24 June 2012

I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow

“When you are still grieving weeks and months from now, and others think you should ‘just get over it’ or say he was ‘just a dog’ — ignore them and call me.” — Chris

My friend Chris is someone I've known for years, and unfortunately haven't talked to in a very long time. Despite her timeless beauty she is an old soul, and was absolutely right.

Jake died a year and a half ago and, indeed, I still miss him. Just last night — half awake in the pre-dawn — as I rolled over I automatically listened for his snoring and gently felt for the dimple in the memory foam so I could position myself around him without waking him up. Then I remembered.

I hadn't planned on stopping blog posts after Jake died. In fact, I kinda thought posting might help me work through the grief. But when I tried, the pain was too sharp. And honestly, life did what it always does: swelled up to fill the open spaces…with chores and trivia, sure, but also with joy and love and happiness too.

Since that tragic day, some monumental things have happened, the greatest one being that Ku accepted my proposal of marriage. Followed closely by him moving in with me.

I've wanted to blog about these events, but every time I started to post I'd get wrapped up in the topic of my last post and the non sequitur caused by going from that sorrowful event to, well, anything.

I do this: I build up in my mind the significance of something, making it more and more insurmountable, such that I need to make just the most excellent move, the perfect step, or I can't possibly proceed. It's a source of frustration to me, and to many around me. And The Next Post had become yet another example.

Well, it's time to break that down. This post is far from perfect, but it's necessary. It's a transition, sure, but it's also an affirmation that Jake is not forgotten and still mourned. I miss him every day, but it's not brought my life to a halt. Memories of him make me smile every time I see another dog, or when I travel one of our usual walking routes. He was always pulling me forward, and he's doing so again.

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I Am a Man of Constant SorrowSong by the Soggy Bottom BoysI Am a Man of Constant Sorrow - O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

07 February 2011

In Memorium: Jacob Elijah Stone (1999 – 2011), a Very Good Dog

"Well, at least we don't need to smuggle him into Hawaii now," I said. Or tried to say, as my voice cracked and a lump wedged itself in my throat.

See, I want to live in Hawaii. As an island, Hawaii does not suffer the scourge of rabies, and they believe their strict import regulations — requiring all incoming dogs be quarantined for a month — help protect them from the virus. A perfectly reasonable precaution, I'm sure. However Jake would never survived a month in isolation. And he'd been consistently inoculated against rabies, and thus wouldn't pose any threat. He simply couldn't be held to such draconian standards, so I'd hatched a plan: Ku and I would sail to the Big Island with Jake, then smuggle him ashore at night. With an aloha bandanna and a hibiscus blossom behind his ear, I'd pass him off as a native dog. Easy.

The first step in the plan was getting Ku certified as a sailor. I argued he couldn't leave the Navy without being able to sail a boat; to shut me up he began sailing lessons, which ended with a freak storm capsizing his rental craft in the Potomac River.

Also I'd need to buy a boat, something at least 40' and able to transverse the voyage from Santa Cruz to Hilo. Next I'd have to get Jake used to being on it, not an easy task given the innate hatred of water he'd inherited from his Basenji ancestors. (Not a dislike, a hatred. He'd never even had a bath, as my first and only attempt had left me literally scarred across the abdomen.)

So there were still challenges ahead, and other than taking sailing lessons Ku was less than helpful. He offered up useless trivia and pointless commentary: "It takes at least 20 days to sail from California to Hawaii, 40' sailboats go for 60 grand, and you get claustrophobic in Economy Class, let alone the hold of a sloop. Plus somebody's going to notice when a brand-new Basenji appears in Hilo. There's no way this can work."

But all my fanciful plans and far-flung dreams came crashing down in early October 2010. Jake had been putting on weight for a while, but in September, when he was getting his nails trimmed for a trip to Mendocino, the vet techs had noticed his abdomen had become pendulous in a way that suggested a number of possible chronic conditions. On that trip his bloating and lethargy were noticeable, as well as his nausea and vomiting. (Something he had in common with Ku, who got stomach flu on that trip. Good times.)

After the Mendocino trip I took him back to the vet for a battery of tests, including an ultrasound. The blood work was maddeningly inconclusive, but the ultrasound showed him to be filled with fluid, and the specter of dark spots on several internal organs — most likely cancer. The vet attempted a procedure to obtain and culture a bit from one of the masses, but there was too much fluid. The attempt left Jake weaker than ever and with a bruise covering a quarter of his body.

Ku's good friend Alice was visiting the second weekend of October, when Jake was scheduled to see a veterinary internist. So all three of us went with him to the specialist. Still bruised, he wasn't doing well, but the internist was upbeat and positive as she said she'd get a handle on the situation. She and her skilled radiology tech would get a sample to culture, and figure out how to drain the fluid. We'd should have a treatment plan soon, she said.

Her outlook was markedly different when she returned. The ultrasound revealed metastatic tumorous masses on his liver, kidneys, spleen, and encircling the vena cava, the major vein that empties into the heart. She said the prolonged bruising from the earlier procedure suggested his liver was already failing so he wouldn't well tolerate another surgery to drain the fluid, and the bloating was pressing on his lungs, making breathing difficult, and his stomach, so he couldn't eat more than a small amount. She prescribed diuretics, though she said they probably wouldn't help him expel the abdominal fluids, which she believed were blood by-products left over from the tumor scavenging nutrients directly from the vena cava.

In short, she said he was at the end stage of cancer and should be euthanized now.

Back home, Jake dozed on the couch as I wept inconsolably about all the things we'd never do. How he'd never be the farm dog on a coffee plantation in Hilo, how he'd never again visit my folks in Iowa, how he'd never again stroll through his beloved Lighthouse Field, marking every other tree. Ku tried gamely to comfort me, and Alice stoically pulled together a meal so we could think about something other than Jake.

I figured I'd wait a few days — until Ku and Alice left — to make any final decisions. In the meantime, I filled the prescriptions on the off chance they'd make a difference.

Though he was born 25 August 1999, Jake came into my life in early 2000. I'd decided to get a dog and had been enamored with Basenjis — a medium-sized African hunting hound, noted for howling and yodeling instead of barking. In addition to contacting local breeders, my brother Todd (who was living with me in Santa Cruz at the time) and I would stop by the local SPCA to see what kinds of dogs were available. My bungalow is too small for a large breed and I didn't want a toy dog, so I wasn't too enthusiastic about all the pit bull and chihuahua mixes that seem to overrun Santa Cruz County.

But one day we happened upon a cage labelled "M, Basenji mix" with nary a dog in sight. While all the other cages had irresistible puppy piles or older dogs at the gate with their best hey-come-spring-me prances, this pup was hidden in the crate, warily eyeing the people passing by. With some coaxing a small black puppy, with white feet and a chest blaze, crept cautiously out, and after a few minutes was playfully grabbing at the hat I'd pushed through the chain-link.

Apparently his first family had named him Pepper, which wouldn't do at all. I rechristened him Jake while filling out the SPCA paperwork; later he was given the full name Jacob Elijah Stone, as everyone needs a middle name so they know when they're in trouble.

Todd and I brought him home and showed him the bungalow and the back yard. He seemed pleased, though he was probably just glad to be out of the shelter cage. We played with him for a bit then I headed out to buy some dog food. Todd and Jake were playing in the living room when I opened the front door and Jake immediately made a break for it. I put out my foot to impede his path; he deftly leapt over it, bounded across the front yard, and was down the sidewalk in seconds flat. We ran after him, which he took to be an exciting new game. Jake ran down to the end of the block, turned left, and headed for downtown. We chased him to Cedar Street where he thankfully turned left again instead of crossing the busy street. We caught up to him in the parking lot of the dry cleaners, scooping him up before the car pulling out had a chance to run him down. He licked my face, as if to say we should play the chasing game some more.

Over time, Jake came to understand he had a home. And that everything in the home was his. Each bed and couch was fair game for napping, every part of the back yard was suitable for marking, and all items that came out of the refrigerator, off the stove, or out of the oven were to be inspected, preferably by sampling. Anyone entering the house with any sort of goods were sniffed in a way that would make the TSA proud.

In exchange for his dominion, Jake guarded the house diligently…unless, of course, he was napping. Naturally knocks at the door or peals of the doorbell were cause for barking and hullabaloo, but ultimately those were people and people were my responsibility.

Jake's full fury was reserved for the truly life-threatening menaces: squirrels, rats, opossums, and raccoons. Clearly these plague-bearing, food-stealing, couch-inhabiting monsters needed to be repelled virulently with the full range of Basenji howls and growls, especially at 03:00. The tree-shrouded fence on the North side of the house was a handy elevated transit line for these creatures on their way to and from downtown dumpster diving. Often Jake would spy them through the living room window, usually when I was on the couch next to the window, watching TV. He'd leap into my lap then up onto the couch arm to bellow at the creature, his head just inches from my right ear and back legs planted firmly in my crotch. Once the offending vermin moved out of view, Jake would leap off the couch, and — paws scrabbling for purchase on the wood floor — fishtail around the couch, dash through the kitchen and dining room, dive through the dog door, sail off the back porch, and bound halfway up the fence.

He was a brave dog. Truth be told, he was 25 pounds of totally-convinced-of-his-superiority…until he was in over his head and yelping for rescue. But 'til that tide turned, Jake was as brave and bold as any dog could be. He treed dozens of raccoons, frightened scores of opossums into motionlessness atop the fence (which always, eventually, fooled him), and chased off hundreds of squirrels. He even had a couple of standoffs in the back yard, which ended with him being carried back into the house with a let-me-at-'em attitude that would make Scrappy Doo proud.

Because of the regularity of these late-night adventures, I'd become habituated to waking when I heard the dog door flap, in much the same way mothers can sleep through a marching band but hear their baby whimpering. One night I heard the odd sound of the door tentatively flap, flap, flapping, which was unusual as Jake normally went out for a while before coming back in. Concerned, I sat up and noticed Jake was still in bed with me. The door flapped again and Jake and I exchanged a look. You could almost see the wheels turning in his mind: "Wait...if I'm here and you're here..." Before I could grab him he was out of the bed and running toward the door with an ominous growl. By the time I reached the back yard with flashlight in hand, there was no sign of the trespasser. But little paw prints on the porch suggested a raccoon kit was unwisely investigating the dog door. The barbarians were repelled because they didn't know how to work the gate.

As he got older, his fervor faded a bit, but his vigilance never dimmed. Back in September, while I was in Philadelphia, Jake was being watched by his favorite sitter, Heather. They were both asleep in the early hours of the morning, when some drunk came onto the porch, looking to duck the remainder of a fight that had left him bruised and bleeding. At the sound of an uninvited interloper, Jake went on full alert, hackles raised, barking and howling as Heather called the police. All the commotion, along with her asserting the authorities were on the way, convinced the stranger to depart quickly. Despite being riddled with as-yet-undiagnosed cancer, Jake guarded his house once again.

And bravely, stoically, Jake faced his cancer, too. I started him on the two prescribed diuretics and a low-dose of painkiller. And against all expectation, he rallied! Within two weeks of the specialist's dire prognosis Jake had lost six pounds of excess fluids, and with the bloating gone he could eat again, and breathe easier. He became more active and we resumed long walks along the river and out to Lighthouse Field. October turned into November, which gave way to December. I tried to fill our time together with walks and couch naps and afternoons on the porch.

But this was indeed borrowed time; the diuretics kept him from bloating back up but weren't impeding the cancer. He started refusing food, pushing me to find more enticing meal options for him. Thus it was that I — vegan for the last 6½ years and vegetarian for 11 years prior to that — discovered there is a whole section at Trader Joe's with prepared meats. I'd never paid attention to that wall before, and Jake was delighted to sample prosciutto.

Jake remained stable enough for me to dash back to Iowa for Christmas and then a family trip to Orlando the first week of January, though Heather noted he was starting to eschew any food with pills in it. As January went on, he became more suspicious of his food. Every ball of brie or nugget of liverwurst was examined for pills, and when he found them he stalked off in disgust. Without the painkiller he was slowing down, and without the diuretics the swelling returned, though not as bad as before. And he was rapidly losing muscle tone, a result of tumor growth.

On February 2nd I noticed he was starting to jaundice, a sign of liver failure, and was clearly in pain. By the 3rd even the whites of his eyes were yellow and he was shaking most of the time. He hadn't eaten in days, his fur reflecting his spine, his ribs, and his hips in drastic detail.

So here's the deal: he's totally there for me, every day, every time. He's totally devoted to me, without question. I am his provider, his master, his world.

And in exchange, I take care of him. I have to do right by him. I have to help him navigate a world he doesn't really understand, keep him safe from dangers he can't quite comprehend, make the calls that are above his pay grade. He shouldn't hunger on my watch, nor thirst. And he damned sure shouldn't suffer. Which means the time comes when I need to make a call that will spare him further pain. I have to work the morbid calculus that balances the plucky fighter with swollen abdomen against the organ failure and seizures that are on the way. And when the thought of euthanizing my faithful companion makes my tearful breaths as ragged and shallow as his, I need to steel myself; he lived his life for me, now I need to repay the debt.

