December 31, 2008

What Are You Doing, New Year's Eve

Nancy Wilson.

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou, everybody!

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Twitter question

How do I get that Twitter badge in the left sidebar to reflect new tweets from other people besides myself? The people I'm following, in other words.

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December 30, 2008

NFL Pro Bowl

This is parochial of me, but I really think the NFL's decision to move its annual All-Star Game, the Pro Bowl, from Honolulu to Miami in 2010 will prove to be a one-off event.

For one thing, the players (and their families) have always been delighted to come to Hawai'i to play the game; it's a week-long vacation for the families in our beautiful state.

More importantly, the scheduling of the game for the intervening week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl will essentially exclude all the Pro Bowl players from the two teams which make it to the big game. Why? Because no player in his right mind is going to play in a meaningless exhibition game just a week before possibly the biggest game of his career. Nor are his coaches and his team's owners going to let him play.

Since it's likely that some of the NFL's biggest stars would not play because of that, the Pro Bowl's prestige will be degraded and its television viewership reduced.

Dumb decision, NFL.

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Where have I been?

How is it I haven't heard of Seeqpod before?

Type a song or artist's name into the search box at the home page. Seeqpod goes out to the web, finds all matching names, and lists them. Click the one you want and it appears in a "podlist" on the right side of the screen. Click the play button and listen to the song.

I'm sure there's a really practical use for this, but at the moment it's just fun to play with it.

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A little wake-up music

YouTube amazes me sometimes. Here's Crosby Stills & Nash's coming-out party at Woodstock in 1969, singing "Suite Judy Blue Eyes."

A word to the unwary: if you want to get the original CSN album, either avoid the one which includes bonus tracks or don't listen to the demo track of "Teach Your Children;" keep your memory of the version which appeared on "Deja Vu" unblemished. Or click here to see and hear it done live after they'd figured out the harmonies.

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December 29, 2008

Israel -- Hamas

At the time of the Israeli-Lebanon war (July 2006) I wrote a letter to Israel, conceitedly signing it "The United States."

I closed the letter with this sentence:

I am concerned that while you may in fact succeed in destroying some of those terrorists, you may also create a new generation of them by your actions. Is this wise?
Substitute Gaza for Lebanon and the sentiments expressed still apply.

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The good news (I guess) is that I signed up for a Twitter feed. The bad news is I can't get it centered on the left sidebar.

follow Linkmeister at
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December 28, 2008

Newfound music

I purchased Mary Chapin Carpenter's Come Darkness, Come Light after hearing a few tracks (below). That had the happy result of me becoming a new fan of her music. So when I got a $10 gift certificate from Borders for Christmas, I went down there and got a copy of The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter, which is a compilation of 16 songs from her first six or seven albums.

Man. I've heard her on television for years; how is it I didn't buy any of her albums? This is a wonderful collection. The lyrics are thought-provoking and the musicianship is excellent. You find uptempo rock n' roll, ballads, even Cajun; about the only thing missing is orchestra, and maybe I just missed that.

If you haven't yet, get this album.

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It's been raining off and on for about a week. I don't envy all y'all who live where it's been snowing and the white stuff has been accumulating, but for blogging purposes at least you can get pretty pictures out of snow. Rain, not so much.

The other night when the power went out we'd had huge thunderclaps and lightning flashes just before the electricity died.

Another cloudburst just started.

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December 27, 2008


Hearing Ronstadt's version of "River" sent me off to find my vinyl copy of Joni Mitchell's Blue, the album on which it first appeared.

If memory serves, "River" got very little airplay at the time of release (1971); "My Old Man" and "Carey" were the two I remember hearing in regular rotation on the radio. Maybe "The Last Time I Saw Richard" was played once in a while, too.

This was Joni at her most melancholic and her simplest. She had guitar help from Stephen Stills and James Taylor and percussion from Russ Kunkel, but mostly it was Joni, her guitar or piano and her spectacular voice, singing three-minute word paintings. The opening bars of the title track (placed fifth on Side 1) ought to hook you.

If you've never heard this album, you should.

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A Fine How-d'you-do

Lights, power, um, hurricane lanterns?

Fortunately I'd finished washing dishes.

There's always an initial period of excitement and amusement about a power outage, but when it becomes apparent that it ain't comin' back anytime soon, crankiness begins to exhibit.

We were out from 6:45pm to about 1:30am.

Hawaii Public Radio tells me that the Fire Department had to rescue 42 people stranded in elevators. That would probably be my worst nightmare; stuck in an enclosed box between floors of a high rise building.

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December 26, 2008

Taking the broader view

My brother-in-law surprised me with an HP w1907 widescreen monitor. It certainly changes one's perspective. It took a few minutes of screwing around to get the 1400x900 resolution right, but it sure looks good. The almost-nonexistent footprint on the desktop doesn't hurt, either.

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Successful gift

Mom has been using a cut-down comforter for years and grumbling that it didn't cover her toes for some time. Well, you don't need to hit me over the head more than half-a-dozen times to get me to pay attention, so I went shopping for a replacement.

I found one. It was the right color, it was on a clearance sale so it cost 25% of the original price, and she loves it. Yay me.

What was your most successful/innovative/surprising gift?

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December 25, 2008

Christmas loot

A new kitchen gadget to replace the old broken hot tray!

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Merry Christmas!

If you're wondering where the "Yes, Virginia" post I usually put up is, it's here.

Here's Burl Ives singing "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

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December 24, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Diana Krall. 'Nuff said.

The song expresses my wishes to all of you this season.

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Got your film? Got your batteries charging? Is your oven clean?

Got white bread, mayo and lettuce for post-Christmas turkey sandwiches? Chips?

Are your napkins and tablecloth ironed?

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Phew, that's done

Shopping, I mean. Now it's on to cooking.

We always have some pigs-in-a-blanket (made with Lit'l Smokies only!) while opening packages on Christmas morning. What do you eat?

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December 23, 2008

Here We Come a-Wassailing

Some songs need harmonies. This is from The King's Singers 1990 album A Little Christmas Music. Despite what you may think you're hearing, there are only six voices.

Raise the flowing bowl!

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Aural feasts

Mary Chapin-Carpenter talks about her Christmas album (Come Darkness Come Light, below) with Diane Rehm.

Here's Jonathan Winters performing A Christmas Carol from NPR.

Each of these is roughly an hour long.

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December 22, 2008

The Rebel Jesus

Jackson Browne's song about modern society's hypocrisy. He's backed by The Chieftains on their wonderful album The Bells of Dublin.

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations

And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Full lyrics here.

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Which sold?

With all this Christmas music I'm posting, you may wonder what the 40 best-selling holiday albums of all time are, and who put them out?

Wonder no more.

All of the albums in this all-time top 40 have either sold 1.5 million copies, according to Nielsen/SoundScan, or have been certified double platinum by the RIAA, reflecting shipments of 2 million copies. The list includes a broad range of music. Pop and country are well represented, as you might expect, but there's also a smattering of R&B (Boyz II Men), jazz (The Vince Guaraldi Trio), jazz lite (Kenny G, Harry Connick Jr.) and classical crossover (Josh Groban, Charlotte Church).

Five artists have multiple entries in the top 40. Mannheim Steamroller has four, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has three, and Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers and Kenny G each have two.

The top ten albums?
  • Elvis -- Elvis' Christmas Album
  • Kenny G -- Miracles
  • Mannheim Steamroller -- A Fresh Aire Christmas
  • Mannheim Steamroller -- Christmas
  • Celine Dion -- These Are Special Times
  • Barbra Streisand -- A Christmas Album
  • Johnny Mathis -- Merry Christmas
  • Mariah Carey -- Merry Christmas
  • Josh Groban -- Noel
  • Various Artists -- A Very Special Christmas (1987)

I own the two Mannheim Steamroller albums and four others on the list.

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Some excellent questions

Honestly: what sense does it make to stick it to a bunch of auto workers while letting the financial executives off scot-free? How can Richard Shelby get all upset about the fact that some blue-collar workers have, gasp, health care, and not about the fact that financial executives, on whom we have spent a lot more money than the Big Three ever asked for, get financial planners and chauffeurs?

That's Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, wondering about the double standards Congress is using when discussing bailouts.

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December 21, 2008

Come Darkness Come Light

Here's one of those new Christmas songs I mentioned below: the title track of the new Mary Chapin-Carpenter album. The video is static, but the music is well worth a listen.

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December 20, 2008

I'll Be Home for Christmas

There's only one Chairman of the Board.

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Christmas albums 2008

An awful lot of singers turn out Christmas albums, whether because they really enjoy the music or feel that it's a slam-dunk commercially. Some of them use the same old arrangements we've heard forever, and that's fine. Some of them pick songs that aren't widely played, which I find more pleasing. And some of them compose new songs, which I really really like. Whether the new songs become standards (come back in fifty years) or not, it shows they've decided that there's no reason to put their creativity aside just because "it's a Christmas album!"

Here's a list of new Christmas albums released in 2008. Included on the list:

  • Mannheim Steamroller
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Neil Sedaka
  • George Strait
  • Faith Hill
  • Melissa Ethridge
  • Harry Connick, Jr.
  • Yo-Yo Ma
  • Mary Chapin-Carpenter
  • Sarah Brightman
  • Elvis (duets with still-living artists)
  • Kristin Chenoweth

And more, including an album from a male a cappella group called Straight No Chaser, whom I just saw on the television show "Christmas in Washington." Here's their version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

Each album is linked to its Amazon page for sampling.

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The North will fall

The Economic Civil War is a provocative article which proposes a radical redistribution of government services designed to bring the South up to par with the rest of the country in order to keep local and state governments there from continuing to drag the rest of American labor down to its own level. Here's a taste:

with the help of Nissan, Toyota, and BMW, the South is trying to replace Detroit as the center of U.S. automobile production, using low wages, anti-union laws, and low taxes to benefit from the outsourcing of industry from societies more advanced than the South, like Japan and Germany. The economic Axis is collaborating with the neo-Confederates against their common opponent -- the American Union.

If you're a Republican in the South you will become very angry at the premise contained within those two pages. If you're a Northerner you'll probably start nodding your head by the second paragraph.

(via Maha)

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December 19, 2008

Silver Bells

I hear the song and immediately think of snow falling between skyscrapers, piling up below window displays, and viewed through neon lights (in short, I think of Rockefeller Center in New York). You'd think, given the first line of the song, that people mashing up video would use city street scenes to accompany "Silver Bells." This is the first one I found which actually did. It's Dean Martin again, this time sounding like he's had one martini more than was wise.

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Too cute for words

Well, not quite. My first dog was a half-basset/half-beagle with very short legs. She liked to bounce in the snow as much as this pooch does.

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Novelists' inspirations

Come from everywhere.

(If you haven't read any of John Scalzi's books, give him a shot.)

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December 18, 2008

The First Noël

When I played accordion, this was one of the first Christmas songs I learned. The London Symphony Orchestra does it better.

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Cafeteria conservatism

It's dismaying but hardly surprising that supporters of the Bush Administration can find a health care worker's right of conscience perfectly legitimate while at the same time bitterly complaining that there's no such thing as a woman's right of privacy in making health decisions for herself.

Today Bush's Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation which says health care workers can refuse to provide services which offend their personal, religious or moral beliefs.

Here's what Secretary Leavitt says prompted the rule change:

Leavitt said he requested the new regulation after becoming alarmed by reports that health-care workers were being pressured to perform duties they found repugnant. He cited moves by two professional organizations of obstetricians and gynecologists that, he said, might require doctors who object to abortion to refer patients to other physicians who would provide them.
If you're a health care worker and you don't like certain aspects of your job, you can quit, you know. In fact, if you find that your vocation requires you to do things you don't want to do, I'd suggest you're in the wrong vocation.

Hey! That's kinda like Republicans governing! They don't like doing it, so maybe they shouldn't try.

Let's hope that Senators Clinton and Murphy's Murray's legislation to reverse this passes when the new Congress convenes.

(Name correction via N in the comments)

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December 17, 2008

Oh, Joy

There's nothing quite like having your car's driver-side door lock break during Christmas season when you're in and out of it all day. It won't open from either the outside or the inside. I wonder how much this is gonna cost.

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December 16, 2008

Let it Snow

However Dean Martin wanted to display his public image, whether as a carefree drunk or a suave man-about-town, one thing he could always do was sing.

I have fond memories of snow from my high school days, but then I remember that I rarely had to drive in the stuff.

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Open and shut case

In an interview with ABC News's Jonathan Karl, Vice President Cheney made a startling public admission:

JONATHAN KARL: And on KSM, one of those tactics, of course, widely reported was waterboarding. And that seems to be a tactic we no longer use. Even that you think was appropriate?


Well, now. I do hope Mr. Cheney isn't planning any post-government trips to Europe. Some European judges take torture seriously.

After a Spanish judge issued an arrest warrant for Chile's former dictator General Pinochet in 1998 on charges of genocide, terrorism and torture, the General was forced to come to Spain to fight those charges.

Put your passport away, Mr. Cheney.

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December 15, 2008

More Christmas gee-tar

Back in the early 1960s The Ventures created an instrumental sound which influenced nearly every electric guitar player who came after them. Their first major hit was "Walk Don't Run," and it was followed by a string of albums, 38 of which charted. They released a Christmas album in 1965, from which "Sleigh Ride" is taken.

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Sci-Fi sub-genres

I ran across an omnibus copy of Zenna Henderson's The People stories (Ingathering) at the library and picked it up, since I'd read some of them a long time ago.

The premise is pretty simple; highly-evolved humans from another planet have to leave their Home before it dies, end up on Earth, and try to adjust. This theme isn't new, but I got to thinking about other similar books in this sub-genre, which I'm going to call Diasporic science fiction. I can immediately think of one other book (or book and sequel, to be precise): Wylie and Balmer's When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. That one has humans leaving Earth before two massive asteroids destroy it.

Can you think of others?

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Compared to Bernard Madoff, Charles Ponzi was a piker. $50 billion? Let me write that out: $50,000,000,000.00.

This being the Internet, somebody has devoted a lot of time to creating a website which looks to be a good resource for Ponzi students. According to the author, Ponzi got away with $9.5 million.

Like I said, a piker.

If you know anyone who's interested in financial history, I recommend Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. He begins with the South Sea bubble, then goes back in time to Dutch tulip mania and discusses alchemy (gold from nothing!).

It's not just financial history, though. He also spends a lot of time on mob behavior as shown in the Crusades and witch-hunting. It's fascinating.

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December 14, 2008

Silent Night

One theory has it that the song was actually written for guitar. Another has it that the church's organ was broken so the song had to be hastily rearranged for guitar. Whichever theory you like, there's no doubt it's spectacular when well played.

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Art in advertising

Remember that Folgers ad from a while ago which featured the college kid secretly coming home for Christmas and being discovered by his little sister? She exclaims, "Peter!" He hushes her so his parents can be awakened by the aroma of the coffee he's brewing; then the Folgers musical theme begins: "The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup."

Well, they've got a new ad featuring Peter. Now he's an aid worker in Romania, and his host family's daughter runs out to him shouting "America! America!" A package has arrived from his family in the States. He opens it and finds a can of Folgers coffee, so he manufactures a filter and brews a pot for the family.

I don't know how effective the ad is at selling coffee, but it's a wonderful example of how a story can be told in 30 seconds. Kudos to the agency which created it.

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December 13, 2008

Ronstadt covers Mitchell

Linda Ronstadt sings Joni Mitchell's "River."

It's a funny thing about this song. It's on Mitchell's "Blue" album, which I've owned since its release in 1971. I'd forgotten it entirely until a year or so ago, and now I think it's fantastic.

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The War on Christmas

In the beginning. . .

In a nutshell, it was a right-wing anti-Semite and white nationalist who began it about 15 years ago.

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Dear spammer

If you're going to go to the trouble of faking up a PayPal logo for your scam's mail, perhaps the Return Path for that mail should be something more plausible than "anonymous(AT)"

Just a suggestion.

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December 12, 2008

Christmas classics, with a twist

This is pretty good. Tony Bennett takes "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and reinterprets it as swing. The video's not so hot, but the song's interesting.

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Auto bailout, the sequel

So now Treasury and the Bush Administration are recognizing that it's probably not good to be seen as the second coming of Herbert Hoover.

The White House and the Treasury gave strong indications Friday that the U.S. government, at least temporarily, would help prop up the American auto industry.

"Because Congress failed to act, we will stand ready to prevent an imminent failure until Congress reconvenes and acts to address the long-term viability of the industry," Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said.

And White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the administration is considering using the Wall Street rescue fund to prevent the USA's strapped carmakers from failing.

I would argue that rather than go through all this trauma, part of the TARP fund should have been used in the first place, but whatever.

How many auto jobs are in your state? Nice chart and map from USA Today. Even Hawai'i has 416 jobs, presumably in dealerships.

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December 11, 2008

Stock tip

The auto bailout compromise failed. If I had any individual stocks and could sell at the open, I would.

Mutual fund holders, pray. Most of them have rules that any individual transactions won't be executed till after markets close on the day of the transaction, so even if you call at 9:00am the sale won't take place till 4:00pm tomorrow afternoon.

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Buyer beware

Here's a nice new business. Say you own a bank of copiers. Your customers used to come in, make whatever number of copies they needed, take the printed report that was generated after their copying job was completed to the cash register and pay for that number of copies.

Now say that instead you require that they pay directly at the copier by swiping their credit card into a slot on the machine. Hey, it cuts out the time the customer needs to spend waiting in line at the register, so they'll love it, right? But what about the customers who want a single copy and think an 8¢ charge on their credit card is idiotic? No problem! You'll sell them a "copy card" for $1, and they can swipe that at the machine too. Even better, if they only make 5 copies, then they'll still have a 60¢ balance on their card, so they'll be happy, right?

But what if some number of your customers are told of this plan and say "I make one copy here every six months. I'm not going to remember I have a 'copy card' in my wallet, so I'll buy another one. Then you guys will have gotten $2 from me for 2 copies six months apart. Doesn't seem like a very good deal to me." And those customers walk out angrily, go next door to Safeway, insert a dime into Safeway's copy machine, make a single copy, and explain to anyone they come into contact with in Safeway that they don't ordinarily make copies here, but the office supply place next door has adopted a business strategy which looks a lot like a scam.

Is that new strategy worth it?

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Dear Pres-elect

Perhaps this will cure you of your belief that "post-partisanship" is possible.

. . . the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, spoke out forcefully against the [auto bailout] bill, effectively ending its chances despite the urgings of the White House.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Mr. McConnell said he and other Republicans had drawn a clear distinction between the Treasury’s $700 billion economic stabilization, which they helped pass in October, and the proposal to aid the American automakers, which he said raised questions about which industries or individuals deserve help.

So what have the Republicans offered as a compromise?

Among other things, the alternate plan offered by Mr. Corker calls for giving the holders of bonds issued by the auto companies 30 cents on the dollar to ease the companies’ debt burden; immediately bringing workers’ wages in line with foreign companies like Nissan and Volkswagen; and forcing the United Automobile Workers to eliminate payments to workers after their jobs have been eliminated.

Mr. Obama, you cannot work with these people. You have to steamroll over them.

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Etymologist needed

Some Greek scholar needs to invent a word which describes this phobia: the fear of showering when your solar water heater has been affected by several cloudy days in succession.

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December 10, 2008

Republican opposition to car bailout explained

The audio from this story on ATC won't be available till about 7:00pm EST, but the gist was pretty simple: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) wants to break the unions. He tries to deny it, but he can't help himself; he keeps coming back to the word "unions" when he's trying to explain the car companies' problems.

I'm sure it's only a coincidence that BMW has a huge non-union plant in Greer, SC.

It's not just DeMint, of course. Much of the Republican opposition to the auto bailout comes from other Southern Senators who (surprise!) just happen to have non-union foreign auto plants in their states, plants that have received millions of dollars in tax subsidies to entice them to locate there. Take a look at the map in that story, then notice which Senators are the most vocal in their opposition to offering GM, Ford and Chrysler any help. Senator Shelby (R-Al), testify! Senator McConnell (R-Ky), speak up! Senator Corker (R-TN), tell us what you think!

They all speak sanctimoniously about not putting taxpayers' money at risk, yet they've all watched and promoted as their states have done exactly that.

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Got gifts?

Here's NPR's complete list of Holiday Book Recommendations in the following categories:

  • Booksellers' Picks For Your Holiday Lists
  • The Big Pictures: Best Gift Books 2008
  • Top Five Crime And Mystery Novels Of 2008
  • Give A Book (And Yourself) This Holiday Season
  • The 10 Best Cookbooks of 2008
  • Best Foreign Fiction, 2008
  • Best Political And Current Affairs Books Of 2008
  • Migration And Memory: Top Five 2008 Books
  • Best Graphic Novels Of 2008
  • Best Books For A Transformative New Year

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More Christmas classics

Nat King Cole sings "The Christmas Song."

Here's a link to Mark Evanier's wonderful story of the song's writer, Mel Tormé, singing it on a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles.

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December 09, 2008

Excess stupidity is no virtue

When you're already the target of a multi-year investigation into public corruption, wouldn't you try to stay on the straight and narrow until it ended?

Apparently not, if you're Governor Blagojevich.

How dumb is it to effectively try to sell a Senate seat?

The governor’s own words describing the Senate seat: “It’s a [bleeping] valuable thing. You just don’t give it away for nothing.” Another quote: “I’ve got this thing and it’s [bleeping] golden. I’m just not giving it up for [bleeping] nothing. I’m not going to do it. I can always use it — I can parachute me there.”
Last I looked, being in the US Senate, which is what he seems to imply he'd like to be in that last sentence, doesn't confer invulnerability from prosecution, Governor; just ask Ted Stevens.

I'd say he's dumber than a box of rocks, but that insults rocks.

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Newspaper query

We subscribe to two hard-copy newspapers and read them.

Who else among you still gets delivery to your door?

I ask because of the discussion (podcast) on The News Hour Monday night in the wake of the Tribune Corp.'s declaration of bankruptcy.

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December 08, 2008

Sound advice

In an interview, Terry Pratchett (Discworld) says a useful thing. He directed it to writers:

"My advice is this. For Christ's sake, don't write a book that is suitable for a kid of 12 years old, because the kids who read who are 12 years old are reading books for adults. I read all of the James Bond books when I was about 11, which was approximately the right time to read James Bond books. So you work out this kind of little equation in your head and you think, yeah, like Nation – the one that's just come out – that's a book for kids. And people will say: 'Well it covers very adult subjects ...' Yeah, that's why it's a book for kids. Because you want kids to grow up to be adults, not just bigger kids."

Seems to me that advice works just as well for parents or anyone else who's thinking of buying books for kids.

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Bowl game schedule

For those of you who schedule Christmas decorating and shopping around football, here's the complete list of Bowl Games. Here's one website's ranking of which ones are worth watching.

Notre Dame is bringing its 6-6 W-L record to Hawai'i on December 24 to play the University of Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl. Time was Notre Dame would turn down bowl bids if it didn't feel its record merited it, but no more. In its defense, I think part of their bowl losing streak (0-9 and counting) has been the mystique of the program. During the past 14 years they've been invited to bowl games in which their opponents have been far better teams because bowl owners know that Notre Dame's fans will travel to see the games, no matter how good or bad the team might be. It will be interesting to see whether an ND-UH matchup will fill Aloha Stadium, since it's a lot more expensive and time-consuming to get to Hawai'i than to, say, Shreveport (site of the Independence Bowl, which ND played in in 1997) if you live in the Midwest.

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December 07, 2008

A Christmas musical interlude

Whoever imagined Jack Benny could play Santa Claus?

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Pearl Harbor Day 2008

I was awakened this morning by a jet flyover commemorating the 67th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

According to the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, there are fewer than 5,000 members left alive.

Here's a photo of the plaque listing the names of the dead on the USS Arizona, two miles south of here. I see the memorial every day on my way down the hill.

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December 06, 2008

Christmas season has begun

Give me your noble fir, yearning to be free.

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December 05, 2008


I'm reasonably clear on the concept, but I don't get the mechanics. I see blurbs on TV (ESPN wants viewers to vote via text on burning issues of the day, such as, "was Plaxico Burress an idiot for carrying a concealed weapon into a Manhattan nightclub?"*), and they give you a numbered address to send your reply to.

Well, what key sequence would I use to enter that address? I can find the "compose message" section in my phone (a Motorola W370), but then what?

And further, how do I figure out what numbered address a family member's cellphone might be assigned?

This is an academic question, as I've felt no need to text anything to anyone in the two years or so I've had a cellphone, but I'm curious.

*Fictitious question. Not sponsored by ESPN or any other Disney entity. All restrictions apply.

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December 04, 2008

Christmas books

If you're looking for ideas, John Scalzi's readers have lots of suggestions.

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Bailouts, auto division

I had some thoughts coalescing in my caffeine-fueled brain about the spectacle being exhibited today in the Senate as the auto industry execs and the UAW are forced to bow, scrape and justify bridge loans to the tune of $34B to keep their companies and employers from failing, but then I read dday and discovered most of it has been said already.

I think one difference here is that Congress actually understands how auto companies make money, while they can't fathom the financial industry's complex arrangements, and tend to just trust the "very serious people" that the banks need hundreds of billions to survive. Also, if Detroit contributes to campaigns, Wall Street bankrolls them. And there's the skillful PR campaign from the right that the carmakers' struggles are all the fault of the unions, when that doesn't come into play with the financial industry.

It's still pretty shameful that an industry that pushes paper back and forth and pretends to create wealth can ask for and receive hundreds of billions of dollars by snapping their fingers, while companies representing working people that make things for a living have to grovel and beg. A deindustrialized America is an America that will not function as a first-rate power in the future.

Read the rest.

Why does Congress think the titans of Wall Street deserve billions of dollars in "capital injections" with very little oversight but the industry which directly or indirectly employs some 3 million people has to justify every penny it asks for?

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December 03, 2008

Conservapedia, your source for stupid

If you're in need of a source to provide evidence of the idiocy of some of your fellow citizens, let me recommend Conservapedia, specifically its entry on President-elect Obama. The first paragraph alone contains more misrepresentations than one would think possible:

Barack Hussein Obama II (allegedly born in Honolulu,[1][2][3] August 4, 1961) served as a first-term Democratic Senator from Illinois (2004-2008) and then, along with his running mate Senator Joseph Biden, won the presidential election[4] after twenty-three months of campaigning, raising and spending an unprecedented $650 million, most of which came from anonymous donors. An apparent Muslim, Obama could use the Koran when he is sworn into office.[5]
To take one example, see those three citations after the listing of his birthplace? They lead to
  1. A WorldNetDaily story about a lawsuit to keep California's electoral votes from being cast for Obama until "citizenship" issues are resolved.
  2. A large, hi-res scan of his Hawai'i birth certificate
  3. A Honolulu TV station's report of the Hawai'i State Department of Health's verification of said birth certificate
Items 2 and 3 directly contradict the claim in Item 1, but never mind.

This is what passes for intelligent reference-building on the Right.

Pointer to Conservapedia entry found in the comments to this post at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

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December 02, 2008

Didn't expect that

We picked up a few Christmas gifts to mail to the Mainland and wrapped them up today. I went off to the post office to mail the neatly-wrapped-and-taped but non-standard package and discovered that the postage cost was about a buck more than the price of the contents.

I'm not upset by this, but I admit I was a little surprised.

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December 01, 2008

Gun idiocy, again

Like clockwork, the attack in Mumbai brought out the gun nuts. The gist of their argument is "if the citizens only had guns they could have killed the bad guys!"

The thing I find really childish about these arguments is that they seem to be made primarily by white guys who want guns. They all make the same assumption: that the terrorists will be different in appearance from the general population. "If we had guns we could kill the bad guys." Like the bad guys are going to wear black hats or khaffiyehs? How would one have distinguished, say, Timothy McVeigh or Terry Nichols from any other Oklahoman trying to get into the Murrah building? Or the Beltway snipers from any other two black men? Or Eric Rudolph from any other white man? How about Paul Hill? In the case of Mumbai, how would South Asians be able to tell which of all the similarly-featured people in that chaos was a terrorist and which a civilian with a gun?

I think the gun nuts are racists. No doubt they'd say otherwise, loudly, but by their words shall we know them.

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In advance of Obama's announcement that Senator Clinton would be his Secretary of State, Bob Woodward of the WaPo said yesterday:

BOB SCHIEFFER (host): Bob Woodward, the president, if all goes as expected, at 10:50 Eastern Time tomorrow will announce his new national security team, to be headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

WOODWARD: She never goes away, she and her husband.

Apparently he doesn't approve.

I once had a lot of respect for Bob Woodward. Not any more.

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