Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Candy Cane Children

While making the rounds to see who has a new album out and who does not, I bumbled into my first time hearing this song (only on the first visit from this IP address, methinks, to the White Stripes site):

Movies: An abbreviated list

Disclaimers first: We watched some movies in the theater, and we rented some from a local shop. Ergo, this isn't an all-encompassing observation, just 10 keepers and 10 throw-'em-backs of the 91 Netflix flicks seen in 2008, in reverse order of date seen (i.e. most recent at top of list) with a short note. Yeah, yeah, your favorite movie's on the wrong list. Whatever.

Play it again, Sam!
  1. Lust, Caution (tense!)
  2. PU-239 (touching)
  3. The Tunnel (tense *and* touching)
  4. King of California (engrossing)
  5. Shortbus (uncommon people have common problems)
  6. Enchanted (way cuter than I would have thought)
  7. Reign Over Me (way deeper than I would have thought)
  8. My Life as a Dog (fuggedaboutit - awesome movie)
  9. The Brave One (predictable, but really good)
  10. Cashback (unpredictable, and really, really good)

Can I get those hours of my life back?
  1. Cassandra's Dream (as boring as Broken Flowers)
  2. Making Of (nope, the fake documentary parts do not work after all)
  3. Amores Perros (gratuitous dog fighting)
  4. Year of the Dog (too preachy, and not even close to comedy)
  5. Lions for Lambs (if they'd stuck with the guys in Afghanistan and skipped the rest of the movie, it would have been good. They didn't. Oh yeah, and too preachy.)
  6. Vantage Point (boring. boring. boring. from several different perspectives!)
  7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (too fucking long, just like the title)
  8. The Omega Man (I can see how this would have been good when it came out, but it did not age well)
  9. Gone Baby Gone (just couldn't give a crap)
  10. Lucky You (it would have been lucky to skip this one. I tried, really, but it is still just typical poker crap)

Monday, December 29, 2008

So, that was 2008?

The year seems to have slipped by pretty quickly, though I didn't perceive the days to be shorter and I don't think the time was wasted!

I guess that means it is time yet again to conjure on resolutions. I like to make at least a couple each year, and I find I tend to follow through. But I'm not sure what to put on the list.

Learn more Arabic? Bake a cake? Learn to play guitar? Beats me. I'm having the same problem at work, because I have to concoct five or so goals to accomplish as part of our bonus program. Hey, I like a bonus, but I'd rather earn one by kicking ass rather than ticking off a list of stuff that may not be relevant by year's end. Ugh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Do they bark, too?

Headline from BBC News: Mumbai attack hotels greet guests

Trust me, I get it: Writing headlines can be a challenge. Or should I say: Headlines spell word challenge

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New scarves

At last, I've gotten a listing up for one of the rather large number of new scarves I have made. You can see it in my Etsy mini in the sidebar of my blog. I really need a model, but I'm short of cooperative or geographically available redheads.

I think I need to fix that, but it might be a while. I know of an ideal candidate, but it isn't straightforward to hit someone up without seeming like a stalker. Alas. Anyway, the new listing is pretty low key in comparison to some of the others, so stay tuned!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coming soon to an interchange near here.

A roundabout! A traffic circle! A rotary! Whatever you want to call it, we're getting a few, and the first opens Friday.

One of the reporters on my staff called it "The Whirlpool of Death." Given this area's tendency to have a lot of crappy drivers, he might be right. Plus, it looks like snow out there. Fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A/V, especially V

Here's another Blitzen Trapper tune, but although I like the song, I think the slide show is probably cooler.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New to me

I'm sure lots of people have known about Blitzen Trapper, like, forever. But I hadn't heard of them until this song was on "Chuck" last night.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Freedom and anonymity

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday said "no" to a UK system of storing DNA samples and fingerprints of people without criminal records. I wouldn't have thought such an absurd system would even have been in place, but there it was.

Needless to say, the ruling - which can't be appealed - was met with whining by British law enforcement types, but that's not a big shock. Inevitably, today's story included quotes about how many times the information's been used to scoop up badguys, but isn't that beside the point?

I know some people on the political fringes here complain about our lack of fundamental rights, or what they perceive as widespread violations of those enumerated by the Constitution, but this - to me - puts those complaints in perspective.

Under ordinary circumstances, at this point I would say, "Europe sucks!" but I like to visit, so I guess I'll just say some UK laws suck, so I wouldn't want to live there.

Doesn't have the same ring to it, though.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The kiddos on Page A1

I guess this is a handy part of my job, getting to decide where Katy and Yuki go in the paper...

and they're both above the fold! I guess I am, too, though. Note the upswept tail on the youngster in the bottom picture.

Cover me

I really like covers, and I really like Tori Amos, so you will not be surprised to find out I like the combo a lot, too. I've probably already mentioned that...
Let it Be

I'm on Fire

Whole Lotta Love

Can't Get You Outta My Head

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No tag? I'm it anyway

Lulu has this meme going, so I am aboard.

1. Five names you go by:
Alasdair, Alax, Al (see a trend here?), Stew, Scraps

2. Three things you are wearing right now:
Dr. Martens
A diamond earring (the butterfly lady rules!)
A thin layer of dried-up chlorinated water

3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:
No more staph nose!
Another cup of coffee

4. Three people who will probably fill this out:
Wellll: The butterfly lady, better than your average idiot, um, I'm with Lulu. TBA.

5. Two things you did last night:
Made lasagna (super awesome, as always, with lots of basil)
Slept the whole night through with no dogs having to go out (three times in five months!).

6. Two things you ate today:
Tunisian stew (beef, honey, almonds, fennel, caraway, cumin, coriander) and rice
Mint chocolate M&Ms

7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:
My mom
The owner of Fritzi the dog

8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
Weave a scarf
Swim a couple miles

9. Two longest car rides:
Walla Walla, Wash., to Newmarket, N.H. (off to grad school for the lady!) - 1999
Newmarket to Salem, Ore. (all done!) - 2004

10. Two of your favorite beverages:
Espresso - in the mini mug with a Demerara sugar cube and lemon zest
Single-malt Islay Scotch whisky

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time for a depression?

Several years ago, I suggested a long run of high gas prices might be helpful, primarily because it would encourage car buyers to ask for vehicles more efficient than the ones on the market. That's happened, obviously, and although gas prices are on the downward slide now, I think enough car makers are committed to the new production lines that it won't be easy to switch back to huge fleets of gas guzzlers.

Besides, who's going to trust the cost of fuel to stay low?

Now, of course, there are much more interesting bits of economic news to chew on. Bank bailouts, automaker bailouts, home foreclosures, car loan delinquencies (nearly $23 billion at risk!), etcetera.

I've tried to be circumspect about all this, but why don't we at least entertain the idea that a good long recession, perhaps amounting to a depression, might actually be a good thing?

In the short run, obviously, the answer would be: No, that would be a Very Bad Thing for most people. But maybe in the long run, a depression would be the harbinger of a time of great opportunity, innovation, wealth and positive social change.

Would that be too much to hope for? I'd like to hear the well-reasoned, dispassionate argument to the contrary...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New scarves

I've finally gotten some bamboo scarves woven, about two years after I planned (hey, biz was good without it, so I guess that's good). Here are a few of the new ones:
The bamboo is pretty, for sure, but where it really shines is in how it feels - super soft and slinky like silk - and drapes. Wow!

For fun at the end of the warp, I tried (in the righthand scarf) a fairly straightforward overshot pattern (that's just weaverese for cloth that has a simple fundamental structure overlaid with fancy patterns):
I say "fairly straightforward" because even though I'm good at this, I erred once, as you can probably see. Maybe the error in the pattern is actually a design plus. I'm sure it is for people who believe symmetry must be disrupted to avoid the appearance of evil spirits.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where's my slice

Colleges want a piece of next stimulus bill.

That's the lead story at The Chronicle of Higher Education today. I can't say I blame colleges for wanting a piece of the pie, but am I alone in thinking that something is severely weird here?

The federal government's big ATM with the "Easy credit? Apply below!" billboard isn't new, of course, but the blatancy of today's handouts is out of whack with my sense of business as usual.

Maybe this is actually better, that people/companies/entities feel comfortable begging a handout from good ol' U.S. taxpayer. At least this way, it is easy to spot who owes you results.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Signs, signs

Some signs are easier to puzzle out than others.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Give the kid the ball!

You know, when you go to the ballpark, you'll occasionally see some bully snatch a foul ball from a kid, or more often just shove the kid out of the way to make the catch himself.

When that happens, you almost always get the chance to hear 45,000 people (or 1,200 if you were at a Tampa Bay Rays game any year before this one) yelling, "Give the kid the ball!"

Now I see Sarah Palin's having to go through her wardrobe to figure out what's hers and what belongs the Republican National Committee. I say: Give the kid the clothes.

I'm not saying Sarah Palin is my secret lover or even just a pal, but I'm pretty sure she earned every damn donated-by-Republicans cent of that wardrobe being raked over the coals the past few weeks. And, pray tell, what the fuck is the RNC going to do with her clothes? Sell them as memorabilia to raise money for the next campaign? That could be effective, even if it would also be creepy. Sarah Palin's camisole for Norm Coleman's war chest!

On a side note, I see she wore a pentagram for her official portrait as governor of Alaska. Maybe she's actually Wiccan or Bahá'í? Or worships Venus? Yeah, that's the one.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Our front page today

This was a tough balance, between reporting History and also hitting what local people are most interested in (this is not a blue county), especially at a p.m. paper. We've just hit the street in the past couple of hours. It is hard to believe, but this morning we got several calls from people who wanted to know who won.

Anyway, I think this page does the trick. It wasn't easy to come up with an original headline, so I swiped one from the Butterfly Lady.

In a way, all the hard work was Tuesday night. You can see the fruits of our labor here.

A great effort by the staff, in my humble opinion. What a night!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

We only work when we need the money

Every month, payroll passes out a little sheet for managers so they can see who has taken how much vacation, and how much each person needs to take by the end of the year. The latter is on account of our company's policy that half your earned time off is "use or lose," presumably to prevent workaholics from cashing out six months of pay after taking no time off in their time at the paper.

The way I figure it, you need a couple of weeks off, minimum, if you're going to go anywhere of consequence. But time off is accrued starting Jan. 1, so people who plan to take longer vacations almost always need to wait until late spring or early summer to hit the road.

You will be astonished, I am sure, to hear that every year, lots of people go on vacation later in the year rather than earlier. And every year, around Jan. 2, managers say, "OK, make sure you sign up for vacation early so we don't wind up with everyone wanting to take time off at the same time at the end of the year."

Is it possible that a competing system might result in a different pattern? I can think of two that don't involve cracking down on when people take time off:
  • Reorganize the year so that summer and fall's good traveling weather is not followed by holidays everyone wants to go home for.
  • Change the accrual calendar to July 1-June 30.
My bet is the first of those two options is more likely to happen than the second.

Friday, October 31, 2008

This play takes some time to develop

But just hang with it. And make sure you listen to the play-by-play. Unreal.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

At the gym

On the way into the locker room, there's a plastic frame that usually holds some kind of inspirational rubbish (we are defined not by the times we fall but how we pick ourselves up, that kind of thing).

But recently, someone switched the sign for this:
Needless to say, this has been a big improvement! You can see more of these kinds of things here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pardon my sensitivity

Hate crimes are a curious item: I'm not sure exactly how they're figured. I'm pretty sure road rage should be one, for example, but really the people who speak in these terms mean "bigot crimes" or "racist crimes" or maybe, if you want to be mealy-mouthed, "bias crimes."

There are apparently not very many: The FBI only counted about 1,600 such crimes based on religion in 2007. Sure, I know, that's one every 5 hours! Or 6! depending on how you count, I suppose.

But it is also only 80 by state each year, so...

On the flip side, USA Today reports 68 percent of those crimes were against Jews. I'm not sure what to say about that, but that's not the kind of thing that makes you feel like this country welcomes with open arms.

Besides the whole control-of-the-media thing, what's so scary about Jews?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thinking of Townes Van Zandt

I've had a bunch of TVZ songs going through my head, which made me think of this one:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Malaysia sucks, too

Or at least Malaysia's National Fatwa Council does: The council has "banned" tomboys.

You can read about the idiocy here.

Yet another place I'm happy to avoid, though it is obviously unfair to judge by such things. Nobody would come to the good ol' U.S. of A. if they knew how much some of us hate one thing or another.

What will the National Fatfuck Council ban next? It'd have to be something I like, right? Redheads?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cool animation with candles

This animation shows up as a related video to my own. This one is cooler, though, which makes me think I should make another during our upcoming vacation.

Mine's at the bottom of this page, by the way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Put him in the scuppers!

Love this song!

That's an order.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Do what you must...

My job means I am not at liberty to talk politics with anyone except family, a few friends and a woman sworn to secrecy. I think it is allowed for me to say I'm in favor of civil rights, by which I mean those granted pretty explicitly by the Constitution. I mean, duh, obviously, it is OK to say I think the First Amendment is a good idea. I favor the others, too.

But beyond that, I can't say a whole lot. Abortion? Drilling for oil? Presidential politics? Local politics? Let's just say I own some T-shirts I can only wear in the living room.

I did actually see one I own in this video, though:

Cash money dollar (coins) y'all

I'm a coin guy, always have been. Worst shit perpetrated on me by my dear sister and mother was their absurd and bullying insistence I trade a dollar in coins to her for a dollar bill. Why they insisted is beyond me, but it is one of the four grudges I still hold.
  • State quarters? Got all but Hawaii.
  • New nickels: Check (even if my dear neighbor's brother, the mayor of Seattle and namesake of this coin, disagrees with me on an important issue).
  • Silver dollar with Ike? Yup.
  • Bicentennial silver dollar with Ike? Yup again.
  • SBA? Sacagawea? Yep, yep.
  • Snazzy 1940s quarter made of actual silver? You betcha.
  • Freakin' awesome Ben Franklin half dollar of same metal? Mm-hmm.
  • Unsquelchable desire to see dollar bill go up in smoke and dollar coins (and twos, and fives, for that matter) take over? Yeppers.
But come on: If you leave the pissant $1 bill in circulation, you'll never be able to get out from under it. It is time for los federales to grow a pair, so to speak, and make the dollar the coin of the realm.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New back yard

Winter is approaching, and with it - maybe - some rain. For us and our Newfies, that means mud season in our abysmal back yard. But now there are Eight Paws of the Newfpocalypse, so we decided to install a lawn (and underground sprinklers).

Here's pretty much what the yard looked like before:
That darker patch in the middle used to be a planter bed, which was super successful last year but not so much so this year. Yuki's puppyhood took a toll. Anyway, I used a Ridgid digging fork for the demo (about $30, bought to replace a crappy Craftsman fork I finally got my money back on. The Craftsman was the second free replacement after the original conked out). Here's how much fun hand turning soil is:
It is good exercise, though, and the rental rototillers were heavy and our CRV lacks a trailer hitch. I think the whole demolition/grading (with a rake, mostly) took about six hours for 450 square feet. Hey, small yard. But small yard full of junkola. I found a bunch of former paving in part of the yard:
and smaller odds and ends, too. This place would have been a good archaeology lab, though it is too rich in artifacts to be realistic.
Anyway, here's a view of the prepped yard, and the big stack of sod (About $95, including sales tax and a $5 deposit on the pallet):
At this point, I hadn't laid in the sprinkler, but I squared that away in about an hour using flexible PVC, a couple of sprinkler heads (our side yard is too small to irrigate without watering the porch and/or driveway). The pipe, sprinkler heads, joints, timer and such cost about $130, so besides time, this project was pretty inexpensive. The labor was laborious, though:
You lay sod just like flooring, really:
And here's mostly finished:
I misunderestimated on the square footage, so I ran out just as I finished the yard. As in, I ran out of sod at the same time as I ran out of places I needed to put it. Now all we need to do is see if it takes, and holds up to the canines, and the winter, and...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On the road, in the pool

Still trucking along in both places. I haven't pushed beyond about three miles running because I'd really like to not wear anything ligament-like out again. But it is going pretty well and we live near a big park (1.1 miles in circumference), so I think that might be helping. Swimming is still a pain in the shoulder sometimes, but I'm doing about 3,000 yards a workout three or four times a week.

Yep, that's all I have to report. How about some more Springsteen?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Music at work

Besides everything else, I mean. I was caught unawares that Lisa Hannigan had an album out, but she does, so it's been in heavy rotation at work, where unlike the last factory I worked at, we're allowed to work in something other than silence.

Here's a track:

I never really understood the reasoning behind the ban on music (through headphones, for crying out loud) at the other place, but I think it might have been related to upper management's feeling that what worked best for them is what works best for everyone.

There are a lot of things wrong with typical management practices, but I'd rank that attitude up near the top.

In the past, I tried to explain that while someone else may not work well amidst distractions, I work best when there is more than one thing going on. The usual response I got was something like, " That's what you think, but actually, people work better without distractions. You can't actually do two things at once, so you can't listen to music and edit."

So why is music somehow way worse than listening to you fuckers typing? Or eating? Or whining about the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

I never got a good answer, but as the good reverend would say, the question is moot.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Must be getting older

I'm sure it isn't just my imagination: While strolling out of the pool Monday afternoon, I held the door for a young woman who fell into step with me on the sidewalk.

"So, are you a professor?" asketh she, smiling brightly. Seriously, first question.

"No, are you?" says I.

"Hell no!"

Well, yeah. At least she thought I looked professorial.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Like a band of gypsies

I don't hit the road as often as I used to, but while I was on The Information Superhighway (how's that for a dated term?), I saw a friend had posted a map of which states she's been in, so here's mine:
Red's where I'm from, green's where I've been, and although I'll probably hit a few more of these, I'm guessing I won't make it to 50 without some kind of intervention by work.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's not 9/11

Although my colleagues at other papers appear to disagree, Monday's news from Wall Street isn't Pearl Harbor or 9/11 or Kennedy's assassination. But you wouldn't know it from the bleating A1 at The Oregonian:
That type 777.68 is larger than what we used for TERROR at the last paper I worked at for the Sept. 12, 2001, edition. I'm not saying 9/11 is the single greatest defining moment in the history of the world, but it is certainly bigger than the stock market falling 7 percent. Especially when the market recovers almost 60 percent of that loss the next day.

To give The O credit, it refrained from copying the not-to-scale zigzaggy line a bunch of other papers used:
Um, yeah, where's zero? This is yet another depressing example of wack, sucker-MC style page design and headline writing that runs amok when big news breaks.

I've borrowed these particularly egregious examples from the super-awesome daily gallery at The World's Most Interactive Museum. You can check out daily A1s from all over - but not, alas, Walla Walla, here. Another link at that page will show you archived pages, so you can relive such events as Hurricane Ike, Eliot Spitzer's resignation, the end of the line for John Paul II, 9/11 (where the archive starts) and such. It isn't all bad news (unless you are a Cardinals fan). The Red Sox World Series win is in there, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bonded for life

The butterfly lady and I covered a reunion last weekend for a small group of Marine Corps tank crew veterans of the invasion of Iwo Jima, and the story is in today's paper (and online). My audio, her video and photos by our colleague Jeff Horner were rolled into this multimedia piece by another of our colleagues, Carlos Virgen:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Now in stores

The shop my work can be found in soon will have more than my weaving, which is cool. I started knitting when I was between looms last year, and the lady who runs the shop took a liking to the better ones I've done. Here's a for-instance:
And here's one being worn by the guy who made it. Man, that was a snowstorm!
Anyway, I think I'm getting the hang of hats. I hope several somebodies agree and buy them!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

By land and sea

So, I started running again (maximum distance so far, a whopping two miles), and I'm still swimming, though I'm mixing the two to try to fend off injuries. Now I'm wondering if I should consider maybe doing a triathlon, one of the short ones. I'm ambivalent. I haven't really enjoyed riding a bike since I was edged off the road by a careless driver and crashed.

That wasn't a great moment, but it was a long time ago and it is ridiculous to live in the past. But with our place in New Hampshire being super bike-unfriendly and life being pretty busy here, I just haven't bothered to pick up the habit, which I enjoyed very much before.

Well, who knows? But it might be fun to take a shot at a triathlon. I think there's one in town with reasonable distances (500-yard swim, 5-kilometer run, 20-mile bike ride).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A good walk ruined

I am a man of many mothers. Maybe that will make a good post someday... but for now, here's a video one of my moms turned me on to, a Robin Williams bit on a game invented in The Greatest Country in the World:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Things I wish I knew how to do

I'm not sure when I'd learn, exactly, because my to-do list is always longer than the days have hours. But here are a few things I'd like to know how to do. When I say "know how to do" I mean "know how to do well."
  • Play guitar (or piano, or banjo or harmonica, for that matter). I know, I know, this is a skill that white people commonly have. But I don't.
  • Make a decent batch of sembei (Japanese rice crackers). I'm working on this one. The last batch (the labor of my Labor Day) were pretty bad, but not as bad as the previous try.
  • Make furniture/cabinetry. Especially cabinetry.
  • Swim twice as fast, run twice as far. Um, yeah. Eventually.
  • Write dialogue in fiction that isn't clunky.
  • Build a sailboat. Or a pirate ship. And sail it.
  • Distill whisky.
Of course, that's the realistic list. I left off "teleport," "conjure tornadoes" and "learn telekinesis," even though I think those would all be wicked handy skills.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A typical day's work

Like no other city editors I know, I also get to lay out a lot of pages (seven of the eight A-section pages tonight, but usually more like three to five on a weekday). This means I'm always busy, but I'm usually happier when I'm busy. This A1 has a rarity for Walla Walla, a homicide to report.Most papers take the attitude that the number of stories that jump (continue to a page inside, that is) is nothing to be concerned about. At such places, you'll regularly see four or five stories on A1, all of which jump. We don't roll that way at my workplace. Our goal is to average less than 33 percent jumps on covers (A1, the sports cover, etcetera). I have an attitude, of course, so I'm just under 7 percent for the year. I don't know how much readers care, but it makes a fun challenge.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Top of the heap!

I don't know how long this will last:

But I'll take it!


When I started running track and cross country in the mid-1980s, a good pair of shoes was a pretty spendy item. I think I spent about $85 a pair back then, usually for Nikes, Asics or New Balance. Using westegg's inflation calculator, I found that translates to about $160 today.

I bought a pair of mid-level Saucony running shoes at Big 5 the other day for about $45, which is usually how much that kind of shoe is at that store. The shoes are at least in the top two of best shoes I've run in, so it isn't that my taste has run to the cheap and shoddy.

Maybe running shoes have replaced gasoline and food in the Consumer Price Index. That'd help explain the phony baloney inflation news we keep hearing.

An unexpected gift

A short time after college graduation, one of my best friends - a guy I roomed with on the road in cross country and track, someone whose secrets I knew and who knew mine - underwent a major life change, one that ended our friendship.

I hold no grudge: He wasn't the same man anymore, and I was. I didn't resent his change to who he became, but if he had committed suicide, the act would have been no less momentous.

Our friendship dissipated quickly. My breaking point was maybe not the most obvious: He adopted a new, dehumanizing attitude toward gay people that I could not abide. I drew the line and that was that. But it was depressing, because I'd lost one of my best friends.

That was 15 years ago. On Friday, I called up a different friend, one I hadn't talked to in a couple of years (I had to leave a message, though). She and I were much closer than my former teammate and I ever were, but we hadn't talked in a while. Over the years, her values and personality had seemed to shift away from who she'd been (one of my best friends ever, the type you'd hide in your basement or attic while the secret police searched for her), and we just drifted apart.

I assumed she'd just found new priorities (husband, kids, lifestyle), so I didn't bring it up directly. I think I was overly circumspect. She called up Saturday afternoon. I asked what was new and she said, "Wellll, I'm getting a divorce from my husband because I'm gay."

That's cool, says I, and we talked for an hour or so. She said she thought she'd sold herself out and swore that wasn't going to happen again. Hooray! I hope now she's herself again - and herself, rocks, for the record - there'll be room at the table for an old pal who was out of touch awhile.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Inspired writing

Today's example comes from Steven Pearlstein of The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON — Hurricane Hank swept through nation’s capital Sunday with gale force regulatory winds and a tidal surge of federal cash, upending two of Washington’s biggest enterprises and permanently changing the landscape of housing finance in America.


Weekend fun

As usual, the weekend was too short. I need more hours in the day, especially when I should be sleeping. But alas, that's not how things work.

While winding on a new warp (gorgeous red, photos to come if I remember!), I re-listened to "Nebraska" a bunch of times, especially this song:

Well, that and Highway Patrolman. It is easy to work with the Boss.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Beautiful duet

You have to wait to pick up the backup lady on this one, but I love it.

This one, too.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


What a deal: Two weeks of Olympics followed by a couple more of convention fun. I'm not sure what's on after the RNC, but if the TV people want people like me to watch, now's the time to put on something good.

An observation:

It seems to me that politics reporters sometimes miss out on good follow-up questions. To wit: Gov. Sarah Palin's wealth or paucity of foreign policy experience was the topic du jour on, I think, MSNBC. Or maybe that was CNN. Anyway, the anchor lady asked some guy who used to be famous about this and our pal from the city said Palin's foreign policy experience trumped that of Sen. Barack Obama. The cat's argument was something like: Well, if you're governor, you're in an executive position, so that means you actually make the decision, etc.

Yeah, but doesn't that mean Palin has more foreign policy experience than John McCain?

But that question went unanswered, and it certainly went unasked.

Just like the failure to dig into Obama's religious views. So he used to belong to that one church, where the pastor ran his trap about 9/11, right? How often did he go to church? Once a year? Once a day? Did he attend any other churches during the same period? These questions have discrete answers, unlike the usual piffle (why didn't he quit sooner? does he condemn that message now?)

This isn't hard. If there's a car wreck and you show up on the scene, you go talk to the sergeant (unless you're the first one there, I suppose). Do you just listen to his speech and leave without asking if anyone else was in the car? What caused the wreck? How many beer cans were in the road?

What I'm taking away from these political rallies is that if I had the misfortune of becoming a TV politics personality - what my father would rightly call a contrafactual proposition - I would try to make my name by just turning off the mike of people who won't give a straight answer.

Q: Why did Obama wait to disavow that jackass preacher?

A: Well, the senator has never believed that the U.S. is to blame for 9/11. In fact, he's worked hand in hand with his colleagues across the aisle on tax relief for firefighters suffering from irony. In fact, his opponent once attended a church whose pastor was caught wearing a dress and lipstick during an S&M festival. Plus, he eats live baby chickens during his Sunday devil worship!

I'd get to about "Well, the senator has never believed" and flip the switch.

That'd be a damn sight easier than trying to talk over the spokeswanker. And you could have a lot of fun with a flashing, weasel-talk light and telling the beleagured guest "blink once if you're going to give me a straight answer and I'll turn your mike back on." That sort of thing.

Maybe that'd be the Straight Talk show?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bad-ass bulls, etc.

My mom, her boyfriend and I moseyed over to the fair a couple times Saturday, once in the afternoon to check out the exhibits and eyeball the rides, and again in the evening/night for the rodeo, which coincides with the fair each year.

The nighttime rodeos each day are the usual way for people to see the events, but people living on the cheap (night tickets are $10) could take in rodeo action during the day prior to the fair getting into full swing.

But then you wouldn't get the "advantage" of the harangue from the announcer, nor the genuinely entertaining antics of the rodeo clown. We're lucky to have a hyper, athletic and funny guy, JJ Harrison - a local dude who used to be a schoolteacher here - who pretty much horses around during the competition. Sometimes his timing is crap (i.e. capering around on one side of the arena while a competitor puts his butt on the line riding a feisty horse or a pissed-off bull. But he is hilarious.

Anyway, last night's highlight, for me, was one bull that after ditching its would-be rider, refused to be corralled and spent about 5 or 10 minutes killing time in the arena, feinting at the clown, walking around where it pleased, ignoring the cowboys who roped it and generally making a pest out of itself. A huge, scary, threatening pest.

I know, I know: Rodeos are a horrible scourge on animal welfare. But a) I'm pretty sure from having been to a bunch that's not true; and b) at least these critters aren't killed (bullfighting, cockfighting, dog fighting) and have a chance to win on their own (unlike horse racing, to pick an example at random).

I did wish a few times I was at a rodeo in a country where I don't speak the language, so that the announcer's nonstop commercials for trucks, trailers, home loans, bank accounts and anything else a sponsor had on offer would just be babble. But that's a pretty minor complaint, in the big picture.

On a side note: Although our city can be pretty segregated ethnically, the fair is not one of the places that happens, and neither is the rodeo.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Enzyte fiasco

Can you imagine being the judge - or worse, a defense lawyer - in the fraud trial for the Enzyte people? A far cry from Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, I am sure.

Anyway, the cat who runs Berkley Premium Nutraceuticals got 25 years in prison and assorted fines today for his role in the bilking of zillions of people who bought into the whole "natural male enhancement" thing.

So, boo-hoo for Dracula. Two amusing footnotes:
  • The judge also ordered the nutria cuticle people to fork over a half-billion dollars in ill-gotten gains. A half a billion dollars! Numbers like that are hard to make sensible. But you could certainly build a very nice library in every state with that kind of dough.
  • The judge said the company's top dog, the one who got the 25-year stretch, can't remain free on bond while he awaits the outcome of appeals.
I think most normal people would figure that if you get convicted on 93 counts of anything, let alone conspiracy, money laundering and three kinds of fraud, that you'd probably need to expect to spend some time in prison.

But this kind of ridiculous shit happens. People convicted of felonies are allowed to stay out on the street while their cases are "decided."

Hello... Isn't that what the trial was for? If someone has been determined by a jury to have done the crimes, he should handle the time. Do you seriously think someone who would rip off $500 million would be harmless on the outside?

I remember an arson case in Nashua that had this weird aspect, but all I could get out of people as to why a convicted arsonist was out walking the streets - for years! - was that he was a good guy and well known in the community. OK, sure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A closing thought or two on the Olympics

Highlight: Women's marathon.
Lowlight: Dropped batons all around in the 4x100 relays. I know, it's super hard! But that's what practice and teamwork are far. This is why - besides not being a fantastic sprinter - I liked the 4x400 better: No need for a blind baton pass. And enough with calling it "the stick" already.
Top rule change to ditch: No ties in gymnastics. They must be short on dough if they can't afford two gold medals when there's a tie.
Top rule change to make: Relay teams need to be pared down. I would prefer teams be limited to four members, with no alternates, for the whole competition. I could live with four plus an alternate, but why compromise?
Top TV highlight: Mary Carillo's acupuncture and kite-flying reports, followed by Bob Costas' interview of George Bush.
Wish they'd covered it: Men's 800 meter run. Seriously, it would only have taken a couple of minutes.

All in all, an entertaining couple of weeks.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A hard cut

Lupe Fiasco, best known to most people, probably, as the originator of a slick counterpunch to Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" also cut this track, which has a typically hard-core video made by a fan.

Here's the response to "Jesus Walks," in case you missed it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Music for the summertime, which it isn't in my town

I think I heard this in a commercial during the Olympics, but I can't recall for sure.

Speaking of, how about Insane Bolt? Damn! He made Michael Johnson look a little pokey, but I suppose he makes everyone look a little pokey.

I'm still voting for the women's marathon as my favorite event so far - Bolt and Phelps are awe-inspiring, but their races are so short I don't think you get the same impression of domination that the marathon had, especially being as the Romanian with the ever-changing name (Constantina Tomescu-dita or Tomescu-Dita or Dita-Tomescu, depending on who's talking) made her move on Ms. Domination, Catherine Ndereba, and the rest of the leaders with 10 miles - 10 miles! - to go. A great race.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The 9/11 treatment, but not for Michael P.

I see my colleagues around the country did the Sept. 11/Pope dies thing for Michael Phelps, who surely deserved a front-page presence, but maybe not quite the full 6 columns (or however many your paper has).

So what did Mr. Smug do today? Well, pretty much that, though I think this was a more suitable occasion, the deployment of our local National Guard unit to Iraq.
The day photographer, Matthew B. Zimmerman, shot these photos (and more that ran inside with a story by Andy Porter), and Web content editor Carlos Virgen reported and produced this story:

I'm pretty pleased with this, especially because the idea for the expanded coverage (i.e. more than photos) was cooked up by the Butterfly Lady and I during a rare coffee break downtown. She also filled in for Carlos on one of his daily tasks so he'd have time to rush out and shoot his story.

Oh, and all this was done on deadline (the sendoff was at 10 a.m.; deadline is just past noon.) This is why I like working at a small local paper: I can change the plan for the day at the drop of a hat without having to clear the decision with anyone, let alone three other editors.

Of course, this works because my boss, who gives me almost absolute control over the daily newsgathering, hires people who do really great work and can be counted on in the clutch.

A very good day indeed!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic fun

OK, Michael Phelps is obviously awesome, and a Tunisian won the 1,500, but although swimming is now my sport, my first true love is distance running, and for me, the highlight - the moment that made my hair stand on end - was Constantina Tomescu-Dita's marathon win.

When she made her move about halfway through the race, the announcers rightly expressed some doubts about how things would turn out, but she just kept it up and kept it up. And kept it up. Damn!

I was watching a documentary on ESPN about a mixed martial arts wanker who is suspected of being a big-time robber, and at one point, a coach-like guy said if the MMA dude was really the big-time robber, he had "brass ones."

Yeah, maybe, but Tomescu-Dita showed a lot more chutzpa than any of those slap-fest pissants. She was brilliant.

On a side note, I'm getting tired of NBC's fake-o pronouncements about how their coverage is "live." I'm sorry, if they're live, USA Today is the best prognosticator of results in history.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The early call

OK, this is - I hope - just for kicks.

I say Netflix is going to shit the bed. We got the form letter everybody on Earth received about how, oopsy-daisy, we're not shipping right now because "Our shipping system is unexpectedly down."

The e-mail didn't contain anything resembling a reason why, so my call is: Netflix has encountered the first in a series of unfortunate events that will unravel it like TCBY and all those other can't-miss operations whose former stores you pass on your way home, the ones whose dried skeletons hold the last breaths of their owners' dreams, the ghosts of hope that died parched deaths in the echo-less wastelands of weeds and concrete.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It is trippy to listen to a record online. Or maybe it's the way I perceive the experience that is indeed trippy...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Around town

Big Katy doesn't like the big heat of summer around here, but sometimes the weather is Newfy-approved. Or there are sprinklers to soothe the beast. Yuki, of course, is way too young to be out on major expeditions. Anyway here are some shots from a walk with the pooch and the butterfly lady to the college's organic garden, where we volunteer some time, and beyond, to Big K's favorite in-town haunt.

The entrance to the garden has a funky gate of reclaimed junkola. It is still up because meth addicts don't waste time with ferrous metal.
Big K lends a helping paw to a flower-seed collector, or at least puts on a helping face.
The water dog thinks Eastern Washington stinks, mostly, but not the parts that have sprinklers.

Here's a pretty pleased face midway through the party.
and taking a break after the festivities in another Newfy-approved area, the shade.
Lulu's right, they are our family :)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Concrete ideas

Assorted thoughts collected while pondering the number of weeds growing in the cracks on the street in front of my house:

Big environmental problems often have Silly, arcane, boring or ambiguous names. Noxious weeds - sure, I guess. Impervious surfaces - what? Aquifer recharge - zzzzz. Light pollution - you mean light bulbs or not heavy?

But they're all connected. Check this out:

Take your run-of-the-mill parking lot. What have you got? Room for 200 cars, a lot of asphalt, five or six islands with shrimpy trees, a bunch of light poles and a couple of drains.

Take your typical street. What have you got? Miles of asphalt (or sometimes concrete), trees along the edges if you're lucky and occasional drains.

Take your typical sidewalk. What have you got? I think you can see where I'm going with this.

View Larger Map
Now, I'm not saying let's just tear everything down and live in yurts, but any one of these three surfaces - parking lots, streets and sidewalks - can be built to allow the water that falls on them to go somewhere that isn't a storm drain. Retrofitting is another matter, but I have seen parking lots that have filtration systems under the asphalt to get all the phosphates and oil to land somewhere besides the nearest stream.

I know it could mean fewer places to park, but my feelings wouldn't be hurt if parking lots had more trees in them, by which I mean more trees tall enough to provide shade. And lights that are shielded so they don't spread the wealth to the sky.

With enough places reinvented to cut down on the amount of asphalt exposed to the sun, maybe we could also stop using the ground as a big passive solar heating system. I know my Newfoundlands are a lot happier when the night cool sets in, but that's always slower when you live in a place with lots of pavement.

So that's the lite version of my manifesto on pavement. I could, of course, go on and on, in much greater detail. Just buy me a glass of bourbon sometime if you'd like to hear the whole spiel.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Two b.s. sports "rules"

The brilliant sprinter Michael Johnson will have to give up a gold medal he won in the 4x400 relay in the 2000 Olympics because yet another of his teammates was using drugs at the time. Others on the team have since been found out for other transgressions, but the new revelation means actually no medal for that race.

Oddly enough, six runners are losing their gold medals for that race, reason being that two runners who were in the preliminaries were swapped out for the finals, and the Olympic dimwits have decided that if you helped out, you're a winner, too, even if you didn't actually, you know, win.

So, that's dumb shit rule No. 1. Second on my list is more obscure, but just as annoying to me.

Baseball includes 2.2 million stats, including several for fielders. You get credit for - among other things - putouts (you actually catch the ball or tag the runner to make an out), errors (which aren't even reliable, as whether it's a hit or an error is decided by the hometown scorer) and assists (you threw the ball to the guy who made the out).

Simple, right? Yeah, except what if you throw the ball to the guy who makes the out, but he drops the ball and the runner is safe? Well, you get an assist anyway, because... oh, yeah, because we're all winners.

But of course, there's big money in both these games, so maybe the explanation is pretty easy to find.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A funny/good cover of 9 Crimes

I tend to seize on songs and listen to them ad nauseum until I'm, um, sick of them, then lay off awhile, then put them back in rotation. I'm still in the can't-get-enough on Damien Rice's "9 Crimes," and because I also like covers a lot, I've been listening to a bunch of those. Most are not so hot, but this one is pretty damn good. The lady here also plays ukulele.

It is worth listening to the whole thing, you know, for the hidden tracks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh, fine. The other goals.

I usually make my New Year's resolutions around my birthday, which is around Burns Day. This year, I think the grand total was to become a really good baker.

Cook? Sure. Baker? Well, not so much. I make really good cookies and some pastries, but except pizza dough, all the bread I've made has been not great. Edible's a start, but really.

One big factor in this resolution is my desire to reinvent a delicious Japanese cracker/cookie found in Matsumoto. It's bigger than most sembei, a disc about three inches in diameter and maybe a quarter-inch thick, crusted with sugar and wasabi. Super tasty, but not readily available here in Walla Walla.

Anyway, my efforts have stalled, though I keep meaning to re-take up the cause. I did make candy for the first time this year, and I didn't even need a thermometer, so that was pretty cool. But as for actual baked goods, there's still room for improvement.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Derailed plans, etc.

I had intended, at the beginning of the year, to accomplish some things, but I can hardly remember the list, which should tell you something about my progress toward those important goals.

In a way, they're like my six "objectives" at work - great on paper in January but only vaguely related to the reality that unfolds over the next 11 months. On the plus side, the personal goals don't have a dollar figure attached.

Here's how the system at work works (trust me, the personal goals are pretty boring; you're not missing much):

Besides your ordinary work, you and your manager draw up a list of five goals to accomplish over the year. They have to be quantifiable and because they determine whether you get a bonus, and if so how much, each goal is assigned a value (like, say, 20 percent of your bonus).

At the end of the year, you write a report on how your goals went, and assign a percentage to each one as to how you think you did. Then your manager reads the report and decides what percentage to give you. Then your bonus is figured by looking at what percent you got of each goal.

The maximum possible bonus, regardless of how many new ways to make money you might invent, is 2.5 percent of your base pay, which to me seems like a strong disincentive to invent new ways to make money, at least at work.

I'm not supposed to say how much money I make because it is a big secret, but let's just say my maximum bonus is between $1,100 and $1,300. Aww yeah, journalism. And because our friend the IRS hangs on to more from my bonus than my salary - and because I opt for 401(k) withholding on the bonus, too - the take-home I see is in the neighborhood of $600 or $700.

So the high end of my take-home bonus is just in the neighborhood of a week of take-home pay. One fifty-second extra isn't much of an inspiration, unless you're talking one fifty-second of Britney Spears' take-home pay.

Hey, I love my job, and I don't particularly care about the bonus, but I do think there might be some reasons to revise the system. Maybe if what was at stake was an extra week of vacation...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Newfoundland or Goofenland?

I'm thinking the wonder twins could do well as a devil and an angel at Halloween. For now, big Katy certainly has angel wrapped up.
I was wearing this T-shirt the other day at a coffee shop and the lady behind me (it is on backwards on Katy) asked me, "Where's Kittery Trading Post?" That brought the grand total of people who've asked me about a Northeast T-shirt to two (the other was about my Kruczek's Garage and Towing shirt, which a hipster hoped I'd part with).

The T-shirt I really wanted from that town didn't exist - a funky Newmarket Mules shirt, mules being the mascot of the high school. Ah well, what can you do?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good separately, but better together

Alas, you could say that about a lot of people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wishing for fall

But not very hard: I'm all for hot, dry weather.

I am, however, thinking seriously about installing an underground sprinkler system and a small lawn for our back yard. The dogs would enjoy the grass, I think, and it would help to keep the HUGE supply of weeds at bay back there. Plus, it would give me a fun project that wouldn't cost very much (the sprinkler part, anyway - I don't know what turf runs these days, and the dogs make seeding impossible).

I would bemoan this move as a surrender to the all-American ideal of a green stretch of grass were it not for the quite small dimensions of this lawn-to-be. One thing you can say for our house: There's not a lot of room wasted on a big yard.

Anyway, that's what's occupying the non-work, non-puppy, non-cook, non-swimmer parts of my brain just now.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Ages ago, I thought I'd use this space to chronicle my conversion from long-distance runner (boy, talk about the distant past...) to swimmer.

That fabulous process started with a ligament strain (MCL, I think) sustained trying to recapture being a distance runner from being a guy who used to be a distance runner.

Swimming hasn't gone entirely swimmingly. I hit the pool in late summer 2005 and started having shoulder problems in January 2006 that haven't really gone away. But I also lost a lot of weight (21 pounds from then to now, as well as a few inches off the waistline). And I'm getting faster, finally, thank god.

And less injured, too, I think. The other week, I got a tip from a fellow pool person that, combined with an observation of a speedy swimmer girl, has taken damn near all the pain out of swimming. I suspect I'll still need the massage therapy and such for a while, but maybe the light is finally shining at the end of the tunnel. And the light isn't a fast-approaching train :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Speaking of b/w videos

This song kicks ass, too. Like you and everyone else in the civilized world, I've heard it 2.2 million times, and I've seen Predator 1.1 million times, but I didn't realize one of the characters in the movie was reciting some of the lyrics before his demise until seeing a related video...

The audience at this show is as classic as the tune.

An old favorite, with an upbeat twist

I wonder if Bobby Darin caught any flak for this funky version of "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore:"

I have always, always loved this song, and I dig this rendition, for sure, more than the way I learned it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How long's it take to make one of those things?

Psychgrad posed a question I'm often asked: How long does it take to weave a scarf?

I don't think she knows it, but that's a loaded question, so my usual answer is: Well, it depends.

Weavers tend to avoid giving the actual time they spend weaving, because a) weaving goes very quickly; and b) there's a lot more to making a scarf than the weaving, and if you look at the price (up to $165 for my scarves), it is easy for some people to say, "OK, 165 bucks an hour?"

Of course, those folks aren't likely to buy anything, anyway.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Figuring out the specific amount of time spent on any given scarf isn't feasible, but here's a rough sketch:

You have to put on a warp (I put on enough for about 12 scarves), and thread the loom (each piece of yarn goes through two metal pieces, and my scarf warps usually have about 175 threads). That's about four or five hours from start to finish.

You also have to conceive of the warp and choose the yarns, which takes who knows how long. I think about warps all the time, in the back of my mind, kind of like how I think about newspapers, writing and one or two other things I will leave to your imagination. To put a number on it, though, I'd say that after the inspiration strikes, designing a warp takes a few hours.

After I weave a scarf, I tie knots in the fringe - to make it pretty - about 5 or 10 minutes per scarf. I wash the scarves to get out the sizing and dust (hey, I live in Walla Walla, the land of blowing dust), then dry them, and sometimes spot iron them when they're dry-ish. Maybe that's another 10 or 20 minutes per scarf? Maybe more, hard to say.

The weaving itself depends on what kind of yarn I'm using and the pattern. I'd say for a 78-inch scarf, weaving times range from an hour or so to two hours for complicated work.

What's that work out to on average? Three hours? Four?

For the set looking to assess the dollars per hour, the ace in the hole is this: Besides the time I spend actually in production, there's that whole "artist" thing, plus the 31 years
of experience I have on the loom bench, plus the Internal Revenue Service, plus the yarn company...

But yeah, a few hours :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What I've been weaving lately

Here's a blue warp I'm working on (partly for my own fiendish plots, partly for someone else's), which will soon be seen in stores...

from one side:
from another:
and the makings of a turquoise capelet or twist (plus my knees):
The weft (the turquoise part) is this really lush rayon chenille made by Silk City Fibers. Oo-la-la!

Monday, July 14, 2008

World history? Not where I went to school

The Butterfly Lady and I were just watching this video and noting that neither of us had heard of this war until Warren Zevon (and in her case, Jane Goodall) told us about it...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Smells like home

The area where I grew up is now heavily in grapes and grass seed, but was (25 years ago) more of a patchwork of orchards (plums, prunes, apples, cherries, peaches, hazelnuts, you name it) along with grass seed, u-pick berries, peppermint (complete with distilleries) - the whole nine yards.

View Larger Map

The annual field burning, which is now severely out of fashion but may be making a comeback — according to an AP story I read today — bothered a lot of people, but I associate the smell of burning fields with the days of laid-back youth.

Burning fields probably isn't the best plan, especially because they're being burned so a bunch of people with no business having a huge green lawn can have a huge green lawn. But I like the smell anyway.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Distributed work force

I am not among those lucky enough to have a work-from-home gig, though the 10-minute walk to work sure isn't too much off. Except for the having-to-wear-clothes part, I suppose.

I'm not sure about other papers, but ours is certainly at the point where we really don't need to have a newsroom per se. I am pretty sure all we'd need is a reliable way to connect to the servers at work and probably one person to act as a newsroom representative to the public, which thankfully continues to visit us in person on a fairly regular basis.

As for other departments? Well, this is probably oversimplified, but we've got:
  • A business office - internal and B2B bills.
  • A circulation department - sets up subscriptions, takes complaints, plans single-copy sales, etc.
  • An advertising department - ad sales people do nearly all their work out of the office.
  • An advertising composition section - they digitally compose the ads and produce certain publications not handled by the newsroom.
  • The press and mailroom - The latter being where all those fliers get inserted into your paper, as well as the distribution point for the finished product.
I'm probably missing something obvious.

It seems to me we could pare down to having department managers on site, if they felt that was necessary, plus one or two reps from each department except for the press and mailroom, the only parts of the factory that actually do stuff with tangible materials.

I suppose if there's ever a need to replace the building, we'd go to some sort of pared-down storefront and off-site printing and call it good, but I'm guessing the motivation to do that is low. Taxes are cheap here (about $16,000 last year for property tax, anyway), I'm pretty sure we own the building, etc.

But it wouldn't hurt my feelings if going to work consisted of turning on my computer at home and maybe meeting up with my staff occasionally for coffee :)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My dear old friend

I was going to write a huge list of memories of our little dog, Max, who died peacefully today after a long and fruitful life, and I'm sorry to say, a sadly painful past few months. The list will have to wait; it is too hard to write right now.

Anyway, it got to be impossible to square the profoundly arthritic and out-of-it little guy with the vibrant hunter of rabbits and grasshoppers and nefarious food thief he'd been for so many years.

He wasn't always a well-behaved dog, but he was a very good dog.

I only wish I also had photographic evidence from one of the *two* Christmases he helped himself to the Swedish meatballs while standing on the dinner table. ... Or the induced vomiting after the pig-out on chocolates; or video from the two (or was it three?) days of amped-up Max after he broke into the bag of coffee beans; or the hopping behind me in my snowshoe tracks when he was tired out after a run along the Lamprey River in winter, or...

How soon we must sever

Today's the last day for one of my best friends, so here's a song for him.

The Factor has lost its marble

Bill O'Reilly, who can usually be relied on to at least be a smart dude, said something singularly bizarre on Tuesday's Factor, which he kindly also made his quote of the day:
"Any retreat on Iraq by Obama ... will anger the far left, which is already going nuts. ... Senator Obama now finds himself in very a tough spot. But I know one thing: he can't go against General Petraeus and hope to be elected president."
Setting aside the grammatical errors, this is totally fucking bizarre coming from someone who has reasonably solid credentials as a conservative.

When did David Petraeus become an important political actor? Did he? If he did, why isn't O'Reilly suggesting we start caching weapons and training the militias? Anyway, I thought maybe I'd heard wrong, but this isn't some anomalous fuckup. Fuckup, yes. Anomalous, no. Here's a tidbit from O'Reilly's recap of the show:
"General Petraeus, who is emerging as a national hero, will likely tell the senator that any U.S. pullout has to be okayed by the military."
Oh, really? I thought the military reported to the president, you know, to the commander in chief. Isn't that how our republic is supposed to work?


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Defending the cash economy

As I have noted previously, the IRS's taxpayer advocate, Nina E. Olson - who is supposed to be looking out for the likes of you and me - has identified the cash economy as the No. 3 biggest problem facing the American taxpayer. Not the government, mind you, but Mary and Joe Taxpayer.

Olson and her service claim the cash economy results in $100 billion a year going untaxed, and guesstimates that this underpayment, plus other nefarious activity, means Joe and Mary pay an extra $2,680 a year to "pick up the tab," in Olson's hip words, for folks who forgot to log those cash transactions.

Olson's office has to issue an annual report on the top problems facing taxpayers, and at the same time, Visa continues its absurd advertising assault on cash. I'm not saying they're colluding, of course, but the twin powers certainly have activated around the same time, around the same issue.

Anyway, the voices of reason have started to make themselves heard, as USA Today reports today. Gas stations, which have since I can remember offered discounts for cash payment, are maybe doing so at a greater rate than "before," to encourage people to help them overcome the higher credit card fees they are dealing with (because of rising gas prices).

I prefer to deal in cash when possible, but that's not always workable. Nevertheless, I still make sure it's Franklins hitting the counter when I buy from local folks, and I'll let the chips fall where they should...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Never a dull moment

Our children, plus weaving, plus swimming, plus our children (esp. child No. 3) have kept me out of blogland, as well as sleep, for a spell. Here are some family photos...

Katy keeps an eye on Yuki, who's thinking she'll go after Max's tail. Max, alas, is near the end of the line. He's a dear old guy, my pal on a lot of adventures.
Yuki is a mudhound, and she loves hanging out in the plants (and chewing them up, too).
Here's how Katy asks for a treat. Treats are in the cabinet to her left.
Here's how Katy emphasizes her desire for a treat:
Another silly face:
Yuki is more into tanking up on water than treats, for now anyway.
She'll even hang around the watering hole when the water is being refilled.
They have differing attitudes about fireworks. Here's the scene Sunday night (night three of the barrage):
What's a bathtub full of Newfy look like?
So, that's what I've been up to...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New puppy = lazy Saturday

But not too lazy. Our new Newfoundland pupy, Yuki - or whatever we wind up calling her instead - passed the night more restfully than I expected... which means I got up with her at 2:30 to go out, come back in, go back out (after whizzing on the floor a couple of times), hang around outside (for some appropriately placed whiz), come back in, play, play, play and conk out at 3:30. But she did sleep the rest of the night, so that's pretty good, really.

She did need to have someone sleep down on the floor next to her crate so she could get over the scariness factor. She raised a hue and cry until I came down, opened the door and cuddled her for a while. Naturally, she got too darn hot and schlumped into her box to rearrange the towel and curl up for both of her long stretches of sleep. Yeah, big scary crate.

But we received her non-housebroken and non-crate trained, so you have to start somewhere.

Today, we went downtown (in the auto, not on foot), and she got some visiting time in at the bank, where they plied her with treats, as well as at work, where we dropped in for a spell. Pretty big day for puppy, who's now completely conked out on the kitchen floor. Still, she didn't walk far at all, but with large-breed puppies, you have to go easy for a *long* time (the rule of thumb is as many minutes walking each day as the puppy is weeks old - not even around the block here, unless you carry her). She's ridiculously cute.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hit-and-run activism

When I was in college, my friends, enemies and associates and I were often called on to take part in daylong "hunger strikes," overnight stints as homeless people, the list goes predictably on.

I see that a fellow journalist, Jill Silva, took the so-called food stamp challenge, to live for a week on the amount of food the stamps will buy you. In her case, her family of four had $129.50 to spend. Her coverage is worth a read, but begs a few questions from this editor.

What do you really learn by spending just one week in deprivation? More importantly, do food stamp recipients use only food stamps to buy food? If not, how much of their dough do they fold into their weekly allotment? What'll that buy you?

To really get the picture, it would be more appropriate to take the challenge for a month. That'd give despair a better chance to set in. The most interesting part of the talented Ms. Silva's piece is three of her four observations about the emotional and physical effect of doing the challenge:

The challenge felt like a diet. I spent nearly every moment I was not at work thinking about or preparing food.
It was exhausting to shop three times in one week to get the best deals.
I feared I would run out of food.

But it was still a worthy story, even if it was a little too close for my taste to the Global Awareness House holding a Go Hungry for Ghana night.

The most insightful aspect of the coverage, though, was this, the only comment left by someone who read her stories: " You are lucky to have a vehicle to get to the store."