September 30, 2009

National Park stories

I once mentioned Nevada Barr as an author whose books I thought might be good. Since that 2007 entry, I've read all of her Anna Pigeon books, including the latest, Borderline. Barr is a former National Parks Ranger, and Anna is one as well. She's an appealing character.

Anyway, Ms. Barr, much to my surprise and pleasure, will be appearing in Episodes 4, 5, and 6 of The National Parks: America's Best Idea. She'll be talking about Mesa Verde, where she once worked and where she set one of her Anna stories. That should be interesting.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2009

The latest Ken Burns Opus

I've been watching The National Parks: America's Best Idea, the latest documentary from Ken Burns on PBS. Anyone who watches is going to be enthralled by the photography; that's a given. But what's been fascinating to me is the number of heroes whose names I've never heard. Guys like Senator John Conness, R-Ca, who:

. . .acting at the urging of some of his constituents, introduced a bill to Congress that proposed something totally unprecedented in human history: setting aside a large tract of natural scenery for the future enjoyment of everyone. On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act of Congress ceding the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to the state of California.

And guys whose names I've known but whose stature has been a little diminished in my mind, like Gifford Pinchot. He was the first steward of the National Forests, and it seems he was the father of the "wise use" movement which has surfaced as a euphemistic term for "exploit the hell out of Federal lands" in the past thirty or forty years.

Pinchot was a conservationist. He believed the best way to protect the forests was to manage their use, not leave them alone. His favorite saying was "the greatest good for the greatest number."

I've been a member of various environmental and conservation advocacy groups for a long time off and on. Some of these names are entirely unknown to me, so I'm finding this series highly educational.

And then there are the pictures.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 28, 2009

Fear and loathing

Update: That was as painless a shot as I've ever gotten. I barely noticed the stab.

Well, not really. I have an appointment this morning at Kaiser to get the annual flu shot (not the swine flu H1N1 shot). Apparently it's a freebie; I don't have to pay the $25 for a visit to the doctor.

Quick! Call the Republican Party! Senator Grassley! Someone's getting some kind of health care free! This must be stopped!

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

September 27, 2009


There's no disappointment quite like watching your All Star closer give up four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning after you'd gone up three runs in the top of the same inning.

There's at least one more day to wait before the Dodgers clinch the NL West division title.

Oh well, it could be worse: you could be the Redskins, who lost to the Lions. That's the first time the Lions have won in their last 20 games.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 26, 2009

Books as vacations

I've never been to Venice; in fact, I've barely been to Italy. One day driving around Lake Como on an American Express tour bus in 1984 hardly counts as a visit to the country.

Thanks to mystery author Donna Leon, however, I now feel I know a little about living in a centuries-old city built on a lagoon. She's written 13 books about an Italian police commissario (a rank which seems equivalent to the British inspector or an American police lieutenant) who lives and works in the city center. There are only about 70,000 inhabitants, so it's a pretty small place by American standards, and its crimes are usually pretty mundane. Commissario Brunetti doesn't get involved in those; he focuses on murder.

I get a lot of enjoyment from reading books set in places I haven't been. Occasionally I even get an urge to go there to see them. In this case, Ms. Leon has collaborated with a Literature and Art History professor to conduct walking (and boating?) tours of Brunetti's Venice.

Now that sounds like fun.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 25, 2009

War Story

If you watch The News Hour on Friday nights, you know that David Brooks and Mark Shields usually appear to do a brief "this week in politics" segment. Brooks's contribution is often just a regurgitation of his Friday column at the NYT. This week's edition is here. In it, he advocates going "all-in" to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Before watching, you might want to read Glenn Greenwald's massive takedown of Brooks's history of warmongering in Iraq. You might wonder at Mr. Brooks's conceit as he advocates more war in Afghanistan after being so blindingly wrong about Iraq. "What about admission of your mistakes and reflection upon them," you might say to Mr. Brooks. But you'd be foolish to say that, for as we've seen before, war punditry means never having to say you're sorry.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 24, 2009

Busy little bees are we

Most days we have nothing in particular going on, but today!

At 9:30am, a carpenter arrived to check creaking joists below the bathtub. At 10:00am, a hairdresser arrived to cut Mom's hair. At 10:30am I had a dental appointment 12 miles away.

I need a nap.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 23, 2009

Now I'm really confused

According to Rep. Steve King (R-IA), gay marriage leads to socialism.

Can the rest of us Steves sue this clown for defamation of our name?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2009

Hollywood helps the downtrodden

Downtrodden Health Insurance companies, that is.