So on Friday, 4 February 2011, at 16:30, the vet came to our house. Jake hadn't moved from the couch the entire day, until he saw that white coat come through the door. He went out back, patrolled the yard one last time, then came back in and put the cares of this world behind him.

I don't know if there's any more to Jake's journey, if there's a special realm where he chases gazelles all day then waits on the porch for me to join him. But I do know I'll keep his memories alive within me until the end of my days. And I ask anyone who knew him to remember him from time to time as well.

02 December 2010

There'll Be Some Changes Made

For two years now, the minority party has been able to constrain, curtail, and downright block numerous pieces of legislation in the Senate by using procedural tricks and manipulation of existing conventions like the filibuster. The result has been a shocking and astounding amount of unnecessary governmental gridlock, and the ability to leverage said gridlock to stoke uninformed populism.

In the modern Senate, the cloture of debate is used to end a filibuster; simply charting activity around cloture dramatically demonstrates how often filibusters or the threat of filibusters are used to dictate the Senate's actions.

The passionate Avenging Angel at Daily Kos compiled a fantastic overview of how the filibuster has hamstrung the Senate, including the shocking statistic relayed by Paul Krugman from political scientist Barbara Sinclair that 70% of all major legislation since 2006 has been affected by filibustering.

Now it seems the Democrats are finally endeavoring to reform this abused procedural quirk such that they can actually function. The indefatigable Ezra Klein noted yesterday that Jeff Merkley, the junior Democratic Senator from Oregon, has released a proposal of reforms to the Senate's operating procedures, something that can be taken up at the start of each Congressional convention.

Merkley's proposal is to bring the filibuster back to the originally intended purpose of fostering deliberation on an issue, especially a contentious one. He's offering reforms that would stop the procedural shenanigans that prevent bills reaching the floor for debate, since such debate is a core function of the World's Most Deliberative Body. Instead, the filibuster would be available at the final vote on a bill, such that the robust debate it invokes would center around the full measure at hand.

And should a filibuster be engaged, Merkley's proposal would bring Senators to the floor to actually articulate their concerns, with a mandated number of Senators required to proceed: five for the first 24 hours, 10 for the next, and then 20 to continue. At any point, if there's no one actively debating then regular order is established and votes proceed. As Ezra says:
This is filibuster reform that even the filibuster's supporters can love: It focuses the practice on the tradition of debate and discussion that Senate traditionalists consider to be the institution's indispensable trait."

The fact is that any hope of being able to work with the intransigent obstructionists in the minority party, especially now that they've taken control of the House, will require a reformulation of the rules of the Senate. Otherwise the insanity that will be coming from the House will gum up the Senate as well, and the government will grind to a halt. And that's simply not acceptable.

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There'll Be Some Changes MadeSong by Benton Overstreet (music) and Billy Higgins (lyrics), covered by Dave Brubeck and many, many others.There'll Be Some Changes Made - The Essential Dave Brubeck

13 June 2010

You live in a world of illusion, where everything's peaches and cream. We all face a scarlet conclusion, but we spend our time in a dream.

On 8 June 2010, the voters of the great state of California approved Proposition 14, 54.1% to 45.9%. This was billed as a proposition to allow more and varied input to the primary process, primarily to help circumvent the perceived partisan roadblocks presumed to be hobbling California.

The improved input approved by voters is the open primary — also called a jungle primary. Rather than the standard primary system where voters select from within their party's slate to find the candidate to face other party selections in the following Fall election, California's new jungle primary will allow all voters to choose anyone on the ballet, regardless of party affiliation (either for the candidate or the voter). The two highest vote recipients will then face-off on the November ballot. As well, Proposition 14 removes the requirement to list party affiliation, so candidates can now be protean political entities, rather than representing a defined party platform.

Proponents of Proposition 14 insisted the availability of multiple party candidates and the lack of traditional affiliation would break the partisan logjam now experienced in California, where heavily gerrymandered districts allow for the election of very polarized representatives, on both the Left and the Right, leading to stalemates in the State Legislature.

Opponents of Proposition 14 were said to be party devotees who put their political dogma above what's best for California.

But what is the purpose of the political party in a representational democracy? The platonic ideal of direct democracy allows each citizen's vote to directly guide the government. But not only is that not practical, it's not the design of either our State or Federal government. We have a representational system, where the legislative branch is elected per district, with the contest in that district traditionally between the leading candidate for each major political party. Those leading candidates have been determined by the primary election, when intra-party voting was used to decide the leading candidate.

Because the representatives can't poll every citizen before every vote, the concept of a political party bridges the gap between individual and representative. Officials are affiliated with a party because that party encapsulates a series of political positions which align to that official's beliefs. Voters can select based on party affiliation knowing the party aligns with the voter's beliefs. The party is a shorthand that tells the voter that the candidates are of a similar mind, so voters can feel somewhat confident that party-affiliated representatives will indeed represent the voter within government. Hence a system where you first choose your party representative from the slate of candidates affiliated with your party, then a subsequent vote to choose a representative from among the best of each party.

Well, all that's now out the window with the passage of Proposition 14. Now California voters can choose whomever they want in the primary election. This will be a Brave New World in California politics. And what will that world look like? Well, let's take a look at another state with a jungle primary, South Carolina.

Last week, Alvin Greene became South Carolina's Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate, despite the fact he didn't mount a statewide campaign, nor make any effort to show he represented the party's platform. Not only didn't Mr. Greene campaign, but he's currently facing felony obscenity charges, which would normally be detrimental to a primary candidate. In fact, he is very much an unknown quantity, who may have won election based on nothing more than his alphabetical position on the ballot. He's even been asked by state Democratic Party officials to withdraw from the general election. In short, without party vetting and support, previously unknown candidates can find themselves suddenly elected.

What is more concerning is that only some frantic number crunching from the wizards at FiveThirtyEight has shown that Mr. Greene's election probably wasn't a bold attempt by the South Carolina Republican party to post an ill-qualified and unelectable Democratic candidate in order to ensure a Republican victory in November. Because the South Carolina open primary allows voters to choose any candidate, an organized campaign by one party could drive the election of a candidate in the primary who wouldn't likely survive, or even make much of a showing in, the subsequent general election. If such an effort were to be made, the ideal Manchurian Candidate could be a unknown entity like Mr. Greene.

The question to everyone's answer, is usually asked from within."

I understand that Californians are frustrated with the disfunction in our state. But we should not have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Who would benefit from such a radical overhaul of the party system in California? For the last couple of decades, California has been a Democratic-leaning state who elected Republican governors to provide fiscal oversight. This duality was underscored by the district system that kept Republicans a minority in the legislature, leading to the stalemates that are now so familiar in state politics. In the face of this draw, both parties have been trying to find a foothold to leverage so they could gain the upper hand.

