Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Colbert Succintly States the Republican Strategy

"Tragedies are like facts: you have to pretend that they don't exist."

The Daily Dicking

I rather liked the philosophical discussion in chapter 89, Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish, about how we are all in some ways owned by someone and in some ways free for the taking. Reading it wouldn't ruin the story if you want to take a look. It also includes this bit of wit from our good fellow Melville:
In the course of the defence, the witty Erskine went on to illustrate his position, by alluding to a recent crim. con. case, wherein a gentleman, after in vain trying to bridle his wife's viciousness, had at last abandoned her upon the seas of life; but in the course of years, repenting of that step, he instituted an action to recover possession of her. Erskine was on the other side; and he then supported it by saying, that though the gentleman had originally harpooned the lady, and had once had her fast, and only by reason of the great stress of her plunging viciousness, had at last abandoned her; yet abandon her he did, so that she became a loose-fish; and therefore when a subsequent gentleman re-harpooned her, the lady then became that subsequent gentleman's property, along with whatever harpoon might have been found sticking in her.
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Monday, February 27, 2006

Is There a Limit?

A patron walks into a library, walks up to the counter, and tells the librarian, “I need to build a tree house.” So the librarian does a quick catalog search and finds three books with step-by-step directions for a variety of cool tree house designs. Then the patron says, “I’m not real comfortable with books. Would you read them for me and tell me what they say?” So the librarian does. The patron proceeds to run across the street to the hardware store, buy all the necessary materials, and bring them back to the library. “I’m not very good with my hands. Would you build the tree house for me?” So the librarian does. Sound ridiculous? I think most people would agree that it does.

So why, then, does the same scenario not seem outrageous to people when it applies to computers? From sending and receiving emails to writing resumes to doing taxes, patrons are not satisfied with the library simply providing access to the information. They want the librarians to do the actual work for them. I try to draw the line at providing step-by-step directions, even if it means reading the website and making sense of it for them, but there have been a few instances where the person was insistent enough that I actually gave in, took over the computer, and did the work for him or her. It’s tax season right now, so most of the demands relate to taxes. I’m sorry, but we’re librarians, not CPAs. We’ll gladly do what we can to help, but we won’t do your taxes for you just because a computer is involved in some way.

Life is like a box of chocolates...

We always end up with the almond crunch. We are deathly allergic to almonds. Hopefully this sets the scene.
So, I was off of work for quite a while due to a wretched case of bronchitis and sinus infections. Well, things got really tight with money and now they have gone from bad to worse. I applied for disability, and oddly enough, I was able to get it. So I went through all the paperwork and yadda yadda. Finally they said I would receive it in my next pay check. So Leelu and I decided to go out and get some of the essentials that we needed food wise and household wise. We got groceries, paper towels, fuel for our cars, etc. The whole time thinking that the disability would come through in my check as promised. Well guess what. With overdraft fees, bounced check penalties and a myriad of other fun things added, we are now negative over $450. And we don’t know exactly when I will get my disability check. They supposedly mailed it out on Friday, but then, we know how honest they are, so we are up the creek until it arrives and well after.
The next bit is even better. We bought a rat for a pet about a month or so ago. Well, it was cool for a while, but then it started getting a little aggressive. So we called the store we bought her from and asked what was up. They said she might be pregnant. Well she wasn't pregnant, she was lonely. So we bought her and buddy and things started to get a little better, until she started breathing funny and her nose started bleeding. So we took her in and the guy at the store said she had an upper respiratory infection and that he would send her to the vet and we could pick her up later, but from the looks of things, he didn't think she would survive. So I asked if I could get a different rat instead. So we got a different rat. Well she had some red around one of her eyes and the guy at the store said it was probably just from her fighting with the other rats that were in the cage with her. Well, turns out she was actually sick too. She got the other rat sick and we took them into the vet for which ran us $120 we didn't actually have (see the connection here) and they said they had upper respiratory infections. We got them back home and gave them their medicine. That night/morning, my wife got up to get a drink and went to check on the rats while she was up. The second one we bought had died during the night. This broke her heart and she cried for a good long time while I held her. The other rat is fine so far. We have been giving her medicine and she seems to be getting much better.
And finally, yesterday, while we were out and about, Leelu started getting really uncomfortable in the abdominal area. Where our just over 6 month baby is currently living. It kept getting worse and worse, so she called the doctor. She is now under doctor’s orders to stay home and resting until her appointment tomorrow afternoon. We are going to go in and see if anything is wrong or if it is just regular pregnancy stuff.
Do you see why I might be a little worried at this point?

Music Recommendations

Despite a desire to avoid becoming completely an out of touch adult, I find myself knowing less about current music all the time. Two fairly recent releases that I have been enjoying consistently enough that I think they're more than just a phase and may eventually end up on my list of favorites are Heron King Blues by Califone and Arular by M.I.A.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Weekend Update from Sin City

Things started disciplined enough with a really good swim workout before work Friday morning, but I don't know that the words "in training" or "diet" can be applied to anything after. Friday night was the going away party, so, other than a few shopping stops along the way, I headed straight to T's house after work. An excellent time. The most cheerful I've seen J in a couple of years. It was still bitter sweet and sad, but her oppression had been lifted and she had hope. Lots of socializing with lots of fun people. I think I was present when the cool quiet room shifted into the cool smoking room. Don't ask me why, but I even let Scott talk me into trying a cigar (must be that demonic hold he has over me as DM). That on top of polluting my body with constant snacking and such. But I lasted to the bitter end, so I not only got all the general gossip, but the really good stuff (available to the highest bidder). I didn't make it home and to bed until 3:30.

We got up a little before 9:00 Saturday morning and I immediately jumped in the shower to wash off that icky smoke smell. The wife and I went to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant at the City Market for brunch, then we headed out to Independence Center for shopping. Dillard's had all sale/clearance items and additional 50% off, so we spent a good bit of time there. I go a cool new Fossil watch. Then we toured the rest of the mall some. Eventually we made it home and spent the afternoon in bed (instead of enjoying the sunlight with a workout, as we should have).

Upon waking, we did our homework for the weekend: finishing the last few details of her school's yearbook and submitting the rest of the pages (online).

Then we celebrated. We made the 90-minute trek through Weston, Atchison, and Horton to the Golden Eagle Casino. $1 roulette (as opposed to the $5-10 minimums in town). Plus it's nice sometimes just to leave the city and enjoy the countryside, and a road trip always seems to make for good conversation. I lost my $20 of roulette money (after enough up-and-down play to make it fun), but we both got lucky at the slot machines. Right after we first arrived she walked up to a machine that still had a $1 token in the tray. She popped it in and 3 minutes later she quit with $16. While walking away she found another machine with a stray token and turned it into $4. Eventually she lost the $1.35 in nickels we brought but turned the found money into $50. During a break from roulette I put $5 into a 50 cent machine. After two pulls I was up $63 and quit with $60. Those kinds of possibilities are what make the casinos fun. Before leaving we couldn't resist the allure of free pop and cheap snack bar, so the weekend gluttony continued.

Once home we explored vacation options (something with a beach) for immediately after school gets out in May, but haven't found anything quite affordable enough yet. We didn't end up getting to sleep until almost 1:00.

We felt rich from our winnings on Sunday morning and overate at the brunch buffet at Cinzetti's. Then I had a three-hour shift working at the community center while she met with a fellow teacher to discuss some action-research. Finally we decided to try something active, although I'll stop short of calling it actual exercise. We took the dogs walking at Shawnee Mission Park. We felt too lazy to cook, so we had dinner at Qdoba (like Chipotle). I'm doing my online stuff while she does homework. I'm contemplating cooking lunch for tomorrow next, then plan to watch Vampire Hunter D on DVD before bed. Here's hoping we get back on a regular sleep schedule, get back on the diet, and have good workouts all week.

Pages read for the reading challenge the last three days: 0
Chapters listened to in Moby-Dick the last three days: 0

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hey, Look

External notice:



Breaking News!

In an attempt to thwart the spread of bird flu, George W. Bush has bombed the Canary Islands.

The Daily Moby

I have to wonder if Melville was a vegetarian. And while I don't have the committment to act on it, I can't really disagree with his argument: "But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the mean-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it well be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in they pate-de-foie-gras." (from Chapter 65, The Whale as a Dish)

I guess, though, that I've never truly attained profound thought: "And I am convinced that from the heads of all ponderous profound beings, such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante, and so on, there always goes up a certain semi-visible steam, while in the act of thinking deep thoughts. While composing a little treatise on Eternity, I had the curiousity to place a mirror before me; and ere long saw reflected there, a curious involved worming and undulation in the atmosphere over my head." (from Chapter 85, The Fountain)

A nice quote: "Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye." (from Chapter 85, The Fountain)

A curious quote: "In man or fish, wriggling is a sign of inferiority." (from Chapter 86, The Tail)

The key to an enjoyable life: "But in gazing at such scenes, it is all in all what mood you are in; if in the Dantean, the devils will occur to you; if in that of Isaiah, the archangels." (from Chapter 86, The Tail)

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Book Jacket Fun

This place has a fun selection of book jackets to put over your real book the next time you're reading in public. Imagine the reactions. Hadrian might even get lucky offering a few meaningful glances up from reading How to Overcome Nymphomania, for instance.

Oklahoma City Trustees Identify 12 Sensitive Kids' Topics

Oklahoma City's Metropolitan Library Commission has identified 12 social issues that it deems sensitive enough when treated in a children's book to warrant the title being restricted to the parenting collection established by commissioners last fall. The 12 restricted categories are alcoholism, child abuse, child abuse prevention, child sexual abuse, child sexual abuse prevention, domestic/family violence, drug abuse, extramarital sex, homosexuality, medication abuse, premarital sex, and substance abuse.

"Please do not insult me and others like me by passing this reprehensible proposal that segregates us and equates us with child abuse, drug abuse, and family violence," Rev. Dr. E. Scott James, who said he is gay, asked commission members before they okayed the guidelines in a 12-1 vote. Four commissioners were absent.

"Our commission, while divided, voted to retain the materials in the children's area and not limit access," library Executive Director Donna Morris told American Libraries. The titles in the parenting collection will be limited to the reading-level categories of easy, easy-reader, and tween, and selected by staff members based on their judgment of which subjects "would indicate that guardians might want to control the time and manner at which children are introduced to a topic," the revised library policy states. She went on to say that commissioners are hopeful that the new section will be "a positive collection for parents and children."

Posted February 17, 2006; revised February 21, 2006.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

As If We Needed Reminding

The Mensch Gap
"A mensch is an upstanding person who takes responsibility for his actions. . . . Officials in this administration never take responsibility for their actions. When something goes wrong, it's always someone else's fault. . . . But how did such people attain power in the first place? Maybe it's the result of our infantilized media culture, in which politicians, like celebrities, are judged by the way they look, not the reality of their achievements. Mr. Bush isn't an effective leader, but he plays one on TV, and that's all that matters."

The Torturers Win
"We're in a new world now and the all-powerful U.S. government apparently has free rein to ruin innocent lives without even a nod in the direction of due process or fair play. . . . Mr. Arar's case became a world-class embarrassment when even Syria's torture professionals could elicit no evidence that he was in any way involved in terrorism. After 10 months, he was released. No charges were ever filed against him. . . . In other words, it wouldn't matter how hideously or egregiously Mr. Arar had been treated, or how illegally or disgustingly the government had behaved. The case would have to be dropped. Inquiries into this 21st-century Inquisition cannot be tolerated. Its activities must remain secret at all costs. . . . Under that reasoning, of course, the government could literally get away with murder. . . . Oh yes, by all means, we need the federal courts to fully protect the right of public officials to lie to their constituents."

I'm the Choir for This One

If I wasn't posting so much today already, I'd consider sharing this whole article. It relates to a conversation I had with Gobula a few weeks back, and certainly makes sense to me. The bigger question, in my mind, is not whether he's right or wrong but what to do about it. If culture and not economics shapes the world, how can we most successfully pursue peace and justice?

"All of this has thrown a certain sort of materialistic vision into crisis. We now know that global economic and technological forces do not gradually erode local cultures and values. Instead, cultures and values shape economic development. Moreover, as people are empowered by greater wealth and education, cultural differences become more pronounced, not less, as different groups chase different visions of the good life, and react in aggressive ways to perceived slights to their cultural dignity. . . . "

"The fundamental change is that human beings now look less like self-interested individuals and more like socially embedded products of family and group. Alan Greenspan said that he once assumed that capitalism was 'human nature.' But after watching the collapse of the Russian economy, he had come to consider it 'was not human nature at all, but culture.'

"During the first few years of life, parents, communities and societies unconsciously impart ways of being and of perceiving reality that we are only subliminally aware of. How distinct is the individual from the community? Does history move forward or is it cyclical? How do I fulfill my yearning for righteousness? What is possible and what is impossible?"

For the rest: it's another one that's not free on the web, but it is on the editorial page of today's Kansas City Star or can be found with databases from the New York Times on 2/19.

Ancient wisdom still works

When a government is more benign,
the people are more productive.
When a government is more tyrannical,
the people are more rebellious.

But whatever the government,
if disaster is the bitter fruit of others’ good fortune,
How long can such injustice be tolerated?
How long we have endured the hypocrisies!

Those pretending to be righteous act deceitfully.
Those pretending to be religious revert to evil.
We have been deluded!
And each day it becomes worse!

Be firm and armed, but do no harm!
Be as sharp as a knife, but do not cut!
Be ready to transform, but do not provoke!
Illuminate the darkness of ignorance, but do not be blind!

- Lao Tsu

Just keep yourself honed.

A Different Take on Dieting

"In the 1970's, researchers fed two groups of women, one Swedish and one Thai, a spicy Thai meal. The Thai women — who presumably liked the meal more than the Swedish women did — absorbed almost 50 percent more iron from it than the Swedish women. When the meal was served as a mushy paste, the Thai women absorbed 70 percent less iron than they had before — from the same food.

"The researchers concluded that food that's unfamiliar (Thai food to Swedish women) or unappetizing (mush rather than solid food) winds up being less nutritious than food that looks, smells and tastes good to you. The explanation can be found in the digestive process itself, in the relationship between the "second brain" — the gut — and the brain in your head. . . . "

"Does this mean we should be reaching for the Krispy Kremes and forgoing the raw cauliflower? No. The food has to have nutritive value in the first place. But maybe we could take a lesson from the French, whose level of heart disease is lower than ours despite their richer diet. The French savor the taste and texture of food and the experience of eating; we tend to eat dutifully (how much cauliflower can you choke down?), on the run (hardly realizing what we're eating), or rebelliously (devouring a whole box of Entenmann's because we feel deprived)."

The rest

Being Debated in Congress

The solution, as far as the I.S.P.'s are concerned, could be what some critics are calling "access tiering," different levels of access for different sites, based on ability and willingness to pay. Giants like Walmart.com could get very fast connections, while little-guy sites might have to settle for the information superhighway equivalent of a one-lane, pothole-strewn road. Since many companies that own I.S.P.'s, like Time Warner, are also in the business of selling online content, they could give themselves an unfair advantage over their competition. More

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Long, Complex, and Interesting

After Neoconservatism

"If there was a single overarching theme to the domestic social policy critiques issued by those who wrote for the neoconservative journal The Public Interest, founded by Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell in 1965, it was the limits of social engineering. Writers like Glazer, Moynihan and, later, Glenn Loury argued that ambitious efforts to seek social justice often left societies worse off than before because they either required massive state intervention that disrupted pre-existing social relations (for example, forced busing) or else produced unanticipated consequences (like an increase in single-parent families as a result of welfare). A major theme running through James Q. Wilson's extensive writings on crime was the idea that you could not lower crime rates by trying to solve deep underlying problems like poverty and racism; effective policies needed to focus on shorter-term measures that went after symptoms of social distress (like subway graffiti or panhandling) rather than root causes.

"How, then, did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the "root cause" of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the United States had both the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem and that democracy would come quickly and painlessly to Iraq? Neoconservatives would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar way that the cold war ended. . . . "

"Neoconservatism, whatever its complex roots, has become indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony. What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world — ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about."

Nantucket Sushi

(From Chapter 64: Stubb's Supper) "'Cook,' said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his mouth, 'don't you think this steak is rather overdone? You've been beating this steak too much, cook, it's too tender. Don't I always say that to be good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are those sharks now over the side, don't you see they prefer it tough and rare? . . . Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my private table here, the capstan, I'll tell you what to do so as not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it.'"

Also in this chapter is an incident I can only describe as queer (the Melville-era meaning of the word). "There are these sharks now over the side, don't you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to 'em; tell 'em they are welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and deliver my message. Here, take this lantern,' snatching one from his sideboard; 'now then, go and preach to 'em.'" They proceed to the deck, lean over the rail, and Stubb coaches the cook through a sermon to the sharks. This can be satisfactorily read as an odd bit of character development, but I have to think Melville meant something more by it. I'm not sure what, but I'm sure it must be some kind of statement about religion.

But. But I'm not going to run out looking for commentary to find out what he was saying by it (or at least what others have thought he was saying) at this point in my reading experience. Erica has told me that her professor started by telling them the ending so they wouldn't be distracted by wondering what is going to happen but could look for the deeper meanings. That's not the experience I want with the book yet. I have the rest of my life to analyze it, to learn more about Melville, his society, and what he was trying to say about it. But once I have that knowledge I can never go back. I only have this one chance to read the book without knowing how it will end, to encounter it as a straightforward story and discover what it might mean to me in a bilateral dialogue with it without all of those other voices informing my experience. I'm very eager to start asking Professor Reynolds about the book and doing some of that literary analysis, but that discussion must wait until I complete this initial encounter.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Representing Kansas

"Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up? . . . "

"Mr. Roberts had promised to hold a committee vote yesterday on whether to investigate. But he canceled the vote, and then made two astonishing announcements. He said he was working with the White House on amending the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to permit warrantless spying. And then he suggested that such a change would eliminate the need for an inquiry."

Doing the President's Dirty Work

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I Need to Read a Good Fantasy Book

Besides the obvious D&D hobby, I've written before how much I enjoy reading fantasy fiction. We went to Barnes & Noble on the Plaza earlier tonight and I went up to browse the fantasy/sci fi section like I always do. It had been a while since I'd done this, and tonight it was less enjoyable than I remembered. So much of what was there just seemed formulaic and cliched. Everything was part of an "epic trilogy." Trashy and unoriginal. There was still some quality writing, but I had to dig to find it. I think I've always tried to find the better stuff, but I don't remember being so overwhelmed by the rest of it in the past. The environment just wasn't magical tonight. I'm scared I'm losing my taste for the genre. Especially since I didn't get to the book I was planning to read before the start of the Librarians Read Challenge. I think I know what I want to read as soon as the challenge is over at the beginning of March in the hopes of rediscovering the joy of fantasy. I bought hardback copies of Gene Wolfe's Knight and Wizard a while back and haven't gotten to them. I read his Book of the New Sun in college and still feel it's the best fantasy I've read. Not necessarily the most fun or my favorite, but the best--although I'd have to reread them to really make a case for them at this point. But reading all of the blurbs from other authors on the backs of his books reminded me I need to get back to reading the man Ursula Le Guin called "our Melville."
Gene Wolfe not only entertains, he invests his work with a complexity and trickiness that place him among the most important American novelists of our time. For more than 40 years he has worked steadily at his art, each new book adding yet one more facet to his ongoing and surprisingly cohesive oeuvre. Within his genre Wolfe's living compeers are few -- Ursula Le Guin, J.G. Ballard, John Crowley -- and, like them, he should enjoy the same rapt attention we afford to Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy. (From the Washington Post's review at one of the Amazon links above.)

It's the Economy

The policy of cutting taxes in order eventually to force cuts in spending has been in effect since 1980 and it has failed every year. 18 straight Republican budgets have failed to align revenues and spending. In that time, the national debt-to-GDP ratio has climbed by a total of 40 percent of GDP. We are diverting around 2 percentage points of our national income to service this huge increase in the public debt. In the 18 years that conservatives have pursued the policy of starving government, federal spending has increased by 2.3 percent of GDP. In contrast, between 1992 and 2000, federal spending was reduced by 3.7 percent of GDP. No Democratic administration since the end of World War II has left office with the national debt-to-GDP ratio higher than when it took office.

Read it in context

Heard on the Way to Work Today

"Disc 11. Chapter 61: Stubb Kills a Whale." Yay! I'm over the half-way hump in terms of listening progress.

I just have to wonder who first decided they could go out and hunt these leviathans. It's such a complex process. How did they figure it all out?
When reaching far over the bow, Stubb slowly churned his long sharp lance into the fish, and kept it there, carefully churning and churning, as if cautiously seeking to feel after some gold watch that the whale might have swallowed, and which he was fearful of breaking ere he could hook it out. But that gold watch he sought was the innermost life of the fish. And now it is struck; for, starting from his trance into that unspeakable thing called his "flurry," the monster horribly wallowed in his blood, overwrapped himself in impenetrable, mad, boiling spray, . . . And now abating in his flurry, the whale once more rolled out into view; surging from side to side; spasmodically dilating and contracting his spout-hole, with sharp, cracking, agonizing respirations. At last, gush after gush of clotted red gore, as if it had been the purple lees of red wine, shot into the frighted air; and falling back again, ran dripping down his motionless flanks into the sea. His heart had burst!
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Nowhere to Call Home

Way back when it first happened (in a comment on Scott's old MySpace blog, I think), I said that long after the general public had forgotten about Hurrican Katrina and moved on, those displaced by it would still be suffering. Here's a bit of an update.

When Cousins Marry

The case for mutts:

Dogs Like Us
"Of the 180 breeds listed on one popular Web site for choosing purebred puppies, 42 percent have chronic health problems: skin diseases, stomach disorders, a high incidence of cancers, the inability to bear young without Caesareans, shortened life spans. The list is as disturbing as it is long, and poses a question: dazzled by the uniqueness of many of the breeds we've created, have we — the dog-owning public — turned a blind eye to the development of a host of dysfunctional animals?"

Genetic engineering's not a new idea, you know.

Global warming and job pride

It's a win-win notion!


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hoodwinked Is Good

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I saw the movie Hoodwinked over the weekend and enjoyed it immensely. I recommend you do the same.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Lovers in the air

So, the big day is tomorrow. The day that male consumer loath. The day that female consumers approach with dread. That's right, tomorrow is Valentine's Day. The day the greeting card and diamond industry conspired to create to make millions for themselves, while sharing the love with their customers. I don't know about you all, but I think they should really use more lube when they share that "love" of theirs. My wife has told me over and over that I don't need to get her anything on VD (get it. I turned a romantic holiday into a sexually transmitted disease. I'm funny that way). And even though she protests that it's not necessary to do or get her anything, I still feel obliged to do at the least the bare minimum every year or else I feel like a heel. So, since I have no money, scratch that, since I have negative money, I am going to give her the only thing I can think of: A list of love. Sorry guys, but I just have to do it.

How do I lub thee?
Let me count the ways:

1. I love you in the morning when you look like a lawnmower attacked you in your sleep and your breath could kill a buffalo at thirty paces.

2. I love you when you fart in your sleep.

3. I love you when you ask me a question and I am not listening or can't hear you and when I ask you to repeat yourself you get all huffy and yell the response.

4. I love you when you are telling me how hot some guy in a kilt looked when he came into work that day.

5. I love the way you slap the living crap out of my face, my chest, my ear and my balls when you roll over in your sleep.

6. I love it when you push the cat off of you and towards me so that he jumps on my throat or other tender areas.

7. I love it how I can be taking a shower and you can come into the bathroom and take a dump that nearly melts the shower curtain and then leave without using air-spray.

8. I love when you ask me a question and then won't let me answer it because apparently it was rhetorical.

9. I love how you call him my son.

10. I love it when you say, "Come hear a second" and I lean close and you pluck a hair out of some various part of my head.

You see darling, if I can love you at these times, the rest will be a piece of cake. I love you Salma Hayek darling.

Military Socialism

Not just a news report, this, but one to make you think a bit. A couple of excerpts:

All sorts of modern corporations got where they were because of military socialism, especially the automobile and oil industries. As EPI showed, the American economy is addicted to it: since 2001 a little under half of the 3.4 million new jobs created have been paid for by the Pentagon (and another 1.3 million have been created by non-defense discretionary spending; more socialism!).

And the other question is whether even more jobs could be created if some of those Pentagon dollars were shifted to direct spending on housing and infrastructure. That seems quite likely, and this was Melman's view—as for instance, he argued in a 2003 Counterpunch essay. If we're going to have a socialist system here in America—and already we have a Federal Reserve Chairman who perhaps exercises as much control over the U.S. economy as GOSPLAN ever did in the Soviet Union—we may as well do it right.

George W Bush Is a What?

Scary, so scary . . .

VA Nurse in New Mexico accused of sedition

Tree-Huggers Take Heart

"This is genuinely exciting news (there's so little these days…). It looks like Sweden is preparing a plan to become an "oil-free" economy by 2020. . . .

" . . . Still, this is what a grown-up approach to energy policy looks like. Nothing mind-blowing. Nothing impossible. All you need is a government willing to act. The contrast between the Swedes and an administration that backtracks from even modest statements on ending our oil addiction—and then lays off 32 workers at the National Renewable Energy Lab because of a $28 million budget shortfall there—pretty much speaks for itself. Lucky us."

Get the details

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gaaaaugh!!! Fucking Idiot!

I’ve stated previously that running is a meditative activity for me. That’s why you’ll rarely find me running along city streets; there’s too much traffic to worry about, too many stops at intersections, too many distractions. Growing up and going to college in small towns was ideal because I could escape all of that very easily. I didn’t even have to drive anywhere, just headed toward the edge of town and found plenty of nice, isolated country roads to run on. It was just me, the crops/cattle, and the big sky. Since moving to the “big” city, it’s been both harder and easier to find isolated places to run. Harder because I have to always drive somewhere and make the time to go out of my way for a good place to run. Easier because there are more trees and trails and spaces designed especially to provide that escape-the-city exercise experience. I divide my running between large parks (cross country style), the paved trail systems, and the hiking/bridal/mountain biking off-road trails I’ve discovered so far. The off-road trails are definitely my favorite, but they are also the hardest to work with—they are fewer in number, you need daylight to use them safely, tick and poison ivy seasons can be a problem, etc. They are the most isolated, though, and provide a different running experience than the other options. Running on pavement, and to an extent on grass, uses a very repetitive motion. Your body just does the same thing step after step and the muscles tighten up and fatigue in relation to that motion. On a trail, though, you go up and down hills, jumps logs and stumps, avoid rocks, twist and turn. Not only is it a better variety of scenery, it’s a better variety of movement. I’m usually less sore after a hard trail run than a comparable pavement run.

So last month when I went to Active.com to find events to compete in for the next while, I was excited to find the Psycho WyCo "Run Toto, Run" Trail Runs. Way back when I heard there was a dog off-leash area at Wyandotte County Lake, we went to check it out. Once there, we discovered the bridle trail that circles the entire lake, and have been periodically exploring it ever since. I thought we were the only people to run there, though, so it was nice discover kindred spirits. I explored their website and found they actually get together to train four times each week, but haven’t gotten around to joining them for that. But I decided to do the event, so I registered for it, gave them my money, and wrote it in my date book.

I don’t go into an event like that expecting to compete for top places, especially one as challenging and long as this (the ten-miler is plenty for me), but I still get geared up for it. It gives me a goal for the training and mixes a bit of camaraderie into the isolation I usually prefer. So I planned around it. I tapered my training this week so my legs would be fresh. I made myself unavailable for gaming for the weekend. I trimmed my toenails, laid out my clothes, stretched, and got psyched up for it last night. I stayed up late with pre-race jitters. I got up at 6:00 this morning and started stretching and warming up so my body would be fully awake by race time at 8:00. I had my PowerBar and banana. I was ready to go, and arrived at the lake at precisely 7:30 to pick up my packet and enjoy a good run.

Except no one was there. I pulled into the parking lot and pondered for a moment. I hadn’t printed out the directions because I knew exactly the parking lot they meant when I read them. There was nowhere else at the lake that would serve as well. It had to be the spot. I pulled out my phone and woke the wife up. “Would you mind jumping on the computer and double checking the directions for me? There’s no one here and I’m confused.” She did. I was at the right place. Hmm. Did I have the right time? “Let’s see, 8:00 a.m, February 11.” It’s 7:30 now, so I’m not too early . . . Wait! What did she say? “Today is not February 11. You missed it, dude.” No way. No freaking way! It was yesterday? Oh, come on. How did I mess that up? I missed it? This sucks big time. I’m such an idiot. We could have gamed last night after all. Wow. No way. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Etc, the whole drive home.

On the bright side: I worked yesterday and probably couldn’t have done it, anyway. Instead of leaving them caged up in the yard, I was able to run by the house and get the dogs to join me in my run. We only did five miles instead of ten so that: A) I won’t be so sore and in need of rest and recovery the next couple of days, and B) I was done in time to take the wife out for brunch before we had to go to our separate jobs for the day. Still, though, I feel really dumb and it sucks that I missed the event.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Is it wrong?

So yesterday at work, it was Island Friday. Basically, in the middle of the winter we have a Hawaiian themed party. So, me being the joiner that I am, I decided to go all out. I put on a grass skirt and coconut bra (over my clothes of course) and a Hawaiian shirt. I also brought along my very own cocktail glass and paper umbrellas. Odd thing is that I forgot I had a meeting that day about "Getting Back to Basics." This meeting consisted of Workplace Conduct which included dress code, professionalism, etc. So I'm sitting there in a grass skirt coconut bra holding a cocktail glass the whole time thinking in my head, "Oh gods, they are going to use me as an example of what NOT to wear." Luckily they used me as an example of team spirit instead. Sometimes, my work even amuses me.

Too Much Beavis and Butthead

Let me start by saying that since my last anti-Moby rant the action has picked up nicely and I'm back to enjoying the book again. I've also run across a few passages and quotes that I thought were worth sharing:

In chapter 45, The Affidavit, Ishmael is describing the dangers of whaling and how deaths are vastly underreported, so few understand just how fatal the profession can be: "For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for it." I wonder how many other products we could say the same about?

From chapter 46, Surmises: "To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order." (and women, I would add)

Considering that he's been singing about the nobleness of the whaling profession the entire book and he decided to try it out of a desire for adventure, I think it's pretty funny that the first thing Ishmael does after his first encounter with a whale is make out his will (chapter 49, The Hyena).

And I know this is juvenile and the double meaning would have meant nothing to Melville, but I still couldn't help laughing the first time I heard of the ship named The Town-Ho (especially since I am listening and didn't get the hyphen). (Chapter 54, The Town-Ho's Story)

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Degolar's Customer Service Story

I meant to share this when it happened a few weeks ago, but forgot until I was accused of being mistaken for a nun.


PATRON: (Walking toward me looking slightly put-out and in a hurry; in a demanding tone) I can't figure out [something] on the computer. Can you help me?

ME: (Rising from my chair and beginning to walk toward her/her computer; pleasantly) I'd be glad to. Let's go take a look at your computer.

PATRON: (Wordlessly gathers up her preschooler, turns her back on me, and walks into the family restroom)


5-10 minutes later . . . (Patron emerges, says, "OK, I'm ready now," and I show her what she needs to know)


5-10 minutes later . . .

PATRON: (Walking toward me looking slightly put-out and in a hurry; in a demanding tone) I'm still having trouble figuring it out. Can you help me some more?

ME: (Rising from my chair and beginning to walk toward her/her computer; pleasantly) I'd be glad to. Let's go take a look at your computer.

PATRON: Come on, [Billy]. (Gathers up her preschooler, turns her back on me, and walks into the family restroom)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Okay, I'm Beginning to Get It...

A few more hours of WoW under my belt and I'm beginning to see the appeal. Or more accurately beginning to get hooked. However, I am reaching the point where solo adventuring is getting both difficult and boring so I'm going to be needing to find a group to quest with soon. I've explored a little bit more of the map (its huge) and seen some different terrain. The designers have really accomplished something amazing in the gaming world they've created. Absolutely stunning. I'd be up playing all night if I didn't have to worry about going to work in the morning. All for now....

Spring Is On Its Way

This might seem a counterintuitive statement given the drop in temperature they are predicting for the next few days, but I took the dogs hiking this afternoon on the mountain bike trails at S.M. Park and heard something I hadn't for quite a while: birds. (Saw them, too, and they weren't the kind that stick around for winter. Also stalked a couple groups of deer for much of the time.)

What do I look like?

Seriously, what do I look like to these people? An accountant? A doctor? A psychiatrist? A cheap date? A nun?

I get a lot of stupid questions at work, and entirely too much information from time to time (such as the woman who, when asking about Kegel exercises, made sure to tell me that she was incontinent rather than have me think she was trying to improve her sex life) but the one that topped them all happened some months ago.

I was on hold with another branch, waiting to see if a book the patron was interested in was, in fact, on the shelf, when said patron looked me right in the eye and asked if I'd ever thought about becoming a nun.


Flabbergasted, I just stammered out a brief, "Nooo. . . ." Not to be dissuaded, this woman procedes to tell me about how she has some brochures in her car and she'd be happy to get them for me.

My first thought: What about me looks remotely nunnish? Is it the glasses? The lack of wedding ring that I'd recently removed because my hands were too swollen to wear it? The fact that I was about four months pregnant? What?

Then I start coming up with some mental replies.
* I'm afraid this isn't a good time to devote myself to the Buddha.
* No thanks, I'm a Satanist.
* Are you fucking insane?
* Y'know, I would, but I think pregnant nuns are frowned upon.
* That depends; what kind of sex lives do nuns have?
* Why would I do that? I'm freakin' agnostic!

What I actually said, however, was a very bland, "I think my husband would object."

That shut her up long enough for a result to come back. I wonder if she went to pick up her book and started asking people over there about becoming nuns?

And yet murder is still illegal. . . *sigh*

More of That Subjective Truth Hadrian Was Talking About

The Bush administration long ago secured a special place in history for the audacity with which it manipulates science to suit its political ends. But it set a new standard of cynicism when it allowed NASA's leading authority on global warming to be mugged by a 24-year-old presidential appointee who, quite apart from having no training on that issue, had inflated his résumé.

Read the rest

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The First Report

Well, I spent a few hours on World of Warcraft last night, and while it was reasonably fun, I'm not sure I get why it is so popular. Maybe the MMORPG genre is just not for me. For the most part it was like playing a single player game, but with lots of chat going on in the background and the visual spectacle of lots of other player characters running around playing the same game-- going on the same quests and reporting back to the same NPC's. Perhaps I'm just too low level and haven't scoped out the possibilities inherent in interacting with so many other player characters, or maybe I just expect more from a game. Baldur's Gate for instance, while visually less than stunning delivered an in-depth and nuanced storyline, something I haven't seen yet from WoW. There are lots of little quests, but where are the big plot points to keep it interesting? And while I was playing on the designated Role Playing server where people are expected to stay in character, most of the chat revolved around Chuck Norris facts.

What little role-playing I did witness was on the chat channel by characters that I couldn't even see, who were perhaps half a continent away. I sincerely doubt that their graphical characters were doing anything that resembled what they were chatting about. So, in essence, these people were having a nice IRC role play, which makes all the graphical flourishes and massive worlds of WoW seem unnecessary. In any event, I cannot see devoting the kind of time some people do to this thing. Once again I have to say that old fashioned RPG's give you more bang for your buck as far as fun is concerned, and are also more intellectually challenging and more social. I don't think anything in this online world can rival a well run campaign in a traditional RPG. So, I might be experiencing a little bit of buyer's remorse. Still, I've got a free month, so I'll give it some more time to see how it shakes out. I've got some more thoughts on this topic, but no time right now to get them down. So for now, I'll leave it at that....

Gut Reactions

As I was pulling books for our holds list this morning I had a thought. It seems that every time I handle a romance novel I have this instinctive feeling of disdain. Analytically, I find nothing wrong with them. I think reading should be for entertainment as much as it is for learning. I preach that to parents, in fact, that they need to let their kids read for fun instead of teaching them to hate it as a task. I know people from all walks of life, many of whom I respect, enjoy romances. And I know many people have the same reaction to fantasy novels, which I will defend vehemently, as I do to romance novels. Logically I believe they have a place in our libraries. Despite all of that, I still get this gut reaction that they're stupid.

I've seen the same reaction in others when discussing homosexuality. It's unnatural, they say with their words, while their body language says it's disgusting. We can debate for hours the moral and ethical issues around it. I can even have them convinced that biblically it's virtually a non-issue, that even if they are going to stick to the idea it's a sin, it gets such miniscule mention in the bible compared to the other evils they should be addressing as Christians, yet I can still see that emotionally it upsets them more than anything else they can think of.

In fact, I've come to the conclusion that many of our deeply held values that drive our beliefs, politics, and lifestyle choices, that separate us into camps like liberal and conservative, are driven by those gut feelings. We may spend hours, weeks, years trying to develop our logic, analyzing our sentiments and articulating them, but I think all we're really doing is trying to justify the immediate sensation we get in our guts in response to the issues. All of the arguing doesn't really matter because our final conclusions are predetermined by that emotional signal. I don't know where those gut reactions come from, but I have to wonder if there's really any point in trying to change anyone's mind, or if the conservative political machine has the right idea in simply forcing their views into power instead of trying to win the opposition over.

There's No Escaping the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy in Kansas

On the news this morning was a story about pending state legislation, bill HB2581. It would require libraries in Kansas to filter their Internet access to receive state funding. While many battles have been fought over this one, it has previously been lost at the federal level. We already filter our computers. The new bit is that the law would require a parent to be present in order for a minor to check out an R-rated movie. The movie rating system itself isn't even a law. It is a self-regulating effort on the part of the studios, but there is nothing legal about the ratings. Same goes for video games and the like. To make it a legal requirement is going too far. It seems they are frustrated with libraries' perceived lack of self-regulation in these matters, so they want to force the issue. The key word there is perceived, because it involves two big concepts they don't seem capable of understanding: nuance and personal responsibility. Nuance--libraries are not without self-regulation; we divide our collections into different categories based on age appropriateness. We make recommendations. We don't want children watching porn anymore than anyone else does. We just see a difference between recommendation and limitation. Because we understand that everyone is different, has different values and expectations of what is appropriate or inappropriate for themselves and their children. We offer freedom--intellectual freedom--one of the cornerstones of this so-called democracy, and require our citizens to take responsibility for their freedom. We will recommend that their children watch/read in a particular section, but it is up to them to decide for themselves whether to accept that recommendation or not. And the main concern expressed in all of this is "pornography," but movies often receive R-ratings without a bit of sex or nudity and library materials are put in the adult section for many reasons, not just because of objectionable material. There are countless arguments to make in explanation of why this is a bad idea, but I won't go on. I just say to make a blanket law like this is ridiculous.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Impulse Buying

One of my great weaknesses is my tendency to buy things on impulse. Okay, more honestly this is but one aspect of my weakness in terms of all things financial. I have little financial acumen and even less discipline. I have an incredibly troubled relationship with money, and at times I will spend like a Republican congress, that is-- terribly irresponsibly (oh how times have changed when I, a rabidly partisan Democrat, can make that kind of comparison with a straight face... but I digress).

Well the latest incident of this unfortunate tendency occurred tonight. While at Target buying the essentials of life with quadrapeds, dog food, cat food, ground up scented clay to catch the cat food out the other end, I happened down the software aisle, and voila-- I now own World of Warcraft. I have often said I would never buy a subscription based game, but now I've gone and done so. It was on sale, and I figured for thirty bucks with the first month free-- why not? That's only a dollar a day, and I've bought more than one craptacularly disappointing game at $45 or $50 in the past, so why not check it out and see what the hype is all about? If I like it, fine, I can cough up fifty cents a day to play it-- that's only one can of Coke right? And if I don't, I stop playing at the end of my free month, no harm, no foul. One unfortunate thing is it is taking forever to actually get to play the damn thing. It took forever, and I do mean forever (at least half an hour) to install, and now I'm still downloading updates (we're about ninety minutes into this process now). If I ever actually get to play this thing, I'll let you know if it's worth the trouble.

Have You Hugged Your President Today?

The Weirdness of Bushworld
By Tom Engelhardt

Over the last week: The President came out for an ethanol-powered globe -- that's corn on the cob to you, buddy -- while his Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld announced that our poor planet had somehow gotten more terroristically dangerous since George took the helm. (No fault of his, natch.) Last Tuesday night, of course, the Great Helmsman stood on the congressional deck of state -- perhaps confusing it with the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln (Didn't anyone hear me? Mission accomplished!) -- and declared that we were on nothing less than the "road to victory" in Iraq. (Unfortunately, the message seems not to have gotten through to Iraqis lining that road with IEDs, possibly due to power outages in that country.) Intelligence "Tsar" John Negroponte visited Congress to deliver the news that Earth was virtually swarming with terrorist groups which already had their hands on WMD. (Sleep well, Virginia.) At the same time, multitasking like mad, the administration continued its noble war on T-shirts; the Pentagon put political cartoonists on notice that the military high command wasn't going to take a pen jab lying down (no sir!); and KBR, one of two subsidiaries of the Halliburton Corporation (the other being the U.S. government), received an almost $400 million dollar contract to build emergency "detention facilities" in the homeland (after much practice at Guantanamo). Oh yes, and in their spare time, the President and his closest advisors happily continued to exercise another of those handy prerogatives of the Commander-in-Chief in wartime by essentially amending the Constitution to wipe out the odd check or balance.

Read the details

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Different Whaling Book

Also in chapter 45, Ishmael makes reference to the whaleship Essex in his defense I would title, "When Whales Attack." This true tale is most engagingly retold by Nathaniel Philbrick in a recent J nonfiction book called Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex. I read it a couple of years ago and highly recommend it, whether you are looking for something for the Librarians Reading Challenge or otherwise.

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Only Partially a Narrative

A while back Erica (who seems to have disappeared, by the way), in a comment on Veggienerd's blog, asked what we think the point of the Cetology chapter and others like it is in Moby Dick. Scott answered nicely that it is to give the readers enough background knowledge to understand the action when it comes, and I have to agree that the information is necessary for us non-whalers. I still have to wonder if there's not more to it than that since Melville seems interested in doing so much more than telling a simple tale, but he seems to indicate Scott's theory is correct at the start of chapter 45, The Affidavit:
So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed, as indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious particulars in the habits of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter [about the charting of whale patterns, which I found quite interesting], in its earlier part, is as important a one as will be found in this volume; but the leading matter of it requires to be still further and more familiarly enlarged upon, in order to be adequately understood, and moreover to take away any incredulity which a profound ignorance of the entire subject may induce in some minds, as to the natural verity of the main points of this affair.
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Not Sure Why I'm Bothering

Well Kelly and Blue have posted about their nicknames, so instead of commenting twice I thought it would be easier to create my own post. The only problem is I've apparently been bland enough to avoid getting many. In middle school I made the mistake of taking my D&D books to school to read at the end of each class after completing the assignments at the same time that the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was on every Saturday morning, so for a while I was Dungeon Master. And a couple of years ago a friend, my wife, and I got into bowling while in the habit of using the term "dude," so for a bit I was Lebowski. That's about all I can think of. Exciting, I know.

Can I Get a Bonus for Not Calling in Sick?

And for Perfect Attendance, Johnny Gets... a Car

Across the country, schools have begun to offer cars, iPods — even a month's rent — as incentives to students to improve their attendance. Read the article.

If you're interested

So, um, some shameless baby promotion here:


Monday, February 06, 2006

I Believe the Expression Is...

Holy Fuck.

A Quote

"It is sickening in the extreme, and makes me feel heavy at heart, when I see the weakness and unfitness of the poor beings who control the destinies of this great country."

I couldn't agree more. That is, I couldn't agree more if this statement were actually in reference to the current leadership of this country. Unfortunately when taken in context I disagree wholeheartedly. You see the problem with this sentiment is that it was expressed in the fall of 1861 by George McClellan, in many ways one of the premier wankers of the nineteenth century. And it was in reference to, of course, the Lincoln administration, a body of men about as far from incompetent as this nation has ever seen. In fact, the Lincoln presidency is one of those events that almost makes one take seriously the idea of Divine Providence. It seems almost beyond the favors of sheer luck that we would be graced with a leader of Lincoln's wisdom and intelligence in such dark times (this could also be said of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and a host of others of their generation).

Once again we do live in dark times, made all the darker by the rank incompetence, ignorance, and hubris of our leaders. Leaders who proudly and hypocritically claim the mantle of Lincoln, though who in reality are the ideological heirs of his fiercest opponents. Take note of the "Solid South" strategy adopted by the Republican party during the 1960's , largely as a response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Republican party is now strongest in the states of the Old Confederacy, and by fits champions the idea of "states' rights"-- an ironic fate for the party of the Great Emancipator. And, of course there is that other irony: the persistent questioning and deprecation of others' patriotism by men who idolize the greatest perpetrators of treason in American history, traitors who plunged America into a long and bloody Civil War. Of course perhaps Dr. Johnson said it best when he remarked "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?". He was referring to the revolutionary generation, but the sentiment holds even truer for the self-righteous and indignant instigators of the Civil War. Well, the yelping now is all about patriotism and treason, and it ironically comes from a group of men who, on the whole, idolize the traitors of 1861 and the bloody flag of treason they fought under.

Another Samuel Johnson quote might be even more appropriate for our times however. It is oft quoted and, these days, oft corrected to make it fit our interesting times: "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." No Dr. Johnson, in these times, it's the first.

Being Paid to Be Odd

Looking at new books tonight before putting them out for the public. Reading the jacket of Freaks, from Annette Curtis Klause. The end of her bio reads:
Annette still works full-time as a children's librarian. Bouncing around like a giant bunny during preschool story time is just another way of being paid to be odd, she says.

Music or Message?

The whole Bono conversation has me thinking about something related. I generally find that people split into one of two categories: those who select their music for the way it sounds and those who select it for the lyrics, message, and artist. I definitely fall into the former group. The music itself is always primary, with the lyrics ranging on a continuum from secondary but still important to irrelevant. My favorite artists are those who combine the two, who make music I like with a message that means something to me. But even if I disagree with the lyrics, I'll still listen if I like the music. And no matter how awesome the lyrics, if I don't care for the way it sounds I don't end up listening to it much. In fact, the sound is all I really notice unless I'm thinking about it; on a first listen the words are just meaningless vocalizations of musical notes. And some of my favorite music involves wordless wailing or lyrics in languages I don't know. So that's where I come down. How about you?

George W. Bush is a Wanker

Why do I say this? Aside from the obvious truth of it, one simple reason: Because I can. Because I am an American and am guaranteed certain rights by the Constitution (rights that I would argue were mine regardless of their enshrinement in the Constitution-- but nevertheless...). And in this time of "treason equals dissent" I find it more important than ever to exercise that right-- the right of free speech-- and its necessary corollary the right to criticize the powerful, up to and including the most powerful man in the world. There is a long tradition of such criticism in our country, and I, for one, don't think we should give it up because of some irrational fear of swarthy men with bombs in briefcases. So, it bears repeating: George W. Bush is a Wanker.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Impressed by Bono

I've heard that Bono is into humanitarian work, especially with Africa, and has been using his influence to get into contact with people in high places, but I've never really paid it much attention. He's just seemed so megalomaniacal for the past 10 years. Reading this speech he gave at the president's prayer breakfast has me rethinking that opinion, though. He seems right on the mark.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Please Take Your Finger Off the Pause Button

Soon after starting the book, I made the following claim: "Chapter 3 of Moby Dick is much more to my liking because the story shifts from an internal focus on Ishmael's thoughts to his external interactions. Instead of philosophical ramblings we get some exquisite descriptions of his surroundings (The Spouter-Inn) and conversation with other characters." The furthur I get into the book, the more I find that reaction confirmed. For a while it turned into a very interesting story, but since they set sail only 2 or 3 chapters out of 20 (so far) has really contained much action or advanced the plot. The rest has been character descriptions and background knowledge and tedious musings. On their own, any one of these chapters wouldn't be too bad (I even enjoyed the Cetology chapter much more than most, it seems), but piled one on top of another as they are it is beginning to get unbearable. Let me do an Ishmael on you and catalog them:
Chapter 23: The Lee Shore - First chapter on the water and all we get is some poetic something or other about Bulkington.
Chapter 24: The Advocate - A philosophical defense of whaling as a worthy profession.
Chapter 25: Postscript - More of the same
Chapter 26: Knights and Squires - A description of chief mate Starbuck. Not told through Ishmael's introduction to/interactions with him so as to be a part of the story, but pulled out of thin air.
Chapter 27: Knights and Squires - The same for second mate Stubb, third mate Flask, the harpooneers, and some of the crew.
Chapter 28: Ahab - A description of Ahab as he first appears to Ishmael. More organically told in terms of the story.
Chapter 29: Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb - A confrontation between Ahab and Stubb that establishes Ahab's (resented) authority.
Chapter 30: The Pipe - A description of Ahab's unhappiness, as illustrated through his tossing overboard his pipe.
Chapter 31: Queen Mab - Stubb telling Flask about a dream of being kicked around by Ahab.
Chapter 32: Cetology - Ishmael's systematic essay on whales.
Chapter 33: The Specksynder - A historical look at the importance of harpooneers to a whale boat.
Chapter 34: The Cabin-Table - A description of the meal routines of the officers. This begins a new aspect of the narration that I find frustrating. Until now Ishmael has been telling the story, but all of a sudden we seem to have an omnipotent narrator describing things and places that Ishmael is not a part of. Later we begin getting the private thoughts of other characters, as well. I would prefer more consistency in the storytelling.
Chapter 35: The Mast-Head - A description of the history, importance, and use of the mast-head.
Chapter 36: The Quarter-Deck - A pivotal bit of action in which Ahab shares his intention of seeking vengeance on Moby Dick. He counters all arguments and whips his men into a blood frenzy so they all vow to join him in the hunt.
Chapter 37: Sunset - Ahab's private reaction to chapter 36.
Chapter 38: Dusk - Starbuck's private reaction to chapter 36.
Chapter 39: First Night-Watch - Stubb's private reaction to chapter 36.
Chapter 40: Midnight, Forecastle - The crew's revelrous reaction to chapter 36, written almost as a script (and still no sign of Ishmael).
Chapter 41: Moby Dick - A description of the legend of the White Whale.
Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale - An encyclopedic treatise on every symbolic use of the color white over the entire history of humankind. Much more tedious than Cetology and the impetus for this rant. Hopefully almost over.
I think I've had enough introductions and histories and asides and musings for while and hope fervently we get back to some storytelling soon.

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Puppet Man

Bush Explains Medicare Drug Bill — Verbatim Quote
Submitted on 2005-12-13

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: 'I don't really understand. How is it the new plan going to fix the problem?'

Verbatim response: PRESIDENT BUSH:

'Because the — all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those — changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be — or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the — like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate — the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those — if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.'

Poverty and Education

According to a brief article in the February 1st KC Star (More Aid Sought for At-Risk Pupils), "The Kansas City, Kan., School District had 800 students, or one out of every 24, identified as homeless last year." It seems like an amazing statistic, but I can believe it after the 4 years I spent as library media specialist at one of their high schools. The ones who's stories I knew weren't homeless as in sleeping under bridges, but bouncing from hotel to hotel, relative to relative, and the like, with no stable place to live. They tried, but it was sometimes hard for them to see school as a priority when life had more pressing concerns.

I also recently read an editorial from the January 30th New York Times (not available for free on their website, but it can be found with library databases) titled The Lost Children: "One of the weirder things occurring in American education is the disappearance of kids -- especially black and Hispanic kids -- from high school." And:

This is an underrecognized, underreported crisis in American life. Far from preparing kids for college, big-city high schools in neighborhoods with large numbers of poor, black and Latino youngsters are just hemorrhaging students. The kids are vanishing into a wilderness of ignorance. If the dropout rate were somehow reversed in a city like Los Angeles, there wouldn't be enough schools to accommodate the kids.
Again, this is something my experience can attest to. Each year we had 450-500 kids enroll as freshmen, yet were only graduating 150-200 in each senior class. I don't know where they went or what they did with themselves, but it wasn't school.

Youngsters who drop out of high school are much less likely to be regularly employed, or to escape poverty, even if they work full time. They are less likely to be married and less likely to have a decent home and a decent school for their kids. Their chances of ending up in prison -- especially for the African-American and Latino boys -- are much higher.
Draw what conclusions you want from this, but it is happening. I tried making a difference for a while and may again before I'm through, but life was much more stressful and frustrating in those circumstances and I decided to try something else before I burned out. Unlike many, I had that option.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Death or something like it

It sure is nice to breathe again. I mean, sure coughing and hacking up a lung a day is a hoot, don't get me wrong, but actually getting to breathe. Nice. So, as you all can tell, i am up and mobile again (sort of). Also we are no longer strapped to DSL, we now have the glorious speed of a cable modem!!! Oh joy and bliss. Just wanted to stop in and let everyone know I am alive. Have fun out there.

I'm such a follower. . .

Four jobs I've had:
* McDonald's (Isn't that everyone's first job?)
* Box office staff
* Library clerk
* Library reference

Four movies I can watch over and over:
* The Princess Bride
* Clue
* Dogma
* Spirited Away

Four movies I can't stand the sight of:
* Dude, Where's My Car?
* anything else with Ashton Kutcher
* anything with Nicholas Cage
* most anything with Ben Stiller (except Mystery Men)

Four places I've lived:
* Kansas City, KS
* Kansas City, MO
* Lenexa
* Overland Park

Four places I'm avoiding:
* Hospitals
* Morgues
* Cemeterys
* Day cares

Four TV shows I love (currently) :
* Law & Order: SVU
* Full Metal Alchemist
* Stargate: SG1
* Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig)

Four TV shows I love (classic):
* Cowboy Bebop
* Night Court
* Neon Genesis Evangelion
* Monty Python's Flying Circus

Four places I've vacationed:
* St. Louis, MO
* Los Angeles, CA
* Phoenix, AZ
* Las Vegas, NV

Four of my favorite dishes:
* Lamb curry
* Panang curry
* My mother's lasagna
* Chicken Bryan from Carrabba's

Four sites I visit daily:
* Unshelved
* Happyville
* GameFAQs
* a specialty game board where many of my friends hang out

Four places I would rather be right now:
* Snugglin' wif mah honey
* Somewhere comfy
* Playing D&D
* On the way to collect on a winning Powerball ticket

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hmmm . . . I Think I Went to Library School

Aspiring Librarian

You scored 44% on knowledge of librarianship.

You're getting there - you know more than most people about libraries. Maybe you're starting Library School and getting yourself ready to take over the profession. Or maybe you already work in a library but just don't know some of the history and details. But, you're more of an aspiring librarian than a full-fledged librarian.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 68% on knowledge

Take the Are You a Librarian? test

Well That Wasn't so Bad

I've been reading the horror stories about trying to slog through the "Cetology" chapter with mounting trepidation, so I was pleasantly surprised to find I rather enjoyed it. Ishmael's explanation of the workings of his logic was fascinating, and I'm amazed at just how much he/they knew about the species (even if we have corrected some of his/their errors since). It's easy to slip into the thinking that, with our superior technology, our knowledge must be vastly greater. It's incredible to me just how detailed his descriptions are (for instance, "he is the most gamesome and light-hearted of all the whales" and "he has a lovely tail, and sentimental Indian eyes of a hazel blue") given they are based on the accumulation of simple observations from the surface; well that, and autopsies, I suppose. But it's a humbling reminder in our contemporary hubris that people have been interacting with the world for thousands of years and have learned plenty about it without our help, thank you very much. I learned a lot from this chapter, both about whales and Ishmael's (Melville's?) thinking.

Making a comparison between our current U.S. and Melville's leads me to another thought I've been wanting to write about for a while. Whenever I read something old (it's a relative term, I know) like this, I'm reminded that people are people. It doesn't really matter what century we live in or what culture we come from, despite our obvious differences we are still all basically the same underneath. I've never been whaling nor shared most of Ishmael's experiences, yet I can relate to him. It's why I became an English major, to study the human condition as captured by different writers. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, for instance, is a work by a Persian from 1,000 years ago, yet I found as much insight in that as anything else I've read. People are still identifying with the characters and stories of the Old Testament from thousands of years ago. The examples are countless. It seems that no matter how everything else changes, people remain people. There's the cliche, "If I knew then what I knew now;" parents are always trying to convince their kids of things with the perspective of age; yet each generation, each person, must live the experiences to learn; there is no accumulated wisdom that can be passed on to give the future a head start; each person starts at zero and learns and grows from there. I think the deeper lesson of Moby Dick, as it is with all literature, is that the human condition never changes. As much as we enjoy reading the thoughts of our predecessors and learning from them, we are the same as them. Even the teacher Ecclesiastes wrote, "There is nothing new under the sun" (1:9). There was nothing unthought or unfelt even then, 2,000-3,000 years ago. This life is our lot and all we can do is make the best of it.

I didn't mean to, but I think I'm getting kind of depressing here. That's not the point I'm trying to make. Exactly because the human condition is consistent, we are able to seek solace in works like Moby Dick. That shared identity is what allows us to connect with each other and find companionship. I'm only a quarter of the way into this book and already Ishmael is a new friend of mine. He's been Erica's friend for years, and those of us reading it right now are all getting to know each other through him and his tale. Because of my job my reading is almost completely kids/teen books and escapist fantasies anymore, but I'm glad I'm taking the time to read this right now because it's getting me back to my English major roots.

A final word.

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Don't Tell Chicken of the Sea

Porpoise meat is good eating, you know.

(From chapter 32 of Moby Dick, Cetology.)

Too True

Of the Killer Whale: "Exception might be taken to the name bestowed upon this whale, on the ground of its indistinctness. For we are all killers, on land and on sea."

(From chapter 32 of Moby Dick, Cetology.)

You Call This Convenient?

Last night, caught firmly in the grip of insomnia, I decided to pay my massive (and overdue) gas bill. So I got on the computer, went to the gas company's site and paid via the handy-dandy Visa card. In addition to the mind-boggling amount of money I paid for the privilege of not freezing to death in December and January, I was also charged a $4.50 "convenience fee", for paying online with a credit card. A "convenience fee". Convenient for whom exactly? Convenient for them no doubt because they now have a little bit more of my money. I'm sorry, but I simply cannot believe that a credit card transaction is that much more expensive for them to process than a check. I realize that they are charged a fee for these transactions by the credit card companies, but it sure as hell isn't $4.50. Excuse me Missouri Gas Energy, but I think you could probably cover the credit card processing fees of all of your customers by redirecting a fraction of a percent of your CEO's pay. I mean, don't we pay you enough already? The convenience fee is bullshit. Of course, MGE is not the worst offender in this area. I submit for your consideration Time Warner Cable, a company that charges you $5 to transact any business in one of their offices. That's right, if you want to walk in and pay your bill at a counter, it costs you five extra dollars. There ought to be a law. (No really, there ought to be a law-- don't get me started on deregulation I could talk for hours.) I'll stop now, before I get off on one of my political rants that bore everyone so terribly. Officially relinquishing the soapbox....