Protect Insurance Companies PSA from Will Ferrell

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 21, 2009


I’m beginning to hear “Leaving would send the wrong message” from the political-military complex.

If your message is more important than your mission, you shouldn’t be attempting the mission.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2009

Douglas Adams was wrong

We were watching the CBS Evening News tonight as we do every Sunday since "60 Minutes" comes on directly afterwards. For a while now the news program has had ads for products I'd expect to see on late night infomercials rather than on the prime-time news show. For example, the Ab Circle Pro, the Buxton Bag Organizer, the Wonder Hanger, and other such junk. Anyway, I've come to a conclusion: Douglas Adams was wrong. 42 is not the number assigned to the meaning of life.

$19.95 is.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Two songs

Ronstadt sings Warren Zevon:

Ronstadt sings Karla Bonoff:

From a 1976 concert at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

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

September 19, 2009

"Monopoly's" wartime uses

Why are we just learning about this now? The board game was used during WW 2 to get escape maps into the hands of British POWs.

Before leaving for missions, British airmen were told that if they were captured, they should look for escape maps and kits in Monopoly boards and other games delivered by charity groups. They were told that "special edition" Monopoly sets would be marked with a red dot on the free parking space.

Watson said that in addition to the concealed compass, tools and maps, real bank notes were hidden under the fake money.

via Kos.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 18, 2009

A Sensible Republican?

Via a comment at Balloon Juice, a column from Bruce Bartlett at Forbes in which he tells his fellow Republicans that budget cuts won't fix the deficit:

. . .there is no evidence that it is politically possible to cut spending enough to make more than a trivial difference in our nation's fiscal problems. The votes aren't there and never will be. Those who continue to insist otherwise are living in a dream world and deserve no attention from serious people.

He cites chapter and verse. It's worth a read for background info when you're next forced to argue with one of the "If we just cut foreign aid we could balance the budget!" crowd.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2009


Why did Kanye West not show up when I was given an award for missing only one word on a fourth-grade spelling test?

(For the record, it was a 110-word test. The word I misspelt was "receive," and I've never misspelt it again.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What kind of book is this?

A set of questions which will help you determine (perhaps from the blurb alone!) just what genre you're about to read.

The premise:

Don’t you see that car fishtailing up the road, barely staying on the pavement? It’s heading straight to the cliff, zooming like the brakes have been cut, and it seems that in just a few seconds it will crash to certain doom. We may have just enough time to figure out what kind of a novel we are in …

If the driver is the local aristocrat that everyone in the village hates and has reason to kill, this is a cosy.

If the driver is a young punk who has just realized, too late, that the beautiful woman he slept with last night had no intention of sharing the dough with him, this is a noir.

And so on.

Go, read. The author (Rob Lopresti) had a lot of fun with it.

via Library Thing

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

September 16, 2009

R.I.P., Mary Travers

Mary Travers has died.

She was the Mary in Peter Paul and Mary, principals of the folk revival of the 1960s.

They marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma and appeared with him at the March on Washington in 1963. They were early adopters of Bob Dylan's protest songs and sang probably the most popular version of "Blowing in the Wind."

This Pete Seeger composition may have been their most well-known song.

This is a blow. I loved their music when I was a teenager.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Another Beatles box set review

From the Village Voice:

. . .the Beatles are basically a one-band justification for being a hardcore audiophile in the first place.

I'll drink to that.

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

September 15, 2009


.Tif files take a long long time to transmit via e-mail.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2009

Revenge of the home-schoolers?

Frank Schaeffer, former evangelical proselytizer and author, attempts to explain the hatred expressed in the tea-party protests.

A big part of the answer to understanding the heightened climate of outright hate and fear of the "other" is the home school and Christian school movement.


It was about protecting your children from Satan in other words the United States government's long reach through the public school system.

To protect your children from Satan -- in other words mainstream, open patriotic and pluralistic America -- you either kept them at home where mom and dad could teach the children right from wrong or sent them to a cloistered private evangelical/fundamentalist school. At home or in school you used curriculum prepared by the likes of James--beat-your-child-and-dare-to-discipline-Dobson, RJ-slavery-was-a-good-thing-Rushdoony, or many and other right-wing anti-American activists. That curriculum presented "secular America" as downright evil. Hating the USA became next to godliness.


If you wonder who it is that's both running and underwriting organizations such as the Family Research Council, Focus On The Family, Freedom Works and other organizers of the 9/12 March and who are the most faithful followers the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh or viewers of Fox News your answer is: it's the home school/Christian school generation of men and women now hitting their thirties and even forties who might as well have been raised on a different planet.

That's a perspective I've never considered. I don't think I've ever met anyone who was home-schooled. Even in the 1960s when I went to high school in Northern Virginia I don't remember any mass movement away from the public schools in Annandale or Alexandria. That's not to say there wasn't one, but it sure didn't hit the headlines of the newspaper I delivered every afternoon or, more importantly, my fellow students at Thomas Jefferson High School. High school kids being what they are (gossips, among other things), I think we'd have heard conversations like "Did you hear that so-and-so is going to home-school next year?" or "Hey, there's a Christian school opening up and I heard that Jane and George are going there next fall."

Read the whole essay; his take is interesting.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 13, 2009

In celebration of the box set

The opening credits of "A Hard Day's Night."

Neddie Jingo has a wonderful disquisition covering that opening chord and follows it up with some detective work here.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I'll be doggoned

What's the only species besides humans which understands the meaning of a pointed finger?


Posted by Linkmeister at 03:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 12, 2009

The impossible review

Imagine that you work for a newspaper or magazine and your editor asks you to review the new boxed set of remastered Beatles CDs.

How do you review the thing as music? The Lennon-McCartney songbook is better known than almost any other pop music collection I can think of.

Give Chuck Klosterman credit for trying. You may find his premise a little too cute, but it has its amusing moments.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 11, 2009

Eight years on

And where's Osama bin Laden?

We've been in Afghanistan for eight years at the cost of 821 American lives. We've been in Iraq (which not even Bush/Cheney claimed as a hidey-hole for bin Laden) for six at the cost of 4343 American lives (Source). We've spent ~$900B on military actions in those two countries. We've added billions of dollars in costs to our air travel system. We've inconvenienced millions of passengers who now have to surrender their shampoo and remove their shoes before boarding an airplane. Those same passengers now have to show up two or three hours ahead of their plane's departure just to satisfy all the security theater's requirements.

And the guy who leads the movement which brought all this on is still at large. Heckuva job, Bushie!

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 10, 2009

Not a good career move

Nobody could have predicted that shouting "You lie!" at the President of the United States while he's speaking to a joint session of Congress might annoy people. And, being annoyed, they might go to Act Blue's fund-raising page for the guy who opposed you in your last election and plans to oppose you again. And then they might dump over $400K into Rob Miller's campaign fund overnight.

So is Joe Wilson (R-SC) an idiot? Well, yes. He's also quite the health care hypocrite. He's a retired Army National Guard colonel, which means he's a beneficiary of the military's Tricare health system, which is (gasp!) government-run.


Posted by Linkmeister at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2009

Well, that explains it

If you wondered why Republican Charles Boustany seemed to focus on tort reform in his response to President Obama's speech tonight, wonder no more.

He's been found guilty of malpractice three times in his career.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The speech

This is the best sales pitch in the entire speech:

What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives. (My emphasis)

Those two items are the ones that scare me the most. I've been through the pre-existing condition drill, and it's a terrible shock to be told you can't give an insurance company money because you might cost it more down the road, let me tell you.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 08, 2009

Country First? Nah, Party First!

When was the last time you read/heard of a Republican Senator or Congressperson who seemed to have the best interests of the country in mind, rather than partisan political advantage?

Look at them. They are fighting furiously to preserve the status quo on health care, when even they must know that the current system stinks. They are or will be fighting furiously to keep cap-and-trade legislation from passing, even though the deleterious effect of climate change is considered a certainty by all but the most bought-and-paid-for scientists. They have put holds on various Administration appointees for reasons no better than to gain leverage on other bills.

They are not patriots, despite their drumbeat of claims that they are. They are small-minded people who remind me of kindergartners who throw tantrums when they can't get their way.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Freehand Franken

Remember Pictionary? I want Senator Franken on my team next time I play.

That is seriously impressive.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 07, 2009

Labor Day

I wonder what César Chavez thought of this song.


I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I wake in the morning,
Fold my hands and pray for rain.
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin' me insane.
It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
Well, he hands you a nickel,
He hands you a dime,
He asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time,
Then he fines you every time you slam the door.
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.

I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more.
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more.
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks.
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks.
The National Guard stands around his door.
Ah, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more.

I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more.
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more.
Well, she talks to all the servants
About man and God and law.
Everybody says
She's the brains behind pa.
She's sixty-eight, but she says she's fifty-four.
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more.

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They say sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2009

What's going on here?

When I was in junior high and high school the prospect of a President of the United States directly addressing students would have been met with astonished pleasure by school boards, principals and faculty. The fact that most of them could have written his address themselves ("Stay in school. Study hard. Set goals.") wouldn't have mattered; this was The President of the United States delivering the message.

When I read and hear the right-wing loons and their Congressional colleagues claim that he's trying to "indoctrinate kids" my first response is to ask them to take some Prozac; my second is that this country has a lot of idiots in it, some of them elected.

My third reaction is simply sadness that America has reached this point: that opposition to the President of the country is so knee-jerk that something as innocuous as a "Stay in school" message could be perceived as evil.

Thus I begin to wonder: since President Obama's predecessors have addressed school kids in the past, what is it about this President that has so unhinged the right? My reluctant conclusion is that he's black and has an unusual name. The right can't escape its racist beginnings, and its mouthpieces, whether in talk radio, cable TV or in Congress, find it politically useful to pander to those feelings.

Since he's only eight months into a four-year term, I'm afraid this will continue for the next three-plus years, which portends a very unpleasant period in American history.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:05 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 05, 2009


After an 11-year hiatus Lilith Fair is relaunching in 2010.

Assuming it remains an all-women's festival, who would you like to see perform?

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Personal hygiene note

CVS claims that its replacement electric toothbrush heads fit all Oral-B electric toothbrushes except the Cross-Action® Power and Sonic Complete®.

This is not true. I own the Vitality®, and it doesn't fit worth a damn.

This is a perfect example of the adage "penny-wise, pound-foolish." These brushes are $17; Oral-B's are $23. I thought compatibility claims were true and bought the less-expensive brushes. Whoops.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 04, 2009


At present, according to an Institute of Medicine study, 18,000 Americans die every year because they are uninsured and can't get proper health care.

I think "no one should go broke because they get sick" was originally said by the WaPo columnist Stephen Pearlstein in a Live Online chat, but I can't find it. You'll just have to take my word for it. It's been amplified:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. No one should be unable to change jobs because of a “pre-existing condition” or fear of losing health care.
Words to live by.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2009

A prediction

If Obama throws liberals/progressives under the bus by accepting health care reform without a public option which would compete directly with the insurance companies, many of them will be so discouraged and angry that they will stay home and refrain from voting in the midterm elections in 2010. If the White House takes the "where else are they gonna go" attitude, it will find many of them just won't go (to the voting booth) at all.

If that happens, there goes the Democratic majority in the House. They might still have more than 218 votes, but it won't be close to the 256 - 178 margin they currently enjoy.

The Senate majority of 59 - 40 may decline by two or three seats as well.

And if those things happen, the odds of Obama getting the rest of his agenda passed will drop accordingly, which will diminish the likelihood of his re-election in 2012 as well.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Oh my oh my. I'll take six

I first encountered gyoza in dives outside the main gate of the US Naval Base in Yokusuka, Japan. After a night of beer drinking, the smarter of us would stumble in to a hole-in-the-wall which was typically very narrow, with a counter and stools running the length of the room. Behind the counter were several cooks using woks to cook the potstickers and others making piles and piles of fried rice. For about 300 Yen (a buck, at the time) you could eat a plateful and eliminate the worst of your inevitable hangover.

In 1973 the Japanese cooks at those places had not yet reached or perhaps even learned of the ultimate goal: Ice Cream Gyoza.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2009

One doc's opinion

Went to the doc at Kaiser yesterday for a "here's the lab tests" appointment. He was highly complimentary of them ("go away and come back in 8 or 9 months"), so we spent a few minutes talking about health care reform.

He didn't express any feelings one way or the other about single-payer or public plans, but he agreed with me that paying doctors for treatments rather than outcomes was crazy. "We don't get paid for practicing preventive medicine," he said. He also thought that subsidizing med students if they promise to practice primary care for a set number of years made a lot of sense; he even cited some examples of that that he knew about, both here in Hawai'i and in the Marshall Islands.

One doctor at a time.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2009

Imagine if she had any real influence

The age requirement for Medicare eligibility is 65.

Apparently Maria Bartiromo (CNBC's "Money Honey") doesn't know that.

Relevant part of the 1:37 clip:

MS. BARTIROMO: How come you don't use it? You don't have it. How come you don't have it?

REP. WEINER: Because I'm not 65. I would love it.

I hope nobody thinks her stock picks are valuable information.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 1

Whereas September 1 has dreadful connotations in Europe and ultimately in the Pacific, it is also the anniversary of my mother's birth (a few years earlier).

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack