Saturday, March 31, 2007

Roadblogging: San Francisco Thur

Thursday was a typical tourist day for us. We strolled more slowly and completely through Chinatown and wandered into the North Beach Italian neighborhood. We ate lunch at an absolutely wonderful place called Cafe Puccini. The lady who served us was kind, our various pastas/raviolis were simply excellent. My Frutti di Mare on linguine was simply the best pasta dish I've ever eaten. Period. The portion was more than I can eat (and that is saying something) and the seafood mix was perfecto (clams, mussels, scallops, and not too much calamari). Cafe Puccini was one of the only places where the quality of food was way higher than the price. GO THERE!

We hopped a bus that had Fisherman's Wharf on the display and it dropped us off within a half mile which is not bad. Really. We worked our way down to the wharf and beyond finally stopping by a sunny stretch of grass between Ghirardelli Square and the bay. This is the closest we came to the Golden Gate Bridge. After relaxing, Ladybug and I left Minisnab and Grandpa to get some ice cream and ride the cable car back to the hotel. Meanwhile, Ladybug and I tried to catch a quicker bus line than just taking the streetcar back to downtown and failed miserably. It was a foreshadowing of later travel woes I believe. The knee and foot were acting up terribly for me and I was glad to plant my butt back in the hotel.

We dined downtown in an alleyway filled with cucinas and chez type restaurants about 2 blocks east of Bush and Stockton. I can't remember the name of the place we chose, but it was plenty spendy and the food was fancy looking, but so-so. We passed by the French place we ate at earlier and laughed at the French term for Bush Street, "Rue Bush." My pic didn't turn out, but the double entendre about actually rueing Bush has us giggling.

We set the alarm for 5:15am, arranged our ride to the airport and went to bed.



This picture is dedicated my friends in the Hoang family here in Oregon. They aren't Chinese, but one must also remember that two Hoangs don't make a white. Ouch! Sorry.



Looking down the hill in Chinatown. No sign of Jack Nicholson.



Grandpa checks out a line of dressed chickens at a Dim Sum restaurant.



The lovely and talented TransAmerica building.



The Stinking Rose is a nice name, but being close to Cafe Puccini makes walking by even nicer.



Seeing a sign like this in San Francisco takes on a whole different meaning. We opted to keep walking.



This is our great Golden Gate Bridge picture. Thanks to the cell phone, it didn't quite live up to the pictures on post cards.



This looks out towards the Maritime Museum and the beautiful sailing vessel stationed there. If you look close, you can see Alcatraz Island in the background.



This is a beautiful Studebaker Hawk with an Avanti R1 motor. This is a 1964 GT Hawk (Thanks Jeff for the correction and my dad can correct us if it is wrong). The R1 motor was a powerful one designed for Studebaker's Avanti line; their answer to the Chevy Corvette (or vice versa). I wonder how it runs without the old higher octane gas. I hope to own one of these some day.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Flashback

Rule #5: There will be NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Friday Flashback this week!

Rule #6: No poofters!

(Just kidding, everyone is welcome here. See Monty Python's Australia Philosopher sketch for the reference. She's a good Sheila, Bruce and not at all stuck up.)

Roadblogging: San Francisco Wed

Wednesday brought reasonably warm temperatures with the sunlight. The main activity of the day was visiting Santa Clara University. Minisnab checked it out as a potential place for college work and for Ladybug it was a chance to visit the alma mater, think about the memories, and see the changes.

We road the Caltran train to the doorstep of the university. The ride was a pleasant experience and Ladybug remarked that the conditions of the entire hour-plus ride to Santa Clara and the stops in between were much better than in her days as a student.

We toured the beautiful campus (as you will see below) and most of the crew got a spiel about how great university life at Santa Clara could be. Tuition is a jaw-dropping $30k per year and the average entering GPA is up around 3.74. This is for a small, out-of-the-way private college amidst dozens in California. The world shrinks and the competition grows. Too bad our nation's educational infrastructure is shrinking with it...but I digress.

We rode back in the afternoon and relaxed/napped for a while. Minisnab and I then decided we wanted to know what life looked like from the top of Nob Hill. By foot. So we walked up and up and (puff, wheeze) up to the top. The views were fabulous, but my roadblogging cell camera had great difficulty doing them justice, so only a couple of shots are shown below. After returning to the hotel, Ladybug and I wandered around and ate a little Thai food for dinner (after more or less snacking earlier anyway). The climb had my knee throbbing and exposed a glaring weakness in my foot orthotics, but it was worth it.



Here we are!



What a beautiful campus. My alma mater, now known as Western Oregon University, had no palm trees and precious few skies as blue as these.



This gorgeous overhead garden of wisteria deserves a great picture. Unfortunately, this isn't it. I should have taken a dozen just to show you one that did this justice.



I was waiting for Mr. Tumnus, but was informed by a flitting hummingbird that he was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. We're waiting, Aslan...



The university surrounds a Catholic mission. Here is the garden inside the mission. It is earlier and only a few flowers are blooming so far, but it smells nice anyway.



Here is some interesting history on the Santa Clara Mission. Wikipedia has an informational article about the Spanish missions and their history and purpose here.



The front of the Santa Clara mission.



Looking down from the side of Nob Hill.



Grace Cathedral. Looks a bit like Notre Dame in France, eh?



Burning Girl. Minisnab poses in front of the setting sun.



Coit Tower looks far away from my cell phone camera, but it isn't far at all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Roadblogging: San Francisco Tue

We took off Tuesday morning on the Fulton Street bus bound for Golden Gate Park. The rains of Monday gave way to a brisk, but sunny day with temperatures in the 50s. We visited the Conservatory of Flowers which is well worth the price of admission. Several greenhouses house tropical plants of great variety and orchid lovers will hit the jackpot here.

The next stop was the De Young center. I was disappointed that a giant curly-haired singer for Styx was not cast in bronze, but apparently it was named after some other De Young. After getting raped for $50 to feed 4 people cafeteria style food, Ladybug and I decided to forgo the museum section (which threatened to make Dadaism seem normal). We left that to Minisnab and Grandpa while Ladybug and I wandered towards the Japanese tea garden. We were out of cash thanks to the De Young money pit, so we proceeded to the botanical gardens which were quite beautiful considering the early season. We wandered through the East Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa cape country sections before Minisnab called us away.

On the way back, Ladybug and I wandered into the Asian Art Museum while the other two practiced corporate consumerism (shopping) downtown. I enjoyed what I saw, but Montezuma's Revenge prevented me from enjoying it as much as Ladybug. If you want an excellent visual primer on the progression of Eastern religion, you can't do much better than this.

My knee was behaving, so we walked all the way back to the hotel. We enjoyed an exquisite french dinner at the spendy, but worthwhile Le Cafe de la Presse. We especially recommend the beef Bourguignon. It was a long, but fun day.

Here are the pix...



Chinatown (Mon Eve)



MiniSnab and Grandpa as we ride away from the Asian Art Museum.



There were plenty of houses in this era and style throughout the coastal side of town.



The Conservatory of Flowers



Three familiar figures walking towards the De Young center (oh, how Avant Garde...)



A beautiful day at the Botanical Gardens



Some South African native flowers.



Just outside the Japanese Tea Garden



If Escher had tasteful hardwood flooring and an excellent selection of cooking supplies...

Roadblogging: San Francisco Mon

Monday was hotel switching day in the morning. The forecast for rain and wind appeared to be exaggerated. After settling in to our new digs, we ventured out to Pier 39 to allow the kind vendors to separate us from our wealth. That is when the rain and wind started up.

We had lunch and took refuge at the SF Bay Aquarium to escape the rain. While there were a couple of things better than the Oregon Coast aquarium, overall I think Oregon has a better aquarium (and a bit cheaper too). We boarded the electric car to head back downtown and settled in for the evening. We dined in Chinatown at the forgettable Cathay House. Here are some pix...



Mary and BabyJesus (tm) at Notre Dame des Victoires Catholic Church



Looking out on Pier 39



Enjoying ice cream and watching the wind and rain tousle the boats in the marina.



Minisnab and Ladybug in the aquarium viewing tunnel.



Anchovies(?) under the light



JAWS!!!!!!



A friendlly ray approaches in the petting pool. I told Minisnab not to get Irwined (was it too soon?).



4 crabby people. Ok, ok just kidding!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Roadblogging: San Francisco Sat/Sun

Spring vacation is here again and so we packed our bags, and we are taking the Snabulus show on the road.

To defeat the rush, we arrived at the airport on Saturday 3 hours early. Though the terminal was packed, we needn't have hurried because the Portland TSA folks are on the ball. We have the most professional and best-run security of any airport I've been to.

After arriving, we took a cab to the hotel (for 4 people, one cab fare is cheaper than 4 shuttle fares and a lot less hassle. We checked in at the Carlton Hotel and got settled in.

We did a little shopping and ate at an excellent place called Brick. Their hamachi sashimi is a treat; not just pieces of fish but something much tastier.

On Sunday, we took the Geary St bus and had an exquisite brunch at the Cliff House overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We took a gander at the postmodern St. Mary's Cathedral and ran around Japan Center. Dinner at Lori's Diner was passably good and much less expensive than the first two places.

Herer are a few cell phone pictures for your amusement...




Hopping aboard a Canadian Regional 700. All seats are aisle or window ;).



Here is the Pacific Ocean. The area below was, at one time, a large oceanside bath house. Now it is a replanting project.




St. Mary's Cathedral.



This is the centerpiece of the Japan Peace Plaza.



Watch out Starbucks! Cafe Bean could put the hurt on you.



Minisnab curls up with a book at Borders books.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Flashback 4/18/2002: My 3rd and 4th ever blog entries

I think I've weighed down this site enough with my past Iraq writing for a while. This time I thought I would share my first real blog entries beyond a couple of introductory quips. I placed the blog on my own web page and used my own system of HTML tags to decorate the fonts, etc. I had to strip all that to put the entries in here. Hopefully the tables still format well.


UPDATE: The table is slightly bloggered. Just scroll down the page to see the table.

Thursday, April 18, 2002, 11:00 pm

Parallels and differences exist between any two subjects. This
evening (for no particular reason), I will compare and contrast the
European vs. Native American conflict with Israel vs. Palestine
conflict. I offer no hope of anything other than a slight expanding
of thought amongst the gentle readership.






























European vs. Native American conflictIsrael vs. Palestine conflict
No one person to blameCan blame Sharon & Arafat
Native lands were taken by forcePalestinians lands were taken by force
Rank & File Natives protrayed as savagesRank & File Palestinians portrayed as terrorists
More natives killed than EuropeansMore Palestinians killed than Israelis
No discernible peace movement among stronger groupStrong movement among Israelis, but disregarded in most instances
No discernible peace movement among weaker groupStrong movement among Palestinians, but disregarded in most instances
Occupiers bargained for less than 1% of landOccupiers owned 7% of land before occupation
No outside weapons helpWeapons provided by outside entities
Used as slavesUsed for low wage jobs
Natives now live in low-income reservationsPalestinians now live in refugee camps
Occupied land is stabilized, no new settlementsOccupied land is expanding, new settlements forming
Most natives are very poorMost Palestinians are very poor
No legitimate land claim2000 year old biblical claim (no residence until 19th century)
Manifest DestinyA Jewish homeland decreed by God
Most native leaders electedPalestinians lead by military figure
Natives are accorded citizenship and rightsPalestinians are not citizens and have no rights
Racism against Europeans is largely ignoredRacism against Israelis is regarded as harsh persecution
Germans killed few Native Americans during WW26 million Jews were killed in WW2 by Germans
Germans killed few American gypsies, etc. during WW26 million gypsies, etc. were killed in WW2 by Germans
Natives had no suicide bombersPalestinians have dozens of suicide bombers
Europeans received scant outside financial supportIsrael receives $5 billion per annum from USA
Both cultures are rich and worth living inBoth cultures are rich and worth living in
There will never likely be an "Indian" nationThere will have to be a Palestine



Thursday, April 18, 2002, 11:00 am


The Second Coming -- W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Voice blogging

(this blog entry was entered using voice recognition software and I have done only minor editing. Some humorous software faux pas are left for your amusement.)

I thought, for this entry, I would use my voice to do the data entry. I bought a new product called Dragon NaturallySpeaking 92 facilitate my road blogging. I am hoping that using this software will enable this little tiny computer to do what I really wanted it to which is to become a truly mobile device.

After about three minutes of voice training, the system learns your voice and interprets what you're saying. I would say it is a pretty good job considering my voice in the way I sometimes munge words. I am interested to see how well it does in a jet airplane however. I will have the chance on Thursday because I am traveling to San Jose for a business meeting.

Even though it is fun to use a voice recognition product to do my blogging, I am must tell you that I was using a similar product way back in 1996 that was available for free in an operating system called OS/2. I will admit however, that Dragon NaturallySpeaking does do a much better job of recognizing my voice than OS/2 did. On the other hand, OS/2 was able to do the same thing with 4 MB of RAM instead of the one gate and that I am taxing by using Dragon.

In other news, we suffered a large-scale fish die off in our aquarium this week. While I am suspicious that our old friend DewKid may have called this incident, it is also true that our thermostat was way off in its automated temperature sensing and we could have actually fried fish in their own juices because the water was about 15° too warm. For those who read through all the comments in my past embodying new experiences recently, you may have read that DewKid's fish, Ninja, eliminated all the other fish in the tank using the violent means. We are wondering whether our angelfish, Genghis con, is guilty of the same act. The evidence, however, is inconclusive. Just to be on the safe side, somewhere is going to fish out Genghis Khan, and we are going to trade him in at a fish store for some less violent species.

It took a stroll today through the Tualatin Hills nature Park and signs of spring abound. There were a number of Trillium flowers growing near the trail as well as stream violets, a fair number of tree blossoms, and some little pink flowers near the trails age that looked like something I can to candy flowers.

Well, if I had best head to bed here so I am fresh and ready for the big corporate meeting tomorrow. You all know how much I look forward to that. Have a great night and a better tomorrow. I would never have actually typed that but it sees an easy thing to say Good wishes are sometimes that way.

And I Thought I was Good at Spirograph



Team Cracks Century-Old Math Puzzle

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) -- An international team of mathematicians says it has cracked a 120-year-old puzzle that researchers say is so complicated that its handwritten solution would cover the island of Manhattan.

The 18-member group of mathematicians and computer scientists was convened by the American Institute of Mathematics in Palo Alto to map a theoretical object known as the "Lie group E8."

Lie (pronounced Lee) groups were invented by 19th-century Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie in his study of symmetrical objects, especially spheres, and differential calculus.

The E8 group, which dates to 1887, is the most complicated Lie group, with 248 dimensions, and was long considered impossible to solve.

"To say what precisely it is is something even many mathematicians can't understand," said Jeffrey Adams, the project's leader and a math professor at the University of Maryland.


I won't pretend to understand it either, but that is one groovy spirograph picture. The Friday Flashbacks have weighed down the mood here, so a little sugar and spice is in order. Luckily, we have Ladybug to keep us up to date on cultural happenings. I know there has been some tagging going on out there and I will post a bit when I have more time.

Friday, March 16, 2007

ST. Patrick's Day Tag


Here's a post for St. Pat's and a late response to Swinebread's Tag-

5 Reasons Why I Blog

1. It's fun - I get to look up more info on what I'm interested in sharing w/folks

2. Communication - I get to share my thoughts and interests w/friends and family-on the cheap!

3. Good for Brain - It helps keep my mind sharper, and the memory hole from getting so big I can't remember what I did last week...

4. It's creative-I like designing the post, choosing the pics 'n' stuff

5. It's quick - I tend to like something I can do in minutes, and get done(!) over something that taxes my time!

UPDATE
Here are some links to last year's recipes: Corned Beef and Cabbage, Lucky Lime Salad (dessert), and alternatively a wonderful seafood soup.

They all have pictures, so I hope you'll have fun!

Friday Flashback 5/7/03: Post-Saddam Analysis

Here is another old blog entry that I truly believe could have been written yesterday. The neat thing about rereading these is being reminded of acts of governmental skullduggery and stories that I had long forgotten.

I spoke of being worried about my "radical" positions at the time. Today, it is common sense. Interesting that a week after my original posting of this, I reported a Reuters story as, "Reuters reported today that Oregon Republican Senator John Minnis wants to declare anti-war protesters as terrorists and send them to jail for 25 years to life for performing acts of civil disobedience. The conservative radio host Lars Larson agrees. According to the article, legislators give the bill little chance of passing."

While glad I had the "stones" at the time to keep going for a while, it is good to live in a time with a bit less hysteria. Now, we need to figure out how to deal with Frick (W) and Frack (Cheney) running our listing ship for the next couple of years. I wish us luck.

Update: As I re-re-re-read the article, it could be interpreted that my harsh words for conservative policymakers and pundits at the time is how I still think of them (and/or you if you consider yourself conservative). Thankfully, reality has begun to dawn upon everyone except a few to varying degrees, so I am happy to relinquish that tone today for a request that conservatives continue to trend to their fiscally responsible and republican (as in preserving the Republic) traditional roles and away from corporate cronyism and foreign policy adventurism.


May 7, 2003

Post-Saddam Analysis

Saddam is out of power. That is a good thing. The question for the folks in Iraq and the world is, "Is that a better thing?" The jury is out on that, but I'm not so sure it is. If I were a Christian in Iraq, I would be worried about the gathering of Shi'ites calling for an Islamic government. Shia Muslims comprise 60% of Iraq. In a democracy, they rule. The unanswered question is, "How many of them benefit from the secular society and would vote for it?" (That is assuming the Bush administration is telling the truth about letting the Iraqis forming their own government.)

According to one estimate I saw, 75% of Iraqis worked for the government. Guess how many have no source of income now? Iraqbodycount.net has recorded 2000+ civilian deaths and that doesn't include single-source news stories or all of the shallow graves dug throughout the country since this conflict began. If you ask the families of the dead what they think about regime change, you'll get a different response. Imagine your home town rocked by deafening explosions night after night. Imagine losing your phone, your water, and your food supply. Imagine your wife and your children huddling in the crawlspace of your home. Imagine one of them dying. Imagine losing your limbs. Can you conceive of the full implications of that? Well, Iraqis aren't imagining it, they are living it. We did it to them. I won't celebrate that.

Now that the primary bombing is done (secondary bombing through detonations of cluster bomblets and other munitions will add to the deaths above), what exactly is going on? It looks to me that we've taken a country at the developmental level of perhaps Brazil and turned it into Afghanistan. All public infrastructure is gone except for power and some water. The looting is still going on. When we made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, we took on the responsibility to secure the region. Instead, it appears that a Stalin or Mao-style income redistribution took place...with a twist. In this case, the poor and middle-class become poorer, the evil and corrupt become the middle and upper-middle class, and the foreign rich become the richer beneficiaries of both other groups. It is apparent that whatever the plan was in Iraq, the result has destroyed the infrastructure we bragged about protecting and left a humanitarian disaster for the United Nations, Oxfam, and the rest of the (liberal) prime movers of aid.

They say oil is flowing. So what? They announce it without telling us whether it is going to port, being refined, who is involved, where the money is, or any other details. However, we are supposed to take it on faith that this is a good thing. Well, so what? Iraq's oil was nationalized under Saddam Hussein. So is the US government producing and taking the oil now? Or is it an American company taking the oil? The key word here is "take." The evidence is that oil is the spoil in this conflict. We need it and they've got it.

For those that point to the humanitarian effort, consider the following: Congo has suffered 3.3 million combat and starvation deaths since 1998. Do you want a perspective on that? That is a 9/11 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for five years. That is 30 Iraq body counts (2003) or more. We sit on our butts and watch it happen. We do nothing. No conservative Christians on the 700 Club talking about intervening and no liberals marching up Main Street protesting our lack of involvement there. In fact, liberals didn't bring it up until it could be used a club to beat back the "We won! We won!" mentality of pro-war people. In fact, this is one sphere where the pure pacifists have it right. Those of us who produce weaponry are boosting the body counts in the Congo.

So anyone who talks about saving the Iraqi people can stuff it.

Ah, the weapons of mass destruction. I warned before that destabilizing a country might well cut loose the materials for destructive use in the United States. Well, I hope I am wrong, but there is at least one nuclear site in Iraq we didn't bother to secure before it was looted and now radioactive materials are missing. I hope the CIA or Special Forces whisked it up, but I fear it may have ended up in someone else's hands. Folks in Israel might be breathing a sigh of relief about Scuds, only to find a dirty bomb going off in Haifa...or maybe it will be London...or New York. In Bush's State of the Union, he listed huge quantities of weaponry that would be impossible to hide this long if they actually existed. We are talking about dozens of trailer loads of material being watched by satellites that can read news headlines on the Earth. If it weren't a lie, we would have at least some of it in hand by now. Speaking of superior tracking, Colin Powell's Powerpoint slides have been of no use. While we were worrying about whether we would lose 20,000 troops to nerve gas, the folks in DC knew there was little or no chance of it.

The message this sends to hostile developing nations is to keep their weapons programs unannounced and secret and that they'd better have some WMD if they are going to tangle with the United States. So now every powerless country will double and triple their efforts and their secrecy to come up with a cheaper way to keep the US at bay should the need arise. Nobody is going to be stupid enough to tell the UN about it. Items like Sarin and botulism weaponry are relatively cheap and easy to produce.

Most importantly, why did we deceive the United Nations and our own people about the nature and extent of Hussein's remaining weapons programs? After 2 personal "decapitation" attacks and the quick dissolution of the Republican Guard, you can't tell me we didn't have intelligence saturation in that country. The administration had a good idea of what was there and chose to deceive America and the UN. The real question is whether it will have any consequences. Do the ends justify the means? Considering our role in creating Osama to fight the Soviets and creating Saddam to fight Iran, the answer should at long last be an unequivocal NO. However, our recent capitulation to a declared terrorist group (with American blood on their hands) because they are currently harassing Iran instead of us shows that the real motives of our government are not determined by past experience, reality, or moral character.

And what of this childish mocking and chiding of our allies? We talk about "Old Europe" and about punishing France when the big players in al-Qaeda are detained by French and German agents, not Americans. Punishing France means punishing an ally. I think these temper tantrums when people won't conform are both childish and reminiscent of our enemies of older times. Most of the world gave us their hearts, their assistance, and their resources after 9/11 in an outpouring not likely to be repeated. When they asked us to focus on al-Qaeda instead of Saddam, we freaked out.

However, it wasn't everyone that freaked out. It was a particular group in Washington banging the pots, namely the neoconservatives. In concert, lowest common denominators of the media joined in: Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and Clear Channel. This is how we treat the people who devoted massive resources to keep more terrorists from crossing the Atlantic to kill Americans. We should be (and I am) ashamed of ourselves. To their credit, our allies are taking a philosophical view of Iraq instead of talking about the damage we did to the international community. Most countries have people on the ground doing relief work through NGOs, including France. This relief work will enhance the safety of our forces serving in Iraq. Thank you people of Europe. We owe you a debt of gratitude for your forbearance. I am also glad to have Canada and Mexico as neighbors. Gracias, eh?

I think the biggest thing I learned from all of this is that the moralizing done by government, whether big or small or our side or theirs, is for effect. In order to truly understand why decisions are made, the selfish explanation for the parties involved is the one that fits best, although the answer is not always simple. Iraq has oil. France, Germany, and Russia had oil contracts based on lifting of the sanctions. The United States did not. The United States pushed for war and the other three resisted. This is not rocket science. In fact, this is what historians will be talking about in 50 years; it won't be the Dixie Chicks or Rush Limbaugh they speak of.

What does Bush get out of this? How about Rumsfeld, Perle, and Wolfowitz? What financial impact will this have on their family and friends? How will the power flow? In fact, these are questions that the folks in charge already considered and they've carefully planned their way to this point with great focus. It is too bad that their vision is based on so much suffering abroad and removing civil liberties in this country. It is too bad that we are going to pay for the cost of it for decades or perhaps centuries. As always, the majority of people will discover what is happening only after the damage is done. This is the price of our culture of leisure.

Where does all of this leave the anti-war people like me? Well, I don't mind telling you that I wonder about that myself. I am glad I attended the anti-war demonstrations. There is an interesting mix of people there. Many people hijack the event for their own causes. Although anti-war and civil liberty causes are no more related to socialism than they are to republicanism, socialists always crop up at these events and try to make it look like the whole concept of peace was their idea. By the way, I also acknowledge that some of the hardest working people in the peace movement are socialists: that isn't the point. The point is that their noise far exceeds their numbers. I like Code Pink and Raging Grannies because their focus is on the topic at hand.

Peace is never high on the agenda of any government. A demonstration or protest may be the only decent way of letting the government know that people are watching them and that voting time is always just around the corner. Does that mean performing acts of vandalism and blocking highways is okay? Not in my opinion. Then people who are already looking for an excuse focus on the crime and not the cause. That's not rocket science either. There is a place for civil disobedience, but the people disrupted should be the people involved, not everyday folks.

The pro-war demonstrations were interesting in that they appeared to be driven by an anger of the opposition rather than love of the troops. In fact, "anti-peace protest protester" is a more accurate term for them. It was also like a coach calling Timeout in a basketball game to celebrate the fact that his team is ahead. I hope people enjoyed themselves there and that Clear Channel got their money's worth. To be honest, I would rather hang out with the peaceniks. I don't think the pro-war people I know (with a couple exceptions) would go in for an angry rally like that either.

Some of those hateful people have ventured onto my site and vented their spleen at me as well. I guess that's okay. At the time it worried me, because people in the media were talking about jailing dissenters and a couple of freaky legislators were proposing things to punish protesters and other hogwash. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the hoopla. In retrospect, I see it as a successful attempt to put a lid on the actual points of debate. Let's just say I won't feel sorry for them when their fingerprints, semen, PAP smears, bloodtypes, retinal patterns, and masturbation habits are recorded in the national registry and used against them when they try to get a job. I tried to stop it and they didn't.

Liberals, Democrats, and Greens are all doing some soul searching as to how to regain power. I hope they are successful in ousting Bush in 2004. If they succeed, it will be because they mobilized the people who didn't vote in the last 2 elections. They should also be able to capitalize on the bigmouth conservatives who can't keep their racism and homophobia to themselves. I hope they don't get too powerful (that applies to both major parties). I would like to see the executive branch cut down to size, but I don't trust that the current Democrats are going to do it either. I would also like that any new gun laws deal with proper firearm training, storage, and anger management rather than trying to disarm people who clearly do not wish to be disarmed. The Democrats need to adapt to the world.

Iraq had nothing anything to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda; that is why I didn't cover national security in this analysis.

To summarize:

* Iraq: nearly destroyed
* Al-Qaeda supported by Hussein: What? I never said that.
* WMD: Let's hope not, cuz we ain't findin' nuthin'
* liberals: ineffective
* conservatives: assholes
* Machiavelli: correct
* Freedom: MIA
* Troops: good jorb (mostly)
* War Planners: smart, low casualties, play to win
* Post-War Planners: dumb or evil, can't tell which
* Truth: KIA
* Old Europe: pals
* Safety and Security: dependent on government whimsy
* Hate mail: DELETED!!!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sofa King Wrong

Court Upholds Prison for Egypt Blogger

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- An Egyptian appeals court on Monday upheld the four-year prison sentence given to an Egyptian blogger who criticized conservative Muslims and was convicted of insulting Islam and Egypt's president, court officials said.

Abdel Kareem Nabil's sentence last month had been widely condemned by local and international rights groups as a bid to curb free expression.

Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, had been sentenced to three years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and inciting sectarian strife, and another year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak.


If anything should unite left- and right-wing bloggers, it should be to fight the jailing of this Egyptian blogger who simply spoke his mind. But it won't. In this case, it was a government who overtly jailed this person. While the USA gives Egypt billions per year to offset the billions we give Israel, I doubt one dollar will be withdrawn to, as President Bush put it while campaigning for the 2000 election, Vote Freedom First.

Instead, our freedom-fighting government will allow a government to perform the same action that thugs did to shut down Saba's Bahrain and Beyond blog. Threats and coercion once again trump simple honesty.

We are so lucky here and they are so unlucky in Egypt. But wait, it is not so simple. Even hanging out in Canada and trying to participate in a pluralistic society bring threats of violence to the family of a fine young woman with the nickname of Saba.

Let us see what these sometimes selfish wings of this bird humanity do to help a fellow blogger. The Amnesty Int'l and affiliated parties have pointed this out. Let us see what we will do here in America.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Roadblogging Gear



Well, now that I am back home I can show you the roadblogging gear. The PC is a Sony Vaio VGN-UX280P with 1 GB RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, Windows XP Pro, and an Intel dual core 1.2 GHz processor. It is only slightly larger than a standard Palm Pilot or Windows Pocket PC, but it has full PC power.

Pros:

  • Small. At 1.2 pounds and the small form factor, it is easy to throw in a backpack. Even the docking station shown in the picture is only a few ounces.

  • It can be used where a laptop would be cumbersome or considered a social gaffe. This machine is scarcely bigger than the fancier cell phones and most people don't think of it as a PC.

  • Geek Value. People are amazed that a tiny thing like this is faster than most laptops over a year old.

  • Easy wired connectivity. Bluetooth, Wifi, and Cingular EDGE hi-speed cellular (for pay) are all available. The Sony SmartWi utility allows me to turn wierless functions on or off quickly to save battery.

  • Wired connections. The PC has one USB port built-in, but with the docking station, 3 more are added along with a VGA monitor plug, miniature TV video, one firewire, and a LAN plug. There is also a "quick dock" plug that allows monitor and lan connection for those rare times when taking the docking station with you is too much.

  • Remarkable resolution: Though the screen is only 4.5 inches, I get 1024 x 600 resolution.

  • Cool: as in runs much cooler than the standard laptop, although I believe it is warmer than a PSP or Nintendo DS unit.

  • 2 cameras allow minor digital photography and short videos



Cons:

  • Price. At over $2000 including extended warranty (a must for an all-in-one device), it costs more than most laptops.

  • Remarkable resolution: Since the screen is only 4.5 inches and the resolution is fixed on the small screen, it is tough to see items on the screen.

  • Max Video resolution is only 320 x 240. Makes crummy YouTube movies.

  • Operating system: Windows XP is fine, but this unit really needed the tablet PC edition of XP. The little keyboard is too small for long blog posts or e-mails, so some handwriting recognition would have been ideal. Either that or some decent voice recognition software.



The floppy keyboard is better than I thought it would be. It types fairly well, but the space bar needs to be more responsive. It is also missing the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys. COMPUSA should have had those on there. It does the job I need it to overall.

The bleeding edge can be a bit difficult, but it is fun to play with all this new technology and see what better things are coming down the road.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Flashback 8/7/2002:: Compassion, Giving, and Mom and Dad

Here is another blast from the past. In it I contrast some acts of compassion I witnessed as a child to some of the more materialistic activities and seeming indifference to the poor and suffering I see in much religion today and among the non-religious. Back then, I wrote it both as a tribute to some great people I knew and a criticism of what I was seeing.

If I were to rewrite it today, the praise would remain the same. However, the criticism was overly generalized and did not make clear enough that while such materialism is widespread, no particular group is guilty of all offenses and all of us could do better and make our compassion relieve more suffering.

I can't remind myself enough that people are individually complex and it is easy to get lazy and generalize about groups without fully recognizing the differences between people in these groups.

One more note, I kept repeating the word "Afghani" below. I believe the proper term for these folks is "Afghan." Before going nuts on me, remember that my views of the US presence in Afghanistan has evolved over the last four years. However, my disappointment with the current administration has only grown.


Wednesday, August 7, 2002, 11:00 pm


Compassion, Giving, and Mom and Dad


Back in the misty days of the 70s, when Zeppelin was rocking hard, the Cosmac Elf was a personal computer, and Julius Erving had big hair, there was a huge influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia into this country. They were known as "The Boat People." People and families from Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, and elsewhere were desperate for a safe harbor.

Some of these folks found their way to Milwaukie, Oregon. They were met by people such as Frank Milton, the Days, Dorothy Adams, and my mom. These were Presbyterians who, when it came time, heeded the spirit of giving taught by Jesus. They helped families find their way into homes and get jobs. They taught English to children, adults, and the elderly alike. You never saw hearts open wider or gratitude so humbly exchanged unless you've been part of something similar.

I know these things because I was there. Twice a week my Dad drove my Mom and myself to our church. I taught English to immigrant adults when I just a little kid. Imagine a little 10 year old boy teaching a full grown adult how to pronounce "girl" or "horse." I remember spending several minutes repeating pronunciations back and forth with the occasional pause for laughter to break the tension and frustration of learning a new language in a new land. I can't imagine a 10 year Laotian trying to teach me their language if I were to live there. There was a tenderness and patience that were exchanged based on the strangeness of the situation.

My mom was a spark plug in Oregon Literacy. We used the original teaching methods developed by Frank C. Laubach. She was able to do phenomenal things with people. In addition to Asian immigrants, Mom taught Latino immigrants, a Portland TrailBlazer, and other adults who couldn't read. Dad provided the means, dedication, and transportation to make it all happen (he was a volunteer with the Boy Scouts to boot). They, along with many others in the Milwaukie area (both students and teachers), provided the best role models I think a person could hope for.

There is one more thing I should mention. Most of the people we taught were, as far as most Americans were concerned, indistinguishable from our enemy for the previous decade. Yet we see what great things were done by so many and what great people our country is now strengthened by.

Flash forward to today. The Frank Miltons are being shouted down by the Jerry Falwells. The love is replaced by bellicosity. The humble church that once housed shabby, frightened refugees is now adding a shiny copper roof and a new wing. Tithes are spent on raiment, television stations, swimming pools; selfish things. The message to the flock is that Jesus is on our team and Allah is "of the devil." Judgment and self-righteousness and its resultant hatred replace the personal risk of reaching out without strings attached and to give love and comfort without assessing worthiness first.

Some of us then walk away. It is so easy for noise to drown out tenderness that we walk away from the noise without regard to the costs. Some continue to go to church but hide out in clean, happy, risk-free neighborhoods. Give a few bucks for a mission somewhere and then its back to barbecues and swimming pools. Others see nothing but hypocrisy and decide that it is all crap. They hide out in a world of personal entertainment, and maybe give a few bucks to the Salvation Army at Christmas. Finally, there are the guilty among us who have seen compassion work and yet do little themselves to spread it. I am in this group.

Whether or not God is your co-pilot, there is a justification for bringing your heart and compassion to bear in the most difficult circumstances. We find it easy to think of the firefighters and police who knowingly gave their lives to save people in the World Trade Center, but we harden our hearts to the suffering and death of thousands of Afghanis because these starving peasants allowed an oppressive regime to take over their country. Our Christian president wants it that way. There is something terribly wrong with that man.

There are, at this moment, refugee camps in Australia full of sad and starving people. There appears to be no Frank Milton or Joyce Limbaugh in Australia to help them. Imagine that. A country full of Christians hiding from the very acts of kindness that Christ commands of them.

There are billions of opportunities for goodness and redemption in the world today. However, we divide ourselves into the so-called left and right and let the problems fester. The right is busy waving flags and the left is too busy marching in solidarity. We leave the job of feeding and care, of love and compassion, to others. The UN, NGOs, and Europe with their supposedly cold, Godless, socialist viewpoint shame Christianity the world over with the comfort and food they have provided.

How can an Israeli settler take a swim in his pool knowing that a Palestinian baby may be dying of dysentery from lack of water less than a mile away? What good is religion then? The Jews I know would not let that happen in their neighborhood. It is always the strong that must help the weak.

If we accepted 100,000 Afghani immigrants into America and taught them to read English, found them jobs, and do what we did 25 years ago with folks from Southeast Asia, you might find what we find today in Southeast Asia. Countries are slowly on the mend thanks to US dollars flowing to family businesses etc from our Asian American neighbors.

Yet here I am collecting my money from my job and writing instead of acting. Maybe it is time I got off my fortunate American ass to see what can be done. If I start now, maybe I can accomplish a fraction of the good that I witnessed from Mom, Dad, Frank Milton, and everyone else who followed the good teachings of a guy named Jesus.

I am going to keep the religion at arm's length though. If it is Allah's will, I am sure God will understand. If not, at least big hair is back (but probably not for Doctor J).

Oh yeah, one more thing. Thanks Mom and Dad. I love you.

This one is dedicated to Viet, Phu, Tam, De, Thi, Le Khuyen, and everyone else from whom I learned the Buddhist qualities of my Judeo-Christian value system.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Roadblogging

I am sitting in a hotel room in Philly with my little Sony Vaio UX, flexible roll-up keyboard, and a mouse writing this up. The combined weight of the components is well under 2 pounds. The biggest negative is that my monitor is only about 2.5" x 4.5". My soom utility helps me look at things at a sane magnification level. I will add pictures to this post before too long. Have fun.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

OBVIOusly Cool

All I want is the electric version of this car...



Please send your donations of $10,000 US or more to my home address.

Click the car for more info...



Thanks,

Snabby

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Flashback 3/2/03: Apologies and Explanations

In this post, I am starting to "get it" how discourse is controlled by the current administration and their adherents in the media sphere. I've since revised my filters to notice how ALL of the sources I read are either colored by personal views or agendas. The Democratic end of the world has their own twists and turns which are pretty well documented at the TPMCafe.com where lively debates take place between those Democratically inclined.

I also believe that, although we are in a world dominated by right-wing shock TV hosts and media conglomerates owned by defense contractors and folks like Rupert Murdoch and Rev. Moon, the overriding goal of television is to attract viewers and straight news just doesn't fit the current trend. Even regular news forces viewpoints into narrow right/left narratives that help keep the level of excitement high and the level of discourse low. Congress plays the same game and real problems are never addressed because all of the noise and energy is directed into politically myopic debates on generalized topics.


Sunday, March 2, 2003

Apologies and Explanations

I want to apologize for the stridence that has strayed into this site recently. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that the AM radio shock jocks are an accurate representation of Republicans or conservatives in America. I forget they are created entities that fulfill a marketing niche. Sometimes I forget and seek to beat them at their own game.

It is their job to provoke and I am sorry to say that I've fallen for it altogether too many times lately. The world as offered up by Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, and others is a nasty, contrived one based on a particular ideology that has nearly succeeded in hijacking Republicanism and conservatism. I erred, at times, in ascribing the values of these loudmouths onto my friends, colleagues, etc. who share conservative values.

These media folks draw upon a number of tricks in order to provoke and embrace an extend a divisive agenda. Here are just a few:


  1. 1. Tie everything to 9/11.

    This in itself is not unusual or bad since that horrific event caused our nation to examine, soul-search, and redefine our views of the world and our place in it. However, the lies occur when they attempt to distinguish their "kind" from their supposed political opposites. They want you to forget that everyone was shocked by 9/11, that everyone grieved, and everyone shared their blood and money and tears in an unprecedented outpouring of love. They want you to think that only their loyal factions did so. This is an insult to everyone in America.

    There were liberal firefighters that died that day. Most religious groups were represented among the dead. Slackers, homeless, immigrants, and others were among the dead. When pundits and personalities throw around terms such as traitor, or unAmerican, or fifth columnist, or liberal appeasers, they are lies set against such a background of shared suffering.


  2. 2. Blur the line of connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

    Without this, popular support for an Iraq war is impossible. Here are the ways: First, call Hussein a terrorist. In this way, they equate the 9/11 killers with those who would execute the 9/11 killers. Second, avoid all details of the atrocities that occurred during the Iran-Iraq war but repeat the "Saddam gassed his own people" mantra. As the debate continues, oscillate between these as needed to keep from delving into such ugly details as who provided the nerve agents and bioterror agents to Iraq (and encouraged their use) then avoiding the lack of a link between two bitter enemies (Osama and Saddam).

    This technique is failing. Protests were small and infrequent for the Afghanistan intervention and huge for Iraq. People know the difference and are making themselves heard. However, there are quite a number who do not want war who will also not march in a protest. These are important and ignored people in the debate.


  3. 3. Ignore Afghanistan unless something favorable happens.

    This is especially true when the dicussion turns to a post-war Iraq (if one occurs). Afghanistan is once again the largest opium producer in the world. It is controlled by warlords whose hatred for women and adherence to draconian religious law is hard to distinguish from the Taliban. US troops are fired on every day, relief groups find it hard to feed everyone, etc. It is only in retrospect that we realize that it would have taken over 100,000 troops to properly destroy al-Qaeda and the mujahedeen and disarm the warlords. Now, things are horrible and many innocents have died for nothing. When I raised this point when it was happening, I was soundly rebuked by those I was discussing it with. Everything I said would happen did, and it didn't take a military expert to figure it out.


  4. 4. Paint criticism of the government as unpatriotic.

    The punditry would have you believe that dissent might erode the decision-making abilities of those in charge. Professors, demonstrators, etc. have no power over the actions of government. I was struck by a protest of Clinton's intervention in the Balkans by some conservatives. Many valid points about the dangers of empire and checks and balances were raised. I agreed with their concepts if not their application in that case. Now raising the same points is loudly decried as unAmerican. Republicans walked out of Clinton's State of the Union address; there were no articles calling for jailing the protesting Republicans; but Michael Savage has called for the jailing of anti-war demonstrators. In fact, Clinton's entire presidency was a study in prolonged and focused dissent. Were these Republicans unAmerican? No, just nasty and ruthless wasters of taxpayer money that showed a great deal of disrespect for the functioning of government.


  5. 5. Wave your flag and buddy up to the military.

    This is a time honored tradition of the loudmouths. The funny thing is that NONE of the big TV and radio personalities, all of whom were of ripe age during the Viet Nam war decided to serve America as warriors. Now they hope that cheap flattery and lionization of currently serving military personnel will obscure that basic fact. Even the main players in the Bush administration seem to have wriggled out of action. I never served either, but I am not cavalier about putting good peoples' lives in danger to carry out my agenda. I am quite impressed with anyone who would put themselves at risk in service to this country. However, drops in recruitment show that the urgency to be cheerled to one's own possible death is low. In World War II, kids would lie about their age to join the fight. Fighting Iraq does not appear to engender the same response. Why put the rest of our sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters at the same risk for a cause that only has urgency in the Bush administration and on radio/TV. Americans want to be safe above all else. The CIA says it is safer to contain Saddam; I suspect they know better than the Bush administration.

    Bill Moyers wrote so eloquently how the loudmouths have hijacked the flag that I don't feel the need to do so myself. Here is an excerpt:

    I put the flag in my lapel tonight. First time. Until now I haven't thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans. Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart's affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother's picture on my lapel to prove her son's love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.



...

In all this discussion, let us not forget some basic American values and Judeo-Christian morality. First, the Bill of Rights was written for all people, not just a certain set of people. It exists to inform people and lawmakers that certain rights are unalienable and natural to our existence. When we keep people locked up in solitary confinement for a year with no access to counsel and total secrecy as to whereabouts, we've thrown our most sacred documents out the window. Security is important and intelligence to carry it out in a way that doesn't destroy your country is more important. If our threat is as high as stated, we can certainly send Saudi and Egyptian citizens home until they can control the radicals that perpetrated 9/11. We don't need concentration camps and gulags; we need accountability and smart action.

When it comes to Iraq, it is important to remember that unless it was okay for Hitler to invade Poland, etc. it is not proper for America to attack Iraq. Germany presented "evidence" that countries around them were a threat as well. We should be able to be proud of whatever we do. Defeating Hitler in World War II was a worthwhile goal; Iraq is not. Remember this. Other than fertilizer explosives, any military hardware used by any Arab or Central Asian country comes from outside that theater of operations. These countries could not do battle effectively if it were not for our weapons and training or that of places like Russia. Even nuclear technology must come from the outside.

...

You won't hear me calling for those who favor war in Iraq to be jailed or censured. That is stupid and I am actually sympathetic to the pro-war viewpoint. Saddam Hussein is a bad man and the world would be better if people like him were not in power. However, it is up to the loudmouths to explain their refusal to discuss what the "right thing to do" is after Iraq is "conquered." We get small details about installing democracy, but chances are pretty good that a full-fledged democracy in a Shi'ite rich environment would result in an Iran-type government where power is ceded to hostile religious leaders, so let's not kid ourselves here. The real question is how are people going to benefit from the resulting military dictatorship, or more importantly, how will we feel about unapologetically ignoring democracy after promising to install it?

With no link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and the fact that John Ashcroft is playing Russian Roulette by arresting random suspected people but letting the majority stay (young Saudis and Egyptians), one can only think that the War on Terror has been won. The war is de-emphasized and things are returning to normal. At the same time, just the opposite is occurring. We are harried by terror alerts, repressive changes to due process and governmental spying and we are asked to be patient. Nightmare scenarios are brought up daily about suitcase nukes, bioattacks, sarin and other gases killing Americans. So which approach is wrong? We can't both attack Iraq and live in fear about Saudis with superweapons. Is terror a priority or isn't it? There is a significant amount of evidence that shows the current administration eschewed all things Clintonian and decided they had a better way. The removal of surveillance resources from scrutinizing critical, but possibly embarrassing aspects of our Saudi allies is at the heart of this. The aggressive refusal of the Bush administration for an open investigation of September 11 is a blow to every American under the scrutiny of government surveillance (which is ALL of us). As Cynthia McKinney asked for all of us: What did they know and when did they know it? The largest intelligence breakdown in the history of our nation should not be swept under the carpet and yes, it is imperative to assess blame. If you don't want to take responsibility for your job, then quit.

...

These are the issues that should appear on the nightly news every night. Instead, we are left with a news media that uses government press releases as their primary news source without bothering to go investigate the nuances themselves. This is a disservice to both government and the public in that the government loses a valuable ally in keeping itself honest (a perennial problem with governments) and the public is unable to make an informed decision about their views; views that are critical to the function of democracy. The media embrace their own idea of a status quo and everything outside that sphere is treated as suspect information; including the counsel of our greatest allies in Europe. It is a sad day when Americans must turn to the foreign press for a full accounting of the news of our own nation; yet this is exactly the case. Most don't bother and therefore develop their views based on a filtered view of the world. It is a failure of the system when the personal views of Rupert Murdoch, the CEOs of Viacom, Disney, and GE can change what we see and hear on the news.

The loudmouths reinforce this view and turn every debate into a provocative shoutfest where minds are turned off and compromise is impossible. Interpersonal discourse is hampered by this process. Many who disagree find themselves entrenching in their own positions without the sunshine of discussion and so both sides are damaged. This indeed is the very state I found myself in. It sucks but I admit it. It is a very effective tool for the loudmouths because it helps promote their simplistic stereotypes.

...

I want to address one final issue. Besides the main page, the most popular page at Snabulus is a side-by-side listing of Hitler's Enabling Act of 1933 with the Bush Administration's executive orders and portion of the USA Patriot Act of 2001. While the similarity between documents is striking, there is no indication that a) Bush is Hitler, b) that anyone is a Nazi who hasn't explicitly stated as much, c) that I think America is as bad as Nazi Germany.

The problem here, I think, is that in order to increase our security some have felt it necessary to abridge freedom and to circumvent the rule of law and our unalienable rights in order to make us safe. It rankles and angers those who feel such acts are necessary to ensure safety when others point out the historical precedents of such losses of freedom. All I can say is that I didn't make history; the people who lived it did. I can no more change Bush's executive orders than you can. I can't change the wording of Hitler's enabling act to make it more specific to his own particular atrocities. We would be fools not to compare and contrast various points in history; in fact, it is the only way we can transform ourselves from our barbarous past of wars for millenia on end. What I posted is only a pinpoint detail in a much larger picture.

This page is not the best thing I've ever done. My service and giving to my family, community, and planet (through charities) far surpasses what I've written here. I started writing at a time when people were too scared to discuss the problems I outlined above. This is no longer the case. My desire from this point onward is to, as Neil Peart might put it, radiate more light than heat. I would rather engage those who disagree to reach a more adult answer than to allow loudmouths divide our country and keep good-hearted people from reaching common ground. I've had several people point out problems with my page and I have given each person serious thought. In doing so, I hope to grow into a better person. So will you.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Opencongress.org

Working in a library, I'm always on the look out for ways to obtain government documents. Government documents hold a wealth of information and since our tax money is used to make them, they are generally free to obtain. THOMAS (Library of Congress) is the main website I use, but their interface, in my humble opinion, is not very intuitive and I've spent more time, (or wasted more time when I'm not trying to be polite), helping students find information about politicians and legislative information due to THOMAS' clunky interface. I have to admit THOMAS has improved over the years, but I'm not sure how well they would score in a web design usability test. Of course, your mileage may vary and THOMAS might be something you find very easy to use.

A couple days ago I read about OpenCongress.org. I'm still investigating this site, but it looks very good so far. The interface is much more intuitive than THOMAS and finding current information is a snap. I don't know anything about the organizations behind this website, but the Sunlight Foundation looks promising and their advisory board has people I recognize from current events.

While poking around I did find one problem that was a bit silly, but could get annoying over time. I decided to look at the entry for Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. There is a lot of good information provided, including a section on campaign contributions. However, directly above the campaign contribution entry is a section called "Gordon Smith in Blogs". The way they search and post information here needs to be fixed. The second entry under blogs, (as of this posting) is a MySpace account from a 22 year old in Australia who uses the names Gordon and Smith separately in her post, but has absolutely nothing to do about the right honorable gentleman from Oregon. I imagine some of these entries might prove to be entertaining, but I don't want to have to wade through hundreds of erroneous blog posts to find opinions posted in other blogs about dear Sen Smith.

Other than that, the site provides a nice service of repackaging information in a manner that is easy to use. Let's just hope it continues to remain easy and accurate in the days ahead.

Billy Thorpe, Rest in Peace



From ABC Australia:

'He went out on a high'

A public memorial service will be held on Sunday afternoon in Sydney for rock legend Billy Thorpe, who died this morning of a heart attack.

Thorpe died early today at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney after suffering a massive heart attack.

The rocker was rushed from his Darling Point home in Sydney's east by ambulance just after midnight suffering from chest pains. He later died with his family at his side.




Howlspace has a good history of Billy Thorpe.


Here is a video using the Thorpe's song Children of the Sun. We used that song in high school to test every pair of speakers we came across to make sure they could handle the sheer awesomeness of the synthesized space ships.



Thanks Billy for your important role in music.

Update: Billy Thorpe's official website: Thorpie.com

Update 2: Here is a Billy in 1968: