December 31, 2004

New Year's Open House

Back when the world was younger (late 1970s to mid-1980s) we used to throw an Open House party on New Year's Day. We'd turn on all three television sets for bowl games (there were only four held on January 1 back then - Cotton, Rose, Sugar and Orange), make five pans of Quiche Lorraine (from scratch), devein uncounted numbers of shrimp (served on ice in giant clamshells), make two crockpots full of chili, maybe buy a tray or two of cold cut and veggie platters (the only thing we didn't make ourselves), and wait for the crowds to pour in. We often got 100 or so people showing up throughout the day, from Dad's office, Mom's office, my office, and the neighborhood. It was a fun day, but after Mom and Dad retired we gave up the practice. On the upside, my knuckles are no longer scarred from all that Swiss cheese-grating for the quiche, but on the downside I've lost my homemade chili recipe.

Oh, and according to the paper, there are six bowl games on January 1 this year. Who'd have time to cook?

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:57 AM | Comments (3)

Tsunami relief button

I just added a button over there on the left sidebar. Clicking it takes you to the American Red Cross's secure donation page. If you want to contribute to tsunami relief, select the International Response Fund from the drop-down menu displayed on the screen once you get there. Please give if you can; it's a lousy time of year to come up with spare cash, I know, but this is gonna take billions.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2004


The Andaman Islands were hit by the tsunami. The name sounded familiar to me, but I couldn't remember where I'd seen it. Then late this afternoon I remembered: it was a locale mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes novel A Sign of Four.

They apparently are just as remote as they were when Conan Doyle wrote about them a hundred years ago.

The only way to get there is on foot, and so the Indian civil service has sent its man walking across the island. All over the Andaman and Nicobar islands there are similar stories. Another rescue team was circling the remote Sentinel island on a boat, trying to make out whether there are survivors who need help. The boat cannot land, because the aboriginals who live on Sentinel refuse to allow any outsider on their island, and have killed Indian government officials who ventured there before. So the government team was straining their eyes from a safe distance, and shouting across to the island across the waves.


The one thing that is clear is the devastating effect of the tsunami here. One island, Trinkat, has effectively been broken in two. Low lying ground in the middle of the island is now completely submerged. Survivors who have emerged from Car Nicobar spoke of entire villages wiped out of existence, leaving not a trace behind when the waters receded.

The island was so close to the epicentre of the earthquake that there was no delay between the quake and the tsunami, such as survivors described in Sri Lanka or the south Indian mainland. The wave arrived almost immediately after the ground stopped shaking.

It's hard to believe the global village still has such places, isn't it?

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:27 PM | Comments (0)

Guess he doesn't do empathy, either

From one of the initial news items about President Bush's response to the tsunamis:

Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling.

This is the man who claims to be a "compassionate conservative?" I'm embarrassed. I'm also dismayed, appalled, and disgusted. Would it have hurt the man to come out and stand in front of cameras and say how dreadful the death of thousands of people is?

May he fall off his bicycle while carrying his stupid brush-clearing chain saw.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

December 29, 2004

Tsunami relief links (updated)

Amazon has set up a 1-click donation system to the American Red Cross for its relief activities. In addition, Command Post has been updating its relief links.

Update: The Crazy Neighbor Lady at The Purple Porch has a match going for donations to Mercy Corps. All major credit cards accepted. Chip in if you can.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

December 28, 2004

My inner gourmand surfaces

Get out the shoyu and wasabi! The sashimi (raw fish) catch looks good!

"I would say (tuna) prices are going to be lower than usual if you took an average of the holiday prices for the past few years," Fram said.

The Garden and Valley Isle shop has sashimi-grade 'ahi at a little over $15 a pound. "Normally, at New Year's that grade would be $18.95 but I don't think it's going to go up much," Fram said.

At the auction, Takenaka said, most of the fish sold for between $5 and $7 a pound, with smaller fish as low as $2 a pound. You can expect to pay twice or three times that at retail, depending on the seller and the quality of the fish.

I know, I know. "Raw fish? Eww!" Hey, oysters are a delicacy, aren't they? Believe me, there's nothing quite like the taste of fresh 'ahi (tuna) dipped in a nice mixture of soy sauce and wasabi (that's Japanese horseradish). Yum!

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:35 AM | Comments (3)

December 27, 2004

Tsunami news links

World Changing has first person accounts and links to aid sites. Tsunami Help is a blog aimed at providing relief news and links. Command Post is aggregating stories as fast as it can. Wikipedia, moving more quickly than I thought possible, has facts and figures on the size and scope of this thing.

We're fairly sensitive to tsunamis out here; Hilo has been hit with two major ones in the past 60 years, and I lived through a major warning (which turned out to be a false alarm) about fifteen years ago myself. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is located a few miles west of me; if there were such a thing in the Indian Ocean, many lives might have been saved. Unfortunately, there's been no perceived need for it there.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

Law of unintended consequences

When fashion, charity and medicine collide: the bracelets people wear to show their support for causes are or can be confused with the bracelets hospitals use to designate particular patients. For example, at one hospital the "Do Not Resuscitate" bracelet is almost exactly the same color as the one The Lance Armstrong Foundation uses to raise money for cancer patients.


Posted by Linkmeister at 10:44 AM | Comments (5)

December 26, 2004

Heads won

Dylan's book won the coin toss, but it was a quick read. As you might expect, the man doesn't tell his life story, nor does he even write the thing chronologically. And there's no doubt it's only Volume I.

What he does do is talk about songwriting, about some of the people he met along the way (no gossip to speak of), and about his thoughts as he hit New York as a young man. He says he thought about folk music almost existentially; he had to write and sing it. It's interesting; for a man who wrote so many anthemic songs, he has a helluva time explaining just what he's after when he's in a studio recording. I almost get the impression he's still surprised at his success, and it's more than an impression that he absolutely hates fame. The only really eloquent passages are those when he's describing how it became impossible for him even to be an ordinary parent in Woodstock, what with the loonies gawking and even trying to invade his house. He succeeds in making you feel pretty sorry for him.

I dunno. I can't fully recommend it, but neither can I pan it completely. I'd say get it at the library.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:15 PM | Comments (4)

December 25, 2004

Which to start?

It's nearly a given that I get a Christmas book or two each year, and 2004 was no exception. Now I'm faced with the delightful problem of deciding which to start first: Chronicles, Vol. I by Dylan, or America, (The Book), Jon Stewart's "A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction."

This calls for a coin flip.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:54 PM | Comments (4)

December 24, 2004

Yes, Virginia

Note: This entry was originally published December 24, 2003.


From the Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.

Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" was an immediate sensation, and became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

"It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,' and that settled the matter.

" 'Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,' I said to father.

"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.' "

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents' favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant." When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl's letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master's from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

(Thanks to Barricks Insurance for the text.)

A footnote: The original letter Ms. O'Hanlon wrote appeared on The Antique Road Show a while back; I got the picture there. It was appraised at between $20,000 - $30,000.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:22 AM | Comments (9)

December 23, 2004

Don't fly with pointy objects!

The local news people periodically do a story about the banned items that are confiscated by the TSA at our airport. Yesterday's told me there were something on the order of 50-60 scissors, 30-40 box cutters and a couple of hundred other tools of various sorts taken away within the past week. It occurred to me to wonder just how much of that stuff was on board back when I was flying to LA and back every other week?

Why do people need to have these things in their carry-on baggage or on their persons?

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:41 AM | Comments (4)

December 22, 2004

Christmas brain food

Test your style-recognition skills when your feet get tired of the malls. Dip in and out of this game over at the estimable Teresa Nielsen Hayden's shop. The idea, as I understand it, is to write a short-form pastiche, combining two books or short stories. Then hope someone recognizes the two. The talent on display is amazing, but more than that, the imaginations run riot. It's a hoot.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

Making a list, checking it twice

Kids! My 17-year-old niece came over tonight to drop off some gifts she purchased at her grandmother's behest and suddenly (on December 21st, mind you!) we have a list of things for her and her sister that we hadn't even come close to thinking of. Good thing, too, or they might both have ended up with cubic zirconia or worse.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2004

Hardly enlightening

Grrh. I just discovered the flash unit for my Canon A-1 SLR has died. Trying to find a replacement between now and Saturday ought to be a real treat. Methinks I should go get a disposable camera; it's either that or move the tree and open the presents outdoors.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Christmas decorations

While wrapping we came across a large piece of cardboard, the kind you used to get when you bought a new men's shirt. It reminded me of an old Christmas decoration we haven't made for years. We used to find an unframed mirror, put it on a similar piece of cardboard, and glue cotton balls to the cardboard around the perimeter of the mirror. This was supposed to represent a snow-banked pond, I think. (Hey, I was a kid!)

Other things we used to do: leave cookies and milk out for Santa and place a flour-covered piece of wax paper out for Santa's boot to step on (this was counted as evidence of his existence in pre-CSI days). After we got cats we may have stopped the milk glass trick.

This doesn't include the "family" tree we still put up, which has some ornaments dating back 75 years. Nor does it include the crêche we still display, complete with straw and wooden nativity figures. That was hand-built by my father circa 1956.

Anybody else keep the old stuff?

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:11 PM | Comments (4)

December 19, 2004

Christmas songs

What's your favorite Christmas song? Not the least objectionable, mind you, but the one you can hear two or three times a day (hopefully by different artists) without throwing things? I'd have to go with Silver Bells. I just like the images it evokes: a stroll down a busy street with snow falling on your shoulders, the aroma of coffee coming from a suddenly-opened door just in front of you, people all around in a happy hurry, excitement everywhere. I like the traditional version with someone like Rosemary Clooney singing; no synthesizers for this one, please.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:49 PM | Comments (9)

Get me rewrite!

Oh dear me. I know what they meant, but don't they read their copy?

Headline on press release: VA Cemeteries Score Highest in Satisfaction Survey

Er, who got surveyed? The, um, occupants?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2004

Your marriage is kaput!

The Talking Dog is a bit upset, and he has reason to be. Seems that the Social Security Administration is refusing to accept marriage certificates from New Paltz, NY as proof of wedded bliss. You remember that New Paltz was the upstate NY town which permitted gay marriages to take place there last summer.

It just so happens that Mrs. TD and I were married some thirteen years ago... in... New Paltz... New York...

We're filing for our tax refunds immediately... We'll try to break the news to the Loquacious Pup gently...

After having lived through 9-11-01 from a block away, and its aftermath from a mile downwind, having my nation join the ranks of international pariah states, and now having my marriage unceremoniously annulled, I'm sure you all understand why I am simply not amused by the clowns in charge of our government since 21 January 2001.

Indeed, I am angry. VERY angry. Very angry, indeed.

If you go back to the linked story in his post, you learn that the SSA has done the same thing to San Francisco since its spate of gay marriages last year. Since this policy has an impact on straight marriages as well, this seems a little overwrought, even for the unenlightened idiots in the Bush Administration.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

December 17, 2004

Sports gifts

From the web surfers at Sports Illustrated come several gift suggestions:

Like steak? Want to put your team's mark on it? Try Fan Brands, which offers you a barbecue branding iron for selected NASCAR and collegiate teams.

Not meaty enough? Try this collection of sports cliches, handily collected in a new book. Sample: Nah, never mind, you can probably recite a number of them yourself, like "we're taking them one game at a time."

Then there's pro sports logo gear, found at Football Fanatics, which despite its name stocks all manner of funky stuff from baseball, hockey, and NASCAR as well. You can find musical bottle openers, faux-Tiffany glass lamps, logoed mugs, and all that other stuff you last saw in your college bookstore a zillion years ago.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:27 AM | Comments (2)

December 16, 2004

Save that, it's got cultural value

It's always nice to find a story that combines two of my major interests, music and conservation. Michael Feinstein has a vibrant onstage career as a pianist/vocalist, but he's also an avid musicologist. He's trying very hard to find and save artifacts like scores and sheet music from the dustbins.

Feinstein has uncovered a treasure trove during 30 years of collecting, including more than 30,000 recordings, plus posters, photos, sheet music and 16-inch lacquer radio discs from the 1930s. Stacks of boxes hold composer Henry Mancini's record collection and orchestrations by entertainer Peter Allen. He has hours of rare, taped radio performances by Bing Crosby.

These items fill the walls, halls, bookshelves, basement and garage of his three-story gated home in the Los Feliz hills. Feinstein delights in showing off the collection: "Look at this — this is genius," he tells a visitor with barely concealed excitement, thumbing through a faded, autographed copy of the score for Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

I have only one of his CDs, but I'm tempted to buy more if it supports this kind of work. It's important.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

Sticker shock

I was walking through several different department stores this afternoon, thinking maybe a nice top/sweater/tank outfit for my sister would be a good Christmas gift. I concluded that I needed to come home to consult about sizes, but not before I saw the prices of some of those goods. Being single, I never buy women's clothing, and I haven't gone clothes shopping with a woman in about fifteen years, so excuse my ignorance, but holy cow! $70 for a thin sweater which looked as though it might unravel after the second wearing? $45 for a tank top weighing about 2 oz.?

I'm not cheap (well, maybe I am), but how do you ladies clothe yourselves? I can buy a pair of slacks and know I'll wear them for five years. I still wear the occasional 20-year-old Aloha shirt, and I've had some pairs of shoes for about ten years. What I'm sayin' is, style is roughly the same for men; how do y'all keep up (stylistically and financially)?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (5)

December 15, 2004

Surf's UP!

There's some really high surf today. The forecast was for 35-50 feet waves overnight at the North Shore (Makaha, Pipeline, Sunset). Here are some nice shots from yesterday's tournament events. The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational is ON!. That tournament has only had waves big enough to be held six times in 19 years; it's a huge draw for the world's elite surfers.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2004

The antidote to Christmas Muzak

If you heard Fresh Air today, you heard John Waters talking to Terry Gross about his new Christmas CD, cleverly titled A John Waters Christmas. The interview is funny, but the music...oh my word. Titles include: "Fat Daddy" and "Here Comes Fatty Claus." This is the definitive collection of non-traditional Christmas music of questionable taste.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:44 PM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2004

Dylan and Pitt?

I just hit the sublime and the ridiculous in one trip to Borders. For my birthday one of my nieces gave me a $20 gift certificate to that fine music and book purveyor, and today I needed to go to Lowe's to look for a specific treetop ornament (see previous post) that was on sale. Since the two stores are, odd as it may seem, across the parking lot from one another, I took along the gift cert. Since I was buying solely for myself, I filled a hole in my Dylan collection, buying a copy of Highway 61 Revisited ($11.99). Then I had to find something which would eat up the balance of the certificate, and I found the latest Clive Cussler paperback for $7.99. Not bad: out $0.81 for a lifetime of listening pleasure and two hours of beach book.

On the downside, the treetop ornament was sold out by the time I got there.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2004

Ho Ho Ho

Mutter, mutter...lost box of ornament hangers...grumble, grumble...empty series light sockets...snarl...treetop ornament too small...exterior outlets not working...grumble, grouse, whine...

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:39 PM | Comments (3)

December 11, 2004

High school memories

It's the dead of winter (ok, not till December 21, but what the heck), so what better time to remember the senior class trip?

My high school in Northern Virginia was brand new when I entered as a freshman, so our senior class was the first which had spent all four years there. We were the first class which was allowed to take an overnight class trip, and we were very excited about it. Out of a class of 250 or so, I'd guess 120-150 actually went. In late May or early June of 1968 we piled into buses (no air travel for us!) and drove to Sodom and Gomorrah New York City. I still don't see quite how we managed all this in one evening, but we had dinner (pretty bad, but then I wasn't then and am not now all that much of an Italian food fan) at Mama Leone's before we headed off to see There's a Girl in My Soup. (Note: the play apparently closed two months later, and Mama Leone's is long gone too; I maintain that was not our fault!) That was the memorable part of the trip; we bused to Atlantic City (this was the pre-gambling era there) and stayed overnight in a hotel with a pool on the roof, then drove back to metropolitan DC the following morning.

In retrospect, I think the school administrators and our parents deserve admiration; I don't think we had more than two or three teacher/chaperones along, and the most serious trouble we got into was staying up too late carousing in that pool.

Who's got a class trip to remember?

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:32 AM | Comments (4)

December 10, 2004

Cheap drugs!

You may have heard that Consumer Reports has jumped into the prescription drug ratings business: here's the website. Its goal is to "compare a variety of prescription drugs on price, effectiveness and safety to help consumers and their doctors identify the most effective and affordable medicines." The first three reports cover cholesterol-lowering statins (Lipitor), heartburn/acid reflux medications (Prilosec), and arthritis/pain pills like ibuprofen. It should be emphasized that the primary criterion on which CR bases its selection is price, and that's not the sole factor anyone should use in deciding something which will have an impact on one's health. Consult your doctor or pharmacist!

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:10 PM | Comments (1)

December 09, 2004

What hath Bush wrought?

This turned up in my daily e-mail newsletter crop this morning: Military Medical Care, an article from the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 10 percent of those injured have died. At least as many U.S. soldiers have been injured in combat in this war as in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, or the first five years of the Vietnam conflict, from 1961 through 1965 (see table). This can no longer be described as a small or contained conflict. But a far larger proportion of soldiers are surviving their injuries.

As you might expect from the NEJM, the article is replete with tables and photos, all of which are duly sourced. The kicker is that it's accompanied by a photo essay of injured soldiers undergoing various forms of treatment. I suppose a doctor would find these academically interesting; to a layman, the pictures are heart-wrenching. This should be required viewing for all Americans, but particularly those gung ho Congresspeople and their supporters.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:12 AM | Comments (8)

December 08, 2004

Personal Computer news

Here's a useful tool (Caution: before blindly following its instructions, think about possible consequences!): a database of programs which run in background on Windows machines. I found it after I got a notice on startup this morning that something called Motive SmartBridge wanted to automatically update itself. I did a Google Search on the program name, and this was in the results. The database gives you a brief description of what the program is/does and makes a recommendation as to whether it's required or unnecessary. It claims to be pretty comprehensive, but of course it can't be 100%.

In other PC news, IBM has sold its personal computer business. The first three PCs I bought were IBMs; they cost ~$5K apiece, and that only included DOS 2.1. We had to spend an additional $500 or so for Lotus 1-2-3 and Multi-Mate (the latter a Wang-like word processor). My, how times have changed.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:54 PM | Comments (3)

December 07, 2004

Paper or plastic? I'm an old foof.

News Item:

A total of 44.5 billion electronic payment transactions crossed the wires in 2003, compared with 36.7 billion check payments. Those numbers marked a turnabout from 2000, when Americans wrote 41.9 billion checks, and electronic payments clocked in at 30.6 billion, the Fed said.

Once again I'm swimming against the tide. I may own a debit card, but I've never used it in my life. I've made a few bill payments through my bank's automated service, and I have a few things automatically deducted from my bank account, but I still write 6-10 checks a month. I don't even have a particularly good reason; it's probably just inertia that keeps me writing them.

Which side of the trend are you on?

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:55 AM | Comments (11)

December 06, 2004

Health care inflation? What inflation?

Those of you who are self-employed and paying for your own health insurance may recognize this problem. In June of 1998 I was paying $151.42 per month for Kaiser coverage. Saturday I got a notice that my premium is going up to $289.66 per month. That's nearly a 100% increase in 6 1/2 years, and a jump of $44 from the amount I paid on Thursday for December's premium.

Lest you think this is blue-chip coverage, I have a $15 co-pay for prescription drugs and a 50% co-pay for all lab and exam fees.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:26 PM | Comments (10)

December 05, 2004

Sunday's musical interlude

I've never been exposed to much klezmer music, and Chanukah isn't a holiday in our house, but I sure like this. What is it? It's a wonderful story told well by Ellen Kushner, host of WGBH's radio show Sound and Spirit, featuring the Nutcracker music of Tchaikovsky adapted by Shirim Klezmer Orchestra. I heard it this morning, and I laughed for nearly the entire hour. The story:

Sara is a little girl with a problem: She hates the annual family Chanukah party! But when a mysterious party guest gives her the gift of a golden dreydl, Sara is catapulted into a magical world of demons and fools, sorcerers and sages.

It's produced by Rykodisc, and you can buy directly from the catalog. If you'd like to listen first, here's the Amazon link. All tracks are playable there, and of course you can buy from Amazon too.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:48 PM | Comments (4)

December 04, 2004


Looking for Christmas gifts in the Science section? Here's a start: Science Friday's suggestions.

If science doesn't fit, here's the NYT's 100 Notable Books of 2004. The nice thing about this one is that each book's title links to the Times' review of the book.

Despite appearances, I get no commission from any bookstores. You see any Amazon links on this page? ;)

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:07 PM | Comments (2)

December 03, 2004

Fix your cabinet, sir?

If the usual rule of two-term Presidents holds true, the second-term Cabinet appointees will be second-tier as well. With the departure of Tommy Thompson from HHS, heaven help us. I'm willing to say he was well-meaning. I can't wait to see which Big Pharma lobbyist takes his place. Couple this with Condi Rice's appointment at State and Kerik at Homeland Security, and then imagine that Gale Norton might step down at Interior. Her replacement would no doubt be a CEO from the mining or lumber industry.

The one characteristic all these replacements do have, it seems, is absolutely fealty to George W. Bush. I just finished reading Edmund Morris's Theodore Rex; he was another President who valued loyalty above almost anything else. On the other hand, Roosevelt did manage to acquire the Panama Canal; Bush's legacy will be a trillion-dollar deficit, near-universal hatred for the United States, and a thoroughly trashed military.

Update: Rumsfeld stays. Great. The only thing better would be for Wolfowitz and Feith to stick around, too.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

Fifth column

I wouldn't begrudge college students internships in government, but if you look at this list and then understand that all those kids are from Patrick Henry College, you might be a little concerned. The College, see, states its mission in part as:

to prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding. Educating students according to a classical liberal arts curriculum, and training them with apprenticeship methodology, the College provides academically excellent baccalaureate level higher education with a biblical world view.

I'm not sure I want people with a biblical world view running my government, thank you. I can see it now: in 2025 one of them will be the Secretary of the Interior and decide that breaching Hoover Dam to recreate The Great Flood would be a great idea.

All things considered, I think I prefer the Monica Lewinsky variety of intern, if it's all the same to y'all.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

December 02, 2004

Wondrous stuff

Remember the Seven Wonders of the World? They were all selected by a Byzantine in 200 B.C. There's now a campaign to select seven new wonders of the world, and it's online for all to choose.

Of less consequence, but a wonder nonetheless: I just had a manual window regulator replaced in the car, and the part cost twice as much as the labor. When's the last time you saw that?

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:05 PM | Comments (1)

Holiday Specials You Won't See Again

Ladies and Gents, I give you: The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time.

Featuring Dorothy Parker, Orson Welles, Ayn Rand, Mr.Spock and Captain Kirk, Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Village People, Noam Chomsky, and Ted Nugent.

If those names don't cause you to go look, I give up.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

December 01, 2004

Lest we forget

Support World AIDS Day
Posted by Linkmeister at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

Cowardly Lions

Picture this (you'll have to, since CBS and NBC won't show it to you). You're the United Church of Christ and you have a congregation of 1.3M members. You decide you'd like to start an ad campaign to tell Americans about yourself. So you create a 30-second spot which you then try to sell to the aforementioned networks, but because the ad depicts a couple of beefy bouncers telling gay folks they can't come into the church, the networks decline, saying it's too controversial.

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

This is the state of the American media. It would rather not offend the Executive Branch of the US Government by showing an ad produced by a third party. Not a promo for one of its own programs (gee, what was that Desperate Housewives Monday Night Football flap about?), but an ad which is about as innocuous as you can imagine. After showing the two bouncers blocking the path, the screen goes black, and then the following words appear: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

And the media wonders why people don't think much of it.

(Link swiped from rrbrinker's diary at Daily Kos).

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)