October 31, 2005

Halloween Blues

Got the Snickers, got the Three Musketeers, got the 40-year-old cardboard witch and skeleton, got the plastic pumpkin light...

If this year's like the past five or six, we'll have a dozen kids show up, and 1/3 of them will be 16-18 years old.

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October 30, 2005

A vote I don't have

The Curmudgeon casts his votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Here's mine: Doctor Frank Jobe. Who, you say? The guy who invented "Tommy John" surgery, thus giving new hope to countless pitchers and even some position players who previously would have had to retire with arm injuries.

What's the injury? The ulnar collateral ligament either stretches or snaps, reducing the arm's ability to throw overhand. Where's that ligament? Within the elbow joint. (The ulnar nerve is what's jarred when you bash your "funny bone".)

What's actually done? The palmaris longus tendon is removed from the patient's forearm; after the damaged ligament has been removed, the tendon is inserted through holes drilled into the elbow bone. Over time, for reasons no one yet understands, the tendon begins to act as a ligament.

Without that surgery, a whole lot of athletes, both professional and amateur, would never have been able to continue to compete in their sport. Thus my vote for induction into the Pioneer or Executive wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame (not that I have one) goes to Dr. Frank Jobe.

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October 29, 2005

"A Long Hard Road"

Teresa Nielsen Hayden suggests no one waste too much sympathy on Scooter Libby:

. . .the VRWC deliberately saw to it that many of Clinton's loyalists left government service with their personal finances in shambles. No White House in history has ever been so mercilessly prosecuted, nor so thoroughly exonerated, as the Clinton administration. It'll take a long hard road and years of misery before I'll feel sorry for the likes of Scooter Libby.


There are prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and, Lord God Almighty, in the United States itself, who are never going to get a hundredth part of the fairness, conscientiousness, and scrupulous regard for the sanctity of the law, that Scooter Libby will be able to take for granted as he conducts his defense. What we do know is that a significant fraction of those prisoners were scooped up semi-randomly. They've gotten no mercy. And all along, Libby's been up to his ears in the counsels and actions of the administration that deprived those prisoners of freedom, justice, and in some cases their lives.

There's more at the link; it's the best example of a refusal to accept the false equivalence of the Clinton "scandals" I've seen in years. She also suggests reading what Paul Begala has to say on the subject.

Yep. Shed no tears for Scooter.

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October 28, 2005

Not a lump of coal

Ok, everybody. Take a deep breath and recognize that, while Rove has not yet been indicted, nor may he ever be, the guy who has been is the chief of staff to the man who holds the second most powerful office in this country. That's a big damned deal, and it's a clear sign that a grand jury of our fellow citizens felt there had been an abuse of power by the Vice President's office.

What I'm sayin' is, Libby may not be Rove, but his position ain't chopped liver, either.

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October 27, 2005

Who'd a thunk it?


The Chicago Sun-Times is delirious.

Despite the sweep, all four games gave us taut, nail-biting baseball. Congrats to the Sox and their long-suffering fans, and I hope the Astros get back soon.

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October 26, 2005

Where are you guys?

Where in the world are Linkmeister's readers?

First seen at Pharyngula's and Solly's places.

Update: Some of you are not playing the game. Add a pin to the map denoting your location!

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What's an RBI?

The Astros left 15 men on base, including at least two each in the eighth through 11th innings.

It's a little tough to win when you do that. Besides tying the record for longest World Series game by innings (Babe Ruth pitched all fourteen innings back in 1916 for the Red Sox) and setting the record for longest game by time, the one that nobody keeps stats on is "most frustrated fans." There were 42,848 people there, and I'll guaran-damn-tee you they were some unhappy folks for the last six innings. There is nothing worse as a baseball fan than watching your team pop up or take third strikes with runners on when all you need is one run to win.

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October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks


Rosa Parks, 1913 - 2005

Never have so many owed so much to one woman.

R.I.P., Mrs. Parks.

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October 24, 2005

Premiums! Yum!

Day Six of the public radio pledge drive, and Chef Mavro turns up with a heck of an offer: $250 for two reservations to a prix fixe meal at his restaurant. The event is called "Noël à Provence," to be held December 8. Unfortunately the menu isn't posted online (probably because it sells out so fast; he's done this before, and word of mouth has made it really popular). He's a James Beard prize winner, and his restaurant is the most unprepossessing building you've ever seen. It's a pink stone square structure on a busy corner about four miles from downtown, with no windows (if I remember right), but inside is glorious Hawai'i Regional Cuisine.

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October 23, 2005

Another book list

Time Magazine has come up with a list of its 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to present. Why 1923? Because that's the year Time started publishing.

As always, these lists are highly subjective, but they're always fun to look at to measure which ones I've read (not as many as I'd have thought) and which ones I've never even heard of.

The readers are rating the books (no additions allowed; choices must be made from the selected universe), and the top five are:

1: To Kill a Mockingbird
2: 1984
3: Watchmen
4: Animal Farm
5: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Okay...of those five I've read three. What the heck is "Watchmen?" Ah, a graphic novel. Not the section I normally browse at the local bookstore. The other one I've not read is the C.S. Lewis book, although with the movie coming out I suspect I'll get intrigued enough to think about it.

So what books are there which shouldn't be, and what aren't that should?

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October 22, 2005

October 22 night baseball is wrong

Once again baseball will play its showcase event at night. Forecast for Chicago this evening?

Oct. 22 Houston Astros @ Chicago White Sox
U.S. Cellular Field - Chicago, IL

40% chance of rain


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October 21, 2005

You thought Iraq was dumb?

Here's the full transcript of Col. Wilkerson's speech I mentioned yesterday. Billmon discusses some of it at his place. One of the things that he cites is this startling paragraph:

The other thing that no one ever likes to talk about is SUVs and oil and consumption and, as one little girl said yesterday at the Yoshiyama Awards, do you know that we consume 60 percent of the world’s resources? We do; we consume 60 percent of the world’s resources. Well, we have an economy and we have a society that is built on the consumption of those resources. We better get fast at work changing the foundation – and I don’t see us fast at work on that, by the way, another failure of this administration, in my mind – or we better be ready to take those assets. We had a discussion in policy planning about actually mounting an operation to take the oilfields in the Middle East, internationalize them, put them under some sort of U.N. trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly. That’s how serious we thought about it.

Think about that. The United States government, in order to keep its SUV-happy citizens in the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed, seriously discussed taking over Middle East oilfields. Presumably that includes Saudi Arabian territory as well as Iraqi territory, Iranian territory as well as that of the UAE. Somehow I don't see those countries voluntarily turning over the principal engines of their economies to a U.N. trusteeship, do you?

Our government is being run by lunatics. Go read Billmon for further discussion and better rantage; I'm too boggled to say any more.

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October 20, 2005

Bookgiver's remorse

While fiddling around with book cataloging I remembered old books I used to own but gave away rather than pack them for moving. Those include juveniles like The Hardy Boys, the Rick Brant stories, a few Nancy Drews and Trixie Beldens, and a bunch of mystery and science fiction books. The latter included Doc Savage, Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu, "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, and a fair bit of Agatha Christie.

I'd like to have some of those back.

Who's given up books they wish they hadn't, and what were they?

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Cheney - Rumsfeld cabal

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, gives us his observations in four years working at State (partial transcript here).

"What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

"Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences."

Mr Wilkerson said such secret decision-making was responsible for mistakes such as the long refusal to engage with North Korea or to back European efforts on Iran.

It also resulted in bitter battles in the administration among those excluded from the decisions.

"If you're not prepared to stop the feuding elements in the bureaucracy as they carry out your decisions, you are courting disaster. And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran."

The comments, made at the New America Foundation, a Washington think-tank, were the harshest attack on the administration by a former senior official since criticisms by Richard Clarke, former White House terrorism czar, and Paul O'Neill, former Treasury secretary, early last year.

Wilkerson's a former lecturer at the Naval and Marine War Colleges, so he had both an academic and an operational view of the Bush White House and its conduct of foreign policy. Those are pretty good credentials, to my taste. He continues:

But fundamental decisions about foreign policy should not be made in secret. Let me tell you the practical reason and here I’m jumping over in, really into both realms. The practical reasons why it’s true.

You’ve probably all read books on leadership, 7 Habits of Successful People, or whatever. If you, as a member of bureaucracy, do not participate in a decision, you are not going to carry that decision out with the alacrity, the efficiency and the effectiveness you would if you had participated.

When you cut the bureaucracy out of your decisions and then foist your decisions on us out of the blue on that bureaucracy, you can’t expect that bureaucracy to carry your decision out very well and, furthermore, if you’re not prepared to stop the feuding elements in that bureaucracy, as they carry out your decision, you’re courting disaster.

And I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita and I could go on back, we haven’t done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence.

I'm not quite sure what he means by that last sentence. I would argue that we've seen the ineptitude of this government repeated time and again already. We've seen it in the hiring of a political crony who used to judge horse show judges, in the deliberate ostracism of the State Department from any post-invasion planning for Iraq, the decision to go to war in Iraq on false pretenses, the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan before bin Laden was captured/killed, ad infinitum. It's nearly beyond belief, and yet it's happened.

It will be interesting to see how broad a play this speech gets (if any) in the American media. The Financial Times of London is the paper where Brad DeLong found it.

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October 19, 2005

Dodged a bullet

Day Seven of my Arbitron diary-keeping coincides with Day One of the local semi-annual public radio pledge drive. Good thing there wasn't more overlap, or I'd have been switching the dial all week.

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October 18, 2005

Bad music

Michael Bérubé has a question: What is the musical Oldie Too Hideous To Acknowledge? So far there are 145 comments, with some overlap due to timing differences. It's quite a snapshot of musical drek from the 70s, most of which I remember with varying degrees of shame or amusement. My sole nominee was Tom Jones' "Green Green Grass of Home."

Go read and enjoy or wallow.

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October 17, 2005




You know what was weird? I got these at Lowes, but I had a heckuva time getting to the shelves because there were about a dozen Japanese tourists in the aisle, filling up shopping carts as fast as they could. I asked one of the salespeople, and she said they saw a lot of Japanese buying; she supposed that it was cheaper to buy plumbing parts here and ship them back to Japan than to buy them there. I can't fault the logic, but I wonder if that's really it. As I recall, Japan still has more mom-and-pop retailers than big-boxes; maybe it's the novelty that appeals to them.

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October 16, 2005

Library Thing progress report

Phew. 945 books entered into my catalog so far, which is probably about 2/3 of the collection. The designer/programmer has continued to tweak it; you can now import from several different varieties of files and databases, and you can search some 31 different libraries for your titles.

The tricky thing is that the ISBN system didn't fully go into effect until the early 1970s, and publishers didn't necessarily put the full numbers on the spine (or even the inside cover page) of their books until the barcode system came into effect. What that means for someone like me is a lot of typing of titles and authors' names for search purposes, since I bought a ton of books at used bookstores, and many of them pre-date 1975.

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October 15, 2005

USC - Notre Dame

It must be USC's year again. If Leinart doesn't lose the ball out-of-bounds, he's stopped, time runs out, and ND wins.

What a finish.

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October 14, 2005

Voice mail bypass

Mr. Pogue has given us another useful tool: a master list of bypass codes allowing you to get to human beings at various retail, banking, and cellphone companies when you've got a gripe (or a compliment, I suppose).

Found at Kos.

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October 13, 2005

Apple's new video iPod

David Pogue of the NYT Circuits section has a weekly newsletter which doesn't run at the paper's website. (Whoops...now it does.) You can subscribe to it, and I do. Here's part of what he said about Apple's new deal with Disney/ABC:

This $2-per-episode pricing, by the way, blows my mind. How on earth did Apple persuade ABC/Disney to sell its shows for $2 an episode? Remember, we live in an era of rampant greed and paranoia in the TV industry. The only other legal TV-show downloading service I've encountered is the Akimbo box, which costs $10 a month AND $3 to $5 per episode AND your downloads expire in 30 days! My guess? Disney, which owns ABC, made this concession as part of a larger negotiation with Mr. Jobs in an effort to persuade him to renew Pixar's distribution deal with Disney.

In any case, $2 per TV show is a brilliant price. It's low enough to be an impulse buy -- when, for example, you missed an episode; it isn't high enough to drive you to using Bit Torrent or another illegal download source; but it's high enough to bring in some extra income to the TV companies. (Remember, the alternative would be $0. Why not make a little cash from episodes that have already been broadcast?) Here's hoping the other networks will get on board at the same price.

Good points. I hadn't given it much thought, since I'm not in the market for another $300-400 gadget, but that price is astonishing. It's unclear to me whether you could upload the ABC shows to your PC to watch them on a larger screen, but that would make it an even bigger plus.

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October 12, 2005

National League Championship

astros-va.jpg versus cardinals-va.jpg

This one's tougher. I've liked the Cardinals for years, and the Astros were always tough competitors for the Dodgers back in the two-division days of the National League. There was even a hard-fought playoff series between the two teams in 1981.


The Astros have never been to the World Series, and they have Clements, Pettite and Oswalt as starters. All due respect to the Cardinals' pitchers, but they're not in the same class. Good pitching is supposed to beat good hitting, so that would mean the Astros should win. But the Cards have Pujols and Edmunds and Walker and that pesky Eckstein.

Heart, Astros. Head, Cardinals.

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Foodie alert

I love this headline on a story about a new study which says that some high-fat foods are ok to eat:
"Cheeseburgers are good for the gut."

In other food news, 4,000-Year-Old Noodles Found in China.

Check the sell date on the next ramen package you buy.

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October 11, 2005

American League Championship

angels-va.jpg versus whitesox.gif

Hmm. I was there at the start for the Angels, when they were an expansion team playing at the old Wrigley Field in LA in 1961, so there's a bit of a sentimental attachment to them. On the other hand, the Sox haven't been to a World Series since 1959 (when they got beat by the Dodgers in my first year in LA, thus beginning my long-term relationship with the Bums), and they haven't won a Series since 1917, two years before the Black Sox scandal.

The Angels' pitching rotation is in tatters with Washburn's illness and Colon's shoulder troubles, while the Sox have their top three starters well rested and ready.

Heart says Angels, head says Sox.

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October 10, 2005

It's to laugh

I like this, not only for the sentiment but for the sheer insouciance of it.

Theodore Roosevelt Heller, 88, loving father of Charles (Joann) Heller; dear brother of the late Sonya (the late Jack) Steinberg. Ted was discharged from the U.S. Army during WWII due to service related injuries, and then forced his way back into the Illinois National Guard insisting no one tells him when to serve his country. Graveside services Tuesday 11 a.m. at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery (Ziditshover section), 1700 S. Harlem Ave., Chicago. In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans. Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals, Douglas MacIsaac, funeral director 847-229-8822, www.cjfinfo.com.

Published in the Chicago Tribune on 10/10/2005.

Via Talk Left.

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October 09, 2005

Holy Cow!

Wow. An 18-inning playoff game, ended with a walk-off home run by some unheralded player? No wonder I love baseball.

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October 08, 2005

Diary magnet

What is it with the national media ratings companies? Back here I mentioned we were on our second set of Nielsen diaries in six months, and now the Arbitron people want us to keep radio diaries starting next Thursday. Why are we so popular with these folks?

This time should be easy. For me, the local NPR station from 0700-1700 every day; for Mom, NPR Saturday mornings from 0700-1200, and no radio any other time of the week.

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October 07, 2005

Mmmm, good?

I am not recommending this as a tasty treat, but it's intriguing. "Put oregano and cranberries together and you have a potent antibacterial agent that could cut the risk of food poisoning from infected seafood."

Would you like stuffing with your swordfish?

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October 06, 2005

Fire all the lawyers

I got this at Skippy's place, but I doubt if we share too many readers, so I'll post it too. We all remember Michael Brown, right? Lawyer, in charge of FEMA? Miserable failure in the aftermath of Katrina?

Meet your Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He's the guy who would probably be in charge if there were a flu pandemic.

Stewart Simonson was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on April 28, 2004.

Simonson serves as the Secretary's principal advisor on matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. He also coordinates interagency activities between HHS, other federal departments, agencies, offices and state and local officials responsible for emergency preparedness and the protection of the civilian population from acts of bioterrorism and other public health emergencies.

Most recently, Simonson served as Special Counsel to the Secretary and acted as the Secretary's liaison to the Homeland Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security. He also supervised policy development for Project BioShield and other countermeasure research and development programs.

From 2001-2003, he was the HHS Deputy General Counsel and provided legal advice and counsel to the Secretary on public health preparedness matters. Prior to joining HHS, Simonson served as corporate secretary and counsel for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK).

From 1995-1999, Simonson was Legal Counsel to Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson. In the Governor's Office, Simonson also directed policy development for crime and corrections and coordinated the state's public safety agencies.

Simonson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 and Juris Doctor degree in 1994. He is a member of the bar in Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

Right. Just what we need. Another lawyer who's a buddy with a former Administration official (Tommy Thompson was the Secretary of HHS mentioned above). Counsel for AMTRAK is a little better than a fired horse show judging coordinator, but I fail to see how it provides the skills required to manage a public health disaster.

Jeebus H. Kryptonite.

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October 05, 2005

Lost, Vol II, Episode 3

Locke has gone round the bend. Had he stopped to think, he'd have realized that Desmond was pushing the damned button all by himself. There was no need to insist on sharing the load and demanding that Jack do it. How about that lowdown Hurley, realizing the final number was incorrect and halting his objections. And just where does Desmond think he's escaping to, anyway?

Treachery and madness everywhere.

(Yes, we did celebrate my niece's birthday, but they left before the show came on.)

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Happy 15th, niece!

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October 04, 2005

Bits and pieces

It's not enough we may have a tenth planet in our solar system, now we learn that it may have a moon orbiting it? How much can astronomers grasp all at one time?

What's the @ sign called in places where English isn't used? Herodios tells us. Pretzel, elephant's ear, monkey's tail, cat-foot; these are some of the alternatives.

This is the worst presumably unconscious pun I've heard in a long time: during the NPR newscast the announcer, explaining why New Orleans had to lay off 3,000 city workers today, said "tax revenues have dried up."

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October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers

So my question is, was John Roberts consulted about the appointment of Harriet Miers? And what does he think about a potential new colleague whose sole qualification appears to be her loyalty to this President?

I don't know enough about her to state a firm opinion one way or the other. It does strike me as odd that Bush would appoint first Roberts (two years as a judge) and now Miers (no judicial experience whatsoever). I wonder if that's an indicator of how little he really cares about the Judicial branch, or if he just has no stomach for a fight right now. If the latter, he may be wrong; the right wing appears to be less than enthused about Ms. Miers. Says David Frum at NRO:

The Miers nomination, though, is an unforced error. Unlike the Roberts's nomination, which confirmed the previous balance on the Court, the O'Connor resignation offered an opportunity to change the balance. This is the moment for which the conservative legal movement has been waiting for two decades...

He thinks Bush punted. We'll see.

Update: Digby has a very cynical view of this appointment. I'm not yet persuaded, but he could be right.

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October 01, 2005

Dopey dog

We rarely get thunder and lightning storms out here, but we've got a doozy going on right now. It's the second one in less than eight hours, too. Poor Tigger woke me up at 0540 this morning, panting like crazy. I had to go find a sedative and some cheese to wrap it in to give to her.

I guess it's either her age or my poor memory, but I sure don't remember her getting this uptight when she was younger (she's now twelve).

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