By approving Proposition 14, I believe California has allowed our frustration to blind us to an obvious power grab by Republicans. Now Republicans can field radically Right candidates who will be able to disassociate themselves from any Republican affiliation and portray themselves as moderates, until they achieve office. I fear for the havoc they will wreck upon California.

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"You live in a world of illusion, where everything's peaches and cream. We all face a scarlet conclusion, but we spend our time in a dream."Lyrics from the song Jungle Love by the Steve Miller BandJungle Love - Greatest Hits 1974-78

20 March 2010

Don't Come Around Here No More

Last year the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race ran through Santa Cruz for the first time. As luck would have it, the race route ran right in front of my house. It was so cool!

Well, the route for the finish of Stage III has been announced for this year, and while the racers will still ride through Santa Cruz they will unfortunately skip Downtown — and thus my house — altogether.

Naturally this is quite disappointing. It was quite thrilling having world-famous cyclists like Lance Armstrong zip past my house, even if they went by at speeds so fast I couldn't really tell who was whom. Well, I'm glad I got to experience it even once.

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Don't Come Around Here No MoreSong by Tom Petty & The HeartbreakersDon't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Greatest Hits

19 March 2010

I Never Knew

A few days ago, the folks at Zogby International released the results of a survey conducted in February 2010. In this survey, Zogby asked Americans what percentage of the Federal budget they believed specific categories represented. For example, they asked questions like what percentage of the Federal budget was comprised of defense spending, or Medicare. Then they contrasted the perception of the surveyed Americans against the actual 2008 Federal budget.

To present their findings, the Zogby folks used a simple table, which I believe made it difficult to quickly contrast the actual spend against the estimate of the average American. So I tried to create a chart that shed more light on the results. In the chart above (click to see full size), I've portrayed the 2008 Federal budget in a pie chart, then used smaller bar charts to show the range of the estimates from the surveyed population. (The Zogby survey asked respondents to characterize their estimates into ranges from less than 5% to greater than 20%, grouped in 5% segments.)

Yes, the chart's a bit busy, but I hope that at a glance (or two) you can see, for instance, that defense spending is 21% of the country's budget, and that 41% of those surveyed thought that defense spending was more than 20% of the budget. From this I extrapolate that most Americans have a general conception of how much we spend on defense.

What's interesting here is not where we're right, but where we're wrong. Or as Zogby so dryly put it, "Respondents were furthest off in their estimates for interest on the debt and non-defense discretionary spending."

For almost a year now, the media has been covering right-wing reactionary groups that call themselves teabaggers, whose rambling and sometimes treasonous epithets can be distilled into apparent demands to stop Federal spending because we can't support the debt, to stop international aid because the recipients aren't American, and to halt all non-defense discretionary spending. (If only they could make their arguments so succinctly, or cogently.)

And in an effort to help keep this country together, the Obama administration has tried to find common ground with these folks by proposing a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending.

But as the chart shows, average Americans are quite off in their estimates of just how much the US spends in these three areas. Take debt service, please. More than a quarter of Americans appear to think we spend more than 20% of our budget on interest paid on our debt. And the vast majority of Americans seem to think we spend far in excess of the 8% of our budget that we actually use to service the debt.

And the proposed freeze on non-defense discretionary spending will hold the line on 18% of our Federal budget, but will apparently have an even greater impact on the 37% of Americans who think we put even more money than that in this particular budget bucket.

As for international aid, conservative commentators have actually said recently that we don't need to donate to Haiti for their disaster relief because, in part, we already pay them out of our taxes, yet aid going outside the US accounts for less than 1% of the Federal budget. While 28% of those polled were in the ballpark on this item, 60% of the population is wildly off, which seems to feed right into the teabagger fantasies.

So it seems the small-but-loud groups that are clamoring for national and international disengagement based on fiscal inability are, in fact, quite misinformed as to just how our budget is actually spent. Imagine that. (Well, you don't have to actually imagine it, as Zogby's done the research, and I've tried to graph it.)

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I Never KnewSong by John Coltrane and Kenny BurrellI Never Knew - Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (Reissue)

17 March 2010

December boys got it bad.

Why am I so sad about the death of Alex Chilton? I'd only first heard of him when he was name-checked by The Replacements in 1987. And it was only after his death that I learned that September Gurls wasn't actually an original Bangles tune but rather a cover of the song from Chilton's band Big Star.

Yet despite having only a peripheral knowledge of Alex Chilton and his oeuvre, the fact that he's dead at 59 fills me with a deep melancholy that outstrips the apparent impact he had on my life, or his presence in my music library.

He influenced bands about which I cared. He died too young. He wasn't fully appreciated.

I think, perhaps, the last sentiment strikes closest to home. I didn't fully appreciate him. Not until he died did I research Big Star or the Box Tops, only to find that both are bands to which I should have been listening for years. But it's not the fact that I'd not followed Chilton that chokes me up, rather it's the reality that there are untold numbers of bright lights that will never escape their bushels. And judging by how profound my sadness suddenly is — if I'm honest — it's also that I identify with someone who inspires others but never sees his own breakout success.

And yes, it's certainly a bit egocentric to turn someone's death into an examination of one's own life, but that is, in fact, exactly what we do at a funeral. Sure we talk about the dearly departed, but almost always in the context of how they impacted or interacted in our lives. My lack of personal satisfaction transmutes into the feeling that a somewhat obscure rock musician died before reaching his due.

Regardless, Alex Chilton penned some delightful songs. He inspired others to do the same. He and his progeny brightened the day of countless numbers of people, including me (and I hope you). He made the world a better place, and it's diminished a bit by his passing.

Perhaps this is all captured best by a song by Bob Dylan that Alex Chilton and the Box Tops covered:
I see my light come shining
From the West unto the East
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released"

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"December boys got it bad."Lyric from the song September Gurls by Big StarBig Star - #1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version) - September Gurls
September GurlsCovered by The BanglesThe Bangles - Different Light - September Gurls
Alex ChiltonSong by The ReplacementsThe Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me (Expanded Edition) - Alex Chilton
I Shall Be ReleasedSong by Bob Dylan, covered by the Box Tops (and many, many others)The Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me (Expanded Edition) - Alex Chilton

24 February 2010

And words are made to bend.

Back in 2005, the Republican majority in the Senate was frustrated that the Democrats were filibustering judicial nominees. Democrats, recognizing the long-ranging impact of conservative judges seeded throughout the system, were using one of the few options they had to stop Bush II from enrobing right-wing reactionaries. To stop this, the Republicans threatened to change the rules of the filibuster so it couldn't be used to block judicial nominees; the Republicans themselves called this the "nuclear option."

Now in 2010, the Democratic majority in the Senate finds all their efforts to reform health insurance and to foster more equitable health care in this country blocked by threat of Republican filibuster. So they are preparing to use the budget reconciliation process to combine two current bills — one each passed by the House and Senate — into a single bill on which the entire Legislative branch can vote. They are using the tool of reconciliation that has been used numerous times to enact such monumental healthcare legislation as COBRA (provides continuation of coverage between jobs) and CHIP (insures underprivileged children).

However the Republicans are frightened by the use of reconciliation because it only requires a simple majority vote to pass, just like the same simple majority vote that's used to elect representatives, to remain on the island, even to pick the dinner entrée in many American households. Specifically, the Republicans can't use the filibuster to stop reconciliation, and because they don't have a majority (in either the House or Senate) they can't thwart the planned health insurance reforms.

But because Tyranny of the Minority and "We Want Our Way" don't play well in America, the Republicans have decided to take the scary name of their own threat to rewrite the rules of the Senate and apply it instead to the established and respected tool that's used to move legislation forward: reconciliation. They have started calling reconciliation "the nuclear option" in an effort to mislead the media and scare the public, taking the moniker of their feint at rule-changing halfway through the game and applying it instead to the process that's used in every single Congress to enable the Legislature to complete the tasks for which they've been elected.

(I often take the 85 to get home, however if there's too much traffic I take Highway 9 instead. But that doesn't make 9 the "nuclear highway," just a more expedient option.)

Tonight, Rachel Maddow and my fantastic senator, Barbara Boxer, shed light on the Republican lies being told in an attempt to smear the reconciliation option:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Outright lying to the American people by their elected representatives ought not to be allowed. But if no one's going to enforce the rules about it, at least the media should be exposing it.

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"And words are made to bend."Lyric from the song Lies by Thompson TwinsThompson Twins - Thompson Twins: Greatest Hits - Love, Lies and Other Strange Things - Lies

03 January 2010

Think for a Minute

Personally, I'm livid about the airliner bombing attempt on Christmas Day, 25 December 2009. Specifically I'm angry that more than eight years after the attacks on 11 September 2001 we still don't have security measures in place that perform whole-body scans or ambient chemical analysis.

But the former administration — on whose watch occurred 9/11 and the shoe bombing incident which parallels last week's attempt in many ways — and the minority party — who are currently thwarting efforts by the Obama Administration to staff the TSA — have decided to try to shift the conversation away from substantive security reforms and from their failed records by attempting to blame the President for this recent attack.

Thankfully, Rachel Maddow did what much of the media couldn't, and took a couple minutes to examine the statements made by the former vice president and others, revealing the mischaracterizations and outright lies being spread:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(If you can't view the video above, a transcript is available on the Rachel Maddow Show website.)

Some of the most egregious, self-serving, and un-American statements:
  • Dick Cheney insisting that prosecuting the alleged bomber using our American court system is actually catering to the terrorists, despite the fact his own administration followed the same legal course for several famous terrorists, including 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

  • Multiple Republican representatives and party flacks insinuating that President Obama was ignoring the issue because he took 72 hours to respond, when it took Bush II a full six days to comment on the Reid bombing attempt.

  • Republican Senator Jim DeMint's outright lie that President Obama "doesn't even use the word" terrorist anymore, when there are multiple examples of the president doing just that. And this statement is from the man who has spent the last year blocking Obama's nominee for head of TSA.

But the topper is the minority party's demand to use a military tribunal system to try the alleged perpetrator of last week's attack. Nothing I say could be a better response than the one from Ms. Maddow:
The rallying cry now from Republicans is that we shouldn't try the Christmas bomber in civilian court—that, instead, he should be tried in a military tribunal, declared an enemy combatant. I mean, what's the value of a military tribunal here, other than trying to make political hay out of this case? Really, what's the justice, anti-terrorist, counterterrorist value on this?

You really think this kid can't be convicted? You really think we don't have enough evidence beyond the—beyond the, I don't know, 300 or so eyewitnesses who were on the plane? The fact that we have the weapon that he tried to use? The fact that he confessed? You think that's not enough to get this kid convicted?

You have that little faith in our criminal justice system? That little faith in the rule of law? You don't believe that a supermax federal American prison is capable of holding this kid? You think it might be cool, instead, to martyr this kid as some impressive soldier, instead of some idiot confused rich kid who couldn't even handle blowing up his own junk with a bomb that was secreted in his own underpants?

We're supposed to take national security advice from you guys?


But after a year of their increasingly deranged shenanigans, I can't be too surprised by the Republican response to this. I am, however, deeply disappointed in the media for not being able to call out any of the aforementioned shenanigans. Or as Ms. Maddow put it:
Again, my friends and colleagues in the media have two choices in covering this. You can just copy down what the Republicans and Vice President Cheney are saying, and click “send,” call it journalism, or you can actually fact-check those comments and put them into context. Your choice. It's your country."

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Think for a MinuteSong by The HousemartinsThe Housemartins - London 0 Hull 4 (Deluxe Edition) - Think for a Minute

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere.

Looking back on the decade past is a common activity 'round about New Year's Day. I was marshaling my thoughts and thinking about how to best characterize my feelings when I found the always-enchanting Devilstower over at The Daily Kos posted precisely the political retrospective I wish I could have written.

It's really worth reading from the top, and you should do so now. But if you don't, here's the nut:
They will try to disown it, and God knows if I was responsible for this mess I'd be disowning it, too. But the truth is that the conservatives got everything they wanted in the decade just past, everything that they've claimed for forty years would make America "great again." They didn't fart around with any "red dog Republicans." They rolled over their moderates and implemented a conservative dream.

What did we get for it? We got an economy in ruins, a government in massive debt, unending war, and the repudiation of the world. There's no doubt that Republicans want you to forget the last decade, because if you remember... if you remember when you went down to the water hole and were jumped by every lunacy that ever emerged from the wet dreams of Grover Norquist and Dick Cheney, well, it's not likely that you'd give them a chance to do it again.

Because they will. Given half a chance — less than half — they'll do it again, only worse. "

I remember well the media's interest in Bush II as our "MBA President." No dithering meaning-of-"is"-is lawyer like Clinton, but rather someone who will run American government like a business. Imagine that!

Except the goal of business — especially those shady shell games like Arbusto — is to create profits. The explicit charge of American governance is to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of each and every citizen. Two wholly different aims, which should be targeted in significantly different ways.

In business, when you appoint your unqualified cronies to high-level positions, you get their loyalty and support in inter-office politics. And if they don't follow through on their responsibilities, the reduced departmental expenditures can translate to greater corporate profits.

Do the same in government and what do you get? Americans drowning in their own attics.

(But, hey, at least the government could listen in on their phone calls and read their e-mails. You know, before they died.)

Representational democracy is not a for-profit enterprise, and its primary purpose is to protect and engender the citizenry, not to foster unregulated capitalism. To forget this is to say you'd like to relive recent American history, circa 1999 - 2009.

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"Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere."Lyrics from the holiday classic Go Tell It on the Mountain, performed by Frank Sinatra (and many, many, many others)Frank Sinatra - Christmas & New Year's Eve With Sinatra - Go Tell It On the Mountain

12 December 2009

I'm the leader of society since I got mine.

So, it turns out that faux populist Glenn Beck is really just a war profiteer. Nice.

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All his schtick about the downfall of America isn't actually based on personal philosophies or political views or even racist tendencies, it's all just good old fashioned market manipulation. He's fomenting civil unrest because that leads to economic uncertainty which leads to investment in precious goods, specifically gold, and he's the paid spokesman for a gold trader.

Well, it's great to know that undermining the foundations of this nation is an acceptable way for commentators on Fox News to make a profit. And if it's OK for the employees to do that, I wonder if the network itself has any qualms about the practice.

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"I'm the leader of society since I got mine."Lyrics from the blues standard I Got Mine performed by Ry Cooder (among many others)Ry Cooder - The Ry Cooder Anthology: The UFO Has Landed - I Got Mine

06 December 2009

Roll On Down the Highway

People, when you're stopped at a light, your primary obligation is to be prepared to move as soon as the light is in your favor. A red light is not the time to check your messages, text a friend, apply more makeup, or tuck into a breakfast burrito.

I'm unbelievably tired of seeing the light turn green then waiting for half a minute before being able to proceed forward.


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Roll On Down the HighwaySong by Bachman-Turner OverdriveBachman-Turner Overdrive - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bachman-Turner Overdrive - Roll On Down the Highway

01 September 2009

Let's go, we're in the money; look up, the skies are sunny; Old Man Depression; you are through, you done us wrong!

After months of cataloging all my song references, months of tweeting with embedded affiliate links, and months of running a banner ad, I finally see the fruits of my labor: I got my first check as an iTunes Affiliate…a whopping $5.74.

Now I just need to add some Amway on the side and I'll be ready to retire...in about 300 years.

So, if I want to shorten that timeframe a bit, then y'all need to be ordering more stuff! (Or not. You're really under no obligation to do so.)

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"Let's go, we're in the money; look up, the skies are sunny; Old Man Depression; you are through, you done us wrong!"Lyrics from the song We're in the Money by Al Dubin (lyrics) and Harry Warren (music), featured in the movie Gold Diggers of 1933 and the musical 42nd StreetGinger Rogers - Hollywood's Best: The 30s - We're In the Money (The Gold Diggers Song) [From "Gold Diggers of 1933"]

30 August 2009

How terribly strange to be seventy.

Yesterday I was walking Jake along Beach Street, which goes right by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We passed a gentleman who remarked "now there's an old friend" as he looked at Jake.

Sure, Jake's getting a lot of grey these days. He's just turned ten, which is purportedly 70 in human years, and he's looking a bit, well, distinguished. And while I don't want to focus on him getting old, I certainly appreciate the idea that he's an old friend. He's been through much with me: a couple of roommates, a couple of cross-country trips, nine band reviews, one bike race, numerous vet visits, and more than a thousand walks.

I'd like to think Jake's anonymous commenter was remarking on the long and rewarding life Jake's had, and not just his grey fur. While he can still be a challenge, there's not a day with Jake I don't treasure.

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"How terribly strange to be seventy."Lyric from the song Old Friends by Simon and GarfunkelSimon & Garfunkel - The Best of Simon & Garfunkel - Old Friends

25 August 2009

Here I stand and I'm waiting.

Today was Jake's tenth birthday! We celebrated by going to dinner at Café Limelight here in Downtown Santa Cruz, as we've done for many of his prior birthdays. For a dog, Jake's eaten at restaurants a lot. I'd reckon he goes out to eat at least five times a year, so he's had at least 50 dining-out experiences.

Yet for all that, he's still not comfortable just waiting to be served. Rather, he knows there's food about so he spends the entire time intently focused on when and how a meal will appear.

Dining out with a dog means eating on patios. I've yet to find an establishment that allows dogs inside; you're always out on the patio or deck, away from other patrons. The best places, like Café Limelight, bring you water in a dog bowl, and have options on the menu just for the pets. Limelight, for instance, has a plate of sliced roast turkey just for dogs. (It helps that the couple who own Limelight are pet guardians themselves.)

Anyone who's dined out knows there's a routine to table service. First there's the seating, greeting, and menu presentation. This is followed by the water service, then the drink order. When the drinks arrive you order the starters or the main courses. Between ordering and food service, there are usually a couple of table visits to refill the water or refresh any complimentary items like bread or chips.

Well, from the moment we sit down at a table, Jake locks onto whomever approaches, convinced they have a bowl or plate full of food for him. At Café Limelight, the tables on the patio face the door, so Jake spends all him time there staring at the main door, waiting for someone, anyone, to bring him food. Every person who comes through that door is, quite literally, a potential meal ticket, and Jake eyes them like they're the last of the good leads in Glengarry Glen Ross. When the long-awaited plate of turkey arrives, it's devoured in under a minute, with more time spent looking for wayward scraps around the plate than was taken eating the actual payload.

Even the check is a source of confusion, with Jake eyeing it as if it were another course. The clearing of the table, though, just like at home signals the end of the meal. As the dishes are removed, Jake finally relaxes a bit, patrolling under the table to find any dropped bits then, at last, coming to rest by his backpack in preparation for the walk home.

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"Here I stand and I'm waiting."Lyric from the song Waiting by Chris IssacChris Isaak - Best of Chris Isaak (Remastered) - Waiting (Acoustic Version)

23 August 2009

Toast on the Coast

Two decades ago I worked in Century City, a rather highbrow section of Los Angeles. Specifically, I worked in the Century Plaza Towers, two triangular skyscrapers that were, at the time, the focal point of Century City, and all the entertainment and investment firms based there.

One could imagine there were a number of upscale restaurants around the Plaza Towers, and often my colleagues would organize a luncheon outing. Twenty years ago being a vegetarian wasn't anywhere near as common as it is now, even in Los Angeles. So I was quite the challenge to include in the daily forage. (Imagine if I'd been vegan back then!)

We'd go to restaurants that featured "healthy fare" like the club sandwich (a double-decker construction with both pig and turkey) or avocado halves stuffed with tuna salad, and I'd still be reduced to begging for a grilled cheese sandwich with fries.

I hadn't thought about those days in a very long time, but as I look at the meals I made today, I'm reminded of that time.

For lunch today, I was considering what to do with the heirloom tomatoes ripening in my garden, along with the various sandwich fixings I had. So I decided to make a truly healthy club. I used Smart Bacon and Hickory Smoked Tofurky Deli Slices for the protein component, and layered those along with my homegrown tomatoes and organic red-leaf lettuce onto three slices of toasted 12-grain bread dressed with Vegenaise. Along with the sandwich, I enjoyed several of my heirloom cherry tomatoes with a dressing of salt, pepper, and some olive oil.

A successful club sandwich is determined by the assembly: toast, spread, lettuce, tomato, bacon, turkey, toast, spread, lettuce, tomato, bacon, turkey, then finish with lettuce, spread, and toast.

For dinner, I made faux tuna salad (recipe below) and served that in avocado halves. The "tuna" salad is made with mashed garbanzo beans, and gets its "ocean" taste from large helpings of nori flake. Onion, celery, and Vegenaise reinforce the resemblance to the original dish.

I got the recipe from the fine folks at VegNews magazine, who included it in one of their monthly newsletters.

30 ounces (two cans) garbanzo beans, drained
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon garlic, minced
¼ cup dill pickle, finely chopped
2 tablespoons nori flakes
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, then mash them in a bowl. Then fold in all the other ingredients.

Yes it's a simple recipe, and to make it even simpler I have the following recommendations:
  • Use a potato masher to smash the beans.
  • Use minced garlic from a jar. (For this dish you'll never be able to tell.)
  • Use dill pickle relish instead of chopping pickles.
Unlike other recipes where I automatically reduce the amount of salt, for this one use the full measure, if not a pinch more. And I add a teaspoon or so of canola oil to the beans; it makes them easier to mash and better mimics the moistness of tuna.

The best part of these strolls down culinary memory lane? The vegan versions are healthier, more humane, and eminently satisfying.

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Toast on the CoastSong by The ToastersToasters, The - Skaboom! - Toast On the Coast

30 July 2009

They Can't Take That Away from Me

Even as a child I was a voracious reader, in fact some of my earliest memories are of reading books. This deep and prolonged exposure to the written word, to literature, has given me an almost innate sense of grammar. (Though anyone who's read Chomsky's non-political oeuvre is aware there's a school of thought that says grammar by its very existance is innate.)

And so while I may not know how to concisely define either the subjunctive or the indicative, or be able to clearly state how one conjugates the pluperfect, or even confidently delineate why one hyphenates a compound adjectival phrase but not an adverbial one, by virtue of being well read it seems I can craft a passably grammatical sentence.

Yet like many people, I've been frustrated by the seeming lack of a grammatically acceptable, universally inclusive pronoun that can represent a whole comprised of one or both genders, and one person or multiple people. Specifically I've been frustrated that the pronoun "they" seemed to fit the bill, but was formally defined as being plural and thus not appropriate for the task.

Therefore I was quite delighted to see John Gruber at Daring Fireball post a link to the On Language column in The New York Times Magazine which not only defended "they" as both singular and plural, but stated that there was a historical precedent for using "they" to represent nouns both one and many, both masculine and feminine.

This will surprise a few purists, but for centuries the universal pronoun was they. Writers as far back as Chaucer used it for singular and plural, masculine and feminine. Nobody seemed to mind that they, them and their were officially plural. As Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage explains, writers were comfortable using they with an indefinite pronoun like everybody because it suggested a sexless plural."

Since Chaucer‽ Since the late 1300's‽ Then why was my high-school English teacher (metaphorically) rapping my knuckles for "misusing" plural pronouns in the 1980's‽ (No worries, I've constrained all my interrobangs to this paragraph.)

Using "they" in this pluripotent way has always felt right to me, almost instinctually. Now we have proper grammarians providing a historical framework for this usage, and encouraging the Twitterati to keep pushing this now-common use until it becomes standard once again. Bless them.

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They Can't Take That Away from MeSong written by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by Billie Holiday (among many, many others)Billie Holiday - The Complete Billie Holiday - They Can't Take That Away from Me

29 July 2009

C'est si bon

Earlier today, Ana Marie Cox re-tweeted from Maud Newton a link to a video of bartender Del Pedro making Gin Gimlets, inspired by a passage in the Raymond Chandler classic, The Long Goodbye.

The recipe is simple:

2 oz. Gin
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. Rose's Lime Juice

Shake ingredients with ice, strain into glass.

Oddly enough, I had all the necessary ingredients. So I thought it might be interesting to try this recipe, and perhaps even video myself making it.

But since Jake doesn't have opposable thumbs, it's up to me to hold the iPhone and make the drink. Hmmm. Not sure how well this will work, especially since I have to do it in one take, and I've had a couple of practice rounds already...

Well, there you go. Just shake the lime juice, the Rose's, and the gin, then strain. Delicious.

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C'est si bonSong by Henri Betti, with French lyrics by André Hornez and English lyrics by Jerry Seelen; performed by Louis ArmstrongC'est si bon—Louis Armstrong

Simmer Down

It feels like everything is moving much too fast these days. Either I've become the world's most stereotypical grouchy old man, or life is moving at an unacceptably fast clip. For example, the July 4th holiday weekend was less than a month ago, yet it feels like three months ago. I do not like this feeling.

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Simmer DownSong by Bob Marley and The WailersBob Marley & The Wailers - The Birth of a Legend - Simmer Down

21 July 2009

It Keeps You Runnin'

This month marks the fourth year that I've been blogging. Interesting.

If anyone out there is following along, even periodically, I hope they're enjoying themselves. I know I am.

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It Keeps You Runnin'Song by The Doobie BrothersThe Doobie Brothers - The Very Best of The Doobie Brothers - It Keeps You Runnin'

05 July 2009

Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!

The morning of the Fourth of July, I attached a steel flagpole bracket to the front porch of my house, so I could fly the American flag proudly on our Day of Independence.

Afterward, I looked up and down my block, but mine was the only flag I could see. I knew that two blocks down in front of Fire Station #1 there was a flag flying, and two block in the other direction there'd be a flag in front of the Louden Nelson Community Center, but mine appeared to be the only American flag on a residence that I could see.

Perhaps my neighbors didn't have flags. After all, it's been eight years since most anyone around here has had any faith, let alone pride, in their government. Or perhaps they couldn't fly a flag, as many of them are renters and don't have the right to attach a flag to their house or apartment.

No matter. My personal admiration for the Obama administration was enough to inspire me to proudly raise the Stars and Stripes, and there could not have been a more beautiful day to do so. The sky was clear and blue and the temperature was mild; a perfect day to sit on the porch with Jake and offer a hearty greeting to the passersby.

Addendum: after reading this post my friend Gregory chided me, saying I should "fly the flag regardless of whether or not you support the particular Commander In Chief currently in place. I think it's particularly important to remain patriotic during the troubling times in America while we work to make it better." And he's right.

In my haste to finish a blog post, I used the Obama administration as a shorthand to represent the social and political awakening taking place in the United States during the past couple of years. It was a lazy characterization, but worse it left the wrong impression. I raised my flag on the Fourth of July not because I support only this specific CINC, but because I am so proud that people across this nation are electing responsible representatives and demanding accountability from officials, and I believe the current administration is encouraging and supporting this resurgence of citizenship.

In the most literal sense, a flag represents a country; a marker used at multinational gatherings. But when you, an individual, raise a flag it's no longer a simple marker, it's a proxy for your own patriotism. It becomes imbued with your beliefs about citizenship, governance, rights, and responsibilities. And if the country doesn't currently match your beliefs, flying the flag is an inspiration to you to work for the greater good. (This is also why many people find it so offensive to see the Confederate flag flown, as they don't want to believe there are people in the US currently striving to divide the Union and enslave parts of the population.)

Therefore, I should have been as eager to raise my flag last year or the year before as I was this year. It should have been as natural as studying position papers, donating to progressive candidates, canvassing loved ones, or any of the other things I've been doing to help America reach her potential.

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"Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!"Lyrics from America the Beautiful — words by Katherine Lee Bates, melody by Samuel Ward, covered by Mannheim Steamroller (and countless others)Mannheim Steamroller & C.W. McCall - American Spirit - America the Beautiful

03 July 2009

Miles and miles left to go, miles from anything we know.

Yeah, mid-afternoon on the first day of a three-day weekend is not a good time to drive to Santa Cruz.

Took a look at the map while eating lunch, and the traffic on southbound 17 is backed up all the way 'till it ends at the 280! And once you plod your way through the mountains, it gets really bad again in Scotts Valley, all the way into Santa Cruz. Yuck.

Glad I'm already here, and won't be moving the car all weekend.

What's interesting is that the traffic doesn't continue southbound on 1 to go deeper into the county. I guess everyone's headed specifically to Santa Cruz, probably to catch The Smithereens at their free concert at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk tonight.

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"Miles and miles left to go, miles from anything we know."Lyrics from the song Miles from Nowhere by The SmithereensThe Smithereens - From Jersey It Came! - The Smithereens Anthology - Miles from Nowhere

21 June 2009

Ride Captain Ride

Ku and I saw Star Trek tonight; I would have thought we were the last ones in the country to do so, but the packed theater told me otherwise. (On a side note: Santa Cruz moviegoers, please put down the bong and get your butts in gear, so you can get to the theater before the feature starts and not ruin the first ten minutes of the movie by walking in front of me.)

I thought the movie was fantastic. Ku wasn't as impressed. But what surprised me the most was seeing my Alma Mater represented as Starfleet Academy. It's true! The Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge, perhaps the most distinctive building on the entire campus, was used in the film as the exterior shot of a large auditorium at Starfleet Academy.

As shown in the composite above, the top image is the Oviatt Library as it exists today and the bottom image is the building portrayed in Star Trek, after three more stories were added to the top, a couple of wings on the sides, and it was relocated to San Francisco (apparently to somewhere around the Presidio/Marina district).

The soaring pillars of the Oviatt have always looked majestic, but never before have I thought they would represent the heights of 24th Century architecture. Granted they are so distinctive that back in the early 90s they were the graphic focal point of the university logo, a decision that was controversial at the time.

Anyway, seeing as how I'm a Starfleet Academy graduate, I've been wondering what my rank would be. It's been quite a while since I matriculated, so perhaps I'd have made captain by now. Though most likely not.

But with all respect to someone who's actually had to earn rank, I'd say I'd be proud and honored (and lucky) to be in the company of lieutenants — the backbone and core of the officer ranks. Hooyah!

(Credits to acejr371 via Flickr for the photo of Oviatt Library, to Paramount Studios for the bottom still from the movie, and to Tim Malabuyo for the composition image.)

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Ride Captain RideSong by Blues ImageBlues Image - Open - Ride Captain Ride (Single/LP Version)

19 June 2009

Juke Box Hero

Since 2006 I've been titling posts with either lyrics from a song or an actual song title. I thought it'd be nice to document these choices; I'll keep this entry updated with info from new posts going forward.

Update: Starting with posts in 2010, I'm now listing the song reference at the bottom of the post, instead of updating a huge table. I've gone back and appended song reference information to all the earlier posts as well.

(Full disclosure: the iTunes buttons at the bottom of each post are encoded with my affiliate ID, so I get a cut if you buy anything.)

Overall I'm pleased with the range and diversity represented, but I'm a bit surprised at how much Zeppelin is listed. Guess I'm a child of the 70s after all.

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Juke Box HeroSong by ForeignerForeigner - 4 (Expanded) - Juke Box Hero (Single Version)

18 June 2009

We Didn't Start the Fire

On 16 June 2009, the United States Global Change Research Program released a comprehensive report entitled Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. The USGCRP integrates input from 13 different federal government departments and agencies in an effort to help the US cope with global climate change.

I downloaded the full PDF copy and was looking it over when I was struck by a particular graphic.
On page 90 of the report is an illustration of temperature increase across the continental US, specifically projected increases in the number of days in which the temperature will exceed 100°F. Naturally the chromatic scale for the graphic runs in the so-called warmer colors, with a deep red representing the hottest temperatures. Looking at the worst scenario as a whole, therefore, gives the distinct impression of the country descending into a fire, with tongues of flame licking right up Texas, Arizona, and California's Central Valley.

Other than climate, what do those areas have in common? That's right, as America grapples with the equality of treatment for all her citizens, these areas seem to be, time and again, focal points for the narrow-minded and intolerant people who fight against marriage equality, employment equality, civil rights recognition, and who even threaten to secede.

Time and time again when efforts are made to treat all citizens equally, these areas lead the charge that fairness and respect for all will lead directly to Armageddon. Sure enough, look at the map: the flames of Hell are headed right toward them.

But the cause isn't gay marriage, it's their own damned SUVs.

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We Didn't Start the FireSong by Billy JoelBilly Joel - The Essential Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire