Thursday, December 30, 2004

More Private American Donations Needed

Tsunami Aid

Australia is sending US$47 million with more to come. Australia has 20 million people (according to the CIA Fact Book).

Australia: $2.35 / person


The United States is sending US$35 million with more to come. The USA has 293 million people (according to the CIA Fact Book).

United States: $0.12 / person


While I am sure the US government will come through with more money than Australia, I think it is important that we show we care privately and individually.

CNN has a list of aid sites. Please pick one and send whatever you can NOW. Besides, whatever you send before December 31 is tax deductible for the current tax year. Sounds like a plan to me.

Sorry to obsess about the tsunami, but the death toll is higher than 40 September 11ths and the survivors need the help now.

Update: U.S. Boosts Tsunami Aid Tenfold to $350M. That brings us up to $1.19, but every bit of private help is still needed. Thanks. Happy New Year!

Some Say Mountain, but it is a Molehill

From the Guardian,

Jan Egeland - the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator and former head of the Norwegian Red Cross . . . question[ed] the generosity of rich nations. ``We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries,'' Egeland said Monday. ``And it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really. ... Even Christmas time should remind many Western countries at least how rich we have become.'' Egeland told reporters the next day that his complaint wasn't directed at any one nation.


I am not interested in delving into politics again on this site, but I didn't realize how badly this guy was being misquoted and misinterpreted. So in the spirit of Snopes, the urban legends site, I thought I would put an actual quote on the site.

This is a monumental tragedy which will balloon if the people of the world don't all do everything we can to replace dirty water with clean and provide food for people who need it. The next few weeks are the most critical. Anything said by UN members, presidents, or other government leaders is secondary to that basic fact and frustration all around is probably understandable given the circumstances.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Snabulus Caption Contest

Just an Observation

Yahoo! has a sidebar for news on their home page. When major events warrant, they sometimes reserve a section for the event with a small picture. That is all fine and dandy.

However, during their tsunami coverage, they have been circulating through a number of screaming Sri Lankan or Indian women. One picture makes sense, but having a rotating gallery of screaming (and probably grieving) women is just plain weird. Taken en masse, it reminds me of my Aaaaaaaah! web entry.

In the big picture, this doesn't really matter, but part of the job of blogs is to chronicle the things that don't matter along with the things that do (like the details of fixing a taillight or caption contests).

It certainly doesn't lessen the humbling scope of this tragedy.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

My aunt, uncle, cousins, and a few other relatives were in Sri Lanka last weekend. We didn't know where in the country they were, but just that it was on their itinerary. When I read the island nation was hit by a tsunami wave and thousands were killed, it was startling to say the least.

Over the course of a couple of hours, my dad reached a cousin who had heard back from the crew and they are all safe. They were staying inland at higher elevations. Their biggest problem right now is that they are cut off from the airport. We were told that another member of the extended family was in Thailand and was driving around only to return and find that his hotel was gone. He is a lucky man.

This provided me with a thankfully small dose of how situations like this can work on the part of the brain that worries about things. We are thankful they weren't sipping margaritas at the pool at a beachside hotel or I would be telling a different tale today (and probably not on a blog).

Knowing people affected by these events in South Asia connects us to those more acutely affected by this massive earthquake. As always, Mercy Corps is on the job to help the survivors.

If you want to help out those whose lives were devastated, click this link to donate.

Update: There are actually two extended families (my cousin's brothers-in-law and families) in Phuket, Thailand. They are also safe, but they lost everything they brought to Thailand and now they are also trying to figure out how to get back home. This event has killed people from Somalia to Thailand. If these areas had the warning sirens that Seaside, Oregon has, it is possible that many thousands might have been saved. Very, very sad.

Update 2: Here is an article in the LA Times explaining what happened geologically to Sumatra in the earthquake: A Rare Tsunami, and a Change in Geography

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Little Christmas Miracle

They always say it's the little things that count at Christmas (unless you're a little kid eyeballing the biggest package under the tree). Well, I just had my own little Christmas miracle.

Standard Christmas fare in Japan is chicken. Yesterday, all the supermarket poultry sections were quickly picked bare, and today there are long lines at the drive-throughs and entrances of every Kentucky Fried Chicken (which is now strictly by reservation only).

On Christmas Day last year I went to pick up a pizza for lunch to find a hideously long line and only one menu item available for the duration of the day: teriyaki chicken pizza.

Turkey? Forget it. It just doesn't happen here. The last time I had turkey (not counting turkey SPAM) for any kind of event here in the land of the rising sun was about six or seven years ago, when I found one at a supermarket that carries a lot of import items. It was a tiny, little thing, imported from Brazil, prepared according to Halal rules. It was frozen solid. After all the hours spent roasting and carving it, it was disappointing. Not only did it taste funny, but it gave us all the runs. Needless to say, we didn't go to too much trouble to find a turkey after that.

Well, my wife just came back from the store with the fixings for our dinner tonight. She proudly lugged in a fairly good sized Manitoba smoked turkey. She won't tell me where she got it, and I'm not going to press the issue. All I can say is that it looks wonderful.

I guess we're going to have a real Christmas dinner for a change this year! Hey, I know, it's no paraplegic suddenly walking, no dog reciting Shakespeare, no water changing to a fine Haut-Medoc, no sudden end to the madness in the Middle East, but, hey! This is my little Christmas miracle, and that's good enough for me!

Okay, you can go back to your Christmas ale now.

  • posted by The Moody Minstrel (with easier access for the name shown below)

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

Have fun whatever your religion or lack thereof. Don't kick homeless people and be sure to be extra nice to your minimum wage retail workers who are working while you spike your egg nog and for the minimum wage retail workers, please don't throttle the belligerent shoppers; they might just be drunk.

Give, Love, and seek Peace.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Le Guin Understated the Case

Ursula Le Guin wrote an excellent set of books about a fantasy world consisting of an archipelago (group of islands) called EarthSea. I just finished re-re-re-re-reading A Wizard of Earthsea and enjoyed it (again) immensely.

The SciFi channel decided to make the first two books into miniseries called the Legend of Earthsea. In response to the series, Le Guin penned an article, "A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books.." In it, she focused on a few salient points. They told her they had a co-writer from "The Lord of the Rings" movies and then they didn't. They started out working with her on the script and then they didn't. The racial makeup of Earthsea was completely out of sync with the miniseries. These and other points all led Le Guin to the conclusion the SciFi channel wrecked her books.

I decided to wait and judge things for myself. Sometimes the passions of an artist get the better of them when their "baby" is being messed with. Perhaps Le Guin was overreacting. How could I know without watching the series? I finally watched as much as I am going to tonight. I made it through about 10 minutes before walking out of the room (my daughter likes corny fantasy, so she trooped on).

Imagine if Harry Potter kissed Hermione in the first five minutes of "Harry Potter." Imagine if Potter, Hermione, and Ron were all Inuits. Imagine if the Riders of Rohan hatched a plan to attack the elves and take over Frodo's ring in the first 10 minutes of the "Lord of the Rings" and the hobbits were the same size as humans. Imagine things getting more different and bizarre from there. The insulting inaccuracies piled up so fast that I was simultaneously digusted and laughing and poking fun at the same time.

Ursula Le Guin understated the case when she said the SciFi channel wrecked her books. I would say they defiled, then wrecked her books after taking the time to personally insult all who had read her books. Le Guin's restraint was admirable. My question is, "Why did you bother to use Earthsea if you were going to make a crappy fantasy miniseries?" I am sure there are thousands of would-be script writers who could have provided a much more gripping and powerful story.

It reminds me of the scene in "Elf" where James Caan asked what a bunch of stupid kids would care if there were two pages missing from a kids book. You can't commoditize a good idea to the point of absurdity or you won't make much money. I wouldn't expect any DVD sales of substance on this farce.

Yule Have a Happy Solstice

We went to see the Christmas Ships down at Willamette Park this evening. We walked out on a boat launching pier on a chilly night and waited for just under a dozen boats decked in Christmas lights to cruise by. In lights, Santa was surfing and scuba diving and paddling a canoe (depending on which boat you were looking at). Some of these were animated and all were well done. It was the final night of the 50th anniversary edition of the Christmas Ships in Portland. We were happy to celebrate their and our good fortune.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Congratulations to Linfield Football

The Linfield Wildcats won their first national championship since moving to NCAA Division III in 1998. They won a number of national championships in the NAIA. I am sure they are celebrating in McMinnville, OR even now tipping glasses of a drink called a Spruce Goose or something.

A Good Old Band Does an Even Older Song

This definitely appears to be cover season. It seems like a lot of the "new" tunes hitting the airwaves (and used as BGM for TV commercials) are actually old tunes being covered by new groups. However, the veterans are apparently getting into the act, as well.

I don't know...maybe this beloved band of our teen days was inspired by Rush's Feedback EP. Maybe they were just hit by a wave of nostalgia. At any rate, it's true that the idea of this particular band covering this particular song seems too twisted not to be a nightmare, but check it out anyway. It's surprisingly cool.

(Light up...everybody...)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

NOOOOOooooooooooo!!!!!!!

China toasts surging growth with beer, outdrinks US

TOKYO (AFP) - The Chinese are toasting their economic growth with beer as the country for the first time surpassed the United States as the world's top beer guzzler, a global survey by a Japanese brewer said.

Chinese drinkers chugged down nearly 25 billion liters (6.6 billion gallons) in 2003, accounting for 17.3 percent of the world's beer consumption of 144 billion liters.

The United States accounted for 16.5 percent, said the study by Kirin Brewery.

Increasing incomes saw the Chinese drink 6.4 percent more beer in 2003, while US consumptino fell 0.4 percent in 2003 from 2002, the survey said.

"The growing middle class in China was the main factor behind the increasing beer consumption," said Hiroki Umezawa, Kirin spokesman.

"Japanese and foreign beer makers believe the Chinese beer market has a lot of growth potential. As the Chinese economy grows stronger, its beer consumption should rise," he said.


All is not lost though...

However, on a per capita basis, the Chinese were still a long way behind their American peers.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, consumption worked out at 19.7 liters of beer per capita in 2003 compared with 81.6 for each American.

The Czechs kept the title of top beer lovers for the 11th straight year, drowning themselves with an average of 158.9 liters in 2003, followed by the Irish, who drank 135.7 liters, Kirin said.


It is simple. We're all going to need to drink more beer. If we bring our consumption up to Czech levels, we will have nothing to beer. I mean fear.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Happy Christmas

This isn't a contest per se, but who cares?

I would like all Snabulus readers to pass along their happiest Christmas related experience. You know, that time you stopped the street fight on Christmas eve using kind words and Krispy Kremes or similar. I'd like some true stories, but there is always room for a little satire I suppose.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Happy Bill of Rights Day

From HolidayOrigins.com:

This day was signed into practice by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 15, 1941, one hundred and fifty years after the actual signing of the Bill of Rights by our forefathers. Ironically, he proclaimed the holiday just one week after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor initiating the United States' involvement in World War II where freedom issues were at the core of wartime dogma.


We have much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

First Ever Snabulus Caption Contest

Shamelessly ripping off Fark and Reload blog, here is the first Snabulus caption contest. See what you can come up with for the picture below:


What Are Friends For?

Today I got an e-mail from a mutual old friend of both me and Snabby. In it, he wondered why we were still friends even despite our often radically different (diametrically opposed?) political and religious views. After all, our differing viewpoints have led to some very heated e-mail exchanges on more than one occasion. I mean, we're talking some serious cyber-bile here. Even so, we've continued to maintain that tie.

I guess true friendship is something that can even survive post-9/11 angst. Yes, there are still human beings in the world, and some of them do still have hearts and souls regardless of who they may have voted for. There's something to be learned there...though I'm not altogether sure what it is.

One thing I am sure of is that the linked article gives a perfect example of how not to conduct a friendship. Patience used to be a virtue. Now it seems to be an endangered species...along with personal responsibility.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Look, D'ya Want Us to Do Our Job, or What???

From the continuing saga of the brilliance with which the War on Terror has been carried out by the bureaucrats running the Pentagon, we have another beaut. First they forced our hard-pressed troops to scavenge wrecks and landfills for parts in order to carry out their missions. Now they're arresting them for doing so.

The linked article goes on to mention that the members of that convoy that refused to carry out their mission orders some months ago on account of having substandard equipment were treated far better than these Guardsment that took parts from abandoned vehicles so they could carry out their mission orders. I guess mutiny is considered more commendable than resourcefulness.

Chivalry may be dead, but loyalty is being slowly tortured.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Not If, but When

At Slashdot a couple days ago, I ran across an entry called "Consensus on Global Warming"

It turns out that Science Magazine went back through a bunch of peer-reviewed journals culling articles related to climate change. The results were quite interesting. From The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change:

The American Meteorological Society (6), the American Geophysical Union (7), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling (8).

The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies' members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change" (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.


A number of geologists in the UK sound a warning as well. Here is Global Warming: A Perspective from Earth History:

Action
The problem can only be marginally (i.e. ineffectually) addressed by increases in alternative energy and energy efficiency, any likely savings being offset by population and economic growth. And, given the huge energy and material demands in the construction of, say, wind farms, the ultimate value of these is debatable. More radical solutions to humanity's dilemma are necessary, and these might include:

  • massive underground sequestration of CO2. This is not yet a proven method on anything like the scale needed, but needs to be pursued with urgency.
  • large-scale capture of CO2 from the air and its conversion into a mineralized form, perhaps as carbonate minerals.
  • a large-scale switch to civil nuclear power. This has the benefit of being proven technology. We are aware of the problems, and current public unpopularity of this route, but we consider the dangers posed by global warming to be orders of magnitude greater than those likely to be caused by the controlled use of nuclear power. This energy source, additionally, could lie at the heart of future hydrogen-based transport systems.

We urge serious, and immediate, consideration of these issues. The dangers posed by climate change are no longer merely possible and long-term. They are probable, imminent, and global in scope.


Scientists in the physical and natural sciences dealing with climate change are in total or nearly total agreement, even if the rest of us aren't that we are undergoing human-caused global warming. The severity and consequences can be debated. The existence is only debated in political circles and by media eager to provide a conflict to raise ratings. The geologists are proposing solutions that many environmental advocates are going to resist. The impact and costs for industry are aspects that industrial advocates are going to resist.

Will we learn about climate change through hard experience? Probably. However, there are people such as the folks at the Rocky Mountain Institute who advocate for both the environment and industry in ways that we should all embrace. If we can rally around these types of groups, good things could happen.

Urine Trouble, Part 3, 4, 5 and 6

As much as you want to sleep in your cozy little bed thinking there are no urination problems in the world, you will soon see it is impossible. In our exclusive continuing coverage of the urine anarchy gripping the planet Earth, I present the following nightmarish proof:

UK: North Wales Pioneer: URINE TROUBLE

BY JOANN RAE
SPEND a penny in public and you could get more than you bargained for.

Revellers in Conwy will now be forced to clean up their own mess or face arrest if they are caught urinating or discarding rubbish in public.




Orange County, CA: KKMG: Sheriff's Deputy Videotaped Urinating In Elevator

An Orange County sheriff's deputy was fired after surveillance video showed him urinating in a public elevator, according to Local 6 News.

Recent complaints of a foul odor inside the R & R Limited public parking garage in Orange County prompted the building's manager to set up a video camera inside an elevator.




UK: Evening Star, Suffolk: Human waste litters ancient woodland

BOTTLES of urine and human excrement are among debris found near ancient woodland on the A14 today.

Motorists are believed to be responsible for throwing their rubbish into the edge of Spring Wood while parked at a popular lay by just outside Ipswich.



Kentucky Post: Police arrest vandal at store, seek flasher

A man who investigators said urinated on more than $1,000 worth of shoes at Value City last week was arrested in the first of two bizarre incidents at the Latonia discount store in three days, police said.


Consider yourself warned.

When the Boys Break In, Just Sit Quiet and Let Them Work

Here's some wonderful advice from an "expert" in Britain: If your home is broken into, take control of the situation by sitting quietly and doing nothing. If you attempt to defend your own property, you risk getting either killed by a "scared adolescent" or arrested and jailed for far longer than the punk that burgled your house would be if he were caught. Apparently one man that gave an armed burglar in his house a demonstration of the stopping power of a shotgun was charged with pre-meditated murder since he had obviously kept his shotgun on hand for the purpose of using it against burglars.

And they wonder why burglaries are skyrocketing in Britain?

Why am I suddenly reminded of the polite, guild-associated burglars of Ankh-Morpork in the Ringworld novels? "Excuse me, but we're robbing you. We appreciate your cooperation in helping to keep our city fair and orderly. Would you like us to stab you in the back or hit you over the head? Actually, if you like, we're offering a special this month: we let you off with just a broken arm. Oh, and would you like a receipt?"

A similar case exists here in Japan. You are not allowed to use any kind of force that inflicts injury on someone that robs you, even if he threatens or actually uses injuring force on you. If you hit him with a baseball bat to stop him from shooting you, you are criminally liable. There's even a chance you could be arrested for "unlawful confinement" just for subduing him. If you are a victim, you have to be a victim. End of story.

And they wonder why burglaries are skyrocketing in Japan?

Laws concerning such things vary from state to state in the U.S.. Apparently Oregon allows killing force if killing force is threatened, but you can't do spit to an unarmed burglar. Frankly, I'm with South Carolina: if you find someone in your house that doesn't belong there, you are fully within your rights to reduce him to fertilizer. People will be less likely to commit a crime if there's a high chance of death involved.

Speaking of which, though I realize participation in this blog has been at an all-time low lately, I'm curious to know what means you'd propose to keep your home and possessions safe.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Yellow Rivers, Part II

In the never ending quest to bring you the latest peepee news, Snabulus finds this for you:

'Potty Police' Nab Bladder-Heavy Revelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Cruising down the street in a Chevrolet missing a front hubcap, the two officers checked their gear again - their guns, handcuffs and radios were right where they should be. It was going to be a busy night.

A Jimi Hendrix tune played on the radio, but they didn't seem to hear as their eyes darted left and right scanning alleys, parking lots and the rows of cars packed along the narrow streets.

The officers spotted three men standing in the darkened corner of a bank parking lot. They had action. "Police. What's going on here?"

"You've got to be kidding me," said one of the men as he zipped up his pants.

It was another collar for Officers Matt Turko and Tom Weger, members of Pittsburgh's Pub Patrol, which could also be called the potty police.


This thing is WORLDWIDE.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Ghost Rider on the Big Screen

(Okay...we'll try this again. The school computer ate my attempted posting again...)

I know there are a lot of Rush fans among the assorted friends, acquaintances, relatives, co-workers, and passing maniacs that visit this site. Even if you're not, one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time has been Neil Peart's autobiographical novel, Ghost Rider. Far from being a self-indulgent account of his endeavors as a well-known rock star, it documents the journey he took to try to put his life back together again after suffering an unbelievably tragic series of losses. The book is in many ways along similar lines to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, another novel I really liked, but Ghost Rider is grounded less in abstract philosophy and more in the human sphere. It's interesting to read how he circles all over the North American continent on his BMW motorcycle describing the places he sees and people he meets (willingly or not). He also gets a bit adventurous, sometimes taking roads most sane people wouldn't at times or dates that most sane people wouldn't (mainly because he has trouble figuring out if he really cares or not). And all throughout is Peart's famous lyrical ability, which has graced Rush's albums since the album Fly By Night in 1975.

Interestingly, and ironically, it turns out that the daughter of legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich (one of Peart's longtime idols) has obtained permission and legal rights to produce a movie version of Ghost Rider. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

I should also mention that Peart has just put out another book. Entitled Traveling Music: Playing Back the Soundtrack to My Life and Times, it documents another cross-country journey Peart recently made, this time by (BMW) car. However, this time the focus of the book is not so much his personal experiences as the music he listens to as he goes along. He apparently selected CDs of tunes from ages past, using them both as appropriate backing music for his travels and also as a "safe" means of reflecting on his past (something he has always tended to avoid). For a music lover or someone who just enjoys reading, it sounds like something worthwhile.

If you don't happen to know anything about Neil Peart, go buy, borrow, or download some Rush right now. It might help to have some background before digging into his books.

Just What Is the Reason for the Season???!?

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from a friend of mine complaining about the "blunders of certain city officials and department stores" for trying to celebrate Christmas without Christ. I replied to him with this little bit of history (posted here at Snabby's suggestion):

Actually, the Jul festival ("Yuletide" in English) predates Jesus by hundreds of years. When Christianity came to the Germanic peoples of central and northern Europe in somewhere around the 3rd century, it had trouble gaining ground. To help promote their faith, the early missionaries took the most significant Germanic festival date, Jul (the day after the Winter Solstice, or December 24th), and said, "Hey, what a coincidence! That's also Christ's birthday!" The image and name of Christ were then inserted into the existing Jul traditions and strengthened little by little over the years. Eventually (more like after the passage of almost a full century), people became so accustomed to the presence of Christ in their culture that they were much more open to conversion. The Germanics were then quickly Catholicised.
The funny thing about it is that Christ's birthday wasn't December 24th. Most experts speculate that it was either in late February or early March, which is why the Orthodox church celebrates Christmas then instead of on Jul (like those gullible Catholics and all their subsequent spinoffs). Another funny thing about it is that, until the Christianization of the Jul festival and its widespread promotion as "Christmas", the Roman Catholics never had any celebration commemorating Christ's birth. They didn't really care about it at all until the Christianized Jul that their own missionaries created in the Germanic tribes ended up feeding back into their own culture (ironically, along with many of the original, pagan Jul traditions including gift exchanges, burning a "Jul log", gathering family and friends to share a feast and sing songs together, making spiced cake/bread and spiced wine, kissing under mistletoe, and other things). Easter and Lent had been the only truly important Christian festivals till then, but "Christmas" wound up knocking both of them aside in terms of significance. How ironic that it was a fabrication.
So you see, it's not really hypocritical to celebrate Christmas without Christ. The Jul festival, with many if not most of the same traditions, existed at the same time long before Christ appeared in Bethlehem. When you think about it, celebrating "Christmas" is really paying homage to an ancient Catholic propaganda stunt. Perhaps the Yuletide celebration is a bit more honest, even if it is pagan.
Whatever. Religion is a personal thing, and it should therefore be a matter of personal choice.

If I don't see you people when I'm over there (Dec. 26 - 30), happy holidays (whatever you may call them)!!!!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

And a Child Shall Lead Them

No matter what my current crop of students has been doing to the lining of my battered stomach, it never ceases to amaze me just what young people can do when they put their minds to it. Heck, even the group of 5-year-olds-in-15-year-old-bodies that constitute my homeroom showed a remarkable ability to plan, organize, and execute a very creative and innovative project once they were told to knock off the whining and get busy.

Now look at what these European students are pulling off.

The sad thing is that these kids are coming up with something that is cheaper, more efficient, and looks to be more promising than a lot of the pork-inflated, red-tape-covered bits of bad comedy our bureaucrats have been dishing out. The funny thing is that the students have run into some of the same communication and compatibility problems that have led to more than one multi-million-dollar space probe burning up en route to its destination. However, unlike NASA, the kids are spotting the problems early and making efforts to correct them.

Why is that so difficult for our so-called "experts"?

Kids these days. They don't think enough about sex.
(This comment coming from a guy living in a country where it is estimated nearly one-fifth of high school girls are infected with chlamydia...)


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Stopping the Yellow Rivers

BBC: 'Pee inspectors' roam Swazi town

The city council at Swaziland's eastern town of Siteki, has set up a posse of "pee inspectors" to roam the streets and fine anyone found urinating in public.

The initiative, unveiled during the Christmas season when drunkards roam the streets has outraged residents.

(snip)

"But Mr Mkhaliphi insists: "We've built scores of public toilets, but men still insist on just whipping it out and urinating on our pavements - even in the centre of town."


Don't miss them on COPS:Swaziland and CSI:Warm Case.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bloggered Up

Sorry about the terminal delays and other malfunctions regarding commenting. What do you expect for free here in Bloggyland? This is a periodic problem with Blogger, who has approximately three times as many blogs as there are people on Earth and therefore runs into occasional problems with the whole thing suffering from traffic jams.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Giants: Hand pulls groin

News
Giants defensive tackle Norman Hand strained his groin in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Eagles and did not return to the game. "I didn't know big guys had groins," he told Newsday. "I'm finding out today that I actually have one." Hand hopes his sore groin won't keep him from playing the 'Skins next Sunday.

Views
We'll check back with Hand throughout the practice week to see if he'll be ready for the Redskins' game.


I love these kinds of headlines...

Shaking up the Snabs

I added two new Snabby friends over on the right side.

  • Blog Reload

  • Mike Gushard


  • Both peopleses have been kind enough to stop by and comment at the site. Blog Reload already had Snabulus as a link...keen!

    Update: Snabulus is on Mike's list too. Many Thanks!

    I also added Bruce Schneier's weblog in the Brain Candy section:

  • Schneier on Security


  • He does a great job of explaining both cybersecurity and every day security and the issues that should be discussed and debunks some of the hype surrounding various security and privacy issues.

    I am dropping the link to Steve Gilliard. He seems to be raging against everybody who doesn't think like he does nowadays. He was waaaaaay wrong about who would win the election (big deal, so was I) and he seems to be terminally angry at every liberal/progressive/Democrat group and saying F-you to this group and screw you to that group. It is one thing to alienate your political opponent (Heck, Rush Limbaugh called the Red Cross Anti-American, the whiny drug addict :D) but you gotta shoot for 50% support in a democracy or you will lose. I hope he snaps out of it because he is a smart guy and has some great perspectives on history, politics, race, and most of all, FOOD.

    Oh, If Only....

    Ah, college pranks.

    I feel deprived. The biggest coup the Beaver Band at OSU managed to pull off was some very off-color versions of rival schools' fight songs. Then there was the moron (not one of us) who ripped off a tuba from the Duck band. There was nothing that was anywhere near as glorious as this stunt Yale managed to pull off against Harvard.

    I guess CalTech gets the credit for first orchestrating a stunt like this at the 1961 Rose Bowl, but their version wasn't quite as brutal as this one. (They rearranged the Washington Huskies' flip-card routine so that it produced a beaver instead of a Husky, spelled "Huskies" backward, and then spelled out "CalTech". There was nothing as blatantly insulting as this gem.)

    Why do I suddenly find myself wishing (or maybe even fearing) that someone would pull off something similar at rallies in support of certain political parties and/or Third-World countries? Actually, I'd rather not even get into that...


    Sunday, November 28, 2004

    Particle Man beats Electron Man

    We hosted Thanksgiving for my side of the family and some of Ladybug's side too. All went well as we served up the various traditional (turkey) and non-traditional (butternut squash bisque) fare. After the meal, I persuaded the kids to play some board games. My grand-nephew (great nephew? niece's kid...I just call him by his name and he calls me Uncle Don, so whatever) had been persistently asking me all day to get on-line and play CartoonNetwork.com games. After successfully saying no for several hours and suggesting ideas for things to do, I finally relented and set him down behind a PC.

    Two minutes after he was on the website, all four PCs went black. The whole north side of the house lost power. Greeeeeeeeat. That also included the Vonage phone setup so we had no phone service (let that be a lesson to all you bleeding edgers out there). I knew the circuits and figured there was too much stuff turned on (which has never happened on this circuit). I trundled out to the breaker panel when ALL OF A SUDDEN (big crescendo of music).....nothing happened. Scarcely able to believe my eyes, I noticed no telltale tripping of the circuit breaker, nor was there any sign of the normal electrical malfeasance. The "Oh crap" feeling crept up.

    My dad and brother are handy in the electrical realm. My brother had run into this problem before and said that sometimes the problem was in the outlet box with a bad connection or bad wire. The clock-radio in the master bedroom at some point came back on...weird...so we started with that outlet. We TURNED OFF THE CIRCUIT BREAKER EACH TIME BEFORE REMOVING THE OUTLET FACE PLATE.

    The outlets in the house are about 35 years old and the wires were held into the outlet using a connector that pinches them into the outlet. My brother's preference is to use the screw terminals as he believes it gives a better contact. After sanding the wires and reseating them, we turned on the circuit breaker and SOMETHING HAPPENED! The lights came back on. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Dad and brother packed up and headed on home.

    Everything was gravy and stuffing after that, literally. The lights glowed, the computers whirred and smell of turkey replaced the pall of electrical uncertainty. Friday morning arrived and turkey was on the menu for breakfast. Why not? We were launching our way into a lazy day when Ladybug turns on the television. Well, she tried to but the power went out again. Mmmmmmbrrrt! Back to the breaker panel...same shiznit, different dazay.

    I pulled the master bedroom outlet out again (AFTER TURNING OFF...you get the idea, safety first yada yada) and wiggled it around then decided to remove and reseat the wires. I turned on the power and BAMMO! it worked. I asked Ladybug to try the TV again and........it went off again.

    This was getting depressing. During the course of the next few hours, I talked strategy and technique with my brother and finally decided that I needed to check every outlet for double-wire junctions, pull them out and reseat them in the screw terminals. Crapola on a stick! I decided to attack the outlet the TV went into first and, Voila, there was a double-wire junction. One of the wires broke off as I removed it and I excitedly (and completely wrongly) thought I found the culprit. I fixed the whole thing, did the reseat thing and turned on the circuit with hope welling up in my Junior Electrician's heart. Click. Nothing. Crap.

    Plumbing the fringes of despondency, I sat and thought. I had a wild idea the day before that if the entire circuit appeared to be out, the problem must be near the source. Our machinations at the far end of the house on Thanksgiving Day appeared to have belied that beginner's logic. Yet I was faced with embracing it again.

    After TURNING OFF, blah, I chose the outlet closest to the breaker panel and pulled off the cover and outlet. I pulled the wires and they were covered in some kind of black corrosion. I sanded the copper ends and seated them in the screws. I walked over to the breaker panel and turned on the power when ALL OF A SUDDEN, something happened. The house burst into flam...just kidding. The lights came back on.

    So far, it all seems to be working and Electron Man appears to be subdued...until next time.

    Saturday, November 27, 2004

    Two Different Views

    Ladybug and I were without the kid today (she went to visit Grandma's house, but there were no woods or wolves). My original plan was to go see The Fixx in town at a venue called Barracuda. For a variety of reasons, we talked ourselves out of it (sorry Cy and co.). We decided instead to have a quiet dinner and then hung out at the bookstore. Back home, I am listening to a collection of music from The Fixx. I came across one tune called Two Different Views that seemed strangely appropriate to the former life of this weblog:

    Big ideals I can't suppress
    Little lies I can't detect
    Through pleasure, pain, delight and wonder
    But there's the rub of irony
    Where the indecision slices me
    From high of highs to depths of sorrow
    There will always be.

    Two different views of the same thing
    Two many views that can collide
    There will always be two different views
    Too many views with loaded pride.

    Emotions sway from side to side
    Devotion preys upon my pride
    Will I respect the winner in the battle for my mind
    Jealousies and dumb regrets
    Wasting time just beckons death
    Here today and gone tomorrow
    There will always be.

    Two different views of the same thing
    Two many views that can collide
    There will always be two different views
    Too many views with loaded pride.

    As I stray from either side
    Too confused to fantasize
    Like a judge who needs forgiveness.

    Is there peace for two as one
    What divides, be undone
    Regain the pulse of what was priceless
    There will always be.

    There will always be two different views
    Too many views with loaded pride.


    Of course, if I wanted to cause controversy, I could point to The Fixx's We Once Held Hands lyrics, but I won't.

    $100 Eco-friendly Computer

    From Linux PR: SolarPC Announces the $100 Personal Computer

    SolarPC today announced the availability of a $100 PC called the SolarLite. It is a solid-state computer targeted at organizations that require the efficiency of a maintenance free Internet PC. The SolarLite was also created to offer an ecologically and economically viable method to provide information to billions of disadvantaged people around the world. In addition, it serves as a response to last month's challenge by Microsoft's Steve Ballmer for the computer industry to build a $100 PC.


    The Steve Ballmer thing is funny considering the Windows OS costs more than $100 all by itself. I hope they get it off the ground. I like the article comment over at Slashdot regarding the ability to run this 10 watt PC on a bicycle-driven generator...

    I have visions of slaves in third world countries on generator bicycles, all outside pedaling away, while the local bigwig surfs porn


    I chuckled at the comic cynicism then promptly forgot about it. (foop)

    Friday, November 26, 2004

    A Truly Great Place to Live

    I'm sure everyone has his or her own, private idea as to what would be the ideal place to live, work, or even just hang out. The people who made this website made a list of what they consider to be the 20 best neighborhoods or districts in North America followed by the 20 best neighborhoods or districts around the world.

    It's interesting...and even comforting...to note that 23rd St. in Portland is on the list.

    On the other hand, the list of top 20 neighborhoods worldwide includes places in crime-plagued Moscow and several poverty-plagued South American cities but doesn't include anything from safe, affluent, and culturally rich Japan. Go figure...

    So...what would you consider your "best place to be"?

    Wednesday, November 24, 2004

    Happy Thanksgiving: From Alice's Restaurant

    Last year, local radio station KGON played this Arlo Guthrie tune at 1pm on Thanksgiving Day. It is a tradition for them (although other radio stations appear to be riding on the coattails now). This is how it starts...

    This song is called Alice's Restaurant, and it's about Alice, and the
    restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
    that's just the name of the song, and that's why I called the song Alice's
    Restaurant.

    You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
    You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
    Walk right in it's around the back
    Just a half a mile from the railroad track
    You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant

    Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on - two years ago on
    Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
    restaurant, but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant, she lives in the
    church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
    Fasha the dog. And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
    room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin' all that room,
    seein' as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn't
    have to take out their garbage for a long time.


    I am getting sleepy just thinking about turkey... :D

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    Plenty of Blame to Go Round

    In my latest ABA post, The Moody Minstrel made a comment about the Indiana/Detroit NBA brawl. I thought, what the heck, my uninformed opinion is as good as anyone; so why not force it on the dear, valued readership of Snabulus?

    At first glance, this is the typical arrogant NBA player gets into a scrap with another similar player, followed by a bit of fighting, followed by the player meets drunken fan and an altercation; but it went waaaaaaaay beyond the norm.

    The NBA responded with extremely harsh punishments against the players involved. That is the red meat that a public irked by player misconduct and negative attitudes desires. As Clyde Drexler says:

    "Wow, that's pretty stiff," he said. "But that will ensure that it never happens again.

    Drexler said going after fans is "just not an option."

    "As professional athletes we are caretakers of the game," he said.


    However, the players are only one aspect of the problem. Former Bull Steve Kerr mentions:

    Imagine what any of us would do if a person showed up to our workplace, taunted us and then threw a beer in our face? How many of us would show any restraint at all?


    Indeed, NBA Commissioner David Stern, in his statement on the suspensions, realizes a bigger picture:

    There are other issues that the NBA must urgently focus on at this time. First, we must redefine the bounds of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds. Participants in and around the court must be assured complete protection from unacceptable fan behavior. Second, we must re-examine the adequacy of our current security procedures in Detroit and our other 28 arenas. The actions at Friday's game, though unprecedented, must now be factored into all efforts to guarantee the well-being of our fans. Third, we must develop and implement new NBA rules to assure that the unavoidable confrontations likely to occur in the heat of competition are not allowed to escalate to the level we witnessed on Friday even prior to the egregious behavior by individuals in the stands.


    Indeed, there were players involved in wrongdoing and Artest was foremost among them. But how is it that, in the age of Homeland Security, the fan that threw a drink at Ron Artest was not cuffed and stuffed within seconds. What if he had a suicide belt on? I thought we were on guard here and what better place to terrorize than a sports arena. In addition, how is it security couldn't move in immediately to form a barrier between fans and players? Every game has dozens of security people around. What were they doing and what are they being paid for?

    As Sports Illustrated Marty Burns avers:

    O'Neal's suspension also seems a bit harsh. Yes, he decked a fan on the court. But at that point the mob scene had become dangerous, with angry fans coming onto the floor, and O'Neal had no way of knowing if the fan had bad intentions.


    Once again, what were fans doing on the floor? In such inadequate security conditions, what are players supposed to do but fight their way out of the mob? The proper litmus test for NBA punishment is whether a player left the floor. If they left the playing floor, then the fine should stand (as in Artest's case). If the fans are on the court, the players have every right to defend themselves because arena security broke down (O'Neal's case). It is as simple as that.

    In the end, what it gets down to is that players need to learn, in the harshest possible way, not to interact with fans. Some fans, as I've noticed personally, are getting more and more barbaric. This is a function of bad behavior aided by alcohol. Eliminating alcohol or stopping sales toward the end of the 2nd quarter would go a long way toward calming belligerence. More proactive security and removal of fans whose taunts are hateful or hurtful before an incident occurs would help as well.

    As Steve Kerr mentions in the article linked above:

    Players are forced to endure verbal taunting all the time in sports. I once warmed up for a game at Arizona State University while two inebriated fans taunted me about the death of my father. I've had teammates endure all kinds of ugly insults, threats and barbs.


    The NBA has taken the step to stop the wrongdoing of the players. Let us hope they are as vigilant about the other deficiencies that led to this sorry state.

    Lucky to be Alive in the Land of the Rising Sun

    According to the Nihonshoki, the (rather suspect) chronicle of Japanese history from the time of the gods till the Nara Era (8th century), the phenomenon of thunder without clouds was considered a serious harbinger of doom.

    Last Friday night, I went over to the in-laws' house to take my bath much later than usual. By the time I finished, it was nearly 1:00 a.m.. After that, I stepped outside to return home under a glorious, crystal-clear sky.

    About halfway back to my house (a distance of perhaps ten meters), there was suddenly a brilliant flash in the northwestern sky that made the whole sky turn white for a tiny faction of a second. If it was lightning, it was probably the brightest stroke I'd ever seen.

    The rumble sounded more than a minute later, and it most definitely did not sound like thunder. Thunder tends to roll. This was a single, intense, reverberating detonation, like someone hitting a well-miked bass drum in an echo chamber.

    The sky continued to remain crystal clear.

    I know that we are still in the midst of the Leonid Meteor Shower, so it was probably an exploding meteor.

    The next day, my son got sick with a stomach flu. The evening after that, the bug hit me hard. My daughter was felled the following morning. Though we're all finally keeping our food down, my daughter and I still have fevers two days later (though my son appears to be over it). The doctor says he thinks we ate something that was contaminated with a virus. Thinking in retrospect, all of us but my wife ate leftover pizza on Thursday. Maybe that explains why she has been unaffected so far.

    I hate it when traditional superstitions come true, don't you?

    Saturday, November 20, 2004

    Now, That was some Basketball

    My friend Mike and I went to see an ABA basketball game tonight. The Portland Reign were matched up against the Fresno Heat Wave. We met at Flying Pie pizza, had a pie, and drove over to Warner Pacific College to watch the game. Parking was difficult, but not impossible to find. I met Mike, we paid our $10 for tickets and headed towards the bleachers.

    It is a small college and the bleachers only have enough room for several hundred people. Across the court are the reserved seats for $25. Every seat is excellent of course. Portland came out first and started practice. Their uniforms were white and blue and they were fairly plain. The Fresno Heatwave had much nicer looking uniforms. They were black with yellow, red, and white angled stripes. It kind of reminded me of one of those Disney films where the nice team has poor people uniforms and the fancy uptown school with all the mean kids have the slick uniforms (but not a lot, just a little).

    The easiest to spot player on either team was 7' 4" Ha Seung-Jin. This Korean player was several inches taller than the nearest Portland player. After the usual opening remarks, national anthem, and starting lineups, the tip off took place. After that, it was off to the races. Portland scored 41 points in the first quarter. The pace was fast and furious and definitely much more fun to watch than the bump and grind of the NBA.

    Western Oregon Alum Robert Day was great as shooting guard and the core group did well. It was obvious neither team had been practicing long together, but that added to the fun. The ABA has some different rules from the NBA to appeal more to fans. A team only gets 7 seconds to bring the ball across half court (NBA teams get 10). You can't foul out in the ABA, but after 6 fouls on a person, the opposition gets an extra foul shot. There is something called the 3D rule (follow this link for more details) that can actually allow a 3 point basket to count for 4, 2 point baskets will give 3, etc. This rule came into effect once for Portland during tonight's game and they did get an extra point out of it. The rules were different enough from other basketball leagues that confusion reigned (no pun intended) several times.

    All of this added up to many, many fast breaks. It was clear by half time that none of these players were conditioned for this type of fast-paced style, but it was still entertaining. Both teams (I think) had over 60 points at halftime. By then, the bleachers were over 80% full. As we looked around during the course of the game, we saw a few former Blazers and a current one; Maurice Lucas and Terry Dischinger were present along with Ruben Patterson, and another player I recognized but could not come up with a name for. Former Blazer Ron Brewer coached the Fresno team.

    The second half was evenly matched. The game ended in a full court sprint by Portland's John Outlaw (Blazer Travis's brother I believe) to score a layup as time expired to send the game into overtime. The first overtime was three minutes and also ended in a tie. The second overtime was an untimed game to ten points. The first team to get 10 wins. Portland did and won the game. The final tally was 132-128 (counting the second overtime). The last part of the game was loud and very fun.

    After years of the NBA's slow-down offense, whiny stars who sometimes seem to enjoy getting stoned more than hustling for loose balls and griping about salaries and playing time, it was just plain exciting to watch people play the game straight out and with a great deal more athleticism than I see in the NBA. For $10, I just don't see how you can beat it.

    For my known and unknown readers, here are some teams you might be interested in seeing:


    Portland Reign

    Pennsylvania Pit Bulls (Pittsburgh area)

    Philadelphia Fusion

    Orange County Crush

    Top Secret Black Triangles

    From KLAS-TV in Las Vegas (where they know about strange formations of lights)...

    (Nov. 18) -- Eyewitnesses all over the country are reporting glimpses of something large, dark and mysterious in the skies above big cities and busy highways. The crafts are often described as triangular in shape, silent in their movements, and of unknown origin, and they've been seen here in southern Nevada. It looks like these mystery craft might be a secret military project, but if so, why are they flying around in the open?

    "Look at them, there's three or four of them." In 1997, thousands of eyewitnesses watched in awe as a boomerang-shaped formation of lights cruised slowly and silently over the city of Phoenix. "They're lined up in a pattern." Witnesses first thought these were separate lights, flying in formation, but quickly realized the lights were all part of a single, gigantic something.

    Military officials were asked about the Phoenix lights but said they hadn't seen anything. Months later, they explained that a National Guard unit had been training with flares near the city. The public didn't buy it.

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    A Bavarian Swan Song

    Since my posting about Himeji Castle somehow spawned a discussion about Schloß Neuschwanstein and the crazed king that commissioned it, Ludwig II ("the Mad") of Bavaria, I thought a link to a website talking about him and his oh-so-scenic castle would be in order. Here you go. Bitte, hab viel Spaß dabei, und freu sich sehr viel darüber!

    (Nein, Herr Snabby, das ist nicht Hans.)


    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    The White Heron Castle

    Just in case you'd like some pictures and details to go with that last "Life in the Land of the Rising Sun" e-blog I mailed out, here's a pretty good site in English about Himeji Castle. There are a lot of details there that I hadn't known about. They also correct a few mistakes I made. (For one thing, I believe I said erroneously that its nickname was "White Swan Castle". No, no, no! I guess that's what I get for relying on the Japanese guide signs instead of buying an English guidebook.)

    Another cool thing about this site is that there are pictures of sections that aren't normally open to the public. No, there aren't any pictures of my students, fellow teachers, or the Hawaiian girl I chatted with as I hustled through the main tower.

    Compare this with Castle Neuschwanstein (okay, there's the swan!) and remember that Himeji was actually used as a fortress.
    Enjoy!




    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    A Flower Fit for an Emperor

    &#%@*$
    Blogger did it again...ate a posting I spent a lot of time on. Well, I'll just have to try it again.

    I'm back from the school trip (obviously), and now, in honor of my visit to Kyoto, it's time once again to [nasal voice] TALK ABOUT FLOWERS!!!! [/nasal voice]

    This time I'm going to talk about that lovely climbing vine with purple flowers, the wisteria.

    The Japanese word for wisteria is fuji, and one tends to find that name root all over the place. There is a very good reason for that. During the Heian Era (9th to 11th centuries, as I've said many times now), when Kyoto first became the imperial capital, the Fujiwara clan (lit. "field of wisteria") was basically the same as the royal family. It was actually written into law that an emperor or crown prince could only marry a Fujiwara. If an emperor had a son by a woman that was not a Fujiwara (as did tend to happen), he was named Genji or Minamoto (same kanji, different reading) in order to ensure his ineligibility for the throne. This fact gave rise to the Heian Era novel The Tale of Genji as well as the later insurrection by the Minamoto descendents that ended the Heian Era and started the shogunate system. Needless to say, the Fujiwara held the reins of power all over the country for a considerable period. Their legacy remains in the form of all the landmarks and towns whose names include the word fuji.

    There's also the fact that the wisteria is still a staple of parks and gardens here. It has been a favorite for at least the past 1000 years. Any park or garden of any real size will usually have a sort of shelter that is actually a hanging wisteria garden. The pale, purple flowers usually appear from late spring to early summer. The dense vine clusters and leaves provide an excellent, natural sunshade, a purpose for which they have been used for centuries since the Fujiwara were cast down. In autumn, the leaves fall off, and the sturdy vines lie more or less dormant until the following spring.

    Wisteria, actually a member of the pea family, takes a bit of care and effort to grow. As its natural habitat is accumulations of organic debris in the boles of trees, it requires very nutrient-rich soil to grown in. It also tends to need fertilizer (a recommended variety being tomato puree!) added at intervals. A natural creeper, it grows toward the light, naturally spinning in a clockwise direction as it crawls its way up and around its support. It also tends to grow best in a warm, moist environment, meaning seedlings should be cultured in a greenhouse. Once it establishes itself on a firm support, it quickly grows to cover it, putting forth generous leaves as well as its beautiful flowers.


    The Cinnamon Bear!



    This has been a family tradition (on and off) in my family since my father was a child! I remember going to Fredrick & Nelson downtown just to wait in line for The Cinnamon Bear! Alas, with the demise of that store here in Portland, (the death knell was sounded when Meier & Frank included in their contract w/the Clackamas Town Center that Fredrick & Nelson could not open a store there), the public presence of The Cinnamon Bear is no more. If you like the Wizard of Oz, or Raggedy Ann & Andy, this show is for you and your family! Here's a quote from info included in the link at the title bar:

    "The Lipman and Wolfe Company of Portland, Oregon, for example, continued sponsoring "The Cinnamon Bear" annually throughout the 1960's. Kids visiting the store at Christmastime perched on the lap of an overstuffed Paddy O'Cinnamon and told him what they wanted for Christmas -- as a jealous Santa Claus sat nearby. (By the way, that original bear suit still exists.)"

    Today, you can still listen to the original Cinnamon Bear in Portland at KBVM 88.3 FM (FYI-The Catholic Radio Station) starting Nov. 18th at 3:30 p.m. The show is non-religious, and just plain fun in my book!

    Even more wonderous info! A fan club, founded right here in Portland!

    The Cinnamon Bear Brigade
    Carolyn Breen Kolibaba
    10419 N.E. Knott
    Portland, OR 97220-2826
    800-93-PADDY (9-5 Mon-Fri)
    Publication: Bear Facts

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Sorry

    This page is not ridiculous. Try fishing for wieners. The river is full of them.

    Friday, November 12, 2004

    Bring back the ABA

    My friend Mike told me about this. Red, White, and Blue basketballs. Not affiliated with the NBA. The ABA had the 3 point shot before the NBA did...and now it is back. In fact, Portland has their own team, the Portland Reign. Visit the official ABA site to learn more.

    Without cheating and checking the Internet, try to guess which NBA teams had their roots in the ABA before the two leagues merged in 1976 or so.

    Another Quiz from Quizilla!

    A fun way to waste some time!!!
    What is your inner Shapeshifter?

    selkie
    The Scottish selkie was a being who appeared to be
    a seal, but had the ability to shed their skin
    and roam the land in human form. If a human
    were to happen upon the discarded seal skin, he
    or she could hide it and force the selkie to
    marry him or her. However, if the selkie were
    to ever find the skin, he or she would
    immediately reassume seal form and return to
    the sea from whence they came, leaving their
    spouse and offspring on land to forever mourn
    their loss.

    As a selkie, you are a very withdrawn, secretive
    and somewhat sad person, and those around you
    find you alluring and mystifying. People who
    come into your life find it difficult to find
    the inner you. You are also curious, but you
    enjoy the comforts of home most of all.


    Who is your inner Shapeshifter?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Armistice Day

    Today we take the time remember the end of World War One, which symbolically ended on the 11th hour of the 11 day of the 11th month in 1918. We don't call today Armistice Day in the US anymore, we call it Veterans Day. If you are in Canada, Western Europe, Australia or New Zealand, you probably call today Remembrance Day. In fact, we don’t just remember the people who served during World War One anymore, we hopefully remember all the people who served in all the wars, fought all over the world.

    Most people do this by wearing a Poppy on the 11th of November. If you are unaware of this tradition, please follow the link for a far better explanation than I could ever produce. Significance of the Poppy .

    I think if we can honor the wish of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, and ‘never break faith with those who have died’, we would not only honor the dead, but the living as well. We shall always have wars, but if we make every effort to remember those who have died in past struggles, maybe, just maybe it might help us to work toward reducing the number of wars we fight in the future. I can only hope so.

    May we never break faith…



    Update: Here is an article that gives more detailed information about the name change here in the US: Emporia, KS

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    What Herb Am I?

    This is a something interesting for you all. I did this once before, consulting my better half during the quiz. We disagreed on just one question. This is the result using his answer to that one particular question. If you're nice, I'll post the other result too!

    YOU ARE CHAMOMILE


    What herb are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    Greetings from Infogeek

    Hello! I'm not exactly sure if this is going to work, so please bear with me and be patient. I'm going to do my best to contribute to Snabby's wonderful blog while the Moody Minstrel is away and Snabby is recovering. We'll see how this works out...

    I think I'll start with something fun from the BBC. Over at Radio 4 there is an interesting program you can listen to called GRAMOPHONES AND GROOVES.

    There are five programs you can listen to and each one is about 15 minutes long. I'm not sure how much longer they are going to be there, but knowing the BBC, you'll have a couple more weeks before they are taken down for good.

    Not as education as talking about flowers, but I thought we needed to have less visual and more auditory topics while the Minstrel was away. Happy listening.

    On the Mend

    I went to the doc today and all personal medical systems are improving. I am doing some real work for a change (other than this break) and listening to Rob Halford's Crucible.

    Info Geek has rejoined the ranks of posters. We shall see what mental tidbits come our way.

    Anybody tried Halo 2 yet? How about Everquest 2? Firefox 1.0? Oh, do tell, me hearties.

    Monday, November 08, 2004

    The Minstrel is Moutstrel

    Doh!
    While I was at work today, I took advantage of an open period (and the school's broadband server) to write a really cool post for this site. It was political, but neutral. Actually, it was more philosophical than anything. I spent almost an hour on it.

    When I hit the "publish post" button, I got an error message, and Internet Explorer exited. My work vanished in the blink of an eye.

    I hate Internet Explorer...

    Anyway, I'm off for four days of shepherding uniformed monkeys through important historical sites. I'll resume posting and botanizing after I get back...assuming I'm not either dead, hospitalized, or in jail for aggravated assault.

    Sayonara!

    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    In...of Commission

    Snabulytic Don (um, me) is back from the "horse piddle" (hospital) after a big batch of antibiotics and some rest. Speaking of back, I need to lie on mine for the next week to combat some post-surgical problems and although I have my Wi-Fi laptop hooked in, typing while laying down and craning the head to see results is slow going, so the Minstrel may well be your reading companion for the short term.

    Well, I'm off to think about George Bush and flowers...or was it flowers and George Bush. Since I don't want to spark a heated debate, maybe I will think about Studebakers instead. (and nix the comments just for Auld Lang Syne)

    A Regal Flower for the Season

    Here's some more flowers for Snabby in hopes he comes through the "horse-piddle" well.

    Flowers have always had a special significance in Japanese culture. If you look at classical poetry from the Nara (mid 8th century), and Heian (late 8th to 11th century) eras you find that just about every major facet of life has a specific flower to represent it. When members of the upper classes wrote letters to each other, they always included some kind of flower-related (or tree-related) poem to serve as a metaphor for the point they were trying to get across. A lot of good examples are given in The Tale of Genji.

    Even now, flowers are closely linked to the seasons. In traditional haiku and tanka poetry, there is always a word or statement included to indicate the time of year. Flowers are the most common method. The traditional card game known as hanafuda is not only based on flowers, but the point-earning combinations depend on matching those flowers with others appropriate to the same season.

    Incidentally, the flower that best represents this time of year is also the one that is the symbol of the current imperial family. It is the kiku, or chrysanthemum. (In fact, the Emperor sits on the Chrysanthemum Throne.)

    There are many kinds of chysanthemum, and their appearance differs to a considerable degree. So does the growth cycle and method of planting. All types have a pleasant fragrance and often remain in full bloom well into early winter, when all other flowers are long since gone.

    Growing chrysanthemums can take a bit of effort. They require a lot of sunlight, and they do best in soil that is relatively rich. Depending on how ideal their location is, they may need both frequent watering and a touch of fertilizer every week or so to flourish.

    Here are some chrysanthemums for Snabby and for the season. Enjoy!




    Friday, November 05, 2004

    Out of Comission

    Snabby's back in the horse-pittal, and will be unavailable for comment (or anything else), until further notice. Fanks for your understanding!
    ***bows and salutations all!***

    Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: The Accidental Activist

    "What's your name?" I ask in English.
    Eyes sparkling with 7th grade enthusiasm, she replies, "My name is Beauty and Harmony!"
    Actually, her name is Miwa, but, as she proudly shows me, the kanji (Chinese characters) of her given name do, indeed, mean "beauty" and "harmony".
    Ami, the girl sitting across the aisle, disagrees. "No, no," she says, waving her hand. "It's mistake!" Then, before Miwa can defend herself, she tells me that her own name is Asian Beauty. Once again, she shows me the kanji to prove it.
    "Where do you live?" I continue.
    "I live in Kashima," replies Miwa.
    "She lives in sea," retorts Ami.
    Miwa wrinkles her nose. She points at Ami. "Her house is tree!"
    "A tree?"
    "Yes! She is monkey!"
    "Yes," agrees Ami, to my surprise. "I am monkey."
    "Is your name 'Monkey'?" I ask incredulously.
    "No, no, no," replies Ami. "I AM monkey!"
    "She is...," starts Miwa, and then it hits her. "She is A monkey!"
    "Oh, yes, yes, yes!" agrees Ami. "I am A monkey!" Then she points at Miwa. "But she is crazy!"
    "She eat ba-...ah...she eatS banana!"
    "She is very, very crazy!"
    And so it goes. I wish my 9th grade students had half as much eagerness and creativity as the 7th graders. About all the 9th grade girls can do is whine and complain about how boring and troublesome everything is. I'm sure the 9th grade boys would probably do the same if their perpetual sugar high ever wore off long enough for them to shut up.
    The 9th Grade School Excursion (off-key diminished 7th fanfare) starts next Tuesday. I'm praying that I catch the flu on Monday...or get hit by a car.
    Gripe, gripe, gripe. Ah, the joys of life at the private academy!
    Speaking of which...I had an interesting experience last weekend.
    Apparently the enlightened administration of Prime Minister Koizumi has been toying around with the notion of cutting the subsidies they pay to help finance private education. Apparently they don't have enough money to pay for all those rest areas they're building in the middle of rice fields, highway bypasses that suddenly end in the middle of nowhere, bike lanes on backroads in farming villages where no one rides bikes, assorted pork, etc.. Anyway, they want to eliminate the subsidies. That would drive up the cost of private education, already pretty expensive as it is, to an average of five times the cost of public education. In other words, we'd no longer be able to compete with the public schools very well.
    Already, a lot of students, girls in particular, are threatening to quit school altogether if that happens, as they would no longer be able to afford to continue at their private schools, and the public school environment is apparently not all that favorable.
    Well, the various private school teachers' unions all over the country apparently got together and decided to stage an event showcasing just what their academies could do besides just academic stuff (which the more exclusive public schools have an edge in, anyway). It seemed like an impossible endeavor; they managed to slap together an all-Japan event in Tokyo in only a few weeks' time using funds that came almost entirely from voluntary donations. Understandably, it was an administrative and logistical nightmare. It was about as organized as Sid Vicious' hair.
    The Seishin Flying Eggheads jazz band was asked to be part of Ibaraki's contingent. Naturally, the opportunity to have my kids play for an all-Japan audience, most likely with TV coverage, was too good to pass up. Despite the mixed-up planning and everything else, we went for it.
    The night before the big event, I was asked to sit in with Steve and Paul's group, "Cranky, Old Bastards", at a gig at a nightclub in Kashima. I always love doing that. Those guys really know how to jam, and being able to jam with them is always a treat. I especially love it when they invite anyone and everyone with an instrument up to the stage for an open blues session. This time there was a newcomer, a very talented tenor sax player I'd never met before. He really knew his stuff. With me on alto, we wound up playing off each other, whether we were coming up with hooks-in-harmony as backing for other soloists or whether we were trading 4-bar solos with each other. We may have hogged the spotlight a bit, but we were having a damned good time doing it. Trading 4s, we started testing each other, gradually increasing the level of musical bling-bling, and I was amazed that I was able to hold up as well as I did. Even so, I finally hit my limit, and he kept going, but he was cool enough to keep me in the game without playing me under the table too badly. We were both pretty excited when it was all done, and vowed to do it again soon. I think I learned a lot.
    One of the things I learned was that it's really stupid to drive home at 2 a.m. in a raging, typhoon-driven downpour (thankfully, the typhoon itself missed us this time) the night before a big event.
    It was still pouring down rain the next morning, and I was sure the event was going to be canceled, but the Ibaraki contingent insisted on going anyway, no matter what. I was pretty grouchy at that point.
    Fortunately, the rain stopped by the time we made it to the location of the open-air stage, but now we had a new problem. The guides there weren't sure where we were supposed to park our bus. While we were circling around looking for a spot, a call came in on the cell phone. The opening act had failed to show. They needed the Flying Eggheads to be on the stage and playing within half an hour.
    That's when I thought for sure I was going to lose it. Finally, I asked the bus driver just to stop where he was and let us jump out and lug our gear on our own. We lugged it, alright. We must have been quite a sight: just under two dozen of us trotting down the sidewalk at a brisk pace with all manner of equipment in our hands and on our heads. The fact that we were able to get set up and start on time was nothing short of miraculous.
    The kids did a very good job. After our performance was done, the emcee said, "I feel like we've just had the main course before the appetizer!" Unfortunately, since the event had just begun and the rain had only just stopped, the crowd was still fairly small.
    How wonderful, then, that they invited us back for an encore performance at the end, when we got to play for a large crowd from all over the country!
    There was something a bit odd about this event, though. I'm not talking about the wonderful kaleidoscope of performances from all over (which we started and finished)(drool). That was cool. I'm talking about all the orange. I mean the color, not the fruit or the flavor. The people running the event were all wearing orange coats. Some people had orange headbands. There were also orange signboards.
    When they started distributing orange bandanas to all of us, it finally hit me: I was participating in a protest demonstration, and I didn't even know it.
    We were pretty high on ourselves at that point, so we didn't really think about it, but it was only the beginning.
    We'd heard that there was also going to be a parade, but we didn't expect to participate in it. Before we played our first performance that morning, we were asked to march in the parade but only that. Just march as part of the crowd. After our encore performance, however, they asked us to play. I informed them that we were a jazz band, not a marching band, so we'd be playing with no rhythm section. We would also be playing without music, since none of the kids had lyres (portable music stands). They told us they didn't care. They just wanted us to play. The kids just wanted to play, too.
    Before the parade started, there was a rally. I mean, it was a bona fide protest rally complete with chants and slogans. It went on for about an hour. The kids were a bit too restless. They kept suddenly launching into a number (usually one we hadn't rehearsed), and I kept having to stop them, mainly because the nearby crowd seemed almost more interested in us than the rally. I was happy when the parade started.
    I participated in marching bands from the 4th grade until I graduated from college. I've marched in a good many parades, so it was nothing for me. It was only about five miles, after all. For the kids in the Flying Eggheads, however, it was most definitely their first time. They were pretty enthusiastic about it, though. Ms. Namaizawa, the band captain, kept running up to me with requests for numbers they wanted to play. Again, most of them were tunes we hadn't rehearsed for months if not years. Since they had no music sheets, I was amazed they even still remembered them. Even so, they were very persistent. The newbies even impressed me by following along by ear or improvising in the tunes they didn't know. I tried to allow sufficient space between tunes, partly to save the kids' chops and partly out of respect for the van in front of us that was broadcasting protest slogans (that we were told we were supposed to echo. That got old fast). It wasn't easy. The orange-scarved kids were too eager to play, particularly if there was an audience. It was bizarre without any rhythm section (except for some enthusiastic hand-clappers), and some of the tunes sounded a bit rough, but we got the crowd's attention. The kids looked pretty happy, too.
    At least they were for about the first mile or two. Then they started looking miserable. Finally, when we were right in the middle of the crowded Ginza high-class shopping district, some of them started begging me to stop. I showed no mercy. We had our main audience, so we gave them a show.
    Appropriately, in a metaphorical way, the very last tune we played bricked and crashed in the middle. The kids were pretty much spent, their chops were busted, and we hadn't rehearsed that particular song for over a year, anyway. It was very ironic that that tune happened to be "Chameleon", the main number I had played with Steve and Paul the night before! Right after "Chameleon" train-wrecked, as in just a few beats later, we suddenly found ourselves at the end of the parade. Howling with relief, the kids quickly yanked off their orange bandanas and launched into what looked more like a feeding frenzy than a bunch of young musicians putting their instruments away. They were thrilled with the experience they'd just been through, the first of its kind for them, but they were glad it was over. (They also told me that they hoped not to do it again anytime soon.)
    I saw a lot of cameras during the open-air concert and during the parade. There were also a lot of helicopters buzzing overhead. The Seishin Flying Eggheads got to strut their stuff in front of the entire country. We (or I, at least,) also probably got listed in the government records as a radical element in society. Dissident jazz aggressors with flying eggs on their music stands. I know I'm keeping my eyes out for black limousines...or even orange minicars.

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    An Autumn Vacation, Part I

    My daughter gets a week off in fall at her school. Since we are not big fans of tourist crowds, we decided as a family to take a vacation at the end of October. Since upgrading our car, installing a new furnace, and the rising cost of living, we decided we could not handle the expense of hotel living this year (we went to Vegas last year). Camping in the cold and rain didn't seem like much of an alternative either, we did some searching on the Net. We finally decided on staying in cabins or yurts in the Oregon State Park system.

    We hammered out an itinerary that would take us from north to south along the Oregon Coast, through the Siskiyous, and back up through the Willamette Valley. We arranged to stay with an aunt and an uncle in Depoe Bay for the first night. They were very gracious and we had a nice dinner at Tidal Raves. Seafood along the coast is always a treat. I ordered a special dish with scallops, prawns, and other goodies. It was great! I helped my daughter finish her seafood pasta as well with mussels, clams, scallops, and other goodies. Yum yum. Their house is not far from basalt cliffs over the ocean. Their bay windows made for a gorgeous and relaxing view.

    We talked and watched some TV, then retired for the evening. We left around 10 AM the next morning bound for Brookings and some adventures (planned and unplanned) along the way.

    Curry County-Brooking's Bemusings

    These going's on are quoted directly from the Curry County Pilot Police Log, Wednesday, October 27, 2004. The log has been abridged for your reading enjoyment!
    Saturday, Oct 23
    Dispute, 4:31 p.m.; Police contacted three people involved in a dispute at the Darwin Apartments.
    Dog at large, 5:02 p.m.; A report of a dog running amok on Court Street.
    Sunday, Oct 24
    Dispute, 3:43 a.m.; A report of a dispute between two insomniacs on Second Street.
    Dead deer, 10:24 a.m.; A South Bank Chetco River Road resident called police dispatch to find out if somebody could come out and pick up a deer carcass. They said the neighborhood dogs were using it for snacks.
    Shots fired,12:53 a.m.; Some Wollam Lane residents apparently found a new way to annoy neighbors. Area residents have complained about the sounds of shots being fired in the area. The sounds worry the neighbors and drive neighborhood dogs crazy. The report state a few men have some kind of device - not a gun - they're using for target practice.
    Monday, Oct. 25
    Dog barking, 9 a.m.; A Midland Way canine woke up too early for the neighbors.
    Driving complaint, 11:19 a.m.; An 84 year-old motorist at Chetco Senior Center drew the attention of Police.
    Dispute, 12:10 p.m.; Police were called to the daily dispute at the Darwin Apartments.
    Driving Complaint, 11:52 p.m.; A driving complaint was reported near 101 Auto Sales. No report if it was somebody on a midnight test drive.

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    Thanks to the Minstrel

    I appreciate that the Minstrel provided you with quaternary, culinary, Occidental, Oriental, and ornamental delights while we were out gallivanting the wilds of southern Oregon. It was good readin'.

    Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

    Okay, Back to Flowers (and Meat)



    This is a snapshot of a California Pitcher Plant (Darlingtonia californica) I took as we drove between Crescent City, CA and the Oregon Caves. These plants grow in areas with serpentine rock outcroppings. Serpentine has a jade-green color and is a silicate rich in iron and nickel. It weathers into a reddish soil that plants have a tough time growing in. However, the California Pitcher Plant likes it just fine.

    The California Pitcher Plant gains sustenance by attracting flies into the pitcher (under the curled head shown in the picture; this is not the flower as they were not in bloom while we were there). Once in the hollow shaft plant of the plant, the flies cannot escape the downward pointing hairs. Organisms living in the plant break down and consume the insects and release nutrients used by the Pitcher Plant. In a sense, they eat meat (belch). These are very rare plants found only in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

    We found some Western Azalea (shown below) growing beside the bog where the Pitcher plants were. We felt very fortunate to find such beautiful flowers blooming in late October.


    Tuesday, November 02, 2004

    A Gate to the Sea

    It is now one week until I'm forced to depart on yet another "school excursion", this time helping to chaperone the 158-strong group of monkeys that makes up the most stress-inducing 9th-grade class I've had to deal with yet.

    A stomach is a terrible thing to waste.

    At least the first place we're going is Miyajima. It's officially labeled one of the three most beautiful locations in Japan. Itsukushima Shrine, its chief feature, really is spectacular, especially when the sun shines on it at a certain angle while the tide is in, causing its bright, crimson-painted walls to light up. The shrine is actually built out over the bay. At low tide it stands in a smelly mud flat, but at high tide it is surrounded by water.

    Its famous torii gate, which stands some distance further into the bay, is a famous landmark constructed in a representative style of the Heian Era (late 8th to 12th century).

    I know I'll enjoy the view of the shrine. At least I'll do my best. An unusually strong typhoon caused a lot of damage there about eight years ago. It has since been repaired, but I'm a bit worried about the punks we're lugging with us. Hopefully I won't have to lob any of them into the mud flat.




    Flowers for Snabbynon

    Well, it looks like the election is finally getting underway, and this is all I intend to say about it.

    I'd like to welcome Mr. Snabby back to Snabulusland and congratulate him on getting through his surgery by [nasal voice] talking about a flower [/nasal voice] that I know he has always appreciated. It has also long been a favorite of mine.

    Anyone who has ever hiked or camped in the forests around Mt. Hood knows the trillium well. It is a delightful, unassuming, little flower which grows in colonies very close to the ground. Its delicate, white color stands in pleasant contrast from the dark green mosses and ferns with which it shares its habitat. Its name comes from the fact that its structure consists of threes (three leaves, three petals, three stamens).

    The trillium is a hardy plant which is easy to grow, but only if it is left alone. It is uniquely designed to stay alive for many years by recycling its own leaves. Unfortunately, since its stem is remarkably short, giving in to the temptation to pick the flowers inevitably means taking those leaves, too, which fatally damages the plant. Considering a trillium is normally not only able to bloom many times in its natural lifetime, but takes several years to produce each such bloom, that amounts to a senseless waste. I strongly urge you to enjoy the beauty of the trillium by leaving it alone.

    The law apparently urges the same thing. I've heard there is a fine for picking trillium in Mt. Hood Natl. Forest.

    It is possible to cultivate trillium at home using commercially purchased seeds. They are easy to care for and endure for a long time if allowed to follow their natural cycle. As they are at home in rain forest conditions, they prefer damp, nutrient-rich soil of neutral pH. If properly cared for, they will endure for a long time, eventually developing into a ground-hugging colony. Having trilliums in your garden does require patience. As stated before, it takes a number of years for a single bloom to develop.

    As for me, I will always prefer trillium as a simple treat for the eyes on those rare occasions when I'm able to go out into the forests of western Oregon.



    Now, get well, Snabby!

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    Second Verse, Same as the First

    The hernia surgery went well and I am back home doped up on Vicodin. There is a surgical scar on my lower right abdomen to complement the one on the left and thus bringing my body back into symmetry; no Feng Shui here. I am already falling asleep again, so I will turn it back to the Minstrel.

    And Now...Let's Talk about a MONGO Flow...PHEWW!!!

    Sorry I haven't posted for a few days. I wound up just a bit under the weather (drowning, actually), but now I'm back and just aching to [nasal voice] talk about flowers [/nasal voice]!

    This rare, jungle beauty from the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is generally regarded as the world's largest flower. It blooms only rarely, and when it does it produces one seriously wicked aroma. Actually, it smells like rotting flesh, which is why the titan arum is less than affectionately known as the "corpse flower". Perhaps it's fortunate that a bloom only lasts for a few days before it wilts.

    Check out this botanical monster from the dark gulfs of some unspeakable nether dimension:


    Sunday, October 31, 2004

    Happy Halloween...



    ...from Strong Sad.

    This is my daughter's handiwork (with some finishing work from Dad). I thought I would share it with you.

    Don't forget the HomeStar Halloween Fairstival and the "oldtimey" That a Ghost. You won't find these in the newspapper.

    Saturday, October 30, 2004

    Hi Honeys, I'm Home

    I am back, but the Minstrel is still in charge for a while. I am having a hernia repaired Monday (just a day surgery unless the Ancient Ones try to invade that portion of my intestines) along with the usual pre-Halloween hoopla before then. So have fun and I will try to post a picture or two of some flowers (including a MEAT eater).

    The travelogue will come in due time (if at all) when the pain killers aren't necessary anymore and I get unburied from my real job...

    Friday, October 29, 2004

    Let's Talk About Flour

    Aw, I've already gone and done it: I made a political posting (below). I need to get my worn soles (soul?) back on the path. It's time once again to (nasal voice) talk about flowers (/nasal voice), but I just don't have a particular flower I feel like talking about right now, so how about a homonymous alternative? Let's talk about flour!

    I remember Bob's original, old mill. It wasn't so far from where I lived up till my OSU days. I remember when the abandoned, old hulk of a building was purchased, renovated, and put back into action in my junior high school days. I even took the short, informative tour they were offering at the time. I didn't know that the building burned down in 1988...two years before I came to Japan.

    I guess it has been reestablished in a different location, and it's very much in full swing.

    Fresh-baked bread is truly a wonderful thing. In fact, for those of us that can't get it so often, it seems almost like a treasure. It's even better when it's made with whole-grain flour and better still when that flour is fresh ground.

    Fresh-ground, whole-grain flour is definitely far better for you than the hydrolyzed variety common in supermarket white breads. Major bakeries tend to do to their breads the same things that major breweries do to their beer: they take all the character (i.e. the flavor) out of it for the sake of making it easier to consume. It's the old, American "I don't want anything that leaves any lasting impression" syndrome. Just wolf it down and forget about it. Unfortunately, when mills take all the flavor out of the flour, they also take out most of the health benefits. They also tend to add sugar to make it even more "consumable" in a bulging-waisted society.

    That's why little, homegrown mills like Bob's can be such a good thing. They give us organically-grown, whole wheat slow-grinded into the fundamental ingredient of one of life's better pleasures. They offer proof that "healthy" and "sucky" don't have to be synonymous. Nothing sugar coated; just a real "gutsy" taste.

    No, wait...that's Wheaties...

    BTW: I understand that some of you may be on the ever-popular Atkins Diet. It is not my intention to offend or alienate you...though I might laugh and waft my buttered, fresh-baked "hotel bread" in your general direction.