoy talking to to my two dogs and (now) three cats. We have fascinating conversations... or at least I do. I suspect they play along with the script because I'm the one that puts the food down every day. If they had opposable thumbs and a credit card, some of them likely wouldn't give me the time of day.

I've also lost interest in politics since our Fat Cat passed away. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but in my other incarnation I am actually paid to watch politics, to read about politics, to talk about and write about politics. Losing interest in it is inherently damaging to my long term prospects. But there you are. What I think about now - when I'm not talking to my pets - is fishing.

I combine the two and imagine situations where I can have both dogs and all three cats on the edge of some river or pond and I fish and explain to them what I'm doing. Then we argue. We always argue. We argue about food and the weather and what the neighbors are doing. We debate whether it's a good time to go for a walk, how the various snacks are going over or why I'm screaming at some horrible program on the television.

I'm going to have dinner, read something, and talk to my pets. If you could talk to the animals, what would you say? Probably something different than you say to the myriad people in your lives. At least I hope so... most of them are idiots.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Apoligies All Around

I'm back. Sorry about Jazz, with his tendencies to write about actual topics and stuff. I should have told him that I stopped doing that years ago and now just blog inane platitudes and cat pictures.

Glad to be home, I'm sure.

Me, with Dave Foley, somewhere in the Caribbean

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sarah Palin: Where the Right Went Wrong

This weekend I was reading a quote of the day excerpt by Allah Pundit at Hot air, snipped from David Frum's analyis of Sam Tenenhaus' examination of modern conservatism. In it, he takes the useful and interesting tact of abandoning questions of whether or not Palin represented a productive new path for American conservatism, instead choosing to ask if the Alaska Governor embodied a fundamental flaw in current conservative doctrine. In short, has conservative theory become the chapel of fighting against perceived evils in opposition dogma rather than fighting for a preferred approach to governance and social order? Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.
[T]he modern American right defines itself not by what it yearns to conserve but by what it longs to destroy--"statist" social programs; "socialized medicine"; "big labor"; "activist" Supreme Court justices, the "media elite"; "tenured radicals" on university faculties; "experts" in and out of government. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.

The Palin story was always less about Palin, and more about the response to Palin. And the continuing inability of even our conservative best and brightest to elevate their concern for the responsibilities of government over their cultural animosities suggests that this story’s most painful chapters remain to be written. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.
Interesting questions all, and Palin is certainly an apt spokesperson for a new model in leadership. Glowing essays of approbation have been penned regarding her "aw shucks" demeanor, her disarming inability to verbally fence with reporters, her rejection of the modern media and disparagement of "nuance" in the analysis of current events.Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.
Tenenhaus dances around some of the questions which modern conservative advocates should be asking while taking a long, hard look in the mirror. When, exactly, did a high level of intelligence become a subject of derision? How did nuance and thoughtful analysis of actions and their possible consequences evolve into displays of weakness. In short, when did the clenched fist become preferable to the open hand by the simple virtue of providing a base, temporary sense of primitive gratification? Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.
If you begin to despise the person who can consistently sink the three pointer with their fade away jump shot, you might ask yourself if that feeling is rooted in your own ability to make one out of five from the foul line. When you find yourself devoting your life to preventing gays from getting married, it may be time to look for ways to improve your own marriage or examine exactly what it is about homosexuality that makes you so uncomfortable. Does the thought of a black man who might welcome pro-choice candidates into the party alarm you? Perhaps it's more than his personal philosophies putting you off your feed. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.
A successful philosophy in any endeavor must always stand for things, not just against perceived evils, failures and shortcomings. You will be unable to sell your agenda to the masses if you can't offer an improved replacement of the current, flawed edition. What Frum may be feeling, but unwilling to say, is that leaders look forward and mark out a trail. Those glowering at the path already taken are unlikely to be followed. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.

For our next intellectual exercise, we shall attempt to determine exactly why this article gets so many darned Google hits. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude. Sarah Palin naked. Sarah Palin nude.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Impeach Obama Now!

We continue to plod on under the lash of a harsh master, but I must ask you... for how much longer? For seventeen long days we have labored under the oppressive Obama administration. Over the entire course of his administration job losses have been at record levels every single week. The economy is crumbling. Partisan hacks fill our television screens, screaming at each other over every perceived slight. The country is divided in a way we've not seen since the second Bush administration.

Can you remember the good old days? Thinking back, I recall a sweeter, kinder and, dare I say, more fun America. It was back in... oh... around the end of December of 2008 and the first few days of 2009. People just seemed to be in a kinder, more charitable mood. Parties were being thrown all over the country. Folks were cutting down pine trees and putting them up in their homes, festooned with all manner of decorations. Drinks were bought for perfect strangers. Handsome young men dared to kiss pretty girls under conspicuously hung clumps of shrubbery. Music played, even if nobody really knew the words to the songs. Ah, good times.

But no more! Those days passed in a hurry, didn't they? Back then, Barack Obama was sworn in as president and then everything went to crap. It's been seventeen long days, people. How much more of this do you plan to take? Contact your representatives! Take to the streets! It's time to give the Republicans a chance!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sometimes I feel like, Google is watching meeeee

For those of us in the old fogy set who can actually remember black and white televisions hooked to an antenna on the roof that only got three channels for roughly five hours a day, it is a never ending blessing to have lived long enough to enjoy all the amazing benefits of 21st century technology. Yet another of these many blessings has been bestowed upon by by The Google.

A mobile phone tracking service that lets parents keep an eye on their children - and wives keep tabs on their husbands - 24 hours a day has been launched by Google.

The software allows owners of cellphones or BlackBerry hand-held computers to automatically share their whereabouts with family and friends anywhere around the world.

Oh, COME ON! How cool is that? You mean you have a free service where my GPS location will be fed into a massive online database, parsed nine ways from Sunday and converted into a map where people will be able to track my every movement 24/7? Holy, cow! That's absolutely.. ummm.. uh....

Now that I come to think of it, that's actually pretty freaking creepy. Of course, in my particular case, viewers would quickly lose sight of the entertainment value, since I'm in the exact same location for 99.999% of the year. But for those of you on the move, particularly the younger, more attractive women, this could really be a life changing technological innovation.

Speaking of women and technology, there's more good news on the horizon. Tell me, ladies. Do you like orgasms? But are you tired of both the annoyance of having other people involved in the process and the hassle of switching the settings on your shower massager if you want to masturbate? Fear not, for science is coming to the rescue. Soon you will be able to have a computer chip implanted in your spine which will resolve all of these pesky issues and deliver orgasms on demand.
Scientists are developing a new electronic 'sex chip,' according to the Daily Mail.The technology, used to treat Parkinson's disease, works by creating tiny shocks to the brain.

The 'sex chip' could work by stimulating the orbitofrontal cortex, a part of your brain associated with pleasures like sex and eating. The chip would increase one's desire for sex or food. Researchers at Oxford University are exploring this possibility.
I know, I know... you're worried about the side effects. It's a big sexual turn-on, but it also makes you want to eat. So? You live in the computer age so you can order food online whenever you want. And if you think the eating thing will impact your dating life... again. So what? You no longer need a partner anyway.

It's truly a brave new world.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Curse of the Black Trash Man

With the One True Tami (blessed be Her name) sailing off on vacation, I shall take this time to annoy you with some distressing news from the home front. My normal, carefully regulated, increasingly agoraphobic home routine has been upset to a distressing level. For those of you who don't know, as the years go by I have become more and more like Nero Wolfe, homebound through a combination of fear and antipathy toward open, public spaces or crowds of the great, unwashed masses. My work as a private marketing consultant and occasional freelance writer allows me to conduct virtually all of my business from my home.

For those of you who have routinely worked away from your residence, you might not imagine or appreciate the strange daily rituals and relationships which develop for the homebound. If you spend your days off at some office, factory or mall, you miss out on all of the activities which occur during your absence. The mail arrives six days per week, (at least for now) usually around the same time. You may know this only because it's waiting for you when you get home. I actually see the mailman - or mail woman, in my case - on an almost daily business and get to chat with her. Retirees often walk their dogs around the block on a regular schedule. I know them by name and occasionally join them with my Basset Hound. Meter readers, delivery vans, surveyors and political campaign workers prowl the suburban landscape and I inevitably run into them all.

One of the most regular events is the weekly pickup of trash and recycling materials by the municipal workers. As the appointed day arrives, I generally fret over whether to put the trash out the night before or wait until early the next morning. (The truck comes by at an obscenely early hour, but get up around 5:30 a.m. and keep my advantage in the battle.) During weeks when there is a government holiday on Monday the pickup is delayed by one day. On these occasions I wallow in a particularly morose pleasure generally available only to the homebound - I chuckle at the stupidity of my neighbors who lug their cans out on the usual evening, dooming them to sit at the curb for 36 hours, while I stand smugly on my porch secure in the knowledge that I'll catch them the next day.

I like the guys who work on the garbage truck. They all look somewhat like myself, except for being more muscular, weatherbeaten and scruffy, clad in overalls and carrying themselves with the bearing of those who get up early to do hard, often dirty work, braving the elements and performing an under appreciated service, without which society quickly grinds to a halt. They also differ from the stereotypical perception some people have of uneducated losers in the game show of life. They have government jobs which actually pay pretty well and carry full benefits. The hours aren't bad and a decent retirement program is provided. As I said, I've come to like these guys. At least until the last few weeks.

One of the scruffy, weather beaten and - most importantly - Caucasian guys who ride the truck has disappeared. I've not managed to work up the nerve to ask where he is or how he's getting on, but he's been replaced... by a black man. This is nothing short of a disaster. In the past I have been completely comfortable stepping out on my front porch with a cup of coffee and waiting for the trash truck to go by. I could give a cheery wave to the workers, ask how things were going, and promptly bring my newly emptied garbage and recycling bins back to the house long before any of my gainfully employed neighbors could manage to do so. No more!

You see, I too am white. (Or should that have read, "I am too white?" Well, white enough to pass muster for most people anyway. I'm certainly not going to be mistaken for any of the boys in the "hood.") Call it a case of deeply set, generational white guilt, latent racist tendencies or stark, glaring stupidity. Frankly, I don't know nor will I pretend to have some brilliant psychoanalytical explanation. What I do know, however, is that my routine is shattered. My coffee cup and I are out on the porch as usual, but at the sound of the approaching truck I turn and flee back inside. I peer through the curtains and wait for the vehicle to disappear around the corner before furtively sneaking out to retrieve the cans.

Why? The answer is both unfortunate and obvious. It seems that I'm perfectly fine with the idea of a white man showing up to haul off my refuse, but when an African-American shows up being paid to perform the same task, I fold up like cardboard boots in a rainstorm. Rather than an average homeowner greeting another hard working member of the community, in my mind's eye I have suddenly become a sneering, plantation era taskmaster, tossing his buggy whip from hand to hand as he oversees the non-voluntary labor. "Say there, boy! Make sure you get all of those shrimp shells from my luxurious dinner last Monday that are scattered by the curb. And don't let me catch you eating any of the scraps or it's the lash for you! Do a good job and there'll be an extra portion of gruel for you on Sunday." It's simply too much to bear.

What's to be done? The solution is clear. I'll give it a few more weeks to see if the regular guy was just off on holiday and returns to work. If not, I'll need to figure out a way to explain to my wife why we're moving.